Africa Media Review for July 30, 2021

19 Civilians Die in New Attack in Niger
A fresh attack in western Niger near the border with volatile Mali has left 19 civilians dead, the government said Thursday. The attack took place Wednesday in the village of Deye Koukou in the Banibangou area, where 14 civilians were killed Sunday, it said. Three others were wounded and one was missing. A local official earlier told AFP that 18 people had been killed in the raid. The latest attack takes to 33 the number of civilians killed in the region in less than a week. Banibangou falls inside what is known as the three-borders region between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. … Despite repeated efforts by the authorities to secure the region, the deadly attacks have continued, often carried out by gunmen on motorbikes who flee across the border into Mali after their raids. VOA

More than 100,000 Children in Tigray at Risk of Death from Malnutrition – UNICEF
More than 100,000 children in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in the next 12 months, a 10-fold jump over average annual levels, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday. UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado, speaking after returning from Tigray, said that one in two pregnant and breastfeeding women screened in the region were acutely malnourished, leaving them and their babies prone to sickness. “Our worst fears about the health and wellbeing of children in that conflicted region of northern Ethiopia are being confirmed,” she told a U.N. briefing in Geneva. Reuters

Eritreans Refugees Demand Protection amid Tigray War
Eritrean refugees have organised a protest in front of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) office in the capital Addis Ababa, demanding the relocation of thousands of refugees from camps in the war-torn Tigray region. About 300 protesters blocked a road that led to the UNHCR office, holding signs that said “Stop abuse of Eritrean refugees” and “Protect the rights of refugees.” They also demanded basic humanitarian assistance from the UN agency and its Ethiopian counterpart – Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) – for thousands of refugees who have escaped the warzone to Ethiopia. “We want the world to know that Eritrean refugees are suffering in Ethiopia,” said Miku Digaffe, one of the organisers of the rally, told Al Jazeera, “We feel neglected and forgotten.” Many of the protesters are from the refugee camps of Hitsats and Shimbella, which housed more than 30,000 refugees, but were shut down in February after being attacked in the wake of an armed rebellion in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Thousands of Eritrean refugees have been displaced due to the rebellion since January, with many moving to the two surviving camps in Tigray, Mai Aini and Adi Harush, while others opted to return to their home country, Eritrea. Al Jazeera

Tunisia President Vows New War on Corruption after Seizing Control
President Kais Saied, who assumed all executive powers after suspending parliament Tunisia, has launched an anti-corruption offensive, calling to account 460 businessmen accused of embezzling funds during the Ben Ali era. Three days after suspending the activity of the Parliament for a month and taking over the entire executive power, the head of state has blasted the “bad economic choices” made in recent years in Tunisia, during a meeting Wednesday evening with the president of the employers’ association (Utica). Mr. Saied, who has not yet named the Prime Minister, attacked “those who plunder public money. They are “460” to owe “13.5 billion dinars” (4 billion euros) to the state, he recalled, citing an old report of a commission of inquiry on corruption and embezzlement under the former regime of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. AfricaNews

Tunisia’s Turmoil is Being Watched Warily around the Globe
Days of political turmoil in Tunisia over a crippled economy and surging coronavirus infections have left the country’s allies in the Middle East, Europe and the United States watching to see if its fragile democracy will survive. European countries — most notably nearby Italy — worry about a flood of migrants should Tunisia slide further into chaos. Autocratic leaders from Egypt to Saudi Arabia hope this week’s power grab by Tunisian President Kais Saied spells doom for the region’s Islamists. But they also fear a reignited Arab Spring, like the uprising that was kindled by Tunisia a decade ago. And around the world, pro-democracy campaigners wonder if a country they held up as a beacon is drifting back toward dictatorship. “The ball is now in the people’s court,” Egyptian activist el-Ghazaly Harb said in a Facebook post. “They are able to correct the path without abandoning the peaceful democratic model that we all hope they can see to the end,” he said. “The answer will always be Tunisia.” … Egypt is watching carefully. It was the first to follow Tunisia in an outburst of mass protests against autocratic rule in 2011. In the aftermath, the highly organized Muslim Brotherhood rose to power, but was ousted in 2013 amid a military-backed popular uprising led by Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Several Hundred Protest Chad Junta
Several hundred people marched in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, on Thursday to protest the military junta which took power after the country’s long-serving leader died while fighting rebels. The Transformers party and civil society groups had called for people to come out against “the confiscation of power” by the Transitional Military Council (CMT) that has ruled the poor Sahel country since the death of president Idriss Deby Itno in April. The council is headed by Deby’s son. The protesters called for a national conference to overhaul the junta’s charter and restore democracy in the former French colony. … “France has to choose the Chadian people as its partner in dialogue, not just a small group of individuals,” said Max Loalngar, spokesperson for opposition group Wakit Tamma. “Otherwise it will be the eternal enemy of the Chadian people.” The junta earlier promised elections after an 18-month “transition” that could be extended, while dissolving parliament and repealing the constitution. VOA

Nearly 1,000 Migrants Have Drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2021: UN
The 57 migrants who drowned off the coast of Libya on Sunday added to the toll of nearly 1,000 lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea this year alone, the UN agency International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has revealed. In addition to the 57 who drowned on Sunday when their boat sank, there are at least 20 women and two toddlers missing from the sinking, while 18 were rescued, according to the IOM. Local fishermen and the Libyan coastguard rescued 18 people from the waters 120 kilometres east of Tripoli. “Our staff in Libya provided emergency medical assistance, food, water and comfort to the survivors, who are from Nigeria, Ghana and The Gambia, said IOM spokesman Paul Dillon. Some 970 people have drowned this year while making that treacherous journey to Europe. The IOM said there had been a rise in departures for 2021 along the central Mediterranean as well as an increase in interceptions, and more arrivals. RFI

U.N. Arms Embargo on CAR Extended for Year, China Abstains
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday extended a Central African Republic (CAR) arms embargo and targeted sanctions regime for another year, however China abstained in the vote because it believes the measures should be removed. The 15-member Security Council imposed the arms embargo on CAR in December 2013 when mainly Muslim Selaka rebels ousted then president Francois Bozize, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militias. A targeted sanctions regime was agreed in 2014, when U.N. peacekeepers were also deployed to the country. … Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy encouraged the CAR government to meet U.N. benchmarks that would allow the council to consider lifting the arms embargo next year. Moscow has been jockeying for influence in CAR with France. Reuters

Ugandan Opposition, Activists Denounce Digital Car Tracker Plan
A move by Uganda’s government to install digital tracking devices on vehicles to help fight rampant crime has been denounced by rights advocates and the opposition who say it will be used to monitor activists, government opponents and critics. Authorities in the east African country last week signed an agreement with Russian firm Joint-Stock Global Systems to install digital trackers in all vehicles in Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni has said his government wants to rely on high-tech tools like a Chinese-supplied and installed CCTV camera system and the digital trackers being procured to help fight and solve crimes. The digital tracker plan has prompted widespread criticism. Opponents say such mass surveillance would erode individual privacy rights and is not supported by Ugandan law. Reuters

Urban Poor in Lagos Go Hungry as Covid-19 Heightens Need, Says Report
As Lagos, Nigeria’s capital and the state with the largest amount of urban poor, faces a new spike in Covid-19 cases in its third wave of coronavirus, its residents are going hungry due to lack of a social security safety net, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. The report, Between Hunger and the Virus, was carried out between March 2020 and May 2021. It analyses the impact the lockdowns have had on the urban poor in Lagos. The state of Lagos is Nigeria’s wealthiest state, but has more than 380 slum communities. Nigeria does not guarantee benefits to casual workers – usually the poorest – who become unemployed. When buildings and universities were shut down in March during the pandemic, many people lost their jobs, including Margaret Okuomo, who had cleaned dormitories for 13 years at the University of Lagos. … In Nigeria, the World Bank estimates that only four percent of the poorest 40 percent had any form of social safety net program, even though there is a pension scheme for both the formal and informal sector. RFI

Nigeria: Kaduna Govt Files Fresh Charges Against El-Zakzaky
Kaduna State Government yesterday said it has filed further charges against the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky under the Treason and Treasonable Offences Act before a Federal High Court. This is coming less than 24 hours after a Kaduna State High Court discharged and acquitted El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat. Daily Trust reports that a Kaduna High Court presided by Justice Gideon Kurada on Wednesday ruled that the charges against El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat were not supposed to be filed, as the Kaduna State Government cannot arraign someone for a crime that was not an offence at the time. Daily Trust

U.S. Lawmakers Reportedly Block Sale of Military Weapons to Nigeria
Influential U.S. lawmakers are masterminding a hold on a proposed sale of attack helicopters to Nigeria over concerns that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was “drifting towards authoritarianism.” … Citing U.S. officials and congressional aides privy to the blocked ammunition deals worth $875 million, Foreign Policy, a U.S. newspaper, said power brokers in Washington, particularly the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were hellbent on pushing the Biden administration to rethink the U.S. relations with Nigeria to ensure balance between national security and human rights. … Although the U.S. Department of State described its relationship with Nigeria as “among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa” to whose military it has provided limited funding for training and education programmes, recent events in the most populous African country have raised concerns among human rights advocates. Nigerian protesters calling for police reform were last year attacked by security operatives and thugs allegedly sponsored by the state, leading to some deaths, while no security official has been prosecuted for the mass killing of hundreds of Shiites in Kaduna in December 2015. Premium Times

Equatorial Guinea VP Loses Appeal against French Embezzlement Verdict
France’s highest appeal court on Wednesday upheld a guilty verdict against the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president for embezzlement, paving the way for the potential return of tens of millions of dollars to the country’s people. Teodoro Obiang Mangue, who is also the vice president of the Gulf of Guinea nation, was handed a three-year suspended sentence and a 30 million euro ($33 million) fine at the end of his trial in absentia in 2020. … Now that there can be no more appeals in this case, the assets are set to be put on sale under a new French law which stipulates that the money, instead of going to the French state’s coffers, should go back to Equatorial Guinea. … Obiang’s father, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has ruled Equatorial Guinea since taking power in a coup in 1979, 11 years after independence from Spain. CNN

Qaddafi’s Son Is Alive. And He Wants to Take Libya Back.
Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the second son of the country’s notorious dictator … Until the Libyan uprising began, in February 2011, Seif was widely seen in the West as the country’s best hope for incremental reform. … But when the revolution came, Seif enthusiastically joined the Qaddafi regime’s brutal crackdown. … Seif has made use of his absence from public life, watching the currents of Middle Eastern politics and quietly reorganizing his father’s political force, the Green Movement. He is coy about whether he is running for president, but he believes that his movement can restore the country’s lost unity.… During the talks that formed Libya’s current government, Seif’s supporters were allowed to participate, and they have so far maneuvered deftly to beat back election rules that would bar him from running. The limited polling data in Libya suggests that large numbers of Libyans — as much as 57 percent in one region — express “confidence” in him. … Seif’s appeal is rooted in nostalgia for his father’s dictatorship, a feeling that is increasingly common in Libya and across the region.

Archaeologists Announce Major Stone Age Discovery in Morocco
Archaeologists in Morocco have announced the discovery of North Africa’s oldest Stone Age hand-axe manufacturing site, dating back 1.3 million years. The find pushes back by hundreds of thousands of years the start date in North Africa of the Acheulian stone tool industry associated with a key human ancestor, Homo erectus, researchers on the team told journalists in Rabat. It was made during excavations at a quarry on the outskirts of the country’s economic capital Casablanca. “This major discovery … contributes to enriching the debate on the emergence of the Acheulian in Africa,” said Abderrahim Mohib, co-director of the Franco-Moroccan Prehistory of Casablanca programme. Before the find, the presence in Morocco of the Acheulian stone tool industry was thought to date back 700,000 years. … Moroccan archaeologist Abdelouahed Ben Ncer called the news a chronological rebound. He said the beginning of the Acheulian in Morocco is now close to the South and East African start dates of 1.6 million and 1.8 million years ago respectively. RFI



Photo: Adam Jones