Africa Media Review for July 29, 2021

The U.S. Is to Ship Nearly 10 Million Shots to Nigeria and South Africa.
The United States is ramping up vaccine deliveries to Africa as a third wave of the pandemic continues to accelerate across the continent. On Wednesday, Washington was scheduled to ship almost 10 million Covid-19 vaccines to two of Africa’s most populous nations, with 5.6 million Pfizer doses going to South Africa and four million Moderna doses to Nigeria. … Over the past two weeks, Covax, the global vaccine partnership, has, in collaboration with the African Union, delivered millions of Johnson & Johnson doses from the United States to countries including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Gambia, Lesotho, Niger, Tunisia, and Zambia. … The continent is experiencing vaccine shortages even as the severe third wave overwhelms health care systems and pushes countries to institute lockdowns and extend overnight curfews. The current surge in cases has been attributed to a lack of inoculation; loose compliance with public health measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing; and the spread of more contagious variants. More than 20 African countries have seen cases rise by more than 20 percent for at least two weeks, according to the W.H.O., with the Delta variant reported in 26 countries. The W.H.O. has said that political crises in several countries threaten to undermine efforts to vaccinate people and curb the virus. The New York Times

Tunisia in Turmoil as President Purges Officials and Seizes Judicial Power
Tunisia’s president has launched a purge of senior officials, including prosecutors and judges, and taken on judicial powers, days after overthrowing the prime minister and imposing emergency law. Kais Saied’s crackdown has dragged the country deeper into uncertainty days after its elected parliament was suspended for a month in a shock move that brought a decade of faltering democracy to a sudden halt. The actions of Saied, a relative newcomer to politics, have been widely labelled a coup, and there are fears that the north African state could end up with the sort of autocratic regime that ruled it for decades until the Arab spring. Tunisia, where the revolutions began in 2010, had clung to hard-won democratic gains made during years of economic and political instability. Their abrupt end, and the muted response from inside the country and around the Middle East, has stunned proponents of the uprising and the transition to democracy. … Lamia Farhani, a lawyer in Tunis, was angered by the suspension of parliament. Like many other families, she had a personal stake in the revolution. Police killed her brother, Anis, the day before Ben Ali fled. … “The Tunisian people were the first to revolt in the region and inspire the rest of the people. The worst democracy in the world remains better than the most just dictator.” The Guardian

Stretched Senegalese Hospitals Overwhelmed by Third COVID Wave
Idrissa Lo rushed back to Senegal from the United States when family members started falling sick with COVID-19 and dying. On Wednesday, he mourned a fifth family member lost to the virus – one of nearly 150 Senegalese to die this month as a third wave sweeps through the capital Dakar, leaving its hospitals nearly overrun. “The one I lost two hours ago is my really close cousin. He was young, he was like 40 years old,” said Lo, a U.S.-based transport worker, standing in the sun-baked yard of the hospital in Dakar’s Yoff neighbourhood. “There is something going on – this is a real crisis.” … After comfortably weathering the first two waves of the virus, health services were now stretched dangerously thin, said Dr. Khardiata Diallo, head of infectious disease at Fann hospital in Dakar. “Patients, particularly young ones, are arriving in respiratory distress,” Diallo said, her voice cracking with exhaustion. “We’ve never had this number of cases, deaths and severe cases. Frankly, this third wave threatens to drown us.” Many infections outside clinics were going undiagnosed, while post mortems were not routine, she said. “The situation is much more serious. What we see here is only the tip of the iceberg.” Reuters

Burundi, in Reversal, Says It Will Accept COVID-19 Vaccines
Burundi’s government now says it will accept COVID-19 vaccines, becoming one of the last countries in the world to embrace them. … Health Minister Thaddee Ndikumana on Wednesday said the vaccines will arrive with the support of the World Bank. It was not immediately clear how many doses the East African country will receive or when. “The vaccine will be given to those who need it,” the health minister said. … Burundi’s announcement came the same day that neighboring Tanzania launched its vaccination campaign, retreating from former President John Magufuli’s denial of the pandemic. He died in March and the presidency went to his deputy Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has since reversed course on COVID-19 in one of Africa’s most populous countries. … Burundi continues to carry out mass screenings for the virus, and the health minister noted the more infectious variants now spreading. “If we do not change our behavior, we risk finding ourselves in the coming months at the starting point situation,” he said. AP

An Ethiopian Road Is a Lifeline for Millions. Now It’s Blocked.
The road, a 300-mile strip of tarmac that passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth, is the only way into a conflict-torn region where millions of Ethiopians face the threat of mass starvation. But it is a fragile lifeline, fraught with dangers that have made the route barely passable for aid convoys trying to get humanitarian supplies into the Tigray region, where local fighters have been battling the Ethiopian army for eight months. Aid workers say the main obstacle is an unofficial Ethiopian government blockade, enforced using tactics of obstruction and intimidation, that has effectively cut off the road and exacerbated what some call the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in a decade. A relief convoy headed for Tigray came under fire on the road on July 18, forcing it to turn around. In the past month, just a single United Nations aid convoy of 50 trucks has managed to travel this route. The U.N. says it needs twice as many trucks, traveling every day, to stave off catastrophic shortages of food and medicine inside Tigray. … Inside Tigray, the needs are dire, and rapidly rising. The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people there are living in famine-like conditions, and another 4.8 million need urgent help. The New York Times

Child Malnutrition Expected to Rise in Drought-Hit Madagascar
Madagascar’s children could suffer lifelong health problems due to the ongoing drought that has caused a severe food shortage south of the island nation. The details emerged on Monday after the UN warned that at least half a million children under the age of five are expected to be acutely malnourished with 110,000 in severe condition, in drought-affected southern Madagascar. UN officials say the danger with this is not just that the children might starve, but even those who survive live with various shortcomings including slower brain development and low immunity. … “We need to double our efforts to curb this catastrophic rise in hunger but we cannot do it without significant funding resources and buy in from partners.” “What is currently happening in southern Madagascar is heartbreaking. We cannot turn our backs on these children whose lives are at stake,” Madagascar WFP’s representative Moumini Ouedraogo said. … A severe drought pummeling southern regions of Madagascar has caused a heavy toll on food shortage to a country that is also battling the Covid-19 pandemic. Nation

Nigerian Court Acquits Shi’ite Leader Zakzaky and Wife of All Charges
A Nigerian court on Wednesday acquitted Ibrahim Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), a banned Shi’ite group, of all eight criminal charges against him, defence and prosecution lawyers said. Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, had been in detention since 2015 when he was arrested after a clash in which the army killed an estimated 350 people at an IMN compound and a nearby mosque and burial ground in northern Kaduna state. The couple had been facing a range of charges filed by the state government in 2018, including aiding and abetting homicide, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace. Justice Gideon Kurada ruled there were no charges to answer and acquitted the pair. Prosecution lawyer Dari Bayero confirmed the ruling. A Reuters witness saw the couple leave the courthouse in a van driven by supporters. … The government banned IMN in 2019 after a series of protests calling for Zakzaky’s release turned deadly. Reuters

Nigeria: Over 300 Fake NGOs Created to Counter Organisations, Individuals Demanding Accountability from Buhari’s Govt – Report
A new report has revealed that since 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari administration has sponsored at least 360 NGOs to help cleanse its public image. Some of the NGOs have also, through arbitrary press conferences, demanded the prosecution of other NGOs and individuals which it deems enemies of the government. The report, titled “Fake Civil Society: The Rise of Pro-Government NGOs in Nigeria,” was written by Matthew T. Page, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Nigeria’s civic space has shrunk in recent years as its government has become increasingly illiberal, heavy-handed, and self-serving. Its kleptocratic elites have grown less tolerant of civil society voices, especially those pushing for better governance, greater accountability, and respect for human rights,” it noted. Adding that “in a bid to shore up their legitimacy, silence their critics, and expand their patronage networks, Nigeria’s ruling elites have fueled the rise of pro-government NGOs: sycophantic surrogates masquerading as civil society groups.” HumAngle

Civilians Bear Brunt of Cameroon Conflict, Amnesty Warns
Civilians have borne the brunt of three years of fighting between Cameroonian soldiers and separatists in the anglophone west of the central African country, Amnesty International said Wednesday. The human rights watchdog collected witness accounts and analysed satellite images to assess the fallout from the fighting. … “Government intervention has been limited, and there has been near-complete silence from the international community,” it added. Members of the anglophone minority in the country’s westernmost provinces have long complained of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority and 88-year-old President Paul Biya, in power for 38 years. Their demonstrations devolved into a bloody conflict, and rebels have extended attacks against police and soldiers to civilians. Separatists accuse members of the Fulani ethnic group of siding with authorities and taking up arms against them. “All parties to the conflict… have committed human rights violations and abuses, and civilians are caught in the middle,” Amnesty’s Central Africa researcher Fabien Offner said in a press release. AFP

Royal Crackdown: European Union Condemns Arrest of Two Eswatini MPs as Government Hunts for the Third
The European Union says it is ‘deeply concerned’ by the arrest on Sunday of two members of parliament in Eswatini, who are due to appear in court on Thursday to seek bail. The two ‘represent the voice of the people who elected them to Parliament’, according to an EU official. Opposition forces are planning to hold a march to the high court on Thursday to protest against the arrests of Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube. They had been calling for democratic reforms, including for the prime minister to be elected by the people instead of being appointed by the king. The state has charged them with inciting the recent violence in the country in an attempt to overthrow the government. “The EU joins the calls of the US statement and is seeking to engage with the government of Eswatini as a matter of priority and urgency to discuss the subject,” an EU official told Daily Maverick. In its statement on Monday, the US said it was “deeply concerned” by the arrests as “the suppression of the right of individuals — including Members of Parliament — to freely express their opinions is unacceptable.” Daily Maverick

S. Africa Approves Use of 1,495 Military Personnel to Help Mozambique Fight Insurgents
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the use of 1,495 members of the military to help neighbour Mozambique fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency, parliament said on Wednesday. The use of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) comes after southern African regional bloc SADC last month approved the deployment of troops to Mozambique to combat a conflict which began in 2017 and has killed thousands. Ramaphosa said the SANDF personnel would be used between July 15 and Oct. 15 at an expected cost of 984 million rand ($66.3 million), a letter sent to the speaker of parliament showed. In the letter. Ramaphosa referred specifically to authorising the employment of SANDF members and did not spell out how many of those would be soldiers deployed on Mozambican soil. Reuters

South Africa Slams Israel’s AU Observer Status
South Africa’s government says it was “appalled” by the African Union Commission’s decision last week to grant Israel observer status at the African bloc. In a statement published on Wednesday, the South African government said the “unjust and unwarranted” move was taken “unilaterally without consultations with its members.” Israel obtained AU observer status on Friday after 20 years of diplomatic efforts. It had previously held the role at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) but was long thwarted in its attempts to regain it after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU. According to the Israeli foreign ministry, the new status could enable Israel and the AU to forge stronger cooperation on various aspects, including the fight against the coronavirus and the prevention “of the spread of extremist terrorism” on the African continent. But the South African government said the African Union’s decision “is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land.” Al Jazeera

Genetic Engineering Test with Mosquitoes ‘May Be Game Changer’ in Eliminating Malaria
Scientists have successfully wiped out a population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes by using a radical form of genetic engineering to render the females infertile – in the most advanced and largest ever test of use of the technology to fight the disease. As well as bringing fresh hope in the fight against one of the world’s biggest killers, the study lays the foundations for further trials of gene-drive technology, which could mean self-destroying mosquitoes being released into the wild within 10 years. “This is a very exciting development,” said Dr Thomas Price, a senior lecturer in evolution, ecology and behaviour at the University of Liverpool, who was not involved in the research. “There are still lots of ethical and regulatory questions that need answering. But none of those really matter if it is impossible to build gene drives that are effective in the field. This is a major step towards achieving that.” Despite the reduction in malaria over recent decades there were still 229m cases of the disease in 2019, and 409,000 deaths. Dr Drew Hammond, at Imperial College London, who led the new research, said: “Gene drive is a self sustaining and fast acting technology that can work alongside existing tools such as bed nets, insecticides and vaccines, and could be a game changer in bringing about malaria elimination.” The Guardian

Senegalese Plant Circular Gardens in Green Wall Defence
Every night, Moussa Kamara works at his bakery preparing hundreds of loaves. But at sunrise, instead of going home to sleep, he now starts a second back-breaking job – hoeing the earth and tending newly sown seeds in a specially designed circular garden. Kamara, 47, believes the garden will prove even more important than the bakery in the future for feeding his extended family, including 25 children, and other residents of Boki Dawe, a Senegalese town near the border with Mauritania. He is part of a project that aims to create hundreds of such gardens – known as “Tolou Keur” in Senegal’s Wolof language – that organisers hope will boost food security, reduce regional desertification and engage thousands of community workers. “This project is incredibly important,” said Kamara, finally at home after a night spent at the bakery followed by 10 hours of cultivating edible and medicinal plants in the garden. “When you grow one tree, over 20 years people and animals will benefit from it,” said Kamara, whose commitment and hard work have earned him the role of garden caretaker. The project marks a new, more local approach to what is known as the Green Wall initiative, launched in 2007, that aims to slow desertification across Africa’s Sahel region, the arid belt south of the Sahara Desert, by planting an 8,000km (4,970 miles) line of trees from Senegal to Djibouti. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones