Africa Media Review for June 11, 2021

Macron to Reduce French Military Troops in Africa’s Sahel
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday announced the future reduction of France’s military presence fighting Islamic extremism in Africa’s Sahel region. In a news conference, Macron spoke about the “profound transformation” of France’s military operation in Mali and neighboring countries — without giving a timeframe. France’s Operation Barkhane will formally end, he said, and will be replaced by another mission focused on fighting Islamic extremists that relies more on regional partners. Details will be unveiled at the end of June, he said, including on the number of troops France is keeping in the region. France now has more than 5,000 troops in the Sahel. … He said France will focus in the future on deploying special forces, in cooperation with other European countries, as part of the so-called Takuba task force that is meant to play an increasing role in the fight against extremists. A French top official said it will take several months to implement the changes. Paris will first hold talks with its European and African partners, he said. AP

G-7 Nations Gather to Pledge 1b Vaccine Doses for World
Leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations are set to commit at their summit to sharing at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with struggling countries around the world — half the doses coming from the U.S. and 100 million from the U.K. … “We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Biden said. The G-7 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. … Biden predicted the U.S. doses and the overall G-7 commitment would “supercharge” the global vaccination campaign, adding that the U.S. doses come with no strings attached. The U.S. commitment is to buy and donate 500 million Pfizer doses for distribution through the global COVAX alliance to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first steady supply of mRNA vaccine to the countries that need it most. China and Russia have shared their domestically produced vaccines with some needy countries, often with hidden strings attached. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden “does want to show — rallying the rest of the world’s democracies — that democracies are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people everywhere.” AP

Without a Big Boost, Many African Nations May Not Meet a Vaccination Goal.
Countries including Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia have reported a surge in cases, while some, such as Uganda, have reintroduced lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus. The Africa C.D.C. also said that deaths on the continent increased by 2 percent over the past week, and many more countries have reported detecting the variants first reported in Britain, India and South Africa. … But on Thursday, both the W.H.O. and the Africa C.D.C. welcomed President Biden’s decision to donate 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to poorer nations, including those in the African Union. Countries like France and corporations like Mastercard have also promised to finance, deliver or help produce Covid vaccines in Africa. “It’s a monumental step forward,” Dr. Moeti said of the U.S. effort, which Mr. Biden announced in Europe on Thursday. “We are now seeing wealthy nations begin to turn promises into action. The hope of a shared future without Covid-19 is starting to shine a little bit more brightly.” … [Dr. John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa C.D.C] urged member states to prepare storage facilities for the Pfizer vaccine and prioritize big cities once those doses arrive. The New York Times

Ethiopia Postpones Vote in Two Regions Citing Irregularities
Ethiopia’s electoral board announced on Thursday that elections in two regional states would be postponed, citing irregularities and problems with the printing of ballot papers. The chairwoman of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) said that Harar and Somali regions would cast their vote in September. “For some constituencies the election will be done in a second round on September 6,” Birtukan Mideksa told reporters in the capital Addis Ababa. The nation of 109 million people – which has 37.4 million registered voters – will hold national and regional parliamentary elections in two weeks, in what might lead to the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Voting will not take place either in the northern conflict-torn Tigray region, where hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from famine. A new date for a vote in Tigray has not been set. Together the three regions account for 63 out of 547 parliamentary seats. Reuters

C. African Republic PM Resigns in Latest Blow to Government
Central African Republic’s Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada resigned Thursday, in the latest sign of fragility within the government already under threat from a coalition of armed groups opposed to the president. The development also comes amid a turbulent week in Bangui after the French military announced it was suspending military operations with Central African Republic. Critics had been calling for Ngrebada’s ouster since March, when President Faustin Touadera was sworn in for another five-year term. Some raised concern about the prime minister’s apparent ties to Russia, whose influene in the former French colony is growing. The prime minister had been appointed to the job as part of a 2019 peace deal in Khartoum that now appears on the verge of collapse. Central African Republic has seen waves of deadly inter-communal fighting since 2013, and violence erupted again last year after the constitutional court rejected former President Francois Bozize’s presidential bid. Rebels aligned with Bozize attempted an attack on the capital in January, underscoring the security threat still facing the government. AP

France Rejects CAR Spying Charges against French National
French national Juan Remy Quignolot has been accused of spying and conspiracy by prosecutors in the Central African Republic, nearly a month after he was arrested in the capital, Bangui, according to public prosecutor Eric Didier Tambo. … France called the arrest and photos “manipulation.” The Frenchman reportedly worked occasionally as a security guard for several aid organisations in the country. Former colonial power France froze budgetary aid and military cooperation with CAR two days ago, calling his arrest and charges part of an anti-French disinformation campaign backed by Moscow. “The Russians are involved, but the CAR is an accomplice at best,” said the French foreign ministry. “The CAR authorities have several times made commitments which they haven’t upheld, both politically with regard to the opposition and in its behaviour towards France, which is being targeted by a massive disinformation campaign,” the ministry added. Russian Valery Zakharov, a close adviser to CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera, tweeted about the arrest. … Late last month, French President Emmanuel Macron told France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper that “anti-French talk has provided legitimacy to predatory Russian mercenaries at the apex of the state, with a President Touadera who today is a hostage of the Wagner group,” referring to the Russian paramilitaries who carry out operations for the Kremlin. RFI

Drones, Choppers Deploy to Combat Piracy in Gulf off Nigeria
Nigeria unveiled $195 million worth of boats, vehicles and aircraft to spearhead the government’s fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The equipment will enable security forces to patrol the waters off the country’s coast more effectively and restore confidence to vessels operating in the area. Nigeria borders on an expanse of the Atlantic Ocean that’s become the most perilous part of the world for sailors, accounting for almost all kidnappings at sea in recent years. Nigeria is “restoring sanity to our waters,” said Bashir Jamoh, director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration & Safety Agency, which is coordinating the project. Through a program known as Deep Blue, the government deployed two special-mission vessels, two aircraft, three helicopters, four drones, 16 armored vehicles and 17 interceptor boats. HLS International, an Israeli maritime-security company, was responsible for procuring the assets, which will be operated by the Nigerian military. … The launch of Deep Blue, which was approved by the Nigerian government in 2017, is a welcome development, according to the International Chamber of Shipping. Bloomberg

U.S. Calls on Nigeria to End Twitter Suspension
The United States on Thursday condemned the Nigerian government for suspending Twitter and targeting individuals who use the social media site, including Nigerian broadcasters, and called for the African nation to reverse its decision. “Unduly restricting the ability of Nigerians to report, gather, and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy. Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. Price noted that the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission had ordered all television and radio broadcasters to stop using Twitter, also calling it a concern. Nigerian indefinitely suspended Twitter last week after the social media giant removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists – an announcement the government posted on Twitter. Reuters

DR Congo Seizes Militia Chief Accused of Killing 19 Wildlife Rangers
DR Congo’s famed Virunga National Park said on Thursday that the head of an armed group had been arrested over a three-year killing spree that had left 19 wildlife rangers dead. The park, one of richest areas of biodiversity in the world, is the home of the mountain gorilla and dozens of other rare or endangered species. After a six-month inquiry, Virunga wardens early Tuesday arrested suspected militia chief Jackson Muhukambuto on the outskirts of the city of Butembo, park director Emmanuel De Merode told AFP. “We believe that Jackson Muhukambuto is directly responsible for the death of 19 rangers over the last three years,” in addition to civilians and members of the armed forces, he said. He described Muhukambuto as the head of a large group called Mai-Mai Jackson. AFP

Kenya Reopens Airspace to Flights from Somalia
Kenya on Thursday announced it will reopen its airspace for flights to and from Somalia, a move welcomed by Mogadishu. Kenya’s Foreign Ministry said it has “taken due consideration of intercessions made and has decided to reopen Kenya’s airspace to all flights originating from Somalia and emanating from Kenya to Somalia.” Nairobi halted all flights to and from Somalia in May, just days after an apparent thaw in relations that were strained since late last year. The goodwill measure has been taken in the mutual interest of the two East African countries, the ministry said, adding that it hopes it will lead to full normalisation of relations, “including diplomatic, trade and people-to-people linkages that have undergone undue strain.” The ministry clarified that all coronavirus protocols will be applicable for passengers coming to Kenya from Somalia. The Somali government hailed Nairobi’s decision as a step that could smooth over relations between the two countries, which hit a low last December. Al Jazeera

Next SADC Mozambique Summit on 23 June
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa re-affirmed the commitment of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to “a lasting solution to the conflict to ensure Mozambique is stable, peaceful and able to develop its economy.” He was responding to questions asked by National Council of Provinces (NCOP) members in Parliament yesterday (Thursday, 10 June). … Ramaphosa did not expand on the SADC Double Troika technical assessment mission to Cabo Delgado in April apart from saying it proposed “deployment of the SADC Standby Force in support of the Mozambican Armed Defence Force (officially Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique) to combat the threat of terrorism and acts of violent extremism.” While no official details of the force and its contributing countries for equipment and personnel have yet been made public, it appears the major component will be three light infantry battalions supported by a pair of Special Forces squadrons. Attack and other helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft, a submarine and maritime patrol vessels are also mooted for the SADC force. defenceWeb

Lebanese Move to West Africa, Escaping the Crisis at Home
When banks started to fail and protesters began filling the streets in 2019, Moussa Khoury resisted the temptation to leave his native Lebanon. After a massive explosion flattened part of Beirut, the capital, last year, he fixed his broken windows and stayed put. But in the end he could not withstand the collapse of Lebanon’s currency. Mr Khoury runs a startup selling vegetables grown in hydroponic planters. His customers paid him in liras, while his suppliers demanded hard currency. So in April he accepted an offer from an acquaintance who promised to invest in the business—if Mr Khoury moved it to Ghana. More than 250,000 Lebanese probably live in west Africa. It is impossible to know how many have moved there since Lebanon’s economic crisis began in 2019, but the evidence suggests the number is large. A pilot of Lebanese descent living in Togo says Lebanese pack his flights to west Africa. Lebanon’s embassy in Nigeria reports a “noticeable increase” in Lebanese moving to the country. Guita Hourani, who leads a centre that studies migration at Notre Dame University-Louaize in Lebanon, says her office is flooded with calls from locals who want advice on how to track down relatives abroad, including in Africa. The Economist

‘We Can’t Go Back Home’: The Forgotten Victims of Nigeria’s Conflict – in Pictures
Camped in a half-built royal palace in Anka, in the north-western Zamfara state, displaced families – mostly women and children – just want to escape the upheavals making their lives impossible. … An estimated 6.8 million people in the region now face an ‘annual hunger season’ from June to August, as conflict engulfs the northern states of Nigeria, pushing nearly 2 million people from their homes. With an estimated 211 million people, Nigeria has the biggest population in Africa and the seventh largest in the world. The Guardian