Africa Media Review for June 22, 2021

WHO Setting up Hub to Make COVID-19 Vaccines in South Africa
The WHO is setting up a hub in South Africa to give companies from poor and middle-income countries the know-how and licenses to produce COVID-19 vaccines, in what President Cyril Ramaphosa called an historic step to spread lifesaving technology. The “tech transfer hub” could make it possible for African companies to begin manufacturing mRNA vaccines – the advanced technology now used in shots from Pfizer and Moderna – in as little as 9-12 months, the World Health Organization said. It announced two companies had signed up so far, and said it was in talks with Pfizer and Moderna about participating. “Through this initiative we will change the narrative of an Africa that is a centre of disease and poor development,” said Ramaphosa, speaking by video link at the WHO press conference where the programme was launched. Reuters

Vaccine Shortages Hit Global Supply Program, Halting Rollouts
A string of nations across Africa, Asia and other regions have run out of Covid-19 vaccines or are on the brink of doing so, months after receiving first shipments from a global program meant to equitably distribute the lifesaving shots. … In the race to end the pandemic, it’s vaccine against virus. Slowdowns in inoculation programs can leave room for problematic new variants to emerge that could reignite infection counts or put already vaccinated people back at risk. Countries without rich health budgets can be forced onto the more-expensive private market. And if supplies don’t get restocked, vulnerable populations of older people and health workers can be left only partially vaccinated while awaiting the delivery of second doses. Seven countries in Africa, including Ivory Coast, Gambia and Kenya, have used all of their Covax stocks, according to the WHO, while others in Asia, Latin America and beyond are at risk of exhausting their supplies. In response, many are slowing or halting vaccine programs while they await new shipments or look for alternate sources. … Elsewhere in Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi and Rwanda have exhausted all the vaccines they received through Covax. Seven more, including Angola, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt, have used more than 80% of supplies, according to the WHO. Bloomberg

Car Bomb Targets France’s Barkhane Force in Mali, Several Soldiers Injured
A massive car bomb attack targeted France’s Barkhane force in the central Malian town of Gossi on Monday injuring several soldiers, local sources told FRANCE 24. The attack occurred in the Kaigourou neighbourhood of Gossi in central Mali injuring several soldiers operating under France’s Operation Barkhane in Sahel, according to local sources. Witnesses said several military helicopters could be seen heading to the area after the massive explosion to evacuate the wounded. … The attack came days after French President Emmanuel Macron announced a reduction of France’s military operations in Africa’s Sahel region, saying France’s existing Barkhane force needs “profound transformation.” Macron is calling for a new international force for the region. “We can suspect” that the car-bombing and the impending French military withdrawal are “connected,” Nasr said. “The attack also comes a day after the “first speech by the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who called for more and more attacks against French forces,” he explained. France24 with AFP and AP

Burkina Faso Troops Kill 11 Jihadists, Destroy 3 Bases
Burkina Faso soldiers killed 11 jihadists and destroyed three “terrorist” bases last week in security operations after the deadliest massacre in the country’s six-year jihadist insurgency, the army said Monday. The operation between June 14 and 16 targeted areas in the country’s east and “was based on specific intelligence, leading to the dismantling of terrorist bases,” the army staff said. It said three bases were destroyed in Nokortougou, Ouro Seni, and Bouraignima, 11 jihadists killed and arms, ammunition, motorcycles, and communication equipment recovered. It said three improvised explosive devices were also discovered and destroyed last week. More than 7,000 people have fled northern Burkina Faso after the attack on the village of Solhan in early June left at least 132 people dead, according to the government. Local sources put the death toll at 160. The army had earlier said that “around 10 terrorists” had been “neutralized” during operations around Solhan between June 7 and 13. The Defense Post with AFP

Polls Open in Ethiopia’s Sidama Region, Counting Continues Elsewhere
Voters in Ethiopia’s Sidama region went to the polls a day late on Tuesday as officials counted ballots from other regions in an election marred by an opposition boycott, war and reports of irregularities in some areas. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hopes the national and regional elections will show the success of democratic reforms he launched after being appointed by the ruling coalition in 2018. But the vote also reflects a messy reality in the country of 109 million people. Authorities could not hold polls on Monday in four of Ethiopia’s 10 regions including Sidama, where there were logistical problems, according to the election board. … The opposition alleged some irregularities in regions that voted. Opposition leader Berhanu Nega said his Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party (Ezema) had filed 207 complaints after local officials and militia in Amhara region and in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, blocked party observers, he said. Reuters

U.N. Rights Chief Deplores Abuse Reports in Ethiopia’s Tigray
The U.N. rights chief said on Monday she was “deeply disturbed” by reports of continued violations including executions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and added that a long-awaited joint investigation should be ready by August. Michelle Bachelet said abuses had been committed by all sides in the conflict in the northern region and that there were “credible reports” Eritrean soldiers were still there, despite a promise to leave. There was no immediate comment from the Ethiopian or Eritrean delegations at the U.N. Human Rights Council that Bachelet was addressing in Geneva. Ethiopia’s government has said it will hold those who commit abuses to account and that more than 50 soldiers are on trial for either rape or killing civilians in Tigray. It has not released any details of those cases. … “The ongoing deployment of military forces is not a durable solution, and I encourage comprehensive and multidimensional dialogue throughout the country to address the real grievances held,” she added. Reuters

Violations against Children in Conflict ‘Alarmingly High’: UN
Grave violations against children in conflict remain “alarmingly high,” with the coronavirus pandemic increasing their vulnerability to abduction, recruitment and sexual violence, a new United Nations report has found. In its annual Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) report (PDF), released on Monday, the UN said at least 19,379 children affected by war in 2020 were victims of grave violations such as recruitment or rape. The UN verified a total of 26,425 grave violations, of which 23,946 were committed in 2020 and 2,479 were committed earlier but verified only in 2020. “Escalation of conflict, armed clashes and disregard for international humanitarian law and international human rights law had a severe impact on the protection of children,” the report found. According to the report, the highest numbers of grave violations were recorded in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. While more than 8,400 children were killed or harmed in ongoing wars, nearly 7,000 others were recruited to fight, mainly in the DRC, Somalia, Syria, and Myanmar. Al Jazeera

Rwanda Tightens COVID-19 Restrictions Amid Spike
Rwanda has tightened Covid-19 restrictions to curb rising infections and mitigate the risk of a severe third wave that is already being experienced in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. In a Cabinet meeting on Monday, President Paul Kagame re-imposed tight restrictions including the suspension of all social gatherings. He also adjusted curfew time from 9pm-4am to 7pm- 4am. Movements between Kigali and other provinces in the country are prohibited except for medical reasons and other essential services. … The public is reminded of the importance of complying with health measures including physical distancing, wearing face masks, and ensuring hand hygiene. Penalties will be applied for non-compliance…” reads in part a Cabinet communique released on Monday evening. …  “…A third wave is probable, based on the current numbers. But we can still fight that and ensure that the situation goes back to where it has been for the past months…” said Dr Daniel Ngamije, Rwanda’s Minister of Health during a press briefing on June 12. Nation

Zimbabwe Runs Out of COVID-19 Vaccines Amid Third Wave
Zimbabweans are finding it increasingly difficult to access Covid-19 vaccines as the country records a spike in new infections amid fears of a third wave. The southern African country started a mass vaccination programme in February with a target to inoculate 60 per cent of its nearly 16 million people by year’s end. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government initially relied on vaccines donated by China to drive the vaccination programme, but after vaccinating 697,399 people as of June 15, the exercise is running into serious logistical problems with stockouts being reported across the country. Organisations tracking the vaccination said several Zimbabweans were turned away from immunisation centres that have run out of jabs. … Zimbabwe recently imposed strict localised lockdowns in three districts that had recorded a surge in Covid-19 cases, and banned gatherings as well as sporting activities across the country. Nation

Death of Boko Haram Leader Doesn’t End Northeast Nigeria’s Humanitarian Crisis
Although a seismic event, the death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau last month after his base was overrun by a rival jihadist group is unlikely to end an 11-year insurgency in northeastern Nigeria that has upended millions of lives, analysts and aid workers say. Shekau, who led an uncompromising and brutal jihadist campaign, was cornered in his former Sambisa Forest stronghold in Borno State by rival fighters of the breakaway Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). Although his body is yet to be recovered, both ISWAP and Boko Haram fighters have confirmed that he died after detonating his suicide vest. Analysts say there’s now likely to be a period of instability within the jihadist movement as ISWAP hunts down any Boko Haram commanders who refuse to swear allegiance, before resuming its fight against government forces – hunkered down in garrison towns after being driven from much of the countryside. … The violence in northeastern Nigeria has driven more than two million people off their farms, closed rural markets and businesses, and made travel on virtually all major roads in the region dangerous. The New Humanitarian

Northeast Nigeria Facing Acute, Life-Threatening Hunger
The United Nations is urgently appealing for $250 million to provide life-saving food assistance for millions of people in northeast Nigeria, many of whom risk starving to death. The U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, says he has come to Geneva to warn the international community that Nigeria is at a crossroads and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. He says 4.4 million people in northeast Nigeria’s Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states are facing a looming catastrophic situation of food insecurity that eventually could result in a famine. “Of these 4.4 million people, 775,000 are in critical needs of food assistance and risk death, and also further dispossession, if necessary action is not taken now,” he said. Kallon says malnutrition rates are rising in all three states in northeast Nigeria, reaching a particularly dangerous high of 13.6% in Yobe State. The U.N. Children’s Fund reports severe acute malnutrition causes stunting, wasting, physical and mental impairment, and even death. U.N. coordinator Kallon says these children urgently need special nutritional feeding to save their lives. However, providing aid in this volatile region is dangerous, and in some cases, impossible. VOA

EU Warns Anyone Judged to Be Delaying Libya Elections Will Risk Sanctions
The EU has warned that anyone judged to be delaying elections in Libya beyond the planned date of 24 December will be at risk of sanctions, ahead of an important meeting of foreign ministers intended to tighten the screw on those obstructing either elections or the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. The meeting in Berlin will set our proposals for a coordinated and sequential withdrawal of foreign forces, principally Russian and Turkish, and again call for elections at the end of the year. Previous deadlines for the withdrawal of foreign forces have been ignored. The United Nations has also set in train plans for a meeting in Geneva next week of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to agree the basis for the elections. Some in Libya’s current parliament have been blocking elections, or demanding a referendum on any new Libyan constitution before the elections, now seen by most European powers as a delaying tactic. The Guardian

Newly Sanctified Tunisian Cemetery for Migrants Filling Fast
Most of the headstones have dates but no names. Row after row of palest white, practically gleaming in the Mediterranean sun. The cemetery in Zarzis is nearly exactly as Rachid Koraïchi pictured it when he sketched his vision of the “Garden of Africa” that would be the final resting place for hundreds of anonymous men, women and children whose bodies have washed up on the shores of this coastal Tunisian city in recent years. For him, it was a duty “to make a burial ground, one with presence and intelligence, so that one day the families, the fathers, the mothers, the tribes and the countries know that their children are in a heavenly place, the first step to heaven,” Koraïchi told The Associated Press. Zarzis is a port city where migrants bound for Europe frequently wind up after their boats go astray in the Mediterranean’s uncertain currents. One of its cemeteries is already filled with those who died trying to make the crossing. Zarzis residents refused to bury migrants in the local Muslim cemeteries. So Koraïchi decided that the newly dead needed their own burial ground and he bought a plot of land in honor of his brother, who himself drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to migrate to Europe. “They died in the same waters, they died in the same sea and were taken by the same salt,” he said. AP



Photo: Adam Jones