Africa Media Review for June 21, 2021

32 Million Africans Forcibly Displaced by Conflict and Repression
Africa continues to experience expanding and record levels of forced displacement—a result of predatory governments, political fragmentation, and violent extremist groups. This continues a steady upward trend seen since 2011. More than 32 million Africans are either internally displaced, refugees, or asylum seekers—up from 29 million a year ago. The sources of Africa’s population displacement are highly concentrated. Ten African countries account for 88 percent (28 million) of all forcibly displaced people on the continent. Each of these top 10 countries of origin are in conflict. These conflicts are driven by a combination of government repression against citizens, extremist group violence, and the militarization of politics. Seven of the ten have governments that are autocratically leaning. [Infographic] Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Ethiopia Votes in Greatest Electoral Test Yet for Abiy
Ethiopia was voting Monday in the greatest electoral test yet for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as war and logistical issues meant ballots wouldn’t be cast in more than 100 constituencies of the 547 across the country. The election, delayed from last year, is the centerpiece of a reform drive by Abiy, whose rise to power in 2018 seemed to signal a break with decades of authoritarian rule and led to him winning a Nobel Peace Prize the following year. He has described the poll as “the nation’s first attempt at free and fair elections.” Long lines of voters were seen in some parts of the capital, Addis Ababa, while security was stepped up across Africa’s second most populous country. Military vehicles were parked in key locations in the capital. More than 37 million Ethiopians were expected to vote. … Opposition groups have accused Ethiopia’s ruling party of harassment, manipulation and threats of violence that echo abuses of the past. Some prominent opposition parties are boycotting the election, notably in the country’s most populous region, Oromia. Others say they were prevented from campaigning in several parts of the country. AP

Health Crisis as COVID-19 Sweeps East Africa, Taking Lives in the Midst of Oxygen Shortage
East Africa is in the throes of a public health crisis as its healthcare systems sag under the weight of a rapid third wave of Covid-19, largely blamed on the deadly Delta strain. But health authorities have identified at least five strains of the coronavirus in the region. Uganda, which went into lockdown on Friday amid deaths and thousands of new infections, is appealing for help to deal with the crisis in the face of a limping economy, a public healthcare system in a shambles and a population that has been flouting health guidelines set to prevent the spread of the disease. … “Those dying are the young people because they are very many compared to other population groupings. The youth are also the most exposed. We have many of them in hospitals and in home care,” Dr Musenero said. The increasing numbers have exposed the soft underbelly of Uganda’s health sector. Public hospitals in Kampala and surrounding areas are filled up. The Entebbe Grade B General hospital and the Mulago National Referral hospitals’ intensive care units are full, according to hospital administrators. The EastAfrican

COVID-19: Uganda Goes into Total Lockdown as Infections Rise
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday tightened restrictions in the country following a worrying rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths. On a day when the country recorded 42 Covid-related deaths and 1,000 new infections, the Ugandan leader vowed to “stop the joke” of the public violating the public health guidelines, known locally as the Standard Operating Procedures [SOP]. He stopped the movement of public and private transport vehicles. Only security, emergency and other essential service providers, including the police, firefighters and the military have been exempted. The new move tightened restrictions imposed a week ago, when cross-district travel was banned, schools closed and other public gatherings restricted yet the deaths continued to rise. At the Mulago National Referral Hospital in the capital Kampala, a ‘technical fault’ on Wednesday cut off oxygen supply to Covid-19 patients at the facility, leading to the death of several patients. The new highest death toll would arrive two days later when the country reported 42 deaths, raising the number of those killed by the virus to more than 400. The EastAfrican

AU Launches Investigation into Tigray Atrocities
The African Union (AU) has launched an inquiry into human rights violations in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, becoming the first continental effort to investigate the conflict that began on November 4 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against its regional forces. A statement from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa said the team formed under the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights will begin preliminary work in Banjul, the Gambia, after which it will travel to Tigray to speak with locals. It will be the first time the continental body, headquartered in Ethiopia, is picking up the task of establishing the truth about atrocities in Tigray, where Ethiopian forces have been fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), once a ruling party under the late leader Meles Zenawi, but now considered a terror group by Addis Ababa. … The Commission will run under the provisions of Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which allows it to speak with victims, alleged villains and other witnesses as well as collect documents from relevant authorities. Nation

Switzerland Finds Liberian Rebel Leader Guilty of Wartime Atrocities
A former Liberian warlord was found guilty of war crimes including murder, cannibalism and the use of child soldiers in Switzerland’s criminal court on Friday — the first conviction specifically for atrocities in Liberia’s back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 in which a quarter-million people are thought to have died. The court found the former warlord, Alieu Kosiah, 46, guilty on 21 of the 25 charges against him, including ordering the killing of 13 civilians and two unarmed soldiers, the murder of four other civilians, as well as rape, cruel treatment of civilians and using a child soldier in armed hostilities. Mr. Kosiah, a former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy, or ULIMO, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed under Swiss law. … Human rights groups also saw the trial as a milestone event for both Liberia and Switzerland. No Liberian perpetrator of atrocities has faced prosecution in Liberia despite President George Weah’s repeated vague expressions of willingness to set up a war-crimes court for that purpose. The New York Times

Cameroon Anglophone Separatist ‘Supporters’ in US Charged with Gun Smuggling
Three US-based Anglophone Cameroonians have been charged with gun running and conspiracy following the seizure of a weapons cache by US authorities. The suspects, some who appear to support the Anglophone separatist movement in their country of origin, could be implicated in an effort to supply high-grade weapons and ammunition to fighters battling Cameroonian government forces. The three cases in the US federal court system involve a navy reservist, a healthcare attendant and a healthcare business owner. Each case involves alleged shipping or attempting to ship weapons and military goods from the United States to Nigeria, including ammunition, without an export license. The other charge includes conspiracy to ship weapons. The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) seized military-grade weapons and military equipment from two shipping containers and two different homes between May and August 2019. RFI

Libya’s Interim Government Reopens Mediterranean Highway
Libya’s interim authorities reopened on Sunday the Mediterranean coastal highway linking the country’s long-divided eastern and western cities, in the latest bid to reunite the territories after years of civil war. The announcement comes three days ahead of an international conference on Libya that will be hosted by Germany and the United Nations in Berlin. “I am so delighted to participate in the opening of this essential lifeline linking the east of our country to its west,” Libyan Prime Minister Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah told a crowd that gathered as bulldozers were towing away rocks and sand dunes blocking the road. The coastal highway has been closed since April 2019 after east-based military commander Khalifa Hifter launched a military offensive to wrest the capital, Tripoli, from the U.N.-recognized government. Its reopening was a long-held demand by the U.N. to enable the safe passage of civilians and goods. AP

Maputo Hosts Three SADC Meetings with Terrorism an Agenda Item
By the time Wednesday comes and the third extraordinary SADC (Southern African Development Community) heads of state and government summit starts in Maputo the regional bloc will have held two preliminary preparatory meetings. A SADC statement has it this week’s discussions include regional integration, co-operation and development. No specific mention is made of any possible SADC intervention in the east African country, battling an Islamist insurrection in northern areas since 2019, apart from “a regional response and support to address terrorism” in Mozambique. This is further qualified by the addition of regional food and nutrition security, gender and development as well as the regional response to HIV/Aids and COVID-19. … Making public the SADC summit date in South Africa’s National Council of Provinces (NCOP) during question time earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the regional bloc sought “a lasting solution to the conflict to ensure Mozambique is stable, peaceful and able to develop its economy.” defenceWeb

Half of Zimbabweans Fell into Extreme Poverty during COVID
The number of Zimbabweans in extreme poverty has reached 7.9 million as the pandemic has delivered another economic shock to the country. According to the World Bank’s economic and social update report, almost half of Zimbabwe’s population fell into extreme poverty between 2011 and last year, with children bearing the brunt of the misery. “The number of extreme poor is expected to remain at 7.9 million in 2021 amid continued elevated prices, and a slow recovery of jobs and wages in the formal and informal sectors,” according to the report. “Given limited social safety nets for protecting the high numbers of poor, households are likely to turn to negative coping strategies,” it said. The grim reading of Zimbabwe’s economic prospects comes as the government boasts of a budget surplus of $9.8bn (US$19.5m), maintaining that the economy has grown under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, but the reality on the streets of Harare tells a different story of struggle as families scrape a living. The Guardian

West African Regional Bloc Adopts New Plan to Launch Eco Single Currency in 2027
A group of fifteen West African countries have adopted a new road map to launch a single currency in 2027 after its previous plans were derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. The new road map was agreed by heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, president of the ECOWAS Commission, told a news conference after a summit of the leaders in Ghana on Saturday. The countries hope a single currency will help to boost trade and economic growth. “Due to the shock of the pandemic, the heads of state had decided to suspend the implementation of the convergence pact in 2020-2021” Brou said. “We have a new road map and a new convergence pact that will cover the period between 2022-2026, and 2027 being the launch of the Eco,” he said, referring to the name of the new currency. Nigeria, the largest economy in West Africa, currently operates a managed float for its currency, while eight others including top cocoa producer Ivory Coast, use the France-backed CFA, pegged to the euro. Reuters

Guinea Declares End to Latest Ebola Outbreak that Killed 12
Guinea has declared an end to an Ebola outbreak that emerged in February and killed 12 people, according to the World Health Organization. The latest outbreak was the first to emerge in Guinea since a deadly outbreak from 2014 to 2016 killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa. That originated in the same region before spreading to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Guinea’s latest outbreak was declared Feb. 14 after three cases were detected in Gouecke, a rural community in the southern N’zerekore prefecture. There were 16 confirmed and seven probable cases. “I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. AP

Africa Is Blasting Its Way into the Space Race
In the hours after Hurricane Katrina slammed into America in 2005, destroying large parts of New Orleans, the people co-ordinating the disaster response urgently needed satellite pictures to show them what they were facing. The first images to come in were not from the constellations launched by nasa or the space agencies of other rich countries. They were beamed to Earth by a small Nigerian spacecraft that had been launched from Russia just two years earlier. … In the past few years, however, the continent has dashed into space. The most recent orbital enthusiast is Mauritius, which put up a satellite on June 3rd. At least 20 African countries now have space programmes. These include heavyweights such as Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria, as well as smaller countries such as Ghana. In 2019 another five African countries launched satellites, bringing Africa’s total in orbit that year to 41. … African governments argue that their investments in space programmes help to build local skills that can attract investment and spill over into other areas of the economy. The Economist

Kenneth Kaunda, Patriarch of African Independence, Is Dead at 97
Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president and a founding patriarch of African independence who kept his grip on power for 27 years before enduring electoral defeat, an attempted assassination, house arrest and efforts to deport him from the country he had established, died on Thursday in Lusaka, the nation’s capital. He was 97. His death, at a military hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia, was announced by the president of Zambia, Edgar Lungu. Zambian authorities declared 21 days of mourning. Mr. Kaunda dominated the politics of his Southern African country for a generation, beginning in the mid-1960s. He was an impassioned orator who could bring an audience to its feet and to tears; a former schoolteacher who quoted Lincoln and Gandhi; and a physically striking man who brushed his hair to stand at attention so that it added inches to his six-foot-tall stature. Mr. Kaunda outlived many of his peers among the so-called frontline leaders who had sponsored Southern Africa’s guerrilla wars, becoming a kind of elder statesman. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones