Africa Media Review for July 6, 2021

‘Silent Mass Drowning’: Call for Urgent Supply of Vaccines as Delta Variant Threatens Africa

Africa is facing a “perfect storm” of Covid-19, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, has warned, with cases surging by almost 2,000 per cent in just a month in some parts of the continent. … New cases have been rising across Africa for six weeks in a row, and went up by 25 per cent to almost 202,000 in the week ending 27 June, close to the peak in the second wave in January. The continent-wide picture obscures astonishing growth in certain countries: cases have rocketed in Mozambique, Rwanda and Malawi by 172 per cent, 138 per cent and 110 per cent respectively in the last two weeks alone. Deaths are going up, too: by 23 per cent in the last week on average, and 80 per cent in the last month. Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya and Mozambique have seen the biggest jumps, up by 380 per cent, 217 per cent, 202 per cent and 186 per cent respectively in the last two weeks. … “We are in acute emergency mode – we need to prepare oxygen, field hospitals, health workers, declare humanitarian emergencies in countries where the systems are overwhelmed, and have surge capacity people coming in if needs be,” [Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance] said. Telegraph

Over 400,000 in Tigray Suffering Famine Now, with 1.8m on Brink

More than 400,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray are now suffering famine and 1.8 million others are on the brink, a top United Nations official has said, painting a devastating picture of an embattled region where humanitarian access is extremely restricted. The UN Security Council held its first public meeting on the conflict on Friday, days after the Tigrayan forces, in a stunning turn of events, retook the regional capital, Mekelle. Acting UN aid chief Ramesh Rajasingham told the council that the humanitarian situation in Tigray had “worsened dramatically” in recent weeks, with an increase of some 50,000 in the number of people now facing famine. “More than 400,000 people are estimated to have crossed the threshold into famine and another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine. Some are suggesting that the numbers are even higher. 33,000 children are severely malnourished,” he said. “Two million people are still displaced and close to 5.2 million people still require humanitarian assistance. The great majority are women and children. One of the most distressing trends is the alarming rise in food insecurity and hunger due to conflict.” Al Jazeera

Fighting and Food Shortages Fray Hopes for Ethiopia’s Ceasefire

Soon after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front paraded Ethiopian federal prisoners of war through the streets of Mekelle this weekend, it demanded that all troops sympathetic to prime minister Abiy Ahmed withdraw from the province before it would agree to a ceasefire. It was just the latest sign that Abiy’s unilateral ceasefire, which the TPLF has called a “joke,” might be ineffective at stopping fighting that has killed thousands, displaced 1.7m and plunged over 400,000 people in famine-like conditions. Ethiopia’s government had urged Tigrayan rebels to join its June 28 ceasefire, which it claims would help aid agencies reach hundreds of thousands of people with relief supplies. The call for a ceasefire was made as the TPLF recaptured Mekelle, the regional capital, a week ago. The TPLF is demanding that Addis Ababa first withdraw all its troops and their allies from the northern region. It has also called for an independent investigation into alleged atrocities by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, and the reinstatement of the TPLF government in Tigray. FT

Egypt: Ethiopia Begins Disputed Filling of Dam amid Tensions

Egypt said Monday that Ethiopia has reported it is starting to fill the reservoir of a controversial dam on the Nile River’s main tributary, a move likely to increase tensions ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on the dispute, which also includes Sudan. A statement by Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry said Minister Mohammed Abdel-Aty received an official notice from his Ethiopian counterpart notifying Egypt of the reservoir filling for the second year. The statement said Egypt categorically rejects such a “unilateral move,” calling it a “clear and grave violation” of a 2015 agreement. It said the move is a threat to region’s security and peace. The U.N. Security Council has scheduled a Thursday meeting to discuss the decade-long dispute over the dam. There has been mounting tensions in recent months after the latest round of African Union-brokered negotiations in April failed to make progress. AP

SADC Peace-Seeking Mission to Eswatini Frustrated

Regional ministers sent to Eswatini to try to defuse the crisis there after a week of deadly and destructive protests met the government, but left without having properly engaged the opposition. Opposition leaders said the government had handpicked only a few less-critical civil society leaders to meet the three ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Sunday. Then leaders of the real opposition heard about this and gatecrashed the meeting which the SADC ministers were having with Eswatini’s acting Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, Foreign Minister Thuli Dladla, Justice Minister Pholile Dlamini Shakantu and a few church and civil society leaders. … Violent protests erupted in Eswatini 10 days ago and spread to several cities and towns. Prominent human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko, spokesperson for the Multi-stakeholders Coordinating Team, said at least 52 protesters had been killed by security forces and scores injured. … Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who chairs SADC’s security organ, had announced on Friday that the mission of the SADC ministers was to try to facilitate an “open national dialogue” in Eswatini. Daily Maverick

About 140 Students Missing and Presumed Kidnapped After Gunmen Storm Another School in Northwest Nigeria

At least 140 Nigerian schoolchildren are missing after gunmen stormed a school Monday in Nigeria’s northwest Kaduna state, where an epidemic of kidnappings for ransom has increasingly ensnared students in Africa’s most populous nation. Armed assailants on Sunday also abducted eight people, including two nurses and a 12-month-old child, from residential quarters at the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Training Center in Zaria, about 50 miles from Kaduna, according to the BBC. A nearby police station was simultaneously targeted, perhaps as a distraction, Reuters reported. The alleged kidnappings were the fourth armed attack on an educational institute in Kaduna state in the past five months and the third on the Zaria hospital. … Since December, more than 1,000 students have been abducted, at least nine killed, and over 200 are still missing from similar raids, according to the BBC. … Kidnappers initially focused on wealthier Nigerians or foreigners. But in the past few years, “bandits,” as criminal gangs are broadly called, have increasingly targeted poorer communities, including students at boarding schools where security is known to be unreliable. The Washington Post

Nigerian Families Struggle to Survive as Food Prices Soar

With inflation rising around the world as the global economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, soaring prices are having dramatic consequences in countries like Nigeria. The number of people living in poverty in Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation with 210 million inhabitants – was already among the highest in the world. But as Nigeria has been battered by the double economic effect of low global oil prices and the pandemic, the World Bank estimates the country’s soaring inflation and food prices pushed another seven million people into poverty in 2021. Food prices have increased more than 22 percent since the start of the coronavirus crisis, according to official statistics. For many people, feeding their family has become a daily challenge. … Even before the pandemic and the surge in food costs, Nigeria’s nutrition figures were alarming: One in three Nigerian children suffered stunted growth due to a bad diet. As a result, close to 17 million children in Nigeria are undernourished, giving the country the highest level of malnutrition in Africa and the second-highest in the world. Al Jazeera

Nnamdi Kanu’s Arrest Leaves Nigeria’s IPOB Separatists in Disarray

For more than a decade, [Kanu’s] fiery radio broadcasts and social media posts were thorns in the side of the Nigerian government but his transition to an armed struggle in 2020 was seen as a step too far. The armed wing of Ipob – the Eastern Security Network – has been accused of killing at least 60 people in recent months, most of them police officers, although the group denies the allegations. … Mr Kanu was seen by many as a dangerous propagandist, but he was also considered a lightning-rod for the discontent many Igbos still feel about Nigeria, decades after a three-year civil war between 1967 and 1970. Many Igbos feel sidelined in Nigerian politics and there are cries of marginalisation. Between September 2020 and May 2021, there was a wave of attacks on police stations and other public facilities in the south-east which authorities blamed on Ipob. BBC

France Resumes Joint Military Operations in Mali

France has announced it will resume joint military operations in Mali after suspending them early last month following the West African country’s second coup in less than a year. Following consultations with the Malian transitional authorities and the countries of the region, France “decided to resume joint military operations as well as national advisory missions, which had been suspended since June 3,” the armed forces minister said in a statement on Friday. The decision to suspend the joint operations came after Mali’s military strongman Assimi Goita, who led last year’s coup, overthrew the country’s civilian transitional president and prime minister. That move sparked diplomatic uproar, prompting the United States to suspend security assistance for Malian security forces and for the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to suspend Mali. … On June 10, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a major drawdown of France’s military presence in the Sahel where forces have been battling rebel groups for nearly a decade. Al Jazeera

Burkina Faso Protesters Demand Gov’t Response to Rising Bloodshed

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Burkina Faso, demanding a stronger response to rising bloodshed after a massacre last month killed more than 130 people. Some had travelled hundreds of kilometres to attend the opposition-led demonstration in the capital, Ouagadougou, where protesters waved the red and green Burkinabe flag and blew whistles on Saturday. … “We had to show our dissatisfaction, show the distress of citizens who are crying out for security and peace,” said opposition supporter Alpha Yago on the sidelines of the protest. One protester held a placard with a photo of flag-draped coffins and the slogan: “Mr President, have the courage to decide. We are fed up!” It was the first march organised by opposition and civil society groups since President Roch Marc Christian Kabore was re-elected last year. … Kabore had asked the organisers to postpone the march. But opposition leader Eddie Komboigo welcomed “a huge mobilisation across the country despite government calls for a boycott.” … Anger has been rising since the night of June 4, when the deadliest attack in years was waged on the village of Solhan. Armed men – including “young people aged 12 to 14”, authorities said – killed at least 132 people, according to the government. Al Jazeera

Sudan: 20+ Dead in West Darfur Clashes

The death toll from four days of tribal clashes in the villages of Sirba locality in West Darfur has risen to more than 20 dead and dozens wounded. Callers from the locality told Radio Dabanga that more than five villages including Kafani, Karkar, Krekar, Ammar Jadeed, have been burned, and much livestock has been stolen. Witnesses said that the clashes continued on Sunday for the fourth day, with light and heavy weapons used. The clashes led to the displacement of a large number of people to the Azeri area, where the displaced took shelter in schools. The Coordination of the Resistance Committees in Sirba locality demanded that the government intervene urgently to stop the violence and fighting, to disarm the militias and to arrest and prosecute the criminals. Radio Dabanga

Delegates Fail to Agree on Legal Basis for Libya Elections

Libyan delegates failed to agree on a legal framework to hold presidential and parliamentary elections later this year, the U.N. said Saturday, putting an agreed-upon roadmap to end the conflict there in jeopardy. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a 75-member body from all walks of life in Libya, concluded its five days of talks in a hotel outside Geneva on Friday, the U.N. support mission in Libya said. Participants in the U.N.-brokered talks discussed several proposals for a constitutional basis for the elections, including some that were not consistent with the roadmap that set the vote on Dec. 24. Others sought to establish preconditions to hold elections as planned, the mission said. The U.N. mission said the LPDF members have created a committee tasked with bridging the gap among the proposals put before the forum. But the deadlock remained. … The mission urged forum members to continue consultations to agree on “a workable compromise and cement what unites them.” It warned that proposals which “do not make the elections feasible and possible to hold elections on 24 December will not be entertained.” AP

Suicide Explosion Kills 10, Injures Dozens in Somalia

At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in a suicide explosion in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Friday evening, the authorities said, the second such attack to rock the city in weeks as the country enters a crucial election season. A suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest near a cafe close to the well-known Juba Hotel, which is in a strategic area that houses government ministries and the intelligence headquarters. The cafe, frequented by members of the Somali security forces, was crowded with patrons when the attack took place, officials said. The Somali government blamed the terrorist group Al Shabab, and the group itself took responsibility, saying that it had targeted intelligence, police and military forces. Al Shabab claimed the blast killed at least 15 people and wounded 22 others. … The attack came just weeks after another Al Shabab suicide bomber attacked a Somali Army training camp that is jointly managed with Turkish forces, killing at least 10 people and wounding 20 others. … The latest suicide attack occurred just days after the prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, announced a timeline for long-delayed elections, aiming to mend a potential political standoff that has burst into deadly violence at times. The New York Times

Somalia Election Faces Security Challenge, Stiff Clan-Based Politics

As Somalia prepares for elections starting later this month, debate has ensued on just how deep the clan will play in determining who takes which seat. Last week, Prime Minister Hussein Roble announced the final timetable for elections, indicating Senate elections will happen from July 25, followed by that for members of the Lower House. The programme, which includes training of polling officials, training of nominated delegates and elections for representatives, should happen between this week and September 10. Thereafter, MPs of both Houses will vote for the President on October 10. … There is also the issue of security and logistics. The terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, remains the biggest threat on public gatherings, besides the Covid-19. Aidarus Hassan, a Mogadishu-based intellectual and keen political observer said that both logistics and security may delay the implementation according to the chosen timetable. The EastAfrican

A Diamond Rush in South Africa, Born of Desperation and Distrust

The rumor that a herdsman had found clear stones resembling diamonds in the soil of a grassy, tree-filled slope last month lured thousands of South Africans to KwaHlathi, a sleepy village in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal where cattle roam freely. … Unemployment in South Africa is at 32.6 percent, the highest level recorded since the government began producing quarterly labor force reports in 2008. Among young people, the situation is even more dire: About three of every four South African youths are without a job. Those statistics translate into all manner of odd jobs — and risky ones, like venturing into abandoned mines, that have proved deadly. They also help explain the long-shot appeal of KwaHlathi and its purported diamonds. … Government leaders asked people to stop digging and leave, citing concerns about the coronavirus, with South Africa reeling from a third wave of infections. They also said the informal digging was bad for the environment, destroying vital grazing land. Despite the warnings, people kept coming. Many snickered at the pleas of government officials, jaded by a history of corruption and colonialism that has seen foreign entities extract lucrative mineral resources from communities, with only a handful of elites in the country benefiting. The New York Times

Ghana Plans to Issue Africa’s First Social Bonds with $2b Sale

Ghana is planning to issue green and social bonds of up to $2 billion by November, which would make it the first African country to sell debt to fund development programs. The West African economy, which is planning to borrow up to $5 billion on international markets this year, would use the proceeds from these sustainable bonds to refinance debt used for social and environmental projects and pay for educational or health, Ghanaian Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta said in an interview in the capital, Accra. … Ghana would be pioneering social bonds in Africa, seizing on an instrument that’s boomed since the coronavirus pandemic. Still, only a few sovereigns have sold them so far, including Chile and Ecuador. The country will use the proceeds to forge ahead with a free secondary-school initiative started in 2017 among other programs, despite having recorded its lowest economic growth rate in 37 years in 2020. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones