Africa Media Review for October 1, 2021

Ethiopia Expels Seven UN Officials, Accusing Them of ‘Meddling’
Ethiopia is expelling seven senior U.N. officials, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday, two days after the world body’s aid chief warned a government blockade of aid had likely forced hundreds of thousands of people in the northern region of Tigray into famine. There has been increasing international criticism of conditions in Tigray and all parties fighting in northern Ethiopia face the possibility of sanctions from the U.S. government. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday that the United States condemns the expulsions and will not hesitate to use sanctions against those who obstruct humanitarian efforts. “We’re deeply concerned that this action continues a pattern by the Ethiopian government of obstructing the delivery of food, medicine and other life-saving supplies to those most in need,” she said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the expulsions. Ethiopia has previously denied blocking food aid. Reuters

UK Joins Calls on Mali to End Alleged Deal with Russian Mercenaries
The UK has joined a mounting international campaign of pressure on Mali’s military leaders to step back from a suspected deal with a Russian mercenary company, amid fears that the agreement will further complicate insecurity in the region. Mali’s leaders, battling a jihadist insurgency—and amid a fragile political transition following multiple coups—have been coy on details of a reported deal with the Wagner Group. … The developments have sparked international concerns, anger in France, and mixed reactions within Mali amid the worsening violence suffered in the country. … Amid uncertainty over the Wagner deal, there are concerns that Russia may attempt to exploit any withdrawal of French forces and support efforts by Mali’s Junta to remain in power. … Other countries have threatened to withdraw military and political support if the deal progresses … Oulimata Soumaré, an analyst on politics and security in the Sahel at Control Risks, said the Wagner Group deal was a signal that, “the interim government in Mali is pushing for an extension of the transition.” The Guardian

Malawi’s Ex-deputy Speaker Shoots Himself Dead in Parliament
A former deputy speaker in Malawi has shot himself dead inside parliament in the capital, Lilongwe, authorities said. Clement Chiwaya, who moved in a wheelchair, had gone to the building on Thursday to discuss vehicle benefits entitled to him when he left office two years ago. Parliament “regrets to inform the public that the former deputy speaker … committed suicide at the parliament building,” it said in a statement. “The incident is in relation to frustration with the implementation of his conditions of service.” Chiwaya, who was 50, bought his official vehicle at the end of his five-year term in 2019, as provided for in his contract. But he had tried to get parliament to pay for damages incurred in an accident that happened six months later. Al Jazeera

Thousands in Sudan Demonstrate in Support of Civilian Rule
Sudanese security forces fired tear gas to break up a demonstration in the capital Khartoum on Thursday by an estimated 20,000 people in support of a civilian-led transition to democracy. An attempted coup last week, which officials blamed on soldiers loyal to the previous government of Omar al-Bashir, laid bare divisions between military and civilian groups sharing power during a transition that is meant to run to 2023 and lead to elections. Many protesters came from outside Khartoum by train from the cities of Atbara and Madani. A crowd of thousands celebrated the arrival of the Madani train, climbing on top, waving national flags and chanting “the army is Sudan’s army, not Burhan’s army”—a reference to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of Sudan’s military and its ruling sovereign council. … After last week’s coup attempt, civilian officials accused military leaders of overstepping their bounds, while generals criticized civilian management of the economy and political process and said their forces were neglected and disrespected. Reuters

Anti-democratic Transition Actions in Sudan Put US Support at Risk: Feltman
U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman on Wednesday warned that actions against the civilian-led government in Sudan will put Washington support at risk. In a meeting with Prime Minsiter Abdallah Hamdok attended by Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi and Political Adviser Yasir Arman, the visiting envoy condemned the 21 September failed coup attempt and his country support for the civilian-led transitional government. The visiting diplomat underscored that such attempts might lead “the Congress to stop supporting Sudan,” said Hamdok office in a statement issued after the meeting. “It is important for the two parties to realize that their cooperation is crucial for a smooth transition and for Sudan to maintain its place within the international system, which reached after hard efforts,” said Feltman according to the statement. In December 2020, the U.S. Congress passed a bill supporting the democratic transition in Sudan and tightening oversight of the Sudanese security and intelligence forces. … Another U.S. delegation led by Bryan David Hunt Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Africa and the Sudans is also visiting Khartoum to discuss the “need to resolve economic, governance, and security challenges, including forming a transitional legislative council”. Sudan Tribune

Angola Resumes Restrictions as Covid Turns Deadlier than Malaria
Angola will again close the country’s beaches and other leisure and public-gathering facilities from Oct. 1, a month after they were opened, following a spike in Covid-19 infections. From Oct. 15, access to public services will be subject to proof of vaccination or a negative test. Nearly all citizens 18 years or older will be required to get vaccinated, including pregnant women, state minister Adao de Almeida said in Luanda late Thursday. Angola recorded 14,549 infections and 558 deaths during September. That’s a higher number of deaths than those caused by malaria for first time, health minister Silvia Lutucuta said without providing details for malaria, which is widespread in the nation. Bloomberg

Most African Countries Missed a Target to Vaccinate 10 Percent of Their People
Only nine African countries have met a target of vaccinating 10 percent of their populations against Covid-19 by the end of September, the World Health Organization said on Thursday—a statistic that illustrates how far the continent is lagging behind global vaccination rates. The W.H.O. set the benchmark this year, as part of a push for every country to vaccinate at least 40 percent of its people by the end of 2021. Just 4 percent of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, with “still a long way to go” to reach the end-of-year target, Dr. Richard Mihigo, the W.H.O.’s program coordinator for vaccine development in Africa, told a news conference on Thursday. Of the nine countries that met the goal, several have relatively small populations, including the island nations of Mauritius and the Seychelles, which have fully vaccinated two-thirds of their residents. NYTimes

Nigerian Police Deny Killing Members of Banned Shiite Group
Nigerian police have denied killing any members of a banned Shiite Muslim group during a gathering this week in the capital, Abuja. The Islamic Movement of Nigeria said police on Tuesday shot and killed eight of its members as they marked the religious ritual of Arbaeen. The Abuja police command denied the allegation in a statement Wednesday, saying operatives intervened during the Islamic Movement of Nigeria procession to prevent a breakdown of law and order. The command said members of the IMN attacked security officers before officers shot tear gas into the air, arrested 57 of them, and seized petrol bombs and bags of stones. … Spokesperson Abdullahi Muhammed Musa said it was IMN members who were attacked at the group’s procession to mark the religious ritual. “We have videos, we have people around that you can come and investigate.” VOA

Nigeria: Bandits Now Rule My Constituency—Sokoto Lawmaker
A member of the Sokoto State House of Assembly, Saidu Ibrahim, has cried out to the federal and state governments to rescue Sokoto East Senatorial District from the stranglehold of armed bandits. This is even as the lawmaker said he was ready to lead soldiers to their forest hideouts whenever they want to go and confront the bandits. Mr Ibrahim, who represents Sabon Birni South in the Assembly, said bandits are now the overlords in his constituency. Speaking to Premium Times in a phone interview, Mr Ibrahim said he can no longer go to his constituency because bandits have overtaken it. “The reason I said bandits are in charge of my constituency is that they have occupied the whole place. No district head or village head, not to talk of a ward head that can say anything against the bandits. This is the true picture of the situation. Premium Times

Nigeria: Buhari ‘Suspends’ Twitter Ban
President Muhammadu Buhari has on Friday said directed a conditional suspension of the ban placed on the operations of Twitter, a microblogging site, in Nigeria. … Buhari’s administration placed a ban on the operation of Twitter in Nigeria, in June. Buhari made this known in his nationwide broadcast to Nigerians to mark ‘s 61st independence of Nigeria. … “Following the suspension of Twitter operations, Twitter Inc. reached out to the Federal Government of Nigeria to resolve the impasse. Subsequently, I constituted a Presidential Committee to engage Twitter to explore the possibility of resolving the issue. The Committee, along with its Technical Team, has engaged with Twitter and have addressed a number of key issues. These are National Security and Cohesion; Registration, Physical presence and Representation; Fair Taxation; Dispute Resolution; and Local Content. Following the extensive engagements, the issues are being addressed and I have directed that the suspension be lifted but only if the conditions are met to allow our citizens to continue the use of the platform for business and positive engagements.” Vanguard

Zimbabwe: Chamisa’s Youths, 10 Journalists Arrested Over ZEC Meeting
Ten journalists covering a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) provincial consultative meeting in Harare and nine members of MDC Alliance were arrested Thursday outside the electoral body’s offices in central Harare. The journalists were eventually released without charge following the intervention of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). … In a statement Thursday, the Young Journalists Association (YOJA) said it would sue the police officers who arrested the journalists in personal capacities to discouraging such uncouth behavior by other cops. … “The intention is part of a multi-pronged approach to end impunity within the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). “Previous efforts to do so through dialogue have been futile hence we hope suing implicated officers in their individual capacity and seeking termination of their services from the force might deter future aggressors. New Zimbabwe

Rwandan YouTube Content Creator Sentenced to Jail
The High Court in Rwanda has sentenced a woman to 15 years in prison after finding her guilty of criticising the way the 1994 genocide is commemorated, calling for a protest and spreading a rumour that the president had died. Yvonne Idamange denied the charges. She was arrested in February after posting YouTube videos in which she was strongly critical of the government. Her lengthy monologues infuriated the Rwandan authorities who do not take criticism lightly. The 42-year-old accused the government of monetising the 1994 genocide and said the remains of the victims should not be on display at memorials. The mother of four children also denounced the response to the coronavirus pandemic and highlighted the impact that lockdowns had had on the poor. Human Rights Watch said Ms Idamange’s trial—behind closed doors—was designed to intimidate anyone thinking of expressing critical, sensitive, or controversial views. The group said the 15-year prison sentence was part of a broader crackdown on free speech in Rwanda. BBC

The Gambia Delays Report on Former Longtime Leader Jammeh
The long-awaited findings of a probe into crimes committed under The Gambia’s former longtime leader Yahya Jammeh have been delayed, investigators said. A panel called the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) was scheduled to ceremonially hand over its findings to President Adama Barrow on Thursday. But the final report will now be released at a later date, a member of the TRRC told the AFP news agency, saying, “We are not yet ready.” The TRRC was set up in 2017 following Jammeh’s defeat to Barrow in the December 2016 elections. … The postponement came in advance of December 4 presidential elections in which Barrow intends to run. In early September, Jammeh’s political party announced an alliance with the governing party, a move that was condemned by watchdogs. The Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations said the team-up was a “threat to the government’s implementation of the TRRC’s recommendations”, accusing Barrow of “abandoning grieving Gambian citizens to return to the arms of this murdering and raping tyrant”. Al Jazeera

From Peaceful Protests to War: The Evolution of Cameroon’s Anglophone Conflict
A separatist crisis that began five years ago in Anglophone Cameroon has spiraled into unmitigated violence. The UN says a humanitarian catastrophe is on the horizon — but the key players aren’t willing to compromise. Over the past five years, the English-speaking regions of Cameroon have rapidly morphed into a war zone. Lives have been lost, properties have been destroyed, and the humanitarian crisis continues to intensify. In its latest report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) highlighted the impact on education: “Since the beginning of the crisis in 2016, education has been highly affected. Many schools have closed to avoid frequent attacks against education facilities. Teachers and students have been attacked, kidnapped, threatened, and killed. In 2021, more than 700,000 children are deprived of education in the north-west and south-west regions.” Felix Agbor Nkongho, a human rights lawyer who was a leading member of the now-outlawed Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), is disheartened by the ongoing crisis. Though CACSC led the first wave of peaceful protests against the federal government’s marginalization of Cameroon’s Anglophone regions in 2016, Agbor Nkongho said violence was never part of the group’s agenda. DW

Africa Internet Riches Plundered, Contested by China Broker
Outsiders have long profited from Africa’s riches of gold, diamonds, and even people. Digital resources have proven no different. Millions of internet addresses assigned to Africa have been waylaid, some fraudulently, including through insider machinations linked to a former top employee of the nonprofit that assigns the continent’s addresses. Instead of serving Africa’s internet development, many have benefited spammers and scammers, while others satiate Chinese appetites for pornography and gambling. New leadership at the nonprofit, AFRINIC, is working to reclaim the lost addresses. But a legal challenge by a deep-pocketed Chinese businessman is threatening the body’s very existence. The businessman is Lu Heng, a Hong Kong-based arbitrage specialist. Under contested circumstances, he obtained 6.2 million African addresses from 2013 to 2016. That’s about 5% of the continent’s total—more than Kenya has. … “There was never really any thought, particularly in the AFRINIC region, that someone would just directly attack a foundational element of internet governance and just try and shut it down, try and make it go away.” said Bill Woodcock, executive director of Packet Clearing House, a global nonprofit that has helped build out Africa’s internet. AP

Facebook-backed 2Africa Set to Be the Longest Subsea Cable upon Completion
Facebook announced on Tuesday that its 2Africa cable would now extend to over 45,000 kilometers with the addition of nine landings collectively dubbed the 2Africa Pearls. The subsea cable will directly connect three continents—Africa, Europe and Asia. The extension will see 2Africa become the longest subsea cable system in the world upon completion, Facebook said. It will best the current record set by the SEA-ME-WE 3 line that stretches 39,000 km and connects 33 countries across South East Asia, Middle East and Western Europe. The continued investment in subsea cables is part of Facebook’s efforts to bring more people online. Initially, the internet giant centered on providing affordable internet to Africa’s population of about 1.2 billion people. The plan morphed with the consortium opting to lay 37,000 km (22,990 miles) of cables connecting 23 counties in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. … With the addition of the Pearls extension, the system seeks to provide connectivity to an additional 1.8 billion people and 3 billion in total, said Facebook. The company added that these individuals are across 33 countries and represent 36% of the world’s population. TechCrunch



Photo: Adam Jones