Africa Media Review for March 1, 2021

Families Wait as Nigerian Security Forces Search for 300 Abducted Girls
Relatives of more than 300 girls abducted by gunmen from their boarding school in northwest Nigeria endured an agonising wait for news amid rumours that they had been released, while security forces continued their search on Sunday. An armed gang kidnapped 317 girls from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in the town of Jangebe, in Zamfara state, at around 1 a.m. on Friday. Two Reuters’ correspondents saw a heavy military presence in state capital Gusau on Sunday, with army trucks moving in convoy and police checkpoints on major roads. Zamfara police have worked alongside the army in a search-and-rescue operation since Friday. The raid in Zamfara state was the second such kidnapping in little over a week in the northwest of the country, where schools have become targets for mass kidnappings for ransom. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday urged state governments not to reward “bandits” with money or vehicles. … On Saturday, gunmen released 27 teenage boys who had been kidnapped from their school on Feb. 17 in neighbouring Niger state. Reuters

UN Security Council Demands COVID-19 Vaccine Ceasefires; WHO Pushes for More Action to Speed up Inoculations
The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously passed a resolution calling on all Member States to support a “sustained humanitarian pause” to local conflicts, in order to allow for COVID-19 vaccinations. Briefing journalists afterwards, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus argued that more could be done. … The Council resolution calls for review of specific cases raised by the UN, where access to vaccinations is being hampered and to “consider what further measures may be necessary to ensure such impediments are removed and hostilities paused.” Tedros noted that Côte d’Ivoire had received its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with more to be shipped to other countries in the days and weeks ahead – with the goal of getting vaccination underway in all countries within the first 100 days of the year. Crediting the UN-led vaccine initiative COVAX, he said that fragile progress has been made, but that vaccine supplies and distributions must be accelerated. UN News

Thousands Flee Rebel Violence in Central African Republic
Monique Moukidje fled her home in Central African Republic’s town of Bangassou in January when rebels attacked with heavy weapons, the fighting killing more than a dozen people. … She is among an estimated 240,000 people displaced in the country since mid-December, according to U.N. relief workers, when rebels calling themselves the Coalition of Patriots for Change launched attacks, first to disrupt the Dec. 27 elections and then to destabilize the newly-elected government of President Faustin Archange Touadera. The rebels’ fighting has enveloped the country and caused a humanitarian crisis in the already unstable nation. Hundreds of thousands of people are also left without basic food or health care, and with the main roads between Central African Republic and Cameroon closed for almost two months, prices have skyrocketed leaving families unable to afford food. … “The most pressing needs are on the axis (the main roads),” says Marco Doneda, project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders based in Bangassou, on the country’s southeastern border with Congo. AP

Militia Raids in Eastern DR Congo Kill 10 Civilians, Says Army
Fighters thought to belong to the notorious Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia killed 10 civilians in two overnight attacks in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the army said Sunday. ADF fighters decapitated eight villagers in the village of Boyo, in the northeast Ituri province, and shot dead two civilians in Kainama, army spokesman Lieutenant Jules Ngongo said. Soldiers were in pursuit of the attackers, he added. Local officials confirmed the two attacks, adding that houses were also burned in the violence. Kainama lies at the extreme north of North Kivu province, where it borders with Ituri. It is just five kilometres (three miles) from Boyo. Both provinces sit on DR Congo’s eastern border with Uganda. The ADF militia are Ugandan Islamic fighters who have made their base in eastern DR Congo since 1995. While they have not launched raids into Uganda for several years, the militia has been blamed for the killings of more than 800 civilians over the past year in both North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. AFP

Rwanda Official Admits Legal Violations in ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Case
Rwanda’s attorney general inadvertently revealed that he had intercepted privileged and confidential legal materials in the ongoing terrorism case against Paul Rusesabagina, the prominent dissident whose efforts to save more than 1,200 people during the country’s genocide was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated movie “Hotel Rwanda.” In a video interview published by Al Jazeera English, Johnston Busingye, who is both justice minister and attorney general, rejected accusations that authorities had confiscated Mr. Rusesabagina’s papers or trampled on attorney-client privilege. But in an hour-and-half-long preparation video that his public relations team accidentally sent to the media outlet, Mr. Busingye contradicted himself, saying that the prison authorities had intercepted correspondence between Mr. Rusesabagina and his lawyers and children, some of which included escape plans. [The revelation] came as the trial faces widespread condemnation from entities including rights groups, members of the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament. The New York Times

Chad Opposition Leader Says Several Relatives Killed in Home Raid
A former rebel leader and candidate in Chad’s upcoming presidential election has said that security forces raided his home in the capital N’Djamena and killed several of his family members. Yaya Dillo told France’s RFI radio station he was attacked early on Sunday by members of the presidential guard, headed by the son of Chadian President Idriss Deby. “At 5 in the morning, they attacked my home. The president’s guard… They killed my mom, my son and three [other relatives],” he said. A government statement said the raid was an operation to arrest Dillo, whom it said failed to respond to two judicial mandates. It said government forces opened fire after being met with armed resistance. Two people were killed and five wounded in the ensuing fight, including three policemen, it said. Netblocks, a UK-based service that tracks internet disruptions, reported that internet access in N’Djamena was disrupted on Sunday. Al Jazeera

Thousands of Algerian Protesters March for Second Time This Week
Thousands of people demonstrated in central Algiers on Friday for a second time this week, confirming the resumption of street protests that had stopped for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Protesters were met by security forces who used truncheons and fired tear gas when a crowd forced its way through a police barrier to reach the Grand Post Office, the main Algiers rallying point for the anti-government Hirak movement, footage posted on the Interlignes news site showed. … “Neither Islamist nor secular, but Hirakist,” read a banner carried by protesters. Police vans took up positions near main squares in the city centre and roadblocks were set up on several major roads leading into the capital. While thousands of people took part in Friday’s march, however, the numbers were smaller than those involved in the protests before the lockdown last year, when tens of thousands regularly took part. Rallies were also held in some provinces, including in northeastern Kabylie and northwestern Oran, where a prominent human rights activist, academic Kaddour Chouicha, was arrested, according to prisoners’ rights group CNLD. Al Jazeera

Sudan’s Head of Sovereign Council, UN Envoy Discuss Abyei Force
The head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council and the UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, on Sunday, discussed the mandate of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNIFSA) and the situation in the Abyei area. The meeting between Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Parfait Onanga-Anyanga comes as Khartoum and Juba voiced readiness to reach an agreement over the stalled process of Abyei future within the framework of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that led to the independence of South Sudan. … Officials from the two countries held a series of meeting about Abyei but they did not yet take any tangible measure to resolve their differences over the participation of Misseriya herders in the referendum on self-determination. Also, the international community is pressing the two sides to take advantage of the warming relations and to find a compromise on the security situation there, in a way that the protection of civilians does not require an international force. Sudan Tribune

US Africa Command Leadership Visits Nigeria
US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, US Africa Command, wrapped up a three-day West African visit with a stop in Nigeria to meet with the nation’s leaders and further the long-standing partnership and security cooperation between the two nations. During the visit on 25 February, Townsend met with the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, and National Security Adviser, Babagan Monguno, to discuss regional security issues and to express the command’s gratitude for the assistance provided during a hostage rescue operation last year. … Townsend also met with senior military officials, including Minister of Defence Bashir Salihi Magash and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Leo Irabor, to talk about on-going cooperation in the region and greater maritime security and threat mitigation. Nigeria is a key partner in countering violent extremist organizations throughout the Lake Chad Basin, Africa Command said. “The bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the US is built on several pillars including security cooperation,” Townsend said. “US Africa Command will do our part to advance the security cooperation pillar, so that Nigerians can enjoy the more secure future they all deserve.” defenceWeb

Living with Long COVID in Lagos
Adebola* became ill a few days after attending a party in Lagos last March. Her symptoms mirrored what she was beginning to learn about Covid-19, and they continued to escalate, defying the malaria medication she was taking. … Medical experts have termed the constellation of symptoms that manifests in some people after recovering from Covid as Long Covid (or the Covid Long Haul). “It’s an emerging [diagnosis] to describe the persistence of symptoms for patients that initially tested positive for Covid. Now they are negative, but you still see persistence of some of the symptoms for a while,” Dr Tofunmi Omiye, a healthcare researcher, said. The general understanding about Covid-19 in Nigeria is that the virus causes a mild or debilitating illness, depending on underlying health issues, for a few weeks, after which most patients recover. However, the existence of Long Covid and its varied manifestations in patients complicates this understanding. … Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Mail & Guardian the health agency is convening experts across the continent to better understand Long Covid, so they can offer guidance to member states on how to care for patients. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones