Africa Media Review for June 8, 2021

Third Wave Sweeps across Africa as COVID Vaccine Imports Dry up
African countries face a last-ditch battle against a third wave of Covid infections, as the supply of vaccines to the continent “grinds to a halt,” top health officials have warned. “The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising. Our priority is clear – it’s crucial that we swiftly get vaccines into the arms of Africans at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying of Covid-19,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa. The WHO said the pandemic was now trending upwards in 14 countries and in the past week alone, eight countries had witnessed an abrupt rise of over 30% in cases. However, vaccine shipments to African nations have ground to a near halt. “While many countries outside Africa have now vaccinated their high-priority groups and are able to even consider vaccinating their children, African countries are unable to even follow up with second doses for high-risk groups,” Moeti said. … There are widespread fears among senior health officials that the continent could suffer similar or worse devastation to that seen in India, which has a more robust health system than many African countries. The Guardian

Uganda Re-Imposes Lockdown to Beat Back COVID-19 Case Surge
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday re-imposed a strict lockdown that included the closure of schools and the suspension of inter-district travel to help beat back a surge in COVID-19 cases in the East African country. The new measures, which will be effective from Monday morning, include the closure of all educational institutions, some bans on travel, the shutdown of weekly open markets, and the suspension of church services. Most of the new restrictions, Museveni said, would be implemented for 42 days. An assessment of their impact will then help the government decide whether to ease or prolong them, he added. Uganda implemented one of Africa’s tightest lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic more than a year ago, but it was gradually lifted as cases slowed to a trickle. Last month however infections started to spike and new cases, particularly among younger people, have surged, fuelling fears that the country could slip into an out-of-control second wave. … “In this wave the intensity of severe and critically ill COVID-19 patients and death is higher than what we experienced in the first wave of the pandemic,” he said. Reuters

UN Strongly Condemns Violations in Central African Republic
The U.N. Security Council on Monday strongly condemned violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Central African Republic and warned that attacks on United Nations peacekeepers there may constitute war crimes. The press statement was issued after closed-door Security Council discussions and a briefing from Mankeur Ndiaye, the U.N. special envoy to the Central African Republic. … U.S. political coordinator Rodney Hunter expressed outrage at reports that Russian military instructors led military offensives in the country “characterized by confrontations with U.N. peacekeepers, threats against U.N. personnel, violations of international humanitarian law, extensive sexual violence, and widespread looting, including of humanitarian organizations.” … The sessions followed a May 30 border incident that has heightened tensions between the Central African Republic and Chad. Chad’s defense ministry said troops from the neighboring country attacked a Chadian border post, killing one soldier and kidnapping and then executing five others. AP

France Suspends Military, Budgetary Support to Central African Republic
France suspended its military cooperation and budgetary aid to the Central African government, terming the Central African Republic “complicit” in an anti-French campaign. The French military ministry said on Monday that it considered the Central African state as “complicit” in a Russian-led anti-French campaign. “On several occasions, the Central African authorities have made commitments that they have not kept, both politically towards the opposition and in terms of their behavior towards France, which is the target of a massive disinformation campaign in CAR,” Paris said. … In April, five French military aid workers who were posted to the Central African Defence Ministry were recalled to Paris. The military training provided to the Central African Armed Forces (Faca) by troops stationed in Gabon has also been suspended, the ministry stated, confirming information from the French news website Mediapart. Africanews with AFP

United States Imposes Visa Restrictions over Cameroon Separatist Crisis
The United States stepped up pressure for a peaceful resolution to Cameroon’s conflict between state forces and English-speaking rebels on Monday, imposing visa restrictions on individuals believed to be undermining efforts to end the crisis. Cameroon’s two western Anglophone regions have been gripped by fighting since 2017 as the rebels try to break away from the predominantly Francophone government. More than 3,500 people have died and 700,000 have been displaced in the violence. Announcing the visa sanctions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was deeply concerned by the continued insecurity and called for both sides to negotiate for peace. “This decision reflects our commitment to advance a dialogue to peacefully resolve the Anglophone crisis and support respect for human rights,” he said in a statement. … In 2019, the Trump administration ended Cameroon’s preferential trade benefits citing extrajudicial killings, torture and other human rights violations being committed by Cameroonian security forces. Reuters

Nigeria Orders Media to Delete Twitter after Banning Site Nationwide
The government of Africa’s most populous country said it was suspending the platform on Friday, two days after the US social media giant deleted a tweet from the president’s account for violating its rules. “Broadcasting stations are hereby advised to de-install twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source… of information gathering for news,” NBC’s director Armstrong Idachaba wrote in a statement. “It would be unpatriotic for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to patronise the suspended Twitter as a source of its information.” More than 39 million Nigerians have a Twitter account, according to NOI polls, a public opinion and research organisation. Some Nigerian broadcasters are concerned the clampdown on Twitter is part of more general crackdown against the media. “It is very important we push back and fast, because they could go further. We need to talk to the different media houses and adopt a strong and common answer,” said a social media executive at a major TV station in Nigeria… Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama met with diplomats Monday in the capital Abuja, after several countries issued a joint statement voicing concerns with the Twitter ban. AFP

Mali Junta Leader Sworn in as President after 2nd Coup
Mali coup leader Col. Assimi Goita was sworn in Monday as president of a transitional government, solidifying his grip on power in the West African nation after carrying out his second coup in nine months. The inauguration ceremony in the capital, Bamako, came as Mali faces increasing isolation from the international community over the junta’s power grab. Already the African Union has suspended Mali’s membership and France has temporarily suspended its joint military operations with the Malian military to exert pressure on Goita to step aside. Goita, who first grabbed power in August 2020 by overthrowing Mali’s democratically elected president, eventually agreed to a transitional government led by a civilian president and prime minister. But two weeks ago he ousted those civilian leaders after they announced a Cabinet reshuffle that sidelined two junta supporters without consulting him. … Goita faces international pressure to hold an election in February 2022, as required by the original transitional government agreement last year. Given the latest developments, however, it is unclear what will happen on the election front. AP

Burkina Faso: Islamist Groups Target Civilians in ‘Cycle of Vendettas’
At least 160 civilians, including volunteer anti-terrorism fighters, were killed in northern Burkina Faso on Friday in the deadliest Islamist attack in the country since 2015, plunging the country once more into mourning. … The attack comes just a few weeks after a visit to the region by the Burkinabe Defence Minister, Chérif Sy, whose visit was meant to showcase the return of government authority after months of jihadist encroachment. … Savadogo, who conducts research into extremist groups, said he believed the attacks were a reaction to the government’s claims of victory, albeit small, in its fight against the insurgents and is part of a “war of communication” on both sides. The bloodletting in Solhan appears to be a new step in the insurgents’ campaign to destabilise the Burkinabe state, which is already weakened and unable to provide security for its inhabitants in rural areas. … The first victims of the massacre were members of the VDP, a group made up of civilian volunteers who receive two weeks’ military training and are deployed to support the counter-insurgency. … While the VDP has achieved significant success in some regions, many analysts say that they have also exposed the civilian population to reprisals. France24

Burkina Faso Bans Motorbikes in Region Hit by Jihadist Attacks
Burkina Faso has banned the use of motorbikes in a jihadist-hit northern region where 160 people were killed in a weekend raid, the local governor said Monday. Suspected jihadists on motorcycles carried out the massacre in the village of Solhan, the deadliest attack in the West African country since an Islamist insurgency spread from neighboring Mali in 2015. “Use of two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles is strictly forbidden in part of the Sahel region” from Monday “until further notice,” according to a statement issued by Colonel Salfo Kabore, the regional governor. The province of Yagha, which includes Solhan, and several other communities in three neighboring provinces are covered by the order, barring exceptional authorizations. An overnight curfew is already in effect in these areas. … The governor also ordered all such mining sites to shut down and all gold-related activity in the Oudalan and Yagha provinces to stop immediately. The Defense Post with AFP

Senegalese Navy Seizes 8 Tonnes of Cannabis Resin from Boat
The Senegalese navy on Sunday intercepted a boat smuggling over 8 tonnes of cannabis resin through the waters off the West African nation’s coast, the armed forces ministry said in a statement. The vessel, which was flying a Togolese flag, was stopped 140 kilometres (87 miles) from the coastal capital of Dakar with seven crew members on board. After escorting the boat to a naval base in Dakar, the authorities discovered the 8.37 tonnes of hashish split between 279 bags. The boat was also carrying sacks of plaster, the ministry said on Monday. It did not provide a street value for the seized drugs. Earlier this year, authorities in Niger seized 17 tonnes of cannabis resin worth around 31 million euros ($37 million), the largest bust in the country’s history. According to Interpol, drug kingpins are sending larger shipments in response to COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures, which have restricted their ability to more frequently move smaller quantities of drugs via individual couriers. Reuters

Malaria Is Far Deadlier in Africa Than the Coronavirus. Why Is the Vaccine Taking So Long?
No hospital in this rural community has recorded a covid-19 death. But another menace fills graves on a grimly predictable schedule. The seasonal downpours that soak the red dirt roads here nurture clouds of mosquitoes that spread malaria. Researchers call it a forgotten epidemic: The parasitic disease kills more than 400,000 people each year. Most victims are children in Africa. The coronavirus pandemic, by contrast, has claimed about 130,000 lives on the continent in the past 15 months, according to World Health Organization estimates. Yet only the coronavirus has commanded a surge of global resources that fast-tracked vaccines, smashing development records and reshaping attitudes toward what is pharmaceutically possible. Now scientists in Burkina Faso aim to harness that momentum to end what they see as the region’s more urgent threat. … “It may well be possible to accelerate regulatory review,” said David Schellenberg, a science adviser for the WHO’s Global Malaria Program. “I think we’re all very keen to learn as many lessons from covid as possible.” The Washington Post

Huge Two-Day Underwater Avalanche Sent Mud 1,000km into Ocean
A vast underwater avalanche sent mud and sand more than 1,000km out into the ocean over the course of two days, rupturing submarine cables and disrupting internet traffic on Africa’s western coast, scientists have revealed. The avalanche, the longest sediment flow ever recorded, travelled more than 1,100km from its source at the mouth of the Congo River along a deep ocean canyon, according to a new study. … The exceptionally long underwater avalanche, also known as a turbidity current, was triggered by the worst flooding in 50 years along the Congo River in late December 2019, which pushed lots of sand and mud to the river mouth, combined with unusually large spring tides two weeks later, according to a white paper. … The researchers said their work represented the first detailed study of the powerful submarine turbidity currents that can break the seafloor cables that carry over 99% of global data traffic between continents. That includes the internet, financial trading, cloud data storage and voicemail services. The Guardian

World Oceans Day: What Must African Oceans Do to Clean Up?
Tuesday 8 June marks World Oceans Day, a day to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean. The United Nations says: “World Oceans Day reminds everyone of the major role the oceans have in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet and a major source of food and medicine and a critical part of the biosphere.” Africa is no stranger to man-made disasters in its oceans. In August 2020, the pristine coast in Mauritius turned black after a major oil spill caused by a Japanese ship that ran aground. … Overfishing is also a global concern. As well as marine life being harmed, so is the fishing industry, which many Africans are dependent on for their livelihoods. The UN says: “even though all its benefits, the ocean is now in need of support.” “With 90% of big fish populations depleted, and 50% of coral reefs destroyed, we are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished. To protect and preserve the ocean and all it sustains, we must create a new balance, rooted in a true understanding of the ocean and how humanity relates to it.” Africanews



Photo: Adam Jones