Africa Media Review for May 7, 2021

Ethiopia’s Crackdown on Ethnic Tigrayans Snares Thousands
Across Ethiopia, Tigrayans are being fired and jailed since fighting erupted in their home region. The tensions are complicating efforts to end one of the world’s bitterest civil conflicts and threatening the unity of the country. Police arrested Tigrayan street trader Nigusu Mahari last year as he strolled along the traffic-clogged streets of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. He says he was speaking on the phone in the language of his homeland, a distant region in the north. “They arrested me from the street because I spoke Tigrinya,” Nigusu, 25, told Reuters. He said he was just one of three dozen from his home region in the same jail. “I saw 35 Tigrayans, and I told myself that this is not about the TPLF. It’s about the Tigrayan people.” Tigrayans say the government’s efforts to crush a TPLF rebellion have unleashed an ethnic witch hunt against them. Across the country, Tigrayans have been arrested, harassed, sacked or suspended from their jobs, or had their bank accounts temporarily frozen, according to bank records, letters from employers and interviews with government officials, rights groups and lawyers. Reuters

Ethiopia Designates Tigray’s Former Ruling Party as Terrorists
Ethiopian lawmakers on Thursday designated Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) as terrorist organisations. The move comes after the Council of Ministers of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government on Saturday decided to designate TPLF and Shene as terrorist entities. In a statement, the council accused the two groups of carrying out several terror level civilian-targeted attacks in different parts of the country during the past few years. “The crimes that these entities have committed and perpetrated are acts of terrorism,” the council said, citing the anti-terrorist legislation enacted in 2020. The groups are also “being exploited by foreign forces seeking to weaken, disrupt and dismantle Ethiopia”, it said as part of its reasons for labelling them as terrorist entities. … This is the first time for Ethiopia to designate groups as terrorist entities since PM Abiy came to power.

WHO Warns of New Covid Wave in Africa
The World Health Organisation on Thursday warned of a new wave of Covid-19 infections in Africa due to delayed vaccine supplies, a slow rollout and new variants. The African bureau of the UN agency said the continent had to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of vaccine rollouts. “The delay in the delivery of vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India earmarked for Africa, the delay in the deployment of vaccines and the emergence of new variants means that the risk of a new wave of infections remains very high in Africa,” it said in a statement. It added that new variants such as the ones that emerged in India and South Africa could unleash a “third wave” on the continent. AFP

Covid-19 Vaccines: Why Some African States Have Leftover Doses
Despite many African countries struggling to obtain enough Covid-19 vaccines, some have thousands of expired doses they have been unable to use. Malawi has been left with 16,400 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, while South Sudan has 59,000 – all now past their expiry date, 13 April. … The Democratic Republic of Congo, meanwhile, says it cannot use most of the 1.7 million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses it received under the global Covax scheme, for poorer countries. Only about 1,000 of the doses had been administered by the end of April. … Many countries failed to prepare adequately before receiving the vaccines, Phionah Atuhebwe, from the WHO in Africa, says. “That is one of the reasons we are seeing the slow pace of rollout,” she says. And some countries also faced financial challenges. Africa Centres for Disease Control head John Nkengasong says countries need more support to increase the numbers of health workers and obtain supplies, such as personal protective equipment. BBC

Congo-Kinshasa: Tanganyika Officials Impeach Kabila’s Brother
The governor of Tanganyika, a southern province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been impeached on Thursday by his provincial deputies. Zoé Kabila, the younger brother of former President Joseph Kabila, has ruled Tanganyika for two years. Absent from his province for several days, the governor neither showed up nor sent a member of his government’s team to present his defence during impeachment proceedings. According to Cyrille Kimpu, spokesperson of the Provincial Assembly, 13 deputies participated in the plenary and voted for his dismissal. … Out of the DRC’s 26 governors, Mr Kabila is the only administrative boss who did not sign President Félix Tshisekedi’s Act of the Sacred Union membership. Tanganyika’s Assembly was therefore divided in two: pro-Tshisekedi members and legislators who remained loyal to Kabila’s Common Front for the Congo (FCC). The Nation

DRC: Is President Tshisekedi’s ‘State of Siege’ a Cover-up?
Dozens of armed groups have operated for years in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu and Ituri provinces, and civilians have been subjected to horrifying massacres. Armed militias and inter-communal violence have killed more than 300 people so far in 2021. Presidential spokesman Tharsice Kasongo Mwema said on Tuesday that the two provinces would be declared under siege for 30 days starting on Thursday, May 6. “To respond to the situation during the state of siege, the provincial governments of Ituri and North Kivu … will be replaced by offices of the armed forces of the DRC or the national police,” he said. It was the first time since the Democratic Republic of Congo’s independence that a president used the exceptional “state of siege” or state of emergency. … The move to put military and police officers in jobs usually performed by civilians has faced criticism, because the Congolese army has often been seen as part of the conflict. DW

Congo Govt Resigns as Veteran Ruler Denis Sassou Nguesso Starts Fourth Term
The Republic of Congo’s government has resigned, public television announced on Thursday, a procedural move three weeks after the central African nation’s veteran leader began a new term as president. Prime Minister Clement Mouamba submitted his government’s resignation to President Denis Sassou Nguesso on Wednesday, according to the statement read out on television. The outgoing team will continue in its tasks until Sassou Nguesso names a new premier. He has not yet announced when he will do so. Sassou Nguesso was sworn in for a new five-year term as president on April 16. … One of the world’s longest serving leaders, Sassou Nguesso has been in power for an accumulated 36 years, first taking the helm in 1979. AFP

Equipped by US, Israeli Firms, Police in Botswana Search Phones for Sources
Oratile Dikologang was naked when police officers pulled black plastic over his head during his detention in April 2020. It was difficult to breathe, but the interrogation continued, he told CPJ in a recent phone interview. “What are your sources, where do you get information,” he recalled them asking repeatedly. “It was the most painful experience,” he said. Dikologang, the digital editor and co-founder of the Botswana People’s Daily News website, and two others still face jail time in relation to Facebook posts that police were investigating when they hauled the three in for questioning. … Dikologang told CPJ that he refused to reveal his sources – but he did provide the password to his phone. … To examine the phone, police used a Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) sold by Israel-based Cellebrite and a Forensic Toolkit (FTK) from U.S.-based AccessData, according to the affidavit from the Botswana Police Service Digital Forensics Laboratory, which CPJ reviewed. … The search of a journalist’s phone in detention exemplifies the threat digital forensics technologies pose to privacy and press freedom around the world. … “It’s a huge breach for a journalist,” Outsa Mokone, the editor of Botswana’s Sunday Standard newspaper, whose devices were taken when he was arrested in 2014, told CPJ in a phone interview this month. “We can’t protect our sources if our phones are seized.” CPJ

Malawi Orders Thousands of Refugees to Return to Overcrowded Camp
The Malawian government has ordered thousands of long-integrated refugees to return to its sole but badly overcrowded refugee camp, in a controversial move that many have vowed to resist. The UN estimates there are around 2,000 refugees residing outside the camp at Dzaleka, about 40 kilometres (30 miles) north of the capital Lilongwe. Many have lived there for years, setting up businesses in the town or marrying Malawians and having children with them. But the government argues they pose a potential danger to national security by living among locals. … The UN refugee agency UNHCR in Malawi said the directive was in line with the country’s encampment laws, but advised the government to reconsider. … With an initial capacity of between 10,000 and 14,000 refugees around 1994, the camp now houses 49,386 people and several hundred continue to arrive each month, according to the UNHCR. Al Jazeera

Kenya: Eyes Now Turn to Five-Judge Bench as MPs Clear Way for BBI Referendum
A case pending in court now stands as the only remaining hurdle in the quest by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga to amend the 2010 Constitution. A national referendum to pass or reject the Building Bridges Initiative’s Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020 promoted by the two handshake partners is tentatively scheduled to be conducted next month. On Thursday night in the National Assembly, the Bill garnered 224 Ayes against 63 Nays giving the promoters a green light to forward the proposed changes to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. … Constitutional lawyer Peter Wanyama criticised the MPs for approving the Bill saying the proposed changes will have far reaching consequences in the society that will be felt by generations to come. … Wanyama argues that the Bill contains proposals which if passed in the plebiscite will erode the gains achieved in the current Constitution and also deal a blow to the rule of law. He said an amendment of the Constitution in most cases will lead to further mutilation of the supreme law citing the Kenyan 1963 Constitution which was had a “fairly strong Senate and a quasi federal structure that was completely dismantled by 1966.” The Star

Somalia Restores Ties with Kenya
Somalia has restored diplomatic ties it cut with Kenya, following mediation by Qatar. The decision was announced on Thursday in what Somalia’s presidency said was meant to sustain regional peace and harmony. Abdirashid M Hashi, the spokesman for Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo, said Qatar had steered the resumption of relations but did not elaborate how. … The resumption of ties follows a series of back channel talks between Somalia, Kenya and Qatar, which has enjoyed an influential position in Somalia under President Farmaajo. Nairobi had involved Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i in messages sent to Mogadishu, back in September when the two countries started engaging in accusations, as well as to Doha last month. The East African

How Cyril Ramaphosa Won South African Ruling Party Power Play
It was a showdown more than three years in the making. Escalating tensions in South Africa’s ruling African National Congress finally came to a head on Wednesday when its Secretary-General Ace Magashule was informed by his deputy, Jessie Duarte, that he’d been suspended pending his trial on graft charges. Magashule hit back hours later, insisting that he wasn’t going anywhere and notifying party leader and President Cyril Ramaphosa that he was the one being suspended for violating campaign funding rules. While the bizarre standoff could ultimately end up in court, Ramaphosa clearly has the upper hand. The president has the backing of most members of the ANC’s National Executive Committee, or NEC, which calls the shots in the party and has unequivocally stated that all officials facing prosecution will have their membership revoked if they refuse to quit their posts. Bloomberg

Mixed Reactions in Uganda over Ex-child Soldier Dominic Ongwen’s ICC Sentencing
Residents of Gulu, a city in northern Uganda and home town of Dominic Ongwen, have greeted the news of the former child soldier’s sentencing by the International Criminal Court ICC with mixed reactions. Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan child soldier who became a commander of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was on Thursday sentenced to 25 years in jail for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC. “The years that they have given him is too much. If you were to compare from the time they (LRA) caught him and taken by Joseph Kony he was still young. And all that he was doing it was not his need. He has been forced to do all the crime that he has been doing.” says Jonathan Bagonza, a businessman in Kampala. … Ongwen, 45—whose nom de guerre was “White Ant”—was found guilty in February of 61 charges, including murders, rapes and sexual enslavement during a reign of terror in the early 2000s by the LRA, led by the fugitive Joseph Kony. AfricaNews

West African Cocoa Giants Report Progress in Deforestation Fight
Cocoa giants Ivory Coast and Ghana reported progress in goals to end deforestation as they prepare for stricter European Union rules on production standards of the chocolate ingredient. Top grower Ivory Coast is using satellites to monitor deforestation and planted almost 10 million trees in 2020, while Ghana restored about 226,000 hectares (558,000 acres) of forest area last year, according to reports by the public-private partnership known as the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, or CFI. Cocoa production has been a major driver of deforestation in the two countries, which supply about 70% of the world’s beans, with Ivory Coast losing roughly 85% of its forest cover since the 1960s. Last year, a report published by the World Cocoa Foundation, which represents cocoa and chocolate industries, said targets for tree distribution set by the CFI were still far from being met. Ivory Coast is seeking to extend forest area back to 20% of its territory by 2030, while companies are also investing in training farmers to improve livelihoods and reduce the incentive to encroach into forests, according to a statement on Wednesday. The EU, the main destination for Ivorian beans, is gearing up to introduce legislation aimed at eliminating the risk that products sold in its territory cause deforestation. Bloomberg



Photo: Adam Jones