Africa Media Review for June 10, 2021

UN Official: Key Committee Says 350,000 in Famine in Tigray
A high-level U.N.-led committee that focuses on rapid responses to humanitarian crises estimates that some 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region are facing famine conditions, a U.N. official said late Wednesday. The estimate was presented at a meeting on Monday of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, comprising 18 U.N. and non-U.N. organizations that is chaired by U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also attended, the official said. … The U.N. has criticized the lack of access to all areas of Tigray for humanitarian workers seeking to deliver aid. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that U.N. staff on the ground report the continuing blocked movements of aid, and interrogation, assault and detention of humanitarian workers at military checkpoints. There has also been looting and confiscation of “humanitarian assets and supplies” by parties to the conflict, he said. Some areas of Tigray remain inaccessible, Dujarric said, and in accessible areas “the situation is dire, including dysfunctional water systems and limited or no health facilities.” “Levels of food insecurity and malnutrition are at alarming levels,” Dujarric said. AP

U.S. Provides over $181 Million to Avert Famine in Tigray, Ethiopia
The United States is providing more than $181 million to deliver food, water and aid to feed more than three million people it said were facing famine in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where thousands have been killed since conflict erupted in November. The aid, provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will provide enough food to feed three million people for nearly two months as well as seeds, tools and fertilizers to help farmers replant crops, according to a statement from USAID. The agency will also provide safe spaces and psychological support for women and girls as well as case management for survivors of gender-based violence, according to the statement. “The already dire situation in Tigray is deteriorating at alarming speed. As a result of the conflict, nearly 90 percent of Tigray’s population — as many as 5.2 million people — need urgent assistance,” USAID said, calling on other donors to “urgently step up” and increase contributions. Reuters

Algeria to Elect Parliament Amid Protest Movement Boycott
Algeria holds a parliamentary election Saturday under the shadow of a protest movement boycott and deep scepticism the North African nation can escape political paralysis and worsening economic crisis. The poll comes as authorities seek to bolster their legitimacy and take the wind out of the sails of the Hirak, the protest movement which returned to the streets in February following an almost year-long break due to the coronavirus pandemic. Back in 2019, the Hirak mobilised hundreds of thousands to force longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika into resignation, after he launched a bid for a fifth term. It has urged boycotts of all national votes since then. A presidential election 18 months ago, won by Abdelmadjid Tebboune, attracted a turnout of less than 40 percent, even according to official figures. Last month, the International Crisis Group said Algeria’s situation had “deteriorated”, noting that the authorities had “stepped up repression” against Hirak supporters ahead of the polls, “quashing demonstrations and arresting scores.” AFP

COVID Cases Jump by 25 Percent across Africa, Stoking Fears Continent Is Unprepared for ‘Third Wave’ 
Coronavirus cases across Africa have surged by 25 per cent over the last week, sparking fears that the continent of 1.3 billion people is unprepared to deal with a “third wave.” The rise in cases stands in stark contrast to all other regions where infection rates are falling, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) statistics. … Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance, told a press conference on Tuesday that the pandemic has been “hidden” in Africa until now. “The low numbers over the past year have not really given us a true picture,” she said. “Tests are very few and far between and so we don’t know what’s really happening.” India’s experience of a brutal resurgence have also stoked fears that Africa’s weak health infrastructure will be unable to cope with any massive rise in cases. The WHO urged countries in southern and eastern Africa to boost critical care capacity as infections are likely to spread during the cold season. Experts believe that cases will continue to rise until African countries can vaccinate the majority of their citizens. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said: “It’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of Covid-19.” Telegraph

Child Kidnapping Being Used as Warfare Tactic in Mozambique, Aid Groups Say
Armed groups in Mozambique are increasingly kidnapping children as a warfare tactic, putting victims at risk of sexual violence, early marriage and being used as fighters in the country’s worsening conflict, aid groups said on Wednesday. At least 51 children have been abducted over the last year in violence that has killed thousands and displaced many more in a northern region torn by an Islamist insurgency, but aid workers say the true number of kidnappings could be much higher. “Abducting a child constitutes one of the six grave violations against children in times of conflict, as defined by the United Nations,” said Chance Briggs, Mozambique country director for charity Save the Children. … The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had registered more than 2,600 appeals in Mozambique between September 2020 and April 2021 from people who lost track of family members, most of whom are young adults and children. Reuters

Fragile Democratic Gains in Central Africa at Risk as Violence Escalates
Attacks by armed groups including Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province pose threats to central Africa’s fragile stability the UN Security Council heard this week at the same time, pointing out crucial democratic gains must be protected. François Louncény Fall, special representative for Secretary General Antonio Guterres and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), said recent incidents – including the death of President Idriss Déby of Chad at the hands of rebel fighters and that country’s subsequent political transition – were serious obstacles to lasting peace in the sub-region. Noting Chad is at the nexus of the region’s toughest security challenges, Fall said dynamics in neighbouring Libya, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR), could negatively impact the country as it presses on with political changes following Deby’s death. The risks are further exacerbated by activities of terrorist groups in the Lake Chad basin. Supporting the country’s rapid transition to democratic and constitutional rule must be a priority for regional actors and the international community, Fall said. defenceWeb

Egypt and Sudan Urge Ethiopia to Negotiate Seriously over Giant Dam
Sudan and Egypt agreed on Wednesday to coordinate efforts to push Ethiopia to negotiate “seriously” on an agreement on filling and operating a giant dam it is building on the Blue Nile, a joint statement said. The two countries, which are downstream from the dam, issued the statement after African Union-sponsored talks remained deadlocked. Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Egypt fears the dam will imperil its water supply and Sudan is concerned about the impact on its own water flows. Talks overseen by the AU, aimed at reaching a binding agreement, have repeatedly stalled. … Both countries blamed the failure of AU-sponsored talks on what they described as Ethiopia’s intransigence. Ethiopia has said it plans to complete the second phase of filling the dam in the coming rainy season, a move Sudan and Egypt rejected before a binding legal agreement was reached. Egypt and Sudan called on the international community to intervene “to ward off risks related to Ethiopia’s continued pursuit of its policy of seeking to impose a fait accompli on the downstream countries.” Reuters

ICC Prosecutor Urges Sudan to Hand over Darfur Suspects
Fatou Bensouda briefed the U.N. Security Council for the last time as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, lamenting that the tribunal has not yet brought justice to victims of atrocities in Sudan’s western Darfur region. But she said a new era in Sudan and the transfer of the first Darfur suspect to the court should give them hope. Bensouda said Darfur victims she spoke to last week had one message: Sudan’s transitional government should hand over three suspects sought by the court who are in its custody — former President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide; former defense minister Abdel Raheem Hussein, and former interior minister and governor Ahmad Harun. Bensouda, whose mandate ends June 15, said she has focused on Darfur since crimes being committed there were referred to the court by the Security Council in 2005, when she was deputy prosecutor. But her recent visit to Sudan and Darfur was a first — a memorable trip that she said was “a strong reminder that we should focus on achieving justice for the victims and finding lasting peace for the people of Darfur.” AP

Ex-Rebel Leader’s New Fight: Reviving Sudan’s Broken Economy
Gibril Ibrahim once led a rebel group fighting to overthrow Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir. Now the nation’s finance chief, he’s struggling to revive the shattered economy and lure vital foreign investment. Ibrahim is a linchpin of the transitional government that combines civilians, the military and insurgent groups in the wake of Bashir’s eventual ouster in a 2019 uprising. Led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, it’s edging toward clearing the bulk of the nation’s $60 billion in foreign debt and settling its International Monetary Fund arrears. Other challenges remain, including holding elections, loosening the military’s stranglehold over key industries, opening new credit lines and tapping more revenue from Sudan’s gold. Hamdok’s administration also needs to disarm and integrate ex-rebels into the army, a process requiring money it doesn’t have. “The real challenge is to convince those who ruled the country for decades to accept the change and accept that they are getting a lesser portion of the resources,” Ibrahim, 65, said in an interview at his home in the eastern suburbs of Khartoum, the capital. “The military themselves are not happy with others coming in.” Bloomberg

UAE Ratifies Extradition Deal with South Africa as Hunt for Guptas Intensifies
The United Arab Emirates has ratified a 2018 extradition treaty with South Africa, its embassy in Pretoria said on Wednesday, a move that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government hopes will lead to the return of the Gupta brothers to face corruption charges. South Africa signed the treaty with the UAE in late 2018, part of Ramaphosa’s effort to crack down on those accused of corruption and influence peddling under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. It was ratified in April, UAE’s embassy said in a statement. The Gupta brothers – Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta – are accused of using connections with Zuma to win contracts, misappropriate state assets, inappropriately influence cabinet appointments and siphon off billions of rand in state funds. The Indian-born brothers, who have repeatedly denied wrongdoing, are believed to be in Dubai where they own property and businesses. “These agreements have been and remain key to the UAE in promoting judicial and legal cooperation with South Africa and strengthening bilateral relations between law enforcement institutions and partners on both sides,” the UAE’s ambassador to South Africa, Mahash Alhameli, said in the statement. Reuters

Thousands Return Home in East Congo after Volcano Eruption
Thousands of people are returning to Goma and a surrounding region in eastern Congo hoping to find their homes still intact weeks after a volcano erupted, but fearing the worst. The eruption on May 22 of Mount Nyiragongo forced tens of thousands of people to flee with no warning as lava flowed through their communities. More residents living on the outskirts of the North Kivu provincial capital were forced to evacuate again a week later when fears rose there would be another eruption. Authorities sent buses to take a number of people to safety in the town of Sake and other places in the days that followed. But as people now start the journey home, they are worried about what awaits them and what help they will get. … The last eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanos, was in 2002, leaving hundreds dead. The lava coated the airport runways and also left more than 100,000 homeless in the aftermath. The volcano also erupted in 1977, killing more than 600 people. AP

Kenya Looks to Maintain Zero Rhino Poaching Record
Kenya’s Wildlife Service says that for the first time in 21 years, not a single rhinoceros was poached in the country’s national parks in 2020. To maintain the progress, it is conducting the first ever wildlife census and placing mobile container housing in parks for rangers. Kenya’s Wildlife Service credits intensified surveillance for the drop in rhinoceros poaching cases to zero last year. The agency says it’s also taking fresh measures to maintain the progress, such as conducting a wildlife census for the first time. Edwin Wanyonyi, the agency’s director of strategies, says new approaches are being implemented. ”There is a new strategy. We are focusing on housing for rangers; we are focusing on buying them equipment, be it firearm[s], whatever they require, be it uniform, be it cold weather clothing, [so] that they can be able to respond at all times,” Wanyonyi said. VOA

Foundation to Spend $1.3b to Vaccinate Africans for COVID
One of the world’s largest foundations will spend $1.3 billion over the next three years to acquire and deliver COVID-19 vaccines for more than 50 million people in Africa. It’s a first-of-its-kind effort for a Western nonprofit to bolster Africa’s lagging vaccination campaign amid widespread fears of a third wave of infections on the continent. The Tuesday announcement from the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, which has more than $39 billion in assets, comes days after the World Health Organization said Africa was encountering an alarming mix of a spike in virus cases and “a near halt” of vaccine shipments. The delays have been tied to India’s halt on vaccine exports, among other things. The foundation will purchase single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the discounted rate negotiated by the African Union during its 220 million dose deal with the vaccine manufacturer. Those vaccines will begin to be delivered to the AU’s 55 member states from July to September, with an option to purchase an additional 180 million doses through next year. AP

Africa Roundtable: ‘Health Is Economy and Economy Is Health’
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier set the tone in his opening remarks for the “Africa Roundtable” held on Wednesday when he called for greater cooperation between Europe and Africa. “We, Africa and Europe, need each other to tackle the big challenges, and we can learn a lot from each other in the process,” he said at the start of the online debate organized by the Global Perspectives Initiative (GPI). Steinmeier said that it was crucial to cooperate closely in fighting the pandemic, on climate change, migration, digitization, terrorism, and globalization. He called for a more significant contribution by western countries to the global vaccination campaign against the coronavirus virus. All panelists agreed that one thing the pandemic had taught the world was, as Nigerian economist Oby Ezekwesili put it: “Health is economy and economy is health.” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had already warned in February, when she took over as director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), that there would be no “business as usual” after the pandemic. At the online debate, she specified that she intended to dismantle existing trade barriers for basic medical products, vaccines, and active ingredients. DW



Photo: Adam Jones