Africa Media Review for May 26, 2022

Gambia Ready to Prosecute Ex-Dictator Jammeh for Crimes Against Humanity
Gambian authorities on Wednesday released the long-awaited white paper by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) set up to probe crimes committed during the reign of former President Yahya Jammeh.  The TRRC’s findings were delivered after over two years of hearings, during which witnesses gave chilling evidence about torture, death squads, rape and witch hunts — often at the hands of Jammeh’s hit unit, known as the Junglers. Among the recommendations on the panel’s white paper is the prosecution of Jammeh and members of the Junglers and to provide support to victims of the former dictator’s brutal reign, which was notorious for crushing dissent through murder, disappearances, torture, rape and castration. The release of the white paper ends six months of waiting since the TRRC first released its findings into human rights abuses under Jammeh.  “Impunity is a kind of incentive that we are not prepared to serve perpetrators,” said Gambia’s justice minister, Dawda Jallow. DW

Hospital Fire Kills 11 Infants in Senegal as Outrage Builds over Neglect
At least 11 newborn babies have died after a fire blazed through a public hospital’s neonatal unit in Senegal, the West African nation’s president said Thursday. The flames tore through Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in the city of Tivaouane, about 60 miles northeast of the capital, Dakar, setting off grief and outrage over disrepair at some of the country’s health-care facilities. A politician and public works engineer, Cheikh Bamba Dièye, called for a thorough review of Senegal’s medical centers, saying he was “appalled by the horrific and unacceptable death” following a “recurrence of tragedies.” Four newborns were killed last year in a fire at a maternity ward in the northern town of Linguère. At the time, the mayor blamed an air conditioning malfunction. Amnesty International’s Senegal director, Seydi Gassama, demanded action from the nation’s leaders Wednesday, saying this kind of tragedy had become a pattern. “We sympathize with the pain of the bereaved families,” he said, “and urge the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to locate those responsible and punish the culprits.” Yacine Thiobane, a social worker in Tivaouane, said she was called to the hospital just before midnight Wednesday to comfort families. She found a heart-wrenching scene: People gathered outside. Sobbing mothers. Firefighters removing the bodies. “The babies were burned to death,” Thiobane said. “The reality is, the system is sick and needs reform.” Washington Post

US Threatens Sanctions on Sudanese Blocking Democracy Return
The United States on Tuesday urged rapid progress from military to civilian rule in Sudan and threatened sanctions on anyone impeding or blocking the transition to democracy. Richard Mills, deputy U.S. ambassador at the United Nations, said Washington supports a joint effort by the U.N. political mission in Sudan, the African Union and the eight-nation regional group IGAD to facilitate a Sudanese-led shift to democracy. Speaking before the Security Council, he strongly encouraged Sudanese civilians and military to use this process to move quickly “on the framework for a civilian-led transitional government.” Sudan has been in turmoil since an October military coup upended its short-lived transition to democracy after three decades of repressive rule by strongman Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir and his Islamist-backed government were removed in a popular uprising in April 2019. AP

Sudan Doctors: 48 Injured in May 23 March of Millions
The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors reported that 48 injuries were recorded in the May 23 Marches of Millions, including eight injuries to the head with tear gas and cases of birdshot and rubber bullet injuries. The committee said in a field report yesterday that Omdurman recorded 38 injuries, along with five injuries in Khartoum, and four injuries in Khartoum North. A large number of Sudanese took part in the marches on Monday, called for by the resistance committees under the slogan “we will not be broken” to denounce the excessive violence in the face of Saturday’s demonstrations. Demonstrators in Omdurman, Khartoum, and Khartoum North (Bahri) all moved towards El Arbaeen street (renamed Martyr Abdelazim Street) in Omdurman. The police fired tear gas and used excessive violence against the protesters and tried to impede the arrival of the demonstrators from Khartoum North to Omdurman. Dabanga

Russian Mercenaries Accused over Use of Mines and Booby Traps in Libya
Russian mercenaries in Libya systematically broke international law by laying mines in civilian areas without any attempt to mark their location or remove the lethal devices, UN investigators have found. According to a confidential UN report that will be made public in the coming weeks, fighters from the Wagner Group, a private military company that has been repeatedly linked to the Kremlin by western officials, also rigged booby traps to powerful explosive anti-tank weapons that were responsible for the death of two mine clearers working for an NGO. Investigators suspect that a booby trap found in a civilian neighbourhood in Tripoli – made of a mortar shell and plastic explosive attached to a teddy bear – was also the work of Wagner fighters. The conclusions of the report, by a specialist team that works for a UN committee charged with monitoring the sanctions regime and arms embargo on Libya, will reinforce growing concern in western capitals about the role played by Wagner across Africa. Guardian

As Monkeypox Panic Spreads, Doctors in Africa See a Double Standard
In a part of Nigeria that has dealt with monkeypox outbreaks for years, one doctor saw the photos circulating in Western media this week and chuckled. “Those are the very severe cases,” said Oyewale Tomori, a virologist in the nation’s southwest. “Like, ‘Ahh! This is monkeypox!’ ” The virus — discovered five decades ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo — causes mild illness in most people, along with blisters that usually clear up in weeks, he said. It’s much less transmissible than the coronavirus and much less deadly than Ebola. There’s already an effective vaccine.What bothers infectious-disease experts across the continent is the double standard that has emerged since monkeypox grabbed the world’s attention: Few seemed to care, or even notice, until people in the West started getting sick. In the past two weeks, cases of the animal-borne virus typically found in West and Central Africa have popped up in the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel and a growing number of European countries. There have been at least 92 confirmed infections and no deaths. Belgium has imposed a 21-day quarantine. President Biden assured Americans that the United States has enough vaccine stocks to address the threat. Yet global alarm bells didn’t sound as several African nations battled outbreaks in recent months. The graphic images blazing across social media — some of the same ones used to illustrate monkeypox since the 1970s — rarely feature White patients. Washington Post

African Union Head to Push Russia, Ukraine to Unblock Grain Exports
Senegal’s president and African Union chairman Macky Sall said on Wednesday that when he visits Russia and Ukraine in the coming weeks he will push them to unblock exports of grains and fertilizer to avoid widespread famine. Africa is suffering from disruptions in food supply and soaring prices of basic goods and risks “disastrous consequences” if the situation endures, Sall said during a conversation with philanthropist Mo Ibrahim at the Ibrahim Governance Forum. Nearly half of Africa’s 54 countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for wheat imports, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. Russia is also a major supplier of fertilizer to at least 11 countries… “There are multiple initiatives to call on countries that have (grain) stocks to liberate them … and to ensure that Russia can authorize the export of cereals from Ukraine and can also export itself. This is the African position,” he said. Parts of Africa are already facing record hunger levels, driven by insecurity, climate shocks and the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Reuters

Pfizer to Offer Low-Cost Medicines, Vaccines to Poor Nations
Pfizer said Wednesday that it will provide nearly two dozen products, including its top-selling COVID-19 vaccine and treatment, at not-for-profit prices in some of the world’s poorest countries. The drugmaker announced the program at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, and said it was aimed at improving health equity in 45 lower-income countries. Most of the countries are in Africa, but the list also includes Haiti, Syria, Cambodia and North Korea. The products, which are widely available in the U.S. and the European Union, include 23 medicines and vaccines that treat infectious diseases, some cancers and rare and inflammatory conditions. Company spokeswoman Pam Eisele said only a small number of the medicines and vaccines are currently available in the 45 countries. New York-based Pfizer will charge only manufacturing costs and “minimal” distribution expenses, Eisele said. It will comply with any sanctions and all other applicable laws. AP

Protesters from Far-Left South Africa Party Tell France to ‘Get Out of Africa’
“You killed a lot of people in Africa. Why are you so scared today?” the party’s firebrand opposition leader Julius Malema shouted into a microphone, saying he was speaking to “French white supremacists”. Armed police guarded the embassy. French ambassador Aurelien Lechevallier emerged briefly to receive their demands. “We are friends to African nations,” he said. The protesters arrived in buses hired by the party, according to AFP correspondents. Malema, a master of political theatre, broke away from the ruling African National Congress nine years ago. He has attracted millions of supporters, especially among workers and the unemployed. He routinely denounces European and American imperialism, and has supported Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. France 24

‘It’s a Time Bomb’: Growing Anger Among Kenyans as Britain Refuses to Redress Colonial Landgrab
When Paul Chepkwony was sworn in as governor of the Kenyan county of Kericho in 2013, he knew it meant embarking on a huge mission. The Kipsigis and Talai peoples saw his election as an opportunity to finally right the wrongs of a brutal colonial past, which saw their clans ruthlessly evicted by the British army between 1895 and 1963 to make way for profitable tea plantations owned by settlers. The plantations still exist today, spanning approximately 200,000 acres of land owned by well-known multinational corporations – Unilever, Williamson Tea and Finlays – which produce tea consumed by millions. Meanwhile, hundreds of forcibly displaced victims, now elderly, and tens of thousands of their descendants live on the outskirts of their ancestral land, many of them in poverty. They are not permitted to access their old family homes and cannot even bury loved ones on the land. Many of the victims suffered rape, torture, beatings and humiliation at the hands of the colonial administration, as well as arbitrary displacement and violations of their right to family life and property. Mr Chepkwony, himself a descendant of victims, came into office nine years ago determined to put up a peaceful fight for reparations from the British government for this historical injustice. Independent

For New Somalia Government, Al-Shabab a Threat to Authority
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab is projecting authority and asserting a wider role in public life in this troubled Horn of Africa nation, underlining the extent of the challenge Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group presents to the newly elected government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The threats range beyond regular attacks on places frequented by officials and include militant control of vast territory where federal officials don’t dare go and can’t even collect taxes. The group, which seeks to create an Islamic caliphate out of Somalia, is also increasingly undermining authorities by offering a parallel justice system — enforced by the threat of violence — in a country where many have little faith in conventional courts. Some people who spoke to the AP expressed a favorable view of al-Shabab, saying its mobile courts are not corrupt and that the group appears able to protect vulnerable people in ways the federal government cannot. “You will get justice in al-Shabab courtrooms if you know you are doing the right thing,” said farmer Muallim Abdi, a father of eight children who lives in another al-Shabab-controlled village near Mogadishu. “But in the government-controlled areas it will take time, and the formal courts are corrupt.” AP

Somalia Prime Minister Suspends Foreign Minister Abdisaid Muse
Somalia’s prime minister has suspended his foreign affairs minister over allegations that he authorized an illegal shipment of charcoal to Oman. The Somali government banned charcoal exports a decade ago to prevent deforestation and the funding of conflicts. However, analysts say the shipment was not the real reason for the suspension. The suspension of Foreign Affairs Minister Abdisaid Muse is equivalent to a dismissal and came after he authorized a ship to leave Somalia carrying a load of charcoal. The shipment violates Somalia’s laws preventing charcoal exports. However, Muse’s suspension was long expected because Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble is expected to be replaced by incoming Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Isak Farhan, deputy director of Somali Public Agenda, a research group based in Mogadishu, notes that Muse was close to outgoing Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, and had ignored letters from the prime minister, including one that fired African Union Special Envoy to Somalia Francisco Maidera. Voice of America

Niger Says Army Killed 40 Boko Haram Fighters on Lake Chad Islands
The Niger government said Wednesday that the army had killed around 40 Boko Haram jihadis in overnight fighting on islets in Lake Chad. “Some 100 Boko Haram fighters arrived in four large wooden canoes and an armed speedboat” and attempted to attack troops on the islets of the lake, which borders Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, the defense ministry said. The soldiers “forced the assailants to flee with several dead in their ranks,” the ministry said. A subsequent operation in the area “led to the neutralization of some 40 fighters” and the recovery of several weapons along with ammunition and explosives. On the army side, seven soldiers were injured when their vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device, the ministry said. The Lake Chad basin, and its countless small islands, has become one of the main havens for jihadis from Nigeria’s Boko Haram and its dissident branch, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). Voice of America

 



Photo: Adam Jones