Africa Media Review for October 12, 2021

Expulsions, Blockade Thwart Tigray Relief as Fresh Offensive Launched
Ethiopia’s government has launched a new offensive against rebel forces from the blockaded Tigray region, where malnutrition and starvation deaths are rising while UN officials coordinating the humanitarian response have been deported from the country. Major air and ground operations against rebel positions in the neighbouring Amhara region reportedly commenced last week, with rebel officials claiming a new government push to recapture Tigray is also underway. Federal forces had previously withdrawn from most parts of the northern region after rebels took control in late June. “We’re going to see more civilian suffering; more troops being killed; another round of military bloodshed,” said Mengistu Assefa, an Ethiopian analyst and political commentator. The reported offensive comes after seven senior UN officials were thrown out of Ethiopia for allegedly “meddling” in the country’s affairs. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the decision – announced late last month – was “unprecedented” and violated international law. Aid officials told The New Humanitarian the deportations will have a silencing effect on those wanting to speak out against the widening conflict, and said they will leave some agencies rudderless at a time when they are needed the most. The New Humanitarian

Tunisia Unveils New Government but with No Sign of End to Crisis
Tunisia’s president unveiled a new government on Monday, but gave no hint when he would relinquish his near total control after seizing most powers in July, or start reforms needed for a financial rescue package to avert economic disaster. Under rules President Kais Saied announced last month when he swept aside much of the constitution in moves critics called a coup, the new cabinet will ultimately answer to him rather than Prime Minister Najla Bouden. Several of the main cabinet members, including the foreign and finance ministers, were already serving Saied in an interim capacity, while the new interior minister is one of his staunchest allies. … Saied has thrust the democratic gains of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution into doubt with his seizure of executive authority and suspension of the elected parliament, and has given no clear programme to restore normal constitutional order. He has awarded himself the power to appoint a committee to amend the 2014 constitution and put it to a popular referendum, but has given no further details beyond saying he will soon announce a dialogue with Tunisians. … The delay has aggravated Tunisia’s already urgent need for financial support by pausing talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue package, and the Central Bank governor has warned of dire economic consequences. Reuters

The Uphill Battle Facing Chad’s New Transition Council
Earlier this week, Chad officially swore in its interim parliament, the National Transition Council (CNT). Chad’s military junta — which emerged after the death of longtime ruler Idriss Deby Itno — named the 93-member assembly. The CNT effectively replaces the former national assembly which existed under Deby’s regime. For now, Chad is ruled by a military junta. Deby, who was killed under unclear circumstances in April during military battles with the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) rebel group, was succeeded by his 39-year-old son, Mahamat Deby, a general in the Chadian army. Some members of the CNT are relatively unknown in Chadian politics, while some have standing. … Critics say it took the regime five months to name the interim parliament — for a mandate of 18 months. In the meantime, there has been no sign of movement on the “national dialogue.” … Criticism has also been launched at the makeup of the CNT itself: It consists of at least 30% members of the previous National Assembly, 30% women and 30% young people. But no one from the main opposition alliance, Wakit Tama, which campaigns for a return to civilian rule, has been included in the CNT. DW

Libya: UN Lauds Mercenary Withdrawal Plan on ‘Path towards Peace and Democracy’
The United Nations on Friday welcomed the signing of a long-awaited Action Plan to withdraw mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces from Libya, after years of fighting between warring factions across the oil-rich nation. This latest political breakthrough concluded after a three-day meeting at the UN in Geneva, where military representatives from the Government and opposition military forces, known as the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC), agreed on, and signed a comprehensive Action Plan. It is designed as the cornerstone for the gradual, balanced, and sequenced process of the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces from Libyan territory. … Mercenaries and other fighters from outside Libya have reportedly been operating inside the country for years, including some previously involved in the Syria conflict, and mercenaries allegedly contracted by the Russia-based Wagner group, according to a UN report released on Monday. In line with last year’s Ceasefire Agreement, UN Security Council resolutions, and outcomes of the Berlin Conference, the Action Plan is a nationally owned and led instrument, said a statement released by the UN in Geneva. The UN described it as being “key to support the Libyans in regaining their sovereignty and integrity, maintain the peace, stability and security of their country.” UN News

Gunmen Kill at Least 20 in Attack in Northwest Nigeria
At least 20 people were killed in Nigeria’s Sokoto state when gunmen attacked a market and torched cars, as armed gangs continue to wreak havoc in the northwest part of the country, a state official and local member of parliament said on Saturday. Northwestern Nigeria has since last December witnessed a wave of kidnappings of school children and villagers for ransoms by bandits, disrupting everyday life for millions of citizens. Idriss Gobir, special advisor to the Sokoto police affairs minister, said the armed bandits rode on motorcycles and shot sporadically, killing several people. … Hussain Boza, a local member of parliament in Sokoto, blamed the attack on a lack of adequate security in the state. A Sokoto police spokesperson confirmed the attack but could not immediately say how many people had been killed. Parts of Sokoto, like other neighbouring states in the northwestern part of the country, are under a telecommunications blockade as part of a security operation to disrupt the operations of the armed gangs. On Thursday, security agents rescued 187 people who had been abducted by armed gangs in Zamfara state. Reuters

Nigerian Troops Kill 32 Fleeing Bandits as Five Policemen Die
The Nigerian military has killed 32 bandits who strayed into the state of Niger as they fled from an army offensive mounted against them in northwest Zamfara state. The bandits were killed in Bangu Gari area on Sunday night after they attacked a police station and killed five officers a few hours before. “They came in large numbers with sophisticated weapons including rocket launchers after fleeing their camps at Danjibga and Munhaye, Zamfara state…They stormed the police station at Bangu Gari in Rafi LGA and killed five policemen during the exchange of gunfire,” the military said on Monday. “Immediately, a signal was received and a joint security force was despatched. At least 32 of the bandits were killed including their leaders, Karki Buzu and Yalo Nagoshi, while another kingpin, Ali Kawaji, sustained serious gun wounds.” Reports say that another group of fleeing bandits from Zamfara also killed 20 people when they attacked a market in neighbouring Sokoto state on Saturday. Some 11 suspected bandits were arrested. Nation

Mozambique Forces Kill Opposition Rebel Leader
The leader of a rebel faction of Renamo, Mozambique’s main opposition party, has been killed by the army. Mozambique’s Defence and Security Forces (FDS) announced on Monday that Mariano Nhongo, the head of a rebel hardline faction of the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), was killed in combat. Security officials said Nhongo was killed along with one of his collaborators, Ngau Kama, in Sofala province at about 7am on Monday after intense fighting in the forests where he was hiding. Nhongo, a hardline leader, had resisted laying down arms despite local and international efforts to demilitarise Mozambique. Just last week, President Filipe Nyusi said that FDS had reached out to Renamo to see Nhongo’s surrender. Renamo had fought a 16-year war against the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) party until 1992, then became the country’s main opposition party. However, it still retains armed fighters. Since 1992, there have been three peace accords between Frelimo and Renamo. All failed to be fully implemented, with the most recent being signed in August 2019. The EastAfrican

AU Endorses Joint Mission with UN for Somalia
The African Union says it wants to partner with the United Nations in a proposed joint mission to support Somalia in its efforts to battle armed extremists and achieve stability. In a statement, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council said it endorsed an independent assessment team’s recommendation for a hybrid operation that would replace the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) after this year. Since 2007, the regional peacekeeping mission, which operates with U.N. approval, has aided Somali government forces in their battle to stabilize the Horn of Africa country, mainly against al-Shabab militants. The African Union communique notes “grave concern at the worsening security situation in Somalia … in large parts of the country, (which) has detracted attention from the critical processes of state-building and stabilization.” The hybrid mission was among several options recommended by the assessment team in a report released in May. The plan, which the African Union has proposed to take effect in January, would need approval by the U.N. Security Council and Somalia’s central government. It faces stiff opposition. Last December, a separate U.N. assessment team had proposed that the African Union reconfigure or modify its current mission. But it did not recommend military involvement by the U.N., which already has a diplomatic mission in Somalia. VOA

World Court to Rule on Kenya-Somalia Sea Border Row
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday hands down its judgment in a case filed by Somalia against Kenya over contested parts of the Indian Ocean believed to be rich in oil and gas. The ruling comes after Nairobi last week said it had revoked recognition of the court’s jurisdiction. Somalia filed the case in 2014 at the United Nation’s highest court for disputes between states. A decision could determine who holds the rights to exploit oil and gas in the deep waters off the East African coastline. The case at the ICJ, also known as the World Court, concerns a maritime boundary dispute over more than 100,000 sq km (nearly 40,000 sq miles) of sea floor claimed by both countries. n March, Kenya boycotted public hearings in The Hague. Kenya’s foreign office on Friday said it had withdrawn automatic recognition of the court’s jurisdiction, meaning it cannot be a party in new ICJ cases without consenting to them. The withdrawal does not work retroactively and will have no influence on the Somalia case, ICJ spokesperson Andrey Poskakukhin said on Tuesday. Reuters

Burkina Faso Starts Trial on Killing of Ex-Leader Sankara
A military court in Burkina Faso on Monday started the trial of 14 people including former President Blaise Compaore for the killing of influential leftist leader Thomas Sankara, who was ousted as president by Compaore in a 1987 coup. After opening the case, the military tribunal postponed it for two weeks. Compaore is charged with complicity, undermining state security and concealing corpses, according to military documents seen by The Associated Press. He’s being tried in absentia from Ivory Coast, where he has been in exile since he was toppled in 2014. Ivory Coast has refused to extradite Compaore since Burkina Faso put out a warrant for his arrest six years ago. Compaore’s former right-hand man Gen. Gilbert Diendere is among the accused and wore a military camouflage uniform at the opening of the trial Monday in Ouagadougou, the capital. The trial, expected to last several months, is seen as a significant step toward determining the circumstances surrounding Sankara’s death, which has been shrouded in secrecy for nearly 35 years. AP

ICC Hearing Opens for Central African Republic Rebel
A key pre-trial hearing opened Tuesday at the International Criminal Court for an alleged Central African Republic rebel leader, with the court’s chief prosecutor urging judges to confirm that evidence against the suspect is strong enough to merit putting him on trial on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, who is accused of being a leader in the Seleka rebel group, was detained and handed to the court in January on an arrest warrant the ICC issued under seal two years earlier alleging his involvement in crimes committed in the Capital, Bangui, in 2013. He faces 14 charges linked to the detention and mistreatment of prisoners at two detention sites in Bangui in 2013. He was not required to enter a plea at Monday’s hearing. The city descended into a violent conflict in 2013 between the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels, who ousted then-President Francois Bozizé from power, and a mainly Christian militia called the anti-Balaka. The violence left thousands dead and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Two alleged anti-Balaka commanders, Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, already are on trial at the global court. Said is the first suspect detained from the Seleka side of the conflict. AP

Algerian Appeals Court Upholds Jail Sentence for Journalist for Spreading ‘False News’
An Algerian appeals court sentenced journalist Rabah Kareche to six months in prison plus six months suspended on Monday for spreading “false news.” “We are shocked by this verdict. He didn’t do anything wrong. He simply reported facts,” Zoubida Assoul, his lawyer, said. Zoubida Assoul said Kareche would be released on Saturday having already served most of the time behind bars. Kareche of the daily newspaper Liberte was arrested in April after reporting that the Tuareg, a Berber minority who have long complained of economic and social marginalisation, had protested over “expropriation” of their historical lands. He was sentenced on August 12 to eight months behind bars plus four months suspended, for “spreading false information liable to damage public order.” He was also accused of posting reports that could trigger “segregation and hatred within society.” “This is more of a political ruling than a judicial one,” Assoul said. “The rolling back of press freedom in this country shocks and saddens me.” Kareche’s detention triggered protests from fellow journalists, especially after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune described Kareche as an “arsonist” in an interview before his sentencing. RFI

Ebola Case in Congo Sparks Fears of New Outbreak
Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo are scrambling to contain a resurgence of Ebola, after a three year old boy died from the virus. Experts are uncertain whether these latest cases are linked to previous outbreaks or whether they are the result of a new spillover event. But there are concerns that the child – who died from the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever on October 6 – may have caught the disease from his neighbours in the densely populated city of Beni, which is a major commercial hub close to the Ugandan border. In the second half of September, two children and their father died after developing symptoms consistent with Ebola. But none were tested for the virus during several visits to healthcare facilities, and doctors suspected they could be sick with malaria, measles or meningitis. Local health authorities and the World Health Organization are urgently investigating whether the four deaths are linked, amid concerns that Ebola may have been spreading for more than a month – the first suspected case developed symptoms on September 5 and died on September 14. “There is a risk of a potential spread and likely more cases,” Dr Fiona Braka, manager of emergency response at the World Health Organization’s Africa office, told The Telegraph. Telegraph



Photo: Adam Jones