Africa Media Review for July 28, 2021

African Militant Islamist Group Violence Maintains Record Pace, though Slowing
The contours of African militant Islamist group violence are shifting, though maintaining a record pace of havoc resulting in an average of 14 violent events per day. A review of mid-year data of violent episodes involving African militant Islamist groups and their evolution over the past decade underscores the growing threat posed by these actors. The threat, however, is characterized by considerable variance in levels and types of violence. Militant Islamist group violence continues to be primarily concentrated in five main theaters: Somalia, the western Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, northern Mozambique, and the Sinai Peninsula. The projected 5,110 violent events linked to these groups in 2021 (based on mid-year data) represents a 3-percent increase from the record 4,956 violent episodes totaled in 2020. This reflects a dramatic slowing from the 43-percent increase the previous year and the average 20-percent annual increase over the preceding 4 years. … Nearly all the increases in violent activity are concentrated in two of the five main regions of violent extremist activity in Africa: the Sahel and Somalia. [Infographic] Africa Center for Strategic Studies

UN Says Its Food Aid Runs out This Week in Ethiopia’s Tigray
The head of the United Nations World Food Program says the agency will “run out of food” in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region on Friday, while hundreds of thousands of people there face the world’s worst famine crisis in a decade. Some 170 trucks with food and other supplies are “stuck” in the neighboring Afar region and “must be allowed to move NOW,” David Beasley tweeted on Tuesday, noting that 100 such trucks are needed per day in Tigray. “People are starving.” International pressure is again rising on Ethiopia’s government to allow badly needed food and other supplies into Tigray, where aid hasn’t reached some communities since the war started in November between Ethiopia’s military and Tigray forces. The Associated Press has reported that scores of people have begun to starve to death. … Tigray’s civilians are caught in the middle, largely cut off from the outside world as communications links in the region remain down and supplies run low. AP

Ethiopia’s Somali Region Says Town Attacked, amid New Local Flare Ups
The local government in Ethiopia’s Somali region said on Tuesday militia from the neighbouring region of Afar had attacked and looted a town, the latest flare-up in a local boundary dispute that adds to broader tensions in the Horn of Africa nation. Ali Bedel, spokesperson for the Somali region government, said Afar militia “massacred hundreds of civilians” on Saturday in Gedamaytu, also known as Gabraiisa, a town at the centre of long-running regional boundary dispute in northeast Ethiopia. Afar’s government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, an internal U.N. report seen by Reuters said there was fighting in Gedamaytu with an unknown number of injured on both sides. … In Addis Ababa on Tuesday, thousands of new recruits to Ethiopia’s federal army paraded before leaving for training camps, after Tigrayan forces advanced over the weekend into Amhara, a northwestern region that lies between Tigray and the capital further south. In a fresh sign of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia as violence spirals, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday it was concerned about 24,000 Eritrean refugees in two camps in the Tigray region, saying they were cut off from aid and could run out of food and drinking water. Reuters

Influential Voices in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE Celebrate Tunisia Turmoil as Blow to Political Islam
Tunisians are struggling to make sense of their country’s ongoing political crisis after the president abruptly dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament Sunday night. For some in Tunisia, the Arab Spring’s sole surviving democracy, the moves against institutions led or supported by Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, amount to a coup. Others praised the sidelining of political leaders they saw as dysfunctional and repressive. Civil society groups remained on the fence. President Kais Saied, meanwhile, has insisted that the measures are lawful. But the narrative emerging from key players in the Arab world for which Tunisia’s Arab Spring legacy presents a clear challenge — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — was far more univocal: The events in Tunisia marked the death knell for political Islam in democracy. … But whatever happens in Tunisia — which has been seen as the symbol of revolutionary promise in the region — will have ripple effects, said H.A. Hellyer, a Middle East scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Opponents to that struggle for accountable government are going to try to contain their glee at this very substantial step away from an accountable process, especially as it is being portrayed in many sectors as a squeezing of a pro-Islamist current that they oppose,” he said. The Washington Post

Activists Condemn Terror Charge against Tanzania Opposition Leader
Tanzania’s main opposition party and rights activists are condemning the arrest of CHADEMA party leader Freeman Mbowe, who faces terrorism charges. Police on Wednesday arrested Mbowe and 10 other party members as they were about to attend a conference to discuss changes to Tanzania’s constitution. Mbowe was brought before a court in Dar es Salaam Monday to face charges of economic sabotage. He is accused of funding terrorist activities aimed at assassinating government leaders. … Opposition supporters and human rights activists condemned what they see as a flagrant violation of Mbowe’s rights. … Late President John Magufuli, who died in March, was known for running Tanzania an iron-fisted manner. Many activists hoped for a change after President Samia Hassan took over. Hassan has made a sharp turn on COVID-19 policy, rejecting Magufuli’s belief that the infection did not exist in Tanzania and paving the way for the country to get its first shipment of vaccines. But she has not embraced political reforms the way some activists were hoping. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said, “Instead of arresting political opponents who are calling for constitutional reform, President Hassan’s government should … protect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in line with international human rights norms.” VOA

UN Says Closing Darfur Peacekeeping Operation Has Hiccups
The U.N. logistics chief said Tuesday that closing down the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping operation in Sudan’s western Darfur region is proceeding on schedule, though with some hiccups. Undersecretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare told the Security Council problems include troops seeking asylum in Sudan, thefts at 10 sites handed over to local authorities and armed groups stationing forces around the main remaining logistics base. Khare said the initial milestone it set of withdrawing all uniformed personnel and staff not involved in closing the mission by June 30 was achieved. Almost 6,000 soldiers and police returned to their home countries, nearly 1,200 staff are gone and only 360 police remain to secure the El Fasher logistics base and personnel wrapping up the mission, he said. … Khare said confirmed and unconfirmed reports “suggest varying degrees of destruction and theft at 10 of the 14 sites handed over to local authorities.” While these assets no longer belong to the United Nations, he said, they are “major losses for the communities involved.” AP

Ivory Coast Leader Meets Predecessor, Urges Reconciliation
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara met on Tuesday with longtime rival Laurent Gbagbo, who returned last month to the country after the International Criminal Court upheld his acquittal on war crimes charges. The highly anticipated meeting was an attempt to ease political tensions that have been present since their last meeting more than a decade ago, when Ouattara defeated Gbagbo in presidential elections. Gbagbo’s refusal to concede led to months of clashes between their supporters that left more than 3,000 people dead. Ouattara ultimately prevailed and has been the president of Ivory Coast ever since. “We can congratulate ourselves on having had this meeting which was cordial and fraternal because Laurent is my young brother and my friend,” he said. “Of course, there was this crisis, there were differences, but that is behind us. What matters is Ivory Coast and peace in our country. We have to move forward for the next generations.” Ouattara said they spoke about the need to strengthen national cohesion and would meet again from time to time. He urged Ivorians to work toward trust. AP

Angola Sending Military Advisors to Mozambique
Angola is the latest southern African country to be sending soldiers into Mozambique, and has agreed to deploy 20 officers and a transport aircraft to Cabo Delgado as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission supporting Mozambique’s military against insurgents. Angola’s parliament on 27 July approved the move after President Joao Lourenco requested troops be sent abroad. The deployment to Cabo Delgado will last three months and cost the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) approximately $575 000. Francisco Pereira Furtado, the Angolan minister of state and head of the security house of the president of the republic, told reporters that the Angolan mission will join the SADC forces on 6 August. National Assembly Deputy Benedito Daniel said the move is in line with Angola’s commitments as an SADC member. … According to the Mozambican Defence Ministry, in addition to South Africa and Botswana, countries such as Tanzania and Angola have confirmed the deployment of forces. defenceWeb

Kenya, UK Sign New Five-Year Defence Pact
Kenya and the UK have signed a five-year Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) to tackle shared threats across East Africa. The two countries signed the agreement in a side event during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s three-day Guest of Government visit to the UK. Kenya’s CS for Defence, Dr Monica Juma, and UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, signed the new DCA on Tuesday evening at the Ministry of Defence offices in London. The agreement will anchor the defence priorities between the two nations over the next five years. The signing of the DCA comes six months after the two defence secretaries met in Nairobi, agreeing on a refreshed Security Compact to deepen wider stability and security cooperation, part of the Kenya-UK strategic partnership. The new DCA, once ratified by the Kenyan and UK Parliaments, will allow our militaries to share expertise, experience and techniques, making both forces more effective. … Under the current agreement, the UK has provided an annual training of over 1,100 Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers, with courses in the UK, or with UK military training teams in Kenya. The EastAfrican

Activists: Morocco Arrests Uyghur Man at China’s Request
Moroccan authorities have arrested a Uyghur activist in exile based on a Chinese terrorism warrant distributed by Interpol, according to information from Moroccan police and a rights group that tracks people detained by China. Activists fear Yidiresi Aishan will be extradited to China, and say the arrest is politically driven and part of a broader Chinese campaign to hunt down perceived dissidents outside its borders. Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security said Tuesday that a Chinese citizen was arrested after landing at Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca on July 20, upon arrival from Istanbul. … Moroccan police didn’t publicly name the arrested man, but nongovernmental organization Safeguard Defenders identified him as Aishan. The group specializes in cases of people detained by China. Aishan, a 33-year-old computer engineer and father of three, has been based in Turkey since 2012, where he worked as a web designer and activist and has residency papers, according to friend and colleague Abduweli Ayup. AP

Nigerian Police Ordered to Free 5 Anti-Buhari Activists
A Nigerian court has ordered the secret police to release five suspects detained for wearing T-shirts criticizing President Muhammadu Buhari, their lawyer said Tuesday. The men were arrested early this month by the Department of State Service (DSS) during a church service led by a well-known evangelical pastor in the Nigerian capital Abuja. They had been wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Buhari Must Go!” inside the church when they were arrested and detained. The church was accused of aiding the arrests, but it denied the allegation. On Monday, the federal high court Abuja ordered the DSS to release the suspects, lawyer Allen Sowore told AFP. “The judge ordered their release forthwith without any condition. But we have not got a certified true copy of that order,” he said. He said his clients were yet to be freed. AFP

Nigeria Loses $243 Million 51 Days After Twitter Ban
In Africa’s largest economy, three-quarters of the population of 200 million are younger than 24 — a generation that is also hyper-connected to social media. Young activists turned to Twitter last year to organize the #EndSARS protests against police brutality that eventually grew into the largest demonstrations in Nigeria’s modern history before they were repressed. For broadcasters, social media is more than an essential tool. “We show our lives on Facebook, we show our lives on Instagram, but when we want to have a conversation or when we want to debate social issues, we use Twitter,” said Tolulope Adeleru-Balogun, the head of programming. One of the chain’s flagship programmes, NC Trendz, discusses hot topics on the Web with its trends and hashtags to give a pulse of society. “We used to talk about gender-based issues, in Uganda we followed the opponent Bobi Wine house arrest, we used it in South Africa also during the lockdown,” she said. “It is an important barometer for us to understand and know what a big proportion of people say in their country. Africa is not a (single) country, but a lot of our problems, as young Africans, are similar. And Twitter brings the continent together.” AfricaNews

Four South African Ports Working to Reopen After Cyberattack
Four of South Africa’s largest ports are starting to reopen after having been closed by a cyberattack, the country’s state-owned rail and ports operator Transnet said Tuesday. The ports of Durban, Cape Town, Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and Ngqura were forced to shut as the result of a cyberattack that started on July 22. The ports have begun functioning manually instead of through computer operations, Transnet said. “The terminals are berthing vessels as planned and facilitating loading and discharge operations with the shipping lines,” said the statement. “It is expected that some applications may continue to run slowly over the next few days, while monitoring continues,” the company said. “All operating systems will be brought back in a staggered manner, to minimize further risks and interruptions.” On Monday, the company declared a force majeure, which is an uncontrollable event that releases the company from fulfilling its contractual obligations. Transnet said it plans to lift the force majeure soon, without committing to a specific date. … The trouble at the four ports is a further blow to South Africa’s economy which is in recession and has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent violent riots which closed major road and rail routes. AP

IMF Warns of Growing Poverty, Unrest and Geopolitical Tensions
The global economic recovery continues, but with a widening gap between advanced economies and many emerging market and developing economies thanks to vaccine inequity and a lack of fiscal support, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned on Tuesday. While the latest update to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook sees the global economy still growing 6 percent this year – unchanged from its April estimate – Chief Economist Gita Gopinath noted that the composition of the recovery continues to change. … Vaccine inequality is seen as a chief driver of the widening gulf between recoveries in developed and less developed economies. Close to 40 percent of people in advanced economies have been fully vaccinated compared with only 11 percent in emerging market economies and a tiny fraction in low-income developing countries. … The Fund’s proposal to end the pandemic, endorsed by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, sets a goal of vaccinating at least 40 percent of all people in every country by the end of 2021 and 60 percent by the middle of 2022. The IMF urges at least 1 billion vaccine doses to be shared in 2021 by countries with more than enough of them and calls on manufacturers to prioritise deliveries to low and lower-middle-income countries. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones