Africa Media Review for March 5, 2021

Senegal Restricts Internet as Protests Escalate
Senegalese authorities have restricted internet access as protests over the detention of an opposition leader intensify, internet monitor NetBlocks said on Friday. Over the past two days, at least one person has been killed in clashes between riot police and supporters of Ousmane Sonko, who say his detention on Wednesday in the wake of a rape allegation is politically motivated. NetBlocks said social media and messaging apps including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Youtube had been restricted early on Friday ahead of a planned demonstration by civil society and opposition parties led by protest movement “Y En A Marre” (Enough is Enough). Sonko, a 46-year old tax inspector who came third with 15% of the vote in the 2019 presidential election, enjoys widespread support among Senegalese youth. He faces questioning after he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity last week. He was detained on Wednesday on charges of disturbing public order after protests broke over a rape allegation against him that he says is an attempt by President Macky Sall’s government to undermine him. Reuters

Amidst ‘Conflict, Blanket Denials and Finger-Pointing,’ UN Rights Chief Calls for Probe in Ethiopia’s Tigray
Given the persistent reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the UN rights chief on Thursday stressed the urgent need for an objective, independent assessment of the facts on the ground. “Deeply distressing reports of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, widespread destruction and looting of public and private property by all parties continue to be shared with us, as well as reports of continued fighting in central Tigray in particular,” said the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. … While welcoming recent Government statements on accountability and measures taken on access for humanitarian actors, Ms. Bachelet urged the authorities to ensure that those commitments are translated into reality. She stressed that OHCHR stands ready to support efforts at advancing human rights, including efforts by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission aimed at ensuring accountability. UN News

Mahama Admits Defeat after Ghana Court Upholds President’s Election Victory
Ghana’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld President Nana Akufo-Addo’s election victory, a ruling grudgingly accepted by the runner-up John Mahama who maintained the legitimacy of his challenge over alleged irregularities in the results. Akufo-Addo was declared the winner of the Dec. 7 vote with 51.59%, ahead of former president Mahama, who received 47.37%. Mahama said that votes were added to Akufo-Addo’s total in some polling stations, pushing him above the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The court said his allegations were without merit. “The petitioner did not demonstrate in any way how the alleged errors… affected the validity of the (results),” said Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah. … Only one other Ghanaian presidential election, in 2012, was formally contested by the losing candidate. The court rejected Akufo-Addo’s challenge to then-incumbent Mahama’s victory in a case that dragged on for eight months. Reuters

Curfew and Market Closures for Nigerian Town of Kidnapped Girls
Authorities in Nigeria’s Zamfara state have declared a curfew and shut market activities after violence marred the return of hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls to their families, a state spokesman said on Thursday. Late on Wednesday, gunshots and chaos erupted during what should have been the joyous return of 279 schoolgirls abducted by gunmen from their boarding school last week. The government secured the release of the girls on Tuesday, but they had been undergoing medical checks and treatment. At least three people were shot, but it was not clear by whom. A Reuters witness saw police firing tear gas at a group of protesters outside the school, and soldiers shooting into the air, after impatient parents burst in and grabbed their children to take them home. Zamfara state spokesman Sulaiman Tunau Anka called it “unfortunate civil disobedience” and said the governor had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the town, Jangebe, to prevent a further breach of the peace. Reuters

Libya’s PM-Designate Submits Cabinet Lineup to Parliament
Libya’s prime minister-designate has submitted a proposed government lineup to parliament for approval, his office said, a key step towards unifying the country that descended into chaos after long-term leader Muammar Gaddafi was removed in 2011. “In accordance with the roadmap of the political agreement, [Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah] handed over to the speaker of elected parliament his proposals for ministerial portfolios,” his office said in a statement on Thursday. Dbeibah was selected in early February in a United Nations-sponsored inter-Libyan dialogue, the latest internationally backed bid to salvage the country from a decade of conflict and fragmented politics. … Under the UN plan, the prime minister has until March 19 to win approval for a cabinet, before tackling the giant task of unifying Libya’s proliferating institutions and leading the transition up to December 24 polls. Al Jazeera

Sudan: Military Support Arrives in North Darfur Following Clashes
A cautious calm settled on the city of Saraf Omra in North Darfur yesterday after joint forces arrested a number of suspects and evacuated the wounded from the scene of clashes that killed 11 people and injured 32 others on Wednesday. Mohamed Khater told Radio Dabanga that “limited events and gatherings” took place yesterday, which the joint forces responded to “firmly” to take control of the security situation. He said only 40 per cent of shops were open at the market. Khater indicated that the committee in the locality is making efforts to communicate with the parties to the conflict in order to make peace. The executive director of the Saraf Omra locality said that tension is still prevalent in the city. He also said that the native administrations of the two tribes began to calm the situation in order to reach a cessation of hostilities and then sit down to address the issue from its roots. … Taher Hajar, a member of the Sovereignty Council, acknowledged that security is currently fragile in Darfur, especially in conflict areas following a visit to the state. Radio Dabanga

African Union’s Faki to Visit Sudan in March
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki will visit Khartoum this month to discuss ways to support the democratic transition in Sudan. The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission to Sudan Mohamed Belaiche on Thursday held a meeting with the member of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Ibrahim Jabir, to prepare for the visit. “The meeting dealt with studying the most effective ways to benefit from the capabilities of the African Union to support the requirements of democratic transition in Sudan, prior to the visit of the Chairperson of the Commission and a delegation of the African Peace and Security Council scheduled for this month,” Belaishe said after the meeting. He further added that the purpose of the visit is to enhance the capabilities of the transitional institutions and mobilize resources, pointing out that the country continues to face political, economic and security challenges. Sudan Tribune

Women’s Representation in South Sudan State Governments Misses Mandated 35%
Women’s and human rights activists in South Sudan say parties to the 2018 peace deal are violating a provision that calls for 35% of government positions at all levels to be allocated to women. President Salva Kiir’s decree reconstituting Western Equatoria state’s government was read on state television on February 25. Out of 17 ministers appointed to the state Cabinet, only four are women. Out of 10 county commissioners, only two are women. All five state advisers are men. Although seven women were appointed commissioners on independent commissions, all five chairpersons of the commissions are men. Tambura County women’s activist Clementina Anite said that while she is pleased the parties are finally forming a state government, she is concerned about women’s representation. … While most seem to agree women should be equitably represented in government, the appointing authorities often do not put that belief into practice, said Anite. Jackline Nasiwa, founder of the Center for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice in South Sudan, said the 35% participation of women provided for in the peace deal was “far from being met.” VOA

Tributes as Leading South African Reporter Dies of COVID-19
Tributes from journalists and politicians are coming in for prominent South African journalist Karima Brown who died of COVID-19 on Thursday. Brown, 54, had been hospitalized after falling ill and will be buried Thursday according to Islamic burial rites, her family said in a statement. “We are enormously proud of the fierce determination she had shown, since her early years, to get involved in bringing about a more inclusive, and anti-racist South Africa,” said the statement. “This determination also shaped her fearless approach to journalism. She was driven by a conviction that journalism must be in service of justice.” In the 1980s, Brown was involved in the struggle against apartheid, South Africa’s now-abolished system of racist minority rule, as a member of the United Democratic Front, a coalition of anti-apartheid organizations which supported the then-banned African National Congress. Although proud of her support for the ANC, as a journalist Brown was critical of its policies as South Africa’s ruling party. AP

Virus Kills Fewer African Women Than Men: WHO
Women in Africa are less likely to die from Covid-19 than men, but more likely to succumb to maternal complications due to limited access to reproductive services since the pandemic started, the UN said Thursday citing reports. A study of 28 African countries including Guinea, Mauritius and Uganda showed that on average women accounted for a slightly smaller proportion of coronavirus infections and deaths compared to men. Overall around 41 percent of reported Covid-19 cases were women, although the figures ranged widely from 31 percent in Niger to more than 57 percent in South Africa. “In most countries, women are somewhat less likely to die from Covid-19 than men,” World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti told an online news conference. But the pandemic had exposed gaps in health services, with women suffering the brunt of disrupted access to care. … More data is still needed to determine the full extent of the effect. AFP

WHO Sees Ebola Risk as ‘Very High’ for Guinea’s Neighbours
World Health Organization officials say the risk of an Ebola outbreak spreading to Guinea’s neighbours is “very high” and that some of those countries are not prepared for vaccination campaigns. WHO’s Guinea representative Georges Alfred Ki-Zerbo told a virtual briefing on Friday that so far 18 Ebola cases had been identified, and four of those infected had died. So far, 1,604 people have been vaccinated against Ebola in the new outbreak in Guinea, the first resurgence of the virus there since a 2013-2016 outbreak – the world’s worst – which spread to several other West African countries and killed more than 11,300 people. The Ebola virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and is spread through contact with bodily fluids. Officials said a readiness assessment for Guinea’s neighbours – Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Liberia – showed gaps in their preparedness. Al Jazeera

Hostility to Beijing Drives Chinese Gold Diggers into New Territory
Chinese gold mining companies are on a buying spree in West Africa and South America, outbidding rivals for assets in less familiar regions as the governments in their usual hunting grounds turn against them. … Bankers and lawyers predicted the focus would continue on the emerging economies that welcome Chinese investment as Australia, Canada, and the United States increase scrutiny of Chinese acquisitions. Gold-rich regions in West Africa and South America have a particular draw for Chinese companies faced with dwindling resources at home and they are not limiting themselves to gold as they seek to become diversified global companies. “We’ve seen China mining deal activity double over the past 12 months,” said Hilary Lau, partner and head of Asia energy at Herbert Smith Freehills in Hong Kong. … A Johannesburg-based banker, who declined to be named, said Chinese buyers were for the first time aggressively pursuing gold deals in Africa. Reuters

South Africa: A Precious Metal That Costs 15 Times More Than Gold Is Driving a Surge in Thefts of Catalytic Converters
The metallic element is housed in a bulbous piece of aluminum, called a catalytic converter, that encases a honeycomb structure that filters fumes. [US] National data is scarce, but news reports point to thousands of catalytic converter thefts over the past year, a crime wave that has risen with the price of one of their essential components: rhodium, a silvery-white chemical element that is a byproduct of the production of platinum and palladium, and is unparalleled in its ability to remove the most toxic pollutants from vehicle exhaust. A single troy ounce, which is slightly heavier than a regular ounce, of rhodium cost around $27,000 last week — more than a brand new Toyota Prius. That’s up from $1,700 three years ago. But to understand why those prices, and thefts, are skyrocketing, and to understand how long they might stay that high, we must go back more than a decade to the 2008 global recession and follow its effects until they coincide with last year’s pandemic-driven economic catastrophe in South Africa, where 80 percent of the world’s rhodium originates. The Washington Post

DR Congo’s Virunga National Park: The Deadly Job of Protecting Gorillas
Protecting the forests of Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo – home to endangered mountain gorillas – could be described as one of the toughest jobs on the planet. In the past 12 months, more than 20 of the park’s staff have been murdered – and last week rebels were accused of killing the Italian ambassador to DR Congo, his security guard and driver in an attack within the park. “The level of sacrifice that’s involved in keeping this work going will always be the hardest thing to deal with,” says Emmanuel de Merode, who is in charge of more than 800 rangers at Virunga, Africa’s oldest and largest national park. It spans 7,800 sq km (3,000 sq miles) and is home to an astonishingly diverse landscape – from active volcanoes and vast lakes to rainforest and mountains. The park was set up nearly 100 years ago to protect mountain gorillas, of which there are only 1,000 left in the world. But numbers are increasing, and in some welcome news, three babies have been born at the park in the past month. BBC

‘It’s Radical’: The Ugandan City Built on Solar, Shea Butter and People Power
The village of Okere Mom-Kok was in ruins by the end of more than a decade of war in northern Uganda. Now, just outside Ojok Okello’s living-room door, final-year pupils at the early childhood centre are noisily breaking for recess and a market is clattering into life, as is the local craft brewery, as what has become Okere City begins a new day. “I think what I’m doing here is radical,” says Okello, who is behind an ambitious project to transform the destroyed village of 4,000 people into a thriving and sustainable town. Okere City began in January 2019. Its 200 hectares (500 acres) feature a school, a health clinic, a village bank and a community hall that also serves as a cinema, a church and a nightclub. Electricity is available to all, generated from solar energy – a rarity in the region – and far from the many outbreaks of cholera which were rampant years ago, there is now clean water from a borehole. The Guardian

Eddie Murphy Is “Coming 2 America” in Some Standout African Designs
In a scene from Coming 2 America, the much-anticipated sequel to the 1988 cult classic, Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem paces about his palatial home, wondering what to do about his recently-discovered son. He wears a colorful, patterned knitted vest, lending the king of the fictional African country Zamunda an assured look, despite his worried demeanor. Murphy’s vest is one of the first items South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo ever showed to the world. … Ngxokolo’s designs have roots in the fashion of young Xhosa men in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province … Although it’s set in a fictional African country, the film has relied on real designers to allow for better representation of the continent on screen. Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter enlisted Ngxokolo to join her team and help create the looks for Murphy’s return to America, along with almost 40 other designers, ranging from India to Nigeria. In collaborating with Nxgokolo, Carter has added an element of authenticity to a film with a pretty fantastical storyline. … Carter’s choice of direction for the new film’s costumes … [are] an illustration of the changing perceptions of African fashion on screen. By tapping into the work of designers like Ngxokolo, she is accessing the global success of African fashion, which gives the film an edge over its prequel. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones