Africa Media Review for November 3, 2021

Party Militias — A Threat to Security and Military Professionalism

Recent years have seen a rise in the deployment of party militias in Africa. They use violence to intimidate rival candidates and opposition constituencies to alter the political landscape in support of the party in power—a crude coercive tool to keep a population from challenging the status quo. While often associated with youth wings of a ruling party, these militias are typically not acknowledged by the party, affording plausible deniability for their actions. Party militias operate outside the law with near-total impunity. They are often a prominent feature of elections, sowing fear on behalf of incumbents who find them handy when they believe they will be unseated, or when they evade constitutional term limits to entrench themselves. … Ruling party militias, therefore, are a disruptive adaptation to multiparty politics intended to shift the electoral playing field to one party’s benefit. In addition to undermining democratic principles of free and fair elections, party militias compromise the integrity of security sector institutions—via their collusion in violence against citizens or for their tolerance of this extralegal behavior. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

‘Adapt or Die:’ Africa Presses for More Climate Support

African leaders and campaigners are pressing the international community to do more to help poorer and vulnerable nations adapt to climate change, seizing on evidence showing the continent to be the most endangered by the effects of global warming. The head of the African Union, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, said other parts of the world must contribute half of the $25 billion the continent needs to run an adaptation program over the next five years. The balance will come from the African Development Bank. Tshisekedi spoke Tuesday before an Africa-focused summit at the U.N. climate conference in the Scottish city of Glasgow. He was one of several leaders who highlighted Africa’s plight in the face of climate change despite being the populated continent least responsible for global emissions. Tshisekedi noted that the global effort on climate change “can’t be won unless it is won in Africa,” which is home to 1.3 billion people. Africa’s 54 nations contribute only about 3% of global emissions, a fact that surprises some ordinary Africans when they find out. “It is a starting point rather than a ceiling, and it will contribute to building trust and confidence,” Tshisekedi said of the $12.5 billion Africa needs to raise for climate-adaptation projects. He said he hoped the money would be raised before the next annual climate conference, to be held in Africa. AP

‘Heartbreaking’ Madagascar Is Wake-Up Call to Climate Crisis

The drought-stricken island nation of Madagascar is a ’wake up call” to what the world can expect in coming years due to climate change, the head of the United Nations’ food aid agency said Tuesday. David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, told The Associated Press in an interview that what’s happening in the south of the Indian Ocean country is “the beginning of what we can expect” to see as the effects of global warming become more pronounced. … Some 38 million people worldwide were displaced last year because of climate change, leaving them vulnerable to hunger, according to Beasley. A worst–case scenario could see that number soar to 216 million people displaced due to climate change by 2050. That’s the year many industrialized nations — but not China, Russia or India — have set as their target for achieving carbon neutrality, meaning reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the point where they can be absorbed and effectively add zero to the atmosphere. … According to updated WFP figures released Tuesday, close to 30,000 people on Madagascar will be one step away from famine by the end of the year, and some 1.1 million already suffer from severe hunger. The island is struggling with exceptionally warm temperatures, drought and sandstorms. AP

Ethiopian Capital Prepares for Attack as US Warns Tigrayan Rebels to Stop Flash Advance

The US has warned Tigrayan soldiers against advancing on Ethiopia’s capital as residents were told to arm themselves in preparation for battle. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have reportedly seized two key cities on a major highway to Addis Ababa, sparking panic in the cosmopolitan city which has so far been spared in the brutal year-long war. On Tuesday officials ordered the 5m residents to procure any weapon they could and be ready to defend their neighbourhoods. … on Tuesday, the government declared a national state of emergency, indicating the situation was more severe than they were admitting and that the rebels now posed a real threat to the capital. “Let me be clear: We oppose any TPLF move to Addis or any TPLF move to besiege Addis,” Jeffrey Feltman, the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, said. The US Embassy in Addis Ababa said it “strongly” suggested that US citizens “seriously reconsider” travel to Ethiopia and told those in the country to consider making preparations to leave. Half a dozen residents of Addis Ababa said there was a growing sense of panic in the city. … All of the residents interviewed said that only a few people were adhering to the government call to muster militias. Telegraph

UN Report Says Ethiopia’s War Marked by ‘Extreme Brutality’

The U.N. human rights chief said Wednesday that Ethiopia’s yearlong war has been marked by “extreme brutality” as a joint investigation into alleged atrocities faulted all sides for committing abuses, and “the big numbers of violations” are linked to Ethiopian forces and those from neighboring Eritrea. The investigation was hampered by authorities’ intimidation and restrictions and didn’t visit some of the war’s worst-affected locations. The report, a rare collaboration by the U.N. human rights office with the government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, was released a day before the war’s one-year mark and as Africa’s second most populous country enters a new state of emergency with rival Tigray forces threatening the capital. The U.N. told The Associated Press the collaboration was necessary for its team to gain access to a troubled region that Ethiopian authorities have largely prevented journalists, rights groups and other observers from entering. … The investigation said all sides, including forces from the neighboring Amhara region that have claimed western Tigray, have committed abuses, which may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. It breaks little new ground and confirms in general the abuses described by witnesses throughout the war. But it gives little sense of scale, saying only that the more than 1,300 rapes reported to authorities are likely far fewer than the real number. AP

Sudan Mediators Hit ‘Hurdles’ after Coup

Just over a week after Sudan’s top general locked up political leaders and seized power sparking mass protests and a deadly crackdown, mediators are seeking to restore the transition to civilian rule. But experts warn that Sudan’s military and civilian leadership are deeply divided, senior figures remain under military guard, and rebuilding trust between rival factions is a mammoth task. … Last week, Burhan, a veteran general who served under Bashir’s three-decades long iron fisted rule, vowed to form another civilian government. Yet the two sides remain far apart. “The civilians feel burnt by what their military partners did on October 25th,” and will have “a high expectation” of guarantees to trust the military again, said Jeffrey Feltman, the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa. … “We insisted on the release of civilian detainees and resumption of the power-sharing deal as a prerequisite for talks,” said Kamal Ismail, an FFC leader, after meetings with African Union officials. “We believe these are not conditions. They are simply our rights.” The AU last week suspended Sudan’s membership “until the effective restoration of the civilian-led transitional authority”, and a team from the bloc’s Peace and Security Council is expected in Khartoum on Wednesday. AFP

Gunmen Kidnap Six in Rare Attack on University in Nigeria’s Capital

Gunmen kidnapped four staffers and two of their children from the University of Abuja early Tuesday, the university said, staging the first high-profile attack on a campus in Nigeria’s capital as the nation confronts a wave of mass abductions. Criminal gangs normally strike schools across the north of Africa’s most populous country, a phenomenon that has driven a generation of school dropouts. More than 600 schools in the region have closed this year — temporarily or indefinitely — because of a mix of pandemic restrictions and organized crime, researchers say. … The military outpost near the University of Abuja didn’t deter Tuesday’s kidnappers. … Nigeria has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, at 33.3 percent, and a shortage of well-equipped police officers. “Some areas have 30 officers for 50,000 people,” Hassan said. “Bandits see that they can probably get away with it and that the immediate payoff is huge.” The Washington Post

Somalia Remains Most Dangerous for Journalists as Threats Rise Globally

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned at a virtual media forum on Tuesday the world will never move into total freedom until it has secured it for journalists. “No society can be free without journalists who can investigate wrongdoing and speak truth to power,” he said at a function to mark the day set aside by the UN General Assembly nine years ago. “I urge countries to investigate and prosecute crimes against them with the full force of the law.” Since the Day was established, more than 800 journalists have been beaten, injured, threatened or murdered “for doing their jobs,” the UN says. And no country in Africa has seen its journalists work while looking over their shoulders like Somalia. At a function to mark the day, in Nairobi, representatives from Somalia’s press freedom lobbies said there were daily threats from both authorities and terrorist groups, making it victims of supposed protectors and usual violators. “They have suffered for carrying out their journalism work,” observed Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary-General of the National Union of Somali Journalists. “Many have been arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted. They have been persecuted for being journalists.” … In the last nine years, at least 60 journalists have been murdered in Somalia, Osman said, indicating no change in the country’s threats. The EastAfrican

Eight Years after Murder of RFI Journalists, Investigators Continue to Dig

Tuesday marks the eight-year anniversary of the deaths of RFI journalist Ghislaine Dupont, and Claude Verlon, audio engineer, who were murdered after they were kidnapped while reporting in Kidal in northern Mali. Their deaths also mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. Although Barkhane French forces killed Baye Ag Bakabo, one of the kidnappers in June, the investigation into their deaths continues, as there are many grey areas in which information is still being sought. The assassination of Dupont and Verlon was claimed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. It is now known that four people abducted them a few kilometres outside Kidal. Only one kidnapper who was there that day is still alive. Judicial investigators have interviewed new people over the course of this year in an effort to put the whole story together. The have also received new leads in the case. They have made a number of requests for action by civil parties, who are asking for new hearings and access to certain documents. However, the ongoing investigation has been conducted primarily in secret, due to the sensitivity of the case. RFI

Building in Nigeria Had ‘Abnormalities’ before Collapse

Construction on a high-rise building that collapsed Monday in Lagos, killing at least 20 people, had been ordered halted earlier this year after inspectors found “abnormalities,” the authorities said Tuesday. The 21-story structure was cordoned off in June after it had failed to meet structural specifications, said the Lagos State deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat. Workers were recently allowed to resume the job on the high-rise, Mr. Hamzat said, but on Tuesday it was no longer a construction site but a frantic rescue scene. A day earlier, the building had pancaked into a heap of concrete. With scores still missing, government officials, security forces and volunteers descended on the area, as families crying and huddling nearby awaited news of their loved ones. … The disaster has renewed scrutiny on a spate of building collapses in Nigeria’s rapidly expanding financial hub in recent years. The New York Times

Four Ways Mozambique Is Adapting to the Climate Crisis

Fátima António stared down at a flattened pile of wooden planks and twisted tin roofing where her neighbour’s home once stood in the rural village of Buzi, in central Mozambique. The 23-year-old said the house had survived unscathed when Idai – the strongest ever recorded cyclone in southern Africa – barrelled across the region in 2019. But when another cyclone struck earlier this year, the small property was not so lucky. Speaking to The New Humanitarian in April – three months after Cyclone Eloise hit – António said she felt her community had been left out of the recovery and rebuilding efforts that took place in the aftermath of Idai. “We thought we had been forgotten,” António said. As changing weather patterns linked to climate change trigger more intense floods and cyclones in Mozambique – the country fifth most affected by extreme weather in the world over the past two decades, according to the 2021 Global Climate Risk Index – the government and its donors are trying to shift their response. Instead of picking up the pieces after each disaster strikes, they want to prevent the worst from happening in the first place. The New Humanitarian



Photo: Adam Jones