Africa Media Review for May 14, 2021

Kenya Leader’s Constitutional Reform Bid Illegal: High Court

Kenya’s High Court ruled a drive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to change the constitution was illegal, stopping a move critics say was designed to check his deputy, whom he has fallen out with publicly. Parliament already passed the proposed amendments – popularly known as the Building Bridges Initiative – which mark the biggest change to the East African nation’s government structure since a new constitution was adopted in 2010. However, issuing a ruling on several challenges lodged by various parties, a five-judge bench of the court said on Thursday that Kenyatta used a constitutional provision reserved for citizens to initiate the changes, making the process illegal. “The constitutional amendment bill is an initiative of the president and the law is clear that the president does not have the constitutional mandate to initiate any constitutional changes through popular initiative,” the court said in its ruling. As a result “civil proceedings can be instituted against the president for violating the constitution, by initiating its amendment,” the judges added. “The president cannot be both player and umpire in the same match,” said Jairus Ngaah, one of the judges. Al Jazeera

Eritrean Troops Disguised as Ethiopian Military Are Blocking Critical Aid in Tigray

A CNN team traveling through Tigray’s central zone witnessed Eritrean soldiers, some disguising themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms, manning checkpoints, obstructing and occupying critical aid routes, roaming the halls of one of the region’s few operating hospitals and threatening medical staff. … On April 21, a CNN team reporting in Tigray with the permission of Ethiopian authorities traveled from the regional capital Mekelle to the besieged city of Axum, two weeks after it had been sealed off by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers. An aid convoy also made the seven-hour journey. Ethiopia’s government has severely restricted access to the media until recently, and a state-enforced communications blackout concealed events in the region, making it challenging to gauge the extent of the crisis or verify survivors’ accounts. But CNN’s interviews with humanitarian workers, doctors, soldiers and displaced people in Axum and across central Tigray — where up to 800,000 displaced people are sheltering — indicate the situation is even worse than was feared. … Ethiopian security officials working with Tigray’s interim administration told CNN that the Ethiopian government has no control over Eritrean soldiers operating in Ethiopia, and that Eritrean forces had blocked roads into central Tigray for over two weeks and in the northwestern part of the region for nearly one month. CNN

South Sudan, Nearing 10 Years Old, Struggles for Stability

As South Sudan approaches 10 years of being an independent country, many challenges remain for the world’s youngest state. A 2018 peace deal ending a five-year civil war has faced delays in implementation. A government of national unity was formed only last year. Millions of people remain in need of humanitarian assistance ahead of the anniversary of independence in July. One major problem has been the formation of a unified security force, which has been hampered by lack of funding and political will. More than 25,000 trainees have yet to graduate from centers across South Sudan, many struggling without regular meals, medical care or even a curriculum. Many trainees have abandoned the centers. Life in the centers has been especially difficult for women, who had hoped that serving in the security forces would be a stable way to help provide for their families. Their ambitions reflect those of many across South Sudan who saw lives and livelihoods shattered by the conflict. AP

Aid Worker Killed in South Sudan Attack

An aid worker was killed in South Sudan when a humanitarian convoy came under fire in the west of the country, the UN said Thursday. The UN blamed the attack, which happened on Wednesday in Budi, Eastern Equatoria, on “criminals [who] fired at a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle.” “I am shocked by this violent act and send my condolences to the family and colleagues of the deceased,” Alain Noudehou, the UN’s top aid official for South Sudan, said in a statement. “The roads are a vital connection between humanitarian organisations and communities in need, and we must be able to move safely across the country without fear,” Noudehou added. Dutch-headquartered NGO Cordaid confirmed that one of its staff members, a reproductive health expert, had died after being shot, while a driver was injured. AFP

Sudan Govt to Charge Those Responsible for the Violence against Tuesday’s Protesters

Minister of Defence Lt Gen Yasin Ibrahim announced that members of government forces accused of firing live bullets at peaceful demonstrators have been detained and will be charged within a few days. Two demonstrators were killed on Tuesday as armed forces violently dispersed a peaceful gathering. The announcement by the defence minister was made during an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers headed by Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok yesterday after live bullets were shot at peaceful demonstrators in Khartoum on Tuesday evening. The protesters had gathered near the General Command of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in downtown Khartoum to break the Ramadan fast together in commemoration of the June 3/Ramadan 29 massacre two years ago. … During the emergency meeting, the Minister of Defence briefed the Council of Ministers on the details of the painful events. He expressed the military’s regret for what happened and delivered condolences from the army’s leadership for the nation’s martyrs. In a statement after the meeting, the council stressed that the right to protest is guaranteed by the law and there is nothing that should prevent Sudanese from demonstrating freely in accordance with the law. Radio Dabanga

Fearing India-like COVID Collapse, Kenya Scrambles for Oxygen

At the peak of Kenya’s third wave of Covid-19 in March, hospitals — buckling under the strain of the virus — saw their oxygen reserves fizzle out. Since then, they have been scrambling to increase capacity of the lifesaving element, fearing the nightmare scenario currently unfolding in India due to oxygen shortages. On the roof of the Metropolitan Hospital, a 150-bed private institution that targets the middle class, a brand-new oxygen production unit has just been installed that is capable of producing up to 600 litres of the gas per minute. Metropolitan CEO Kanyenje Gakombe said the hospital accelerated plans to produce its own oxygen after supplies were squeezed to the limit during the height of the third wave, fanned by the variants of the coronavirus first detected in Britain and South Africa. In April Kenya registered a record 571 deaths, and the health ministry warned hospitals were overrun with fewer than 300 patients in the Intensive Care Unit and fewer than 2,000 hospitalised countrywide. … The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has described what is happening in India as “very, very worrying.” Kenya has already detected the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 that is one of the factors fuelling India’s dramatic surge in cases. AFP

Tunisia to Reopen Economy despite Hospital Strain

Tunisian authorities plan to reopen the economy next week amid public pushback against virus restrictions, even as the country’s hospitals are struggling for enough oxygen to treat a persistently high number of COVID-19 patients. Tunisia shut down shops and restaurants and banned all sports and cultural events last week as the prime minister warned that the health system risked collapsing. Houses of prayer were also closed – including for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan that starts Thursday. But while Tunisia is currently reporting the highest number of new COVID-19 deaths per capita in Africa, the public is frustrated, and some small business owners or market traders have defied the new lockdown. The government announced Wednesday night that it will go forward with reopening plans starting May 16, and promised new aid to businesses and the poor. … Oxygen has been in short supply at Tunisian hospitals, with a sevenfold increase in demand since before the pandemic, Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi said last week. Neighboring Algeria recently delivered a supply of oxygen to neighboring Tunisia, and other shipments from Europe. AP

UK Sanctions Libyan Al-Kaniyat Militia and Its Leaders

Britain on Thursday imposed sanctions against Libya’s Kaniyat militia, saying those who breached international law in Libya would have to face consequences. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Kaniyat militia had overseen a five-year reign of terror until 2020, torturing and murdering innocent people. “The UK has today imposed asset freezes and travel bans on the militia group and its two leaders. We will hold them accountable for these atrocities,” Raab said on Twitter. Last year, the United States unilaterally blacklisted the militia and its leader after Russia prevented a U.N. Security Council committee from imposing sanctions over human rights abuses by the group. The Kaniyat, headed by members of the al-Kani family, was allied to the Libyan National Army and helped it mount a failed 14-month assault on Tripoli that began in April 2019. “These new sanctions send a clear message that those responsible for serious human rights violations or breaches of international humanitarian law in Libya will face consequences,” said Britain’s Middle East minister James Cleverly. Reuters

DRC President Tshisekedi Brushes off Criticism over Generals with Bloody History

Democratic Republic of Congo President, Félix Tshisekedi, has rebuffed criticism of past human rights abuses allegedly committed by his military appointees to the restive North Kivu and Ituri provinces. The Head of State recently named Lieutenant-General Constant Ndima as head of North Kivu and Lieutenant-General Johnny Nkashama Luboya to Ituri province, a move that has been criticised by international lobby Human Rights Watch (HRW). The duo are former rebel leaders, with General Ndima said to have a bloody track record during his time leading a guerrilla militia, the Congo liberation Movement (MLC), in operation “Erase the board” in 2002. General Luboya, on the other hand, is a former rebel chief with Rwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma), and is alleged to have overseen killings, rapes, and other abuses by his forces, according to HRW. Following their recent appointments, HRW notes that “the profile of the new military governors of these two provinces can only increase concerns about human rights and the protection of civilians.” “The state of siege in eastern DRC should not be used as a pretext for committing abuses,” the NGO said. Nation

Thousands Flee Fighting in DR Congo’s South Kivu

Thousands of people have fled fighting between rival armed groups in the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, security and militia sources said Thursday. The fighting broke out Wednesday in South Kivu province in the heights overlooking Lake Tanganyika near the border with Burundi, the sources said. The UN radio Okapi also reported violence “between two militias.” Dozens of armed groups operate in the east of the vast central African country. The sources said the latest fighting was between a local militia called Biloze Bishambuke and Twigwaneho combattants from the Rwandan-speaking Tutsi Congolese community known as the Banyamulenge. They are led by an army deserter, colonel Michel Rukunda, the sources said. AFP

Policeman Beaten to Death in Congo Eid Clashes

A police officer in Congo’s capital Kinshasa was beaten to death and 46 others were wounded as rival Muslim groups clashed during Eid celebrations on Thursday, a police spokesman said. Members of two opposing camps vying for leadership positions in Congo’s Muslim community sparred outside Kinshasa’s Martyrs Stadium Thursday morning, where they had planned to worship together as a demonstration of unity. “Unfortunately, there were extremists who didn’t want the two groups to pray together today,” said Sylvano Kasongo, who heads the Kinshasa police. Officers fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse the crowd. Rioters threw stones and destroyed a police cruiser. … Following the events in the capital, Eid celebrations in the eastern city of Goma were cancelled as a precautionary measure. Reuters

Nigeria’s Buhari Warns Rising Banditry a Threat to Food Security

Nigeria’s president said he plans to address rising banditry and kidnapping in the country to safeguard food security in Africa’s most-populous nation. The government “will use all available resources and manpower in dealing with bandits to ensure that they did not create havoc against access to farms and food production in the coming growing season,” President Muhammadu Buhari said in an emailed statement on Thursday. Security agencies are working to ensure people can work safely on farms in order to have food surpluses, including for export, he said. The conflict and banditry have added to food-supply constraints, further pushing up costs already fueled by import restrictions. Food prices are growing at the fastest pace in more than 15 years and consumer inflation was 18.2% in March. … Nigeria has faced a spate of kidnappings and killings since last year, especially of students that have shut down hundreds of schools in the north of the country. That’s in addition to a decade-long war against Islamist insurgents in the northeast, a worsening conflict between nomadic cattle herders and crop farmers in the central and southern regions, and a new separatist rebellion in the southeast. Bloomberg

Horn of Africa Facing Fresh Food Shortage

The Horn of Africa region is staring at food shortages after the delayed start of the long rains in some countries and below-average rainfall in others. The UN and the government of Somalia have jointly declared drought in the country after officials determined that 80 percent of Somalia had received little rainfall. Usually, much of the Horn considers March to May as a planting season. However, projections by the Famine Early Warnings Systems Network and the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies indicate that the situation is likely to get worse as we get into May down to September if the weather situation does not change. “In eastern Africa, worse outcomes are expected through May 2021 across much of the region (North East Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia — including the restive Tigray region) attributed to conflict and displacement, long term macroeconomic challenges, the economic impacts of Covid-19, multiple weather shocks and the desert locust upsurge,” the IFRC Food Insecurity and Hunger for Africa bulletin says. The EastAfrican

U.S.-Niger Armed Forces Program Informs Civilians of IED Danger

Last October, two workers from the Samira gold mine in western Niger died when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED). Five months later, in February, another bomb killed members of the nation’s Independent National Electoral Commission on the day of the presidential election. IEDs have become a major safety issue in Niger, where porous borders allow extremists such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) to cross over from neighboring Mali. ISGS is active in the Tillaberi region, where the mine workers and the electoral commission workers were killed. “Improvised explosive devices are one of the major concerns in our operations,” Col.-Maj. Hamadou Djibo, head of the Niger Armed Forces (FAN), told a meeting with members of U.S. Africa Command. “The civilian populations are not also spared.” During the gathering at the headquarters of the FAN general staff, U.S. military personnel presented FAN with 50,000 posters and brochures designed to educate Niger’s population about the risk of IEDs and how to respond when they are discovered. ADF