Africa Media Review for July 26, 2021

Overcoming the Disparity in Africa’s COVID Vaccine Access
Africa is facing a major disparity in its COVID vaccine access relative to any other region in the world, amplifying the human costs that Africans bear from the Delta variant surge. Africa is experiencing a dramatic and predictable spike in COVID cases and fatalities as the Delta variant gains traction. Cases are increasing in 26 African countries, and case fatality rates in Africa are among the highest in the world. Namibia, where only 1.2 percent of the population is vaccinated, is currently experiencing 1 death for every 22 cases (or 4.5 percent). By comparison, in the United Kingdom, where 50 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, the recent case fatality rate is 1 out of every 750 cases (or 0.1 percent). As a continent, Africa is currently experiencing 6,500 COVID-related fatalities per week, and that rate is rising by 43 percent per week. … Africa remains, by far, the most vulnerable region in the world to the Delta COVID surge. Only 1.5 percent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, and another 1.5 percent have received their first dose. … Roughly 1.5 percent of COVID vaccines administered globally have been in Africa, according to the WHO. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Tunisia’s President Fires Prime Minister, Dismisses Government, Freezes Parliament
Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed the country’s prime minister and froze parliament for 30 days on Sunday, posing a major test to the young democracy and escalating a political crisis that has built for months. Opponents condemned the move as an attempted coup. Saied announced that he was firing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and that he and a new prime minister, to be named in the coming hours, would take up executive authority. Under Tunisia’s 2014 constitution, executive power is shared by the president, prime minister and the parliament. Saied also suspended lawmakers’ parliamentary immunity. … The moves came on Tunisia’s Republic Day, traditionally a day of celebration and protest across the North African country. This year, amid a floundering economy, a devastating coronavirus surge and widespread anger at the government, it was marked by displays of public rage. … The president last week told the army to take over the national coronavirus pandemic response, as the country battles one of Africa’s worst outbreaks. Soaring infection and death rates had compounded public anger with the administration. The Washington Post

Somalia Delays Election Originally Due to Start Sunday
Somalia has delayed elections that were due to start on Sunday after months of political crisis in the deeply unstable Horn of Africa country, officials told AFP. Indirect parliamentary and presidential polls were due to open on July 25 with four days of voting for the upper house by state delegates. The election cycle was due to end with a presidential poll on October 10. “Even though the plan was for the upper house election to start around the various states today, there is a delay, the election may not take place as planned,” a member of the electoral commission told AFP on condition of anonymity. The delay was due to the fact that federal regions were neither able to submit candidates’ lists in time, nor to form local committees to cast the ballots, the source added. A spokesman for the federal government, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu, told AFP that the elections were “delayed,” without providing details. Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, who was tasked by the presidency with organising the elections, had expressed his dissatisfaction to Somali state leaders, Moalimu said. … Last week, the country’s Al-Shabaab jihadists warned politicians against taking part in the elections, which were due to kick off after months of deadlock and delays. AFP

Ghana President Says Delta Variant Driving New Covid-19 Wave
Ghana seems to be facing a third wave of coronavirus infections driven by the more transmissible delta variant. The West African nation restricted the time of events such as weddings and funerals to two hours, banning post-event receptions because of the risk of people abandoning safety protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing, President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a state broadcast late Sunday. “It appears that our nation like many others is experiencing a third wave of Covid-19 infections,” he said. “These increased infections have largely been driven by the delta variant of the virus.” Ghana has seen over 102,000 Covid-19 cases, including 823 deaths, since the first case was reported. Active cases more than tripled to 4,521 as of July 23 from 1,200 in June, according to Akufo-Addo who described the trend as alarming. The delta variant has led in recent weeks to a rise in severe cases and deaths. “It is obvious from the data that we’ve let our guard down,” he said. Bloomberg

Rwanda Extends Lockdown by Five More Days
Rwanda has extended the lockdown in its capital Kigali and eight more districts for five more days. The move, according to a communique issued by the Prime Minister’s office, is to “consolidate the gains in decreasing the number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths.” The current lockdown was imposed on July 17 and was expected to end on July 26. All public and social gatherings are still prohibited, while schools, churches, offices and all non-essential services are closed. … The country has seen a rise in the number of Covid-19 infections since June. In the last seven days of the lockdown, 190,588 tests were taken, the overall incidence rate per 100,000 population is 78 and 367/100,000 in Kigali. The EastAfrican

Ethiopia Conflict: Tigray Forces Claim March to Addis Ababa ‘Now Possible’
The armed group fighting the Ethiopian army and its allied regional forces in Tigray claims it is now in a position to march towards the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. General Tsadkan Gebretensae, the top military official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), alleges that Tigrayan forces have completed a three-day battle and destroyed divisions of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) in the Amhara region’s Kobbo-Weldiya area. TPLF forces have advanced deeper into the Amhara region and captured two more towns in offensives launched over the past three days. … The well-known former Ethiopia army General further said TPLF forces will now move swiftly to control the Addis Ababa-Djibouti main road and will be in a position to accept direct humanitarian assistance to Tigray. The Ethiopian government did not immediately comment on the claim about a march to Ethiopia, but last week, PM Abiy vowed to wipe out TPLF, a group that was once the country’s ruling party, but which Addis Ababa now considers a terrorist movement. Using alarming words like “weeds”, “cancer” and “disease” to refer to the group, the Ethiopian leader seemed to confirm the final collapse of the unilateral ceasefire he had declared two weeks ago, which was meant to aid humanitarian access in the region now controlled by fighters allied to TPLF. Nation

Ethiopia’s Amhara State Rallies Youth to Fight Tigrayans as War Expands
Ethiopia’s Amhara state on Sunday called on “all young people” to take up arms against Tigrayan fighters who are battling the federal government military and forces from all of Ethiopia’s other nine regions. The call for mass mobilization against Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters – whom Amhara’s military said were now attacking the state – expands the eight-month-old war and instability in the Horn of Africa country. … This week, the Tigrayans pushed their offensive to Afar, their neighboring state to the east, where they said they planned to target troops from the Amhara region fighting alongside the federal military in the area. Afar is a strategic region for landlocked Ethiopia because the main road and railway linking the capital, Addis Ababa, with the seaport of Djibouti runs through it. On Saturday, Amhara’s special forces commander, Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, was quoted by the region’s state media as saying the war had expanded to the state. Reuters

Mozambique: Fears of Escalating Conflict as Foreign Troops Clash with Islamists
Foreign troops sent to reinforce local security forces in Mozambique have clashed with Islamist militants for the first time, as the conflict in the east African country moves into a new and potentially dangerous phase. Rwandan soldiers who recently arrived in Mozambique fought a series of engagements against the extremists last week. Few reliable details of the fighting, which took place near Mozambique’s border with Tanzania, have emerged, but officials claim the insurgents suffered dozens of casualties. The Rwandan troops are the first significant foreign deployment in a direct combat role in the conflict. Russian and South African military contractors have previously fought insurgents alongside local security forces, and there have been unconfirmed reports of one possible clash involving western special forces earlier this year. … There are plans for thousands of foreign troops to be deployed in Mozambique over coming months from at least seven different countries. Experts have said the influx of foreign soldiers may lead to reprisal attacks across southern Africa and possibly beyond, which weak local security services will struggle to prevent. There are also concerns that the deployment of significant forces with limited knowledge of the local environment, languages and culture could be counterproductive unless balanced by a broad range of social, political and economic initiatives. The Guardian

‘Hidden War’ Sparks Growing Refugee Crisis on Mozambique-Tanzania Border
“It happens like this,” says Heka Amisse, an elegant woman wearing a red and yellow traditional headwrap. “When they catch men, they behead them. They kidnap children. They take women to the bush. When they catch old people, they beat them.” “They” are the Islamist insurgents whose brutal attack on Palma, in northern Mozambique in March left Ms Amisse with nothing. “My house was burned down. I don’t know where my mother is, or where my father is.” Ms Amisse is standing by an unfinished mud and bamboo structure as she tells her story. Metres away is a knee-high tent made of recycled tarpaulin where she and her husband are sleeping until their new house is complete. They are some of the thousands who have fled the increasing violence in the region, seeking refuge in neighbouring Tanzania which, in contravention of international agreements, is sending displaced people back to Mozambique. The United Nations has warned of a growing crisis along the border and, as Rwandan and South African troops have now been sent in to quell the violence, the civilians caught up in the conflict face even more danger. The Telegraph

Increased Jihadist Attacks in Burkina Faso Spark Record-Breaking Displacement: UNHCR
Rising violent attacks by jihadist groups in Burkina Faso are forcing record-breaking numbers of people to flee both inside the country and across international borders, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reported on Friday. Six per cent of the population in the West African country is now internally displaced, with more than 1.3 million people uprooted in just over six weeks, according to latest Government figures. The speed of internal displacement shows no sign of slowing as attacks on civilians and security forces continue unabated, UNHCR Spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva. During the first six months of the year, 237,000 people fled their homes for other parts of the country, which is a sharp increase over the 96,000 registered during the second half of 2020. “UNHCR is equally alarmed by an acceleration in the numbers of people from Burkina Faso forced to cross a border to reach safety,” said Mr. Baloch. UN News

Man Accused of Trying to Assassinate Malian President Dies in Custody
A man accused of trying to kill Mali’s military strongman Assimi Goita, the figure behind two coups in less than a year, has died in custody, the government said on Sunday. The suspect, whose identity has not been revealed, had been taken into custody following the assassination attempt at Bamako’s Grand Mosque on Tuesday. “During investigations… his health deteriorated” and he was then hospitalised, but “unfortunately, he has died,” the government said in a statement. It added that an autopsy had been immediately ordered to determine the cause of death. A man armed with a knife lunged at Goita after prayers for Eid al-Adha on Tuesday, according to an AFP reporter at the scene. … The attack capped months of political turmoil in a country that has rarely enjoyed stability since gaining independence from France in 1960. Goita, a special forces colonel in his late thirties, headed a putsch last August that ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after weeks of protests over graft and a bloody jihadist insurgency. … In June [2021], with Goita as interim president, a new government was unveiled, with military figures in key roles. AFP

South Sudan Opposition Group Backs Peace Deal
The groups led by former Chief of General Staff Gen Paul Malong and former SPLM Secretary-General Pagan Amum have agreed to join the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism. This means that these two groups, which operate in Central and Western Equatoria, will provide details of their areas of operation, personnel contact persons, and continuous communication with the Ceasefire Mechanism about the maintenance of the ceasefire within two weeks from July 18. The Community of Sant’ Egidio, based in Rome, initiated talks in 2020 to incorporate the holdout groups into the September 2018 peace agreement, but progress has been slowed by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Amum told The EastAfrican that significant progress had been made in Rome since his Real SPLM and Gen Malong’s South Sudan United Front (SSUF) signed a memorandum of understanding to respect the cessation of hostilities and agreed on the agenda for future talks. The latest agreement, however, excludes the larger group, the National Salvation Front (NAS) led by Gen Thomas Cirillo, who had expelled Gen Malong and Mr Amum from the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) for holding separate talks with President Salva Kiir. The EastAfrican

At Least Six Cameroonian Soldiers Killed in Raid by Islamist Insurgents
At least six Cameroonian soldiers were killed and four wounded during an attack by Islamist insurgents on an army outpost in the far north of the country, state broadcaster CRTV said on Saturday. The attack is the deadliest in recent months in northern Cameroon, which alongside neighbouring Nigeria and Chad, has been battling the Boko Haram militant group for years and, more recently, militants linked to Islamic State. … Local authorities said there has been a steady increase in attacks on the military in the region since the death of Abubakar Shekau, the former leader of Boko Haram. “Since Shekau’s death there has been an increase in attacks, as the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) move to conquer territories previously held by Boko Haram,” Ndongo said. “They are gaining momentum. They look more structured, better organised and attack in full force,” he said. Reuters

The Nigerian Government Is Destroying the Country’s Growing Tech Sector, Experts Warn
Nigeria’s indefinite Twitter ban and other recent policy moves by the government are threatening to destroy one of the country’s fastest-growing industries, its Fintech sector, experts have told VICE World News. “Like most people, I heard about [the ban] for the first time on Twitter, which is where it was announced, and the next morning when I woke up, it just wasn’t working anymore,” Oche, a communications director with one of Nigeria’s leading Fintech companies tells VICE World News. The decision on the 4th of June to ban Twitter was initially met with disbelief, closely followed by outrage, and now, what looks like acceptance, as most users have adopted VPNs as a way of circumventing the ban. While Twitter had over the years become a tool of social change for young Nigerians, Raymond explained that for small business owners and entrepreneurs, it also functioned as a marketing base. “The first three jobs I ever got were from seeing tweets or retweets of job ads,” Oche, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak openly, says. “And right now, I don’t think any company will be coming on Twitter anytime soon to share information on a job vacancy.” … The unquestionable growth of Nigeria’s tech space is, however, being threatened by structural and political roadblocks. VICE

Nigeria: The Fisherwomen, Chevron and the Leaking Pipe
Oil companies like Chevron, Shell and Eni have made billions in profits in the vast Niger Delta region in the last decades. But now some are pulling out — and they are leaving utter ruin in their wake, according to government monitors and environmental and human rights organizations. The delicate ecosystem of the Niger Delta, once teeming with plant and animal life, is today one of the most polluted places on the planet. It is the women, who do most of the fishing in the creeks and marshes in this part of the Niger Delta, who are trying to call the oil companies to account. … After decades of extraction, major oil companies are gradually leaving the Niger Delta altogether or going offshore — but, environmentalists said, often without decommissioning their aging infrastructure, which is done to restore the environment and prevent pollutants from leaching. The New York Times

NGO Is Transforming Lives of Women Victims of Boko Haram Insurgency
Around 9 a.m. on a Monday in July, another batch of participants, all victims of the Boko Haram insurgency, sat for a vocational and income generation seminar on various choices of trades at the Allamin Foundation for Peace and Development. After two hours training, the participants were asked to explain how they made caps, pasta, petroleum jelly, and hygiene kit. Then, Abba Yusuf, a staff of the foundation and moderator, would ascertain if a participant had learnt enough to start a trade to generate income and make a living if given financial support. … Since inception in 2011, over 400 IDPs have benefited in interventions championed by Allamin Foundation for Peace and Development. … Founded in 2011 and officially registered under the Corporate Affairs Commission in 2017, Allamin Foundation is a Non-Governmental Organisation working in Nigeria’s North-east region, which has been ravaged by insurgency since 2009. With special focus on education, gender, human rights and peace building, the foundation has helped many women affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. Premium Times

Sierra Leoneans Want a Share of Mining Profits, or They Want Compensation
Kumaro village is in ruins. It was never an easy place to live, but at least fresh, cold water would always trickle down from the mountain to quench the thirst of its nearly 2 000 residents, and to feed their crops. That all changed three years ago, when a Chinese mining company called the Wongor Investment and Mining Corporation started looking for gold nearby. The source of the water was destroyed, and local lands were destroyed by mining activities. “I was happy when the company came to this town. I thought they were going to do great things for this community. But since they came, they have done nothing but to exploit our resources and deprive us of our source of livelihood,” said Tamba Gborie, the 64-year-old chief of the village in Kono district, in eastern Sierra Leone. As he speaks, he gestures towards the parched, raw earth where village farms used to be. Wongor secured the mining concession in an agreement brokered by the central government and the area’s paramount chief on behalf of the community. But while this may have resulted in increased tax revenue for the government, the community has been left to count the cost. Mail & Guardian

Amid Crises at Home, Tunisians Celebrate Olympic Medals as ‘Ray of Hope’
Tunisia needed something to celebrate. And from the eighth lane of an Olympic swimming pool in Japan, Ahmed Hafnaoui delivered. This summer, his country has been submerged in one of Africa’s deadliest ongoing coronavirus outbreaks, with overwhelmed hospitals experiencing dire shortages of supplies. The pandemic’s surge compounded existing stress, amid political and economic crises that have roiled the country for months. Then, in 3 minutes and 43.36 seconds, the underdog Hafnaoui — who also goes by Ayoub — dominated the 400-meter freestyle race, winning gold. He beat out Jack McLoughlin of Australia, who took silver, and Kieran Smith, of the United States, who won bronze. “I was in tears,” Hafnaoui, 18, said after his win. “When I see the flag of my country and I hear the anthem in the background, it was great. I’m so proud of it.” For Tunisia, the win — paired with Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi’s silver medal in taekwondo — brought a temporary moment of reprieve to a country in crisis. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones