Africa Media Review for March 11, 2021

US Blacklists Groups in Congo, Mozambique over IS Links
The United States on Wednesday blacklisted two Islamist extremist groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique as foreign terrorist organizations over accusations of links to Islamic State (IS). The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in Congo and its leader Seka Musa Baluku and Mozambique’s Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama and its leader, Abu Yasir Hassan, were also named “specially designated global terrorists.” The designations prevent travel by members to the United States, freeze any U.S.-related assets, ban Americans from doing business with them and make it a crime to provide support or resources to the movements. … “Although ISIS-associated media portray ISCAP as a unified structure, ISIS-DRC and ISIS-Mozambique are distinct groups with distinct origins,” it said. “These groups have committed or pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism.” Reuters

‘People Are Starving’: New Exodus in Ethiopia’s Tigray Area
For months, one great unknown in the Tigray conflict has been the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in vast rural areas beyond the reach of outside aid. With the region largely cut off from the world since November, fears of violence and starvation have grown. Now those people are starting to arrive, many by foot, in the community of Shire, aid workers who are there and who have visited say. The Associated Press obtained permission to use rare photos largely from the International Rescue Committee of the dire conditions facing these displaced people. … Some 5,000 people had arrived between last Wednesday and Sunday, and humanitarian teams are being sent to find those said to be on the way, Oliver Behn, general director for Doctors Without Borders-Holland, told the AP. … It is not clear exactly what new threats of violence caused these thousands of people to flee western Tigray, where U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said “acts of ethnic cleansing” have been seen. Some people from Ethiopia’s neighboring Amhara region are accused of occupying communities. AP

Libyan Parliament Backs Unity Government, Advancing Peace Plan
Libya’s long-divided parliament on Wednesday approved an interim government mandated to bring the fractured country together after a decade of chaos and violence, and to oversee elections in December as part of a U.N.-backed peace plan. The parliament’s approval of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh’s cabinet by 132 votes to two against, at a session in a war-battered frontline city, represents the biggest opportunity in years for a resolution to Libya’s conflict. “Through this vote, it became clear that the Libyans are one unit,” Dbeibeh told parliament afterwards. However, huge hurdles remain and the manner of Dbeibeh’s own appointment and the size of his cabinet have drawn accusations of corruption and influence peddling that spoilers could leverage to deny his legitimacy. On the ground, Libya’s streets, businesses and state institutions remain in the shadow of myriad armed factions and split between two rival administrations, while foreign powers backing either side have kept their guns in place. … The United Nations hailed it as a “historic day.” Reuters

Libyan Military Frees More Than 100 Migrants from Traffickers
Security forces in Libya have freed 120 people believed to be migrants who were held captive and tortured by human traffickers in the northwestern town of Bani Walid, the army said. The migrants and refugees, mostly Egyptians, were released on Wednesday after “a morning raid on the dens of human traffickers,” the elite 444th combat brigade said in a statement. Their captors had subjected them to “torture and extortion,” it added, citing testimonies from those released. The brigade also carried out an operation against smugglers last week in Bani Walid, a centre for human trafficking on the edge of the desert about 170 kilometres (105 miles) southeast of the capital, Tripoli. Six hideouts were discovered in that operation and 70 migrants and refugees of different nationalities were released, it said, adding that “one of the country’s most notorious traffickers was detained along with other foreign criminals who were kidnapping, killing and torturing their victims.” Al Jazeera

Tanzanian President’s Absence Sparks Concern over Possible Illness
Tanzania’s president John Magufuli, who has denied Covid-19 poses a threat to his people, has not appeared in public since February 24, raising speculation that he may have fallen ill. Magufuli, 61, had been due in Dodoma, the capital, on Wednesday at a military ceremony and has not been to church for two successive Sundays in spite of his devout beliefs and his professed views that public gatherings are safe. Tundu Lissu, an opposition leader, demanded that the president make his whereabouts known, saying the public had a right to know if he was sick. “The man has been out of sight since February 24 and his government has maintained absolute silence about his absence,” he told the Financial Times. … Tanzania’s government has refused offers of Covid-19 vaccines from Covax, an international body that distributes vaccines to poorer countries, after Magufuli said his people were protected by God. In a speech last month, the president asserted that Tanzania had “stayed for a year without coronavirus.” Several senior Tanzanian politicians have died or been sick with coronavirus-like symptoms, according to people who know family members. FT

Uganda’s Missing: Hundreds of Families Fear for Those Taken Away
Hundreds of people in Uganda are still missing after being detained following raids on their homes or in the aftermath of election campaign rallies. The BBC’s Patience Atuhaire has been talking to some of those affected. It was in the early hours of the morning when more than a dozen people – armed, uniformed and masked – descended on the village of Kisamula, 150km (95 miles) south-west of the capital, Kampala. After driving house to house, they made off with 18 young men, said to mostly be opposition supporters. Two months after the raid, which happened in the run-up to January’s bitterly contested general election, not one of those taken has returned. … Bobi Wine’s party, the National Unity Platform, has published a list of 423 of its supporters who it says are missing – largely from the Central Region, which includes the village of Kisamula, and where the party won several parliamentary seats. A number of them, the party says, were polling agents in possession of evidence of vote-rigging. BBC

Tech Giants’ Dreams of Free Internet Wither in African Backlash
Uganda’s shutdown of social-media sites in January, right before a disputed election handed President Yoweri Museveni a sixth term, dealt a devastating blow to rice trader Elizabeth Nagunda: Her sales slowed to a near-halt. “Before I would advertise, market my products on Facebook, WhatsApp, and even get customer orders” via those platforms, she said in an interview in Kampala, the capital. “I can’t run any more adverts online. Even if I do, there are no people to view them.” Facebook Inc. and Google are spending billions trying to get more people online in Africa, but the internet giants are now facing a backlash from governments worried about social-media platforms being used to remove them from power. … Facebook and some of the world’s largest telecom carriers are spending almost $1 billion building a sub-sea internet cable that will connect Europe to the Middle East and 16 African countries. Google has announced its own sub-sea cable connecting Europe to Africa, using a route down the west coast. For now, companies have limited scope to counter internet shutdowns. Bloomberg

Burkina Faso Makes Tentative Steps Towards Dialogue with Jihadists
While he was on the campaign trail last November, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore had a mantra — “We shall not negotiate” — when talking about Burkina Faso’s jihadist insurgency. The policy set Kabore apart from former president Blaise Compaore, whose view was that dialogue with jihadists from neighbouring Mali had discouraged attacks on Burkina Faso itself. Kabore’s declared refusal has been strongly backed by France, whose military campaign against jihadism in the Sahel is now in its ninth year. But sources say contacts have taken place with jihadists at the local level in part of northern Burkina Faso. The initiative is limited in scope, they say, and among jihadist groups, the so-called Islamic State remains beyond the pale. In February, Prime Minister Christophe Dabire broached the delicate question of dialogue by saying “all major wars come to an end around a table.” AFP

Senegal President Sall Calls for Day of Mourning after Unrest
Senegalese President Macky Sall has declared a day of national mourning in memory of those killed in recent unrest sparked by the arrest of an opposition politician accused of rape. Sall also announced lifting of COVID-19 restrictions that had angered people. The health emergency declaration due to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to restrictions, including a curfew in the capital Dakar, would be lifted at midnight on March 19, the president said in a statement on Wednesday. The recent protests also railed against the COVID-19 measures. Senegal has recorded more than 36,000 coronavirus cases and 935 deaths. At least five people were killed in recent clashes between opposition supporters and security forces sparked by the March 3 arrest of Ousmane Sonko, a government critic popular with the country’s youth. The violence, which the opposition says claimed 11 lives, came as a shock in a country often seen as a haven of stability in an otherwise volatile region. Tensions only began to ease on Monday after a court freed Sonko from detention. Al Jazeera

Ivory Coast’s Ruling Party Wins Majority in Peaceful Parliamentary Vote
Ivory Coast’s ruling party has won an absolute majority in parliament, the country’s electoral commission announced on Tuesday, three days after a peaceful vote raised hopes that the country’s recent violent tensions were behind it. The West African country’s electoral commission said President Alassane Ouattara’s RHDP party had won a majority of seats in the 255-seat National Assembly. Saturday’s vote passed off peacefully and, for the first time in a decade, included all of the country’s main political players, providing hope that Ivory Coast has begun to emerge from recent violent tensions. It was a key test of stability following violence surrounding October’s presidential vote, which was boycotted by the opposition and claimed 87 lives in the former French colony. France24 with AFP

Ivory Coast Prime Minister, Appointed Last Year, Dies at 56
Ivory Coast Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko died, less than a year after being appointed to the position following the death of his predecessor. He was 56. Bakayoko succumbed to cancer on Wednesday in Germany, where he was being treated for the disease, President Alassane Ouattara said in a tweet. He had been evacuated from Ivory Coast to Paris on Feb. 18, before being moved for further treatment. … The death of Bakayoko, who also served as defense minister, will lead to a cabinet reshuffle in the world’s biggest cocoa-producing nation. He may be succeeded by Patrick Achi, the secretary-general of the ruling party appointed as interim premier on March 8. Bakayoko was also seen as a front-runner to succeed Ouattara when his current term ends in 2025. Bloomberg

Somalia’s Security Situation in Crisis Amid Political Uncertainty
In Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, no one seems to know where the next terror attack will come from. On Friday, 25 people were killed and many others injured when al-Shabaab militants targeted a popular restaurant. Before that, suspected al-Shabaab insurgents stormed the central prison in Bosaso city in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region. At least eight soldiers were killed, and more than 400 inmates were released from captivity. Puntland’s military officials later said they had recaptured 87 of the hundreds of inmates that the armed Islamist extremists had freed. “When you look at the atrocities perpetrated by terrorist groups in Mogadishu, it is very obvious al-Shabaab is taking advantage of the political unrest and the election impasse, Abdullahi Hashi, a Somali security expert, told DW. “If this is not addressed urgently, jihadists will continue to launch deadly attacks” DW

Former Somali President Dies in Nairobi
Somalia’s former president Ali Mahdi Mohamed has died in Kenya’s capital Nairobi aged 83, officials in Mogadishu and members of his family announced on Wednesday. According to the family, the former president fell ill in Mogadishu last week and was flown out to Kenya for further treatment. Mr Mahdi was appointed president of Somalia by loyalists of the United Somali Congress (USC), the rebel group that deposed the late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991. But his rule was immediately challenged by the late rebel leader Mohamed Farah Aideed. The power struggle between Gen Aideed and President Mahdi led to months of bloodshed in Mogadishu. Decades later, the country is still struggling to rise from the aftermath of the conflict. Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo and a host of several opposition politicians condoled with his family, describing Mr Mahdi as a man who loved his country. The EastAfrican

How Africa Can Save the World from a Never-Ending Pandemic
As the rest of the world prepares for a vaccine-driven return to normal over the next few months, at her community health center in a poor, working class neighborhood of Cape Town, Andrea Mendelsohn is dreading the arrival of April and May—that’s when the weather will get cooler in the southern hemisphere and bring a surge in coronavirus cases. Few people in South Africa—aside from medical staff like Mendelsohn—will be vaccinated by then. Elsewhere on the continent even health workers won’t be inoculated, making Africa a large reservoir of the virus that has infected almost 117 million people across the globe and killed more than 2.5 million. … But anyone in the developed world who thinks they are unaffected by large swaths of un-vaccinated people in Africa, needs to think again, says Phionah Atuhebwe, the New Vaccines Introduction Medical Officer on the continent for the World Health Organization. As long as the pandemic continues to rage among un-vaccinated populations, spawning new, more virulent, vaccine-resistant strains, no one is safe, she said. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones