Africa Media Review for May 21, 2021

A Record 55 Million People Displaced Last Year
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reports the number of people displaced inside their own countries because of conflict, violence and weather-related disasters reached an all-time high of 55 million by the end of 2020. Experts tracking these events thought sanity would prevail during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in fewer conflicts and triggering fewer forced displacements. … However, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, says the verdict is in and it is not good. He says last year, conflict and disasters caused more than 40 million new displacements, with some people being forced to move many times out of their homes. “Forty million times a child, a woman, or a man was displaced in 2020,” said Egeland. “That is more than one person per second, and it is continuing, so…a lot of people have been displaced also in 2021 while we speak.” The report says … sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa generated 90 percent of all new conflict-related displacements. VOA

Cameroon Unity Day Marred by Violence in Separatist Regions
Unity Day activities in Cameroon were marred this week by clashes between separatists and government troops. The violence left at least 16 people dead and 60 houses burned. Local media reported that streets in Cameroon’s English-speaking towns and villages were deserted Thursday as the central African state celebrated its National Day, also known as Unity Day. Meanwhile business activity went on as usual in French-speaking towns and villages. Efang, also known as Big Number, calls himself the supreme general and commander of separatist fighters in the English-speaking North West and South West regions. He said on social media that he asked fighters to make sure all English speakers remain at home as a sign of protest against National Day. He says the English-speaking North West and South West regions no longer consider themselves part of the French-speaking majority state of Cameroon. VOA

Sexual Violence Rampant as Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis Intensifies
Sally Mboumien constantly hears the heartbreaking stories of rape, sexual assault, and defilement. “The story usually goes like this: You either come at a police checkpoint, and the officer asks you to provide your identification, all this time he would be eyeing the young lady to satisfy his sexual exploits,” Mboumien said. The founder of Common Action for Gender Development (COMAGEND), said the officer would then hold off the identity papers and wait until everyone has left. Then accuse the lady of committing a crime before asking her for sexual favor or to date him so she can go scot-free. “At least one in three girls experience this in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon,” she said, adding that the police officers usually defend themselves by saying it was consensual, which in most cases isn’t. There have been nearly 500 recorded rape and sexual assault incidents in the first quarter of this year alone. In 2020, the UN reported 4,300 related cases. DW

Nigerian Army Investigating Reports that Boko Haram Leader Died Blowing Himself up to Avoid Capture
The Nigerian army says it is looking into reports that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has died after blowing himself up to avoid being captured by a rival group. Shekau, the long-time leader of the extremist group — also known as Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad (JAS) — has waged an insurgency in northeast Nigeria for more than a decade. There were multiple reports across Nigerian media Thursday claiming that he had died by suicide rather than be taken alive following clashes with a rival group. Other reports by international news outlets suggested he was either dead or badly wounded. However, it is not the first time that Shekau has been declared dead, only for him to later resurface in videos taunting his detractors. Nigerian Army spokesman Mohammed Yerima told CNN via a text message that the military is “still investigating” Shekau’s reported death. CNN

African Union Calls for ‘Democratic Transition’ in Chad
The African Union has called for a “democratic transition” within 18 months in Chad, where a military leadership took charge in April after veteran ruler Idriss Deby died on the front-line as his army was fighting rebels. The new military government, headed by Deby’s four-star general son Mahamat, has appointed a transitional civilian leadership and promised on April 20 to hold elections within 18 months. The African Union on Thursday underscored “the absolute need for a transition towards a democratic regime to be achieved within 18 months,” in a statement issued in French. Al Jazeera

Anger over Slow Progress, Size of Rewards at Nigeria’s Police Brutality Hearings
Ndukwe Ekekwe was furious when he heard how much compensation a judicial panel had awarded him after finding that members of an elite Nigerian police unit tortured him in custody following a raid on his phone accessories shop: 7,500,000 naira ($18,000). 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. “I sold my land, all my property, my goods!” he shouted. … 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. Six months later, some campaigners and complainants say they are still waiting for justice. Reuters

Algeria Legislative Elections: Campaigns Begin
Algeria has kick-started its legislative election campaigns three months after the dissolution of the National People’s Assembly (APN) by the embattled President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The vote has been brought forward after President Tebboune dissolved the parliament in a bid to calm down grievances from protesters who called for the dissolution of the government. Nearly 1500 contestants are running for the seats according to the Independent National Election Authority. The vote is set for June 12. More than half of the contestants are running on an independent ticket. Thousands of the Hirak movement have in recent months rocked the streets of the Algerian capital as they demanded significant changes to the country’s government and political system. The Hirak activists are pressing for a full makeover of the opaque system governing Algeria, with the military in the shadows, which has been at the helm since the country won its independence war against colonizer France in 1962. AfricaNews

Sudanese Army, Ethiopian Militiamen Clash on Border Areas
The Sudanese army on Wednesday managed to expel Ethiopian militiamen from some border areas, while others attacked Sudanese fishermen in another location. Ethiopian militiamen from the Amhara Region have continued to attack Sudanese farmers since April 2020 when the central government in Khartoum changed the policy of the ousted regime towards their presence in the Sudanese territory. Also, the Government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed denounced the border demarcation agreements signed between the two countries and claimed the ownership of the al-Fashaga border area in the Gadaref State. The Sudanese Armed Forces and the local Reserve Forces retook control of about 20,000 acres after clashes with the Ethiopian militiamen, a military source told the Sudan Tribune on Wednesday. … In a related development, Ethiopian militias sneaked into Sudanese territory by about five kilometres in the Musha Al-Fursan area in the Quraisha border locality of Gadaref and assassinated a fisherman after he resisted an attempt to kidnap him. Sudanese farmers, shepherds, and fishermen renewed calls on the Sudanese army to deploy forces in their area and organize patrols in the rugged area located between Wad Um Tawkol and Lafat Junun near the Rahad River. The location is one of the areas that have been used by the Ethiopian militias and the Shifta gangs for their regular attacks on Sudanese herdsmen, farmers and fishermen. Sudan Tribune

UN Confirms Military Forces Blocking Aid in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Following CNN Investigation
The United Nations has confirmed that military forces are impeding humanitarian access to parts of Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region, after an exclusive CNN investigation revealed that Eritrean troops were coordinating with Ethiopian forces to cut off critical aid routes. A CNN team traveling through Tigray’s central zone witnessed Eritrean soldiers, some disguising themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms, blocking aid to starving populations more than a month after Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize winning leader Abiy Ahmed pledged to the international community that they would leave. In the UN’s first statement confirming the obstruction of aid, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that “blockades by military forces” had severely impeded the ability for assistance to reach rural areas where the humanitarian crisis is worst. CNN

Ethiopia Sets June 21 as New Date for its Delayed Elections
Ethiopia will hold its delayed parliamentary elections on June 21, the country’s national electoral board announced Thursday, a vote that determines who will be prime minister. There will be no voting in the embattled Tigray region. The elections were to have taken place on June 5, but were postponed earlier this month after officials said the electoral board needed more time to print ballot papers, train polling staff and register voters. According to the revised schedule, voting will take place after June 21 in some areas because of security concerns and to allow more time for voters to register, the electoral board said. Ethiopia twice postponed the elections last year citing the coronavirus pandemic and logistical issues. AP

Ethiopia Expels New York Times Reporter
Ethiopia on Thursday expelled an Irish journalist working for The New York Times, dealing a new blow to press freedom in a country as the government fights a grinding war in the northern region of Tigray. The expulsion of the reporter, Simon Marks, comes one month before much-delayed Parliamentary elections in Ethiopia that are expected to cement the authority of the country’s embattled prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. Mr. Marks had reported extensively on the war in Tigray, where there are widespread accounts that the Ethiopian military and its Eritrean and militia allies are committing atrocities, including massacres and sexual assault. The officials did not specify why they were deporting the reporter, whose residence permit was valid until October, saying only that it was a “government decision.” … Press freedom groups said the expulsion was a further erosion of freedom of expression following a campaign of arrests and intimidation, mostly directed at Ethiopian reporters, since the Tigray war erupted in November. New York Times

Ethiopia Set to Start Generating Power from Blue Nile Dam
Ethiopia plans to begin generating power from its controversial Blue Nile River dam during the upcoming rainy season between June and August, the foreign ministry announced Thursday. The $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is expected to collect 13.5 billion cubic meters of the Blue Nile River water in the rainy season, swelling its reservoir to 18.4 billion cubic meters, the ministry statement said. The Blue Nile, which originates in Ethiopia, is one of two major tributaries of the Nile River and during the rainy season it contributes up to 80% of the Nile’s water. A power line 650 kilometers long has been completed to connect the electricity generated at the dam to the country’s power grid, said the statement. The dam is now 80% complete and is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023, making it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant and the world’s seventh-largest, according to reports in state media. VOA

Somali Leaders Converge in Mogadishu to Discuss Elections
Somali leaders will meet on Saturday in Mogadishu to discuss the electoral calendar. The National Consultative Forum, comprising the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the Federal Member States (FMS), was initially scheduled for Thursday by Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble. It was, however, pushed to Saturday after some leaders failed to arrive on time. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo on April 27 assigned Roble the task of leading talks on the electoral process. … Earlier, PM Roble said he anticipates that the meeting would be a success and culminate in “leading the country to a mutually agreed, transparent election.” … Somalia was to have an election to choose legislators for both its Upper and Lower Houses of its parliament in November and December 2020, but the process was delayed due to squabbles. It also failed to hold presidential elections in February this year. The East African

Spain Accuses Morocco of “Blackmail” over Ceuta Migrant Surge
Spain’s defence minister accused Morocco of “blackmail” on Thursday over its passivity in the face of a surge in migrant arrivals in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta earlier this week. The rush of migrants began on Monday when Morocco appeared to loosen border controls, a move widely interpreted, including by the Spanish opposition, as retaliation for Spain’s hosting of a Western Sahara independence leader. The Spanish government, however, has sought to keep the two issues separate. Defence Minister Margarita Robles said that by creating the conditions for thousands of migrants to swim into Ceuta or climb over fences into the enclave, Morocco had endangered lives “for a purpose I certainly don’t understand”. … The crisis in Ceuta comes after Morocco protested against Spain’s decision a month ago to allow Brahim Ghali, leader of the rebel Polisario Front fighting for Western Sahara to be independent from Morocco, into a Spanish hospital. Reuters