Africa Media Review for November 4, 2021

Possible War Crimes on All Sides in Ethiopian Conflict, Says Report
War crimes and other crimes against humanity may have been conducted by all sides in the bloody year-long civil war in Ethiopia, according to a joint investigation by the UN and the country’s human rights commission. The most comprehensive report yet into the conflict, which has centred around the rebel province of Tigray, includes a string of first-hand accounts of massacres, torture and sexual violence in a war that began almost exactly a year ago. It was released the day after Ethiopia declared a state of emergency and two days after Tigrayan forces said they may march on the capital to topple the government. Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that “all parties to the Tigray conflict have committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law. Some of these may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Guardian

Diplomats Work to Avert Attack on Ethiopian Capital
Diplomatic efforts to try to avert an attack on Ethiopia’s capital gathered pace on Thursday after Tigrayan forces from the north of the country made advances towards the city this week. The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, was expected to arrive in Addis Ababa later in the day to press for a halt to military operations and a start to ceasefire talks. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni called an East African bloc leaders’ meeting on Nov. 16 to discuss the conflict, which pits the central government against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its allies. Separately, the bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, appealed for an immediate ceasefire. It urged the parties to show restraint, de-escalate tensions and resolve their differences through dialogue. … U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had spoken to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday “to offer my good offices to create the conditions for a dialogue so the fighting stops”. Reuters

Facebook Deletes Ethiopia PM’s Post that Urged Citizens to ‘Bury’ Rebels
Facebook has removed a post from Ethiopia’s prime minister for violating its policies against inciting violence. On Sunday, Abiy Ahmed called on citizens take up arms to block the advance of the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF has fought a year-long campaign against government forces, capturing key towns in recent days. Facebook has been criticised for failing to do more to stop its platform being used to incite violence. In the post, Mr Abiy said that the rebel advance was “pushing the country to its demise,” and he urged citizens to “organise and march through [any] legal manner with every weapon and power… to prevent, reverse and bury the terrorist TPLF”. A spokesperson for Facebook, whose parent company recently rebranded to Meta, told the BBC: “We were made aware of a post by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and removed this for violating our policies against inciting and supporting violence. … In a massive leak of documents last month it was revealed that Facebook had been warned that its platform was being used by armed groups in Ethiopia to incite violence against ethnic minorities. BBC

Saudi, UAE Join Foreign Pressure to Overturn Sudan’s Coup
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Britain called on Wednesday for the restoration of Sudan’s civilian-led government in the latest show of international pressure to reverse a military coup. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been under house arrest in the capital Khartoum since being toppled on Oct. 25 by military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in a coup that derailed a transition to civilian rule and led to a Western aid freeze. The joint statement was the first in which the UAE and Saudi Arabia – both regarded by regional analysts as possible backers of Burhan – have called for the restoration of the civilian-led government and return to power-sharing. They and the two Western powers called for the release of political detainees, end of a state of emergency, and commitment to “a genuine civil-military partnership” during the transition to elections. “This will help ensure Sudan reaches political stability and economic recovery so that it is able to continue the transitional period with the support of Sudan’s friends and international partners,” they added. Reuters

U.S. to End Duty-free Access for Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea
The United States plans to remove Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from the agreement that gives them duty-free access to the United States, President Joe Biden said in a letter to Congress, citing human rights violations. The move comes amid ongoing conflict and famine in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray and after coups d’etat in Guinea in September and in Mali last year. Biden said Ethiopia was not in compliance with the African Growth and Opportunity Act’s (AGOA) eligibility requirements “for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Guinea and Mali had not made progress toward establishing rule of law and political pluralism, and Mali had failed to establish workers’ rights and human rights, Biden’s letter said. “Despite intensive engagement between the United States and the Governments of Ethiopia, Guinea, and Mali, these governments have failed to address United States concerns about their non-compliance with the AGOA eligibility criteria,” it said. Reuters

Vaccine Certificates-for-sale Scam Undermines Lesotho’s Covid Effort
The Lesotho government’s plans to implement a Covid passport system this week are being undermined by widespread fraud involving certificates being sold to unvaccinated people. Covid-19 vaccination certificates are being sold for less than £20 by unscrupulous health workers to the largely vaccine-averse population in Lesotho, where there has been little positive campaigning around the jabs. The prime minister, Moeketsi Majoro, announced in October that from this week, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms and sporting facilities would only admit people who had a Covid-19 vaccination certificate. It led to an immediate increase in the numbers presenting for vaccination, with queues at health centres, but has also sparked a burgeoning hidden market in fraudulent certificates. … The latest scam follows a reported jabs-for-cash scandal involving health workers from Motebang hospital in Leribe, about 50 miles north-east of the capital, Maseru. The health workers allegedly sold Covid-19 jabs to ineligible people, among them expatriates, for about £19, during a period when the government was still vaccinating frontline workers and vulnerable people. The national Covid-19 secretariat deputy CEO, Thabo Ntoi, said the government was now considering introducing digitised Covid-19 passports, but it would probably be December before these were available. The Guardian

Zimbabwe: Riot Police Deployed As Civil Unrest Fears Grow
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s … administration has deployed hundreds of police officers, many in riot gear, in Harare amid fears of an imminent uprising, it has emerged. Security sector sources revealed that in addition to the cops, who have maintained a heavy presence in Harare’s central business district (CBD) for over a week, government has also secretly deployed significant numbers of undercover agents, mainly from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to gather intelligence. They are required to submit daily reports. The heavy riot police presence has been witnessed in the city centre everyday since police officers clashed with a grouping of war veterans who were protesting low allowances they receive from government. The deployment comes at a time the governing party, Zanu PF, has been spooked by MDC Alliance Nelson Chamisa’s trailblazing nationwide campaign which it has sought to violently thwart. It also comes amid a general apprehension occasioned by growing discontentment over worsening economic problems. “There is general fear among police commanders at the moment that the worsening hardships could trigger civil unrest and this was worsened by war veterans taking to the streets recently,” a police source said. “The idea is to showcase as much firepower as possible and scare away any potential rioters …” the source said. New Zimbabwe

Concern as Kenya’s Voters Shun Registration for 2022 Election
… On the eve of its November 2 deadline, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) seems shocked by the dismally low number of new registrations. … Take Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, for example. Out of 190,237 potential new voters, a paltry 4,486 enrolled during the first two weeks of the drive — that’s less than 2%. The rest of the country, including the capital Nairobi, has had similarly meager registration rates. … “I haven’t registered as a voter because the elections were rigged in the past,” 26-year-old student Damaclyn Marieri told DW in Nairobi. “Secondly, after being voted in, some leaders disappear and don’t perform the role they promised,” she said. … “I need my voice to be represented. There is no need for me to go stand in line and register myself as a voter then vote for a person who won’t be elected because the leader has already been predetermined,” said Wesley Mokoa during the 77 Percent street debate. … The low turn-out for voter registration should be a wake-up call, warns political analyst Martin Oloo. “Low voter registration might as well lead to low voter turn-out, which will combine to make the [2022] election less credible,” Oloo said, adding that it sends a clear signal that the electorate doesn’t believe in its leaders. DW

Somalia Remains Most Dangerous for Journalists as Threats Rise Globally
Violence, state impunity and threats to journalists appear to go hand in hand, according to new findings by a press freedom lobby. And as the world marked the International Day to End Crimes against Journalists on Tuesday, press freedom campaigners said risks for media practitioners appear to rise whenever authorities cannot take full charge of their territories or there are weak institutions to run those governments. 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. … 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. The East African

Death Toll in Nigeria Building Collapse Rises to 36
The death toll from the collapse of a high-rise building in an upscale area of Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos has risen to 36, as rescue operations enter the fourth day. The 21-storey building under construction in the Ikoyi district of Lagos crumbled on Monday afternoon, trapping dozens of people working on the site. “So far, 36 people – 33 males and three female – have been confirmed dead, while there were nine survivors,” Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, general manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, told the AFP news agency on Thursday. The number of people present on the site at the time of the collapse is still unknown. … Two other smaller buildings in Lagos also collapsed on Tuesday following heavy rains, though no one was killed, Farinloye said. … The cause of the incident has yet to be established, but building collapses are common in Africa’s most populous country. Poor workmanship and materials and a lack of official oversight are often blamed. Al Jazeera

Vigilantes Defying The Odds To Protect Lives In Northwest Nigeria
There are civilian law enforcement groups across Nigeria. Many of them operate under the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN), which traces its origins back to the late 19th century. According to the authorities in Katsina, police personnel in the state are not up to 3,000. This means there are 38 officers for every 100,000 residents — grossly falling short of the global average of 300 per the same number of people, according to a United Nations analysis. The governor, Aminu Bello Masari, hopes to fill this gap by recruiting more vigilantes to support the state’s security architecture. Already, vigilante groups in the state have proved helpful in rescuing victims of abduction, protecting farmlands, handing over arrested criminal suspects to the authorities, and conducting joint security operations with the police and soldiers. … Many people across Northwest Nigeria count on civilian law enforcement groups for protection. Mallam Suleiman,* a school principal in Batsari who was abducted by terrorists in May, feels safer in the local government metropolis because of the presence of vigilantes. … There have, however, been various reports of vigilantes engaging in ethnic profiling, jungle justice, and abusing their powers to victimise innocent people. Many of these incidents have triggered reprisal attacks from terrorists who see the killings as proof that their crimes are reactionary. Humangle Media

Deadly Clashes in DRC’s Bukavu after Gunmen Launch Overnight Raid
Unidentified attackers have launched an overnight raid in Bukavu, a city in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), sparking deadly clashes that continued until the morning. South Kivu Governor Theo Ngwabidje Kasi told reporters on Wednesday that six attackers, two police officers and a soldier were killed in the gun battles. Gunfire was heard in several areas of the city from about 1:45am (23:45 GMT on Tuesday), but the fighting appeared to have stopped by the afternoon, according to media reports. … The region’s military commander, Bob Kilubi Ngoy, said the group had sought to free members who had been arrested by police several days earlier. The group attacked a military base in a bid to steal ammunition but were pushed back, and then tried to head to the town centre but were also repelled, he said. “They were desperate to free fellow members,” Ngoy said. “It was dark and we preferred to contain them to prevent too much damage,” he said, adding that the army had preferred to launch a “pincer operation” against the assailants at daybreak. Authorities also said they took 36 attackers captive and recovered 14 weapons. … More than 120 armed groups roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of regional wars fought a quarter-century ago. Al Jazeera

DR Congo’s Former Child Soldiers Face Tough Return to Civilian Life
Some of the DR Congo’s former child soldiers have become traders, hairdressers and tailors, but many struggle to recover a normal life. Dreams of becoming a farmer or teacher run up against tough conditions in a society deeply afflicted by unemployment and poverty. Clement Kahindo, supervisor of a temporary shelter in Goma, capital of North Kivu province, goes through the list of problems. … Kahindo said many former child combatants were overwhelmed by the horrors they had witnessed in a part of the country that has been ravaged by violence for more than 25 years. “They have seen killings, some of them have carried out killings themselves, like the teenager who was forced to tie people up and bury them alive,” Kahindo said. The youngest children are “used for spying, cooking, water and firewood,” said Faustin Busimba, Cajed’s programme officer. “A child who stays for two or three years in an armed group goes to the front.” AFP

Diplomatic Dispute Between Algeria and Morocco Prompts Energy Crisis in Spain
Spain faces a fresh energy crisis after Algeria shut off supplies of natural gas through one of the two pipelines linking Spain with the North African state. Like many other European countries, Spain has been hit hard by soaring electricity prices in recent months. A surge in demand as the world’s economies began to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic has not been matched by supply, sending prices climbing. Households have been hit by electricity prices which rose more than 40% in the past year, prompting the Spanish government to bring in emergency measures to reduce bills. Now the fresh crisis over natural gas supplies from their North African neighbors has added to tensions in the energy market for Spain. Algeria closed a land pipeline Sunday after a diplomatic dispute with its neighbor Morocco, through which the pipeline passes. Algiers agreed to keep open a second pipeline which passes under the Mediterranean to Spain, but this does not supply as much natural gas as the land pipeline through Morocco. Without any natural energy source except the burgeoning renewables market, Spain depends on Algeria for its natural gas supply. VOA

Deforestation Done Well: Gabon’s Green Logging Laws Offer COP26 Countries a Path to Climate Action
Armed with machetes and measuring tape, the loggers slash and hack their way through the underbrush of Gabon’s rain forest to reach a majestic 40-metre-high okoumé tree, fated to become plywood for office walls in Europe or Asia. After the first team verifies that the tree is a permissible size, a team of abatteurs—tree cutters—arrives on the scene. Hendy Nguema briefly bows his head and crosses himself, praying for safety, and then revs up his chainsaw. Within 10 minutes, the giant tree crashes through the forest canopy, sending a green cloud of leaves and branches into the air as it topples. If the government of Gabon has its way, this could become the future of rain-forest logging: highly selective, relatively slow, carefully documented, independently certified and fully traceable. The strategy aims to preserve the forests of the Congo Basin in equatorial Africa, boosting their absorption of carbon emissions from the world’s industries. Forest protection is one of the key goals of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this week, with growing concern about rising deforestation in the Amazon and the Congo Basin, the two biggest “lungs” of the global environment. World leaders at the summit on Tuesday pledged to end deforestation by 2030 but the vague promise will need to be accompanied by specific action, making Gabon’s policies of growing interest as a possible model. Globe & Mail

South Africa Secured $8.5 Billion to Transition Away from Coal. It’ll Be a Test Case
For years at global climate talks, developing countries have said that they need more financial help from wealthy nations to speed up their shift away from fossil fuels. Now the world is about to get a major test of how that might work in practice. At the Glasgow climate summit on Tuesday, South Africa announced that it had secured commitments for $8.5 billion in financing over the next five years from Britain, France, Germany, the United States and European Union to help install more clean energy, accelerate the country’s transition away from coal power and cushion the blow for workers who may be affected by the shift. “This is a big deal,” said Jesse Burton, an energy policy researcher and senior associate at the University of Cape Town and E3G, a research group that focuses on climate change. “It’s a major test of whether wealthy nations can help developing countries embark on a just transition away from coal.” South Africa, the world’s 15th-largest emitter, relies overwhelmingly on coal, which supplies 87 percent of the nation’s electricity. While the country has pledged to reduce its overall carbon dioxide emissions between now and 2030 as part of global efforts to tackle climate change, it faces enormous obstacles in doing so. NY Times



Photo: Adam Jones