Africa Media Review for June 4, 2021

Africa Faces ‘Rising Threat’ of a COVID Third Wave: WHO
Healthcare systems across Africa are “far from ready” to cope with a fresh surge of coronavirus infections, with vaccine deliveries at a near standstill and cases surging in many countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. “Many African hospitals and clinics are still far from ready to cope with a huge rise in critically ill patients,” WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said on Thursday. “The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising,” she added in a virtual briefing. Africa has officially registered more than 4.8 million cases and 130,000 deaths, according to the WHO, representing 2.9 percent of global cases and 3.7 percent of deaths. According to a survey conducted by the WHO in May, the essential health facilities and personnel required to manage critically ill COVID-19 patients are grossly inadequate in many African countries. … In recent weeks, the continent has seen a rise in infections. South Africa, officially the most affected African country, has tightened health restrictions and now has more than 1.6 million cases and 56,439 deaths. In the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kinshasa, the WHO detected an “exponential rise” last month in cases that mirrored a “clear deterioration” in the wider province. Al Jazeera

Alarm in Africa: Virus Surges, Vaccines Grind to ‘Near Halt’
COVID-19 vaccine shipments have ground to “a near halt” in Africa while virus cases have spiked 20% over the last two weeks, the World Health Organization said Thursday, a bleak scenario for the continent on both those critical fronts. South Africa alone saw a more than 60% rise in new cases last week as the country with the highest coronavirus caseload in Africa continued to face delays in its effort to roll out the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 1 million J&J doses that should have already been put to use remain on hold at a pharmaceuticals plant in South Africa because of contamination concerns at a U.S. factory. The head of the Africa CDC said he expects an update in the coming days from U.S. federal regulators on those and other doses of J&J, which he called an essential vaccine for Africa because it’s a one-dose shot and doesn’t need the ultra-cold storage facilities required by others. AP

Ethiopia Rejects Calls for Ceasefire in Tigray, Claiming Victory is Near
The Ethiopian government has defiantly brushed aside international calls for a ceasefire in the northern province of Tigray, saying its forces are close to “finalising operations” and will soon eliminate all armed opposition. In recent days the US, United Nations, UK and many European states have called for a pause in hostilities to allow humanitarian organisations to reach millions of people who observers say face famine. The war in Tigray has disrupted harvests and led to huge problems for the delivery of aid to communities, particularly in rural areas. The UN said earlier this week that more than 90% of people in Tigray need emergency food aid. Officials in Addis Ababa did not mention the calls for a ceasefire in a lengthy press briefing on Thursday and instead said that the government’s “law enforcement mission” was close to ending. The Guardian

West Africa’s Islamist Insurgency: Fight at a Critical Stage
The multinational effort to stave off an encroaching takeover by extremists in the part of Africa known as the Sahel is facing severe challenges. Mali, where around 400 British troops are currently deployed, has just experienced its second coup in nine months, widely condemned by regional leaders. President Emmanuel Macron has threatened to pull out all 5,100 French troops there if the coup leaders carry out their suggestion of making a deal with the same Islamist insurgents the troops are fighting. Further north, Spain has pulled out of US-led multinational war games dubbed African Lion over a dispute with Morocco. This matters for West Africa and the region but it could also have a knock-on effect for other parts of the world. This part of Africa, the Sahel, is the transit route for huge numbers of migrants making their way northward to Europe. It is also a major transit route for illegal drugs, weapons and jihadists. BBC

Congo: Ituri Attack Exposes Flaws in Tshisekedi’s Security Plan
Facing criticism after a deadly attack by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels, the military governor of Ituri province Lieutenant-General Jonny Luboya, has said security will be restored in the Ituri region quickly. At least 50 people were killed in two overnight attacks on Sunday in the deeply troubled region, according to military officials. “We had to evaluate the situation, we had to know what we call the operational value, we were going to increase our power little by little,” said Luboya, according to Actualitécd. President Felix Tshisekedi recently placed eastern Democratic Republic of Congo under military rule, saying it was necessary to defeat the numerous armed groups that have made the area ungovernable. He replaced civilian administrators with army governors. But fighters have been able to launch daring raids killing dozens of civilians in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. AfricaNews

Nigeria’s Northwest Region Facing Humanitarian Crisis: MSF Warns
Rising violence in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state is stoking a humanitarian crisis, according to international medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF). The region has struggled with decades-long communal clashes over resources but more recently some groups have become more violent – looting, stealing and kidnapping for ransom, and people are fleeing to areas where aid groups are struggling to respond. In a statement published on Thursday, MSF said it had already treated 10,300 children in Zamfara between January and April for severe acute malnutrition, measles, malaria and other conditions. “This is 54 percent higher than in the same period last year,” said an MSF doctor, Godwin Emudanohwo. “People here need food, safe water and vaccinations now. Families tell us they won’t be able to farm for the new season, which means a new cycle of hunger.” Al Jazeera

As Algeria Prepares for Legislative Elections, Authorities Crack Down on Dissent
Protests banned and political activists and journalists detained. Lawyers and judges reprimanded or otherwise targeted, ostensibly for their ties to a grassroots protest movement demanding profound political change. As Algeria readies for legislative elections this month, the government is tightening its grip, rights groups and others say, with a raft of detentions and even prison sentences against its rainbow of critics. In the capital, Algiers, and other cities, authorities have effectively banned weekly demonstrations organized by the two-year-old Hirak protest movement, largely by placing administrative hurdles. If today the government crackdown gives its leaders a tenuous upper hand, it risks backfiring in the longer term, experts warn, further dampening an anticipated low voter turnout in the June 12 parliamentary vote, deepening the country’s social and economic crisis and fueling new support for the Hirak movement. VOA

Surrender Haroun to the ICC, Bensouda Urges Sudanese Officials
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda requested the Sudanese authorities to hand over to the war crimes tribunal Ahmed Haroun, a former Sudanese official indicted for war crimes in Darfur. Boosted by the strong calls to demand the surrender of al-Bashir and his aides by the displaced people during her two-day visit to Darfur, Bensoua repeated to the Sudanese officials her request to transfer Haroun at least to the ICC. The outgoing prosecutor met on Wednesday with Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, Head of the Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the two members of the Council from the former rebel groups signatory of Juba peace agreement Malik Agar of the SPLM-N and Tahir Hajer of the SLFA. Sudan Tribune

South Africa Agency Seeks Interpol Red Notice against Gupta Brothers
The National Prosecuting Authority Johannersburg has asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice against Indian-origin businessmen Atul and Rajesh Gupta, their wives and business associates, according to an official. The move aims at bringing them to South Africa so that they stand trial for their alleged role in a R25 million fraud and money laundering case linked to the failed Estina Dairy Farm project in Free State province. A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action, according to the Interpol website. Atul and Rajesh, along with their elder brother Ajay, have also been accused of siphoning billions of Rands from the state-owned corporations through their alleged closeness to former South African president Jacob Zuma. Indian Express

Kenyatta Appoints 34 Judges, Leaves Out Those Opposed to Constitution Change
President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed 34 judges leaving out six judges among them justices Joel Ngugi and George Odunga who sat in a bench that declared the push to amend the constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) unconstitutional. The move is likely to spark a row which Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and activists who have maintained that the President’s role is minimal, that of confirming the list as forwarded by the Commission. Others left out are High Court judges Weldon Korir and Aggrey Muchelule. While rejecting the list in 2019, President Kenyatta cited integrity issues among some judges. The commission completed the recruitment of the judges between July and August 2019 and forwarded the list to President Kenyatta for appointment. … Several petitions were filed in a bid to compel President Kenyatta to appoint the judges. The Nation

Sudan Initiative Harnesses Youth, Medical Savvy to Fight Covid at Community Level
Two US-based Sudanese doctors have created a grassroots programme using a video mentoring system to deploy volunteer medical students across Sudan to help Covid-19 sufferers in their homes. Sudan is still recovering after a 30-year dictatorship and does not have the infrastructure to tackle the Covid crisis at the local level, says Dr Nada Fadul, one of the co-founders of Sudan’s Community Medical Response Team (CMRT). “We leveraged youth organisations that led to Sudan succeeding in overthrowing this dictator, finding that energy, directing it into a new channel to help get the country over this crisis,” says Fadul, an infectious disease physician at the University of Nebraska in the US. Medical students, many of whom were sitting at home because of Covid-19 school closures, already had the trust of community members in their neighbourhood, along with the energy, knowledge and training. … The programme, set up with co-founder Dr Reem Ahmed of Emory University, also in the US, brought on more enthusiastic medical students as well as Sudanese doctors in the UK, Ireland, and the Gulf. Both Fadul and Ahmed are part of the Sudanese American Medical Association, and utilised their contacts to help get the programme off the ground. RFI

Libya: A.I. Drone May Have Acted on Its Own in Attacking Fighters, U.N. Says
A military drone that attacked soldiers during a battle in Libya’s civil war last year may have done so without human control, according to a recent report commissioned by the United Nations. The drone, which the report described as “a lethal autonomous weapons systems,” was powered by artificial intelligence and used by forces backed by the government based in Tripoli, the capital, against enemy militia fighters as they ran away from rocket attacks. The fighters “were hunted down and remotely engaged by the unmanned combat aerial vehicles or the lethal autonomous weapons systems,” according to the report, which did not say whether there were any casualties or injuries. The weapons systems, it said, “were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability.” The United Nations declined to comment on the report, which was written by a panel of independent experts. The report has been sent to a U.N. sanctions committee for review, according to the organization. The drone, a Kargu-2, was used as soldiers tried to flee, the report said. NY Times

Namibians Angry in Wake of ‘Disrespectful’ Deal over German Genocide
Descendants of victims of massacres committed by German colonisers—recently recognised by Berlin as a genocide—have angrily criticised the agreement between the Namibian government and the southern African country’s former rulers. Germany recently acknowledged that colonial era settlers had carried out a “genocide” against indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908. The official use of the word “genocide” was part of a landmark agreement with the Namibian government after five years of talks over the massacres. Germany also offered what it called “development” funds—pointedly avoiding the word “reparations”—of 1.1 billion euros to be paid over the next 30 years. But the terms and wording of the proposed “reconciliation” deal, which requires parliamentary approval, have raised ire among Herero and Nama representatives, who claim they were never invited to the negotiation table. RFI

Jobs vs Heritage: The Battle over Amazon’s New Africa HQ
For the Khoi and San—South Africa’s first inhabitants—a verdant patch of land in Cape Town embodies victory and tragedy. The two communities drove back cattle-raiding Portuguese soldiers there in 1510. But, a century and a half later, this was where Dutch settlers launched a campaign of land dispossession. Today it is again the scene of another conflict, this time over a development where construction is due to begin this month and where there will eventually be a new 70,000-square-metre Africa headquarters for United States retail giant Amazon. “This is where land was first stolen,” said Tauriq Jenkins, of the Goringhaicona Khoena Council, a Khoi traditional group opposed to the project. “We want a World Heritage Site. We do not want 150,000 tonnes of concrete.” The 37-acre riverside area was previously home to a golf-driving range and popular bar, a small blue plaque the only indication of its historical significance. … Land, its history and its ownership are fraught issues in South Africa, where memories of forced removals and segregation remain fresh nearly three decades after the end of apartheid. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones