Africa Media Review for May 26, 2021

Justice and Rule of Law Key to African Security
The integration of justice initiatives within conventional security efforts can mitigate conflict, improve societal resilience, and build a stronger culture supportive of the rule of law. As violent extremist groups have gained a foothold in parts of the Sahel in recent years, one of their strategies has been to exploit communities’ grievances over access to justice. It’s a potent message. Human rights abuses by security sector actors and perceptions of unjust treatment by government officials are key determinants of individuals’ decisions to join violent extremist groups in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, and the Horn of Africa. … The African Union’s Agenda 2063 lists justice, rule of law, and human rights as necessary pre-conditions for a peaceful and conflict-free continent. … In theory, most conceptions of the security sector already include justice sector institutions. The bigger challenges lie in practice. Namely, how can security actors use justice and rule of law to understand security problems in the first place? Likewise, how can they pursue solutions that encompass the many ways the rule of law shapes resilience? Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Mediators to Meet Detained Mali President and Prime Minister
West African mediators were due to meet on Wednesday with Mali’s interim president and prime minister, who are both detained by the military, in a bid to resolve a political crisis that has threatened to derail a transition back to democracy. The military arrested President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on Monday. Interim vice president Colonel Assimi Goita, who led a coup against the previous president last August, said on Tuesday he had stripped the men of their posts because they failed to consult him about a cabinet reshuffle. Mali’s neighbours and international powers have condemned the takeover, which they fear could further destabilise a country that Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have used as a launch pad for attacks across the region. The Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), the main regional bloc, dispatched a delegation to the capital Bamako on Tuesday. Led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, it met Goita late on Tuesday and will meet on Wednesday morning with Ndaw and Ouane, who are still being held at the Kati military base outside Bamako. Reuters

France Condemns ‘Coup D’éTat’ in Mali, Threatens EU Sanctions
France on Tuesday condemned the ousting of transitional leaders in Mali who had been tasked with steering the return to civilian rule after a coup last August. Calling the ousters a “coup d’etat,” President Emmanuel Macron threatened sanctions by the European Union. “We are ready in the coming hours to take targeted sanctions” against those responsible, Macron said in Brussels after a summit of bloc’s 27 leaders. Earlier, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament in Paris that France was seeking an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council — of which France is a permanent member — to discuss the situation. “France condemns with the greatest firmness the violent act that occurred in Mali yesterday,” Le Drian told parliament. … He said France would “bring about the meeting” of the UN Council “this morning New York time” to “consider the serious situation in Mali.” AFP

Somalia Minister Says Agreement Reached on Delayed Elections
Somalia’s foreign minister told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that an agreement has been reached between the federal government and regional states that will lead to long-delayed national elections. Mohamed Abdirizak said agreement on the three key issues to complete the deal was reached “in principle” Tuesday, culminating negotiations between the government and member states that began on May 22. He said a communique detailing the agreement will be issued Thursday at a closing ceremony. … There had been growing pressure on Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed after scheduled elections on Feb. 8 failed to take place because of the lack of agreement on how the vote should be carried out. Two regional states said they would not take part without a deal. … The foreign minister said the key outstanding issues had been the status of elections for the Somaliland representatives — which was being finalized “as we speak” — as well as election arrangements in the other regions and election committees, matters on which agreement has been reached. AP

Ethiopian Region of Tigray at ‘Serious Risk’ of Famine, Warns Top UN Official
A senior United Nations official has warned the Security Council that urgent measures are needed to avoid famine in the war-torn region of Tigray in Ethiopia, in a briefing seen by AFP. “There is a serious risk of famine if assistance is not scaled up in the next two months,” wrote Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in early November to disarm and detain leaders of the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps. More than six months later, Lowcock said, the fighting and abuses continue in Tigray, where the spectre of a famine has been hovering for several months. “Concrete measures are urgently needed to break the vicious cycle between armed conflict, violence and food insecurity,” Lowcock said in his two-and-a-half page note Tuesday. AFP

Ethiopia, Eritrea Forces Detain Hundreds in Tigray Camps
More than 500 people were rounded up by Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces in the northern region of Tigray on Monday night, witnesses told Reuters and AFP news agencies Tuesday. The raid reportedly occurred at four displacement camps in the town of Shire. Amnesty International Researcher Fisseha Tekele said troops beat up the detainees and confiscated their phones before forcing them onto trucks. She said the Tseheye and Adiwonfito camps were among those targeted by the troops. … The Ethiopian military has yet not commented on the reported arrests. Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel dismissed the incident as TPLF propaganda, and asserted Eritrea had no reason to round up internally displaced persons. Tigrayan official Tewodros Aregai told AFP that the arrests were likely triggered by reports that anti-government forces had infiltrated the displacement camps. Reuters/AFP

UN Peacekeeper Withdrawal Leaves Security Vacuum in Darfur
The joint UN-African Union mission, known by its acronym UNAMID, had been gradually drawing down since 2018, but its mandate was terminated in December – after 13 years on the ground – amid pressure from Sudan’s civilian-military transitional government. Many Darfuris believe the pullout has worsened the security situation, particularly in the conflict-hit town of El Geneina, where outbreaks of violence since January have cost hundreds of lives and exposed the weakness of Sudan’s security forces – now responsible for protecting civilians. In interviews with The New Humanitarian, recently displaced people from other parts of Darfur also cited the pullout as a factor motivating their decision to leave home following attacks, while several women at displacement camps said they have stopped leaving the sites altogether since UNAMID patrols ended. … The exit process has proved challenging. UNAMID bases and equipment handed over to authorities have been looted by militias, while Sudan’s government has been seeking control over mission assets intended for other peacekeeping forces. The New Humanitarian

Journalists in Burkina Faso Blocked from Accessing IDP Sites
Burkina Faso’s government has effectively banned local and foreign journalists from visiting official sites hosting people displaced by the country’s long-running conflict, Al Jazeera can reveal. A Burkina Faso government spokesperson confirmed the move in a WhatsApp message, saying “journalists and reporting teams’ safety and the dignity” of the internally displaced people (IDPs) were “essentially” the two reasons behind the ban. “In the future, these two factors should be taken into consideration and the government could then consider alternative arrangements,” the spokesperson added. … Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, Family and Humanitarian Action has been rejecting requests by journalists to visit IDP sites since as early as October 2020, one month before Burkina Faso’s election that returned President Roch Kabore to office. … There are more than 1.2 million IDPs – about one in 20 people in the country – spread across 269 official IDP sites, according to recent figures from the Burkinabe government. … Now, the ban has caused concern about press freedom and visibility for the country’s humanitarian crisis among journalists and aid workers alike… Al Jazeera

Turkey Under Fire Over Military Presence in Libya
International pressure is growing on Turkey over its military presence in Libya. Turkey deployed hundreds of soldiers and thousands of Syrian fighters in support of the Libyan Government of National Accord in its battle against forces of Libya’s General Khalifa Hafta, who is backed by Russian and Sudanese mercenaries. … Ankara insists its forces are in Libya at the invitation of Libya’s internationally recognized government. But this month, Libyan Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush called for all foreign fighters to leave, including Turkish forces. Turkey has already established an air base in Libya and Turkish media say Ankara is now seeking to build a naval base. The growing Turkish military presence has drawn strong criticism from France, which observers say is increasingly competing with Turkey for regional influence. VOA

Macron ‘Silent’ on Kagame Abuses: Rwanda Opposition Leaders
Two of Rwanda’s highest profile opposition leaders accused French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday of ignoring political repression and rights abuses in their country ahead of his historic trip to Kigali. Macron will arrive in Rwanda on Thursday and meet with his counterpart Paul Kagame, a former rebel leader who has ruled the east African country since the end of its 1994 genocide. It will be the first visit by a French leader since 2010, and represents a step in the diplomatic thaw between two countries long at odds over France’s role in the killing of some 800,000 Rwandans. But his visit has been described as “an insult” by government critics Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda, who have spent time in exile and jail and whose political parties are banned in Rwanda. … Kagame, the head of Rwanda’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has been accused by critics of crushing opponents and ruling by fear. AFP

A Botched Ransom Attempt? Ambassador’s Death in Congo May Not Be What It Seemed
At around 10:00 a.m. on Feb. 22, seven men, some armed, stepped onto a road in eastern Congo and forced two cars belonging to the United Nations World Food Programme to stop. Several minutes of heavy gunfire alerted a group of conservation rangers guarding workers on the scrubby slope above. The attackers left the road with their captives and walked up the open hillside straight towards the rangers, well known as the country’s best-trained fighters. When the group was around 100 metres away, the rangers fired warning shots, sparking a three-minute skirmish. The attackers fled, leaving Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Luca Attanasio, mortally wounded and his bodyguard dead. This account of the botched kidnapping, corroborated by three U.N. officials and an Italian judicial source – all with knowledge of probes into the attack – appears in an incident report by the Virunga National Park Rangers, seen by Reuters. Previously unreported, it paints a picture of a poorly planned, clumsily executed act, and runs counter to the assumption among some officials and media at the time that Attanasio was the target of a carefully orchestrated operation. Reuters

Aide: Western Sahara Movement Leader to Testify in Spain
The leader of the Western Sahara independence movement at the heart of a diplomatic spat between Spain and Morocco will appear before an investigating judge in Spain on June 1, representatives of the Polisario Front in Spain said Wednesday. Brahim Ghali heads the Polisario Front and the self-declared Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic based on refugee camps in western Algeria. He has been recovering from COVID-19 in a Spanish hospital, where he checked in with a false identity after arriving in the country with a diplomatic Algerian passport. His presence has irked Rabat, which annexed the Western Sahara in the 1970s, and has been tied to the sudden arrival of more than 8,000 migrants — many of them unaccompanied children — to a Spanish enclave in northern Africa that shares a border with Morocco.The Moroccan government has said that it won’t reinstate its ambassador to Madrid if Ghali leaves Spain with the same secrecy used for his arrival in mid-April and without answering for genocide allegations and other possible crimes that anti-Polisario groups accuse him of. AP

Shell, Agip, Heritage Record Highest Oil Spillage in Nigeria
Between January 2019 and May 18, 2021, a total of 30 oil companies in Nigeria spilt 41,216 barrels of crude, data published by NOSDRA, a government-run satellite tracker, showed. This is equivalent to 6.5 million litres of oil (at 159 litres to a barrel). The spills occurred in 846 cases of oil spillages in less than three years. … Last week, Shell cited sabotage, crude thefts as well as litigations with host communities as the reasons it is considering offloading the last of its Nigerian onshore assets in a move to rein back risks involved in operating in the Niger Delta. With Shell mulling divestment from the country’s oil scene, it could have a big impact on the Nigeria’s oil output, according to energy industry watcher S&P Global Platts. Also, an estimate says Nigeria has lost five to ten per cent of its mangrove ecosystems to either settlement or oil spills. Mr Henshaw explained that farming and fishing, major sources of income in the Niger Delta, are greatly affected as aquatic lives like periwinkles, crabs and the soil are depleted. “This is why when you look at unemployment in Nigeria, the Niger Delta region has always been among the highest. That’s to say that their sources of income have been affected,” he said. Premium Times

The Dark Side of Congo’s Cobalt Rush
In June, 2014, a man began digging into the soft red earth in the back yard of his house, on the outskirts of Kolwezi, a city in the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo. As the man later told neighbors, he had intended to create a pit for a new toilet. About eight feet into the soil, his shovel hit a slab of gray rock that was streaked with black and punctuated with what looked like blobs of bright-turquoise mold. He had struck a seam of heterogenite, an ore that can be refined into cobalt, one of the elements used in lithium-ion batteries. Among other things, cobalt keeps the batteries, which power everything from cell phones to electric cars, from catching fire. As global demand for lithium-ion batteries has grown, so has the price of cobalt. The man suspected that his discovery would make him wealthy—if he could get it out of the ground before others did. Southern Congo sits atop an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of cobalt, almost half the world’s known supply. In recent decades, hundreds of thousands of Congolese have moved to the formerly remote area. Kolwezi now has more than half a million residents. The New Yorker

Volcano Aftershocks Rock East DRC, Raise Fears of Fresh Eruption
Powerful aftershocks from the Mount Nyiragongo volcano have rocked the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as the death toll from a recent eruption that left hundreds of families displaced rose to 32. Three days after Africa’s most active volcano roared back into life, tremors were shaking the region every 10 to 15 minutes on Tuesday morning. Cracks several centimetres (more than an inch) wide appeared in the ground and on roads in several areas, including near the main hospital in Goma, a city of some two million people which lies about 12 kilometres (seven miles) from Mount Nyiragongo. “The situation in the city is confused. People don’t know which way to go,” a resident told AFP news agency. “Some are coming back, some are leaving, people are still afraid.” Al Jazeera

Consensus Reached for Year-End Who Talks on Pandemic Treaty – South Africa
South Africa said on Tuesday that consensus had been reached to hold a special ministerial session of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the end of the year to consider negotiating a new international treaty on pandemic preparedness. The WHO, whose handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is under scrutiny, has endorsed a proposal, initially made by the European Union, to negotiate a global treaty as a way to ensure countries’ political commitment to fighting outbreaks of new or particularly dangerous diseases. … South African ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi, speaking on behalf of 26 main sponsors of the resolution, told the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly that the special session would “consider the benefits for such a convention, agreement or other international instrument.” The resolution was likely to be formally adopted on Wednesday, diplomats said. Nkosi added: “Probably the most important lesson COVID-19 has taught us is the need for stronger and more agile collective defences against health threats as well as for building resilience to address future potential pandemics. “A new pandemic treaty is central to this.” … Simon Manley, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted: “Negotiations may take time, but this is a historic step towards global health security.” Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones