Africa Media Review for March 17, 2021

Gunmen Kill at Least 58 in Attack on Niger Market Sellers
Gunmen on motorcycles attacked a group of civilians returning from market day in a volatile corner of Niger, leaving at least 58 people dead and then burning granaries to the ground, the government said Tuesday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s massacres, though extremists belonging to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara group are known to be active in the Tillaberi region where the villages were attacked. The victims were returning home from a large livestock market in Banibangou, near Niger’s troubled border with Mali. The suspected extremists also destroyed nearby granaries that held valuable food stores. … Monday’s attacks underscore the enormous security challenges facing Niger’s new president, Mohamed Bazoum, who won the election in late February to succeed outgoing leader Mahamadou Issoufou. Monday’s attack echoed a January massacre that left 100 people dead in two villages also in the Tillaberi region that hadn’t been claimed by any extremist group or militia. AP

U.N. Slams ‘Extensive, Blatant’ Violations of Libya Arms Embargo
In a 550-page report made public Tuesday, a U.N.-appointed panel of experts documented scores of shipments of illicit items, including drones and transport aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, artillery pieces and armored vehicles, as well as the deployment of mercenaries to Libya’s two chief factions by Russia, Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and others. “For those member states directly supporting the parties to the conflict, the violations are extensive, blatant and with complete disregard for the sanctions measures,” the group of independent experts, who report to the U.N. Security Council, stated in the report. “The arms embargo remains totally ineffective.” … The report comes at a rare moment of hope in Libya’s dark post-revolution decade, after a long-running U.N.-brokered political process produced a new unity government that was sworn in this week. While that government is already facing corruption allegations, U.N. and U.S. officials say there are reasons to believe it can move the country toward long-overdue elections and, potentially, a more stable future. The Washington Post

Tunisian President Saied to Visit Libya to Back ‘Democratic Path’
Tunisia’s President Kais Saied will visit Libya on Wednesday, his office said, days after the new Libyan Government of National Unity took the oath of office. Saied’s office said the visit, the first of its kind since 2012, is to support the democratic path in Libya, which aims to hold national elections in December in a bid to end its decade-long conflict. The visit also aims to “strengthen cooperation between Tunisia and Libya” and to develop “solidarity” for increased “stability and prosperity,” it added. No details on Saied’s programme were provided. Tunisia hosted UN-backed talks between representatives of Libya’s warring factions late last year that helped pave the way for the fragile breakthrough. Al Jazeera

Children among Victims of Jihadi Rebels in Mozambique
Northern Mozambique’s humanitarian crisis is growing rapidly, with nearly 670,000 people displaced by the Islamic extremist insurgency in Cabo Delgado province, international aid groups said Tuesday. Children as young as 11 are being beheaded by the rebels, according to workers for Save the Children, who interviewed grief-stricken families. The number of displaced has dramatically increased by more than 500,000 in the past year and nearly 1 million people are in need of food aid, according to the U.N. A high number of the displaced are dependent upon the generosity of already poor families, with shortages of water, food, and sanitation widespread. More than 2,600 people have died in the conflict since it started in 2017, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. In response to the deteriorating security situation in Cabo Delgado, the United States this week sent military specialists to train the Mozambican army to battle the extremists. AP

School Kidnappings in Nigeria Are Forcing Hundreds Out of Education
School abductions for ransom have plagued northern Nigeria for more than a decade, and they are only getting worse. According to a Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack report, between 2009 and 2018, over 600 teachers were killed, 910 schools damaged or destroyed and more than 1,500 forced to close due to violence. This has interrupted the education of nearly a million children. Alongside this, Nigeria already has the “largest number of out-of-school children” in the world, 60 percent of whom live in the north. The abductions have only made it harder for the government to convince parents to send their kids to school, when those institutions are not safe. … Amanuel Mamo, director of advocacy and campaign at Save the Children International Nigeria, agrees and fears that the rise in abductions will lead to more families pulling their children out of school. VICE

UN Launches Billion-Dollar Appeal for Nigeria’s Victims of Armed Conflict
The United Nations is appealing for $1 billion to help 6.4 million of Nigeria’s most vulnerable people, including two million who have been forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict. The bulk of the money will be used to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people in Nigeria’s northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe. The insurgency by the militant group Boko Haram, which began in 2009, has expanded to include other armed groups. Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says the brutality and suffering inflicted upon millions in that area of ceaseless conflict show little sign of relief. He says people are hanging on by a thread and are in desperate need of help. “Over five million people there are at risk of acute hunger during the upcoming lean season as the worst outlook in four years. And that is due to escalating conflict, displacements and the disruption of livelihoods, which is made worse by the effects and restrictions of COVID-19,” Laerke said. VOA

South Sudanese ‘One Step Away from Famine,’ as UN Launches Humanitarian Response Plan
As hunger levels continue to deepen in South Sudan due to a combination of violence, climate change and COVID-19, the 2021 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan was launched on Tuesday aiming to reach 6.6 million people – including 350,000 refugees – with life-saving assistance and protection. The plan asks for $1.7 billion in funding to enable UN aid agencies and partners to deliver lifesaving assistance to the world’s youngest country. “South Sudan is facing its highest levels of food insecurity and malnutrition since independence 10 years ago,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), adding that the plan aimed to reach 6.6 million people with life-saving assistance and protection. UN News

Ethiopia Rejects outside Mediation in Nile River Dam Dispute
An Ethiopian official said on Tuesday that his government opposes calls by Sudan for outside mediators including the United States in the ongoing dispute over Ethiopia’s construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile River. Ethiopia is generally opposed to mediation by outside parties even though the African Union is welcome to help, Dina Mufti, spokesman for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters. … The Sudan Tribune reported on Monday that Sudan had formally requested mediation by the European Union, the United States, and the African Union to resolve the dispute after the visit of Sudan’s prime minister to Cairo last week. Despite negotiations that have lasted years, Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia have failed to reach a deal over how to share the Nile’s water, a lifeline for all three countries. … Ethiopia began filling the dam’s reservoir last July as heavy rains flooded the river. The $4.6 billion dam will be Africa’s largest. It is expected to reach full power generating capacity in 2023, according to the government. AP

Ethiopia’s Amhara Seizes Disputed Territory Amid Tigray War
An internal conflict in Ethiopia is being used to settle a long-standing territorial dispute between two of its northern states. Forces from the Amhara region took control of several areas in Tigray after backing federal troops that staged an incursion into its neighbor’s territory, said Gizachew Muluneh, a spokesman for the Amhara government. Fighting has continued in Tigray since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the army to retaliate after forces loyal to Tigray’s ruling party attacked a military camp in November. The land “was taken by force and now has been returned by force,” Gizachew said. “Although it wasn’t our original objective, it happened by default.” … Aid agencies working in the region confirmed that bus-loads of Tigrayans were forcefully removed from parts of western Tigray, many had been killed, and homes, businesses and farms were looted and destroyed. Bloomberg

Germany Arrests Gambian for Crimes against Humanity
German prosecutors on Tuesday said a Gambian national had been taken into custody, and his apartment searched, over alleged crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder. The individual, named only as Bai L., was accused of being part of a military unit used to carry out kill orders at the behest of then-president, Yahya Jammeh. The arrest warrant said he belonged to a so-called “Patrol Team” of the Gambian military, also known as “Junglers.” The unit was used by the Gambian president at the time to execute illegal kill orders, among other things. The goal was to intimidate the Gambian population and suppress opposition. Bai L. is accused of acting as a driver for the unit between December 2003 and December 2006. He is alleged to have been involved in a total of three such liquidation orders, driving unit members to attack sites. Among those targeted was a journalist who was critical of the government, murdered in 2004, and a lawyer who survived an ambush a year earlier. DW

Somalia Starts First Inoculations with Astrazeneca Vaccines
Somalia launched COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday with the inoculation of the health minister, who received the jab publicly to reassure the nation about its safety. The Horn of Africa nation, which has recently experienced a surge of cases, on Monday received its first shipment of 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the international COVAX intiative to ensure that low- and middle-income countries receive vaccines. Somalia’s first vaccinations happened in a small ceremony at the Martini hospital in the capital Mogadishu where Health Minister Fawziya Abikar Nur urged the public to embrace the vaccines to stem infections in the country of 15 million people and one of the continent’s weakest health systems. “We’re planning to inoculate 20% of the public starting with the front-line workers such as the health workers and most vulnerable groups including the elderly people,” she said. “We will be working hard to raise the awareness of our people against this dangerous virus, and campaign as well to persuade our people in trusting this vaccine which can save many lives,” she said. AP

Man Who Survived Ebola Five Years Ago May Be Source of Guinea Outbreak
An Ebola survivor is likely to have triggered the current outbreak in Guinea, scientists have said, in a shock discovery that means the virus may remain dormant for five years. The finding, which comes after 29 cases and 13 deaths, raises fresh questions about the ability of Ebola to lurk in the body long term even while the survivor remains outwardly healthy. “This is pretty shocking,” virologist Angela Rasmussen of Georgetown University told Science magazine. “Ebolaviruses aren’t herpesviruses (which are known to cause long-lasting infections) and generally RNA viruses don’t just hang around not replicating at all.” Up to now the longest the virus has remained dormant in the body and subsequently cause a new infection was 500 days, said Miles Carroll, a virologist and professor at Oxford University who conducted the world’s largest study of Ebola survivors, which last year concluded immunity from the virus could last many years after infection. The Guardian

Ghana Navy Hosts 32 Countries in Multinational Maritime Exercise
The Ghana Navy is hosting an annual multinational maritime exercise in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) in collaboration with the United States Naval Forces, Africa (NAVAF), from March 14 to 17. Dubbed Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS 2021 (OE21), the Exercise involves West Africa and Central Africa Navies, the United States and Euro-Atlantic Navies and maritime stakeholders from 32 countries. Under the auspices of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), OE21 is designed to improve regional cooperation, Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. “OBANGAME EXPRESS allows us to develop skills, with our regional partners, that would have a lasting impact on regional security in the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean,” said Rear Admiral Michael Baze, Director of Maritime Headquarters, U.S. Naval Forces Africa. MyjoyOnline



Photo: Adam Jones