Africa Media Review for June 9, 2021

Ethiopia Election: Will Delayed Polls Mirror Those of the Past?
Ethiopia’s election is less than two weeks away but various insecurity and logistical woes, as well as questions over representation, threaten to overshadow the country’s already twice-delayed national polls. In a televised statement in April, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised Ethiopians they would be able to shape the country’s destiny with their vote. However, as bloodshed in the northern Tigray region and instability elsewhere keep taking a toll on civilians, and as candidates slated to provide Abiy with the stiffest electoral challenge remain behind bars, enthusiasm among some Ethiopians continues to wane. … Meanwhile, the war in Tigray has been omitted altogether from discussion during the election debates despite being among the most pressing issues in the country… With much of Ethiopia’s political opposition out of the race, some observers fear the polls could heighten resentment towards the government. “Flawed elections store up popular resentment. We know this in Ethiopia because the rigging of elections under the last regime is one of the grievances now being used to denounce the TPLF,” said Nic Cheeseman, author and democracy professor at the University of Birmingham. “If Abiy proceeds with elections that are also flawed, it will create similar anger and frustration, repeating the cycle.” Al Jazeera

Africa Desperately Short of COVID Vaccine
In South Africa, which has the continent’s most robust economy and its biggest coronavirus caseload, just 0.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a worldwide tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University. And hundreds of thousands of the country’s health workers, many of whom come face-to-face with the virus every day, are still waiting for their shots. In Nigeria, Africa’s biggest country with more than 200 million people, only 0.1% are fully protected. Kenya, with 50 million people, is even lower. Uganda has recalled doses from rural areas because it doesn’t have nearly enough to fight outbreaks in big cities. Chad didn’t administer its first vaccine shots until this past weekend. And there are at least five other countries in Africa where not one dose has been put into an arm, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is facing a severe shortage of vaccines at the same time a new wave of infections is rising across Africa. Vaccine shipments into Africa have ground to a “near halt,” WHO said last week. … [In Uganda] and elsewhere, the fear is that the luck that somehow enabled parts of Africa to escape the worst of previous waves of COVID-19 infections and deaths might not hold this time. AP

UN Report Claims Somali Troops ‘Fought’ in Tigray War
A UN report alleges recruits of the Somali National Army ‘fought’ in the Tigray war alongside Eritrean troops, in what could signal an illegal participation in a foreign war by Mogadishu. The report of the UN Human Rights Council, on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, said on Monday there were credible reports Somali soldiers were removed from their training camps and taken to the frontline in Tigray. The revelations ad to previous complaints raised by some Somali families, who claimed their kin had been recruited in the Army and never been heard of again. The claims add to the concerns of the Eritrean army participation in Tigray, which rights groups accuse of atrocities. … The Rapporteur says the conflict in Tigray has deepened ethnic tensions and created “an immense humanitarian crisis” where nine in every ten people is facing starvation. At least 4.5 million people – most of Tigray’s population – in urgent need of food and other assistance. Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general said on Tuesday Tigray was now on the “brink of famine.” Nation

Egypt Fumes as Ethiopia Plans Second Filling of Nile Dam
Ethiopian authorities say they are ready to start the second filling of the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD), despite warnings from Egypt over the Blue Nile project. The second filling was scheduled for June, and it came nearly two months after talks between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt failed to reach a solution on what to do about Africa’s largest dam. … Now, as the latest tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia mount, Cairo is renewing its shuttle diplomacy with East African countries, seeking to stop Addis. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s visit to Djibouti last week on Thursday is seen as part of Cairo’s new diplomatic attempts to forge more alliances with Ethiopia’s neighbours. Al-Sisi became the first Egyptian president to visit Djibouti since the tiny Red Sea nation gained independence in 1977. … Tension between the two countries reached a higher point on Sunday when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that Ethiopia will build more than 100 small and medium-sized dams in different parts of the country. … In response, Egypt on Monday denounced the prime minister’s plan to build dams, saying the statement was a continuation of “a regrettable approach” that disregards international law. … On Monday, members of the Sudanese and Egyptian armed forces concluded a joint military exercise that took place over six days in Sudan. Nation

Troika Countries Voice Support for Juba Agreement for Peace in Sudan
The transitional government and the two factions of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) signed a peace agreement in Juba on 3 October, 2020 but the Troika countries did not sign it as witnesses. A signing ceremony was held in Khartoum on Tuesday with the presence of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, the deputy-head of the Sovereign Council Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo “Hemetti” and three other members of the Council…The Troika countries were represented by their special envoys for Sudan… The three countries took this opportunity to call for the full implementation of the agreement and to establish the long-time awaited transitional legislative council. They pinpointed the formation of the joint force and the establishment of the ceasefire monitoring mechanism, saying they are key for protecting civilians in the Darfur region. Furthermore, the Troika called for sustainable justice in the country as agreed in the peace agreement stressing the need to deal with gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence. Also, they urged the government to be committed to its pledge to cooperate with the ICC on Darfur crimes. Sudan Tribune

Sudan: Juba Peace Signatories Warn against the Slow Implementation of Security Arrangements and Call for a Unified Armed Force
The leaders of the rebel movements that signed the Juba Peace Agreement warned of the dire consequences of the slow implementation of the security arrangements mapped out in the agreement. Some called for the quick formation of a unified armed force whilst the head of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) recently rejected this plan. The rebel movements attributed the slow pace to the “absence of political will” and not to the practical material factors, whilst the armed forces justified the slow implementation by explaining that they the lack the required budgets. … Last month, Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) Volker Perthes warned that the delays in establishing key representative bodies and implementing security arrangements according to the Juba Peace Agreement were threatening Sudan’s stability. He stressed that the delays in establishing a joint protection force, along with the absence of integrated security forces, “directly affect stability and the protection of civilians in Sudan.” Radio Dabanga

Two Aid Workers Killed in Ambush in South Sudan
The UN on Tuesday condemned the murder of two aid workers in South Sudan and called on authorities to bring their killers to justice following a spate of similar attacks. The victims were ambushed Monday evening as their convoy returned from delivering food relief in a village some 64 kilometres (40 miles) from Rumbek, in the conflict-prone Lakes State. They were working for the Italian charity Doctors with Africa CUAMM. “I call on the government to strengthen law enforcement, investigate these crimes, and to bring the perpetrators swiftly to justice,” said Matthew Hollingworth, acting head of the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA. “Four aid workers have been killed in the last month alone. I fear that continued attacks on humanitarians and the consequent suspension of activities will have a serious impact on humanitarian operations in South Sudan.” VOA

Cameroon Clerics Plea to Spare Clergy in Separatist Conflict
Clergy in Cameroon have appealed to both sides in the country’s separatist conflict to stop abducting and harassing priests. Within the past two weeks, six Roman Catholic priests and missionaries were abducted, and a church attacked, leaving at least two dead and 11 wounded. The Roman Catholic Church in Cameroon says its priests and missionaries are suffering assaults, abductions and torture in the country’s separatist conflict. A church press release Tuesday says Cameroon’s military took Reverend Father Sylvester Ngarbah Nsah from Vekovi, a northwestern village, on June 4 and have yet to release him. The church says the military accused Nsah of cooperating with separatists, which the church denies. Reverend Father Humphrey Tatah Mbui is director of communications at the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon’s Catholic Bishops. He says rebels also abducted Nsah three months ago and accused him of collaborating with the military before releasing him. “The church preaches peace. The church teaches that you cannot have peace without justice and without the truth,” Mbui said. VOA

Nigerians Launch Legal Action against Government’s Twitter Ban
Dozens of Nigerians and a local rights group have filed a lawsuit at a regional court seeking to lift the government’s ban on Twitter, describing the decision to suspend the hugely popular social media platform’s operations as an attempt to silence criticism of the government. Authorities announced the ban on Friday, two days after Twitter removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists. The government’s move prompted an immediate backlash among social media users and human rights activists, with #NigeriaTwitterBan and #KeepitOn trending on the platform as Nigerians used virtual private networks to access the site. The government has said those who continued to use Twitter would be prosecuted. On Tuesday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a local rights group, and 176 Nigerians filed the lawsuit at the Economic Community of West African States Community Court of Justice in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, calling for an interim injunction restraining government from implementing the ban. Al Jazeera

Burkina Faso Village Emptied as Thousands Flee Jihadist Violence
More than 7,000 people have fled a village in Burkina Faso that was attacked over the weekend, adding to tens of thousands already displaced by a jihadist insurgency in the country. More than 138 people were killed in an attack on the village of Solhan on Saturday, and 40 were seriously wounded, though local sources put the death toll higher, making it the deadliest attack since the start of a jihadist insurgency in 2015 that has been targeting civilians and soldiers. … Burkina Faso has seen attacks from jihadist organisations, including the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which on Tuesday said it “completely denies any involvement” in the Solhan killings. The GSIM called the attack “atrocious,” adding that they are “not part of Muslim methods in jihad.” The attack could be linked to gold, as Solhan is in an area with many mines, drawing people from all over the region. A report by the country’s economic and social observatory found that gold was a source of financing for the jihadist organisations, and some 115 million euros’ worth of gold have been pillaged since 2016, in attacks against mines and small-scale gold miners. RFI with AFP

Africa Roundtable to Focus on Rebooting African-European Relations
Politicians, business people and civil society representatives are meeting for the first Africa Roundtable in Berlin on Wednesday. The declared aim of European and African politicians is to strive to form a partnership of equals once the coronavirus pandemic is over. The event organizers, the Global Perspectives Initiative (GPI), wrote that both Africa and Europe have been hit hard by COVID-19, but added that the crisis also represents an opportunity for change. Their goal is to discuss in “constructive dialogue” what joint reform packages can be forged to build up resilient and sustainable economies. “The neighboring continent offers opportunities in every respect and should top the European Union’s agenda,” according to GPI CEO Ingrid Hamm. It is her mission to get Germany to take on more responsibility for international aid and development. “Africa is on the rise. Soon we will see Africa in the way we saw Asia 30 years ago,” the GPI co-founder said. According to Hamm, there is a mood of optimism on both sides. She said that while Europe has agreed on a green deal, Africa is striving for a green transition. These goals, Hamm added, should be interlinked as the two continents seek to rebuild their economies after the pandemic. DW

South Africa’s Health Minister Put on Leave over Contract
South Africa’s health minister was placed on special leave Tuesday over a corruption scandal involving an irregular government contract where $11 million was paid to a company connected to two people who used to work for him. Zweli Mkhize has been spearheading the COVID-19 response in South Africa, which has the most cases and deaths in Africa. The move was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a statement from his office. It said Mkhize was placed on special leave from his job “to attend to allegations and investigations” around the irregular contract. South Africa’s minister of tourism would step in as acting health minister, the president said. South Africa’s Special Investigative Unit is still probing the contract and hasn’t released a report, although Mkhize’s own health department has already found that the contract was “irregular.” AP

The Pandemic Has Undone South Africa’s National Parks
An hour’s drive south of Cape Town, at a small beach hidden from the main road by suburban houses, you’ll find one of Africa’s top tourist attractions: the Boulders colony of African penguins. These birds usually nest on hard-to-reach offshore islands, but at Boulders a cordon of residential blocks shields the beach and the surrounding dunes from land-based predators like the caracal lynx, and the penguins feel safe enough to breed. Here you can hear their braying calls, smell their acrid guano, and stroll within a few yards of doting parents feeding their fluffy brown young. You can even swim with the birds in a bright-watered cove. In 2019 the colony attracted 820,000 tourists, who paid a total of more than $6 million in ticket fees to South African National Parks, or SANParks, the government agency that runs the site. More than 80 percent of visitors were foreigners, who pay higher ticket fees than locals and so generated 95 percent of gate income. … But on March 27, 2020, this penguin-based economic edifice collapsed. … There were no customers, but facilities and wildlife still had to be managed and secured. The Atlantic



Photo: Adam Jones