Africa Media Review for June 28, 2021

Three AID Workers Found Dead in Tigray, Says Médecins Sans Frontières

Three aid workers who had been working in Ethiopia’s Tigray region have bee found dead, their organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières, announced on Friday. MSF said it had lost contact with the workers while they were traveling on Thursday afternoon. Their bodies were found near their empty car this morning. The workers were Maria Hernandez, an emergency coordinator from Spain, and Yohannes Halefom Reda, an assistant coordinator, and Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael, an MSF driver, both Ethiopian. “No words can truly convey all our sadness, shock and outrage against this horrific attack,” the MSF said. … MSF has been active in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the focus of a government offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front since last year. In March the organisation said that in the aftermath of an ambush on the army, its workers had witnessed soldiers carrying out extrajudicial killings, while their own driver was beaten with the butt of a gun and also threatened with death. … Earlier this month the Ethiopian aid worker Negasi Kidane was killed by a stray bullet, according to his employer, the Italian charity International Committee for the Development of Peoples. In May, another Ethiopian working with USAID was also killed. The Guardian

Up to 900,000 in Ethiopia’s Tigray Face Famine, US Says

The United States estimates that up to 900,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region now face famine conditions amid a deadly conflict, even as the prime minister says there is “no hunger” there. The hunger crisis in Tigray is the world’s worst in a decade, and the new famine findings are “terrifying,” the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, said Friday, adding that millions more people are at risk. The new estimate more than doubles the warning issued earlier this month by the United Nations and aid groups that more than 350,000 people face famine conditions in Tigray. Even as scattered reports emerge of people starving to death, the real number of people facing famine conditions is unknown because active fighting and access restrictions keep aid workers from reaching all parts of the region of 6 million people. … This is forced starvation, Tigray residents and some observers have said. Witnesses have described being blocked by Ethiopian soldiers, backed by soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, from planting their fields or having their crops looted or burned since the conflict erupted in November. AP

MSF Convoy Attacked in Central African Republic, Woman Killed

International aid group Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) has said a woman was killed in an ambush by armed men on its team in the Central African Republic (CAR). The medical charity’s Western and Central Africa branch said in a statement on Saturday the victim was accompanying a patient being transported by MSF staff near Batangafo, northern CAR, on Thursday. “Two motorbike riders hired by MSF were caught in an ambush by armed men in the Central African Republic while they were referring patients to the town of Batangafo,” it said on Twitter. “A female caretaker died due to the impact of bullets on the way to the hospital after the attack.” MSF said three other people – a motorbike rider and two patients (a woman and her baby) were wounded in the attack and transported to Batangafo hospital, where they were in stable condition. The aid group said its two motorbike riders had been clearly identified as MSF staff. Al Jazeera

Russian Mercenaries Are Driving War Crimes in Africa, U.N. Says

Russian mercenaries deployed in one of Africa’s most fragile countries killed civilians, looted homes and shot dead worshipers at a mosque during a major military operation earlier this year, United Nations investigators have found. The accusations of atrocities are documented in a report for the U.N. Security Council that was obtained by The New York Times and that details abuses tied to the contentious Russian involvement in the Central African Republic, an impoverished yet mineral-rich country that has been locked in civil war for nearly a decade. Russian mercenaries, deployed in the guise of unarmed military advisers, led government forces into battle during an offensive to oust rebels from several towns in January and February, the report found. And as well as committing abuses, the Russian operatives established themselves in the major mining centers of a country with large reserves of diamonds. Violations by the Russians and allied government troops “included cases of excessive force, indiscriminate killings, occupation of schools and looting on a large scale, including of humanitarian organizations,” said the investigative report, which was based on photographic evidence and confidential accounts by witnesses and local officials. The New York Times

COVID-19 Delta Variant Surge in South Africa Raises Fears of Repeat of India’s Catastrophe

With the Delta variant fuelling a dramatic surge of COVID-19 cases and rising fears that Africa could suffer a repeat of India’s catastrophe, South Africa has become the latest country to announce a tough new lockdown on public gatherings and many business activities. A prolonged vaccine shortage has compounded the danger that African countries will face the same scenario as India, where the Delta variant killed more than 140,000 people in a matter of weeks. Less than 3 per cent of Africans have received any vaccine, leaving the continent largely unprotected. In South Africa, the Delta variant has triggered a huge rise in hospitalizations in the country’s most populous province, Gauteng, including the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Many hospitals in Johannesburg have turned away patients because their beds are completely full. Some have had to send intensive-care patients to Durban, more than 500 kilometres away. “We are in the grip of a devastating wave that by all indications seems like it will be worse than those that preceded it,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a nationally televised speech on Sunday night. “South Africa is seeing a massive resurgence of infections,” he said. “The peak of this third wave looks set to be higher than the previous two.” The Globe & Mail

Instability in the Sahel: How a Jihadi Gold Rush Is Fuelling Violence in Africa

Armed groups vie for control of mines and the lucrative trade in the precious metal, which ends up being refined in Dubai… On June 4, extremists on motorcycles arrived in Solhan, a centre for gold mining in the area, and massacred more than 130 people. The government and the UN said last week that the assailants were mostly children aged 12 to 14. It was the deadliest attack in the country’s history, and a visceral sign of how Islamists, keen for lucrative sources of funding, are directly targeting the country’s thousands of artisanal mines, which together are estimated to produce up to 30 tonnes of gold a year. After the attack Burkina Faso’s Sahel region announced a ban on all artisanal mining — recognition of the growing link between extremism and gold. … Daniel Eizenga, research fellow at the US defence department’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, says the violence in Burkina Faso over the past year is “more and more concentrated in areas where we know there are also concentrations of gold.” FT

Six Malian Soldiers Killed, Twelve German Peacekeepers Wounded in Attacks in Mali

Six Malian soldiers were killed on Friday in a raid in the centre of the war-torn Sahel state, in a violent day which also saw 15 United Nations peacekeepers wounded in a car-bomb attack further north. The Malian soldiers were killed when militants attacked a military outpost in the village of Boni in the centre of the country. Another soldier was injured. Mali’s army stated on Twitter that the troops had “vigorously responded” to “simultaneous attacks” launched in Boni in the afternoon. Ten Malian soldiers had been killed in a similar ambush in Boni in February. Central Mali — which is the epicentre of the conflict in the Sahel — also saw six French soldiers and four civilians wounded on Monday when a car bomb detonated near a French armoured car. The UN said on Twitter that an evacuation was under way after a car bomb struck a temporary base near Tarkint, in the lawless north of Mali. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said 12 of the peacekeepers were German and that three were seriously injured. … One Belgian soldier was also injured in the attack, according to a Belgian defence ministry statement. France24 with AFP and AP

Nineteen Civilians Killed in Western Niger, Mayor Says

Armed assailants killed 19 villagers in western Niger near the border with Mali, where Islamist militants have increasingly targeted civilians this year, the mayor of a nearby town said on Friday. The attack occurred on Thursday in and around the village of Danga Zawne in western Niger’s Tillabery region, Karidjo Hamadou, the mayor of the town of Tonkiwindi, told Reuters. He did not say who was responsible. “Three people were killed in the village and the others were killed in the fields,” he said. … Suspected Islamic State fighters killed at least 100 civilians on Jan. 2 in raids on two villages in Tillabery and at least 137 people in coordinated raids in March in the neighbouring Tahoua region. Reuters

As Sudan Stumbles Toward Peace, a Standoff Over Corpses Is the Latest Obstacle

Two years after more than 100 young Sudanese were killed in a revolution that toppled a dictator, their bodies lie in limbo in a corner of the capital. A deathly stench wafts from the morgue where the bodies are being kept; power outages are frequent and the summer heat intense. Outside, friends and relatives are keeping vigil, angered that the authorities have failed to carry out autopsies. … The macabre scene is a mark of the unfinished business and unrealized hopes from Sudan’s revolution. The country’s transition to democracy has been fragile, with civilian and military leaders still jousting for power. Little makes that clearer than the tensions over the bodies in the morgue. In June 2019, at the height of the revolution, soldiers opened fire on hundreds of people staging a sit-in in the capital, Khartoum, a brutal display intended to show that while civilian protesters may have ousted Sudan’s longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir, two months earlier, it was the military that would decide the country’s future. Now, families of the victims and pro-democracy groups are warily preparing for mass protests on June 30 to mark their frustration. They say they’re still waiting for members of the police, the Sudanese Armed Forces or the Rapid Support Forces — militias linked to atrocities in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan dating back to the beginning of the century — to be held accountable for the violent crackdown. The New York Times

Sudan Cabinet: ‘Unanimous Decision’ to Hand Darfur War Crimes Accused to ICC

In a ‘unanimous decision,’ Sudan’s Cabinet has pledged to hand former officials indicted for war crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision shortly follows the visit to Sudan and Darfur by outgoing ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, during which she stressed the necessity of handing over former Minister of the Interior Ahmed Haroun, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, to the ICC before the end of July so that he can be tried along with Ali Abdelrahman (Kushayb) in The Hague. Sudan’s Minister of Federal Governance, Buseina Dinar, confirmed the cabinet decision on Saturday, saying that ‘the unanimous decision is aimed at establishing peace and stability in the country.’ She assured a press conference in Khartoum that “the court needs to resolve its procedures.” The ICC issued arrest warrants against former Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Haroun, and Kushayb in 2007. Kushayb was transferred to the ICC’s custody on June 9, 2020 after surrendering himself voluntarily in the Central African Republic. Upon his arrest, the Sudanese government announced its support for his transfer to the ICC. Radio Dabanga

Zambia Approaches Elections amid Repression, Says Amnesty

Zambia is on “the brink of a human rights crisis,” Amnesty International said Monday, alleging that President Edgar Lungu is using repressive tactics to win another term in elections set for Aug. 12. Zambia has established a good track record of holding scheduled elections since the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1991 by founding president, the late Kenneth Kaunda, who had presided over a one-party system for over two decades. Kaunda accepted defeat after 27 years in power and retired. When Kaunda died aged 97 earlier this month, he was widely hailed as a statesman and a revered fatherly figure. Zambia, a country of 18 million people, won a reputation as a stable democracy in a continent where elections often lead to conflict. Amnesty International is accusing Lungu of trying to reverse those gains. … In a report titled “Ruling by fear and repression,” the human rights organization says Zambia has seen a number of police killings, arrests of opposition leaders and the shutting down of media outlets amid “a climate of fear and impunity.” Social media activists are not safe, said Amnesty International, citing the case of a 15-year-old who is awaiting trial on three counts of criminal libel after criticizing Lungu on Faceboook. AP

At Least 30 Killed in al Shabaab Attack in Somalia – Security Official

An estimated 30 people died on Sunday when Somalia’s Islamist al Shabaab group launched an attack in a town in the country’s semi-autonomous state of Galmudug, a security official said. The insurgents used car bombs in the assault on a military base in Galmudug’s Wisil town, located in central Somalia, triggering a fight with government troops and armed locals, Major Mohamed Awale, a military officer in Galmudug told Reuters. “They attacked the base with two car bombs and fierce fighting that lasted over an hour followed,” he said. “The car bombs damaged the military vehicles…residents were well armed and reinforced the base and chased the al Shabaab.” Thirty people, including 17 soldiers and 13 civilians, died in the fighting, Awale said. … The Somalia government condemned the attack and said 41 al Shabaab fighters had been killed in the fighting as both the military and armed residents pursued the assailants, according to a statement posted on the website of the Somalia state news agency, SONNA. Reuters

15 Killed in Horrific Burundi Ambush

At least 15 people were burnt alive or shot dead in a horrific attack in central Burundi after armed men blocked off a road and started killing travelers, security sources said Sunday. The ambush on Saturday night took place in Muramvya province, mirroring similar attacks staged here last year. Armed men barricaded a road with boulders and sprayed bullets on vehicles. They also poured petrol and set alight two buses, burning the passengers alive in what one witness said were “scenes of horror.” At least 13 people were torched alive and between two and five shot dead, witnesses and a local official said. A local official said 15 others were wounded, of whom six had serious injuries. A security source told AFP on condition of anonymity that the toll was 17 as the “heavily-armed” attackers shot dead two others while fleeing. The source said at least four people had been arrested. The interior ministry confirmed the 8 p.m. attack near the Munanira hill but did not provide a toll. In early May, a similar ambush in the same area claimed at least 12 lives. Civil society groups in exile blame such attacks on ethnic rivalry and infighting in the former Hutu rebel group Cndd-FDD, which is now in power. AFP

DR Congo Imposes Curfew in Beni After Weekend Bombings

People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s city of Beni have woken up to a curfew on Monday after three bombs rocked the east of the country, with authorities warning they had reports more attacks were being planned. On Sunday morning, a makeshift bomb went off in a Catholic church in the city, injuring two women, followed just hours later by a suicide bombing outside a bar. A day earlier, a bomb exploded next to a petrol station on the outskirts of Beni without causing any damage. Beni is in the North Kivu province, one of two regions President Felix Tshisekedi placed under a “state of siege” on May 6 in a bid to clamp down on rebel violence in the region. … The church attack on Sunday marked the first time a Catholic building has been targeted in the area, which has been beset by rising violence from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, which has carried out a string of massacres in the last 18 months. AFP

Boko Haram Fighters Pledge to Islamic State in Video, Worrying Observers

A group of fighters from Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram pledged allegiance to rivals the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) weeks after the former group’s leader died, according to a video seen by Reuters. The video fuels fears that ISWAP is consolidating control of the insurgency in northeastern Nigeria following the death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau last month. But not all observers are convinced the video is proof that all Boko Haram fighters are ready to join ISWAP. The groups engaged in a violent rivalry for years, and if ISWAP absorbs Boko Haram fighters, it could focus attention on attacking the Nigerian military. Some 350,000 people have died as a result of the 12-year insurgency and subsequent humanitarian crisis, the United Nations said this week. … Vincent Foucher, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research who is an expert on the conflict, said the video adds to evidence that ISWAP was gaining control. … Foucher said other indicators of ISWAP’s consolidation of power included its claims of attacks in areas that had been Boko Haram zones of influence and a significant drop in violence against civilians in areas where Boko Haram operated. Reuters

As Virus Surges in Uganda, Hospitals Accused of Profiteering

As virus cases surge in Uganda, making scarce hospital beds even more expensive, concern is growing over the alleged exploitation of patients by private hospitals accused of demanding payment up front and hiking fees. Uganda is among African countries seeing a dramatic rise in the number of infections amid a severe vaccine shortage. The pandemic is resurging in 12 of Africa’s 54 countries, the World Health Organization reported Thursday, saying the current wave is “picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder.” … Many Ugandans don’t trust government hospitals, citing the decay they find there as well as the occasional lack of basic supplies. Top government officials routinely seek treatment abroad. Most people attend private facilities that have mushroomed across the country in the years since the health sector was opened up to private investors. … Lockdown measures were tightened in Uganda last week. All schools have been ordered shut, a nighttime curfew remains in place, and only vehicles carrying cargo and those transporting the sick or essential workers are permitted to operate on the roads. AP

UN: Madagascar Droughts Push 400,000 toward Starvation

The U.N. World Food Program says southern Madagascar is in the throes of back-to-back droughts that are pushing 400,000 people toward starvation and have already caused deaths from severe hunger. Lola Castro, WFP’s regional director in southern Africa, told a news conference Friday that she witnessed “a very dramatic and desperate situation” during her recent visit with WFP chief David Beasley to the Indian Ocean island nation of 26 million people. Hundreds of adults and children were “wasted,” and hundreds of kids were skin and bones and receiving nutritional support, she said. In 28 years working for WFP on four continents, Castro said she had “never seen anything this bad” except in 1998 in Bahr el-Gazal in what is now South Sudan. The U.N. and Madagascar’s government are launching an appeal for about $155 million in a few days to provide lifesaving food and prevent a major famine, she said. Thousands of people have left their homes in rural areas and moved to more urban environments in search of food, she added. AP

On the Frontline with Rangers Fighting a ‘Just War’ against Poachers

“If you run this slow from a group of poachers, you’ll be massacred,” shouts Andy Martin, executive director of the Conservation Rangers Operating Worldwide (CROW) organisation. The rangers in training at the Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya dutifully redoubled their efforts, following his directions under the sweltering sun. The men and women here at Samburu – one of the world’s most beautiful wildlife reserves – are manning the frontlines in the war against poaching. Their dedication, along with recent government legislation punishing poachers with life imprisonment and/or a fine of 20 million Kenyan shillings (£150,000), has helped turn the reserve into a success story. Much the same can be said for the entire country: Last year was the first in recorded history that not a single rhino was killed in Kenya. Unfortunately, however, that doesn’t mean the war on poachers is as good as won. “Here at Samburu, no rhinos have been killed for the past five years,” said Gabriel Leparivo, one of the rangers at the park. “But not because the poachers are afraid of us or because of the harsh prison sentences. The much simpler and sadder explanation is that five years ago they killed the last one.” VICE



Photo: Adam Jones