Africa Media Review for March 31, 2021

Nigeria’s Diverse Security Threats
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said Nigeria is facing “a state of emergency” as a result of ongoing insecurity. This emergency is commonly understood as the threat posed by Boko Haram in the country’s northeast. However, this understates the complexity and multidimensional nature of Nigeria’s security challenges, which impact all of the country’s regions. At the same time, armed violence is not omnipresent across Nigeria and is primarily concentrated in specific geographic corridors. Following is a review of Nigeria’s diverse security threats, the risks they pose, and the landscapes in which they have germinated. … The diversity of Nigeria’s security threats will require an innovative set of solutions adapted to each context. This will entail understanding the local dynamics of each threat and integrating them into a multidimensional national security strategy. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Niger Capital Calm after Heavy Gunfire near Presidency Overnight
Niger’s capital Niamey was calm on Wednesday morning following heavy gunfire near the presidential palace during the night after a unit from a nearby air base tried to seize the palace, a senior Niger security source said. The assailants were pushed back by heavy shelling and gunfire from the presidential guard unit, said three other security sources who requested anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to media. The sources did not say where the assailants had gone or comment on the whereabouts of former President Mahamane Ousmane [1993-1996] or president-elect Mohamed Bazoum, who is due to be sworn in on Friday… Former U.S. Sahel envoy J. Peter Pham tweeted that both men were safe. The government of Niger was not immediately available to comment. Bazoum’s election is the first democratic transition of power in the west African state that has witnessed four military coups since independence from France in 1960. Reuters

Russian Mercenaries behind Human Rights Abuses in CAR, Say UN Experts
Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, a private military contractor, have committed human rights abuses in the Central African Republic while fighting alongside government forces, according to a group of independent UN experts. The UN working group said it was “deeply disturbed” by the connections between Russian mercenaries and a series of violent attacks that have taken place in the CAR since elections in December. The country has been wracked by a renewed bout of civil war since an alliance of rebel factions launched an offensive. The elections were won by the incumbent president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who was sworn in on Tuesday, but led to intensified fighting earlier this year as the rebels sought to blockade the capital, Bangui. Touadéra’s army – Forces armées centralafricaines (Faca) – has military support from Russia and Rwanda. Wagner Group mercenaries assisted a successful government counter-offensive against the rebels in recent months. … The alleged violations include mass summary executions, arbitrary detention, torture during interrogation and the forced displacement of the civilian population, about 240,000 of whom have fled their homes because of fighting in recent weeks. The Guardian

Rebel Attacks Deepen Humanitarian Crisis in North Mozambique
After nearly a week of vicious fighting, Mozambique’s rebels controlled about half of the strategic town of Palma on Tuesday, deepening the humanitarian crisis in the country’s north and jeopardizing the multi-billion-dollar investment in offshore gas fields. About 200 rebels armed with automatic rifles, machine guns, and mortars now control the part of Palma where government offices and banks are located, according to local media reports. Thousands of residents already have fled to nearby Tanzania and south to the provincial capital of Pemba, according to international aid agencies. More than 900,000 people in Mozambique now require food aid because of the crisis in the northern part of the country, according to the U.N. World Food Program. … Portugal, Mozambique’s former colonial power, announced Tuesday that is stepping up its military cooperation by sending 60 soldiers to help train Mozambican special forces. The European Union is also preparing “to increase security cooperation (with Mozambique), possibly via support with equipment or training,” Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said in a statement. AP

In Stark Warning, Egypt Leader Says Nile Water ‘Untouchable’
Egypt’s president said Tuesday his country’s share of the Nile River’s waters are “untouchable” in a stark warning apparently to Ethiopia, which is building a giant dam on the Nile’s main tributary. The comment from President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi comes amid a deadlock in the yearslong talks over the dam between the Nile Basin countries, which also includes Sudan. In a news conference, el-Sissi warned of “instability that no one can imagine” in the region if the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is filled and operated without a legally binding agreement. … El-Sissi did not name Ethiopia in his remarks, the strongest on the dam’s dispute by an Egyptian official in years. … The Egyptian leader was firm while discussing the dam dispute at a news conference in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. He visited the crucial, east-west waterway following its reopening Monday. It had been closed for six days after a hulking container ship became stuck in the waterway. … However, el-Sissi said his country prioritizes negotiations to resolve the lingering dispute before Ethiopia continues filling the dam’s giant reservoir during this year’s rainy season. AP

Swim Together or Sink Alone: African States Unite to Confront Pirate Threat
In recent years, though, [Nigeria’s Niger Delta] region has earned a more shadowy reputation, highlighted by the Suez canal blockage that has forced more cargo vessels to sail along the West African coast. Gun-toting gangs have made the complex network of creeks their home, waiting to pounce on ships sailing through West African waters. Some 2,500 vessels pass through the Gulf of Guinea every day, ferrying petroleum products or other cargo. The area is a major route for global trade. It’s also the most dangerous. [A]ttacks are soaring in the gulf, whose waters wash the shores of more than a dozen countries from Senegal to Angola. … In some countries, like Nigeria, counter-piracy efforts are overshadowed by conflicts at home, as well as the poverty that helps drive piracy in the first place. “Many Gulf of Guinea countries suffer vulnerabilities [because] of their [limited] capabilities,” says Kamal-Deen Ali, director of the Center for Maritime Law and Security Africa. “It’s even more difficult policing waters than land – once criminals get on water, they have the opportunity to go in any direction.” The Christian Science Monitor

Cameroon Says Boko Haram Has Intensified Attacks for Supplies
Cameroon’s military on Tuesday said it deployed troops to its northern border with Nigeria after a series of attacks authorities say were carried out the terrorist group Boko Haram. The group did not claim responsibility, but Cameroonian authorities said they also deployed village militias in response to the attacks. Cattle rancher Donald Kulbe says economic activity has been halted since Saturday’s Boko Haram attack on Cameroon’s northern village of Dabanga on the border with Nigeria. … Several dozen villagers fled for their lives and are still hiding in the bushes in the areas near the border of the village, Kulbe said. Villagers identified at least 20 corpses after the fight between the attackers and Cameroon military. Midjiyawa Bakary is the governor of Cameroon’s Far North region that shares a border with Nigeria’s Borno state, epicenter of the terrorist group according to the U.N. He says more than 100 fighters attacked a Cameroon military base in Dabanga that Saturday. VOA

Progress on UN Action for Peacekeeping
Three years since the UN Secretary-General launched his Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative to strengthen peacekeeping operations internationally there has been “significant progress but the work is far from done” according to the world body’s the peacekeeping chief. At an event to take stock of progress to date, identify gaps and look ahead for A4P, Jean-Pierre Lacroix acknowledged the bravery and dedication of UN blue helmets serving “in some of the most challenging places in the world.” He detailed accomplishments including electoral assistance in the Central African Republic (CAR) and reducing violence in South Sudan. Despite “saving lives, protecting people and helping build peace.” he pointed out “significant challenges to peacekeeping remain, even as new ones confront us.” Lacroix introduced “A4P plus,” the next phase of the initiative to drive progress across the “Declaration of Shared Commitments, highlighting seven new “highest priority” areas, beginning with encouraging collective coherence… defenceWeb

ICC Upholds Conviction of Congo Warlord Bosco Ntaganda
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday upheld the war crimes conviction and 30-year sentence imposed on a Congolese warlord dubbed the “Terminator.” Rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda had appealed after he was found guilty by the ICC in 2019 of a reign of terror in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 2000s. Judges dismissed all of Ntaganda’s arguments against both the conviction and the sentence, the longest ever handed down by the Hague-based tribunal. … The judgment was “now final,” the ICC said in a statement. The Rwandan-born 47-year-old was convicted of five counts of crimes against humanity and 13 counts of war crimes, including murder, sexual slavery, rape and using child soldiers. Ntaganda was the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery by the court. Many of the other charges related to massacres of villagers in the mineral rich Ituri region of DR Congo. AP

ICC Holds Reparations Ceremony for Timbuktu Mausoleums
The International Criminal Court made a symbolic reparations payment of 1 euro to Malian officials on Tuesday, after paying for the restoration of historic mausoleums in Timbuktu that had been destroyed by Islamic extremists. The ceremony in Bamako coincides with a new three-year project to further secure the mausoleums, drawing from about 2.7 million euros ($3.14 million) in reparations from an ICC victims’ fund. “These mausoleums are not only religious, but they also symbolize the social cohesion of the city of Timbuktu,” said Harber Kounta, speaking on behalf of the community in northern Mali at Tuesday’s event. Authorities say the destruction of the World Heritage-listed sites also was a financial blow to Timbuktu residents, crippling tourism in the fabled desert city. … A French-led military operation forced them from power in Timbuktu the following year though the extremists later regrouped and continue to carry out attacks on Mali and international forces to this day. AP

‘Alarming’ COVID-19 Surge among Sudan’s Youth
The current surge in COVID-19 infections across Sudan is ‘alarming,’ youths are especially vulnerable, and this is contributing to the spread of the virus and new, stricter measures are being mooted. The country’s ‘army in white’ of health professionals are making ‘appreciable efforts,’ however as elsewhere in Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) points out that health systems have been severely tested, with doctors, nurses, and other health workers stretched to the limit, and facilities and systems are in danger of being overrun. At a press conference in Khartoum yesterday, member of the Sovereignty Council and Chairman of the Committee for Health Emergencies, Siddig Tawir, described the health situation in regard to COVID-19 in Sudan as “alarming for everyone.” He added that if the current trend continues, it will require “strict measures and closures.” Tawir said that “there has been a significant number of deaths, and COVID-19 patients are filling-up available hospital beds.” Radio Dabanga

COVID Pandemic Has Big Effect in Small Nation of Eswatini
Eddie Simelane is a patient. Every two months, this 46-year-old, HIV-positive father of four wakes up early to line up at a government clinic near eSwatini’s capital for his supply of free anti-retroviral medication. The emaSwati are no strangers to pandemics. This small nation, formerly known as Swaziland, has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates, estimated at over 27%. But it’s not that pandemic that scares him, Simelane says. It’s coronavirus. He says he’s lucky to have not fallen ill, but says it’s thrown his life into disarray. “Here in eSwatini, COVID-19 has taken many lives that I’ve heard of,” he said outside a clinic on a foggy morning last week. “And the difficult part of it is the economy. The economy has been down and there’s been no jobs for everybody for something like a year now.” … While eSwatini has only reported some 17,000 cases, and just under 670 deaths, its small size makes each loss seem much bigger. VOA

Death without Answers: An Agonising 24-Hour Hunt for Medical Help in Guinea-Bissau
In their 15 years together, Maimuna Catchura had not known her husband to be ill. But one night in late January, 39-year-old lawyer, activist and musician Bernardo Catchura could not sleep, and complained of severe stomach pain. The pain forced Catchura from his bed at his house in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau’s capital. That night he would navigate the country’s medical care maze, visiting pharmacies, clinics and hospitals. Before the night was through, he even considered crossing the border into Senegal to get help. But wherever he looked, no one was available to help the father of three, and less than 24 hours after his pains began, he was dead. It was a sad fate for the man who had spent decades campaigning for improvements to Guinea-Bissau’s healthcare system. Catchura was a leading member of the activist band Cientistas Realistas, which used music to reach and mobilise young people and protest against government failings. “What happened was exactly what he was always talking about in his songs about the health system,” says his widow, Maimuna. … Political instability has crippled public services, especially healthcare. In 2016, Guinea-Bissau had one doctor for every 10,000 people. The Guardian

How a Full Moon and a ‘Huge Lever’ Helped Free Ever Given from Suez Canal
In the end the difference was made by two high-powered tugboats and a force even greater: a tide that swelled to its highest point in months with the full moon, and then powerfully ebbed, helping to free the Ever Given. The week-long operation in the Suez Canal had struggled to make progress and looked as though it might stretch for weeks until Sunday, when nature and logistics aligned, according to the boss of the Dutch salvaging unit that helped run the operation, who has given the fullest account of the mission so far to news outlets in the Netherlands. For five long days and nights, the team of Egyptian, Dutch and Japanese workers dredged huge amounts of sand and attempted to pull the vessel free using nearly a dozen ordinary tugboats. The Guardian

What Francis Ngannou’s UFC Triumph Means for Cameroonians
Christel Youbi would not miss it for anything. Like many others in Cameroon, she was determined to stay up all night and watch her countryman Francis Ngannou take on American champion Stipe Miocic in Las Vegas for the UFC heavyweight title. The mixed martial arts (MMA) bout on Saturday was a rematch of a lopsided Miocic decision victory three years ago. But this time, things were different. Ngannou, whose knockout power is seemingly unmatched (he had won the previous four fights in a combined two minutes and 42 seconds), dominated the first round. And 52 seconds into the second, Miocic was flattened on the canvas – and Ngannou was on top of the world. In Batie, where Ngannou grew, dozens of people who packed a compound to watch the fight burst into a paroxysm of euphoria as soon as the 34-year-old landed a ferocious left hook to knock Miocic out. There were similar scenes everywhere Cameroonians were watching. Al Jazeera

All Aboard Bus 70: Traveling a Local Libyan Route from War to Hope and Renewal
In a neighborhood once beset by violence and death, Bus 70 crosses an intersection and pulls up by the roadside. A militia fighter in fatigues gets off. A mother and her teenage son with green headphones get on. The doors close, and the bus turns around. Another journey across a tableau of pain and renewal is about to begin.  It’s a journey that Muhammed Juma still finds implausible. “We were in a war that destroyed everything around us,” said Juma, 41, who takes the bus every day to a mechanics shop. “So, when we first saw the bus, we couldn’t believe it. We thanked God.”   There’s nothing striking about the look of Bus 70, a new blue-and-white vehicle that ferries passengers along Line 83, a long, dusty road connecting downtown Tripoli with its outer suburbs. But along one six-mile stretch, where the conflict shattered countless houses and souls, where Libyans pray that a new government will bring the stability they crave, the bus has become a symbol of hope for a capital sorely in need of it. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones