Africa Media Review for November 30, 2021

China Cash Flowed Through Congo Bank to Former President’s Cronies
For more than six months, Bloomberg has analyzed a trove of 3.5 million bank documents from BGFI that offer an unprecedented glimpse into how several individuals and companies operated in what would turn out to be a takeover of much of the Congolese mining industry by Chinese companies during Kabila’s presidency. The information was obtained by Paris-based anti-corruption group Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa and the French news organization Mediapart and shared with media outlets coordinated by the European Investigative Collaborations network and five non-governmental organizations. The consortium’s investigations, dubbed “Congo Hold-up,” demonstrate the extent to which the country’s most powerful family used the bank to serve its private interests and how at least $138 million in state funds transited BGFI to Kabila’s relatives and associates. The new information also casts a light on some of the previously unseen ways in which Chinese companies came to dominate the mineral riches of one of the poorest nations in the world. Bloomberg

Omicron Brings COVID-19 Vaccine Inequity ‘Home to Roost’
The emergence of the new omicron variant and the world’s desperate and likely futile attempts to keep it at bay are reminders of what scientists have warned for months: The coronavirus will thrive as long as vast parts of the world lack vaccines. The hoarding of limited COVID-19 shots by rich countries — creating virtual vaccine deserts in many poorer ones — doesn’t just mean risk for the parts of the world seeing shortages; it threatens the entire globe. That’s because the more the disease spreads among unvaccinated populations, the more possibilities it has to mutate and potentially become more dangerous, prolonging the pandemic for everyone. “The virus is a ruthless opportunist, and the inequity that has characterized the global response has now come home to roost,” said Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, one of the groups behind the U.N.-backed COVAX shot-sharing initiative. Perhaps nowhere is the inequality more evident than in Africa, where under 7% of the population is vaccinated. South African scientists alerted the World Health Organization to the new omicron variant last week, though it may never be clear where it first originated. Researchers are now rushing to determine whether it is more infectious or able to evade current vaccines. AP

Frustrated by Vaccine Inequity, a South African Lab Rushes to Replicate Moderna’s Shot
In an industrial area of this seaside city, a little-known biotech company is entering a pivotal phase of making Africa’s first coronavirus vaccine by attempting to replicate Moderna’s highly effective mRNA-based shot. Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines is racing to make a vaccine because, despite donation pledges, supply is short and just 6 percent of Africa’s 1.2 billion people have been inoculated. Getting Africa — and other parts of the world — vaccinated has gained new urgency with the emergence of a new variant, dubbed omicron, that was first detected by South African scientists. Health officials have warned since the start of the pandemic almost two years ago that the coronavirus will continue to evolve and spread as long as significant populations remained unvaccinated. With help from the World Health Organization (WHO) and international consultants, including from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Afrigen has become part of the African continent’s first training and technology transfer hub for mRNA vaccines, a step toward answering calls from global health officials for Africa to develop its own vaccine-manufacturing capability to avoid supply shortages during a crisis. The Washington Post

Uganda Launches Air and Artillery Raids against ADF in DRC
The Ugandan military has launched air and artillery raids against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in an operation agreed with Congolese forces. “This morning, we have launched joint air and artillery strikes against ADF camps with our Congolese allies,” a spokesperson for the Uganda People’s Defence Force said in a Twitter post on Tuesday. For his part, Patrick Muyaya, the DRC’s government spokesman and communications minister said “targeted and concerted action with the Ugandan army started today with air strikes and artillery fire from Uganda against positions of the terrorist ADF in the DRC.” Ugandan authorities have blamed the ADF for deadly suicide bombings in the capital, Kampala, earlier this month. The armed group has been accused of carrying out dozens of attacks in the eastern DRC. In recent days, news reports about the proposed cross-border campaign have sparked anxiety amongst some Congolese, who recall Uganda’s role in civil wars that ended in 2003. The Congolese government is still seeking more than $13bn in reparations from Uganda for its involvement in the conflict. Al Jazeera

South Sudan Coalition Partners Differ on Electoral Programme
South Sudan’s peace is facing a new challenge as an agreement on the electoral programme to end the current Unity government and usher in a democratically elected administration is delayed. This week, officials from the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), the regional organ that monitors the peace deal implementation, said delays in fulfilling some of the pledges in the 2018 agreement could see the country overshoot its transition timelines. The delay could cause renewed conflict, said Maj-Gen (Rtd) Charles Tai Gituai, the interim chairman of the R-JMEC, a body created by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad). Maj-Gen (Rtd) Gituai was speaking in Juba at the Fifth Governor’s Forum, a conference of key regional administration chiefs working under the government of national unity, on Monday. The forum was created after the 2018 peace agreement between President Salva Kiir, his former deputy Riek Machar and other armed groups. “Despite progress in some thematic areas, challenges persist. Too much time has been lost,” he said. “We have barely 15 months until the end of the Transitional Period and yet some critical tasks remain outstanding.” The most crucial stage is planning for an election that will see the public participate. Other issues include writing a new Constitution, merging security forces, and reforms in the Judiciary. The EastAfrican

Sudan’s FFC Forces Sharply Criticize Hamdok
Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has been sharply criticised by the groups of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) on Monday as they questioned his legitimacy and accused him of seeking to divide them. Hamdok struck a political deal with the coup leaders on November 21, reinstating him as prime minister and mandating him with the formation of an inclusive cabinet of technocrats without requiring the approval of his former political majority. In a press conference held days after his release and 24 hours before demonstrations against the coup of October 25, the leader of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP) Omer al-Diguair rejected the political agreement struck between Abdallah Hamdok and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan saying it was “not acceptable politically, and not even morally.” … These statements of the SCoP leader actually reflect a shared view among the FFC leaders about the deal which according to the political coalition gave the military a political basis to legalize their coup. They point that his deal authorizes amending the constitutional declaration governing the transitional so that the coup leaders can do all that the FFC had refused to them during the past two years. … In a statement published on Monday, Hamdok pinpointed that the deal he signed with al-Burhan provides to establish a political pact to be endorsed by all the political forces. Sudan Tribune

Humanitarian Tragedy Deepens after West Darfur Violence
The Chadian authorities say that more than 12,000 Sudanese refugees, most of them children, women, and seniors, have arrived in the Wadi Barak area after fleeing the violence in attacks on villagers and nomads in Jebel Moon, West Darfur, during the past 10 days. Thousands of villagers fled to eastern Chad after their homes were burned to ashes. There are conflicting reports of exactly how many people were killed or injured in the violence. Mohamed Aliyu, Acting Governor of West Darfur, announced that the clashes in Jebel Moon area resulted in the death of 24 people and the burning of eight villages. In a press statement yesterday, Aliyu explained that “thieves are the root of the problems.” He said that the authorities were able to put an end to the Jebel Moon violence. He acknowledged the existence of security problems in North and West Darfur, perpetrated by those “taking advantage of the deteriorating security situation in Khartoum.” … The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan said that initial reports indicate that at least 43 people were killed, 46 villages were burned and plundered, and several people went missing, including children. Radio Dabanga

Igad and UN Appeal for Drought Relief in Horn of Africa
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) are appealing for urgent action to mitigate the impact of drought across the Horn of Africa where food insecurity is getting dire. The October-December 2021 rainy season has significantly delayed in the region, with little to no rainfall in many areas. Worsening drought is expected to result in deterioration of agriculture and pastures, causing households already struggling with the effects of multiple and concurrent hazards — including climate variability, conflict, Covid-19 and desert locusts — to reduce their food consumption. “Food insecurity in the region has historically increased sharply following consecutive poor rainfall seasons,” noted a joint statement by IGAD Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu and FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Eastern Africa Chimimba David Phiri. “As of October 2021, 26 million people in the region were already facing high levels of food insecurity, and due to the threat of worsening drought conditions, food insecurity will likely rise during the first half of 2022 across the Horn of Africa. Urgent action is therefore required now to safeguard livelihoods, save lives, and prevent worsening malnutrition,” the statement said. The EastAfrican

Chad Gives Amnesty to Hundreds of Rebels and Dissidents, Meeting Opposition Demand
Chad’s military-led government on Monday decreed an amnesty for nearly 300 rebels and political dissidents, meeting a key demand by opposition groups invited to join a forum on the troubled country’s future. The amnesty will apply to 296 individuals sentenced for offences including “crimes of opinion”, “terrorism” and “harming the integrity of the state,” according to a ruling by the Council of Ministers received by AFP. Rebel groups have said the amnesty is a pre-condition to joining a round table proposed by President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, 37, who took the reins after his father Idriss Deby Itno was killed fighting insurgents in April. On taking office, the younger Deby dismissed the government, dissolved parliament and repealed the constitution, promising to stage “free and transparent” elections within 18 months. In August, he offered to launch a dialogue that would include rebel groups. … After contacts in Qatar’s capital Doha and Paris, the rebels last month set down preconditions. These include “the release of prisoners of war, a general amnesty for all political-military figures, and the return of rebel property seized by the government.” AFP

Guinea’s Junta Says Ousted Leader Alpha Condé Has Returned Home
Guinea’s junta has announced that deposed president Alpha Condé was sent to his wife’s home in the capital Conakry on Monday, after holding him incommunicado for months. 83-year-old Condé led the country for nearly 11 years before being deposed in a military coup on the 5th of September. In a statement broadcast on state TV, the junta said Condé was now home with his wife, Hadja Djene Kaba Condé, in the Conakry suburbs. It was not specified whether Condé was under house arrest or if he faces other restrictions. The junta, which calls itself the National Rally Committee for Development (CNRD), said it “will continue to provide the former head of state with treatment worthy of his rank, and this without any national or international pressure.” The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had imposed sanctions on individual coup leaders and demanded the “unconditional release” of Condé. ECOWAS also suspended Guinea from the bloc and called for elections to be held within six months. The country’s new strongman, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, was sworn in as interim president last month. While he has pledged to restore civilian rule after elections, Doumbouya has so far refused to commit to a timeframe for the transition. RFI

Horrors on the Plateau: Inside Nigeria’s Farmer-Herder Conflict
Plateau state is home to about 40 ethnic groups and has been a hotbed of conflict. The clashes, mostly between Muslim Fulani herders and Christian farmers from the Berom and Irigwe ethnic groups, is often painted as ethnoreligious. But analysts have said climate change and scarcity of pastoral land is pitting the farmers and herders against each other, irrespective of faith. The majority of Irigwe and Berom farmers grow acha (a grain known as “hungry rice”) and millet while the chief cash crops are yams, sorghum, corn, potatoes, cowpeas and rice. The Fulani, meanwhile, are nomadic pastoralists, often of northern extraction, who have travelled to central and southern parts of the country in search of greener pastures for their livestock. In some cases, the pastoralists permanently settle in their host communities. However, across the years, pastoral land scarcity compounded by increasing urbanisation has forced herders onto farmlands and restricted areas, such as national parks and conserved forests. This often results in the destruction of crops and ends up snowballing into a conflict between the herders and local farmers. In retaliation, aggrieved farmers and members of farming communities sometimes attack the herders and their livestock. Al Jazeera

Gunmen Free More than 260 Inmates in Nigerian Jail Attack
Gunmen freed more than 260 inmates during an attack on a prison in Nigeria’s central city of Jos, officials said, in the country’s fourth such raid this year. The attackers opened fire on guards on Sunday evening, starting a gunbattle that left one guard and nine prisoners dead, the correctional service said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the raid in the capital of Plateau State. Regions further north have been plagued by bandits and Islamist militants. “Some of the attackers and a total of 262 inmates escaped in the melee before reinforcement could come from sister services,” the service said in a statement. Ten prisoners had since been recaptured, it added. Last month, gunmen attacked a jail in Oyo State and freed more than 800 inmates. Reuters

Accusations and Bullets Fly in Zimbabwe as MDC-A Allege Assassination Attempts by Zanu-PF
Zimbabwe’s biggest opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A), believes that the country’s ruling Zanu-PF has decided to assassinate MDC-A leader Nelson Chamisa because all its other efforts to destroy his party have failed. MDC-A officials say Zanu-PF thugs attacked Chamisa’s convoy twice on the campaign trail in recent weeks, once firing bullets into his car, one of which missed him by centimetres. And later, it says, a Zanu-PF- driven bakkie tried to side-swipe Chamisa’s vehicle into oncoming traffic. Zanu-PF had earlier already orchestrated the eviction of 36 MDC-A representatives from Parliament and the confiscation of its headquarters in Harare and its statutory state party political funding. But when MDC-A bounced back and Chamisa started to pull large crowds in Zanu-PF’s rural strongholds while campaigning for the 2023 general elections, the ruling party took fright and tried to physically eliminate the party’s popular leader, party officials say. Gift Ostallos Siziba, the party’s deputy spokesperson, told DM168 that on 10 October in the Charumbira area of the southern province of Masvingo, more than 200 Zanu-PF thugs had attacked Chamisa’s convoy as he was on the rural campaign trail, driving to the second meeting of the day with local leaders. Daily Maverick

In Latest Assault on Dissent, Egypt Convicts a Human Rights Activist
An Egyptian court on Monday convicted a prominent human rights advocate and lawyer of spreading false news and insulting a government authority, adding another name to a growing list of activists, journalists and dissidents whom the state has aggressively targeted and sought to silence for years. The penalty imposed on the lawyer, Hossam Bahgat, was relatively modest, but the prosecution was just the latest chapter in a legal odyssey that has brought him to near ruin. It began more than five years ago, when the authorities opened an investigation into his activities and subjected him to an open-ended travel ban that he says crippled his career and sent him into depression. On Monday, Mr. Bahgat was spared jail time and fined about $650 — an outcome that experts said appeared calculated to serve two purposes: a guilty verdict that would intimidate government opponents into silence while simultaneously presenting a more reasonable face to the audience abroad by not imprisoning him. … “I see darkness,” said Mohamed Anwar Sadat, a former head of the human rights committee in Parliament, who has more recently played an informal role mediating between civil society groups and the state. “We thought the trial would bring a better end to these cases and serve as a way out of the crisis, but we’re in shock.” The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones