Africa Media Review for March 16, 2021

Libya Installs Unity Government as Peace Effort Gathers Pace
Libya’s first unified government in seven years was sworn in, as a political reconciliation that seeks to end almost a decade of conflict in the OPEC member gathers pace. Officials took the oath of office Monday at the parliament in Tobruk, eastern Libya. The new cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, is set to take over duties from the previous internationally recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, the following day. The North African nation fractured after the NATO-backed uprising that ousted dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011, unleashing a string of conflicts. Libya had been split between dueling eastern and western administrations since 2014, with the most recent fighting pitting eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar against the Tripoli-based government. Dbeibah, who was chosen in February by delegates to a United Nations-supported forum in Geneva, will be working alongside a three-member presidential council to steer the country to December elections. Bloomberg

American Soldiers Help Mozambique Battle an Expanding ISIS Affiliate
American Special Forces soldiers began training Mozambican troops this week as part of an effort to repel a spreading insurgency in northeastern Mozambique that American officials say is linked to the Islamic State. The insurgency, near some of the world’s biggest gas reserves, has killed at least 2,000 civilians and displaced another 670,000. The American program is modest in size and scope: a dozen Army Green Berets are to train Mozambican marines for the next two months. … The war in Mozambique is part of an alarming expansion of insurgencies believed to have ties to the Islamic State in several parts of Africa. … But it is unclear how strong the ties are between the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and this group, as well as some others in Africa. The insurgency in Mozambique includes some fighters from Tanzania, but most come from the local area, a place of deep poverty and endemic corruption. The main Islamic State publications have not mentioned operations in Mozambique since last fall. The New York Times

Uganda’s Bobi Wine Arrested While Protesting in the Capital
Ugandan opposition figure Bobi Wine was arrested Monday while leading a protest against the detention of many of his supporters in the aftermath of a presidential election. Police arrested Wine near a public square in the capital and then drove him back to his home outside Kampala. “His home is now surrounded by police and the military,” said Wine’s Twitter account. The Daily Monitor newspaper published a photo of Wine being taken away by police while he held a poster saying “BRING BACK OUR PEOPLE.” “Don’t fight,” Wine told his supporters when armed police grabbed him and his associates while a charging crowd in the background repeatedly shouted his name, according to footage from the scene in downtown Kampala. “Don’t give them a reason.” Wine has called on authorities to free hundreds of his supporters arrested before, during and after January’s presidential election in which he challenged longtime leader Yoweri Museveni. AP

Mali: Court Ends Trial of Former Coup Leader Sanogo
A court in the Malian capital Bamako has ended a much-delayed trial of former coup leader Amadou Sanogo who was accused of killing 21 elite soldiers in a 2012 coup. The court, which did not issue a verdict, also ended proceedings against 15 other defendants, citing a 2019 reconciliation law offering amnesty or pardon for specific crimes committed during the 2012 crisis. Sanogo, a former army captain, and several others staged a military coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure after a rebellion emerged in the country’s north. … Sanogo was later arrested and detained for six years on charges of killing 21 elite “Red Berets” who opposed the coup. Armed fighters have since commandeered the northern rebellion, with the violence spreading to central Mali as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, killing thousands. A case against Sanogo began in 2016 but stalled. Last year, a court ordered his temporary release, which sparked fears among rights defenders that he would avoid facing trial. Mali’s current government is staffed by army figures who, in August last year, launched the most recent coup in the unstable country. Al Jazeera

Mauritanian Diplomat El-Ghassim Wane Named UN Envoy to Mali
Mauritanian diplomat El-Ghassim Wane has been named the new UN envoy to Mali, where he will lead one of the organisation’s most important peace operations, the world body said. Wane was the UN assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations between 2016 and 2017. Prior to that, he served six years in the African Union, where he returned as chief adviser to the commission chairperson from 2017 to 2019. On behalf of the UN, he led a team in recent months to conduct an independent strategic review of the UN-led peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, one of the costliest UN missions. He recommended that it be reduced in size, advice that was not acted upon. He is known “for his loyalty to the African Union,” and is very much interested in “African solutions for African issues,” UN sources said. Wane will take over from former Chadian foreign minister, Annadif Khatir Mahamat Saleh, who could take over as head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, based in Dakar. AFP

Allies of South Sudan Militias Must Be Held Accountable: UN Human Rights Report
Military and political officials in South Sudan supporting community-based militias in the Greater Jonglei region, must be held accountable for violence that killed more than 700 people over a six-month period last year, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Monday. Between January and June 2020, organized and heavily-armed militias from the Dinka, Nuer and Muerle communities, carried out planned and coordinated attacks on villages across Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), according to a joint report issued on Monday by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and OHCHR. … The report found at least 50 traditional chiefs and spiritual leaders, as well as military and political elites, supported the attacks, whether directly or indirectly. Members of Government and opposition forces actively participated in the fighting, according to their kinship, or as part of a calculated move to reinforce political alliances. UNMISS peacekeepers were deployed to affected areas when the violence erupted, establishing temporary bases and conducting regular patrols in efforts to deter further attacks. UN News

Sudan Formally Requests Four-Party Mediation in GERD Row
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has written to the United Nations, African Union (AU), European Union and the United States to formally request their mediation in a bitter regional dispute over the filling of a giant dam built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile River. A statement released by the Sudanese foreign ministry on Monday said Hamdok had expressed concern over Ethiopia’s stated intention of adding more water to the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) for a second year in letters sent on Saturday. Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt have been locked for almost 10 years in inconclusive talks over the filling and operation of the hydropower dam, which broke ground in 2011. Both Egypt and Sudan lie downstream from the GERD, which Addis Ababa says is crucial to its economic development. The Sudanese move came after Hamdok returned from Cairo on Friday and some 10 days after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s own visit to Khartoum. Al Jazeera

Sudan and Ethiopia Border Clashes Fuel Wider Tensions
A decades-old border dispute over fertile farmland between Sudan and Ethiopia is feeding regional rivalry — and even sparking fears of broader conflict, analysts say. The border quarrel is over Ethiopian farmers cultivating land claimed by Sudan, but it is stoking wider tensions over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile mega-dam, which downriver Khartoum and Cairo view as a threat to their water supply. The territorial argument also comes amid the fallout from unrest in Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, with tens of thousands of refugees having fled into Sudan. … The border dispute is a local issue separate from the dam, but it feeds into wider politics. Sudanese military expert Ismail believes Sudan and Ethiopia “will have to resort to a diplomatic resolution” of the border crisis. “There cannot be an all-out military confrontation,” Ismail said. “It is simply not in the interest of both countries. It will be a major risk for both sides.” AFP

At Least a Dozen Killed in Eastern DR Congo Attack
At least a dozen villagers have been killed in an overnight raid on a village in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a witness and monitoring and civil rights groups, in an attack blamed on the notorious Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group. Men armed with knives and other weapons attacked Bulongo village, some 30km (18 miles) east of the city of Beni, late on Sunday. … The ADF, a Ugandan militia active in the eastern DRC since the 1990s, has never claimed responsibility for attacks. It has been accused of carrying out dozens of brutal reprisal attacks on civilians since the Congolese army began operations against it in late 2019. Last year, it is suspected of killing about 850 people, according to United Nations figures. On Wednesday, the United States designated the ADF as a “foreign terrorist organization,” accusing it of links to ISIL (ISIS). UN experts, however, have not found evidence of any direct relationship between the two groups. The ADF has the reputation of being the bloodiest of some 122 armed groups active in the DRC’s four eastern border provinces, many of them a legacy of the Congo Wars of the 1990s. Al Jazeera

Fifteen Crew Kidnapped in Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea remains one of the most dangerous bodies of water worldwide for seafarers with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) urging ships and crew transiting it to “remain alert and not let their guard down.” The warning follows a report of seafarers kidnapped from a tanker off Benin last week. Pirates boarded an underway Maltese-flagged chemical tanker about 210 nautical miles south of Cotonou and kidnapped 15 crew members. The remaining six crew members are apparently on board and safe though unqualified to navigate the ship. IMB said this attack could signal re-ignition of “serious kidnapping incidents” in the Gulf of Guinea after four weeks of relatively low activity. This is in the wake of earlier heightened kidnapping activity in the region. “This would be totally unacceptable and the need to address this crime, which continues to have a direct impact on the safety and security of innocent seafarers, remains urgent…” [according to IMB]. defenceWeb

Gunmen Raid School in Nigeria’s Kaduna, Seize Three Teachers
Attackers have stormed a primary school in the northwestern Nigerian state of Kaduna and seized three teachers but no children, according to a state official. The raid by the motorcycle-riding gunmen on Monday was the latest in a series of attacks targeting schools in Nigeria, coming just days after nearly 40 students were kidnapped by a gang. Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna state’s commissioner for internal security, said in a media briefing that Rema Primary School, in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area, was attacked at about 8:50am (07:50 GMT). He said children fled as the attackers, referred to locally as bandits, entered the compound shortly after pupils arrived. … “The number of abductions in the north is just mind-boggling,” said Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. “It’s becoming the most lucrative criminal enterprise in Nigeria today – and it’s growing fast.” Between June 2011 and March 2020, at least $18m was paid to kidnappers as ransom, according to a report by SB Morgen. Al Jazeera

Vice President Urges Calm as Tanzania’s Leader Still Unseen
As Tanzania’s president has not been seen in public for more than two weeks, the East African country’s vice president on Monday sought to reassure the nation, saying it was “normal” for human beings to suffer colds and other illnesses. Addressing a public rally in Tanzania’s Tanga region, Samia Suluhu offered no update on the health or whereabouts of President John Magufuli even as she said she had been sent by him to calm the East African nation. … Her comments deepen the mystery surrounding the health of Magufuli, a populist leader who is often seen in public and makes frequent appearances on the state broadcaster. … Last week Tanzania’s prime minister insisted Magufuli was well and busy with his duties. That explanation did little to calm anxiety. Police over the weekend began arresting people discussing Magufuli’s health on social media and other forums. It’s not clear what those arrested will be charged with. Police confirmed they had arrested at least one man on Saturday. AP

Malawi Police Ordered to Pay Damages to Women Who Say Officers Raped Them
The supreme court of Malawi has ordered that police authorities pay compensation to 18 women allegedly raped by officers during post-election violence two years ago. The decision is seen as a milestone development in women’s rights in the country. The women will be awarded between 4m Malawian kwacha (£3,600) and 10m kwacha (£9,000), according to Gladys Gondwe, registrar for the Malawi supreme court of appeal and the high court. No police officers have been charged over the incident. During violence that followed presidential elections in 2019, police were deployed to a township in the capital Lilongwe. Security personnel used teargas and attacked the public. The NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) documented accounts from women and girls from the area who said they had been sexually assaulted by officers. The Guardian

#EndSARS: Panel Orders Arrest of Three Police Officers Over Alleged Killing
The panel investigating alleged human rights violations committed by police personnel, in Abuja, on Monday, ordered the arrest of three police officers, who reportedly shunned repeated invitations to appear in an extra-judicial killing case. The police officers are Musa Sunday, Lucky Kehinde, and Lucky Okuku. The panel constituted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in the aftermath of last year’s #EndSARS protests, ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to produce them on April 14 to answer to a petition concerning the death of Ovoke Onomrerhino in Delta State in 2019. …  The panel led by Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, on Monday, berated the Nigerian police for abdicating their responsibilities and showing lack of preparedness in respect of the alleged crime. Mr Galadima, who chairs the 11-member panel, queried police lawyer, Malik Taiwo, on why the three policemen invited to appear before the panel on two different occasions had refused to turn up. Premium Times

Nigeria Unemployment Rate Rises to 33%, Second Highest on Global List
Unemployment in Africa’s largest economy surged to the second highest on a global list of countries monitored by Bloomberg. The jobless rate in Nigeria rose to 33.3% in the three months through December, according to a report published by National Bureau of Statistics on its website Monday. That’s up from 27.1% in the second quarter of 2020, the last period for which the agency released labor-force statistics. … The oil producer surpassed South Africa on a list of 82 countries whose unemployment rates are tracked by Bloomberg. Namibia still leads the list with 33.4%. Nigeria’s jobless rate has more than quadrupled over the last five years as the economy went through two recessions, casting a shadow over the efforts to implement policies to drive growth and create jobs by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The lack of jobs adds to pressure on consumers in a country where food prices rose more than 20% year-on-year in January and authorities struggle to bring insecurity driven by violent insurgency attacks and kidnappings under control. Bloomberg

To Understand the #Freesenegal Movement, Look to Its Music
Two months before the deadly protests that broke out in Senegal, 29-year-old rapper Hakill wrote a song about how fed up his generation was with the government. “They show contempt and look down on us from high. We never see actions, only words,” reads his song titled “Fii,” meaning “Here” in Wolof. It goes on to describe living in poverty, and “choosing between lunch and dinner,” while dreaming of a life of luxury that the president and his family enjoy. “To sum it up,” Hakill sings, “we have nothing left to lose.” … [T]o many Senegalese, the protest action was a long time coming. In songs written both before and after Sonko’s arrest, the country’s top rappers have vocalized the feelings of the youth, offering insight into what drove them into the streets and why the situation escalated. … Senegal has had one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa in recent years, but most people have not felt the benefits. Unemployment in Senegal stood at 17% at the end of 2019, and the coronavirus pandemic has worsened it. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones