Africa Media Review for May 27, 2021

Biden Urges Ceasefire in Ethiopia’s Tigray, Says Rights Abuses ‘Must End’
US President Joe Biden condemned the six-month conflict in Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray region Wednesday, calling for a ceasefire and declaring that human rights abuses “must end.” “I am deeply concerned by the escalating violence and the hardening of regional and ethnic divisions in multiple parts of Ethiopia,” Biden said in a White House statement. “The large-scale human rights abuses taking place in Tigray, including widespread sexual violence, are unacceptable and must end.” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed initially sent troops into Tigray in November after accusing the once-dominant regional ruling party of orchestrating attacks on federal army camps. Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, declared victory later that month when the army entered the regional capital Mekele. But fighting continues and the half-year conflict has sparked allegations of massacres and rape by Ethiopian forces and troops from neighboring Eritrea. “Belligerents in the Tigray region should declare and adhere to a ceasefire, and Eritrean and Amhara forces should withdraw,” Biden said, referring to the Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south. AFP

Mali’s Transitional President Resigns While in Detention
Mali’s transitional president and prime minister will be released from detention gradually after resigning in the presence of international arbitrators who are in the West African nation to mediate the political crisis, the adviser to the military authority who detained the two leaders said late Wednesday. The resignation by the leader of an 18-month civilian transitional government risks plunging the troubled nation into further instability. The U.N. Security Council indicated Wednesday after a closed meeting that the resignations were forced and demanded an immediate resumption of the civilian-led transition and return of the military to their barracks. The world body, along with the African Union and other international bodies, as well as the U.S., have urged Mali’s military to release the transitional leaders. … The U.N. Security Council met Wednesday over Mali and in a statement condemned the arrests and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all the officials detained. The statement, which was approved by all 15 council members after closed consultations, said that “imposing a change of transitional leadership by force, including through forced resignations, is unacceptable.” AP

Southern African Leaders Hold Summit on Jihadist Threat
Leaders of the southern African regional bloc SADC will hold an extraordinary summit on Thursday in Maputo to discuss the violence engulfing northern Mozambique, the South African presidency said Wednesday. The top-level meeting of the Southern African Development Community was postponed in April because of scheduling conflicts. President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead South Africa’s delegation to the talks, the presidency said in a statement. “The SADC Extraordinary Double Troika will discuss terrorism engulfing the region, including insecurity in the Cabo Delgado Province in the Republic of Mozambique,” it said. The meeting is expected to discuss the possibility of SADC deploying 3,000 troops to battle the insurgents. Jihadist violence has escalated in the gas-rich north of Mozambique since it broke out in late 2017. Islamic State-linked militants launched coordinated attacks on the northern town of Palma on March 24, ransacking buildings and murdering residents as thousands fled into the surrounding bush. The Defense Post with AFP

Suspected Islamists Kill 22 with Knives, Machetes in Eastern Congo
Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 22 civilians with knives and machetes in an overnight raid on villages near the town of Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said on Wednesday. Just over three weeks ago the government declared martial law in North Kivu and Ituri, two provinces bordering Uganda, in an attempt to stem worsening bloodshed. … Jean-Paul Katembo, head of the Bulongo commune, said the known death toll stood at 22. Several more villagers are believed to have been kidnapped, he said, blaming the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militia active in eastern Congo since the 1990s. In Bulongo village, puddles of red blood had stained the dirt street, which was scattered with single shoes, a ring of keys and other personal items lost during the attack. More than 1,200 civilians have been killed in Beni territory since November 2019, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, when the army began an operation aimed at ending the ADF’s insurgency. Reuters

Thousands Evacuate Congo’s Goma Amid More Volcanic Activity
Tens of thousands of people are fleeing the city of Goma in eastern Congo fearing another volcanic eruption by Mount Nyiragongo, which spewed lava near the city last week. Traffic was jammed and pedestrians streamed through the streets, desperate to escape the impending danger. A new eruption could occur at any moment, the military governor of Congo’s North Kivu province, Lt. Gen. Constat Ndima Kongba, announced early Thursday. He ordered the evacuation of 10 of the 18 neighborhoods in the city of 2 million people. The center of Goma, which was spared when the volcano erupted last week, is now under threat, with activity being reported near the urban area and Lake Kivu, Kongba said. “Based on these scientific observations, we cannot currently rule out an eruption on land or under the lake. And this could happen with very little (or no) warning,” he said. An eruption under Lake Kivu could also have harmful consequences by leading to an explosion of gas in the lake, which could destroy parts of Goma and Gisenyi in neighboring Rwanda. AP

In Pictures: The World’s Most Neglected Crises
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the world’s most neglected number of displaced people, according to a new report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Unveiling its annual index, the aid agency said on Thursday that a recorded two million people were displaced last year in the DRC. And with 27 million people, including more than three million children who do not know where their next meal is coming from, it has the greatest number of people in the world who face food insecurity. “DRC is one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century,” said NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland. “A lethal combination of spiralling violence, record hunger levels and total neglect has ignited a mega-crisis that warrants a mega-response. But instead, millions of families on the brink of the abyss seem to be forgotten by the outside world and are left shut off from any support lifeline.” Countries in Africa dominated this year’s list of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises once again, with DRC topping the list, followed by Cameroon, Burundi, Venezuela, Honduras, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Mali. Al Jazeera

Tanzania Reverses Decision to Withdraw from the African Court
Tanzania has said that it is yet to withdraw from the African Court of Human and People’s Rights. The court, African Union’s apex human rights mechanism, has jurisdiction to hear cases alleging violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Tanzania’s Foreign and EAC Minister Ms Liberata Mulamula said that the country did not withdraw but only wanted its citizens who were aggrieved to first exhaust the local court processes before proceeding to the African Court. “We have not withdrawn from that court. But what we are saying is that let us start with our courts. If it doesn’t work, then we can proceed to the African Court,” said Ms Mulamula. The then Tanzania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Prof Palamagamba Kabudi signed the notice of withdrawal on November 14, 2019 and deposited it with the African Union Commission chairperson on November 21. … But Ms Mulamula, who was recently appointed by President Samia Suluhu Hasan to replace Prof Kabudi, has said the reversal is not yet finalised. … The other African countries that have withdrawn their citizens’ rights and NGOs to file cases to the court include Rwanda, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire. The EastAfrican

South Sudan Starts to Draft Its Constitution
South Sudan began Tuesday to draft a final constitution in the aim of cementing a fragile peace almost a decade after it won independence. President Salva Kiir presided over a ceremony that launched the process, part of a peace deal reached with rival Riek Machar in 2018. The world’s youngest country, South Sudan has been governed by provisional constitutions during the years of civil war that followed independence in July 2011. … The ceremony was attended by all sides that signed the 2018 accord, along with international envoys from the African Union, European Union and United Nations. Few provisions of the truce have been honoured however, and analysts have warned of the threat of a return to war in an oil-rich country that remains severely underdeveloped and poorly managed. For Oyet Nathaniel, who represented the former rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) of Machar who is now vice president, the constitution to be finalised within two years must curb some presidential powers. AFP

Sudan and Main Rebel Group Kick Off Peace Talks in Juba
Sudan’s transitional government and the main rebel group have kicked off a new round of peace talks, officials have said, the latest effort to end a decades-long conflict in the East African country. South Sudan President Salva Kiir is hosting the talks between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Popular Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu. General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling sovereign council, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and al-Hilu attended a ceremonial meeting on Wednesday. Afterwards, delegations from the government and the rebel group were to continue their closed deliberations in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, according to the prime minister’s office. Kiir urged both sides to “embrace the spirit of dialogue and let their attention shift to peace instead of thinking of war.” … the talks come less than two months after the government and the rebel group signed a declaration of principles detailing a road map for the talks. Al-Hilu’s movement is Sudan’s single largest rebel group and is active in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces, where it controls significant chunks of territory. Al Jazeera

Lake Chad Basin Commission Summit: Sudan Supports Efforts to Stabilise Lake Chad Basin Countries
A member of the Transitional Sovereign Council, Ibrahim Jaber, affirmed Sudan’s keenness and support for efforts to enhance security and stability in the Lake Chad Basin countries. Jabir made his remarks at the extraordinary summit of Heads of State and Government of Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria on Tuesday. Jabir expressed Sudan’s interest in implementing the outcome of the summit, pointing it is the only way to achieve peace in the region. … Ambassador Khaled Farah, Director of the African Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the meeting agreed to tighten coordination between the security and military agencies to address the current challenges in Lake Chad countries. Besides the host President Muhammadu Buhari, the summit was attended by Presidents of Niger, the Central African Republic and Mahamat Idriss Deby President of the Transitional Military Council of the Republic of Chad. Sudan, Libya and Cameroon leaders were represented by senior members of their governments. Also, the meeting was attended by representatives from the African Union, France, the U.S. and the UK. Sudan Tribune

How Nigeria Can Overcome Security Challenges – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that addressing Nigeria’s security challenges requires the joint efforts of all Nigerians. Mr Buhari said this on Wednesday at the opening of a four-day special summit on national security organised by the House of Representatives in Abuja. The president commended the House for creating the forum to allow stakeholders brainstorm on issues affecting the country and the way forward. Mr Buhari, represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said security had become a major concern at global, regional and national levels. “Nigeria shares land borders with Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger; and maritime boundaries with Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe. The challenges these borders pose to our national security and interest are enormous; the instability and conflict in the Chad basin alone deserves close attention. Our nation has to grabble with various forms of internal security issues over the past decade in all geo-political zones. Addressing them effectively to restore peace and security remains the responsibility of all Nigerians in and out of public office and our democratic institutions,’’ he said. NAN

Nigeria’s Court Strike Paralyses Underfunded Justice System
A nationwide strike of court workers in Nigeria is paralysing the justice system, resulting in extended prison remands for those awaiting trial or sentencing and lengthy delays for everyone else. … The union said the industrial action was to demand financial autonomy for courts, rather than relying on the often corrupt system of funding from state governors, who are regularly accused of misusing funds, with several convicted of fraud. Nigeria’s constitution gives the judiciary financial autonomy from state governors and heads of courts access to a federal fund. But the government did not comply with this provision in the 1999 constitution until the union took action in 2014 – the second in three nationwide strikes by Nigeria’s court staff. Last year, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, signed an executive order to implement the provision at state level. But governors have refused to comply and threatened legal action. The union said the dependence on the executive for funds has affected the day-to-day running of the justice system. … Inibehe Effiong, a lawyer and activist, said: “The closure is a painful but necessary action that had to be taken because in the long run, if the judiciary is not functioning independently, access to justice is going to suffer. The Guardian

US Law Enforcement Participate in Exercise Phoenix Express to Help Tackle Maritime Crime
Law enforcement experts from the US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) conducted a subject matter expert exchange hosted by US Africa Command in Bizerte, Tunisia during exercise Phoenix Express, on 18 May. Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three regional maritime exercises executed by US Naval Forces Africa as part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners in order to address maritime security concerns, US Naval Forces Europe and Africa said. During their talks, interagency partners shared best practices as it related to key regional challenges such as illicit trafficking (human, arms, drug), piracy and maritime crime. … In North Africa, more than half of economic activity relies on safe and lawful use of the maritime domain, making maritime security and partnerships essential to economic development and sustainment. … “We need our partners to help with investigating international crimes,” said Baldwin. “Just like the Department of Defence, law enforcement can’t tackle these challenges on our own.” defenceWeb

Kenya’s Kisumu Emerges as New COVID-19 Hotspot
Kenya’s western city of Kisumu has surpassed the capital, Nairobi, as having the country’s highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections. The jump in cases comes a day after an opposition leader addressed large crowds in Kisumu, which also reported Kenya’s first case of the variant first spotted in India. According to the Health Ministry, the county of Kisumu is recording a high number of COVID-19 positive cases. The lakeside city Tuesday recorded almost a third of all 382 positive cases recorded in the country. Kisumu County Health Minister Boaz Otieno says the outbreak has escalated over past 10 days or so. “We are a major transmission zone to date,” said Otieno. “We have over 4,000 cases that have been confirmed as of the end of last week, and about 3,000 or so of them had been diagnosed in the last seven days.” Otieno blames Kisumu’s increase on the easing of restrictions in the capital Nairobi and surrounding areas. … Health officials have warned the country may witness another wave of cases in July if people continue to disregard health protocols designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. VOA

Use Africa’s Rich Heritage as ‘Catalyst’ for Transformation, Urges Guterres
A call to use Africa’s rich cultural and natural heritage as a catalyst for growth and transformation is “the right appeal at the right time,” the UN chief told a three-day forum on the continent’s future held online on Wednesday. Opening the 2021 Africa Dialogue Series, Secretary-General António Guterres said that the discussions highlight “the importance of arts, culture and heritage in building the Africa we want.” “I welcome your focus on cultural identity,” he added. Against the backdrop of a global spread of hate and intolerance, the UN chief stressed that “we must not only defend diversity but invest in it.” “Societies today are multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural,” he reminded. “This is a richness, not a threat.” To ensure that every community feels its culture and identity is being respected, Mr. Guterres underscored that better ways must be found to “redress the ills of the past that have bred mistrust and division.” He asserted that an emphasis on culture, heritage and shared values can help “build unity and common purpose,” which could also help overcome disruption due to COVID, and foster peaceful, sustainable development. UN News

Militants Attacked a Key Town in Mozambique. Where Was the Government?
Insurgents who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State attacked the strategic town of Palma in March. We interviewed survivors and used videos, satellite imagery and ship-tracking data to show how Mozambique’s government failed to protect its civilians — leaving thousands to fend for themselves. [Video] The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones