Africa Media Review for March 3, 2021

Reshaping African Agency in China-Africa Relations
The interests of African citizens can be strengthened in investment deals with China by ensuring agreements are transparent, technical experts are involved, and the public is engaged. … The asymmetries in power between China and its African partners are immense. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy with a GDP of roughly $500 billion, is a fraction of China’s GDP of $14.3 trillion. China is Africa’s largest trading partner, with trade growing 40-fold in the past 20 years. China is also Africa’s single biggest creditor, holding 20 percent of the continent’s debt. … African countries make up half of the 50 nations that are most indebted to China, with Djibouti, the Republic of the Congo, Niger, and Zambia topping the list in terms of share of GDP. These countries demonstrate how spiraling debt with China can have a ripple effect on shrinking African leverage. … That concerns about harmful practices continue to be raised underscores very real fears about the lopsided nature of these engagements. Consequently, a growing number of Africans do not view the relationship as a “mutually beneficial partnership” (hùhuì huǒbàn guānxi, 互惠的伙伴关系) as is often promoted. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

COVID-19 Vaccine Deliveries to African Nations Pick up Speed
More African countries received the long-awaited first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, with Kenya and Rwanda benefiting from the global COVAX initiative that aims to ensure doses for the world’s low-and middle-income nations. … “We will be known as the continent of COVID” if Africa doesn’t quickly reach its target of vaccinating 60% of its population of 1.3 billion people, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said last week. The continent last month surpassed 100,000 confirmed deaths. So far Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Angola and Congo also have received their first vaccine doses via COVAX, with several other countries including Mali, Senegal, Malawi and Uganda set to receive them this week. … COVAX alone will not supply Africa’s 54 countries with the doses needed to reach the 60% population coverage for achieving so-called herd immunity, when enough people are protected through infection or vaccination to make it difficult for a virus to continue to spread. That’s why some countries such as South Africa, the hardest-hit African nation, are also pursuing COVID-19 vaccines via bilateral deals or via the African Union’s bulk-purchasing program. AP

UN Security Council to Meet Thursday on Ethiopia’s Tigray
The U.N. Security Council will meet Thursday to discuss the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, diplomats told AFP Tuesday. The meeting, requested by Ireland, will be held behind closed doors at midday and is not guaranteed to lead to the adoption of a joint statement, the diplomats said. The Council’s last meeting on Tigray was held February 2 to call for more humanitarian access. African Council members, however, had rejected in advance the idea of a joint text. Several other Council members joined Ireland’s request for a meeting, one diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. Estonia, France, Norway, Britain and the United States also called Tuesday for an international investigation into reported atrocities committed in Tigray. … NGOs have called since the start of 2021 for the Security Council to hold a public session followed by a resolution calling for an end to the obstruction of aid and an immediate investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Ethiopia’s dissident region. AFP

UN Delays AMISOM Exit as Somalis Push for a Political Deal
The mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) has been extended by two weeks from end of February to March 14 as the country’s leaders push for a political deal. A unanimous decision reached on Thursday night by the Security Council said Amisom’s current mandate will expire on March 14, 2021, and not at the end of February as had earlier been decided last year. The existence of the mission beyond March 14, the Council agreed, should depend on the political stability of Somalia. The extension of mandate means Somalia’s nascent army of about 13,000 has the much-needed back-up as political leaders seek to break an impasse that has delayed elections, causing anxiety in the capital Mogadishu. … Amisom, created in 2007, was expected to start exiting the country from early March after the end of mandate in February, and all troops withdrawn by December. The EastAfrican

Somalia Opposition Accuses Farmaajo of Sidelining It, Again
Somalia’s opposition group on Tuesday accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo of undermining reconciliation after his office invited election stakeholders for dialogue but excluded his rivals. Villa Somalia, the president’s official residence, announced a one-day forum between Farmaajo and leaders of the federal states – Puntland, Jubbaland, Hirshabelle, South West and Galmudug slated for Thursday. The meeting would also include the governor of Benadir region, the metropolis of the capital Mogadishu. “The forum marks the climax of efforts towards implementing the election agreements and recommendations,” said Abdirashid M Hashi, Farmaajo’s spokesman. … Somalia is in a stalemate over the election dates after leaders failed to agree on the composition of the election commission and other contentious issues. Farmaajo’s tenure as president, according to the constitution ended on February 17. However, a motion passed by the bicameral federal parliament on September 26 last year said all incumbents must remain in office until their successors are elected and sworn in. The latest meeting comes even as the United States called for a meeting “now,” seen as putting pressure on the opposing sides to agree on when to hold the elections. The EastAfrican

Opposition Figure Charged with Terrorism in Benin
A leading figure in Benin’s opposition and a fellow party worker have been charged with criminal association and terrorism, their lawyer said on Tuesday, in a case that has sparked accusations of authoritarianism ahead of presidential elections. Bio Dramane Tidjani, from the opposition Democrats party, and his associate Mamadou Tidjani were charged late Monday by a special court in Cotonou, attorney Renaud Agbodjo said. … The charges come ahead of presidential elections on April 11 that will pitch President Patrice Talon against two lesser-known candidates — former minister Alassane Soumano and Corentin Kohoue, a dissident opposition figure. Seventeen other candidates, including Madougou, have had their candidacies rejected by the electoral commission for failing to garner signatures of support from 16 mayors or MPs. The signature threshold was introduced by Talon in a contested election reform. It has been attacked as a blow to multi-party democracy in a country long viewed as a beacon of vibrant debate. In parliamentary elections in 2019, opposition parties were unable to field any candidates. AFP

Jihadis Attack Town, Humanitarian Posts in Northeast Nigeria
Jihadis linked to the Islamic State group attacked the northeastern Nigerian town of Dikwa and humanitarian posts there, security officials said. The attack in Borno state that began late Monday night came about 48 hours after the governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum, visited the community along with other officials, to distribute cash and food to displaced families there. The assailants arrived in trucks and motorcycles, surrounding residents and people staying at a camp for people who are displaced within Nigeria, residents said. The member representing Dikwa at the Borno state House of Assembly, Zakariya Dikwa, said they burned down the police station, the primary health center and attacked humanitarian offices and left with their vehicles. “The attack was massive because the Boko Haram fighters went there with over 13 gun trucks — all of which had their bodies pasted with mud,” he said. The military later confirmed the fighters are with Boko Haram offshoot The Islamic State of West Africa Province, known as ISWAP. It said in a statement Tuesday that the military had routed the jihadis from Dikwa with heavy bombardment and firepower. The jihadis tried to invade the town after hearing of the food distribution. AP

Thousands Flee Violence in Northwestern Nigeria for Safety in Niger
The United Nations refugee agency reports surging violence in northwest Nigeria has prompted more than 7,500 refugees to flee for safety into neighboring Niger. Wanton violence by armed groups and communal clashes in northwestern Nigeria have been going on for years. But U.N. refugee agency spokesman Boris Cheshirkov says there has been an alarming spike in recent months. He says the number of violent incidents in the first two months of 2021 is higher than the number recorded for all of last year. “Refugees describe gruesome murders, kidnappings for ransom, and looted villages. Many have also been caught up in clashes between farmers and herders as well as vigilantism, as self-defense groups are being set up in most villages. People fleeing are in urgent need of water, food, shelter, and health services. Most have fled empty handed in the bush to save their lives,” he said. The safety they have found, however, is of a tenuous nature as the Maradi region in southern Niger. Cheshirkov says the region hosts nearly 100,000 internally displaced people. He says rising violence inside Niger this year has forced 3,500 of its citizens to flee their homes. VOA

Libya’s Interim PM Elected through Bribery, UN Inquiry Says
The legitimacy of Libya’s new interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, has been thrown into doubt by a UN inquiry finding that he allegedly gained power after his supporters offered bribes as high as $200,000 to attract votes. His supporters allegedly offered the money in a hotel in Tunis where a UN-selected 75-strong political dialogue forum met to elect an interim prime minister to lead a new unified executive towards national elections in the country in December. The inquiry reports that a row broke out in the lobby of the hotel after delegates discovered that the bribe for their vote was lower than that being offered in secret to others. … The UN report is due to be published on 15 March after an investigation into the allegations of bribery was demanded by the then acting UN special envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams. … The House of Representatives, Libya’s parliament, was due to meet in Sirte on Monday, a city populated by Russian and Sudanese mercenaries, to give a vote of confidence in the new government, but the new bribery controversy and Dbeibah’s inability to name his cabinet has put that at risk. The Guardian

France Tells Chad to Open Probe after Deaths at Opposition Figure’s Home
France’s foreign minister urged Chad to open an independent investigation after at least two people were killed when security forces went to arrest opposition candidate Yaya Dillo on Sunday. Dillo, who plans to run against President Idriss Deby in a presidential election in April said he was attacked at home by members of the presidential guard and that five family members were killed, including his mother. France, the former colonial power, has close ties with Deby. It considers Chad as pivotal in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa and its 5,100-strong counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane force has a base in the capital N’djamena, as does the United States. “Dillo had two arrest warrants issued against him and offered resistance, but that is not an excuse for the deaths of several people,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing late on Tuesday. … “There will be elections on April 11 and we have told Chadian authorities several times to guarantee opposition participation, freedom to gather and media access. It’s essential for Chad’s stability,” Le Drian said. Reuters

UN Appeals for $266m to End Food Cuts to Millions of Refugees in Eastern Africa 
The World Food Program and the U.N. Refugee Agency are appealing for $266 million to restore full food rations for more than 3 million refugees in Eastern Africa. Millions of refugees in camps across East Africa are not getting enough to eat. U.N. agencies have been forced to cut food rations in countries across the region because of a lack of cash. The most dramatic situation is in Rwanda, where refugees are having their food rations cut by 60%. In Uganda, which hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, the World Food Program has cut its food assistance to 1.27 million refugees by 40%. Other countries affected by severe funding shortages include Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia. … [UN agencies] say the COVID-19 pandemic is compounding problems for refugee families. They note lockdowns and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus have wiped out the ability of families to support themselves and find a way to put food on the table. VOA

Sudan Marks Milestone with Historic Bank Wire Transfer
The first wire transfer between Sudan and a U.S.-based bank was completed successfully last week ending more than 20 years of economic isolation. Sudanese Ambassador to the United States Nuraldin Satti … told VOA he received a test wire transfer from Qatar National Bank in Khartoum to his personal account at Wells Fargo in the United States. The change will facilitate remittances through direct bank transactions between Sudan and the United States benefiting the Sudanese economy and people, Satti told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus. The process to re-establish direct transactions between the two countries started a few weeks ago when the U.S. Department of Treasury sent a message encouraging banks to do transactions with Sudan. … On February 20, Sudan’s transitional government announced a decision to float the pound to close the huge gap between Sudan’s official exchange rate, which was 55 pounds to the dollar, and the black-market exchange rate, which stood at nearly 400 pounds to the dollar. VOA