Africa Media Review for May 19, 2021

Leaders Agree in Paris on Helping African Economies Revive
More than 20 African heads of state and top officials from European governments, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund agreed Tuesday to seek an additional $100 billion for reviving Africa’s economies crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the Paris summit aimed at finding ways to help Africa face the crisis and return to growth, with the support of international organizations, including the IMF, the World Bank and the African Union. Macron called on the international community to set a “new deal” for Africa nations. He said the financing needs of the continent are estimated at about $300 billion by 2025. “This moment may be an opportunity to finally respond to huge challenges” Africa is facing, he said at a news conference. Economies in sub-Saharan Africa together shrank 1.9% last year in an unprecedented recession. Participants also agreed Africa should be able to “massively” produce vaccines on the continent for its own population, notably via technology transfers and lifting barriers to intellectual property, Macron said. … “This is a great opportunity for Africa,” said Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, the current head of the African Union. The pandemic “left our economies impoverished because we had to use all the means we had, the few means we had, to fight against the disease.” AP

Africa: U.S. Ambassador to UN Seeks Partnerships to End African Conflicts
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, was briefing African media ahead of a UN Security Council debate on the root causes of conflict on the continent and its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. … Answering questions from journalists, she emphasized the administration’s commitment to working in partnerships with African governments, civil society groups and citizens in helping to build peace. She also stressed the importance both of the role of women and of democracy in ending conflict. “We’re investing in women and girls because we know it’s an important investment in peace and security,” she said. “Women and children are extraordinarily impacted by conflict – they are victims of sexual violence and sex used as a weapon of war, and we absolutely have to… focus on women and girls and the role that women play in peace-keeping,” she said. “And we’re supporting democracy and democratic values, holding governments accountable and empowering people economically, educationally and politically. Because we know democracy is the most powerful way to prevent all forms of conflict.” … She also highlighted climate change as a source of conflict and food insecurity, describing the administration’s goals to combat climate change as “aggressive.” allAfrica

India’s Halt to Vaccine Exports ‘Very Problematic’ for Africa
An extended halt to exports of COVID-19 vaccines from India, where authorities are battling a new wave of domestic infections, risks derailing vaccination efforts already underway in Africa, one of the continent’s top health officials said on Tuesday. India stopped vaccine exports a month ago and, according to a Reuters report earlier on Tuesday, is now unlikely to resume major exports before October, dealing a major setback to the global COVAX initiative on which many poor countries are dependent. Africa has lagged far behind other regions due to supply issues and meagre financial resources but had planned to vaccinate 30-35% of its population by the end of the year and 60% within the next two to three years. “This is very problematic as it means unpredictability of our vaccination programmes and a serious risk of not achieving our stated target… on time,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote to Reuters. Reuters

The Seychelles Is 60% Vaccinated, but Still Infections Are Rising. That’s Not as Bad as It Sounds
While other nations struggle to secure enough vaccines, the Seychelles is in the enviable position of having already fully immunized more than 61.4% of the population. … Over the past month, case numbers have been rising in the Indian Ocean archipelago, prompting authorities to impose restrictions in the country of 98,000 people. Data released Thursday shows there are more than 2,700 active cases. … Experts and local officials, however, say the Seychelles outbreak isn’t a sign the vaccines aren’t working. … [L]ocal authorities, experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) say the Seychelles’ experience is broadly in line with expectations. Although both vaccines have been approved by the WHO, neither vaccine is 100% effective against Covid-19 — AstraZeneca claims a 76% efficacy against symptomatic coronavirus disease and 100% efficacy against severe or critical disease or hospitalization, while Sinopharm has an efficacy rate of 79% against symptomatic coronavirus or hospitalization, according to data from a large multi-country Phase 3 trial. Dr Richard Mihigo, program coordinator for vaccine preventable diseases, at WHO regional office for Africa, said Seychelles’ data matched evidence Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and deaths. CNN

Tunisia Lockdown Ends, despite Africa’s Worst COVID Death Rate
Tunisia has ended its one-week lockdown, despite having the highest reported deaths per capita of any country in Africa. Covid-19 cases in Tunisia were initially low last year, with a sweeping six-week lockdown involving the closure of borders and shutting down all but essential commercial activity appearing to halt the spread of the virus. However, since easing that original lockdown cases have increased, with daily reported infections and deaths now the highest in Africa, according to Our World in Data. … Vaccines have been available in Tunisia since March. However, take-up is low amid widespread scepticism, even among healthcare workers, is high. … While Tunisia’s initial response to the pandemic may have won plaudits, it came at a cost that is shaping present policy. “Unemployment has exploded from 15% at the start of 2020 to 17.4% at the end of the year,” said Radhi Meddeb, an economist. He said the virus had had a devastating impact on a faltering economy that had shrunk by 8.8% during the pandemic, “leaving little if no room for manoeuvre for the government in terms of social support.” The Guardian

More Than 50 Feared Drowned after Migrant Boat Sinks off Tunisia
More than 50 people are feared to have drowned after their boat heading from Libya to Europe sank, Tunisia’s defence ministry has said. Mohamed Zikri, a defence ministry spokesperson, said 33 survivors of the shipwreck were picked up after clinging to an oil platform off the southern coast of Tunisia. “There are 33 survivors, all apparently from Bangladesh,” Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told AFP. “At least 50 are missing.” The boat, crammed with more than 90 passengers, left the Libyan port of Zuwara on Sunday. … Tunisian rescuers were bringing the survivors to the port of Zarzis, 100km (70 miles) north-west of Zuwara. “We don’t know the nationality of the more than 50 who are missing,” Di Giacomo added. At least 1,200 migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, most of them crossing the central part of the sea, according to the United Nations. … On Monday, the Tunisian navy said it had rescued more than 100 migrants, mainly from Bangladesh and Sudan, whose boat was “on the verge of sinking.” The Guardian

Anger over Slow Progress, Size of Rewards at Nigeria’s Police Brutality Hearings
The night after his arrest, he said, officers took him back to the store and pushed him from a second floor balcony, leaving him paralysed from the waist down and struggling to make ends meet. … During the hearings, the officer who led the operation disputed Ekekwe’s account of the balcony incident, saying he jumped while trying to escape. … Ekekwe’s case, which Reuters has followed, is one of more than 2,000 being heard by panels set up across Nigeria to investigate allegations of police brutality. The investigations were a core demand of thousands of protesters who wanted a police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) disbanded. They said it was responsible for extortion, torture and extra-judicial killings. The demonstrations in October were some of the biggest for decades in Africa’s most populous country, and at times turned violent. The police disbanded SARS, but denied most accusations made against the unit. Six months later, some campaigners and complainants say they are still waiting for justice. … The panels do not have the power to bring charges against officers found to have committed abuses. Reuters

Nigerian Police Launch Operation in Southeast to Quell Violence It Blames on Separatists
Police launched an operation on Tuesday in southeast Nigeria to put a stop to rising violence and crime there, including a spate of attacks on police which have triggered fears of a return to war and state-sanctioned violence. Armed gangs have carried out a series of killings of police officers in the region in recent months and mounted a jailbreak of more than 1,800 prisoners in the city of Owerri in April. Nigerian authorities blame a banned separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and what police call the group’s armed wing, the Eastern Security Network. Operation Restore Peace will “confront criminal elements” and address crimes such as banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery, the Nigeria Police Force said in a statement. It aims to “roll back the murderous attacks, violence, proliferation of weapons and other threats to law and order occasioned by the separatist agenda,” the force said. Nigeria’s military and intelligence agencies will also take part in the operation, the police said. Reuters

UN Pullout Triggers Safety Concerns in South Sudan Displacement Camps
When she was just nine, Sara Nyatapa fled to a UN camp as South Sudanese government soldiers launched attacks against members of her community during the heat of the civil war. Seven years later, the 16-year-old fears the past may repeat itself after peacekeepers transferred responsibility for protecting her camp to the same government forces she ran from in 2014. … After the civil war erupted in 2013, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, opened up its bases to more than 200,000 people – a move credited with saving tens of thousands of lives. But defending the camps – known as Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites – tied up the resources of the mission over the years, according to UN officials, while South Sudan’s government saw them as a violation of its sovereignty. UNMISS officials now claim the mission is no longer needed in the camps. Citing improved security following the signing of a peace deal in late 2018, and the formation of a unity government two years later, they have left five of the six sites so far. The decision has left camp residents – who mostly belong to communities associated with opposition groups on account of their ethnicity – afraid of what might happen if conflict flares again; something few analysts rule out. The New Humanitarian

DR Congo Army Says Killed 22 Militiamen in Under-Siege East
DR Congo’s army said Tuesday its troops have killed 22 rebels since May 6 when it launched an offensive against the notorious ADF militia in the restive east of the country. A historically Ugandan Islamist group, the Allied Democratic Forces is the bloodiest of scores of armed militias that roam the mineral-rich zone, many of them a legacy of two regional wars from 1996 to 2003. The army has also seized eight AK47 machine guns, regional army spokesman Antony Mualushayi told AFP. He said the army arrested 60 ADF collaborators including about a dozen foreigners, mainly Ugandans. … The government of DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi placed North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province under a 30-day “state of siege” on May 6. The move is allowed under the former Belgian colony’s constitution “if severe circumstances immediately threaten the independence or integrity of the national territory, or if they interrupt the regular functioning of institutions.” The army of the vast central African country has conducted operations against the ADF since October 2019, but has been unable to put a stop to the massacres. The army itself is regularly accused of excesses including exactions against civilians. AFP

Mozambique’s Response to Insurgency Perplexes Neighbors
Mozambique’s reticence to enlist the help of its neighbors to quash an Islamist insurgency runs counter to a regional assessment of how best to speedily halt the violence, South Africa’s state security minister said. While the 16-nation Southern African Development Community is willing to intervene, Mozambique has yet to extend an invitation to the regional trading bloc to deploy troops, Ayanda Dlodlo said. “We have been clear from day-one on what needs to be done,” Dlodlo said in an interview on Tuesday. “Mozambique is engaging a number of countries outside the SADC to seek assistance in quelling the insurgency in Mozambique, so that it does not spread to the rest of the region. SADC does however have the political and military will to intervene once invited.” … ”There have been claims that there are South Africans that are part of the group of insurgencies in Mozambique,” Dlodlo said. “Word is that some are arrested. As South Africa we would like to be given access to those individuals to interview them together with our Mozambique counterparts.” The minister expressed doubts that the insurgents had direct links with ISIS, and said South Africa was working with other intelligence agencies to ascertain who they were. ISIS “claims responsibility for anything and everything,” Dlodlo said. “Sympathy is not necessarily association.” Bloomberg

Spain, Morocco Square off after 8,000 Migrants Arrive by Sea
Spain deployed its military to the Moroccan border Tuesday and expelled nearly half of the thousands of migrants who jumped fences or swam onto European soil over two days after Rabat loosened border controls amid a deepening diplomatic spat. Overwhelmed soldiers separated the adults from the young and carried children in their arms while Red Cross workers helped an endless trickle of migrants who were emerging from the water shivering and exhausted. One unconscious woman laid on the sand before she was carried away on a stretcher. The sudden influx of migrants has fueled the diplomatic spat between Rabat and Madrid over the disputed Western Sahara region and created a humanitarian crisis for Ceuta, the Spanish city of 85,000 in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea, separated from Morocco by a double-wide, 10-meter (32-feet) fence. AP

U.S. Tripoli Visit Shows Increased Libya Focus after Fighting
The United States on Tuesday sent its highest-level official to Libya since 2014 in what it called a signal of Washington’s increased focus on efforts to resolve the country’s crisis. Acting assistant secretary of state Joey Hood met Libya’s new Government of National Unity (GNU) head Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh and Presidency Council chief Mohamed al-Menfi. “The goal of the United States is a sovereign, stable, unified Libya with no foreign interference, and a state that is capable of combating terrorism,” he said at a joint news conference with Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush. The GNU’s appointment in March was accepted by both main sides in the civil war – and their foreign backers – in a move seen as representing the best hope for peace in years, though with many big obstacles remaining. … “We oppose foreign fighters, we oppose proxy forces,” Hood said. “The agreement on an electoral roadmap for elections in December is very important,” he added. Reuters

Shippers Call for Coalition against Gulf of Guinea Pirates
Major international shipping and maritime companies have called for a coalition to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, where armed kidnappings of seafarers reached record levels last year. A key shipping route stretching from Senegal to Angola, the Gulf of Guinea has seen pirates, mostly Nigerians, attacking farther out to sea in more sophisticated, violent assaults on commercial ships. A group of around 100 shippers, maritime companies and trade associations have signed a declaration released on Monday calling for more cooperation to curb piracy in the region, which accounted for almost all maritime abductions in 2020. “The threat that looms for all seafarers going to the region is being kidnapped at gunpoint for ransom,” said the declaration, which was developed in online meetings by signatories from Europe, China, Japan, India and Turkey. “The violence, scope, and sophistication of the attacks on shipping has continued to increase.” AFP



Photo: Adam Jones