Africa Media Review for June 30, 2021

Lessons from a Decade of South Sudanese Statehood
The catastrophic levels of instability that have engulfed South Sudan since 2013 demand a restructuring of governance and security institutions to alter the tragic trajectory of Africa’s youngest state. … South Sudanese are observing the 10th anniversary of statehood with deeply mixed feelings. Children born during the post-independence period have seen nothing except misery and deprivation, with two out of five malnourished. Adults who hailed independence with excitement in 2011 are likely part of the 35 percent of the population that is displaced or count among the war’s death toll. Large segments of the population are traumatized by the effects of war and demonstrate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The freedom fighters and families of martyrs who saw South Sudan’s statehood as the ultimate prize of their selfless sacrifices, are likely to feel betrayed. Regrettably, 400,000 South Sudanese (a conservative estimate) could not celebrate, having lost their lives during the ongoing internal strife. Many in the international community and friends of South Sudan no doubt feel their goodwill has been squandered. Despite these disappointments, many will be proud that they at least have a country of their own that they can fix one day. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

G-20 Talks in Italy Yield Pledge to Fight Hunger in Africa
A meeting of foreign and development ministers from the Group of 20 nations Tuesday ended with agreement to boost efforts to fight growing hunger in the world, worsened by the pandemic, especially in Africa, as well as climate change effects. … “We must do it in a way so that in Africa, people aren’t forced any more to abandon their country and their territory, and I don’t think anyone can carry out this battle alone,” said Di Maio, who announced that Italy would host a conference in October in Rome focused on Africa. … Di Maio said that hunger on the planet has been increasing since 2014 and warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could add another 100 million people to the ranks of the hungry and malnourished. “Clearly one of the first steps to build a better world is to make sure everyone is fed,″ he said. The one-day gathering yielded the so-called Matera Declaration, a “call to action” on food security, nutrition and food systems. … In the declaration, the ministers concurred that “advancing these goals requires the collective and coordinated leadership and action at the global level and a people-centered approach.” … “To bring the pandemic to an end, we must get more vaccine to more places,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the gathering. “Multilateral cooperation will be key to stop this global health crisis.” AP

Virus Infections Surging in Africa’s Vulnerable Rural Areas
For Pelagia Bvukura, who lives in a rural part of north-central Zimbabwe, COVID-19 had always been a “city disease,” affecting those in the capital, Harare, or other, distant big towns. “There was no virus for us. We only used to hear it was in Harare or other towns or when city people died and we buried them here,” she said recently, referring to the custom in Zimbabwe where those who move to the city often are buried at their family’s rural home. That is changing now. A new surge of the virus is finally penetrating Africa’s rural areas, where most of the continent’s people live, spreading to areas that once had been viewed as safe havens from infections that hit cities particularly hard. With facilities in the countryside ill-prepared to fight the coronavirus, residents like Bvukura worry that the next graves being dug could be for their neighbors — or even themselves. … “It is now on our doorsteps. It’s scary. We don’t know how to protect ourselves. We have never dealt with such a problem before,” she said. Like many here, she wasn’t wearing a mask and is yet to be vaccinated. AP

Trapped in Ethiopia’s Tigray, People ‘Falling like Leaves’
The plea arrived from a remote area that had so far produced only rumors and residents fleeing for their lives. Help us, the letter said, stamped and signed by a local official. At least 125 people have already starved to death. Trapped in one of the most inaccessible areas of Ethiopia’s conflict-torn Tigray region, beyond the reach of aid, people “are falling like leaves,” the official said. The letter dated June 16, obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by a Tigray regional health official, is a rare insight into the most urgent unknown of the war between Ethiopian forces backed by Eritrea and Tigray’s former leaders: What’s the fate of hundreds of thousands of people cut off from the world for months? As the United States warns that up to 900,000 people in Tigray face famine conditions in the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade, little is known about vast areas of Tigray that have been under the control of combatants from all sides since November. With blocked roads and ongoing fighting, humanitarian groups have been left without access. AP

Ethiopia Rebels Vow to Continue Fight Until Federal Forces Routed
Tigrayan rebels vowed to hunt down Ethiopian and Eritrean troops on the run around the regional capital, Mekelle, on Wednesday after taking full control of the city in a sharp reversal of eight months of war. People in Mekelle said the incoming Tigrayan fighters were greeted with cheers. There were similar scenes on video footage from the northern town of Shire, where residents said government-allied Eritrean forces pulled out and Tigrayan forces re-entered. The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire on Monday after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) territorial gains. However, Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesman, said the ceasefire was a “joke” and hundreds had been killed in fighting near the border with the Afar region, information that could not be independently verified. Getachew told Al Jazeera’s Catherine Wambua on Wednesday that rebel forces would not stop fighting until the entire region was liberated. … African Union Commission head Moussa Faki Mahamat issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming what he described as a “humanitarian ceasefire,” as did the governments of China, France and the United Arab Emirates. Al Jazeera

UN Rights Chief Slams ‘Rampant Impunity’ in Mali, Warns of Security Risk
Rampant impunity for human rights violations in Mali is posing serious risks for the protection of civilians in the West African country, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday. Repeated attacks over the past six months by groups such as the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), as well as inter-communal violence, have resulted in numerous casualties, she said. At the same time, there has been a sharp increase in violations committed by national forces. “I again urge the Malian authorities to break the cycle of impunity and establish prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including those committed by the military. Accountability must prevail to ensure peace,” Ms. Bachelet stressed. … Ms. Bachelet said the deteriorating human rights situation there is characterized by the steep rise in abductions, largely at the hands of community-based armed groups and militias in the central region, such as the Da Na Ambassagou militia, but also by armed groups such as JNIM. … The UN mission also recorded a sharp rise in violations by State actors during the same period. Some 213 incidents were recorded, compared to 53 between August and December 2020. UN News

UN Prolongs Mali Peacekeeping Mission, Calls for February Vote
The UN Security Council on Tuesday extended its Mali peacekeeping mission until the end of June 2022, insisting on a return to civilian rule and for elections on February 27. The resolution drafted by France to that effect was adopted unanimously and provides for a renewed mandate for the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission at its current strength of maximum 13,289 soldiers and 1,920 police. After announcing the end of its Barkhane mission in the war-torn Sahel state, former colonial power France had hoped to be able to increase the strength of MINUSMA by a few thousand peacekeepers but the June 30 deadline for the end of the mission came too soon for it to secure a green light from the US Congress for extra UN spending in Mali. The resolution calls on the UN Secretary-General for a report no later than July 15 “in light of the growing level of insecurity and physical violence against the civilian populations in Central Mali,” with recommendations on possibly beefing up the peacekeeping force. It also asks the Malian transitional government to organize “free and fair presidential, as well as legislative, regional and local elections and a constitutional referendum” in February. The Defense Post with AFP

Somalia to Hold Indirect Presidential Election October 10
After months of deadlock, political leaders in Somalia have agreed that the country’s long-delayed presidential election will be held on October 10. The office of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble unveiled the timetable for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in a statement on Twitter, saying stakeholders had agreed to a road map for a vote following two days of talks in the capital, Mogadishu. … President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, commonly known as Farmaajo and the leaders of Somalia’s five states had been unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February, triggering an unprecedented constitutional crisis. The political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house of parliament extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gun battles on the streets of Mogadishu. Under pressure, the president reversed the mandate extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the state leaders to chart a fresh road map towards elections. Al Jazeera

Biafra Separatist Leader Arrested and Extradited to Nigeria
The fugitive leader of a prominent Biafra secessionist group has been arrested and extradited to Nigeria to face trial, in a move likely to inflame separatist unrest in south-east Nigeria. Nnamdi Kanu, a British national who has lived in south London, had been wanted by Nigerian authorities since 2015, when he was charged with terrorism offences and incitement, after broadcasts aired on Radio Biafra, a digital station he founded and ran from his home in Peckham. Nigeria’s attorney general, Abubakar Malami, said on Tuesday that Kanu had been extradited to the capital Abuja, after cooperation between Nigerian intelligence services and Interpol. … Malami did not say where Kanu was extradited from, although British government officials have said he was not arrested in the UK. British MPs have in the past raised concerns for Kanu’s wellbeing while held in detention in Nigeria. … Kanu is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), a secessionist group which has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation in Nigeria. In recent months, police have blamed Ipob for a series of arson attacks and killings targeting police units and civil authorities across southern Nigeria. The Guardian

Armed Forces Open Fire in Crackdown on Anti-Monarchy Protests in Eswatini
Government forces in the southern African kingdom of Eswatini fired gunshots and teargas on Tuesday to break up protests calling for reforms to its system of absolute monarchy, witnesses said. A dusk-till-dawn curfew was also imposed. The acting prime minister, Themba Masuku, denied media reports that King Mswati III had fled the violence to neighbouring South Africa. “His Majesty … is in the country and continues to advance the kingdom’s goals,” Masuku said in a statement. “We appeal for calm, restraint and peace.” Protests are rare in Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Political parties are banned, but violent anti-monarchy demonstrations have erupted in parts of the country. Anger against Mswati has been building for years. Campaigners say the king has consistently evaded calls for meaningful reforms that would nudge Eswatini, which changed its name from Swaziland in 2018, in the direction of democracy. They also accuse him of using public coffers as a piggy bank, funding a lavish lifestyle off the backs of his 1.5 million subjects, most of them subsistence farmers. The Guardian

South Africa’s Third COVID Wave Could Be the Worst Yet
Accounting for almost 40 percent of all coronavirus deaths in Africa, the country is struggling to cope with growing coronavirus cases driven by the Delta variant. … South Africa has administered just 2.9 million doses so far, despite receiving a total of 7.4 million vaccines. Less than 5 percent of the population have received a single dose. Government critics, including opposition parties, say the rollout has been slow because of poor planning. But in his address on Sunday, Ramaphosa alluded to vaccine hesitancy. “There is still a lot of misinformation being circulated about the COVID-19 vaccine. False stories are being spread on WhatsApp groups, on social media, and by word of mouth about the COVID-19 vaccine, claiming that the vaccine is not safe, that it can make you sick, or that it doesn’t work,” the president said. “I have said it before, and I wish to say it again: Please think long and hard before you press share or send,” he told South Africans. “You are spreading panic, fear and confusion at a time when we can ill-afford it.” Al Jazeera

COVID-19: All Kenyan Adults to Be Vaccinated by 2022, President Says
Kenya will have vaccinated its entire adult population of 26 million by the end of 2022, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Tuesday in a national address on the Covid-19 pandemic. The country had set a goal of vaccinating 10 million adults by June 2022, but President Kenyatta said inoculation will be accelerated. “By Christmas this year, we intend to have vaccinated over 10 million adults. According to our experts, we will have built a capacity to vaccinate 150,000 people every day from August 2021,” he told the nation. President Kenyatta explained that the acceleration will be aided by factors such as acquisition of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, with requires just one shot. Kenya expects to receive its first consignment in August. “In the process of negotiating with this company, we managed to get a lower price. For the price of 10 million vaccines, we have negotiated for them to deliver 13 million vaccines,” Mr Kenyatta said. “Using these vaccines and others in the pipelines, this is how we will vaccinate over 10 million Kenyans by Christmas 2021 and 26 million by the end of 2022.” The EastAfrican

UNAMID Completes Drawdown, Begins Liquidation Phase
The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) will complete its drawdown exercise on June 30 as requested by the UN Security Council resolution 2559 (2020), which ended the mission’s mandate at the end of last year. Addressing a press conference in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum on Tuesday, the UN Assistant Secretary-General, M’Baye Babacar Cissé said over the past four months, UNAMID handed over 14 team sites to the government, who committed to using them for civilian purposes as in line with the Framework Agreement signed on March 4, 2021. “Good coordination and cooperation with the Government of Sudan has been critical for meeting the tight timeline and benchmarks set by the Security Council for the drawdown period. Similarly, it will be important for the Government to ensure the protection of the Logistics Base and the repatriation of remaining staff to facilitate a seamless liquidation phase,” said Cissé. He said while it is the responsibility of the Central Government to ensure the safety and protection of the sites, the Darfur state governments should ensure the facilities are being used as intended. Sudan Tribune

MONUSCO Patrols Top the 23,000 Mark in Four Months
Now in its 11th year, the United Nations mission in the conflict riddled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues its unabated efforts to protect civilians and work toward peace, engaging with any number of local stakeholders as well as regional and continental blocs and bodies. One example of the commitment shown by MONUSCO, the French acronym for the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC, comes from a report prepared by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ staff. It shows, among others, in the four-month period from March to June this year, over 23 800 patrols were undertaken by soldiers attached to the largest UN peacekeeping mission. With a stated military personnel number of 14 000 it shows the MONUSCO command structure’s commitment to boots on the ground as well as in vehicles and the air. defenceWeb

A Revolutionary Solar Fridge Will Help Keep COVID Vaccines Cold in Sub-Saharan Africa
… Health officials in Sierra Leone say they’re likely to request other vaccines such as AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which only need to be stored in standard refrigerators. But in Sierra Leone and other sub-Saharan African countries, even ordinary refrigeration is a challenge. Only about 1 in 4 Sierra Leonean households have power. … Other countries in the region are only slightly better off: only 28% of health facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa have reliable power supplies. … A revolutionary new generation of solar fridges may prove crucial in the upcoming efforts to immunize Sierra Leoneans against COVID. UNICEF and GAVI, the vaccine alliance, have been pushing to deploy these fridges to health clinics in Africa for childhood immunization programs. Rather than store electricity in batteries to power them through the night, these so called “direct-drive” systems store coldness. They are so efficient and so well-insulated that they can stay cold for 3 days even if the solar panels aren’t supplying power. And the lack of batteries makes them far simpler to operate and maintain. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones