Africa Media Review for November 27, 2020

Ethiopia’s PM Rejects Dialogue in Meeting with AU Envoys
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed again ruled out dialogue with the leaders of the defiant Tigray region Friday but said he is willing to speak to representatives “operating legally” there during a meeting with three African Union special envoys trying to end the deadly conflict between federal troops and the region’s forces. The meeting occurred as people fled the Tigray capital in fear of an imminent assault after Abiy said the army had been ordered to move in for the “final phase” of an offensive to arrest the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front who run the region. … Fighting reportedly remained well outside Mekele, a densely populated city of a half-million people who had been warned by the Ethiopian government of “no mercy” if they didn’t separate themselves from the TPLF leaders in time. Abiy on Thursday told residents to stay indoors and disarm as the army, with tanks, was given the order to move in. AP

Africa CDC Sees COVID-19 Vaccinations in 2nd Quarter of 2021
Vaccinations against COVID-19 in Africa might not start until the second quarter of next year, the continent’s top public health official said Thursday, adding that it will be “extremely dangerous” if more developed parts of the world vaccinate themselves and then restrict travel to people with proof of a vaccination. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available” in the past. And he warned that “it’s clear the second wave (of infections) is here on the continent” of 1.3 billion people. Africa last week surpassed 2 million confirmed coronavirus infections. … “The worst thing we want for the continent is for COVID to become an endemic disease” in Africa, he said. The World Health Organization’s Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, in a separate briefing said the goal is to vaccinate 20% of the population on the continent by the end of next year. AP

Jailed, Exiled and Silenced: Smothering East Africa’s Political Opposition
Since the presidential campaign kicked off in Uganda in early November, the most prominent opposition candidate, Bobi Wine, has been tear-gassed, arrested and beaten by the police, held in solitary confinement, and charged in court for holding campaign events in violation of coronavirus restrictions. “I know they want me dead as soon as yesterday,” Mr. Wine, a musician-turned-lawmaker whose real name is Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, said in a telephone interview. “We are campaigning every day as if it’s the last.” Mr. Wine is one of several high-profile opposition leaders in East Africa who have recently been jailed, exiled or silenced as they challenge entrenched leaders and political parties. Heads of state have used the coronavirus as a pretext to strengthen their grip on power and have introduced laws to smother dissent, analysts say. The New York Times

EU Criticises Uganda over Use of Force to Stop Protests
The European Union has called out Uganda’s security on the use of “disproportionate force” last week to quell protests that broke out when the police arrested presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. …  “Last week, Uganda witnessed rioting, chaos as well as disproportionate use of force by security services. The Government of Uganda and its institutions have the responsibility to ensure the safety, security and dignified treatment of all citizens, including electoral candidates and their supporters, in line with national laws and Uganda’s international human rights commitments,” reads a statement from the EU Delegation in Kampala. … The EU becomes the latest international body – after the United States and the United Nations – to express concerns over the violence in Uganda, which threatens to mar the campaign period ahead of next year’s general elections. The EastAfrican

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore Re-Elected
Roch Marc Christian Kabore will serve another five years as Burkina Faso’s president, according to provisional results announced by the National Independent Electoral Commission on Thursday. Kabore won with nearly 58% of the vote, beating 12 opponents and claiming victory in the first round, said Newton Ahmed Barry, the commission’s president. Kabore received 1.6 million votes of the nearly 3 million cast, with voter turnout at 50%, he said. The opposition had hoped to split the vote and deprive Kabore of the 51% needed for an outright victory and then form a coalition behind the strongest candidate for round two. The declaration comes four days after Sunday’s election. The election commission president said final results should be out Saturday, which then must be verified by the constitutional court. AP

Libya’s Rival Forces Have Stopped Shooting, but They’re Not Pulling Back
In Libya’s frontline city of Sirte, parts of which still lie in ruins, the commission set up to oversee warring rivals’ recent ceasefire has put its name on a large downtown conference centre – an outward sign of its commitment to peace. So far the ceasefire is holding, and some elements of the truce have been implemented: flights between rival cities Tripoli and Benghazi have resumed and foreign fighters have left oil facilities – the keys to Libya’s economy. But meetings of the Joint Military Commission in northern Libya, attended by five officers each from the two sides, have yet to make progress on other key demands of a U.N.-brokered agreement, underlining its fragility. The rivals in a civil war that has left thousands dead and the country in chaos have yet to withdraw troops from frontline positions, open a major coastal road linking Sirte to Misrata and rid their ranks of foreign mercenaries. Reuters

U.S. Blacklists Libyan Militia, Leader after Russia Stops U.N. Sanctions
The United States unilaterally blacklisted Libya’s Kaniyat militia and its leader on Wednesday after Russia last week prevented a U.N. Security Council committee from imposing sanctions over human rights abuses by the group. The U.S. sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators worldwide by freezing assets and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them. “Mohamed al-Kani and the Kaniyat militia have tortured and killed civilians during a cruel campaign of oppression in Libya,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. Reuters

Tigray Crisis: How the Ethiopian Army and TPLF Clashed over an Airport
A strategically important airport in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has become a key battleground between opposing forces in the current conflict. Pro-government accounts say the Ethiopian military controls Aksum airport – but this does not appear to have prevented Tigray special forces mounting an attack and disabling the runway in the past few days. With communications from the region largely cut, the situation has been unclear. But we’ve taken a look at some footage put out about the attack, and satellite images of the airport, to try to piece together a timeline of events. Ethiopian forces captured the airport on 11 November, according to pro-government social-media accounts. … With the internet and most mobile communications down in the Tigray region, getting an accurate picture of events is challenging. Ethiopia’s state-controlled media has near-monopoly access to the territory and social media has been littered with misleading images. BBC

Four Chadian Soldiers Killed in Lake Chad Blast
Four soldiers deployed to Lake Chad were killed when a mine set by jihadists blew up their boat, Chadian sources said on Wednesday. The incident happened on Tuesday in the vast, marshy lakelands, where Chadian forces are battling a years-long jihadist insurgency, they said. “Boko Haram placed an improvised device in the water, which exploded when their canoe passed by, killing four soldiers and wounding about 20 others,” an army officer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Dimoya Souapebe, the prefect (state representative) for the region confirmed the toll, and said the canoe, also called a pirogue, had been transporting troops between Ngouboua and Litri. The Defense Post with AFP

Senegal’s Coronavirus Success Divides Experts
Senegal has been widely praised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with few infections and life returning to normal, but the reason behind its success still divides experts. The government enacted a raft of anti-virus measures when the pandemic reached the West African nation. But some experts believe that herd immunity may explain the low level of cases. With a mostly youthful population of some 16 million people, the country has recorded some 16,000 coronavirus cases and 331 deaths to date, according to the health ministry. Like many African countries, Senegal would have racked up many thousands of deaths had it experienced an outbreak similar to the kind that ravaged Europe and the United States. Senegal is “one of the model countries in terms of implementing Covid-19 prevention measures and it has reaped the benefits,” World Health Organization official Nsenga Ngoy said during a virtual press conference this month. The government closed its borders, schools and mosques when the virus first hit in March, as well as banning large gatherings and travel between cities, and imposing a night-time curfew. AFP

Surge of Aids-Related Deaths Feared as COVID Pandemic Puts Gains at Risk
Global progress on ending the Aids epidemic by 2030 could be blown off course by coronavirus, a senior UN director has warned. Just a six-month disruption to medical supplies induced by Covid-19 could result in an extra 500,000 Aids-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2021, according to data modelling in the annual report from UNAids. The agency’s executive director, Winnie Byanyima, said the world is already way off target on combating Aids, and the pandemic “has the potential to blow us even further off course.” … “HIV has been slipping down the international agenda for some years. That is why I am calling on leaders to come forward to support a UN general assembly high level meeting on ending Aids in 2021 to address with urgency the outstanding issues that are holding us back from ending the epidemic as a public health threat by 2030,” she said. The Guardian

Sudanese Former PM and Opposition Leader Sadiq Al-Mahdi Dies of COVID-19
Sudan’s former prime minister and top opposition figure Sadiq al-Mahdi died from a coronavirus infection on Thursday, his party said. The 84-year-old was the country’s last democratically elected prime minister before he was toppled in 1989 by now-ousted president Omar al-Bashir in an Islamist-backed military coup. The leader of the moderate Islamist National Umma Party was transferred to the United Arab Emirates for treatment three weeks ago after being hospitalised in Sudan and testing positive for Covid-19. “We offer our condolences to the Sudanese people over his death,” the party said in a statement. Mahdi was a staunch opposition figure during Bashir’s long rule and threw his weight behind a mass-protest movement that eventually prompted the military to overthrow the president last year. AFP

‘Large-Scale Human Rights Violations’ Taint Congo National Park Project
Josi Emerson, president of the Baka pygmy village of Seh in the Congolese rainforest, was working in his field in June 2018 when he heard vehicles and shouts. Forest rangers, known as ecoguards, dressed in paramilitary uniforms and carrying guns, had arrived in Jeeps. Emerson rushed home but it was too late. The guards, employed by the Congolese government to stop poaching and supported by international conservation group the WWF, were going from hut to hut accusing the Baka villagers of killing an elephant. … Emerson’s allegation of physical violence by forest rangers was one of many reported to a UN Development Programme [UNDP] team sent to Baka villages to investigate reports of human rights abuses in one of the world’s most ambitious conservation projects. The Guardian

‘I’m Looking for God to Help’: Somalia’s Most Powerful Storm Leaves Traders, Herders Devastated
Electronics shop owner Mohamed Nor had a thriving business selling televisions and phones in Somalia’s coastal town of Bosaso until three days ago, when the most powerful storm to hit the country hammered his business and left him with nothing. “I had a booming shop in downtown Bosaso. It has been flooded. I lost my entire property worth over $35,000,” Nor, 39, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “I lost my entire life just like that. No one, no government, no charity has reached out to me for help. I’m looking for God to help. I don’t know what to do,” said the father of four. Cyclone Gati is the strongest storm to hit the Horn of Africa nation since satellite records began – bringing two years of rain in two days and wind speeds of 170 kph (105 mph) to northeastern Somalia’s Puntland region on Sunday. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones