Africa Media Review for March 19, 2021

Tanzania Swears in New President after Sudden Death of Magufuli
Tanzania’s soft-spoken Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Friday was sworn in as the East African country’s first female president after the sudden death of John Magufuli from an illness shrouded in mystery. “I, Samia Suluhu Hassan, promise to be honest and obey and protect the constitution of Tanzania,” said Hassan, dressed in a black suit and red headscarf before dignitaries at a ceremony in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. … Magufuli’s absence since February 27 had fuelled speculation about his health and sparked rumours he had contracted COVID-19, although officials had denied he was ill. … Described as a softly spoken consensus builder, Hassan has become the country’s first female president and the first to be born in Zanzibar, the semi-autonomous island in the Indian Ocean that forms part of the union of the Republic of Tanzania. … Her leadership style is seen as a potential contrast from Magufuli, a brash populist who earned the nickname “Bulldozer” for muscling through policies and who drew criticism for his intolerance of dissent. … Hassan’s swearing in will assuage opposition fears of a constitutional vacuum. Al Jazeera

30 Dead in Clashes between Troops and Militia in East DR Congo
Thirty people, including 11 civilians, have died in two days of fighting between government forces and a militia in the eastern DR Congo province of Ituri, the army said Thursday. The area, located in the territory of Djugu, around 60 kilometres from Ituri’s capital Bunia, is rich in gold, and CODECO has been accused by local civil groups of illegally extracting the precious metal. “Eleven civilians were killed, two soldiers and a policemen died” on Monday when the CODECO militia attacked the villages of Tchele and Garua, its provincial spokesman Lieutenant Jules Ngongo said. In an army counter-offensive on Tuesday “16 militiamen were neutralised,” he said. Troops pursued the militia to its rear base, in the village of Mbau, and secured Tchele and Garua, Ngongo said. CODECO — Cooperation for the Development of Congo — is an armed political-religious sect linked to more than 1,000 deaths since December 2017. AFP

Ethiopia Says It Won’t Delay Second Round of Filling Nile Dam
Ethiopia on Wednesday said it will not delay a planned second round water filling of its controversial hydroelectric dam project known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Dr Sileshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, said the second round of water filling will be conducted next summer as scheduled. The announcement was made during a water experts forum in Addis Ababa held to discuss the current progress of the dam, and the status of the tripartite negotiations and related developments. Minister said the construction of the dam is almost 80 per cent complete. His remark comes following Sudan’s request for the inclusion of outside mediators, including the US, to the currently Africa Union (AU) brokered Nile dam talks. During visits by Sudan and Egypt in recent weeks, senior officials of these two countries stressed a need for reaching an agreement before Ethiopia proceeds with the next round of dam filling planned for the upcoming rainy season. The EastAfrican

A Border War Looms between Sudan and Ethiopia as Tigray Conflict Sends Ripples through Region
For decades, a precarious status quo prevailed here between Sudan, which owns the land according to a century-old treaty, and Ethiopia, which has occupied it while its citizens tilled the fields of sesame, sorghum, sunflower and cotton. But Ethiopia’s sudden descent into civil war in its Tigray region has upended a delicate web of regional political equations, sending ripple effects across this corner of Africa, and bringing Ethiopia and Sudan to the brink of a territorial war over this disputed area, known as al-Fashaga. Military and government officials on both sides, as well as independent analysts, said they worry such a war would quickly escalate into a much broader regional conflict. Sudanese officials also accused Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of attempting to force Sudan’s hand over al-Fashaga by holding up negotiations over the filling of a mega-dam Ethiopia is building near the two countries’ border. … On a recent trip with Sudanese forces to the front line, a major deployment of military and paramilitary troops was visibly underway. The Washington Post

Biden to Send Senator to Ethiopia to Convey Humanitarian Concerns
U.S. President Joe Biden is sending Senator Chris Coons to Ethiopia to meet with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and convey Biden’s “grave concerns” about the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region, where thousands have died amid fighting. Washington also said it would provide nearly $52 million more in aid to address the humanitarian crisis in the region but called for hostilities to end and human rights abusers to be held accountable. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces, an end to the Ethiopian government’s deployment of regional forces in Tigray and increased humanitarian access. “The humanitarian situation will continue to worsen without a political solution,” Blinken said in a statement.” … The United Nations has raised concerns about atrocities being committed in Tigray, while Blinken has described acts carried out in the region as ethnic cleansing. … The United States is gravely concerned by the deteriorating situation in the Tigray, which threatens the peace and stability of the Horn of Africa region,” Coons said in a statement. Reuters

North Darfur, Sudan: Warnings about Deteriorating Security Situation
The Forces for Freedom and Change, the Transitional Sovereign Council, and the Sudan Liberation Army addressed the deterioration of the security conditions in Kutum, North Darfur. They highlighted the widespread presence of militias and the frequent security violations in the outskirts of Kutum. Kalma camp in South Darfur was attacked on Tuesday night. Yahya El Khumus, a leading member of the FFC in Kutum, told Radio Dabanga told Radio Dabanga that the two parties discussed the necessity to expedite the formation of the joint forces to protect civilians. The meeting emphasised the importance of unity and joint action for the implementation of the peace agreement. Last month, the Sudan Liberation Army’s Commander-in-Chief, Lt Gen Juma Hagar, met with Minister of Defence Maj Gen Yasin Ibrahim to discuss the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement in Darfur, especially the file on joint armed forces. According to the Juba Peace Agreement, these forces should be “composed of the armed forces, the police, and the forces of the movements that have signed the peace agreement.” Radio Dabanga

Egypt Jails Activist Who Called to Free Prisoners Amid Pandemic
An Egyptian court sentenced prominent female activist Sanaa Seif to a year and a half in prison on Wednesday for spreading false news, her sister and judicial sources said. Seif was detained in June 2020 outside the public prosecutor’s office as she tried to file a complaint about an assault on her and her mother as they campaigned to communicate with her jailed brother Alaa Abdel Fattah, one of Egypt’s best-known activists, rights groups say. She and her family were among the activists who had campaigned on social media for the release of some prisoners amid fears that coronavirus would spread in prisons. Three other members of Seif’s family were briefly detained in March 2020 for protesting over the same issue. … Rights group Amnesty International called the verdict against Seif “yet another crushing blow for the right to freedom of expression in Egypt.” Reuters

At Least 10 Killed in Bandit Attack on Nigerian Village
At least 10 people, including three soldiers, have been killed in an attack on a village in restive northwest Nigeria, witnesses said Wednesday. Armed men on Tuesday stormed Kabasa village in Zamfara state on motorbikes and opened fire on residents, villagers told AFP. “The bandits killed seven people in the village,” Kabasa resident Saminu Usman said. Three soldiers were killed in “fighting with the bandits,” after arriving from the nearby town of Magami to confront the attackers, Usman added. Bube Badamasi, another resident, confirmed the toll. Heavily-armed criminal gangs in northwest and central Nigeria have stepped up attacks in recent years, kidnapping for ransom, raping and pillaging. AFP

Madobe, Senate Speaker in New Somali Political Alliance
A new political alliance has been formed in Somalia by those opposing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s administration, the group announced Thursday. The members include the 15-member Coalition of Presidential Candidates (CPC), the presidents of Jubbaland and Puntland States, two of the five Federal Member States (FMS) under the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). The group selected Senate Speaker Abdi Hashi Abdullahi to lead the association, with the help of former president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe and Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni. Speaker Abdullahi, who hails from Somaliland, is an ardent unionist and a hard-hitting opponent of Farmaajo whose term in office lapsed on February 8, but remains in Villa Somalia following flopped elections. The announcement comes at a time the FGS was expected to negotiate with regional leaders on the implementation mechanisms of the indirect electoral system agreed upon on September 17, 2020. The EastAfrican

South Sudan’s VP Nyandeng Tests Positive for Coronavirus
South Sudan’s Vice President in the country’s unity government, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior has contracted and tested positive for Covid-19, her office said. Nyandeng, who is in-charge of the gender and youth cluster, is currently in Nairobi, Kenya, where she confirmed contracting the virus. She said she remains in isolation to monitor her health condition. “I am feeling well now. My oxygen level is good, it is just the cough and the sore throat,” Nyandeng said Thursday. The Vice President urged South Sudanese to adhere to preventive measures and called on the government to embark on creating awareness campaigns among people on the dangers of Covid-19. She is the latest high-profile figure in South Sudan to test positive for Covid-19. Sudan Tribune

Drowned Land: Hunger Stalks South Sudan’s Flooded Villages
Two years of torrential rains have left 1.6m people in Jonglei province without crops and with their homes flooded. But, with extraordinary resilience, people in Old Fangak are working together to rebuild their lives. … After the unprecedented floods last summer, the people of Old Fangak, a small town in northern South Sudan, should be planting now. But the flood water has not receded, the people are still marooned and now they are facing severe hunger. Unusually heavy rains began last July, and the White Nile burst its banks, destroyed all the crops and encroached on farms and villages, affecting Jonglei and other states, leaving people to scramble for a few strips of dry land. Fields are still submerged, mud homes and stiff sticks of dead maize are slowly collapsing into the water, entire villages have been abandoned and large areas turned into swamps. Of the 62 villages served by Old Fangak’s central market, 45 are devastated by the flooded river. The Guardian

African Industry Is Doing Better Than Previously Thought
“The future is here,” says Ibrahima Sarr, pointing to the factories he runs in Senegal. After working and studying for 18 years in Europe he returned home to help spark a manufacturing revolution. Now he is with Africa Development Solutions, a Malian conglomerate, managing plants that make electric bikes, pipes and, soon, clothing. Mr Sarr is not alone in his optimism for manufacturing in Africa. The Diamniadio industrial park he looks out over is the centrepiece of Senegal’s ambitious industrialisation plan. Elsewhere in the region, Ghana has attracted car-assembly plants from Nissan and Volkswagen. Ethiopia, too, has bet heavily on manufacturing. And the idea of making things is capturing the imagination of young Africans such as Yusuf Bilesanmi, who invented a cheap ventilator that can treat patients with covid-19 even in hospitals without electricity. His device has been shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize. He wants to produce it in Nigeria after seeing how the pandemic disrupted the supply of medical gear to Africa. Doing so will also allow him to create jobs and distribute it more quickly. The Economist



Photo: Adam Jones