Africa Media Review for June 17, 2021

Uganda Seeks Oxygen Donations After Nine Doctors Die in ‘India-Like’ Coronavirus Surge

Nine doctors have died of Covid-19 in Uganda in the last fortnight, as a devastating new wave of coronavirus infections sweeps over the country. New cases have risen by 49 per cent in the last week, by 8,574, or 18.7 per 100,000, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological report – one of the highest figures in Africa, the only part of the world currently reporting rising infections. It comes on top of a 131 per cent increase in cases last week, too. Amid reports that hospitals are running out of beds and oxygen, The Observer newspaper on Wednesday said the Ugandan government was considering appealing for oxygen supplies to help save lives. Public health experts said the country was looking increasingly like the next India, which saw hundreds of thousands die as the health system collapsed earlier this year under its second wave. … “Although the government is reporting less than 500 deaths so far since the pandemic began, I think right now we can no longer count them,” [Professor Peter Waiswa, a leading public health expert at Makerere University, Kampala] said. “People are no longer dying in hospital, they are dying all over.” Telegraph

Youth vs the Gerontocrats: A Potent Political Force Tests Africa’s Ageing Rulers

Uganda, where the median age is 16.7, young even for Africa, has come to epitomise a continent in which a cadre of immovable gerontocratic leaders of Museveni’s generation are fighting an unstoppable urban force: hundreds of millions of disenfranchised, ambitious and often unemployed young people who are fed up with politics-as-usual and a lack of opportunities. Without significant political and economic reforms, the disparities could threaten the stability of some governments — as has already happened in the likes of Sudan and Algeria. This clash of youth against gerontocrats, some of whom are former military men, is playing out in the world’s youngest continent where three in every five people are under 25. The median age in Africa is 19.7 against 42.5 in Europe and 48 in Japan. The average age of Africa’s leaders is 62, according to the UN Development Programme. In theory, a young population can be an economic boon, bringing energy, technological skills, new ideas and a bulging workforce. … As well as demographic trends, two other forces are turning Africa’s youth into a potent political force: urbanisation and technology. … Without improvements in democratic accountability, experts and activists warn, more civil strife is likely in many countries as youthful movements step up their demands for a change from the old guard. FT

In Poorest Countries, Surge Combines with Vaccine Shortage

A sense of dread is growing in some of the very poorest countries in the world as virus cases surge and more contagious variants take hold amid a crippling shortage of vaccine. The crisis has alarmed public health officials along with the millions of unvaccinated, especially those who toil in the informal, off-the-books economy, live hand-to-mouth and pay cash in health emergencies. With intensive care units filling up in cities overwhelmed by the pandemic, severe disease can be a death sentence. Africa is especially vulnerable. Its 1.3 billion people account for 18% of the world’s population, but the continent has received only 2% of all vaccine doses administered globally. And some African countries have yet to dispense a single shot. … “We’ve said all through this pandemic that we are not safe unless we are all safe,” said John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist who heads the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are only as strong as the weakest link.” … At the start of the pandemic, many deeply impoverished countries with weak health care systems appeared to have avoided the worst. That is changing. In Zambia, where a vaccination campaign has stalled, authorities reported that the country is running out of bottled oxygen. AP

Ethiopia Prepares for Tense, Long-Delayed Elections

Ethiopia is preparing for national and regional parliamentary elections on Monday that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said will be the country’s first free and fair polls after decades of repressive rule. But voting has been delayed in 110 out of 547 constituencies because of violent conflicts and logistical problems and some opposition parties are boycotting the elections over what they describe as harassment of their members. One candidate is contesting the election from jail. Abiy won international plaudits and a Nobel Peace Prize for democratic reforms and for ending two decades of hostilities with neighbouring Eritrea when he was named head of Ethiopia’s governing coalition in 2018. Within months of taking office, he unbanned opposition parties, released tens of thousands of political prisoners, and took steps to open up one of Africa’s last untapped markets. He now faces mounting international pressure over a war in the northern Tigray region and accusations from rights groups that his government is rolling back some new freedoms, which it denies. … Monday’s elections will be the first test of voter support for Abiy’s government. Abiy said on Twitter this week the polls would be “the nation’s first attempt at free and fair elections.” Reuters

Facebook Says It Removed Fake Ethiopia Account Network Ahead of Election

Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it had removed a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia targeting domestic users ahead of next week’s elections, which it linked to individuals associated with the country’s Information Network Security Agency. Facebook said the network posted mainly in Amharic about news and current events, including about Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party. It said the network posted critical commentary about opposition politicians and groups including the Oromo Liberation Front, Ethiopian Democratic Party, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front among others. The head of INSA did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. The agency, which was set up years before Abiy came to power, is responsible for monitoring telecommunications and the internet. … Facebook said the network of accounts, groups and pages on Facebook and Instagram had violated its rules against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and had accelerated its posting in 2020 and into 2021. It said the network had recently commented on U.S. sanctions on Ethiopia. … Facebook said about 1.1 million accounts followed one or more of the network’s pages and about 766,000 accounts joined one or more of the groups. Reuters

Ethiopia Rejects Arab League Resolution on Renaissance Dam

Ethiopia has rejected an Arab League resolution calling on the United Nations Security Council to intervene in a lingering dispute between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over a massive dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile, the Nile River’s main tributary. Foreign ministers of the 22-member bloc met in the Qatari capital Doha on Tuesday in the latest effort by Cairo and Khartoum to reach an agreement on the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). … The African Union (AU) is mediating the dispute currently, and Cairo and Khartoum have repeatedly called for the US, the EU, and the UN to mediate as well, but Addis Ababa has rejected the idea. The agreement would spell out how the dam is operated and filled, based on international law and norms governing cross-border rivers. The dam is now 80-percent complete and is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023, making it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power generator and the world’s seventh-largest, according to reports in Ethiopia’s state media. … The Arab League in its final communique on Tuesday called on the UN Security Council to take “necessary measures” to launch an “active negotiating process” aiming at reaching a deal within a specific timeframe. Al Jazeera

French Forces in Mali Arrest ‘High-Ranking’ Islamic State Group Jihadist

French forces in Mali have captured a man they describe as a “high-ranking fighter of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” (EIGS), the French military said Wednesday. Dadi Ould Chouaib, also known as Abou Dardar, was arrested on June 11 in the flashpoint “tri-border” region between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, the site of frequent attacks by jihadist groups, the military said in a statement. He was carrying “an automatic weapon, a night vision telescope, a combat vest, a telephone and a radio,” but surrendered without resistance. He was located during a helicopter sweep as part of a joint mission between troops from France’s Barkhane operation and Nigerien forces. … Dardar was formerly a member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), many of whose fighters joined EIGS. First arrested in 2014, he was handed over to Malian authorities. But he was one of around 200 jihadist prisoners released in October 2020 in exchange for four hostages, including French aid worker Sophie Petronin. AP

UN Chief Criticizes Central African Republic Forces’ Actions

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticized the Central African Republic’s security and allied forces in a new report for an “unprecedented increase in hostile threats and incidents” targeting U.N. peacekeepers and alleged human rights abuses. His 37-page report to the U.N. Security Council obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press said people in the country continue to face an “unacceptably high level of violence.” He called on President Faustin Archange Touadera to place peace and reconciliation at the heart of his second term “and seize the opportunity to address the root causes of the conflict.” … Guterres said the formation of a new and inclusive government in CAR “will be critical” and he urged the president to ensure that a dialogue being prepared includes armed groups that have renounced violence, civil society, women, youth and religious leaders from all over the country — and to allow “legitimate grievances to be heard and acted upon.” AP

Ivory Coast’s Ex-President to Return 10 Years After Arrest

Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat in Ivory Coast’s 2010 presidential election sparked months of violence that killed at least 3,000 people and brought the country to the brink of civil war. It’s been more than a decade since his arrest inside an underground bunker at the presidential residence, much of it spent awaiting trial at The Hague on crimes against humanity charges. Now after his acquittal on all charges was upheld, Gbagbo’s scheduled return to Ivory Coast on Thursday is galvanizing his supporters who long felt his prosecution was politically motivated. Gbagbo also appears to be receiving a cautious welcome from Alassane Ouattara, his political rival who ultimately won the contested election and has been president ever since. Some observers say Gbagbo’s plans for a triumphant homecoming will further test the country’s political stability less than a year after the incumbent sparked controversy by seeking a term in office. AP

Darfur Joint Force Will Be Formed Soon, Says Sudan’s Sovereign Council

Darfur joint force for the protection of civilians would be established in the coming days, announced the head of UN Integrated Transitional Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) after a meeting with the deputy chairman of the Sovereign Council. Volker Perthes met with Mohamed Hamdan Daglo “Hemetti” on Wednesday after a press briefing the day before where he expressed concern about the slow pace of the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA) particularly the security arrangements. In a statement issued after the meeting, the Sovereign Council said Hemetti briefed Volker Perthes about the progress achieved in the JPA implementation and praised the missions for the close contacts with the government. “The First Deputy informed him that the National Implementation Follow-up Committee (NIFC), for Juba Peace Agreement in the coming days will issue important decisions related to the establishment of the joint forces that will be composed of regular forces and peace partners,” said Perthes according to the statement. On Tuesday Perthes voiced his concern about the “non-implementation or delays in the implementation” of important provisions of the Juba Peace Agreement, especially the security arrangements, including the establishment of joint security forces. Sudan Tribune

Sudan PM Hamdok: ‘Zero Tolerance for Those Seeking to Derail Revolution’

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok has issued a stern warning that “the government of the revolution will not compromise or tolerate those who intend to exploit the revolution to create chaos, and distort the of the revolutionaries, with the aim of slipping the country into a state of instability.” Addressing the nation on Tuesday, Hamdok highlighted the fragile security situation in recent days, warning that “the country is threatened by divisions because of the deteriorating security situation, including looting and terrorising of the public in some areas.” Hamdok pointed out that “on June 3, the masses rushed to the streets to express their demands in a peaceful and civilized way, but some of the vandals and supporters of the deposed former regime exploited the situation to create chaos.” He lauded the revolutionaries who protected the roadblocks and made “the miracle of the sit-in”, expressing hope that the youth will play the same role they played during the first days of the revolution. Radio Dabanga

Nigeria’s New Army Chief Visits Hadin Kai Anti-Jihadist Operation Base

Nigeria’s Major General Farouk Yahaya on a visit to the main base in Maiduguri, Borno state Hadin Kai—formerly known as Lafiya Dole—the main site via which the military conducts its operation against Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in the northeast of the country. Newly appointed on May 27 by President Muhammadu Buhari — a position yet to be officially confirmed by the national assembly, the general takes over from Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru. … His predecessor died along with ten other officers in a plane crash on May 21. It was the third air disaster this year for the military. … This is an eventful time to be assuming this position as Boko Haram has just confirmed the death of leader Abubakar Shekau — reportedly from a clash with rival Islamic State in West Africa-allied faction ISWAP. Analysts say his loss would be a huge blow to his faction and potentially allow ISWAP to consolidate territorial control in Nigeria’s northeast. Bakura Modu, known as Sahaba, is the presumed new leader of the Islamist group. As new military head, General Farouk Yahaya will now — in addition to the decade-long insurgency in Nigeria, also have to have to contend with the rampant kidnappings in the country’s northwest. Africanews with AFP

Leaders of Islamist Group in Tanzania Freed, Charges Dropped

Leaders of an Islamist group that advocated for independence for Tanzania’s semiautonomous region of Zanzibar have seen terrorism-related charges against them dropped, officials said Wednesday. The two top leaders of the civil society group the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, or UAMSHO, were freed after eight years of detention. Farid Hadi and Msellem Ali Msellem were released Tuesday night. … Several religious leaders in Tanzania, both Christians and Muslims, had called on the new government of President Samia Suluhu Hassan to use “wisdom” while dealing with the suspects, with some appealing directly to government leaders to prosecute or release them. Religious organizations in Zanzibar praised the decision. It was “very human and morally oriented,” said Abdullah Ali of the Imam Association of Zanzibar. He urged people to let those newly released focus on their families after a long absence. AP

Over 270 Migrants Rescued and Detained in Libya, UN Says

Over 270 Europe-bound migrants were rescued by a commercial ship near Libya’s Mediterranean shores and handed over to the Libyan coast guard who sent them to detention centers, the U.N. migration and refugee agencies said. The migrants were rescued in international waters on Monday by the Vos Triton, sailing under the flag of Gibraltar, said the International Organization for Migration and the UNHCR in a joint statement Wednesday evening.A day later, they were returned by the Libyan coast guard to the Tripoli port, from where they were taken into detention by Libyan authorities, the statement added. “The two organizations reiterate that no one should be returned to Libya after being rescued at sea. Under international maritime law, rescued individuals should be disembarked at a place of safety,” said the agencies, adding that Libya cannot be considered “a safe place.” … So far this year, more than 13,000 migrants were returned to Libyan detention centers and hundreds have perished at sea, said both agencies. AP

Bodies of 20 Suspected Illegal Miners Found near Abandoned South Africa Goldmine

Police in South Africa have discovered the bodies of 20 suspected illegal miners near an abandoned goldmine shaft south-west of Johannesburg. Police said in a statement they were investigating the cause of the deaths, adding that the men’s bodies “were found wrapped in white plastic bags” and bore “severe body burns.” “All the deceased are suspected to be illegal miners commonly known as ‘zama zamas’ operating in obsolete shafts in Orkney and Stilfontein,” just under 200km (125 miles) south-west of Johannesburg, police said in the statement. Thousands of “zama zamas” – which means “those who try their luck” in Zulu – operate in the country, according to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). Most are in Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial capital, which is built on some of the world’s richest gold deposits. Most illegal mining is run by crime syndicates. A 2018 report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime estimated that it costs South Africa more than £753m a year. The practice is extremely dangerous, with the risk of injuries and deaths from explosives, toxic fume inhalation, collapsing mine shafts and gang violence. The Guardian

South Africa Marks Anniversary of Soweto Student Protests

South Africa’s high rate of unemployment has cast a pall over Youth Day, the holiday honoring the 45th anniversary of the Soweto student protests which played a key role in ending apartheid, the previous regime of racist, minority rule. On June 16, 1976, thousands of Black students in Johannesburg’s Soweto township demonstrated against the imposition of the Dutch-based Afrikaans language in schools. Police reacted with violence and more than 100 students were killed, including 13-year-old Hector Pieterson. Pictures of Pieterson’s lifeless body being carried by grieving fellow student Mbuyisa Makhubu spread across the world and highlighted the brutality of the white apartheid government against Black South Africans. When South Africa achieved majority rule and Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994, his government honored the student protests by making June 16 a public holiday, Youth Day. AP



Photo: Adam Jones