Africa Media Review for May 6, 2022

Somali Presidential Election Set for May 15
Somali lawmakers have set May 15th as the date they will select the country’s next president. The presidential election committee, which includes 17 members from both houses of parliament, met in Mogadishu on Thursday and agreed on the date for the election. In a vote by a show of hands, the members of the committee chose lawmaker Abdiqani Ugas as the chairman of the Presidential Election Committee, and lawmaker Mohamed Kerow as its deputy chairman. The committee decided to hold the election on May 15th, just two days prior to the deadline set by international donors to cut their funding unless a new Somali government is formed. In a brief statement, the deputy speaker of the upper house, Ali Shacban, said that this marks a step forward in completing one of the last duties of parliament — to elect the president. Voice of America

Amnesty International Accuses Libyan Govt-Backed Militia of Human Rights Abuses
One of the most powerful militia leaders in Libya, Abdel Ghani al-Kikli of the Gheniwa grouping, stands accused of gross human rights violations, a new report by Amnesty International (AI) showed. Ghani al-Kikli, a prominent rebel figure since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-led campaign in 2011, was, in last January, integrated into government operations under the Stability Support Authority (SSA). The SSA is a security institution affiliated with the Presidential Council and works to consolidate security and stability. However, with Ghani al-Kikli in charge, AI said human rights abuses had reached unprecedented levels. On 19 April, AI wrote to the Libyan authorities on the complaints received against Ghani al-Kikli and his former deputy Lotfi al-Harari, demanding their removal from office. News24

South Africa: 50% More Cases of COVID Reported in 24 Hours
A new wave of the coronavirus driven by two new Omicron sub-variants in South Africa has led to more than 50% increase in infections in 24 hours. According to official figures released on Thursday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases counted 9,757 new cases of Covid-19 in the country, 50% more than the 6,170 new cases counted the day before on Wednesday. 64 new deaths were also reported. More than a quarter of the people tested had a positive result, the highest rate recorded in months. Covid-19 has also claimed seven lives in the last two days. The Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation warned late April that South Africa, the country officially the most affected by Covid-19 on the continent, has entered a new wave of pandemic. AfricaNews

West African Defence Chiefs Meet Over Rising Insecurity
The chiefs of staff of the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) began a two-day meeting in Accra, Ghana, on Thursday to strengthen military cooperation in the region plagued by growing insecurity. Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are grappling with jihadist insurgencies and neighbouring states such as Ghana, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire are worried about spillover to their borders. Addressing representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Ghana’s capital Accra, Ghana’s Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul said that in three years, the region has suffered more than 5,300 attacks blamed on terrorists, resulting in about 16,000 deaths and more displaced people. Between January and March, more than 840 attacks took place. the minister called for greater intelligence sharing to better monitor jihadist groups. “As professionals, we must resolve to bury our differences imposed by our nationality, our culture (…) and move forward with greater collaboration,” he insisted. AfricaNews

ECOWAS Criticized Over West African Coups
“The West African region is suddenly back in the international headlines for all the wrong regions,” Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said at the end of March. He appealed to lawmakers in Accra to support regional bloc ECOWAS’ current zero-tolerance approach for military coups. Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have all recently experienced coups. Only a coordinated stance by ECOWAS member states could put the coup plotters in their place, President Akufo-Addo said on Twitter. Historian Arthur Banga from Ivory Coast’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny University also argued for a resolute “zero-tolerance policy” towards coup plotters, which must be enforced by ECOWAS. “We must not accept that the democratic order in our region is repeatedly endangered by coups. West Africa must be able to effectively combat military coups and those responsible,” Banga told DW. “It’s necessary to support ECOWAS in enforcing sanctions on coup plotters.” DW

President of Togo To Mediate in Mali Crisis
The foreign ministers of Mali and Togo told reporters late Wednesday that Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé had agreed to act as a facilitator in the crisis. “We asked President Faure Gnassingbé to use his good office, wisdom and experience to facilitate dialogue with regional actors and more broadly dialogue with the entire international community,” Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said in Togo’s capital, Lomé. Togo has always been “a country of peace and dialogue”, Foreign Minister Robert Dussey said, confirming that Gnassingbé, the longest-serving West African leader, will “gladly help” to restore constitutional order in Mali. “The situation we are in today requires that we show political genius about how to get out of this situation,” said Diop. Mali has been in turmoil since the military seized power in August 2020 following protests over the government’s handling of a war against a jihadist offensive in the country. RFI

Survival Pacts: How Local Dialogues With Jihadists Took Root in Mali
During the peak of the violence, the mayor said dozens of villages in the commune were attacked by jihadist militants. Hundreds of lives were lost and tens of thousands of cattle were stolen before Ongoiba finally stopped counting. Then came peace – or something of the sort. Fed up with the violence, Ongoiba asked local leaders to open talks with militants linked to al-Qaeda. A deal was then struck that saw the commune agree to stop resisting the jihadists and follow a strict version of sharia law, according to individuals present at the dialogue. Some residents objected to the harsh sharia conditions, but security gains soon convinced many of the deal’s benefits. “Until today, there has been no attack,” Ongoiba told The New Humanitarian. “Nowhere in the world do wars end without negotiation.” Military operations have long been the strategy of choice for international and regional powers fighting jihadist groups in Mali and the wider Sahel region. Rural self-defence militias have mushroomed too, as residents seek to defend themselves against the militants. But as the decade-long insurgency spreads and humanitarian needs soar, some communities that initially resisted the jihadists’ presence are trying a different approach: dialogue. New Humanitarian

In Senegal’s Former Capital, a Colonial Statue in Hiding Is No Longer Welcome
For more than a century, the French general who shaped Senegal’s former capital was hailed as a hero and a father figure, his bronze statue triumphantly standing on a square that bore his name. Under his feet, carved into the stone of a massive pedestal, a message read: “To its governor Faidherbe, Senegal is grateful.” But as more Senegalese become aware of Louis Faidherbe’s ambivalent legacy, many are no longer so grateful. A general and an engineer, he was also a colonizer who in the 19th century led military expeditions that killed tens of thousands of people, burned villages and forced local leaders to surrender. Faidherbe’s statue was removed from Saint-Louis, a coastal city in Senegal’s north, in 2020 — officially a temporary move — after being toppled and sprayed with paint. While local officials dithered over its fate, its whereabouts remained a mystery, and many want to keep it that way. New York Times

Sierra Leone: Where Pregnancy Is a Deadly Gamble
The doctor asked Susan Lebbie to find two units of blood before her due date, but she trudged into the maternity ward with only a pillow, an overnight bag and a cracked phone. The 17-year-old had called everyone she knew for a donation: her aunt (had a toothache), her uncle (too old), her cousins (too young) and her friends (out of town or also pregnant). Now the deadline was here, though the contractions hadn’t started, just more kicking, and Susan was trailing a nurse past a poster that read: “Every 90 seconds, a pregnant woman dies.” “Susan,” the nurse said. “Do you have your blood yet?” One in 20 women in Sierra Leone die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, according to the latest United Nations estimate, most often from losing blood. The West African country consistently ranks as one of the deadliest places on Earth to have a baby. Only South Sudan and Chad count higher mortality rates. Practically every death is preventable, but a decade of civil war destroyed much of the health system before the deadliest Ebola epidemic on record killed 7 percent of medical workers. Almost a third of the health budget comes from foreign aid, and the top donor plans to halt funding for a program that doctors say is critical to saving lives. Washington Post

Chad: Rebels Refuse an “Extension” of the Transition
The rebels holding talks in Qatar with the Chadian authorities to reach peace negotiations have welcomed the postponement of the reconciliation dialogue in N’Djamena. They have however refused to use it as a “pretext for prolonging” the transition, according to a statement from the armed groups sent to AFP on Wednesday. N’Djamena “gave its agreement” on Sunday to the postponement of this forum initially scheduled for May 10, without giving a new date, which should lead to a handover of power to civilians. The postponement was decided at the request of Qatar, mediator of a “pre-dialogue” that has been stalled for a month and a half in Doha between the junta and the numerous rebel groups. “The politico-military movements and allies welcome the commendable initiative of the State of Qatar” on the postponement of the dialogue, the armed groups wrote in a statement, while refusing that this would “serve as a pretext for the extension of the transition period. A few days after taking power in April 2021, the junta, led by Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, son of former president Idriss Déby, announced that the 18-month transition period could be extended once. Paris, the European Union and the African Union had then asked that the transition not exceed 18 months. AfricaNews

Ethiopia: Essential Aid Reaches Tigray Region, but More Still Needed
The 27 trucks delivered nearly 1,000 metric tonnes of food and other essential items to the city of Mekelle, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists in New York. This was the fourth humanitarian convoy to reach Tigray since the transportation of aid resumed at the beginning of April, following more than three months of interruption. Since then, 169 trucks have reached Tigray, transporting some 4,300 metric tonnes of supplies.   Mr. Dujarric said food and other aid has been dispatched from the regional capital Mekelle, to priority areas across Tigray for onward distribution, while fuel that has recently arrived is allowing for critical humanitarian operations to be expanded.  “The rate at which aid is arriving into Tigray, however, remains a small fraction of what is needed. Essential services including electricity, communications networks and banking services, remain largely cut off,” he said.  UN News

Growing African Mangrove Forests Aim To Combat Climate Woes
In a bid to protect coastal communities from climate change and encourage investment, African nations are increasingly turning to mangrove restoration projects, with Mozambique becoming the latest addition to the growing list of countries with large scale mangrove initiatives. Mozambique follows efforts across the continent — including in Kenya, Madagascar, Gambia and Senegal — and is touted as the world’s largest coastal or marine ecosystem carbon storage project. Known as blue carbon, carbon captured by these ecosystems can sequester, or remove, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a faster rate than forests, despite being smaller in size. Mozambique’s mangrove restoration project — announced in February alongside its UAE-based partner Blue Forest Solutions — hopes to turn 185,000 hectares (457,100 acres) in the central Zambezia and southern Sofala provinces into a forest which could capture up to 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide, according to project leaders. AP

Are Rights Abuses Tarnishing China’s Image in Africa?
Last month, a Rwandan court made a significant statement against the mistreatment of its citizens by sentencing mine manager Sun Shujun to 20 years in jail after a video of him whipping a tied-up worker went viral. The case sparked outrage across the continent and even elicited a rare response from the Chinese Embassy in Kigali, which warned its citizens in Rwanda “to abide by local laws and regulations.” The Rwandan incident is not the only example of recent Chinese rights abuses in Africa. A report last year by the U.K.-based Business and Human Rights Resource Center found 181 human rights allegations connected to Chinese investments in Africa between 2013 and 2020, with the highest number of incidents in Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last year a Kenyan waiter was awarded more than $25,000 in damages after he was whipped by his Chinese restaurant boss. The abuse was captured on video and showed the boss laughing while the waiter begged for forgiveness. A Kenyan court found the man had also suffered “continuous sexual harassment, corporal punishment, verbal abuse and confinement” while working at the restaurant. Voice of America

Cameroon: Champion of Women’s Right To Manage Land and Forests Wins Top Environment Prize
Cécile Ndjebet is the recipient of the 2022 Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), which is chaired by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Ms. Ndjebet was presented with the award at a ceremony in Seoul, Republic of Korea, during the XV World Forestry Congress. “This award celebrates Cécile Ndjebet’s energy and dedication over three decades in promoting women’s rights to land and forests. She has actively shown that women’s participation in forest governance and preservation is fundamental to achieving sustainable forest management,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General and chair of the CPF, which comprises 15 international organizations.  Ms. Ndjebet is a co-founder of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests, established in 2009, which now has 20 member countries across the continent.  She has become a leading voice, both in her homeland and internationally, in building global recognition on the importance of gender equality in forest management. UN News