Africa Media Review for March 23, 2022

Trying to Solve a COVID Mystery: Africa’s Low Death Rates
A new W.H.O.-led analysis, not yet peer-reviewed, synthesized surveys from across the continent and found that 65 percent of Africans had been infected by the third quarter of 2021, higher than the rate in many parts of the world. Just 4 percent of Africans had been vaccinated when these data were gathered… Dr. Lawrence Mwananyanda, a Boston University epidemiologist and special adviser to the president of Zambia, said he had no doubt that the impact in Zambia had been just as severe as in South Africa, but that Zambian deaths simply had not been captured by a much weaker registration system. Zambia, a country of more than 18 million people, has reported 4,000 Covid-19 deaths. … A research team he led found that during Zambia’s Delta wave, 87 percent of bodies in hospital morgues were infected with Covid. “The morgue was full. Nothing else is different — what is different is that we just have very poor data.” The Economist, which has been tracking excess deaths throughout the pandemic, shows similar rates of death across Africa. Sondre Solstad, who runs the Africa model, said that there had been between one million and 2.9 million excess deaths on the continent during the pandemic.“It would be beautiful if Africans were spared, but they aren’t,” he said. New York Times

S.Africa’s Ramaphosa Eases COVID-19 Restrictions to Lift Economy
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said restrictive COVID-19 regulations that have weighed on the nation’s struggling economy for two years would be removed on Wednesday, with the national state of disaster also to end soon. The state of disaster currently regulates the country’s COVID-19 rules and has been in place since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Its extension last week until April 15 drew criticism from businesses hard hit by its measures. Ramaphosa said in a live television broadcast that the state of disaster would only end once a public consultation on new regulations to replace it was complete, but a number of the restrictions would be eased from Wednesday. Reuters

Ukraine-Russia War: Africa Undercuts Ability to Mediate, Analysts Say
Political analysts say South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has undercut his own utility as a potential mediator of the war in Ukraine with a controversial suggestion that NATO’s own actions are to blame for Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor…“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” Ramaphosa told parliament last Thursday…But he added that South Africa “cannot condone the use of force and violation of international law.” The South African president said South Africa had been asked to mediate in the conflict, but he did not mention who requested the intervention. University of Western Australia analyst Dr. Muhammad Dan Suleiman told VOA that Ramaphosa’s “outrageous” comment is “more like stoking the fire of conflict (and) projecting a paradigm of war rather than peace.” He said the comment undercuts any possibility for Ramaphosa to mediate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. Voice of America

Higher Food Prices Caused by Ukraine War Spark Protests, Instability in Some Countries
“The ripple effects of the war are spreading,” said Bamo Nouri, an international politics researcher at the University of London, in a recent analysis. “Iraqis may be the first in a global movement of protests over price rises as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues.” The prices of wheat, barley, cooking oil and fertilizer have spiked internationally since the beginning of the war last month, while global oil prices have climbed to an eight-year high. Ukraine and Russia are major producers of grain and other commodities, but the war and resulting sanctions have reduced their exports. David Beasley, the executive director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), said the pressures for consumers today are worse than they were in 2011 when soaring food costs – including the tripling of bread prices in Egypt – helped trigger the Arab Spring uprisings. “Don’t be surprised if you see destabilization, mass riots and protests over the next 12 months,” he told a panel at the International Monetary Fund on Friday. Nicolas Kazadi, the Finance Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told the IMF panel that the rising prices of bread and oil are “a major risk” for his country and could be “major sources of instability.” Congo is one of 18 low-income countries, primarily in Africa, that receive more than half their wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. Food costs are about 40 per cent of consumer spending in sub-Saharan Africa, so an increase in grain costs could have a huge impact. Globe and Mail

US Lawmakers Call on Foreign Office to Closely Follow DRC Political Developments
The United States [State Department] has been encouraged by lawmakers to pay more attention to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s political situation ahead of the general elections in 2023. In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks, and Ranking Member Michael McCaul said the US should ” … mobilise additional resources to support the deployment of international and domestic election observers, strengthen civil society, advance free and independent media, provide technical support to election preparations and build on nascent efforts to root out corruption.”The lawmakers said ensuring the DRC upheld democratic values would result in positives for America’s foreign policy. News24

Central African Republic Alleged Rebel Appears at ICC
An alleged coordinator of a predominantly Christian rebel group in the Central African Republic appeared Tuesday at the International Criminal Court for the first time since he was arrested in Chad and turned over to the court to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, a former government minister, is accused by prosecutors at the global court of coordinating operations of the anti-Balaka, a mainly Christian group, which fought against the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebel group that left thousands dead and displaced hundreds of thousands in 2013 and 2014 in Central African Republic. AP

Doctors without Borders Suspends Operations in NE Congo Due to Violence
“Lack of security and impunity have forced MSF to close down humanitarian efforts in the villages of Nizi and Bambu,” the organisation told a press conference on Monday. “This decision comes in the ongoing absence of security guarantees on behalf of the various groups fighting in the region”. The two villages are currently under the Congelese army’s control, however, attacks on military installations and vehicles occur regularly. “The risks are too great for MSF (the French acronym of the charity) to return to these zones with any confidence…our mission is to save lives, but not by sacrificing our own,” Olivier Maizoué, head of MSF programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the 28 October, armed men shot at an MSF vehicle on its way to Bambu to help the local people. RFI

Sankara Trial Resumes after 3-Week Hiatus
The trial for the October 1987 assassination of former Burkinabe President Sankara and his colleagues resumed, on Tuesday, after the Constitutional Council rejected a defense petition. The trial of 14 men for the October 1987 assassination of Burkinabe President Thomas Sankara resumed on Tuesday…The Sankara trial was suspended in early March after the defense petitioned the Constitutional Council. Citing the Council’s approval of the military takeover by Colonel Damiba, the lawyers challenged the charges of crime against national security asking for them to be dropped on the basis of an exception of unconstitutionality. However, the Council rejected their petition on Friday. AfricaNews with AFP

Four Mali Soldiers Killed in Twin Attacks: Army
Four Malian troops were killed in separate suspected jihadist attacks Monday, the army said, two in the east and two in the country’s center. In central Boni, the army said it “recorded two dead and seven wounded” following an ambush while 13 attackers were killed and two “terrorists” arrested, the statement said. In Tessit, close to the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, there were “two dead and 10 wounded” after an attack on an outpost. The military said it “vigorously repelled the attack.” “Nine dead (attackers) were counted on the spot and several wounded terrorists were intercepted and annihilated by an aerial intervention,” it added. “The sweep continues at full speed to clear these sectors.” Two-thirds of Mali’s territory is beyond the control of the state. Defense Post with AFP

Nigeria: Kaduna Killings: Government Confirms Recovery of 34 Corpses from Scene of Sunday’s Attack
The Kaduna State Government has confirmed the recovery of 34 corpses from the scene of an attack on Sunday in Kaura Local Government Area of the state. The state’s Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, confirmed the development in a statement he issued in Kaduna. “Security agencies have reported to the Kaduna State Government that after search operations and detailed checks, 34 people have been confirmed dead following Sunday’s attack in Kaura local government area. “According to the report, four locations were attacked by unidentified assailants: Tsonje, Agban, Katanga and Kadarko, all within Kagoro Chiefdom of Kaura LGA. “Two military personnel were among the 34 killed, with local residents making up 32 casualties. Premium Times Nigeria

Nigeria to Witness Agric Boom With Dangote’s $2.5bn Fertiliser Plant – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday commissioned the new three million metric tonnes capacity per annum state-of-the-art Dangote Fertiliser Urea Plant, during which he expressed confidence that the project would give a huge fillip to Nigeria’s agricultural sector. The new plant, which he commissioned in the presence of some 18 governors, ministers, captains of industry as well as prominent traditional rulers, is located at Ibeju Lekki, Lagos Free Trade Zone, within the periphery of the Dangote Refinery. The president said the coming on stream of the plant would create huge opportunities in the areas of employment, trade, warehousing, transport and logistics. The plant, according to the president, “will greatly create wealth, drastically reduce poverty and secure the future of our nation.” Leadership

Mozambique: Thousands Continue to Flee Violence in Cabo Delgado
One year after brutal attacks by suspected Al Shabab militants began in northern Mozambique, thousands continue to flee ongoing violence in Cabo Delgado province, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday. “According to partners in the region, a series of attacks by non-State armed groups between January and mid-March displaced some 24,000 people within Nangade district,” UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov told journalists at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. With hundreds of families reportedly still on the move, he said that “they need urgent humanitarian assistance and protection services.” UN News

Somalia: Ongoing Gunfire Near Mogadishu International Airport
Several witnesses reported hearing bursts of gunfire in Mogadishu on Wednesday. Security forces are reportedly fighting off armed men in the green-zone of the Somali capital’s airport, witnesses told AFP. At the same moment, jihadists from the Shebab group have claimed they are carrying out an attack on the Halane camp, which houses embassies.”There are gunshots in the vicinity of the airport and we are hearing that it is an ongoing attack involving gunmen (…) The security forces are engaging them now,” Mohamed Ali, an airport security official, told AFP. AfricaNews with Euronews and AFP

Ethiopia Arrests Ex-Members of Tigray Interim Government
Ethiopian police have arrested a dozen officials who worked in the former interim government of the country’s war-torn Tigray region, an ex-member of the administration told AFP, but the government denied the claims Tuesday. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed set up the administration in Tigray after sending troops into the region in November 2020 to topple the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)…”Around 12 people have been arrested, all of them members of the previous Tigray interim administration,” the former official told AFP on condition of anonymity, citing security fears. The government communication service said Tuesday that police had “following due process, detained individuals who are believed to be part of an illegal scheme.” East African

‘Trying to Survive’: Millions in Tigray Face Hunger as They Wait in Vain for Aid
Since her brother joined the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces, Martha Arfayna’s family has received one 50kg bag of wheat. Each household is expected to contribute a man or woman to the war effort, thus losing a breadwinner, so they are given priority when the Tigrayan authorities distribute food. But no other rations have reached her family. Before the war, Arfayna, 27, used to buy clothes from Dubai and Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to sell in her home town of Shire in north-west Tigray.  Now, she sells peanuts on the streets and depends on the kindness of neighbours to survive. “When they invite me for a meal I feel ashamed,” she says. Millions of Tigrayans like her are going hungry. Last year’s harvest was marginally better than feared and coping mechanisms – such as selling off livestock, begging or cutting household spending on health or education – may have temporarily staved off the worst scenario predicted by the UN. Guardian

‘They Keep Killing Us’: Violence Rages in Sudan’s Darfur Two Decades On
A soot-streaked shell is all that remains of Awatif Fadl’s house, destroyed a year ago when gunmen riding camels, horses and motorcycles stormed through Krinding, a remote camp in Darfur, western Sudan, firing their weapons and burning every home in sight. Dozens of people were killed, including nine members of Ms. Fadl’s family. Thousands fled, some across the border to Chad. “Nobody came to save us,” she said. Now, Ms. Fadl, 54, has returned to the camp, where her family has built a rough shelter in the ruins of their old home. But they feel no less vulnerable. If the gunmen return, she added, “there will still be nobody to save us.” This is not what was supposed to happen in Darfur, a region tormented by two decades of genocidal violence that began in 2003 and led to the deaths of as many as 300,000 people. In 2019, a popular uprising ousted Sudan’s longtime ruler, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and many Darfuris participated in that revolution, hoping it would finally bring peace to their region. New York Times