Africa Media Review for October 15, 2021

Ethiopia: War in Tigray Continues as Government Stays Silent
An air-and-ground offensive in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region is intensifying, according to Tigrayan forces, with the Ethiopian government pressing a fresh attack. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) says the fighting began with airstrikes launched by the federal government last week. However, the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has not acknowledged the offensive. The office released a statement stating that the government had “a responsibility to protect its citizens in all parts of the country from any acts of terrorism.” Government officials have not responded to DW’s requests for further comment. The offensive reportedly began just days after Abiy was sworn in for a new five-year term. He is facing growing pressure from the international community to swiftly resolve the Tigray crisis, with the fighting raising fears that the conflict could further destabilize the Horn of Africa nation and plunge the region deeper into famine. DW

Drought in Northern Kenya Pushes Millions towards Hunger
In northern Kenya, the ribs of dead sheep stretch towards the blazing sun as parched herders trudge past, a day’s march from water. The value of their skinny goats is falling as fast as the prices scrawled on the sacks in the market are shooting up. More than 465,000 children under five and over 93,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished in Kenya’s northern region, the U.N. says. Food prices are climbing. … “Goats are unsellable, cows are even worse to sell and our children are starving,” Moses Loloju, a herder from Isiolo county who volunteered to help distribute food donations from the county government. This is the second consecutive season the rains have failed in northern Kenya, a semi-arid part of the country, unlike the more fertile and greener south. The lack of rain means 2.4 million people in the region will struggle to find enough to eat by November, the United Nations World Food Programme says. Reuters

Swaziland: Alarm as Police Respond Violently to Schoolchildren’s Protest
Pro-democracy protests by Eswatini schoolchildren intensified this week, with reports emerging that learners were shot at by the military and police. The latest disturbances by primary and high school students boycotting classes have entered the third week and started two months after the anti-King Mswati rioting that rocked the country and resulted in at least 27 deaths. The Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) says over 80 schools have been shut down while the Swaziland National Association of Teachers says the rioting happened in more than 100 schools. … Video footage posted by CPS showed students in school uniforms stoning trucks said to belong to King Mswati III, while denouncing the ruler of Africa’s last absolute monarchy. Child rights lobby Save the Children has raised concern, saying reports of children being directly targeted by lethal force were worrying and should not be tolerated. “Whilst we acknowledge efforts from various parties to resolve the crisis and return children to school, the situation on the ground is unfortunately getting worse. Schools have become military and police zones. Teargas and shootings have become the order of the day. Social media is abuzz with videos and images of children running frantically from armed men,” Save the Children Executive Director in Eswatini, Dumisani Minsi, said. Nation

Cameroon Authorities Urge Calm after Police Kill Girl, 5, in Buea
Authorities in English-speaking western Cameroon have appealed for calm after the killing of a five-year-old girl by a policeman in the troubled region and his subsequent lynching by an angry crowd. The incident took place on Thursday in Buea, the capital of the Southwest region where anglophone separatists and government forces in the French speaking-majority nation have been locked in a bitter four-year-old conflict. … Blaise Chamango, head of a local campaign group called Human Is Right, said a woman driving children to school was ordered by police to stop at a checkpoint. “The driver didn’t obey. A gendarme opened fire and a schoolgirl was fatally wounded,” she said. “People responded by lynching the gendarme. More than 500 people came out and marched with the body [of the girl] to the governor’s office.” … Later on Thursday, hundreds of residents took to the streets of Buea, some holding tree branches in a sign of peace. Others waved 500 franc CFA currency notes ($0.88), which they said was how much the girl’s parents refused to pay before the gendarme opened fire. Several said the incident was part of a pattern of heavily militarised security forces harassing residents. Al Jazeera

United States Commits Another 17 Million COVID Vaccine Doses to the African Union
The White House says the United States will donate more than 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from its domestic supplies to the African Union. President Biden made the announcement Thursday as he met with Kenyan Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House, Biden’s first one-on-one meeting with an African leader. “We’re continuing our shared fight against COVID,” Biden said during the meeting. The vaccine donation comes on top of the 50 million vaccines doses already donated by the United States to the African Union, according to the White House. … News of Kenya’s 17 million vaccine donation comes after the World Health Organization said last month the African continent was almost 500 million doses short of what is needed to achieve its goal of vaccinating 40% of people by the end of 2021. … To date, under half of the African countries that have received COVID-19 vaccines have fully vaccinated only 2% or less of their populations, according to the WHO. NPR

Africa: Vaccine Distrust Pervades Social Media Posts in Six African Nations
A new analysis of online content in six African nations referring to Covid-19 vaccines has revealed that posts reflecting distrust of, or hesitancy over, vaccinations are dominating social media. The analysis was carried out by a South African research group dedicated to combating fake news and misinformation, and advocating healthy online dialogue, on the internet. … The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) at the University of Cape Town surveyed vaccine sentiment on social media during the period mid-June to mid-August. The centre filtered its results to determine the geographical origin of the posts, and analysed groups of hashtags used to spread both pro- and anti-vaccine content on social media platforms. Analysing 4,648 mentions of vaccines, the centre found that: More than one-third (35.3 percent) reflected vaccine hesitancy; just under a quarter (21.4 percent) promoted fringe conspiracy theories; and a fifth (20.3 percent) reflected views skeptical of vaccines. AllAfrica

Covid-19 a Stress-test for Legislative Emergency Provisions in African Countries
The Covid-19 pandemic was a stress-test for constitutional and legislative emergency procedures in several African countries, with there being a need to analyse and promote the role of law enforcement and criminal justice systems in a crisis. These are among several findings made in a report released on Wednesday by the Centre for Africa Criminal Justice Reform (ACJR), part of the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape. The report outlined the restrictions on the rights of citizens through Covid-19 management measures taken in South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia. The research surveyed the litigation and responses to lockdown measures, the effect on civil and political rights, detention monitoring and oversight mechanisms. “Limits placed on civil and political liberties were an issue of concern for us as human rights defenders,” said project lead Lukas Mantingh. Although all of the five countries had provisions in their Constitutions for exceptional circumstances such as a state of emergency, state of disaster or state of calamity, the implementation of these legislative provisions were done selectively, raising concerns that a general application of the state of emergency or state of disaster would violate human rights as well as harm the socioeconomic conditions of impoverished populations. Mail & Guardian

Sudanese Lawyers Demonstrate in Support of Civilian-led Government
Hundreds of lawyers and jurists demonstrated, Thursday, outside the Sudanese presidency calling on the military component of the Sovereignty Council to hand over power to civilians. The Forces of Freedom and Change say that the head of the Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is seeking to remain at the chairmanship of the Sovereign Council until the end of the transition period or take over the power. The lawyers handed a memorandum to the military component urging them to hand over power to civilians, as provided in the Constitutional Document. … The rally comes in support of civilian forces that are under huge pressure from the military component to dissolve the cabinet and freeze the Empowerment Removal Committee as part of their efforts to tighten grip on power. Sudan Tribune

Rwanda Arrests YouTubers, Opposition Members for ‘Spreading Rumours’
Rwandan police on Thursday announced the arrest of six people including the owner of a popular YouTube channel and three opposition party members for “spreading rumours” intended to undermine the government. The arrests came two weeks after a court sentenced a prominent YouTube commentator and genocide survivor to 15 years in prison for “inciting violence” following her criticism of President Paul Kagame. In the latest round-up Wednesday, police took six people into custody including Nsengimana Theoneste, the owner of Umubavu TV—a YouTube channel with over 16 million views, which has previously urged Rwandans to denounce human rights abuses allegedly instigated by the government against citizens. “They are an organised group with the intention to spread rumours intended to cause uprising or unrest among the population using different social media platforms,” Thierry Murangira, spokesman for the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), told AFP Thursday. … Several people have fallen foul of Rwandan authorities after turning to YouTube to publish content critical of the Kagame government, raising concern among international rights groups. … In March, Human Rights Watch voiced alarm over Kigali’s crackdown on people using YouTube or blogs to speak out about sometimes controversial issues in Rwanda. AFP

Parliamentary Assembly of Francophonie Suspends Tunisia’s Membership
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie (APF) suspended Tunisia’s membership. This measure was taken at the end of the meeting Tuesday of the APF bureau members, dedicated to the state of democracy in the Francophone world. “(…) the members of the Bureau reviewed the political situation in the Francophone world and took note of the de facto suspension of the Chadian, Guinean and Tunisian sections of the APF following the latest developments in these three countries,” reads an APF statement. The International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF) announced on Tuesday that the 18th Francophonie Summit would be postponed for a year to “allow Tunisia to organise this important event in the best possible conditions.” Tunis Afrique Presse

Zimbabwe: Resurgence of Politically Motivated Violence Worrisome – ERC
An elections monitoring group, Election Resource Centre (ERC) says politically motivated violence in the country is on the increase and a cause of concern to the stability and development of Zimbabwe. In a statement Wednesday, the ERC said reports of violence, at Zanu PF elections in most provinces and most recently in Masvingo where MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s convoy was attacked, should be investigated by the police. “ERC is concerned over the reports of recent incidents of politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe,” the ERC said. “We deplore the incidence of violence at a Zanu PF provincial coordinating committee meeting in Mutare at Marymount Teachers College on October 9 and attacks of the MDC Alliance convoy between October 11 and 12, 2021 which included stoning cars, barricading roads with burning logs and assaulting members of the MDC Alliance.” … The ERC added: “Acts of intimidation and inter- or intra-party-political violence should not be tolerated in a democracy, and those responsible for instigating such violence should be brought to justice. New Zimbabwe

How the Illicit Copper Trade is Sapping South Africa
South Africa’s economic woes are being compounded by the theft of massive amounts of copper from state firms Eskom and Transnet, much of which is smuggled overseas, costing the country billions of rand a year, according to market sources. Power firm Eskom, which expects to make a 15.2 billion rand ($1.1 billion) net loss in its current financial year, told Reuters that “unrelenting” copper theft was costing it 5-7 billion rand annually, plus 2 billion rand a year to replace stolen cables. Transnet Freight Rail said copper thefts had climbed 177% over the past five years and had risen particularly sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of metres of cables were stolen in 2020, leading to about 20 trains being cancelled a day, according to the company, which said it had been forced to employ security drones and helicopters to stop criminal gangs. Reuters

Fight against Corruption Gains Momentum in DRC
In the Democratic Republic of Congo the fight against corruption is going from strength to strength. Appointed by president Félix Tshisekedi in July last year as Chief Inspector of Finance, Jules Alingete Key says that public finances are doing well. “Today, I can guarantee you that there hasn’t been a month in 2021 where we made less than $500 million. So, there are months where we made 900 million, 800 million 700 million and the minimum we made was 500 million. Whereas in 2020 we have never exceeded 400 million. Understand that the public finances are doing well” said the Chief Inspector of Finance. Despite progresses corruption remains a problem in the country. NGO’s have denounced the handling of funds to fight the pandemic and provide humanitarian aid. … According to Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index, the country ranks 170 out of 180 countries. AfricaNews

Turkey Expands Armed Drone Sales to Ethiopia and Morocco – Sources
Turkey has expanded its exports of armed drones by negotiating sales deals with Morocco and Ethiopia after their successful use in international conflicts, according to four sources familiar with the agreements. Any drone shipments to Ethiopia risk stoking friction in already strained relations between Ankara and Cairo, which is at odds with Addis Ababa over a hydropower dam on the Blue Nile. Two Egyptian security sources said Cairo had asked the United States and some European nations to help it freeze any deal. A third Egyptian source said any agreement would have to be raised and clarified in talks between Cairo and Ankara as they try to repair ties. Turkey, Ethiopia and Morocco have not formally announced any armed drone deals but several sources familiar with the arrangements provided details to Reuters. … A diplomat who requested anonymity said separately that Morocco had received the first batch of armed drones it ordered in May. Ethiopia plans to acquire them but the status of that order is less clear, the envoy said. Reuters

Turkey’s Erdogan Goes on Charm Offensive in West Africa
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make a four-day visit to Angola, Nigeria and Togo next week. “He will arrive in Angola on Sunday for a 24-hour visit with economic and diplomatic points on the agenda, and then move to Nigeria and Togo,” the Angolan Foreign Affairs ministry said in a statement on Thursday. The talks will also include discussions on the Fethullah Gulen organisation, which Turkey has classified as a terrorist group. Mr Gulen, an exiled Islamic preacher, based in the United States, is accused of organising a coup against President Erdogan in 2016. … Turkey has been on a charm offensive in Africa, increasing its diplomatic representation on the continent to 43 from 12 in 2002. According to Turkish data, trade between the country and Africa has ballooned to $26 billion from $5.5 billion in 2003. Istanbul will host the third Turkey-Africa Economic and Business Forum between October 21 and 23 and the third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit on December 18. The East African

Greece, Egypt Sign Deal for First Subsea Power Link between Europe and Africa
Greece and Egypt on Thursday clinched an agreement that sets the stage for an undersea cable that will transmit power produced by renewables from North Africa to Europe, the first such infrastructure in the Mediterranean. Greek Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas and his Egyptian counterpart, Mohamed Shaker, signed a memorandum of understanding for the project at a ceremony in Athens. “Such an interconnection it’s a win-win for both Greece, Egypt and the European Union”, Skrekas said. He said that the project will help build an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor and improve security of energy supply in the region. The deal comes as Greece, Cyprus and Israel plan to build the Euro-Asia Interconnector, the world’s longest and deepest underwater power cable crossing the Mediterranean, at a cost of about $900 million. The Greek-Egyptian memorandum establishes a high-level working group of senior officials, representatives of the power grid operators and energy regulators. The group will examine means and financing for the implementation of the project and facilitate the timely granting of permits and approvals, necessary the feasibility studies, Skrekas said. … The agreement further strengthens ties between Greece and Egypt, which last year signed an accord on their maritime boundaries, giving them rights over natural resources. Reuters

Netflix and Unesco Search for African Film-makers to ‘Reimagine’ Folktales
For Nelson Mandela they were “morsels rich with the gritty essence of Africa but in many instances universal in their portrayal of humanity, beasts and the mystical.” Passed down through the generations, whispered at bedtimes and raucously retold by elders, folktales have long been a mainstay of African cultural heritage. Now some of those tales—perhaps the one about a scheming hyena or a snake with seven heads—are to gain fresh global recognition as a new competition aims to find the next generation of film-makers from sub-Saharan Africa. Unesco has teamed up with streaming giant Netflix to find and fund six short films “reimagining” folktales that will premiere in 2022. “We want to find the bravest, wittiest, and most surprising retellings of some of Africa’s most-loved folktales and share them with entertainment fans around the world in over 190 countries,” the UN cultural body and production company said in a joint statement. Winners of the competition, which opens on Thursday, will be trained and mentored by industry professionals and given a production grant of $75,000 (£55,000) through a local company. Entrants must be citizens and residents of a country in sub-Saharan Africa and be aged 18-35. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones