Africa Media Review for May 28, 2021

Somalia Averts Crisis as Leaders Agree to Hold Delayed Elections within Months
Somalia’s federal government and leaders of most of its regional entities announced an agreement Thursday on long-delayed national elections, heading off a crisis that had threatened to return the country to widespread political violence. The agreement laid out a path for parliamentary elections to begin within 60 days, with the selection of the president to follow. The presidential selection was planned initially for early February, but disagreements about particulars first delayed the process and then led President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, widely known by his nickname Farmajo, to postpone them for two years, allowing him to stay in office in the interim. Facing a potential uprising led by his political opponents and withering pressure from the United States and other Western backers, Mohamed reversed that decision this month and returned to talks that yielded Thursday’s announcement. Elections in Somalia are considered key to cementing the stability of a government in Mogadishu that has only recently taken root after more than three decades of civil warfare waged by Islamists and rival clans. The Washington Post

Regional Bloc Holds off on Military Response to Mozambique Insurgency
A bloc of southern African nations said on Thursday it will work to shore up Mozambique’s security forces as they battle an escalating insurgency linked to Islamic State, but made no mention of proposals for a military intervention. Members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including neighbouring South Africa, have favoured the idea of regional military action as the violence has worsened and the threat to regional stability has grown. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi, however, has said in the past Mozambique should handle certain aspects of the response alone for reasons of sovereignty, and resisted suggestions of foreign boots on the ground. In remarks following a SADC meeting in the capital Maputo, Nyusi said leaders had concluded the summit with a clearer sense of the “concrete steps” that needed to be taken to quell the violence. … The summit had noted the progress in finding a lasting solution to the violence, considered the proposed regional response and agreed to convene another meeting in Mozambique by June 20, the communique said. Reuters

EU Military Mission to Mozambique May Be Operating in Months, Bloc Says
The European Union could have a military training mission in place in Mozambique within several months, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said on Friday, helping the southern African country tackle Islamist insurgents. “I think we could be able to approve this mission,” Josep Borrell told reporters ahead of an EU defence ministers meeting in Lisbon where the subject was due to be discussed. The problem is to find additional countries besides Portugal to supply troops, he added. Borrell has previously said 200-300 personnel could be sent by the end of the year. Portugal sent 60 soldiers to its former colony Mozambique this month to begin training soldiers to counter the insurgency, share intelligence and use drones to track militants’ movements. Portuguese Defence Minister Joao Cravinho said 7-8 other countries had expressed willingness to send troops but declined to name them. Portugal would be the “principal participant” in the mission, he said. Reuters

Germany Recognizes Mass Killings in Colonial Namibia as Genocide
Germany is formally recognizing as genocide the killing of tens of thousands of people from two ethnic groups in what is now Namibia in the early 20th century, the foreign ministry said on Friday, a major acknowledgment of colonial-era crimes. Germany is asking for forgiveness and establishing a fund worth more than a billion euros to support projects in the affected communities. Successive German governments denied the country’s responsibility for the killings, in contrast to its earnest and transparent atonement for the Nazi Holocaust that has been a cornerstone of the country’s post-World War II identity. The recognition was reached after six years of negotiations between the governments of Germany and Namibia, which Germany occupied as a colonial power from 1884 to 1915. Between 1904 and 1908, German soldiers killed tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people, who launched the biggest — and last — rebellion against the occupiers who had taken their lands. … Increasing international awareness about the importance of recognizing such colonial-era crimes applied pressure that led to the acknowledgment on Friday. The New York Times

Nigeria’s New Chief of Army Staff, Faruk Yahaya
Faruk Yahaya replaces Ibrahim Attahiru, who died on May 21 in a military plane crash in Kaduna while on official assignment. The new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Faruk Yahaya, a major general, was born on January 5, 1966 in Sifawa, Bodinga Local Government Area of Sokoto state. Mr Yahaya, who is a member of the 37 Regular Course of the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), started his cadet training on September 27, 1985 and was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Infantry Corps on September 22, 1990. Mr Yahaya has held several appointments including Staff, Instructional and Command. Notable among the appointments held by the new COAS are Garrison Commander Headquarters Guards Brigade, Directing Staff at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Deputy Director Army Headquarters Department of Military Secretary, Deputy Director Army Research and Development and the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield. Premium Times

What Abubakar Shekau’s Reported Death Means for Nigeria’s Security
On May 19, Abubakar Shekau, longtime leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram armed group, was reported dead – again. While details remain murky, local media reports citing intelligence sources claimed Shekau detonated his suicide vest when rival fighters of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) tried to capture him in his hideout in Sambisa forest in northeastern Nigeria. Shekau has been reported killed or seriously wounded several times in recent years, including in official statements released by Nigeria’s military – only to resurface in online videos weeks later to ridicule such declarations. This time, the Nigerian army has said it is investigating the reports and has yet to issue a definitive statement. Still, the reports have been met with mixed reactions and raised questions about the security implications in the country. “What a Shekau death means is the Islamic State [ISWAP] is set to come out as the dominant player in the other side of the conflict, which of course means more problems for the Nigerian military,” Confidence MacHarry, geopolitical security analyst at Lagos-based SBM Intelligence, told Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera

South Africa Starts Jabs for Elderly as Virus Surge Looms
South Africa is in a race against time to vaccinate as many people as possible amid signs the virus may be surging again with the approach of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, when people spend more time indoors, typically allowing for more spread of disease. It is also a critical front in the fight against the virus in Africa, with South Africa recording 40% of the continent’s COVID-19 deaths. Since January, South Africa has vaccinated nearly 500,000 of its 1.2 million health care workers and now is adding its older citizens to the campaign. In the past two weeks nearly 200,000 have received the Pfizer jabs with instructions to come back in six weeks to get their second dose. “I am getting the vaccine because I want to be alive,” 76-year-old Elizabeth Mokwena said. “I know it’s the best thing for me to do against this COVID.” After a plateau of the disease that lasted a few months, South Africa’s new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are trending up. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 3.33 per 100,000 people on May 12 to 3.97 per 100,000 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. AP

Kenya: Health Experts Probing New Coronavirus Strain
Medical researchers are investigating a mystery variant of coronavirus that could be specific to Kenya, the Health ministry reported yesterday. The strain discovered on May 17 from routine samples collected in Kisumu, is said to have characteristics of both Indian (B.1.617) and the UK (B.1.1.7) variants. The variant is, however, still under investigation to establish its genetic composition. “This new variant still needs further characterisation and therefore our scientists are still sequencing to find out whether it truly falls under the variants concern,” said Dr Francis Kuria, the director of public health at the ministry. … He said it would take up to a month or more of genomic surveillance to fully characterise the new strain, which he said was a product of local transmission. This means that the new variant is within the community and is already spreading, a concern for the fight against the pandemic. … “We are going to upscale contact tracing in the country so that we prevent the new variant from spreading,” he told reporters in Nairobi. … So far, there are four variants of concern globally — Indian, UK, South African and Brazilian. The Indian variant has been identified to spread faster than the others. The EastAfrican

In Abiy’s Ethiopia, Press Freedom Flourished Then Fear Returned
When Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over in 2018 and freed dozens of jailed members of the media as part of a raft of political reforms, journalist Dessu Dulla rushed home from the Netherlands. The 45-year-old, now a deputy editor at a local online news outlet, said he had fled repression in 2004. He initially savoured new freedoms under Abiy, who won global plaudits including the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize which noted his work on “discontinuing media censorship.” Three years on, Dessu and four other Ethiopian journalists interviewed by Reuters say they once again fear a knock on the door. At least 21 journalists and media workers have been detained since early 2020, some international media watchdogs say. Dessu was arrested last year while reporting on the arrest of a political activist in his restive home region Oromiya. He and two colleagues were never charged but were held for three months. “I thought it would be another era and that democracy and freedom of speech may be restored, but actually things are deteriorating, so many journalists have fled the country and some are in jail,” he told Reuters by phone from Addis Ababa. Reuters

Egypt President in Djibouti to Forge Ties Amid Nile Dispute
The Egyptian president held talks on Thursday with his counterpart in Djibouti as part of Egyptian diplomatic attempts to build more African alliances amid an ongoing water dispute with Ethiopia. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s visit to the Horn of Africa nation is the first by an Egyptian president since Djibouti declared independence in 1977. El-Sissi and Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh agreed that the Ethiopian dam should be filled and operated according to “a fair and binding legal agreement” that could maintain regional stability and preserve the interests of all parties, el-Sissi’s office said in a statement. … The visit comes amid mounting tension between Egypt and Sudan on one hand and Ethiopia on the other, over Ethiopia’s $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, a main tributary of the Nile River. Egypt and Sudan fear that the Ethiopian reservoir would affect their water shares, especially in times of drought. AP

‘Talks with Holdout Groups to Resume in June’ -Sant’Egidio
The secretary-general of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Paolo Impagliazzo says talks between the South Sudan government and holdout opposition parties will resume in June in Rome, Italy, though specific dates are yet to be set. Speaking to Radio Tamazuj this week, Impagliazzo said talks with the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) led by Gen. Thomas Cirillo scheduled for early this month were postponed following the death of the rebel General Abraham Wani and other security concerns. “That is why we are still in discussion with the representatives of SSOMA to set up a new date for the dialogue. Of course security concerns but also the discuss outstanding issues on the declaration of principles that the government of South Sudan and SSOMA discussed last December. We have to take some steps forward to achieve the declaration of principles,” he said. The Community of Sant’Egidio is also mediating talks between the government and SSOMA faction led by General Paul Malong and Pagan Amum. Radio Tamazuj

Kagame the Winner as Macron Gives Genocide Speech in Rwanda
President Emmanuel Macron has asked for “the gift of forgiveness” from the people of Rwanda after admitting for the first time that France bears a “terrible responsibility” for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the 1994 genocide. The French premier’s visit to the east African country, as well as his words of contrition, will be seen as a major diplomatic success for Rwanda’s veteran ruler, Paul Kagame, now in his 27th year in power. Speaking at the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, the capital, Macron said that France had not been complicit in the genocide but had made errors of judgment that had appalling consequences. … Analysts said the visit would help deflect criticism of repression of opposition voices in Rwanda and other human rights abuses. “It’s an absolute victory for Kagame on so many levels and, even though this is about the role that France played in 1994, it also in many ways absolutely legitimises his government today, and I think that’s where the problem is,” said Stephanie Wolters, an expert at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg. “We have accumulated knowledge over the last few years … that shows very clearly that this is not a regime that you want to be praising.” The Guardian

In Congo, Masses Flee One of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes
Tens of thousands of people jammed highways, crowded boats and set off on foot to flee this major African city on Thursday, seeking an escape from the rumbling threat of Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes. … A new fissure could rip open at any moment, said Benoît Smets, a geological hazards expert at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, who is part of an international team working to assist the Goma Volcano Observatory, the only monitoring station in the region. … The unstable political situation in the country, wracked for decades by civil wars, ethnic conflicts and systemic corruption, has complicated efforts to study the volcano. The World Bank withdrew its funding for the Goma research facility over concerns that the money was being embezzled. In 2020, a team of volcanologists had to be flown into the area by United Nations peacekeepers who protected the scientists from armed rebels in the area. Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist at the Luigi Vanvitelli University of Campania, in Sicily, was on that mission and he told Science magazine that he and his colleagues found the lava lake there filling at an alarming rate. “This is the most dangerous volcano in the world,” he said shortly after that trip. The New York Times

Drones and Live-Streams: How Tech Is Changing Conservation
Drones, satellites and laser sensors. It sounds like the tech of an action-packed spy thriller. Not things you might typically associate with protecting animals. According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), the planet’s wildlife population has plummeted by 68% since 1970, with threats including things like poaching and loss of habitat. But around the world, animal conservation has now evolved so it’s not just rangers and anti-poaching groups monitoring the wildlife of our world. So just how is technology helping to modernise animal conservation? The most recent eye-catching example of technological innovation can be found in the Balule Nature Reserve in South Africa, part of the huge Kruger National Park. Camera phones mounted in protective cases streamed images of animals to people worldwide. Thousands, sat comfortably at home, became virtual rangers with this anti-poaching pilot project, Wildlife Watch, by Balule, Samsung and Africam. Viewers were able to report suspicious activity – things like seeing fence lines cut or hearing gunshots – and alert rangers to the possibility of poachers and trapped animals needing rescue. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones