Africa Media Review for July 27, 2021

Tunisia’s President Fires Defence Minister amid Political Upheaval
Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked the defence minister Monday, a day after ousting the prime minister and suspending parliament, plunging the young democracy into constitutional crisis in the midst of a pandemic. Street clashes erupted Monday outside the army-barricaded parliament, after Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and ordered parliament closed for 30 days, a move the biggest political party Ennahdha decried as a “coup.” Mechichi said he would hand power to the man chosen by the president, in his first comments since the shock move. Saied declared on Sunday he had “taken the necessary decisions to save Tunisia, the state and the Tunisian people,” following street protests in multiple cities against the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic in the North African country. … US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday spoke by telephone with the Tunisian president asking him to respect democracy and “maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people,” the State Department said. … Police also shuttered the local bureau of Qatari-based Al Jazeera television, the network’s Tunis director Lotfi Hajji said, warning that “what is happening is very dangerous, it is proof that freedom of the press is threatened.” AFP

Tanzania Opposition Leader Charged with ‘Terror-Related’ Crimes
A court in Tanzania has charged the leader of the main opposition party with “terrorism-related” crimes, police said on Monday, following his arrest while preparing for a meeting to discuss proposals for a new constitution. Freeman Mbowe, head of the Chadema party, and 10 others were arrested in the city of Mwanza on Wednesday, in what the party said was proof that President Samia Suluhu Hassan was continuing with the authoritarianism of her late predecessor John Magufuli. … Police spokesperson David Misime said in a statement on Thursday that Mbowe was arrested for “accusations on plotting terrorist acts including conspiracy to kill government leaders where his six fellows have already been charged in court.” John Mnyika, Chadema’s secretary general, said Mbowe was charged without his lawyer or family members being present. Al Jazeera

US Condemns Arrest of Two Swazi Dissident MPs
The US government and the Eswatini opposition have condemned the country’s government for arresting two dissident members of Parliament on Sunday. The US embassy in Eswatini said it was “deeply troubled” by the “unacceptable” arrests of Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube. The banned People’s United Democratic Movement party (Pudemo) also criticised the government for the arrests and said it would launch an international boycott of Swazi goods on 6 August to deny King Mswati the revenue he needed to pay his security forces to “brutalise” the population. The arrests of Mabuza and Dube have puzzled some Swazi observers, as 10 days ago Mswati appeared to absolve them of any role in fomenting the violence, looting and arson that rocked the country this month. … The US embassy said in its statement that: “The people of Eswatini have the constitutional right to be heard through, and represented by, their own freely chosen representatives in Parliament. “The suppression of the right of individuals — including members of Parliament — to freely express their opinions is unacceptable. “We call on the authorities to exercise transparency in the application of law and to respect and protect human rights, despite political differences. Daily Maverick

Sudan in Crisis as Mistrust Poisons Security Sector Reform Agenda Well
Delay in the integration of former Darfur armed groups into the national military threatens the country’s stability. Twenty-seven months after the ouster of Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, the transitional government is still grappling with the security sector reform agenda, as the military wing opposes changes in the military and some Darfur rebels do not trust elements of the former regime in the government. Security experts say that Sudan will not achieve peace even after signing the Juba peace agreement in October 2020, if the country does not embark on security sector reforms and the confiscation of weapons in the wrong hands. The latest United Nations Security Council report released in late June says that even with the deployment of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan to assist in the transition, the delay in the integration of the armed groups into the national remains a threat to the county’s stability. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM–N), led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu and based in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, has been advocating for the integration of armed groups into the national army as the first step toward resolving conflicts in the country, but the military wing is reluctant to accept former rebels. The EastAfrican

42 Killed in Extrajudicial Killings in South Sudan: UN
The United Nations on Monday demanded an end to extrajudicial killings in South Sudan after the grisly execution of at least 42 people, including boys, in lawless parts of the troubled country. Some were executed in front of their families and others left bound to trees in a spate of gruesome lynchings in a country where peaceful governance has remained elusive in the aftermath of civil war. Since March, UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) rights investigators have documented the killing of 29 accused criminals in Warrap, a northwest state plagued by deadly conflict between rival ethnic groups. The victims, including elderly men and young boys, were taken from prison or police custody and killed without a fair trial. “Eyewitnesses reported that some men were taken to remote areas, tied to trees, and executed by firing squad. In some instances, their bodies were reportedly left on the trees as an example to the community,” UNMISS said in a statement. The UN said another 13 people were summarily executed since mid-June at the instruction of local officials in Lakes States, a conflict-prone central region. UN News

Gunmen on Motorbikes Raid Niger Village, Kill 14
Armed men on motorbikes have killed at least 14 civilians in an attack in western Niger, near the restive border with Mali, the government said. The attack happened on Sunday at approximately 3pm (14:00 GMT), when the unidentified assailants arrived at the village of Wiye in the Banibangou district, about 50km (30 miles) from the border with Mali. They “targeted civilians, killing 14, including nine working in fields,” the interior ministry said in a statement read on national television on Monday. One person who was wounded had been evacuated for treatment in the capital, Niamey, it added. Security measures had been stepped up and an investigation was under way to identify and bring to trial those responsible for “these cowardly and barbaric attacks,” it said. There has been no claim of responsibility so far. … In mid-March, an attack in the same district targeting a village market left 66 people dead, while on June 24, attacks on villages in Tondikiwindi, in a neighbouring district, killed 19 people. Al Jazeera

Northern Nigeria State Suspends Schools Due to Insecurity
The northern Nigerian state of Kaduna has suspended all schooling due to insecurity, state officials said on Monday, amid a spate of student kidnappings in the region that has rocked Africa’s most populous country. “We have asked students to stay away for three weeks, after which in the third week we will review the situation and get across to the public and the students,” said Mohammed Makarfi, Kaduna state’s commissioner of education, by phone. The state had already imposed a three-week suspension on schooling that expired on Sunday, said another official who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media. “The directive of the governor to extend the suspension of resumption till further notice is to ensure the safety of students in all schools,” said the official. On Sunday, kidnappers who raided a boarding school earlier this month released 28 children, though another 81 remain in captivity, said a pastor involved in the negotiations. Reuters

Nigeria Fails to Bring Separatist to Court, Trial Adjourned
A Nigerian judge adjourned the treason trial of separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu until October after the authorities failed to bring him to court on Monday, citing logistical problems. The military considers Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which campaigns for secession in southeast Nigeria, a terrorist organization. Kanu was due in Federal High Court to face 11 charges, including treason. The case is one of two on Monday in which Nigerian authorities are seeking to prosecute citizens campaigning for autonomy in different regions of Africa’s most populous nation. The cases underline the government’s concern over growing discontent and insecurity. … IPOB wants a swathe of the southeast, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, to split from Nigeria. An attempt to secede in 1967 as the Republic of Biafra triggered a three-year civil war in which more than 1 million people died, mostly from starvation. Nigeria is also seeking the extradition from neighbouring Benin of Sunday Adeyemo, known locally as Sunday Igboho, a Yoruba activist they accuse of plotting a violent insurrection in southwest Nigeria. Igboho was expected to appear in court in Cotonou on Monday. Reuters

Young Men in Ethiopia’s Amhara Start to Mobilise against Tigray Forces
Residents of Ethiopia’s Amhara region said on Monday some young men were responding to a weekend call to arms by their president, as Amhara’s government denied that forces from neighbouring Tigray had advanced further into the region. An eight-month-old war between Ethiopia’s central government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls Tigray, has spread to neighbouring parts of northern Ethiopia, risking a further destabilisation of Africa’s second most populous nation. On Sunday Agegnehu Teshager, president of the Amhara regional government, had called on “all young people” to take up arms against TPLF fighters, who say they are advancing deeper south into Amhara territory. … Last week, Tigrayan forces pushed into Afar, the region to the east of Tigray, where they said they planned to target Amhara troops fighting alongside the federal military. Afar is home to the main highway and railway linking landlocked Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa with the sea port of Djibouti. Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the TPLF, told Reuters on Monday its fighters had reached Zarima, about 140 km (87 miles) north of Gondar, one of Amhara’s largest cities. Reuters

Botswana Sends Troops to Help Mozambique Fight Insurgency
Botswana sent military troops to Mozambique on Monday, becoming the first country of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community to dispatch soldiers to help battle an Islamic extremist insurgency in northern Cabo Delgado province. Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, said the troops would work with Mozambique’s armed forces and soldiers sent by other members of the regional bloc, known as SADC, to put down the insurgency in which more than 3,000 people have died since 2017. Botswana’s troops will join 1,000 soldiers who arrived in Mozambique earlier this month from Rwanda, which is not an SADC member. The Rwandan troops reported to already be in action; local news site Carta de Moçambique said they had killed 30 insurgents last week. The SADC mission in Mozambique will be led by South African Maj. Gen. Xolani Mankayi, who is in Mozambique as part of an advance deployment. More troops are expected from other SADC member countries, including Tanzania and Angola, local newssheet Mediafax reported Monday, citing Mozambique’s defense ministry. AP

Kais Saied: The ‘Robocop’ President Accused of Launching Tunisia Coup
Kais Saied, the Tunisian president who has plunged the country into a new political crisis, has always been something of a political blank slate. A surprise winner of the 2019 elections, the rise to power of Saied, 63, a dry law professor with little political experience and no party to speak of, spoke to the disillusionment of Tunisians with their country following the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab spring. But the point of Saied for many Tunisians, the young in particular, was precisely that. He was boring to the extent of being the butt of jokes for his somnolence-inducing delivery – he was nicknamed Robocop. He was untainted by Tunisia’s post-revolution politics and accusations of corruption. He seemed, two years ago at least, like a safe pair of hands. … While Saied was elected into a position that had relatively little influence in comparison with the country’s divided parliament, he has expressed his desire for a new constitution that would give the president more power. … Competition over who controls the security forces and over appointments to cabinet roles has complicated the already messy response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Tunisia as well popular discontent with Tunisia’s post-revolution economic situation in a country where the tourism industry was hard hit by two major terrorist attacks aimed at foreign visitors. The Guardian

Misenga: A DRC Refugee Hoping to Inspire Millions at the Olympics
In 2001, Popole Misenga’s mother was murdered during Democratic Republic of Congo’s civil war. He was nine at the time. After walking alone for a week, he was finally rescued and brought to Kinshasa where he was first introduced to judo. Later this month, Misenga will represent the Refugee Olympic Team for a second time after making his debut in 2016 in Brazil, where he has been living since 2013. Misenga’s life changed in 2013 when he was in Brazil for the world judo championship. He fled the DRC team camp without money, passport or food. He said it was his only chance and opportunity to escape after he was mistreated by his coaches and the abuse he experienced for not winning medals. Surviving the civil war in DRC and living a challenging life in Brazil, Misenga says he never forgot his dreams and just wants to show the world that anything is possible. Al Jazeera spoke to the judoka about life in Brazil, how judo has helped him physically and mentally and how he stands so close to seeing his dream come true. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones