Africa Media Review for May 25, 2021

Mali’s President and PM Remain Detained by Mutinous Soldiers
Mali’s transitional president and prime minister remain detained Tuesday after being taken by force to the military headquarters hours after a government reshuffle left out two members of the junta that had seized power in a coup nine months ago. The African Union, the United Nations, the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS and other members of the international community called for the immediate release of President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, who were taken to the Kati military headquarters along with others late on Monday. The garrison town sits about 15 kilometers from the capital and is the former stronghold of the junta. Those who signed on to the joint statement called for Mali’s political transition “to resume its course and conclude within the established timeframe.” … A delegation from ECOWAS will visit Bamako on Tuesday, the joint statement said. … There has been widespread concern the upheaval in Mali over the past year has further set back efforts to contain militants linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State groups. … France and a U.N. force have continued to battle the extremist rebels, who operate in rural areas and regularly attack roads and cities. AP

UN Chief Says World at ‘War’ against COVID-19
The world is “at war” against COVID-19, the UN chief says, calling for the application of wartime logic to the inequitable access to the weapons needed to fight the pandemic. Addressing the opening of the World Health Organization’s annual assembly of member states on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decried the “tsunami of suffering” sparked by the coronavirus crisis. He pointed out that more than 3.4 million people have died and some 500 million jobs have disappeared since the disease first surfaced in China in late 2019. “The most vulnerable are suffering most, and I fear this is far from over,” Guterres said, stressing the ongoing dangers of “a two-speed global response.” “Sadly, unless we act now, we face a situation in which rich countries vaccinate the majority of their people and open their economies, while the virus continues to cause deep suffering by circling and mutating in the poorest countries,” he said. “Further spikes and surges could claim hundreds of thousands of lives, and slow the global economic recovery,” he said, insisting that “COVID-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time.” Al Jazeera

UN Demands Full Inquiry after Telegraph Reveals Potential White Phosphorus Burns in Ethiopia’s War
The United Nation’s humanitarian chief has called for a full investigation after The Telegraph reported that civilians had suffered horrific injuries consistent with the use of white phosphorus during fighting in northern Ethiopia. The Telegraph obtained exclusive footage and accounts of witnesses and victims smuggled out of the mountainous region of Tigray showing civilians with burns covering their bodies. Leading chemical weapons experts said that the wounds were consistent with white phosphorus, which is not considered a chemical weapon but is banned from use against human targets under international law. “These are alarming reports and they need to be investigated fully,” said Mark Lowcock. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organisation and an ethnic Tigrayan, also expressed his horror at the report saying he had “no words” to describe the pain he felt reading the article. … White phosphorus burns at more than 2,700 degrees Celsius when it comes into contact with air. Telegraph

Sudan Court Sentences Officer to Death for Killing Protester
A Sudanese court sentenced to death on Monday a paramilitary officer charged with killing a demonstrator during a deadly breakup of a protest camp in the capital, Khartoum, two years ago. The court ruled that the officer, Youssef Mohieldin al-Fiky, a major with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, rammed a protester with his car as security forces were dispersing a sit-in outside the military headquarters in June 2019. The protester, Hanafy Abdel-Shakour, was one of over 120 people killed during the brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan that June. It followed two months after the military ousted then-President Omar al-Bashir amid a public uprising against his nearly three-decade autocratic rule. … Monday’s ruling was the first of its kind. The 2019 breakup of the sit-in camp was a turning point in what had until then been relations between the military and the protesters. Protesters had called for an international probe into the breakup, but an African Union-brokered agreement in August 2019 between the generals and the protesters said a local commission would investigate. The panel, however, repeatedly missed its deadlines for reporting, angering the victims’ families and protest groups. AP

World Bank Allocates $2 Billion to Fund Projects in Sudan
The World Bank said Monday it has allocated $2 billion to cash-stripped Sudan as the transitional government has struggled to address the county’s decades-long economic woes. The funds would be used to finance big infrastructure projects along with others to help displaced people over the next 12 months, said Hafez Ghanem, World Bank vice president for eastern and southern Africa. Ghanem was in Khartoum on Monday where he met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim, according to the premier’s office. The announcement came around two months after Sudan cleared all of its overdue payments to the World Bank. The move has given the transitional government in Khartoum access to new types of international financing for the first time in nearly three decades. The World Bank said at the time that the payment came after the U.S. provided bridge financing of $1.15 billion to help Sudan clear its arrears. … Sudan is now on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led to the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019. AP

Another Aid Worker Killed in South Sudan
A second humanitarian worker was killed in the Unity State of South Sudan in less than two weeks, an aid group and the UN spokesperson said on Monday. On 12 May, a humanitarian worker had been killed in Budi in Eastern Equatoria when gunmen ambushed a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle on the road from Chukudum to Kapoeta in Budi County. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) announced that Dr Louis Edward Saleh Ufew, an IRC staff member was found dead in Panyijiar County, South Sudan, on Friday 21 May, under unclear circumstances. The IRC further announced the immediate suspension of its humanitarian operations in Ganyliel Payam where he was killed. “We are very concerned about the safety and well-being of our staff working on projects in the area,” said Caroline Sekyewa, IRC South Sudan Country Director. For his part, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, told reporters that another attack was carried against the humanitarian group. “On the same day in the same state, a humanitarian convoy carrying ten International Rescue Committee aid workers was shot at by gunmen on the outskirts of Guol Village. Fortunately, no one was injured.” Sudan Tribune

Two Months after Palma Raid, Mozambique Survivors Still on the Run
A constant nervous smile on Julia Francisco’s face masks the anguish of fleeing extremist militants roaming northern Mozambique, then giving birth on a boat sailing in rough Indian ocean waters. Relieved to be now safe in Pemba, the capital city of northern Cabe Delgado province, the 21-year-old mother sat under a makeshift shelter at Paquitequete beach, holding her four-day-old daughter, loosely wrapped with a burgundy floral fabric. After eight days on a fishing boat, she spent the next three on the beach before being moved to a transit centre at a municipal stadium. Seven months pregnant at the time, Francisco was home when IS-linked militants struck Palma what locals believed was an impenetrable town, replete with soldiers protecting a multi-billion-dollar gas project. … Over the next few days, several hundred people were airlifted by humanitarian agencies or ferried by private companies vessels. But most were left to fend for themselves at Quitunda, a safe village near the heavily guarded gas plant. The scramble to escape Quitunda still rages on. Private fishing boats charge the equivalent of between $50 and $80 per trip to Pemba, a cripplingly steep fare for the country’s most impoverished region. AFP

Nigeria Protesters Block Highway after Kidnapping Surge
Hundreds of protesters partially blocked a highway into Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Monday after residents reported a spate of kidnappings in the area. Setting tyres on fire, a crowd barricaded a section of the Abuja-Kaduna highway in the Tafa area of Niger state, bordering the federal capital, an AFP journalist at the scene reported. “Kidnappers too much!” an angry young man shouted. A police outpost in the area, in Gauraka, was also vandalised and set ablaze by the protesters, Niger state police spokesman Wasiu Abiodun said. Marching along the highway, a dozen young men chanted: “Kidnapping must stop… We won’t accept this, kidnapping must stop!” “Five days ago, they kidnapped four people, and then they came back again, yesterday, and kidnapped 16 people,” one protester said. … “We are having serious chaos… We don’t sleep here, we don’t sleep at all… If there is no good reinforcement, the problem will go far beyond this,” another protester said. “We are not safe here… Please we are begging the government,” said a woman who said her sister lives in the area with her four children. AFP

Volcano Death Toll Rises as Aftershocks Shake DR Congo
Five people were found choked to death on toxic fumes from the eruption of eastern DR Congo’s Nyiragongo volcano on Monday, as strong aftershocks rocked the city of Goma. The deaths bring to 20 the number killed since Africa’s most active volcano erupted on Saturday, spewing red-hot molten lava that engulfed homes in its wake. “We have just discovered five dead people,” civil society leader Mambo Kawaya said, saying that they were “asphyxiated by the gas” as they tried to cross the cooling lava some 13 kilometers (eight miles) north of Goma. A sixth person is in a “critical state with trouble breathing and has been taken to hospital,” Kawaya said. Goma, a city of some 1.5 million people in the shadow of the volcano and on the shores of Lake Kivu, was on edge as violent aftershocks continued through the night and into Monday. “They’re multiplying and they come at any moment,” one resident told AFP, describing the aftershocks as “very worrying.”

Oxygen Shortages Threaten ‘Total Collapse’ of Dozens of Health Systems
Dozens of countries are facing severe oxygen shortages because of surging Covid-19 cases, threatening the “total collapse” of health systems. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism analysed data provided by the Every Breath Counts Coalition, the NGO Path and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to find the countries most at risk of running out of oxygen. It also studied data on global vaccination rates. Nineteen countries around the world – including India, Argentina, Iran, Nepal, the Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador and South Africa – are deemed most at risk after recording huge increases in demand since March – at least a 20% rise – while having vaccinated less than 20% of their populations. There are concerns that other Asian countries like Laos are at risk, and African countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, which have less mature oxygen delivery systems, meaning a small increase in need could create big problems. The Guardian

Military Gender Advocate of the Year Highlights ‘Crucial Gender Dimensions’ in Darfur
The UN chief on Monday, commended an award-winning Kenyan peacekeeper for her gender-mainstreaming work while serving in the restive Darfur region of Sudan. Secretary-General António Guterres lauded 32-year-old Military Gender Advisor Steplyne Nyaboga who served in the recently completed UN-African Hybrid Union Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), for the excellence of her work, for which she was awarded the 2021 UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award. “Peace and security can only be achieved and sustained if all members of society have equal opportunities, protection, access to resources and services and can participate in decision-making,” he said.  Reflecting on her peacekeeping role, Major Nyaboga said that she was “elated” that the UN’s efforts in serving humanity have had a positive impact and were being recognized. “Peacekeeping is a human enterprise: placing women and girls at the centre of our efforts and concerns, will help us better protect civilians and build a more sustainable peace,” she said. Major Nyaboga deployed to the UNAMID mission in February 2019. Throughout her two years in Zalingei, a town in western Sudan, she worked diligently to mainstream gender issues in military activities by bringing awareness to dynamics in the field. UN News



Photo: Adam Jones