Africa Media Review for July 8, 2021

Jacob Zuma, Former South African President, Is Arrested
Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, was taken into custody on Wednesday to begin serving a 15-month prison sentence, capping a stunning downfall for a once-lauded freedom fighter who battled the apartheid regime alongside Nelson Mandela. The Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest judicial body, ordered Mr. Zuma’s imprisonment last month after finding him guilty of contempt for failing to appear before a commission investigating corruption accusations that tainted his tenure as the nation’s leader from 2009 to 2018. Under Mr. Zuma, who was forced to step down, the extent of crony corruption within the governing African National Congress Party became clear, turning a once heralded liberation movement into a vehicle of self-enrichment for many officials. The corruption led to the gutting of the nation’s tax agency, sweetheart business contracts and rivals gunned down in a scramble for wealth and power. Mr. Zuma, 79, voluntarily surrendered on Wednesday, 40 minutes before a midnight deadline for the police to hand him over to prison officials. He was driven out of his compound in a long convoy of cars and taken to the Estcourt Correctional Center, the corrections department said. The New York Times

As France Plans to Shrink Sahel Force, Jihadi Threat Grows
During a grueling, weeks-long mission in northern Mali, French soldiers were confronted by a familiar threat: Extremists trying to impose the same strict Islamic rule that preceded France’s military intervention here more than eight years ago. Traumatized residents showed scars on their shoulders and backs from whippings they endured after failing to submit to the jihadis’ authority. “We were witness to the presence of the enemy trying to impose Shariah law, banning young children from playing soccer and imposing a dress code,” said Col. Stephane Gouvernet, battalion commander for the recent French mission dubbed Equinoxe. France is preparing to reduce its military presence here in West Africa’s Sahel region — the vast area south of the Sahara Desert where extremist groups are fighting for control. In June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of Operation Barkhane, France’s seven-year effort fighting extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Africa’s Sahel region. … There have been spikes, too, in extremist attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger, sparking concern that the reduction of the French force will create a security void in the Sahel region that will be quickly filled by the jihadis. AP

eSwatini: Africa’s Last Absolute Monarch Absent After Dozens of Democracy Activists Killed
Africa’s last absolute monarch is nowhere to be seen a week after eSwatini collapsed into deadly violence during the largest pro-democracy protests in the country’s modern history. Rumours are circulating that King Mswati III left his country in the middle of the protests – a rare occurrence in the country – in which dozens of protesters were killed, government offices burned down and shops looted. … Across Africa, restless young people are increasingly demanding better economic opportunities and fighting back against aging autocrats who have held on to power for decades by violently suppressing dissent. Tensions climaxed last week as security forces responded with violence to some of the largest, most violent demonstrations in years sparked by a ban on citizens petitioning MPs for democratic reforms. “There is a difference between this protest and the previous ones. There has never been this amount of butchering and killing of people in Swaziland,” said Siboniso Mkhabela, a senior official from the Pedemo opposition movement. Telegraph

COVID Cases Surge While Vaccines Stagnate in Africa, as Experts Urge Greater Global Contribution
African nations are bracing for what is expected to be the continent’s worst wave of Covid-19 yet, with vaccine supplies continuing to hamper recovery efforts. Last week, the continent surpassed its second-wave peak of 528,000 active cases in January, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and aggregated by the BBC, with active cases now sitting at 642,823. Across Africa, cases rose by almost 200% between June and July and the rolling weekly average of daily new deaths has surged since the start of June, with the sharp inclines attributed primarily to the rapid spread of the highly-transmissible delta variant. A total of 36 countries reported a rise in active infections last week, while 15 posted declines and three recorded no change. … The One Campaign, an international nonprofit focusing on extreme poverty and preventable disease, highlighted that testing remains “woefully low.” It also noted that limited data reporting means the understanding of the evolution of the pandemic is based primarily on around a dozen countries, which are able to conduct mass testing and report reliable data. CNBC

Tanzania Major Cities Hit by COVID-19 Third Wave, Says President
Tanzania’s major cities are worst hit by a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Samia Suluhu said, while urging citizens to take precautions to protect themselves. Speaking at Kibaigwa, Morogoro in central Tanzania, on her way from the capital Dodoma on Wednesday, President Suluhu expressed her shock when she saw hundreds of people without masks. “This third wave is already in the country and there is nothing to hide. We have patients in Kagera, Arusha, Mwanza, Dar es Salaam and even Dodoma,” she said. “I have seen here that just a few people are wearing masks and doing so incorrectly with only their mouths covered leaving open their noses. Therefore, I call upon everybody to take precautionary measures against Covid-19 as directed by health experts,” she said. The President said in Dodoma, while the number of patients is small, the cases should sound a warning to citizens to be more alert in order to prevent deaths as reported in other countries. Ms Sululu urged wearing masks whenever in public gatherings. The EastAfrican

South Sudan: Govt Cancels Independence Celebrations Due to COVID-19 Fears
South Sudan’s Council of Ministers has resolved that there will be no official celebrations for the country’s 10th independence anniversary on Friday over fear of coronavirus. The council also postponed the arranged swearing in of the new transitional legislature from Friday to a date yet to be announced. In an extraordinary sitting chaired by President Salva Kiir in Juba on Wednesday, the cabinet advised the public to mark the day in their homes as part of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Deputy National Information Minister Baba Medan said that President Kiir will speak to citizens in a televised address on Friday. … South Sudan, Africa’s youngest nation, is marking 10 years of independence on Friday. … Despite all the civil wars and sufferings, South Sudan is banking on the revitalised peace agreement to rebuild its institutions, according to the official government bulletin released this week. It is relying on the hopes of its people to rally for that goal. The EastAfrican

Egypt Urges UN to Back Call for Binding Deal on Ethiopia Dam
Egypt’s foreign minister said Wednesday he will urge the U.N. Security Council to require Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to negotiate a binding agreement within six months on the contentious issue of water availability from the dam that the Ethiopians are building on the main tributary of the Nile River. Sameh Shukry said in an interview with The Associated Press that 10 years of negotiations over the hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile have failed to ensure that water will continue to flow downstream in sufficient amounts to Sudan and to Egypt, where 100 million people are dependent on the river as their sole source of water. Shukry said Egypt and Sudan called for a Security Council meeting in light of “the existential threat” to the people of both countries from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. He also cited Ethiopia’s decision to start a second filling of the dam’s reservoir, which he said violates a 2015 agreement. AP

DR Congo Sees Fresh Government Impetus to Fight Unrelenting Violence in the East
Bintou Keita, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC, said fresh strides towards peace and stability are prerequisites for the mission, known as MONUSCO, to responsibly withdraw, in line with its planned drawdown. … Describing recent political developments, Ms. Keita said a new coalition Government, the Union Sacrée de la Nation, recently took power, with Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge inaugurated on 26 April. Fifteen women are serving in ministerial posts, representing an increase of almost 30 per cent over the last Government. Also noting the recent declaration of a “state of siege” in Ituri and North Kivu Provinces – where violence by armed groups has been among the worst in the country – she welcomed commitments by the new Government to improve civilian protection, combat those perpetrating crimes against them, and hold national and local elections in 2023. In particular, Ms. Keita drew the Council’s attention to an action plan recently released by the new Government, which aims to neutralize violent armed groups. It also includes a new programme for the disarmament, demobilization, community reintegration and stabilization of former combatants. UN News

Hunger: Biting Cost of Insecurity in North-East Nigeria
Amina Adamo, 25, is only too familiar with hunger; she has lived without food for days and with only very small rations for months at a time. Inside her makeshift shelter at the Elmiskin internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Jere, near Maiduguri, Borno State, she is one of the many people affected by food insecurity. Amina fears hunger. She relied on food assistance for almost five years, up until it was cut off three months ago. The only food assistance available in the camp was meant for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. IDPs like Amina count on humanitarian assistance as their only lifeline. The ongoing conflict and rising attacks on humanitarians who are delivering aid to communities like hers have made life more difficult and hinder the provisions sent to families who need them most. Premium Times

Bandits Kill 18 in Northwest Nigeria Raid
Armed attackers known as bandits have killed 18 people in a raid on a village in northwest Nigeria’s Katsina state, police told AFP Wednesday. State police spokesman Gambo Isah said that a large group of assailants arrived in the village of Tsauwa on motorbikes late Monday, gunning down villagers and looting homes before burning them. “The bandits killed 18 people in the raid and left one injured, while another resident went missing,” Isah said, adding that they “burned homes and took away an unspecified number of cattle.” Isah suggested that the attack might have been “punishment” for the villagers’ refusal to cooperate with armed groups in the region and determined resistance against previous raids. Dubbed bandits by the authorities, criminal groups have long terrorized northwestern and central Nigeria, raiding villages, stealing cattle, and abducting people traveling along the regions’ roads for ransom. Many are based in camps in the Rugu forest, which straddles Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, and Niger states. The Defense Post with AFP

18 Nigerian Villagers Killed by Suspected Islamist Militants -Officials
Suspected Islamist militants killed 18 people when they attacked a village in northeast Nigeria on Wednesday, two local officials said. Attacks by Islamist militants have been intensifying in northeast Nigeria in recent months, with dozens of soldiers killed and thousands of Nigerians displaced. Wednesday’s attack took place in Dabna, a village near the administrative area of Hong in the state of Adamawa, the officials said. James Pukuma, chairman of the Hong administrative area, told Reuters that 18 people had been killed when a group of gunmen on motorcycles stormed the village and some residents fled. Two churches and a house belonging to a local resident were set on fire, said Mohammed Aminu, the chairman of Adamawa state emergency agency. Reuters

Burkina Faso Rapper-Turned-Farmer Rhymes on Climate Change
Africa’s Sahel region is seeing the worst effects of climate warming anywhere on the planet, according to the United Nations. Farmers bear the brunt of the changes because 80% of the Sahel’s economy is agrarian. Art Melody, a musician in Burkina Faso who raps in the local Djula and Moore languages, knows from experience the negative impact on farm production because he is a farmer himself. His songs convey the fear and emotion felt by millions of people across the region because of the impact of global warming. Art Melody says his grandparents have told him the rainy season used to start in April but now can start in July, so there is less rain and more heat. The U.N. says the impact of desertification and drought on farmers is one of several factors causing the Sahel conflict in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. … As for Art Melody, his songs attempt to raise awareness of the plight of farmers because, he says, if people’s eyes are closed, they will always end up destroying everything, whether it is plants or human relationships. VOA

‘Bird,’ Pan-African News Agency, Goes Live
Dubbed ‘Bird,’ the platform is Africa’s first optimised-for-mobile story agency launched by Africa No Filter (ANF), a non-profit organisation focused on narrative change. Africa No Filter Executive Director, Moky Makura, said the agency was set up to create compelling multimedia content for African media outlets that’s more reflective of a vibrant, energetic and highly creative continent. “We identified a clear need for more human interest and feature style stories to counter the barrage of hard news, often negative, stories that are shaping how the world sees Africa and how Africa sees itself,” said Makura. “Bird’s mission is to create a home for these stories and make them accessible to media outlets. This way, we have the potential to reach millions more with content that connects the continent and has the power to change perceptions. It’s an incredibly exciting initiative and a potential game changer for our mission,” added Makura. The agency’s operating model is similar to that of most global news agencies like AFP and Reuters, with the difference being it doesn’t charge its media clients for run its stories. Nation



Photo: Adam Jones