Africa Media Review for November 8, 2021

ECOWAS Hardens Stance on Mali, Guinea
The West African regional bloc Ecowas on Sunday hardened its stance against military-ruled Mali and Guinea, imposing new individual sanctions and calling on both countries to honour timetables for a return to democracy. The Economic Community of West African States “has decided to sanction all those implicated in the delay” in organising elections set for February 27 in Mali, Ecowas Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou told AFP after a summit of the 15-nation group in the Ghanaian capital Accra. He said Mali had “officially written” to Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, who holds the rotating presidency of Ecowas to inform him that the Sahel country could not hold elections as planned. “All the transition authorities are concerned by the sanctions which will take immediate effect,” Brou said, adding the travel bans and assets freeze targeted family members as well. In a final declaration following Sunday’s summit, Ecowas said it “highly deplores the lack of progress” towards staging elections in Mali. … As for Guinea, where soldiers seized power on September 5, Ecowas decided to uphold the country’s suspension from the bloc as well as sanctions against individual junta members and their families. AFP

Sudan Forces Disperse Anti-Coup Protesters, Arrest Dozens
Sudan’s security forces dispersed demonstrators and rounded up more than 100 people Sunday in the capital of Khartoum, in the latest crackdown on pro-democracy protesters after last month’s military coup. … Teachers and education workers protested the coup outside the Education Ministry in Khartoum’s district of Bahri, according to the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which led the uprising against al-Bashir. Security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters and arrested at least 113 people, mostly teachers, said lawyer Moez Hadra. There were sporadic protests elsewhere in Khartoum, he said. Local authorities announced the resumption of school classes in the capital for the first time since the coup. Sunday was the first of two days of nationwide strikes called by the SPA, which vowed to continue protesting until a full civilian government is established to lead the transition. Several shops and businesses in Khartoum were seen open, according to a video journalist with The Associated Press. The fresh crackdown has also come as mediation efforts between the military and civilian leaders have stumbled, according to a military official with knowledge of the ongoing efforts. AP

Ethiopian Government Rallies Protesters against Tigrayan Rebels
Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have pledged to defend the capital from advancing rebels during a pro-military rally where attendees dismissed diplomatic efforts to end the year-long war. The rally in central Addis Ababa on Sunday was the government’s latest attempt to shore up public support for the conflict against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and allied groups. It came five days after the government declared a nationwide state of emergency ostensibly to protect civilians from the TPLF, which has claimed key gains in recent days while floating a possible march on the capital. United States official Jeffrey Feltman arrived in Ethiopia on Thursday to try to broker an end to the hostilities. The US embassy announced on Saturday it was ordering the departure of non-emergency staff, days after countries including Saudi Arabia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark urged their citizens to leave Ethiopia. The protests on Sunday, organised by the government, were also directed against countries who have called for an end to the violence. Al Jazeera

‘They Just Vanished’: Tigrayans Disappear for Months in Secret Ethiopian Detention Camps
Medhanye, a 31-year-old Ethiopian of Tigrayan ethnicity, was watching a soccer match with his friends at a café in Addis Ababa when the police suddenly arrived. After demanding their identity cards, which show their ethnicity, the police separated 11 Tigrayans and took them to a site where hundreds of others were being held. At dawn the next morning, they were forced onto three buses and driven to a secret detention camp in the Afar region. “They did not explain our crime,” Medhanye said. For the next 93 days, he said he was imprisoned – and often tortured – at the camp with hundreds of other Tigrayans, until he finally managed to pay a bribe for his release last month. Disappearances, ethnic profiling and mass arrests of Tigrayans have become increasingly common this year, especially after territorial gains by Tigrayan rebel forces in the escalating civil war, according to human rights groups and other independent sources. Over the past week, as rebels advance closer to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the cycle of detention is being repeated. Federal police in the capital are rounding up hundreds of Tigrayans on the streets or in house-to-house searches and taking them to unknown locations, numerous media reports say. The Globe and Mail

Libya Govt Rejects Suspension of FM Weeks before Election
Libya’s government Sunday rejected a decision by the country’s presidential council to suspend the foreign minister over allegations of monopolizing foreign policy. The standoff between the two bodies is likely to increase political tensions in the North African county less than seven weeks before planned elections. It also comes a few days ahead of an international conference in Paris to push for holding the vote as scheduled Dec. 24. The Government of National Unity said in a statement that the presidential council doesn’t have the right to suspend Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush. and hailed the minister’s efforts as the county’s chief diplomat. It pointed to her work at an international conference held in the capital of Tripoli last month with the aim of resolving the country’s thorniest issues ahead of general elections. The government said that naming members of the government and suspending or investigating government officials are duties exclusive to the prime minister. The presidential council, a three-member body serving as the country’s president until one is elected, late Saturday suspended Mangoush and barred her from traveling abroad. It accused the minister of not coordinating foreign policy decisions with the council. The council did not elaborate on the circumstances behind the decision. AP

Libyan Premier to Run for President amid Growing Election Turmoil
The head of Libya’s national unity government plans to run for president next month, according to a senior official, an apparent breach of a pledge to remain neutral when he took office in March under a U.N.-backed peace process. Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah has become popular with big public spending programmes after years of civil war, and could be a frontrunner to win office as Libya’s first directly elected head of state since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown a decade ago. But his decision could also add to political disputes over the election, which have overshadowed the peace process. Dbeibah and other cabinet members had pledged not to run for president when they were appointed to the Government of National Unity, which replaced two rival administrations after years of war between factions based in the east and west. … Libya’s rival political institutions remain divided over the election’s legal basis, the rules governing candidacy and even the date. Other potential candidates include Khalifa Haftar, the main civil war commander from the east, and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the former dictator’s son. Parliament head Aguila Saleh could stand, as could powerful former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha. A prominent comedian is among others who have already declared they will run. Reuters

Chinese Overseas Turn to Private Security Companies to Protect Them as They Become a Target for Crime and Terrorism
Thousands of Chinese workers live in the DRC, mainly in the mineral-rich east and south, part of a wave of emigration and investment across Africa encouraged by Beijing that is only increasing under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s vast trade and infrastructure project. … This raises questions over China’s ability to protect its citizens overseas, with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) maintaining a small footprint outside of East Asia and Beijing wary of anything that smacks of intervention. To plug the gap, companies and groups like Mr. He’s have taken to hiring Chinese private security companies (PSCs) largely staffed and run by former members of the Chinese military and police. … In a recent report, Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, wrote that PSCs “offer the Chinese government tools it can wield to demonstrate its commitment to protecting overseas interests, while at the same time resisting pressure to deploy the PLA more robustly.” Mr. Nantulya says there are 20 Chinese PSCs currently licensed to operate overseas, which employ around 3,200 people. This is greater than the total number of PLA peacekeeping troops deployed overseas, mainly in Africa, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. Since 2015, Chinese companies have spent more than US$10-billion on security annually, a number that is only increasing as more and more companies expand internationally, particularly along the BRI. The Globe and Mail

Cyberattacks: South Africa, You’ve Been Hacked
Online crooks are increasingly targeting South Africa, which now has the third-highest number of cybercrime victims in the world. This costs about R2.2-billion annually. In the first quarter of this year, South Africa was also the worst affected on the continent in terms of targeted ransomware attacks, which can affect critical infrastructure. This is according to Interpol’s African Cyberthreat Assessment Report released in October. It comes as the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development recovers from a debilitating ransomware attack that unfolded in September, affecting all its electronic systems. Transnet and its division that operates SA’s biggest ports was also the target of a cyberattack earlier this year that affected crucial systems. And the National School of Government was previously targeted by criminals, while the private hospital group Life Healthcare was targeted last year in an attack that affected admissions systems and email servers. These incidents paint a worrying picture of how vulnerable South Africa is to cybercriminals and even cyberwarfare. Daily Maverick

Fuel Tanker Explosion Kills at Least 98 in Sierra Leone
A fuel tanker exploded on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s seaside capital late Friday, killing at least 98 people and wounding dozens of others in one of the deadliest accidents the West African nation has endured in years. The tanker burst into flames at a busy intersection after colliding with a truck in Freetown’s suburb of Wellington, turning the night sky orange, photos and video show. “I’ve never seen something like this before in all my years of practice as a surgeon,” said Mustapha Kabba, head of Connaught Hospital, the city’s largest medical center. “We have a lot of severe injuries. A lot of burns. A lot of corpses.” Practically every doctor in the area rushed to the hospital and treated victims through the night, he said. By Saturday, medical workers were scrambling to find enough IV fluids, antibiotics and other essentials for soothing burns. Family members gathered outside, waiting for news about loved ones. … The accident happened about 10 miles east of the site of another major disaster, some noted: the Sugarloaf mountain mudslide, the deadliest in Sierra Leone’s history, which claimed more than 1,000 lives in 2017 and destroyed thousands of homes. The Washington Post

Sahara’s Forgotten Fighters Threaten Full-Scale War
Now, after offering rare access to the re-ignited front line of the conflict, Polisario fighters have told The Telegraph they want to take the war out of “first gear” unless the international community rallies to their independence cause. The fresh war cries come after another round of unexpected attention for the freedom fighters in May this year. The ageing Polisario leader sought medical treatment for Covid in Madrid – much to the anger of Morocco. In retaliation, in scenes that shocked the European establishment, Morocco opened the gates to a wave of migration into Spain. Thousands of asylum seekers were allowed to scale fences and swim past a barrier with babies and children to enter the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. The resolve of the Polisario in the windswept deserts of Western Sahara strengthened. Ignored by the UN diplomatic process and tired of legal knockbacks in European courts, they now seem to be left with little option but to try and intensify the fighting in Western Sahara. … It is difficult to see how an escalation could take place – Morocco’s high-tech army has dug-in further. One Polisario leader, Mohamed Akeik, who was recently appointed chief of staff of the Sahrawi army, says that trying to target sites in Moroccan-occupied areas by bypassing the Berm or activating Polisario cells there is possibility. Telegraph

ISWAP’s Transport Inventory, Engineering Capacities Feeding Its Campaign Of Terror
ISWAP’s ability to capture, modify, and utilise motorised vehicles, as well as navigate water bodies with boats, has allowed the group to sustain terror campaigns and state-like activities in Northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin. The group uses diverse modes of transportation ranging from boats, motorcycles, pickup trucks, and, more recently, improvised up-armoured carriers to move within and outside its enclaves. The Toyota Hilux and Buffalo land cruisers pickup trucks mostly captured in ambushes and raids on national forces and partners make up a significant segment of the vehicles in the ISWAP inventory deployed with ground assault and anti-aircraft weapon systems. These light trucks are usually mounted with Heavy Machine Guns (HMG) such as the Soviet-designed NSV and DShK HMGs, Chinese-designed W-85, and Type 85 HMGs chambered for 12.7 mm bullets. Other light trucks in the group’s inventory are equipped with multiple rocket launcher tubes for firing 107mm and 122mm unguided rockets while some trucks have been seen in dual configuration with a recoilless gun and HMG. HumAngle

EU Begins Military Training against Mozambique Insurgency
The EU on Wednesday launched a military training mission in Mozambique to help local troops to fight a jihadist insurgency in its gas-rich north. More than 3 100 African, European and US soldiers have already been deployed to the country’s Cabo Delgado province to quell unrest. Islamic State-linked militants have been wreaking havoc in the area since 2017, raiding villages and towns in violence that has claimed at least 3 340 lives and displaced more than 800 000 people. The EU sent 1 100 soldiers to the country in September and officially kicked off their mission on Wednesday. The troops will be in Mozambique for two years to train rapid intervention units. “This mission will contribute to operations to defend Mozambique,” the head of Mozambique’s armed forces, Joaquim Mangrasse, told reporters in Maputo. “After finishing the training, we will prepare an operational training plan for the future. The soldiers trained here will be able to go on missions,” he said. The EU will also be supplying the Mozambican army with non-lethal weapons. AFP

Mozambique Hosts Regional Emergency and Humanitarian Centre
A hundred and seventy kilometres separates Pemba in Mozambique’s strife-torn Cabo Delgado from Nacala in Nampula where the planned Southern African Development Community (SADC) humanitarian and emergency centre is to be located. The centre, officially the SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre (SHOC), will be responsible for co-ordinating regional disaster risk preparedness, response and early recovery to member states affected by disasters. Additionally, the SHOC will facilitate supply chain management of equipment and supplies for SADC responders during humanitarian support deployments. A virtual meeting last week between SADC executive secretary Elias Magosi and Luísa Meque, president of Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, ended with both committing to intensifying efforts to make the SHOC a reality and operational. defenceWeb

Great Lake Region Seeks to End Series of Injustices to War Victims in DRC
Céline Jackson is one of the Congolese people who have paid a heavy price for the violence that the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced in recent years. She has lived through the main episodes of these dark pages, for which neighboring countries are often blamed, but she demands justice and reparation. “I was a victim in the wars since I was too small and besides my friends who grew up with me in Nyamilima were all killed, I saw others raped in my eyes. In any case, the Congolese government must do everything to see if a tribunal should be established and justice for these victims, because there are those who are still suffering and have lost the joy of living,” Celine said. In Goma, Eastern DRC, judicial experts from Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC are meeting to reflect on how to fight serious crimes in the Great Lakes countries and promote the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa. International organizations specializing in these matters believe that these three countries, which are often victims of insecurity and conflicts that lead to gross human rights abuses and violence, should cooperate on all fronts to put an end to this violence and by organizing a special international tribunal in the region. AfricaNews

Top UN Award for MONUSCO Nepali Police Officer
A Nepali peacekeeper serving in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the UN Woman Police Officer of the Year Award. Superintendent Sangya Malla is one of more than 17 600 personnel attached to the UN mission in the country, MONUSCO, as chief of its police health and environment unit. She is based in the capital, Kinshasa. Malla, a medical professional by training, helped establish the unit, responsible for policies and procedures concerning the health and well-being of personnel as well as UN police environmental initiatives. Her contributions were – and remain – important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as past Ebola outbreaks and natural and humanitarian crises such as the volcanic eruption in Goma last May. During that emergency, her unit alerted the local population and UN staff of precautionary measures. “I am honoured to receive this award and I hope it will encourage more young women in my country and around the world to pursue careers in policing, which is still too often viewed as ‘man’s work,’” she said. … In DRC Malla helped develop guidance for preventing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. She organised more than 300 awareness sessions this year on coronavirus prevention as well as environmental protection for locals population, Congolese authorities and UN staff. defenceWeb



Photo: Adam Jones