Africa Media Review for May 11, 2022

Police: 4 Killed in Somalia Blast Ahead of Presidential Vote
Somali police say at least four people have been killed by a suicide explosion that targeted a checkpoint near the airport in the capital, Mogadishu. “I saw four people dead at the scene. Two of them were government soldiers who died immediately after the attack,” said police officer Ali Hassan. A number of wounded people were taken away in an ambulance, according to witness Hamdi Nur. There were no details on the other casualties. The blast happened as presidential candidates were heading into the heavily fortified airport area to address lawmakers ahead of Sunday’s vote for president. Somalia’s Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, which destroyed a number of small businesses along the street. Al-Shabab opposes Somalia’s federal government and frequently stages lethal attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa nation. AP

Gunmen Kill Seven Nigerian Soldiers in Ambush on Army Patrol -Sources
At least seven soldiers were killed and two others were missing in Nigeria after they were ambushed by gunmen while on patrol in the eastern state of Taraba, two military sources said on Wednesday. The attack occurred on Tuesday night when troops from the 93 Battalion came under heavy fire in the village of Tati in the Takum local government area of Taraba. A brigadier general and his aide were missing after the attack, the sources said. “Right now a search and rescue operation is ongoing,” said an army source from the 93 battalion who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack. An army spokesman did not immediately respond to calls for comment. Taraba suffered two separate bombings last month that were claimed by Islamic State militants and killed at least three people and injured more than 30. Reuters

Africa’s COVID Production Line in Jeopardy
Trisha shakes her head when asked if she’s vaccinated. The Cape Town student heard stories that people died afterwards. “So I was scared. I don’t want to risk my life.” Only half of her family members are vaccinated, the 19-year-old says. That’s slightly more than the national average. About 40% of adult South Africans are fully vaccinated. On the whole continent, just 15%. The World Health Organization has set a target of 70% coverage for all countries by June 2022. So far, only Mauritius and Seychelles reached that number in Africa. Most countries will likely miss it. “We have to fight complacency,” says Stavros Nicolaou, a Senior Executive at Aspen Pharmacare Group. About one year ago the company started manufacturing COVID vaccines in the city of Gqeberha. The production line received a €600 million long-term financing package of €600 million ($634 million) from development agencies, also from Germany. South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa called it a “historic agreement.” Aspen said it could manufacture more than 200 million doses per year for Johnson & Johnson. That number was never reached. DW

Algeria Receives Russia FM Sergei Lavrov As EU Continues Search for Alternative Gas
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited gas-producing ally Algeria for talks Tuesday as Europe jockeys to secure alternative energy supplies in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Algeria is a major gas supplier to Europe, providing 11 percent of its imports, compared with 47 percent from Russia. Algiers abstained when the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution in March demanding Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine. “We very much appreciate Algeria’s considered, objective and balanced position on the Ukrainian question,” Lavrov told journalists after meeting his counterpart Ramtane Lamamra and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. Italy, Spain and other European Union member countries have looked to Algeria as they seek to cut their dependence on Russian oil and gas. But Algeria — anxious to consolidate its longstanding alliance with Russia — has repeatedly stressed that it lacks the capacity to meet such demand in the short-term. AfricaNews

AU, UNTIAMS Diverge Over Sudan’s Dialogue Process: Sources
The divergence of views within the tripartite mechanism over who is eligible to take part in the intra-Sudanese dialogue to end the political crisis in Sudan led to the postponement of the preliminary meeting. The Trilateral Mechanism released a statement on Tuesday saying that the talks between the Sudanese parties would be held “in indirect format”. The facilitators did not explain the reason behind this decision but added that they would issue regular communications to inform the public. Sources close to the process said that a disagreement about who can take part in the process between the African Union Special Envoy Mohamed El-Hacen Ould Lebatt and Head of UNITAMS Volker Perthes. “Ould Lebatt is actively seeking to involve political forces that were part of the ousted regime of President Omar al-Bashir, but Perthes opposes that because the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) reject the participation of the parties that are perceived as facades of the dissolved National Congress Party”. The African Union Representative to the Sudan Mohamed Belaiche was not reachable for comment on this matter. Sudan Tribune

British Citizen on Hunger Strike in Egypt Jail Says Farewell to Family Amid Fears for His Life
A British citizen held and tortured in a maximum security prison in Egypt, has said goodbye to his family as his health deteriorates while he enters the second month of a hunger strike demanding the right to a consular visit. Alaa Abdel Fattah, 40, a British-Egyptian activist who was a leading figure in the 2011 Arab spring uprising, launched an open-ended hunger strike on 2 April, drinking only water with rehydration salts as he demands his right to see embassy officials. The prison has performed no medical checks on him despite the fact he has lost weight and is very weak. Mr Abdel-Fattah, a software developer and blogger, told his family during a prison visit on Sunday that he has now been barred from sending letters, a key lifeline of information about his condition, and so needed to say his goodbyes should the worst happen in the month until the next visit. The secular activist has been jailed by every Egyptian president in his lifetime and has spent most of the past decade behind bars. Together with other family members, he has been repeatedly targeted by the administration of President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi. Independent

Main Senegalese Opposition Coalitions Unite Ahead of Parliamentary Elections
The Yewwi Askan Wi coalition of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and the Wallu Sénégal coalition of former president Abdoulaye Wade decided to unite in order to win the next parliamentary elections. In 2017, the coalition backed by president Macky Sall won 125 seats out of the 165. After rounds of negotiations and discussions, the main Senegalese opposition groups sealed an unprecedented deal earlier this week. The Yewwi Askan Wi coalition of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and the Wallu Sénégal coalition of former president Abdoulaye Wade decided to join forces ahead of the July legislative elections. The objective is clear, the two largest opposition coalitions want to avoid competing lists and mostly they want to increase chances of winning seats over a candidate from the ruling party. In order to beat the APR party of President Macky Sall, the opposition groups will present candidates together on the department level. AfricaNews with Agencies

Major Decline in West African Piracy, but Gulf of Guinea Remains World Hotspot
Piracy off West African in 2021 declined dramatically – almost by half compared to the previous year – but the region still remains the world’s piracy hotspot, according to Dryad Global. In its annual report for 2021/22, the maritime risk company stated that “the precipitous decline in piracy throughout West Africa in 2021 saw overall incidents of piracy and maritime crime decline by 56% compared to 2020. Incidents of actual and attempted attacks and vessels being fired upon dropped by more than 85%. The number of vessels boarded throughout the region fell by 54%. Incidents of vessels being boarded, and crews kidnapped declined by 60%.” Overall incidents of offshore piracy in West Africa may have reduced throughout 2021, yet the core onshore components that drive piracy, and threaten vessels and crews operating within the region remain unaltered, Dryad said. DefenceWeb

EU Lawmakers Are Pushing for a Plan To Raise Cocoa Prices in West Africa
Shiploads of cocoa move from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to Europe every year, giving life to a global $130 billion chocolate industry. But the west African farmers at the heart of this value chain have remained extremely poor over time. Some lawmakers in the European Union are now joining presidents of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in trying to change that imbalance. “We urge the Commission to rapidly engage in formal negotiations with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana with the aim of reaching an Economic Pact for Sustainable Cocoa,” a group of EU lawmakers said in an April letter, Reuters reported. At the European Union-Africa Union summit in February, the presidents of both countries had called on the EU to join such a pact. A key element of the pact is that sustainability should be based on improving farmers’ incomes, saying, “The price obtained by producers is the key variable in the sustainability equation.” Quartz Africa

DRC’s State of Siege More Than Doubled Civilian Killings, Says Amnesty International
A year since the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government enacted a state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, the number of civilians killed by armed groups has doubled, Amnesty International (AI) says in a new report. According to AI, the state of siege – similar to a state of emergency – has been used as a tool to crush dissent, with two human rights activists killed by security forces and dozens of activists arbitrarily detained on trumped-up charges. Al’s director for east and southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, commenting on the findings in the report titled “DRC: Justice and Freedoms under siege in North Kivu”, said the state of siege was characterised by lawlessness from state actors. “In total disregard of the law, defence and security forces have been given broad powers that are not justified by the stated purpose of the state of siege, which they have used to silence anyone who demands accountability for the state’s actions in the conflict-stricken provinces,” he added. There are fears if the state of siege, which began on 3 May last year, is not lifted it could become the new normal and stifle freedoms. “[DRC] President Felix Tshisekedi must lift all human rights restrictions and ensure that the state of siege does not become a permanent regime by outlining a clear schedule for ending the restrictions,” said Muchena. News24

Angola Bans Opinion Polls During Electoral Campaign Period
The Angolan government has banned opinion polling on elections during the electoral campaign period, an official said on Tuesday. Angola will hold its general election in August and the start of the electoral campaigns is yet to be announced. According to Manuel Homem, the Minister of Telecommunications, Information Technologies and Social Communication, banning of polling during elections was discussed by lawmakers and is now under the scope of the Law Proposal. “The understanding of the opposition lawmakers is that this research should be carried out on election day, but the government understands that it should not be like that,” he said. All research and polling activities can be carried out and announced before the beginning of the electoral campaign period, Mr Homem said. East African

Threat of Being Sent to Rwanda ‘Harming Health of UK Asylum Seekers’
Ministers’ threats to send unauthorised migrants to Rwanda are having a detrimental impact on the physical and psychological health of people seeking asylum, according to two major refugee charities. The British Red Cross and the Refugee Council, which worked with nearly 44,000 people in the asylum process, warn that they are disappearing from hotels and are reluctant to claim support for fear of deportation, detention and other harsh measures. The development comes as the Home Office admitted that LGBTQ+ refugees could be persecuted if sent to Rwanda – but still plans to fly them 4,000 miles to the capital, Kigali. The Home Office’s human rights assessment itself was also questioned on Tuesday, with the chief inspector of immigration asking for it to be independently scrutinised. The non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch has described it as full of “blatant falsehoods”. Mike Adamson, chief executive at the British Red Cross, said: “We are hearing directly from many people seeking asylum of the distress and anxiety recent announcements have provoked. People are telling us that they feel less safe and less welcome in the UK. Guardian

‘It’s a Time Bomb’: Growing Anger Among Kenyans As Britain Refuses To Redress Colonial Landgrab
When Paul Chepkwony was sworn in as governor of the Kenyan county of Kericho in 2013, he knew it meant embarking on a huge mission. The Kipsigis and Talai peoples saw his election as an opportunity to finally right the wrongs of a brutal colonial past, which saw their clans ruthlessly evicted by the British army between 1895 and 1963 to make way for profitable tea plantations owned by settlers. The plantations still exist today, spanning approximately 200,000 acres of land owned by well-known multinational corporations – Unilever, Williamson Tea and Finlays – which produce tea consumed by millions. Meanwhile, hundreds of forcibly displaced victims, now elderly, and tens of thousands of their descendants live on the outskirts of their ancestral land, many of them in poverty. They are not permitted to access their old family homes and cannot even bury loved ones on the land. Independent

Burkina Faso Trapped Miners: Families Have Hope After Three Weeks
The families of two of eight miners trapped by flood waters in a zinc mine in Burkina Faso last month are hopeful the workers will be found alive. “It’s been three weeks of sleepless nights for all of us,” a cousin of one of the trapped men told the BBC. There has been no contact with them and a wife of another of the men said she was unhappy with the rescue efforts. It is not known if those working more than 520m (1,706ft) below ground reached two available refuge chambers. The Canadian owners of the mine – which is about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital, Ouagadougou – say search crews continue to work 24 hours a day. Specialised equipment has been brought in from Ghana and South Africa to speed up the rescue efforts at the mine that has a depth of 710m…According to a rescue worker who spoke to the AFP news agency, a refuge chamber, or what he called a “survival room”, was located at a depth of 580m. It is not clear when the rescue workers will reach this area. “We are hopeful, yet angry at the same time,” said Yakouba Bama, whose cousin Charles Bama is one six of Burkinabès missing, along with one worker from Tanzania and another from Zambia. The case has caused outrage in Burkina Faso as rescue operations only got under way following protests and a sit-in at a government building at a nearby town five days after the floods. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones