Africa Media Review for June 2, 2021

COVID Has Killed over 5 Percent of Lawmakers in Congo’s Parliament.
The coronavirus has now claimed the lives of 32 lawmakers in the Democratic Republic of Congo — more than 5 percent of its Parliament — the authorities say, a reflection of how the coronavirus continues to pose a widespread threat in some parts of the world even as others increasingly resume pre-pandemic behavior. The toll of the outbreak in Congo is also rising as the country struggles to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, fight off other deadly diseases and grapple with the eruption of one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. “This pandemic is raging — decimating thousands of human lives and exploding in the process the rate of morbidity,” Jean-Marc Kabund, the first vice president of Parliament’s lower house, told lawmakers last week. Congo — Africa’s second-largest country, with a population of more than 86 million — has reported over 31,000 coronavirus cases and 786 deaths, although those numbers probably vastly underestimate the scale of the outbreak because testing levels remain low nationwide. The New York Times

African Union Announces ‘Immediate Suspension’ of Mali after Second Coup
The African Union has suspended Mali’s membership in response to last week’s military coup and threatened sanctions if a civilian-led government is not restored, it said in a statement on Tuesday. The African Union “decides… to immediately suspend the Republic of Mali from participation in all activities of the African Union, its Organs and institutions, until normal constitutional order has been restored in the country,” the body’s Peace and Security Council said in a statement late Tuesday. The military arrested interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane last week and pressured them to resign, derailing a transition to democratic elections after another military coup last August ousted the previous administration. Former vice president Assimi Goita, a colonel who led the August coup and last week’s revolt, was declared president on Friday. The African Union called for “an unimpeded, transparent and swift return to the civilian-led transition … failing which, the Council will not hesitate to impose targeted sanctions,” the AU’s Peace and Security Council said. France24 with Reuters, AFP

Over 90 Percent in Ethiopia’s Tigray Need Emergency Food Aid: UN
More than 90 per cent of people in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region need emergency food aid, the United Nations said Tuesday, as it appealed for over $200 million to scale up its response. The UN World Food Programme voiced alarm that the conflict had caused an increase in hunger levels which were already high in Tigray. “A total of 5.2 million people, equivalent to 91 percent of Tigray’s population, need emergency food assistance due to the conflict,” WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri told reporters in Geneva. … Last week, a senior UN official warned the UN Security Council that urgent measures were needed to avoid famine in Tigray, in a briefing seen by AFP. “There is a serious risk of famine if assistance is not scaled up in the next two months,” wrote Mark Lowcock, the UN’s top emergency relief coordinator. He estimated that “over 90 percent of the harvest was lost due to looting, burning, or other destruction, and that 80 percent of the livestock in the region were looted or slaughtered.” AFP

Aid Worker Killed in Tigray as Humanitarians Are Targeted
An Ethiopian national working for an Italian charity was killed in the war-hit Tigray region on Saturday after he was “hit by a stray bullet,” according to his employer. Negasi Kidane, from the Tigrayan city of Adigrat, had been employed by the International Committee for the Development of Peoples since 2016. The group is known by its Italian initials, CISP. He is the ninth aid worker reported killed in Tigray since fighting broke out there nearly seven months ago. “Our colleague Negasi Kidane, head of the CISP office in Adigrat, in the Ethiopian Region of Tigray, lost his life last Saturday,” the group said in a statement on Facebook. “(H)e was accidentally involved in a fire fight on Friday evening.” “He was hospitalized for serious injuries, but he didn’t make it,” the statement added. It is not clear who fired the bullet that killed Kidane, said Sandro De Luca, CISP’s director and legal representative. … Samantha Power, chief of USAID, said last week an Ethiopian national working for her agency had been killed in Tigray, “reportedly by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers.” “This recent targeting of a humanitarian worker was clearly intentional and is part of a troubling rise in harassment and violence against aid workers,” she said. AP

Caught in the Middle: Peace Activists in Cameroon Try to End a Brutal War
A small but growing grassroots peace movement is trying to bring an end to the four-year secessionist conflict in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions – an internationally neglected crisis that is becoming increasingly deadly and complex. Formal attempts to negotiate a settlement between the government and fighters demanding independence for “Ambazonia” have stalled. Internationally led efforts are hamstrung by deep divisions within the separatist movement, and by the refusal of the government – which argues that the conflict is an internal affair – to engage with external mediators. Spurred by the lack of progress in getting the warring parties around a conference table, a series of grassroots peacebuilding initiatives – launched by private individuals, rights groups, and the Catholic church – have cautiously moved in to negotiate local peace deals in Cameroon’s two anglophone regions. But these interventions – many led by women – must tread carefully to avoid being labelled as either pro-government or supportive of the armed movements fighting for the independence of the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions. The New Humanitarian

Nigerian President Threatens Crackdown After Spate of Attacks
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari threatened to crack down on insurrectionists following a spate of attacks on the national electoral commission’s offices and other facilities, as pressure mounts on him to tackle growing insecurity in Africa’s biggest oil producer. “I receive daily security reports on the attacks on critical national infrastructure, and it is very clear that those behind them want this administration to fail,” Buhari said on Twitter late Tuesday. “Whoever wants the destruction of the system will soon have the shock of their lives.” Nigeria has been plagued by insecurity on several fronts, and Buhari’s previous undertakings to tackle it have come to naught. His ability to act against separatists that have attacked police stations and other targets in southeastern Nigeria is limited, with security forces already overstretched in their battle against an Islamist insurgency in the northeast that’s dragged on for more than a decade and claimed thousands of lives. The Independent National Electoral Commission said there had been 42 attacks on its offices across 14 states since 2019, the bulk of which occurred in the past seven months. Bloomberg

Chad, Central African Republic Call for International Investigation into Border Incident
Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) have called on the United Nations and African Union to investigate an incident at a border post in which at least six Chadian soldiers were killed by Central African troops, a joint statement said Tuesday. The incident threatens to escalate tensions between the two countries since Chad participated in African efforts to stabilise CAR in 2013, which has been wracked by rebel insurgencies ever since. “The two parties have recognised the gravity of the situation and stress the urgency of clarifying the circumstances in which this attack was carried out,” the countries’ foreign ministers said in the statement. … A delegation from the Central African Republic visited Chad on Tuesday and met with Mahamat Idriss Deby, the son of Chad’s late president Idriss Deby and head of its ruling military council. After the meeting, representatives of the two countries agreed that an international commission of inquiry made up of agents from the U.N., A.U. and other regional bodies should be formed to investigate the incident. Reuters

Ex Uganda Army Commander Survives Apparent Assassination Attempt 
Uganda’s army spokesman said unidentified gunmen attacked the transport minister and former defense forces chief, General Edward Katumba Wamala, on Tuesday while he was traveling in an army vehicle with his daughter. The army says he was injured, while his daughter and driver were killed. The former chief of defense forces, General Edward Katumba Wamala, was leaving his home in an army Land Cruiser when unknown assailants traveling on two motorcycles shot at the vehicle, according to authorities. … This will be the 37th such attack since 2015. The 36 previous ones ended with the deaths of the targeted victims including a police spokesperson, Muslim clerics and a state prosecutor, Joan Kagezi, who was working on an al-Shabab attack-related murder trial. Kagezi was the lead prosecutor in the trial of 13 men accused of the 2010 bombings in Kampala in which 76 people were killed while watching the World Cup. General Katumba was chief of defense forces from 2013 to 2017. He also became inspector general of police in 2001. Katumba was the first military officer to serve with the police. VOA

Echoes of Mugabe as Zimbabwe President Entrenches Power
In office since the military-led ouster of Robert Mugabe three-and-a-half years ago, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa is consolidating his grip on power with moves reminiscent of his predecessor’s style, analysts say. Tweaks to the constitution and criminalising anti-government speech mark a change from Mugabe’s street-fighting and abductions, but observers see the same motives at work — making political opposition all but impossible. The president — who arrived in office promising a “new and unfolding democracy” and a departure from Mugabe’s authoritarian rule — is in fact developing “an imperial executive whose power is not adequately checked and balanced,” said Kucaca Phulu, legal affairs chief of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). … The government now hopes to pass a so-called Patriotic Bill, which prohibits any Zimbabwean from “wilfully communicating messages intended to harm the image and reputation of the country on international platforms.” Seen as seeking to muzzle Mnangagwa’s opponents, it will allow the government to pry into private communications between citizens and foreign government officials if passed into law. AFP

Western Sahara Independence Chief Leaves Spain for Algeria
The leader of a movement seeking independence from Morocco who is at the center of a diplomatic row between Rabat and Madrid has flown out of Spain to Algeria, his group said. Brahim Ghali was released from a hospital in northern Spain following more than six weeks of treatment after contracting COVID-19, according to a statement sent to The Associated Press by the self-declared Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic, which is based in refugee camps in western Algeria. Ghali is the leader of the Polisario Front, an Algeria-backed pro-independence movement representing the local Sahrawi people of Africa’s Western Sahara, and of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic. Morocco annexed Western Sahara in the 1970s after Spain’s colonial administration ended. The Polisario Front has long tried to end Moroccan rule over the region. Ghali departed hours after testifying Tuesday via videoconference in a Spanish investigation into allegations against him of torture, genocide and other crimes. A Spanish magistrate ruled after Ghali’s testimony that he should remain free while the investigation continues. AP

Death Threats, Flying Kick Disrupt Pan-African Parliament Vote
A dispute over whether to rotate the presidency of the Pan-African Parliament descended into chaos, with lawmakers exchanging death threats and scenes of fisticuffs broadcast from the proceedings. The legislative arm of the African Union began meeting May 24 in Midrand near Johannesburg and has been trying to elect a new president for the past two days. Southern African leaders are demanding that the gathering implement an AU resolution to rotate its leadership, while eastern and western African delegates oppose the move, South Africa’s parliament said in a statement. … Proceedings were called off again on Tuesday after the lawmakers failed to heed an appeal by AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat for calm. … The Pan African Parliament is an advisory body that makes recommendations on continental affairs. It’s funded from contributions by members states and donor bodies. The body held its first meeting in 2005 with the aim of harmonizing AU member states’ laws. The new president of the Pan African Parliament will take over from Cameroon’s Roger Nkodo Dang, who served two terms from 2015. His predecessor was also from West Africa — Nigerian politician Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi. Bloomberg

Germany, UN to Host Libya Conference
Germany and the United Nations plan to host a conference on Libya in Berlin on June 23, a gathering that aims to bring together powers with interests in the North African country and its transitional government. The conference, announced on Tuesday by Germany, will take stock of the “next steps needed for a sustainable stabilisation of the country,” read a statement by the country’s foreign ministry. Talks will mainly focus on preparations for national elections planned for December 24, as well as the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from Libya. They will also look at the creation of unified security forces for the North African country. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas underlined that the bid for peace has been a long process and “we ourselves were often not sure if the targets we have set can be reached.” “But after the developments in recent months, we are cautiously optimistic and therefore it also makes sense to invite participants of the first Libyan conference at the foreign ministers’ level to ensure that the path that has now been taken in Libya is continued,” he said at a news conference. Al Jazeera

Piracy to Come under the Spotlight at IMDEC 2021
Piracy, smuggling and trafficking will come under the spotlight at the International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference (IMDEC) in Ghana in July. The Ghanaian Navy and Air Force will host over 15 Chiefs of Navies, Chiefs of Air Staff and 300 international officials at what is billed as the largest maritime security exhibition and conference in West Africa. Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia will also participate. The second edition of IMDEC will take place in Accra from 6 to 7 July. The organisers noted that maritime security has become a more important issue in the West African region in recent times where attacks on ships and crew jumped at an alarming level last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As much as 95 percent of all kidnappings at sea in 2020 occurred in the Gulf of Guinea; and actual and attempted piracy attacks along the West African coast jumped 34 percent to 79 in 2020, up from 59 in 2019. defenceWeb

IMF Offers Bailout to Second African Nation in Less Than a Week
The International Monetary Fund staff agreed to provide a $1 billion facility to Uganda, the lender’s second bailout to an African nation in four days to help the continent’s economies mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The loan to Uganda comes after the IMF staff on May 27 agreed to provide $1.5 billion to the Democratic Republic of Congo over the next three years, and following the Fund’s provision of more than $15 billion for sub-Saharan African nations since the pandemic hit the region in 2020. The latest deals need final approval by IMF management and its executive board. The funds will help Uganda, Africa’s top coffee exporter, and Congo, the world’s biggest source of cobalt, recover from the pandemic that has reduced income and pushed 30 million across the continent into “extreme poverty.” The slow pace of vaccinations is also hampering recovery in nations across the region. … Uganda has seen a surge in virus infections over the past month, recording 614 new cases on May 30 and taking the total tally of confirmed cases to 47,761 and 362 deaths, according to the health ministry. The infection rate is 17.4%, compared with 1.5% on May 1. Bloomberg

Uganda Sees Sharp Rise in COVID-19 Cases
At the Ministry of Health, hundreds of people line up standing, others sitting, as the line snakes its way to the vaccination tent. Uganda’s COVID-19 cases stand at 44,594, with 361 deaths. Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the country’s representative at the World Health Organization, spells out the rate at which the coronavirus is spreading in Uganda. “On the week starting from 25 April, Uganda reported 256 cases. The week starting 2nd May, that number went up to 411. The week of the 9th of May, the number went to 475. And the week of the 16 May, the number has already reached 1,060,” he said. Kampala is among 10 districts that have recorded a high number of cases. Odoi Paul, 39, is among the many who thronged to the Ministry of Health on Thursday to get their first jab. “To make sure that I’m free from COVID-19. Like in India, people are dying, in USA. Like, that is why I say, let me also go and save my life before such a thing happens in our country,” said Paul. Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the director of health services, notes that it has taken the country less than 10 days to get to a full-blown pandemic. The most affected group is people between the ages of 20 and 39, and the number of severely and critically ill COVID-19 patients is higher than it was in the first wave. VOA

Sudan Initiative Harnesses Youth, Medical Savvy to Fight COVID at Community Level
Two US-based Sudanese doctors have created a grassroots programme using a video mentoring system to deploy volunteer medical students across Sudan to help Covid-19 sufferers in their homes. Sudan is still recovering after a 30-year dictatorship and does not have the infrastructure to tackle the Covid crisis at the local level, says Dr Nada Fadul, one of the co-founders of Sudan’s Community Medical Response Team (CMRT). “We leveraged youth organisations that led to Sudan succeeding in overthrowing this dictator, finding that energy, directing it into a new channel to help get the country over this crisis,” says Fadul, an infectious disease physician at the University of Nebraska in the US. Medical students, many of whom were sitting at home because of Covid-19 school closures, already had the trust of community members in their neighbourhood, along with the energy, knowledge and training. “They already engage in some management of minor things – it’s very normal when you’re a medical student that your neighbour will ask you to come and check her blood pressure, or give an injection, so why don’t we leverage that trust in the neighbourhood to help these students direct people to do the right thing?” says Fadul. RFI