Africa Media Review for May 18, 2021

Migrants Enter Spanish Enclave of Ceuta as Morocco Loosens Borders
A record number of migrants have entered Spain after Morocco scaled back the policing of its border following a diplomatic rift between the two countries. About 6,000 people, including approximately 1,500 children, entered Spain’s north African enclave of Ceuta on Monday, according to Madrid — more migrants to have arrived in Spanish territory than on any single day this century. Many swam or used makeshift boats to get into the 18.5 square kilometre coastal enclave, which borders Morocco and is guarded by a six-metre fence. At least one person drowned trying to get into the territory. Spain has mobilised army troops in Ceuta to help the police and civil guard patrol the border, and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez cancelled a trip to Paris to deal with the crisis. … Morocco’s apparent use of migrants to exert pressure on Spain follows years of deploying a similar policy on a smaller scale, when it alternately loosened and tightened controls on migration in a bid to influence policy in Madrid and the EU. … The north African country is deeply unhappy with Spain’s decision to provide medical treatment to Brahim Ghali, head of the Polisario Front, a group that has fought for the independence of the Western Sahara region for years. Ghali is being treated for Covid-19. FT

Cannabis, Cocaine, and Pangolins Seized in Big Drug Bust in Africa
Drugs worth nearly 100 million euros have been seized in Africa and the Middle East during a large international police operation in March and April, Interpol said on Monday. Interpol worked with customs and police officials from 41 countries and arrested 287 people on the African continent and in the Middle East. In Niger warehouses, authorities seized 17 tonnes of cannabis resin, worth around 31 million euros ($37 million). The drugs were destined for Libya and it was the largest drug bust in the history of West Africa. “We are seeing a marked increase in drug traffickers using Libya as a transshipment point, including for drugs from as far as South America,” said Brigadier General Adel Abulkasem Al Sharwy Bentaleb, Head of Libya’s INTERPOL National Central Bureau. “While many of these drugs are neither produced nor consumed here, this has not spared us from the violent crime inevitably wrought by such activity, which we are determined to combat alongside INTERPOL.” Africanews and AFP

ICC Prosecutor Urges Libya to Hand over Gadhafi’s Son
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court urged Libya’s new interim government Monday to arrest the son of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi and called for mercenaries and foreign fighters to leave the North African nation without delay, warning that they could face prosecution by the tribunal for atrocity crimes. In her final briefing to the U.N. Security Council on Libya, Fatou Bensouda said the ICC continues to receive “concerning information about ongoing crimes, ranging from disappearances and arbitrary detention to murder, torture and sexual and gender-based violence.” She pointed to serious crimes allegedly committed in official and unofficial detention facilities, as well as reports of secret trials with summary conviction and sentencing of civilians to long prison terms by military courts in eastern Libya without fair trial guarantees. … Bensouda noted Libya remains under the legal obligation to arrest and surrender Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, and called on the Government of National Unity “to take all possible action to secure his arrest and surrender.” She also repeated calls by her office to Gadhafi to surrender himself to face charges of crimes against humanity. AP

US Calls for Ceasefire, Resolution of Tigray Conflict
The United States said that it is committed to end what it said was a brutal conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, which has been ongoing for six months. “The United States will work with our international allies and partners to secure a ceasefire, end this brutal conflict, provide the life-saving assistance that is so urgently needed, and hold those responsible for human rights abuses and violations accountable,” the State department said in a statement. It issued the statement after US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, completed his first visit to the region travelling to Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt between May 4 and 13, 2021. The US said it was in its interest to see a sovereign and united Ethiopia, but expressed concern over increasing political tension and ethnic polarisation throughout the country. … “The crisis in Tigray is also symptomatic of a broader set of national challenges that have imperilled meaningful reforms,” the statement added. … The statement said that the country can be built on a national consensus that respects the human and political rights of all Ethiopians, adding that the presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia is contrary to these goals. The EastAfrican

France Announces Support to Sudan during Africa Financing Talks
France said it will cancel $5 billion in debt Sudan owes it, and Germany also offered assistance, during back-to-back Paris financing summits targeting Khartoum’s democratic transition and Africa’s economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. The two days of high-level talks near the Eiffel Tower in Paris gather more than a dozen African leaders, along with top representatives of multilateral institutions, the European Union and China. Sudan was on Monday’s agenda. … Africa-wide talks Tuesday focus on the economic fallout of COVID-19 that has decimated tourism and other sectors. Last year, the continent fell into its first recession in more than three decades. The World Bank estimates roughly 34 million new poor — people living on less than two dollars a day — in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Experts said COVID-19 has left the continent facing a $300 billion financing shortfall. Ahead of the talks, International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva told France 24 TV she hopes richer nations will use a planned 650 billion-dollar boost in IMF’s reserves to help the region power ahead. VOA

Advocacy Group Warns of Threat to Sudan’s Civilian-Led Transition
An advocacy group has warned of the continuing threat to a successful civilian-led transition from the economic and institutional legacy of Omar Al-Bashir-era corruption, as the Paris Conference on Sudan Investment commenced Monday. The Sentry, in a new briefing report titled “Sudan Struggles to Control Its Parastatals,” details an array of business operations largely controlled by the country’s military as well as security services. The 9-page report further highlights how private companies in the mining, commercial, and construction sectors incorporated by several commanders of the notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are often contracted by the RSF in breach of conflict-of-interest principles and an absence of government oversight and regulation. The RSF is an official security force unit with a record of mass atrocities and human rights abuses, originally formed under the Bashir regime from members of the genocidal Janjaweed militia. … The report, among others, recommends that Sudanese authorities must ensure the compliance of all parastatals with Sudanese fiscal transparency requirements by opening their books to the Ministry of Finance and submitting to its control all revenues from services to the public and business transactions. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Fires Top Judge, Accepts Prosecutor’s Resignation
Sudan announced the resignation of the country’s chief prosecutor and the firing of the top judge Monday, without giving any reasons for the changes. The development came amid growing criticism by activists of the justice system for purported delays in trials related to the crackdown on protesters during and after a popular uprising that led to the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Sudan has since been on a fragile path to democracy and is ruled by a joint military-civilian government, which includes a sovereign council and an executive Cabinet. The Sovereign Council accepted the resignation of Public Prosecutor Taj al-Ser Ali al-Hebr and removed Neamat Abdullah Mohamed Kheir from her job as chief of the judiciary, said Mohammed al-Feki Suliman, a spokesman for the council. Suliman did not give reasons for the changes, nor say whether the changes were related. He said al-Haber had submitted his resignation several times, and “this time he insisted on stepping down.” AP

South Sudan: Kiir Fails to Meet Gender Threshold of 35 Percent in New Cabinet Positions
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir failed to meet a crucial aspect of gender balance in the formation of the government of national unity when he recently announced a reconstituted legislative assembly. Out of the 550 lawmakers he announced through a presidential decree, only 116 female lawmakers were appointed, a move that violates the affirmative action that stipulates 35 percent of representation from a different gender. Various Juba-based and diaspora activists took to social media, days after the announcement, to condemn the peace parties over what they called continued violation of some accord provisions. In February last year, out of 35 ministerial posts, only 10 women were included in the unity government Cabinet, a gap that violates the affirmative action as specified in the peace accord. During the announcement of governors for the 10 states last July, only one woman, nominated by First Vice President Riek Machar’s side made it through. And when it came to the States’ government nominations and appointments months ago, women were also less represented in those administrations. The EastAfrican

Cameroon’s Democratic Repositioning: Is the Republic Now a de Facto Monarchy?
The seventh term of Cameroon’s president Paul Biya theoretically ends in 2025. By then, he will be in his 90s. Conversation has naturally turned to the question of who will succeed him. His 48-year-old son, Franck, is increasingly being linked with the role. His supporters of course deny there is a plan for him to take over, and the first family refuses to comment. But even if it is not they who are putting his name forward, someone is. Many someones. Enough someones that young Franck has become the topic du jour in local and social media. After nearly four decades of rule by Biya senior and facing ongoing issues, such as the state’s violence towards the English-speaking south, the question of who will be Cameroon’s next president has become a hot topic. Facebook Pages and groups like Mouvements des Frankistes, Franck Biya pour 2025 and Franck Biya For President, have been vocal in promoting him as the next president. … Something is clearly happening in Cameroon. As the Biya patriarch heads towards his 90th birthday, the stakes are high and the political class is maneuvering to secure its future. Biya Junior is keeping quiet. It might take the death of his father, or the 2025 elections, to give Cameroonians clarity on where he stands. For now, the campaigns in his name continue. The Continent

Tunisia Troops Kill Five Suspected Jihadists
Tunisian forces on Monday killed five suspected jihadists in an air and ground operation targeting a rugged mountain hideout of Islamist fighters, the interior ministry said. The operation launched at dawn was still underway, the ministry said in a statement, adding authorities were working to verify the nationalities and affiliation of the “five terrorists” killed. The operation targeted a jihadist base on Mount Chaambi, near the border with Algeria. Tunisia has seen a surge in radical Islam since veteran president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in the country’s 2011 revolution. The army has been battling armed groups since 2012 in the country’s central mountains. They include fighters from Jund al-Khalifa, or “Soldiers of the Caliphate”, linked to the Islamic State group, and jihadists from Okba Ibn Nafaa, a local branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AFP

More Than 10,000 Flee Jihadist Attacks in Niger
More than 10,000 people have fled their homes in the west of Niger over the past two days, a UN agency said Monday, with local officials blaming jihadist attacks. The report sent to AFP by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Niamey follows statements over the weekend from local residents and elected officials describing waves of people fleeing from the Anzourou area. “11,000 people (1,624 households) took refuge in the town of Tillaberi between May 14 and 15, 2021,” in the regional capital Tillaberi, the OCHA told AFP. “The movement is continuous,” said the agency, with an undetermined number of people fleeing towards the capital Niamey. A municipal official from the Anzourou area, the target of jihadist attacks, told AFP that “more than 10,000 villagers have already fled the zone in two days.” Several other villages were in the process of emptying out, the official added. … This month so far 20 people have been massacred in the villages, while 13 people were killed in March. The Defense Post with AFP

Tanzania Experts Suggest Overhaul of COVID-19 Denial Policy
A special committee of health experts formed by Tanzania’s new president on Monday recommended an overhaul of the country’s approach to COVID-19, which until lately was to deny its existence. Soon after being sworn into office in March, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Tanzania is not an island and is open to implementing globally accepted coronavirus containment measures if recommended by the country’s experts. She formed a committee to advise her. Led by Said Aboud from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, the committee recommended that the government should provide information on COVID-19 and take concrete steps to strengthen interventions at all levels to prevent a third wave of the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus. Other recommendations include that Tanzania participate effectively in decision-making and implement regional and international resolutions on the pandemic adopted in regional blocs and World Health Organization. AP

South Africa’s Tutu Gets Jab to Help Start Inoculation Drive
South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 89, came out of retirement Monday to help the country launch its drive to inoculate older citizens against the coronavirus. “All my life I have tried to do the right thing and, today, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is definitely the right thing to do,” said Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town who won the Nobel Prize Prize in 1984 for his peaceful work to end apartheid, South Africa’s previous regime of racist rule by the country’s white minority. Tutu was rolled in a wheelchair into a vaccination center in Cape Town where he and his wife, Leah, were among those getting shots. “It was wonderful to get out of the house and meet these dedicated healthcare workers who gave us our vaccines,” said Tutu in a statement. “To all of you on the frontlines who have been working to keep us safe for more than a year now, I salute you.” South Africa has said it intends to inoculate nearly 5 million citizens aged 60 and above by the end of June. AP



Photo: Adam Jones