Africa Media Review for June 29, 2021

Rebel Forces in Tigray Claim to Have Regained Control of the Embattled Ethiopian Region’s Capital
Seven months after they were dislodged by Ethiopia’s military, the former leaders of Ethiopia’s Tigray region claimed to have regained control Monday over the regional capital, marking what could be a significant — and unexpected — turning point in a deadly civil war. In a statement, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said Mekele was under its “complete control.” The statement said the group anticipated retaliation from the government and called on the city’s residents to rally behind the group. An official in Tigray’s Addis Ababa-appointed interim government, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation, said celebrations broke out Monday. … Amid the apparent territorial gains by Tigrayan rebels, Ethiopia’s government unilaterally declared a cease-fire Monday, claiming that it would last until the end of Tigray’s planting season in September. … Tigrayan officials did not address the ceasefire publicly, and on Tuesday morning spokesman Getachew Reda told Reuters that rebel forces were “still in hot pursuit” of government-aligned forces to the south and east of Mekele. … The Tigrayan militia, known as the Tigray Defense Forces, had been gaining momentum in moving back toward Mekele in recent weeks, according to U.N. security reports. The Washington Post

‘The World Has Lost Control’: From Johannesburg to Jakarta, Delta Variant Wreaks Havoc
As Western nations slowly ease their lockdown restrictions and British families try to book long-awaited summer holidays, the Covid-19 delta variant is bringing healthcare systems around the world to their knees. The variant, first detected in India where it wreaked havoc, has now been found in 92 countries and is the most transmissible strain identified so far, according to the World Health Organization. From Johannesburg and Kampala to Jakarta and Moscow, the effects of the delta variant are plain to see in the soaring spikes on hastily plotted graphs and in the gasps of dying patients. South Africa’s doctors thought they had seen the worst. Over the course of the pandemic the country has been hit by two devastating coronavirus waves, leaving the country reeling from an estimated 173,000 excess deaths, according to research from the South African Medical Research Council and University of Cape Town. But now Africa’s most industrialised nation has been hit by a third wave, two and a half times larger than the first two, with more than 15,000 to 17,500 new cases being recorded every 24 hours. … While no country in sub-Saharan Africa tests as many people as South Africa, it is clear that many other countries are being hit in a similar way. Telegraph

COVID-19 Surge: Africa Losing Battle to Brutal Third Wave
The current Covid-19 surge in Africa is proving to be the most brutal in the continent, warn the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Africa and the Africa CDC, even as the vaccine supply crunch persists. Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) John Nkengasong said last week on Thursday that Africa was losing the battle against the coronavirus and expressed concern that the virus might gain what he called “endemicity” in parts of the continent. Africa is facing a fast-surging third wave of Covid-19 pandemic, according to WHO with cases spreading more rapidly and projected to soon overtake the peak of the second wave the continent witnessed at the start of the year. “Timely access to vaccines to vaccinate at scale and with speed is crucial if we’re to win this battle,” said Dr Nkengasong. This comes even as it became apparent that the WHO-backed Covax was headed for an overhaul over its failure to deliver on its mandate to procure vaccines for the continent. Dr Nkengasong warned that without expeditious access to vaccines the virus will spread to rural areas, where it is extremely difficult to mop up… The EastAfrican

South African Court Orders Ex-President to Jail for Contempt
South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has been found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in prison for defying a court order to appear before an inquiry probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption during his tenure from 2009 to 2018. Zuma was not in court for the ruling on Tuesday and has been ordered to hand himself over within five days to a police station in his hometown of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province or in Johannesburg. If Zuma fails to turn himself in within five days South Africa’s minister of police and the police commissioner have been ordered to take him into custody within three days. This is the first time in South Africa’s history that a former president has been sentenced to prison. The country’s apex court, the Constitutional Court, ruled that Zuma defied an order by the country’s highest court by refusing to cooperate with the commission of inquiry, which is chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo. … Some former Cabinet ministers, high-ranking government officials and executives of state-owned enterprises are among witnesses who have implicated Zuma in corruption. AP

Eswatini Military Sent to Quell Pro-Democracy Riots: Activists
Eswatini deployed soldiers overnight to an industrial town near the capital to crack down on protests against the ruling authorities in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, pro-democracy activists said Tuesday. Protests are usually rare in Eswatini, but recent weeks have seen violent anti-monarchy demonstrations erupting in parts of the country. “The military is on the streets,” Lucky Lukhele, spokesman for the pro-democracy grouping Swaziland Solidarity Network, told AFP. “Yesterday was the worst night ever where a young man was shot point-blank by the army, and some are in hospital as we speak,” said Lukhele. Shops were looted and torched overnight in Matsapha, an industrial hub on the western edge of the capital Manzini, according to several sources. Lukhele also said he had been told by his military sources that King Mswati III had left Eswatini. But a source close to the government told AFP that reports of the king fleeing the country were “fake news.” … The king, crowned in 1986 when he was just 18, has come under fire for his expensive tastes and spending while most inhabitants live below the poverty line. AFP

Nigerian Government Threatens to Rein in Press After Twitter Ban
Media organisations in Nigeria have expressed alarm as the government prepares to follow its controversial ban on Twitter with wider regulations reining in the press and social media companies. A new amendment proposed by lawmakers in President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressive Congress party would allow the government to determine a code of conduct for Nigerian media agencies and journalists, who could be liable to be fined and prosecuted for “fake news” and other breaches of the code. Media organisations have branded the amendment and other proposed moves to clamp down on social media companies in recent weeks as an “attack on free speech.” It follows a ban on Twitter in early June that sparked a series of curbs. For years, Nigerian authorities had promised a crackdown on social media platforms, as disruptive protest movements used them to organise, despite government attempts to suppress them. … Fears of a growing hostility to critics and opposition groups are mounting in Nigeria – as many in the country lament multiple crises of rising insecurity, a suffering economy and an attack on freedoms. The Guardian

Sudan Arrests Group Suspected of Planning Violence
The Sudanese police arrested, on Sunday a group of supporters of the former regime suspected of planning violence during protests to commemorate June 30, 2019 events. Resistance committees will organize a popular rally on 30 June to commemorate the second anniversary of national protests on 30 June 2019 that forces the military council to accept handing over power to a civilian government. The General Attorney “arrested a group of remnants of the former regime who were planning to cause chaos, violence and riots,” said a statement issued by the Empowerment Removal Committee. The Committee further said that the group was planning to use the peaceful processions expected on June 30 to undermine the constitutional order. The authorities were able to identify them through close investigations, monitoring based on reliable information, stressed the statement. Judicial sources in Khartoum told the Sudan Tribune that more than 10 people were arrested, including officials of the former regime affiliated Student Union and a former officer in the General Intelligence Service. Sudan Tribune

Libya Talks in Geneva Aim to Pave Way for December Polls
Libyan delegates began four days of U.N.-facilitated talks on Monday aimed at creating the legal conditions for elections they hope will usher in a “new era” for the North African country. Around 75 representatives hope to agree during the talks in Geneva on the constitutional basis for presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Dec. 24 in Libya. U.N. Special Envoy for Libya Jan Kubis said it was regrettable the issue had not been resolved, adding that leaving without a decision was “not an option” given the timetable. “I call on you to overcome your differences and any trust deficit, focus your deliberations in the following days on reaching the largest possible consensus, and work constructively to bridge the remaining gaps through compromise,” he said. Members should proceed via a vote if there was no consensus, Kubis added in a video message. Warring factions have stuck to a truce since October and have all agreed to a temporary unity government and elections. But privately some delegates doubt the level of commitment and point out that armed groups still hold power on the ground, which could potentially undermine the fairness of a vote. Reuters

G-20 Ministers to Discuss Coronavirus, Climate Change, Development in Africa
The coronavirus pandemic, climate change and food security are on the agenda Tuesday as foreign ministers from the G-20 group of nations meet in Italy. The talks in the city of Matera represent the first time the ministers are gathering in person since 2019. ”To bring the pandemic to an end, we must get more vaccine to more places,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in his opening remarks. “Multilateral cooperation will be key to stop this global health crisis.” Blinken also highlighted U.S. contributions to the COVAX dose-sharing facility to get supply of COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries and praised Italy for making the pandemic a focus of Tuesday’s meetings. U.S. State Department officials said Blinken would stress the importance of working together to address such global challenges, a common theme in recent months as he and President Joe Biden set a foreign policy path heavily focused on boosting ties with allies. … Tuesday’s meetings are also set to consider economic development issues in Africa, including gender equity and opportunities for young people, as well as humanitarian efforts and human rights. VOA

Fewer Kenyan Youths Joining al-Shabab
Kenyan authorities say at least 350 young people who joined the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab have surrendered this year and will be reintegrated into society. Security agencies in Kenya’s coast region say fewer youth are crossing to Somalia to fight for the group in a sign that counterterrorism measures are working. Kenyan counterterrorism officials are in the county of Mombasa this week to help sensitize the community against violent extremism and to assist former al-Shabab fighters. Their efforts are targeting six counties directly affected by the terror group’s activities along the Kenya-Somalia border. … A few thousand Kenyan youths are still fighting alongside al-Shabab in Somalia, but increased security operations and awareness campaigns inside Somalia and Kenya’s northeast and coastal areas have reduced youth recruitment. Rashid said the counterterrorism programs now target security officers who are involved in fighting terrorism, so they can understand the process of radicalization. VOA

Ghana’s Jetstream Lands $3m to Build the Digital Infrastructure for Africa’s Trade Corridors
The share of exports from Africa to the rest of the world ranged from 80% to 90% between 2000 and 2017. This has created a growing demand for Africa to be less dependent on commodity exports and focus on regional commerce. Not only does this decrease export dependence, but it also forms new markets for value-added goods to be exchanged. Yet, Africa is home to the slowest and costliest ports in the world. Reports say that sometimes it is logistically cheaper and faster for African businesses to trade goods with distant overseas partners than via Africa’s intracontinental trade corridors. That’s a big problem and Jetstream, a Ghanaian-based company proposing to change that just closed a $3 million seed round. … The startup was founded by Miishe Addy and Solomon Torgbor in 2018. The founders started Jetstream to enable African businesses to see and control their own cross-border supply chains. It aggregates private sector logistics providers at African ports and borders, and brings them online. Tech Crunch



Photo: Adam Jones