Africa Media Review for July 7, 2021

UN Alarmed at eSwatini Protest Violence

The U.N. voiced alarm on Tuesday at the eruption of deadly violence during protests in eSwatini, calling for an independent investigation into all alleged rights abuses, including by law enforcement. The U.N.’s rights office said there were claims that security forces had engaged in “disproportionate and unnecessary use of force” after being sent to quell protests that escalated last week. Spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters in Geneva there were claims police had used live ammunition, and she also highlighted reports of looting and vandalism by protesters. “Although the situation is now reported to be calm, we remain concerned at the potential for further unrest,” she said. The protests in the tiny landlocked southern African country, formerly known as Swaziland, first erupted in May following the death of a 25-year-old law student, allegedly while in police custody. But after protesters in Africa’s last absolute monarchy ramped up their campaign for political reform last week, the government deployed the army to disperse the crowds. AFP

Ministers Die as Namibia Faces World’s Highest COVID-19 Infection Rate

Nine senior officials have died from Covid-19 in Namibia over the last 10 days as the southern African country faces one of the world’s highest infection rates, driven by the arrival of the delta variant. Health minister Kalumbi Shangula said on Monday that the variant was detected in “17 out of 28 samples” as the virus mutation which first emerged in India rips through parts of Eastern and Southern Africa. “This is the first report on the detection of the delta variant in Namibia,” the ministry said. Two senior politicians from Namibia’s ruling party, SWAPO, succumbed to the virus over the weekend, adding to a long list of high-profile fatalities including generals, professors and ministers. … Namibia recorded 4,795 coronavirus cases per million people last week, the highest rate in the world over that period. Registering more than 1,000 new cases each day, Namibia’s third wave is far more devastating than its second in December where daily cases were less than 500. The influx of cases has quickly overwhelmed hospitals and mortuaries in the capital city of Windhoek. Telegraph

Zimbabwe Returns to Strict Lockdown to Fight Virus Surge

Infections have dramatically increased in recent weeks despite a night curfew, reduced business hours, localized lockdowns in hotspot areas, and a ban on inter-city travel. The virus has spread to rural areas which have sparse health facilities. To try to contain the spread, most people must stay at home, similar to restrictions on movement adopted in March last year when towns and cities became almost deserted, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday. … Zimbabwe is one of more than 14 African countries where the delta variant is quickly spreading. Infections are shooting up. Zimbabwe’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases quadrupled over the past two weeks from 2.04 new cases per 100,000 people on June 21 to 8.39 new cases per 100,000 people on July 5, according to Johns Hopkins University. Previously the country’s crowded cities were the centers of infection, but now rural areas are hard hit, said Mutsvangwa. AP

Africa: Sustainable Development Report Shows Devastating Impact of COVID, ahead of ‘Critical’ New Phase

The world was not on track to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) before COVID-19 struck, and now the challenge has been magnified many times over, according to a new flagship UN report that indicates countries must take ‘critical’ steps on the road out of the pandemic, during the next 18 months. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021, launched on Tuesday at UN Headquarters in New York, shows the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the 2030 Agenda, as the landmark annual High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) officially got underway. In addition to the almost four million deaths due to the coronavirus, between 119-124 million people were pushed back into poverty and chronic hunger, and the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs were lost, the report indicates. … This report paints a worrying picture regarding the state of the SDGs. Yet, it also highlights stories of resilience, adaptability and innovation during the crisis, which indicate a brighter future is possible,” underscored Mr. Liu. He added that there are signs that countries are taking steps under their recovery plans, that could improve SDG action, and that the next 18 months are critical. UN News

Nigeria Kidnap Spike Threatens to Create Lost Generation of Students

Yusuf Lado had not yet learned to read or write when his school closed for fear of attacks by armed gangs, which have been snatching students across northwest Nigeria in hopes of lucrative ransom payouts. The 7-year-old has now set aside his dream of becoming a doctor and is training to be a welder, despite his slight build. “I hope to perfect this work I’m learning and be as good as my boss,” he told Reuters late last month at his new workplace on the outskirts of the Kaduna state capital. Humanitarian agencies warn that an alarming rise in school kidnappings – with at least 10 institutions hit and around 1,000 students and staff abducted since December – is disrupting the education of hundreds of thousands of Nigerian children. The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF estimates that around 1,125 schools are closed across northwest Nigeria. Even where schools are open, some parents are too afraid to send their children. Some 300,000-400,000 students in the region are out of school due to insecurity, UNICEF said. … UNICEF estimates that 13.2 million children are now out of school across Nigeria – more than in India, a country six times the size. Reuters

U.N. Urges Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to Recommit to Dam Talks

The United Nations called on Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on Tuesday to recommit to talks on the operation of a giant hydropower dam, urging them to avoid any unilateral action, a day after Ethiopia began filling the dam’s reservoir. The U.N. Security Council will likely discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) this week after Arab states requested the 15-member body address the issue. … U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres backs the role of the African Union in mediating between the countries, Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. “What is also important, that there be no unilateral action that would undermine any search for solutions. So, it’s important that people recommit themselves to engage in good faith in a genuine process,” Dujarric said on Tuesday. Reuters

Blinken Calls for Indefinite Ceasefire in Call with Ethiopia’s Abiy

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday, stressing the need for all parties to commit to an immediate and indefinite ceasefire in the northern Tigray region, the State Department said. The conflict in Tigray has killed thousands of people, displaced more than 2 million and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine, with international pressure building on both sides to end hostilities. The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire last week after its troops pulled out of the Tigray capital of Mekelle in what it called a strategic withdrawal. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) dismissed that truce as a joke and said it had driven the government out of the city. “That unilateral announcement needs to be followed up with concrete changes on the ground to end the conflict, to stop the atrocities and importantly to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian assistance,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters at a regular news briefing. Reuters

Ethiopian Embassy in Kenya among 30 to Be Closed to Save Money

Ethiopia on Monday announced plans to cut the number of embassies it has in other countries by at least half in a bid to save costs. In a briefing to Ethiopian lawmakers, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the country will shut down several embassies, including one in Kenya, to manage costs, with most diplomats working as non-resident ambassadors. “Ethiopia shouldn’t have 60 or so embassies and consulates in the present moment. Instead of throwing US dollars everywhere … at least 30 of the embassies should be closed. The ambassadors should instead be here,” he said. He said the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya, for example, could be based in Addis Ababa and only make field trips to meet with officials, while following events in Nairobi through the media. … Following the conflict in Tigray, the Ethiopian government’s resources are overstretched. Last week, it halted the offensive on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front after the war’s costs started affecting the country’s economy. Addis Ababa admitted that the country had lost about $2.3 billion since the conflict in the Tigray region erupted in November 2020. The EastAfrican

Hundreds of Ghana Opposition Supporters March in Protest at Killings

Hundreds of opposition supporters marched through the streets of Ghana’s capital Accra on Tuesday morning, demonstrating against what they described as rising insecurity and lawlessness since President Nana Akufo-Addo came to power in 2017. … The marchers pointed to a string of high-profile killings across the country. … Akufo-Addo won a second term in December following a heated election that was marred by violence in which at least five people were killed, a rarity in a country that has a reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies. On June 29 unidentified people beat to death a young civil rights activist in the city of Ejura, police told local media. Days later two people protesting against his death died, following clashes with security forces, police said. … Among its demands, the NDC said the president should “de-politicize the security services introducing reforms to give true meaning to (their) independence.” Reuters

Stripped, Groped and Violated: Egyptian Women Describe Abuse by the State

These women were either arrested for speaking out or had gone to the authorities to report a crime. In each case, they said, they were sexually abused by the officials sworn to protect them. Whether they are victims of crimes, witnesses or the accused, women who encounter Egypt’s criminal justice system risk being taken aside and stripped, groped, prodded and violated. This treatment is illegal, but in this authoritarian and patriarchal country, there is almost nothing they can do about it. The women in these videos, speaking publicly for the first time, described sexual violations that they said were committed in police stations, prisons and hospitals. … After the military detained at least 18 women at a protest in 2011, strip searched them and subjected them to virginity tests, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was then the head of military intelligence, said he recognized the “need to change the culture of the security forces” and promised to “protect detainees against ill treatment.” A decade later, and seven years into his presidency, that promise has yet to be fulfilled. … Women in Egypt often avoid reporting sexual assault out of fear that they will be blamed. The justice system gives them another reason: that they will be violated again. The New York Times

Government-Backed Militias in Burkina Faso Accused of Abuses

The attack in Burkina Faso last month that killed 160 civilians was in retaliation for activity by pro-government civilian militias in the area, according to Human Rights Watch. In the daytime, Daouda Diallo is a scientist. By night, he is one of Burkina Faso’s most prominent human rights campaigners. He runs the Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities, a campaigning group set up in the wake of the Yirgou massacre, an attack that saw around 200 people killed, mostly from the Fulani ethnic group, in early 2019. … Diallo also points out that one of the government’s most controversial policies is a law that allows preexisting civilian militias, known as koglweogos, to be armed and trained by the government. The new force is called the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland, or VDPs. When the law was created in 2020, Human Rights Watch said arming poorly trained civilians could lead to abuses. So far, at least 95 people have been killed in 38 incidents of violence against civilians by VDPs, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. … A leader of the ruling MPP party admits it’s possible VDPs commit abuses — but says they are necessary. VOA

Italy to Investigate Libyan Coastguard’s ‘Attempted Shipwreck’ of Migrant Boat

Prosecutors in Sicily have launched an investigation against the Libyan coastguard after footage emerged appearing to show officials firing on a boat of migrant families in the Mediterranean Sea. On 30 June, rescue workers from the German organisation Sea-Watch recorded the Libyan coastguard patrol vessel coming dangerously close to the small wooden boat and apparently firing shots in an attempt to force the 64 people onboard back to Libya. On Friday, after receiving a complaint from Sea-Watch, which contained footage and photos of the incident, prosecutors in Agrigento decided to investigate the Libyan officials for “attempted shipwreck,” and will look at whether the incident put the lives of the migrants in danger. It is the first time a European country has launched an investigation against the Libyan coastguard, who have faced numerous accusations of alleged collusion with people smugglers and of mistreating asylum seekers. The Guardian

V&A Exhibition Will Use 250 Objects to Highlight Creativity of African Fashion

An exhibition about African fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum will attempt to reframe the narrative about the continent, showcasing its independence and creativity following decades of false assumptions. Africa Fashion opens on 11 June 2022 and will feature 250 objects telling the story of the continent through the work of its most prominent and influential designers. “It will tell a tale of unbounded creativity and abundance,” said Christine Checinska, curator of African and African diaspora fashion at the museum. “To me that’s very different to the stories we have heard around ‘lack,’ when it comes to Africa.” The continent’s fashion output has been clouded by false assumptions, according to Kimberly Jenkins, who runs the Fashion and Race database, an organisation that aims to “decolonialise” fashion. “While there are regions that are in need due to war and poverty, the entire continent has often been misunderstood,” she said. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones