Africa Media Review for May 17, 2021

Ethiopia Again Delays National Election Amid Deadly Tensions
Ethiopia has again delayed its national election after some opposition parties said they wouldn’t take part and as conflict in the country’s Tigray region means no vote is being held there, further complicating Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to centralize power. The head of the national elections board, Birtukan Mideksa, in a meeting with political parties’ representatives on Saturday said the June 5 vote in Africa’s second most populous country would be postponed, citing the need to finish printing ballots, training staffers and compiling voters’ information. The board said she estimated a delay of two to three weeks. Ethiopia last year delayed the vote, the first major electoral test for Abiy, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. That heightened tensions with the Tigray region’s leaders, who declared that the prime minister’s mandate had ended and defiantly held a regional vote of their own that Ethiopia called illegal. … Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday said the U.S. is “gravely concerned by the increasing number of confirmed cases of military forces blocking humanitarian access” to parts of Tigray, calling it “unacceptable behavior.” AP

Ethiopia: The Paramilitary Forces Killing People They’re Meant to Protect
…Tens of thousands of people like Rehima and her children have been displaced from their homes by fighting between ethnic factions that erupted in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. The Ethiopian army deployed soldiers to calm tensions, but VICE World News spoke to 11 residents in the area who say that it was in fact uniformed members of the government-backed Amhara regional security forces who were behind much of the carnage and destruction over the past six weeks. Several residents said that as a result, they have been forced to shelter at makeshift camps after members of the paramilitary set their homes alight. In response, retaliatory attacks over the course of the following weeks led to more bloodshed, fomenting divisions among the ethnic Amhara and Oromo communities in the area. … In the country’s newest hotbed of violence, residents hailing from the Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups, Ethiopia’s two largest groups, have been impacted as tensions emanating from the alleged murder of an imam in March led to clashes involving militias from both sides, as well as those from the Amhara state security forces who are mandated with governing the region. VICE

Macron Hosts Africa Summits on Sudan, Post-COVID Finance
French President Emmanuel Macron this week hosts African leaders and chiefs of global financial institutions for twin summit meetings that will seek to help Sudan into a new democratic era and provide Africa with critical financing swept away by the Covid-19 pandemic. A conference Monday attended by several heads of state will aim to rally support for the Sudan government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in the transition after the 2019 ousting of longtime strongman Omar al-Beshir. This will be followed by a summit Tuesday on African economies that will try to fill a financing shortfall of almost $300 billion caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. … With some two dozen African heads of state due to attend Tuesday’s summit, it will be one of the biggest in person top level meetings held during the Covid-19 pandemic. … Hamdok told AFP in an interview ahead of the meeting he hopes Sudan can help wipe out a $60 billion foreign debt bill this year by securing relief and investment deals at the Paris conference. Sudan’s debts to the Paris Club, which includes major creditor countries, is estimated to make up around 38 percent of its total $60 billion foreign debt. AFP

Mali to Form New ‘Broad-Based’ Transitional Government
Mali’s interim government is set to form a new “broad-based” cabinet amid growing criticism of the army-dominated authorities in the Sahel state. Prime Minister Moctar Ouane resigned on Friday but was immediately reappointed to carry out the reshuffle, transitional president Bah Ndaw said. … Ouane was named prime minister after military officers in August removed the elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was under pressure for his handling of Mali’s armed unrest. Under the threat of international sanctions, the military handed power to a caretaker government, which pledged to reform the constitution and stage elections within 18 months. But figures with army links dominate this body, and there is growing anger about their prominent role and the slowness of reforms. The opposition M5 movement last week called for the dissolution of the transitional government and demanded “a more law-abiding and more legitimate” body. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediator for Mali, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, also warned last week that there was little time left to complete the reforms. Al Jazeera

Malawi President Warns against Over Depending on Him
Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has warned Malawians against overpraising and overdepending on him, a tendency that he says can turn presidents into dictators. Chakwera spoke Friday in Lilongwe during a commemoration of the country’s first president, the late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who many say was a dictator during the 31 years of his administration. Chakwera, who became president after a rerun election last June, said it’s sad that even during this democratic era, people want a president to respond to every little thing, while also praising the president as they would a god. Without directly referring to Banda, Chakwera said dictators are made by people who always idolize their leaders. Chakwera, the current leader of the MCP, said his desire is to serve all Malawians. … In his State of the Nation Address on Wednesday in Parliament, Chakwera announced that his administration has put measures in place to reduce presidential powers, as he promised during his campaign. VOA

Zimbabwe Court Rules Chief Justice’s Tenure Extension Is Invalid
Zimbabwe’s High Court dealt a blow to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday, ruling his decision to extend Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s tenure by five years was invalid because it breached the constitution. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which employs all judges, said the decision means that Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza becomes acting chief justice pending the outcome of an appeal. The outcome is a setback to Mnangagwa whose ruling party also changed the constitution to allow him to appoint senior judges without going through a public vetting process. The opposition has accused Mnangagwa of seeking to influence the judiciary, charges the president denies. … The court said the constitutional amendment should have gone to a referendum before becoming a valid law. … “It’s a judgement that protects the constitution,” said Tendai Biti, an opposition leader and lawyer who argued the case in court. Reuters

‘On Bad Days, We Don’t Eat’: Hunger Grows for Thousands Displaced by Conflict in Chad
The number of people having to leave their homes in the Lake Chad region of central Africa has more than doubled over the past year with agencies warning they are struggling to feed people. The fighting, which last month claimed the life of the president of Chad, Idriss Déby, has displaced more than 400,000 Chadians, according to the International Organization for Migration, a rise from 169,000 at the start of 2020. More than 65,000 people were displaced in the first quarter of this year. The World Food Programme (WFP) said it had been struggling to feed those in need. The agency expected a further 100,000 people living in the Kanem region, east of Lake Chad, to need food in the coming months, as the conflict between Chad’s army and the rebel forces, the Front for Change and Concord, showed no signs of easing. The Guardian

UN Chief: Foreign Fighters in Libya Are Violating Cease-Fire
The U.N. chief said foreign fighters and mercenaries remain in Libya in violation of last October’s cease-fire agreement and called for their withdrawal and an end to violations of the U.N. arms embargo, saying these are “critical elements” for lasting peace in the north African country and the region. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the U.N. Security Council obtained Friday by The Associated Press that the smooth transfer of power to a new interim government, which took power in March, “brings renewed hope for the reunification of the country and its institutions and for a lasting peace.” But he said progress must continue on the political, economic and security tracks to enable elections to go ahead on Dec. 24. … Guterres said in the new report that while the cease-fire continues to hold, the U.N. political mission in Libya has received reports of fortifications and defensive positions being set up in central Libya on the key route between the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals, and Jufra. AP

EU to Back Expansion of Vaccine Production Capacity in Africa
The EU plans to throw its weight behind a push to expand vaccine manufacturing in Africa after the coronavirus pandemic has underscored a need to broaden the production of life saving jabs. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, is expected to back proposals to establish strategic manufacturing hubs in African countries at a global health summit in Rome on Friday, officials said. The EU move comes as the coronavirus crisis adds urgency to longstanding efforts to cut African countries’ dependence on imports of drugs to combat deadly diseases that ravage the continent. … Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance, said it was “very welcome” that the EU was taking the issue of vaccine manufacturing seriously. Alakija said she wanted to see “catalytic support for manufacturing in Africa, be it in terms of funding, or technical assistance,” as well as EU support for the waiving of intellectual property rights. The alliance had three sites in mind for future manufacturing centres, she added – the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa. FT

Kenya-Somalia Quarrel Threatens AU Efforts to Broker Political Deal
The African Union has hinted at sticking with former Ghanaian President John Mahama as special envoy to Somalia, even as a simmering diplomatic tiff between Mogadishu and Nairobi seems to stall his deployment. These details emerged last week in frantic back channelling by the continental body when leaders gathered in Kampala to attend the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni’s sixth term. Officially, the African Union says it is consulting members to determine the next step, but the continental body has also expressed concerns about Somalia’s decision to defy a 55-member body’s decision to offer help, ironically, initially requested by Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo. … The genesis of the latest controversy is the diplomatic tiff between Kenya and Somalia, which has prevented the African Union from deploying the special envoy to Mogadishu, adding fuel to a potential crisis in the political negotiations. Mogadishu has accused Kenya of political interference even after announcing last week the resumption of ties after Qatar intervened. The two countries, however, maintained their respective restrictions, including a ban on miraa (khat) by Somalia and Kenya’s suspension of flights between them, a week after the announcement. It was not also clear when the respective embassies would be reopened. The EastAfrican

At Least 14 People Killed in Abyei Attacks
Twelve people, allegedly policemen, were killed in an attack by militant Misseriya tribesmen on Dungoup village in Abyei, on Sunday. At least seven others were injured. Two days before, the same group killed two elderly Dinka in the area west of Abyei town. Abyei Deputy Chief Administrator Kon Manyiet reported in a press statement yesterday that Dungoup village near Abyei town was attacked around 5:00 on Sunday, by a group of militant Misseriya tribesmen supported by Sudanese army troops based in Kec/Diffra, the northern part of the Abyei Administrative Area. … Herders of the Misseriya, a northern Arab tribe, traverse Abyei and other Sudan-South Sudan border areas with their cattle in search of water and pasture in the dry season and to trade goods. The region witnesses many cases of cattle rustling, hijacks, and other robberies. Since the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011, both countries claim the oil-rich region of Abyei.. … On May 1, Radio Dabanga reported that the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations requested that the Security Council consider a six-month rollover of the UNISFA mandate, citing the volatile security situation. Radio Dabanga

Former South African President Zuma’s Corruption Trial Delayed to May 26
The start of the corruption trial of South Africa’s scandal-tainted ex-president Jacob Zuma, which was slated to start on Monday, has been postponed to May 26, a judge said. Zuma is facing 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand, then the equivalent of nearly $5.0 billion. The 79-year-old Zuma, who was at the time serving as deputy president to Thabo Mbeki, is accused of accepting bribes totalling four million rand from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales. The case has been postponed numerous times as Zuma lodged a string of motions to have the charges dropped. In the latest snag last month, all of Zuma’s lawyers quit without explanation. AFP

‘Catastrophic’: Sierra Leone Sells Rainforest for Chinese Harbour
A $55m (£39m) deal struck by the government of Sierra Leone with China to build an industrial fishing harbour on 100 hectares (250 acres) of beach and protected rainforest has been criticised as “a catastrophic human and ecological disaster” by conservationists, landowners and rights groups. The gold and black sands of Black Johnson beach fringe the African nation’s Western Area Peninsula national park, home to endangered species including the duiker antelope and pangolins. The waters are rich in sardines, barracuda and grouper, caught by local fishermen who produce 70% of the fish for the domestic market. … Two legal campaign groups, the Institute for Legal Research and Advocacy for Justice (ILRAJ) and Namati Sierra Leone, have written to the government, under the 2013 Right to Access Information Act, demanding to see the environmental and social-impact assessment studies, and the report showing that the beach was, as claimed, the most suitable place for construction “in terms of bathymetry, social safeguards (minimum resettlement costs) and environmental issues.” They are also seeking a copy of the grant agreement between China and Sierra Leone. The Guardian

Ghana’s Youth Turn to Social Media to ‘Fix Country’s Problems’
Social media users in Ghana are adhering to the hashtag #FixTheCountry in droves to pressure the government to improve its citizens’ lives. The social media initiative is starting to leave cyberspace and taking first steps in the analog world. Among the new movement’s demands are more jobs, no corruption, fewer taxes, and better education. Ernesto Yeboah, of the activist group Economic Fighters League, told DW that the present movement came about out of a feeling among the youth of not being heard by those in charge of the country. “We are hungry. Things are bad. Things are difficult. Life is tough. And it doesn’t make the headlines.” Young people, who make up most of the African population, have long discovered social media to vent their frustrations and to put some pressure on governments. Without admitting that it was bowing to pressure, the Ghana National Petroleum Authority last week slightly reduced petrol prices, after a hike produced mass outrage on social media. DW



Photo: Adam Jones