Africa Media Review for March 23, 2021

137 People Killed in Niger in Series of Attacks on Villages along Mali Border
Armed attackers riding motorcycles killed 137 people in coordinated raids on villages in southwestern Niger on Sunday, the government said, making it one of the deadliest days in recent memory in a country ravaged by Islamist violence. The unidentified assailants struck in the afternoon, raiding three villages and other hamlets in the Tahoua region bordering Mali, the government said on Monday, revising the toll up from a previous estimate by local authorities of about 60 killed. “By systematically targeting civilians, these armed bandits are reaching a new level of horror and savagery,” it said in a statement, announcing three days of national mourning. It did not say who authorities believed was behind the attacks, but the violence comes amid a wider security crisis across West Africa’s Sahel region, which is being fueled by militants linked to Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and ethnic militias. Unidentified assailants killed at least 58 villagers in the nearby region of Tillabéri last Monday. Reuters

11 Organizations Demand Halt to Attacks and Rape in Tigray
The heads of nine U.N. agencies and other officials demanded a halt to attacks against civilians in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, “including rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence.” They called for an independent investigation into “conflict-related sexual violence in Tigray” that involves the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. In a joint statement, the U.N. agencies, the U.N. special investigator on the human rights of internally displace people, and two umbrella organizations representing non-governmental groups doing humanitarian work also called on all parties in Tigray to explicitly condemn all sexual violence and ensure their forces “respect and protect civilian populations, particularly women and children, from all human rights abuses.” … The dozen signatories, including U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet and U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, urged the warring parties to take action to bring perpetrators of abuses to justice. AP

French Navy Seizes Six Tons of Cocaine in Gulf of Guinea
The French navy seized six tons of cocaine on a ship traveling from South America in the largest drug seizure off the West African coast this year. The narcotic was discovered when the French vessel intercepted a Saint Kitts and Nevis-flagged cargo ship in the Gulf of Guinea, the French Justice Ministry said in a statement Tuesday. France’s anti-drug agency, Europol and Brazilian authorities collaborated in the seizure, which is the second-largest in the region since authorities in Cape Verde found 9.6 tons of cocaine on a Panama-flagged vessel in 2019. Bloomberg

Mozambique’s Humanitarian Crisis in Cabo Delgado Has Displaced 700,000
The U.N. refugee agency warns the humanitarian crisis in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province is evolving rapidly, and could negatively impact the surrounding region if it is not addressed. Two senior officials who visited makeshift settlements for displaced people in Cabo Delgado say the insurgency, which began four-and-a-half years ago, is escalating rapidly and forcing increasing numbers of people to flee their homes. They report 90 percent of the displaced are living with family and friends in urban areas where they receive support. About 10 percent, they say, are unable to find refuge and are living under appalling conditions. … The UNHCR warns the current number of 700,000 internally displaced people is expected to rise to one million by June if the increasingly brutal conflict continues to be overlooked by the international community. VOA

‘Not a Noisy Gun’: The Women Peacebuilders of Liberia
Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee, who helped end Liberia’s civil war, and Etweda ‘Sugars’ Cooper, who secured Gbowee’s place at the head of the women’s movement, are still each others’ champions. … It is the end of a busy morning celebrating International Women’s Day at the Gbowee Peace Foundation’s headquarters near the Liberian capital, Monrovia. A ceremony attended by officials, diplomats and women’s rights and peace activists culminated in the unveiling of a memorial wall bearing the names of 300 women who, led by Gbowee under the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace campaign, were instrumental in bringing Liberia’s second civil war to an end nearly 20 years ago. Dressed in white, the women became a visible presence in wartime Monrovia as they fasted, sang and prayed for peace. … In June 2003, Gbowee and her female peace warriors accompanied then-President Charles Taylor and rebel leaders to talks in Ghana; when progress stalled, they blocked the exits of the negotiating hall until a consensus was reached. Al Jazeera

Some Nations Could Wait Years for Covid Shots. That’s Bad for Everyone.
The nurse lay in bed this month, coughing, wheezing and dizzy with fever. It was three months after rich countries began vaccinating health workers, but Kenyans like the nurse, Stella Githaiga, had been left behind: Employed in the country’s largest public hospital, she caught the coronavirus on an outreach trip to remote communities in February, she believes, sidelining her even as Kenya struggles with a vicious third surge of infections. … Across the global south, health workers are being sickened and killed by a virus from which doctors and nurses in many rich countries are now largely protected. …. Already, unvaccinated doctors and nurses have died this year in countries including Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, depleting health systems that can ill afford to lose any more workers and threatening to diminish the level of care in nations overrun by variants. The toll in Africa could be especially profound. The continent has 17 percent of the world’s people, but so far, it has administered roughly 2 percent of the vaccine doses given globally. … The pandemic has worsened in Africa since a variant first seen in South Africa, shown to be able to reinfect people, began driving up cases in southern parts of the continent. The New York Times

EU Slaps Sanctions on Eritrea over Human Rights Abuses
The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on Eritrea over human rights violations and blacklisted the country’s National Security Office, which is tasked with intelligence gathering, arrests and interrogations. At the beginning of March, the United Nations said Eritrean troops were operating throughout Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and reports suggested they were responsible for atrocities. Tigray has been gripped by conflict since November last year when Ethiopia’s federal forces moved in and toppled the region’s then ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). … Thousands of people have died amid the fighting, hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine in Tigray, a region of more than 5 million people. The EU is considering imposing further sanctions on Eritrea. Reuters

EU Imposes Sanctions on South Sudanese Army General
The European Union (EU) has imposed sanctions on a South Sudanese army general allegedly involved in serious human rights violations, such as arbitrary executions and killings. The EU, in a statement issued on Monday, said Major Gen. Gabriel Moses Lokujo of South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF), directed the abduction and execution of three armed opposition (SPLA-IO) officers in May last year. “As a consequence, several deaths and injuries were reported on both sides during the last quarter of 2020, and civilians were also displaced, especially in the Kajo-Keji area of Central Equatoria State. Major General Lokujo’s forces remained in the area where several further clashes have been reported and the safety and security of the civilian communities continue to be in jeopardy,” partly reads the statement. The sanctions involve freezing assets in the EU and a ban on travels within the EU nations. The EU, further noted the statement, also imposed sanctions over human rights violations and repressions in North Korea, Libya, Russia and China. Sudan Tribune

India Grants Mauritius $100 Million for Procurement of Defence Assets
The Indian government has offered Mauritius a $100 million loan to fund the procurement of Indian-made aircraft and naval security equipment for the Mauritius Coast Guard (MCG). The deal was signed during the recent meeting between Indian External Affairs minister S Jaishankar and Mauritian Prime Minister Pravin Jugnauth last month. In terms of the agreement, Mauritius will procure military equipment, including aircraft and patrol boats, from Indian defence equipment manufacturers. In addition, the Indian government will donate a Dornier 228 and loan a single Dhruv helicopter to boost the MCG’s maritime surveillance capabilities. Jaishankar said strengthening of the economic security partnership would work to the benefit of both countries. … The Indian Navy plans to set up a Indian Ocean-wide coastal radar surveillance network with bases in littoral states that include Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and the Maldives to counter the expanded influence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-Navy). defenceWeb

Tunisia Launches Its First Satellite
It’s a small step for aerospace but a big step for Tunisia as it launches its the first satellite manufactured locally. The satellite, called Challenge one, is intended for the Internet connectivity, was launched into space Monday. Tunisia is the first country in the Maghreb to manufacture its own satellite, and the sixth on the African continent. The small satellite will be launched by a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Tunisia says it hopes to launch 20 more in the next 3 years. The African space market is now worth over $7 billion annually, according to the website Space in Africa, which reports that it ”is likely to grow over 40 percent in the next five years.” Africa News with AFP

In the Shadow of Nollywood, Filmmakers Examine Boko Haram
In the moving Nigerian drama “The Milkmaid,” Aisha and Zainab are Fulani sisters taken hostage by Boko Haram insurgents, the extremist group that in 2014 kidnapped more than 250 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. With sweeping landscapes shot in Taraba State in the northeastern part of the country, the film, written and directed by Desmond Ovbiagele, deftly tells a story both hopeful in the possibility of reconciliation and harrowing in the journey to get there. The film is the latest entry in a growing body of African cinema focused on the grim toll exacted by the terrorists of Boko Haram. In addition to “The Milkmaid,” there’s Netflix’s “The Delivery Boy”; “Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped by Boko Haram” on HBO; and “Daughters of Chibok,” a documentary short that won Best VR Immersive Story at the Venice Film Festival in 2019. Each has examined the magnitude of violence the extremist faction has inflicted on northern parts of Africa’s most populous country and the neighboring countries of Niger and Cameroon. The New York Times

Nawal El Saadawi, Famous Egyptian Feminist Author, Dies Aged 89
Nawal El Saadawi, a famous Egyptian feminist author, physician and psychiatrist, has died aged 89, state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported on Sunday. El Saadawi was known as a defender of women’s rights and fought strongly against the widespread practice of female genital mutation. She was jailed and persecuted and received threats from conservatives throughout her life for her daring views. El Saadawi was the founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. In 1981, she founded a feminist magazine called “Al-Moawgaha” (which translates to “The Confrontation”). El Saadawi’s most popular books are “Women & Sex” and “Memoirs from a Women’s Prison.” “Women and Sex” was banned in Egypt for nearly two decades and after it was published, El Saadawi lost her job as a Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health in Egypt. CNN



Photo: Adam Jones