Africa Media Review for November 26, 2021

What the Post-Coup Agreement Means for Sudan’s Democratic Transition
In the weeks following the October 25 coup there were numerous reports that the military was looking to name a civilian prime minister to head up the military’s refashioned government. Always high up on the list of candidates was the current transitional prime minister, Abdallah Hamdok, whom the military kept under house arrest while most of the rest of the cabinet and hundreds of other civilian government officials remained in detention. The November 21 agreement between Lt. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Hamdok appears to be the culmination of the military’s efforts, thereby creating the appearance of continuity in civilian leadership. Acknowledging that the agreement is not optimal, Hamdok has justified the deal as a way to defuse the political standoff following the coup without further loss of life. While many details remain unclear, as currently stands, the agreement would represent a validation for the military coup. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Thousands Protest in Sudan against Deal between PM Hamdok and Military
Tens of thousands of Sudanese protested in the streets of Khartoum and other cities on Thursday, keeping up the pressure on military leaders after they struck a deal to bring back a civilian prime minister deposed in a coup one month ago. Prominent political parties and Sudan’s powerful protest movement have opposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s decision on Sunday to sign the accord with the military, with some calling it a betrayal or saying it provides political cover for the takeover. “The revolution is the people’s revolution. The army back to the barracks!” chanted protesters in Al Daim, a working class district of Khartoum. They called for justice for “martyrs” killed in earlier demonstrations. Live streams on social media also showed protests in cities including Port Sudan, Kassala, Wad Madani, and El Geneina in West Darfur. … While Hamdok’s reinstatement was a concession by military leader Burhan, key political parties and civilian groups say the army should play no role in politics. Reuters

At Least 43 Killed in Sudan Inter-Communal Fighting
The UN has confirmed that several days of inter-communal fighting in the Sudanese region of Darfur have left at least 43 people dead and thousands displaced. The conflict broke out last week between Arab nomadic herders and farmers from the Misseriya Jebel tribe in Jebel Moon in West Darfur. The UN says more than 40 villages were burned and looted in the clashes. Several people are reportedly missing including children. There have been frequent outbreaks of violence in Darfur since the signing of a peace deal late last year that led to the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers. BBC

Ethiopia PM at ‘Battlefield’ Front to Fight Rebels: State Media
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday reportedly joined the front line where government forces are battling rebels from the Tigray region, prompting US-led international calls for a diplomatic solution and immediate ceasefire to the conflict. The fighting in the north of Africa’s second-most populous country has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions. Foreign governments have told their citizens to leave amid the escalating war, and fears the Tigrayan rebels could march on the capital Addis Ababa. Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, “is now leading the counter-offensive” and “has been giving leadership from the battlefield as of yesterday,” Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported. It was not clear where Abiy, a former radio operator in the military who rose to lieutenant-colonel, had deployed. Addressing reports of Abiy at the front, the US State Department late Wednesday warned “there is no military solution” to Ethiopia’s civil war. AFP

Al-Shabab Bombing near Mogadishu School Kills at Least 8
At least eight people have been killed and 17 injured, including schoolchildren, in a car bombing in Somalia’s capital, officials and witnesses said. The bombing was claimed by the armed group al-Shabab in the early hours of Thursday, who said it intended to strike a United Nations security convoy passing near a school in Mogadishu. It was not immediately clear if any UN personnel were among the casualties. A column of smoke rose over the Mocaasir Primary and Secondary School, where classroom ceilings crashed onto students’ desks, witnesses said. “Schools – and any other place where children congregate – should at all times be safe for children,” Mohamed Malick Fall, regional director for eastern and southern Africa for the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said in a statement, citing reports that at least 13 schoolchildren and four school staff were wounded. Abdisalan Omar Ibrahim, 13, said the sound of the blast came as he was writing the heading of a history lesson his teacher had begun at the chalkboard. The sound was followed by the screams of his classmates as parts of the building fell on them. “A brick hit me in the head and blood was gushing onto my uniform,” he said. He and the other wounded students were taken to hospital and all but one were discharged. Al Jazeera

What is This New COVID Variant in South Africa?
South African scientists have identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. It’s unclear from where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has also been seen in travelers to Hong Kong and Botswana. Health minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days, although experts are still trying to determine if the new variant, named B.1.1.529 is actually responsible. From just over 200 new confirmed cases per day in recent weeks, South Africa saw the number of new daily cases rocket to more than 1,200 on Wednesday and to 2,465 a day later. Struggling to explain the sudden rise in cases, scientists studied virus samples from the outbreak and discovered the new variant. … It appears to have a high number of mutations — about 30 — in the coronavirus’ spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads to people. Sharon Peacock, who has led genetic sequencing of COVID-19 in Britain at the University of Cambridge, said the data so far suggest the new variant has mutations “consistent with enhanced transmissibility,” but said that “the significance of many of the mutations is still not known.” She said it would take several weeks to do the necessary lab tests to determine if current coronavirus vaccines are still effective against the new variant. AP

Coronavirus: Countries Shut Borders over New Variant in Southern Africa
More countries are tightening their travel restrictions after the discovery of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa earlier this week. The UK, Singapore and Japan are among those rushing in stricter quarantine measures and banning flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries. The EU is proposing to ban flights from the region across the whole bloc. Scientists still have much to learn about the variant, but say they are very worried about it. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant, as scientists work to determine how transmissible it is. The variant is very different to the others that have emerged so far. Scientists have said it is the most heavily mutated version yet, which means vaccines, which were designed using the original strain from Wuhan, may not be as effective. … The WHO says so far fewer than 100 sample sequences have been reported. Cases have mainly been confirmed in South Africa, but have also been detected in Hong Kong, Israel and Botswana. BBC

Logistical Challenges Hamper COVID-19 Vaccination Drives in Africa
Many African nations are struggling with the logistics of accelerating their COVID-19 inoculation campaigns as deliveries of vaccines to the continent finally pick up, the head of Africa’s disease control body said on Thursday. Only 6.6% of Africa’s population of 1.2 billion is fully vaccinated, John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a virtual news conference. That means Africa is far from reaching the African Union’s aim of fully vaccinating 70% of people by the end of 2022, he said. “What we are seeing now is a lot more vaccines coming in and the uptake is challenged because of the logistics and delivery,” said Nkengasong. “It’s not necessarily about hesitancy, it’s about moving vaccines from the airport to the arms (of people), it’s about logistics.” Africa’s slow absorption of the vaccines is also affecting the health sector, where only one in four workers has been fully vaccinated, the World Health Organization’s Africa office said. … In April, authorities reallocated to other African countries most of the 1.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that Congo had received a month earlier from the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility because they were set to expire. Reuters

Namibia to Start Destroying Expired Vaccines Due to Slow Uptake
Namibia has warned that more than 268 000 doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines are at risk of being destroyed, some as early as next week, due to a slow uptake by citizens. Ben Nangombe, executive director in the health ministry, told Reuters on Thursday that 52 261 AstraZeneca vaccines will expire on Tuesday next week, while 215 996 Pfizer shots will be destroyed in January and February if they find no takers as vaccine hesitancy rises. Namibia, which has started vaccinating 12- to 17-year olds with the Pfizer vaccine after the WHO said on 15 November that it is suitable for people in that age group, has 809 414 doses available nationally. The southern African nation recorded 15 new cases on Tuesday to bring the number of active cases to 85 compared to a peak of 2 547 cases in a single day on 24 June. Only 298 503, or 20% of an estimated eligible population of 1.5 million, have been fully vaccinated in Namibia, with the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine the most used after 145 483 people received two doses since the country’s vaccination programme started in March. Reuters

Burkina Army Says 3 Soldiers Killed in Combat with Militants
Three Burkina Faso soldiers died and 11 militants were killed during an attack on the troops Wednesday, the army said, amid worsening insecurity that has sparked anti-government protests. The attack took place against an army detachment in Thiou in the Yatenga Region, the army said in a statement Thursday. “Eleven terrorists were neutralized. However, three soldiers fell during combat and dozens were wounded,” it said. The attack by suspected Islamist militants was the latest of three since November 14 that have killed more than 60 security forces and more than a dozen civilians, sparking nationwide anger and protests, with calls for President Roch Marc Kabore to resign. Opponents urged people to stage fresh protests Saturday against the government’s inability to contain a four-year insurgency by militants linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State that has killed thousands and displaced upward of a million people. VOA

Burkina Faso : Opposition, Business Community Protest Internet Suspension
Opposition groups and the business community in Burkina Faso have expressed their displeasure over the recent extension of mobile internet suspension in the country. This comes a day after the 96 hour extension took effect in the country. Opposition leader, Eddie Komboïgo, believes the government’s action is an infringement on the rights of the public. “Today we have demonstrations scheduled by civil societies to express their dissatisfaction with governance over security. The government is getting scared and decided to cut off the internet. This is an attack on individual and public freedoms. ……” he bemoaned. … The Burkinabe government has cited public safety as the reason for the internet suspension. This decision has come at a time when the country is experiencing series of demonstrations and growing political uncertainties over insecurity. AfricaNews

Two Chinese Nationals Killed, Others Kidnapped in Eastern Congo: Army
Two Chinese nationals have been killed and an unknown number of other people have been kidnapped in an attack by the CODECO militia on a mining camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, an army spokesman said Thursday. A local chief and a civil society leader also confirmed the two deaths and said eight other Chinese people were missing after Wednesday’s attack. They also blamed CODECO, one of an array of armed groups active in the area. The attack took place in Djugu, in Ituri province, where Chinese nationals have informal gold mining operations. “We confirm that CODECO elements attacked one of our positions in Djugu territory. They also attacked a base of our Chinese brothers, unfortunately killing two of them and kidnapping others,” said Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, spokesman for the army in Ituri. VOA

How Uganda Coughed Up Entebbe Airport to China
Faced with the need to expand the transport sector in tandem with regional infrastructural development, Uganda launched an aggressive and ambitious 20-year civil aviation masterplan which included the upgrade of its only international airport in Entebbe along the shores of Lake Victoria, 43km south of the capital Kampala. … On March 24, 2015, Finance minister Matia Kasaija asked Parliament to approve a $325 million (Ush1.1 trillion) loan from Exim Bank of China for the expansion works on the airport. The money was approved, and the works started in January the following year. Addressing the MPs, Mr Kasaija said it was the best offer available and that they had to take it very quickly. … However, as construction was ongoing, the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) managers feeling uncomfortable with some clauses of the loan agreement raised red flags. Some 13 clauses were deemed unfriendly and as good as mortgaging the airport and eroding the country’s sovereignty. The most troubling for the aviation bosses was a clause that gave Exim Bank the sole authority to approve withdraws of funds from the UCAA accounts. The bank also had the power to approve annual and monthly operating budgets, which it could reject, and the rights to inspect the government and UCCA books of accounts. The China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) in Beijing also had the mandate to resolve disputes. East African

Gambian Commission Urges Prosecutions for Yahya Jammeh-Era Abuses
A long-awaited report into allegations of abuse committed during former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule has recommended to the government to pursue criminal charges against those responsible. Rights groups have long pushed for prosecutions for the litany of alleged crimes, such as the use of death squads and rape, committed during Jammeh’s time in office, which ended in 2017. The 14,000-page document was handed on Thursday by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to President Adama Barrow, nine days before a presidential election in which the exiled Jammeh has urged his supporters to vote for an opposition coalition. In all, 240-250 people died at the hands of the state or its agents, the commission said. It recommended that the “persons who bear the greatest responsibility for abuses” be prosecuted, but did not name anyone. “To forgive and forget with impunity the violations and abuses … would not only undermine reconciliation but would also constitute a massive and egregious cover-up of the crimes committed,” the TRRC said in a statement. … Barrow or his successor will have six months to decide how to respond to the report. It could form the basis for criminal proceedings against Jammeh and others. “I assure (the victims and their families) that my government will ensure that justice is done,” Barrow said in a statement, “but I urge them to be patient and allow the legal process to take its course.” Al Jazeera

Libya Election Panel Rejects Gaddafi’s Son as Presidential Candidate
Libya’s election commission said on Wednesday that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former ruler and a major candidate in December’s planned presidential election, was ineligible to run, compounding the turmoil surrounding the vote. Gaddafi was one of 25 candidates the commission disqualified in an initial decision pending an appeals process that will ultimately be decided by the judiciary. Some 98 Libyans registered as candidates. Disputes over the election rules, including the legal basis of the vote and who should be eligible to stand, threaten to derail an internationally backed peace process aimed at ending a decade of violent factional chaos. The commission said Gaddafi was ineligible because he had been convicted of a crime. A Tripoli court sentenced him to death in absentia in 2015 for war crimes committed during the uprising against his late father Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. … Another prominent candidate, eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, is said to have U.S. nationality, which could also rule him out. Many people in western Libya also accuse him of war crimes committed during his 2019-20 assault on Tripoli. Reuters

South Sudan at High Risk of Hunger, Disease Due to Extreme Flooding
South Sudan is staring at a catastrophic humanitarian crisis as extreme floods hit the country for the third consecutive year. Humanitarian agencies are warning that the situation is threatening to cause an outbreak of waterborne diseases and malaria, and lead to food insecurity and malnutrition among the 11 million population that is currently in dire need of assistance. Since May this year, flooding has hit eight of the 10 states, with Jonglei, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile being the worst affected. While water levels in many areas are still on the rise, the weather forecasts indicate more rain to come. Doctors without Borders (MSF) notes that this year’s floods have hit the people in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State, the hardest, while over 800,000 people across the country have been affected. East African

Danish Patrol Kills Four Pirates in Gulf of Guinea: Navy
A Danish naval patrol killed four pirates in an exchange of fire in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Nigeria, Denmark’s armed forces say. “No Danish soldiers were injured, but five pirates were shot,” the military said on Thursday. “Four of the pirates died. One was injured,” it added. The incident happened outside Nigeria’s territorial waters, a spokesman said. The incident occurred on Wednesday when the frigate Esbern Snare, which has been patrolling the area since early November, attempted to board the pirate boat. The Danish forces fired warning shots, and the pirates immediately fired back. “The Danish soldiers acted in self-defence and returned fire,” the statement said. It was the first time the frigate opened fire during the current mission to the Gulf of Guinea, the spokesman said. The remaining four pirates were taken on board the frigate, the military said. After the shooting, the pirate ship sank. A piracy hotspot stretching 5,700 km (3,540 miles), from Senegal to Angola, the Gulf of Guinea saw 195 attacks in 2020. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones