Africa Media Review for October 19, 2021

Malawi: A Taste for Pangolin Meat and the Fall of an African Wildlife Cartel
Hundreds of poachers are arrested each year for killing elephants, rhinos, pangolins, and other animals in Africa. Yet the problem persists because there is always a ready supply of desperate men to take the place of those put behind bars. Higher-level criminals, on the other hand — those who really drive the international illegal wildlife trade — almost always evade justice. Malawi, the southern African nation bounded by Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia, once fell prey to this lax law enforcement and became “one of the biggest wildlife trafficking hubs in Southern Africa,” said Dudu Douglas-Hamilton, head of counter wildlife trafficking at the Elephant Crisis Fund, a nonprofit group that supports conservation projects across Africa. But significant efforts on the ground to combat the country’s difficulties with poaching and trafficking have started to pay off, and the example Malawi is now setting may show other African nations how they can do the same. On Sept. 28, a judge in Lilongwe, the country’s capital, sentenced Yunhua Lin to as much as 14 years in prison for a variety of charges… Investigators say Mr. Lin, a 48-year-old Chinese citizen, played a central role in turning Malawi into a wildlife crime hot spot. … In 2017 policymakers amended the country’s wildlife legislation, making it some of the strongest in Africa. … Now, prosecutors have conviction rates of 91 percent for elephant and rhino crimes…  The New York Times

Africa’s Glaciers to Melt, Millions of Poor Face Drought, Floods, UN Says
Africa’s fabled eastern glaciers will vanish in two decades, 118 million poor people face imminent drought, floods or extreme heat, and climate change could also shave 3% off continental GDP by mid-century, the U.N. climate agency warned on Tuesday. The latest report on the state of Africa’s climate by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), partnered with African Union agencies, paints a dire picture of the continent’s ability to adapt to increasingly frequent weather disasters. According to one data set, 2020 was Africa’s third warmest year on record, 0.86 degrees Celsius above the average temperature in the three decades leading to 2010. It has mostly warmed slower than high-latitude temperate zones, but the impact is still devastating. “The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of … irreversible change to the Earth system,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a foreword to the report. … Africa, which accounts for less than 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, has long been expected to be severely impacted by climate change. Its croplands are already drought-prone, many of its major cities hug the coast, and widespread poverty makes it harder for people to adapt. Reuters

Africa Calls for Climate Finance Tracker after Donors Fall Short
African countries want a new system to track funding from wealthy nations that are failing to meet a $100bn annual target to help the developing world tackle climate change, Africa’s lead climate negotiator has said. The demand highlights tensions ahead of the COP26 climate summit between the world’s 20 largest economies, which are behind 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and developing countries that are bearing the brunt of the effects of global warming. … In 2009, developed countries agreed to raise $100bn per year by 2020 to help the developing world deal with the fallout from a warming planet. The latest available estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) how this funding hit $79.6bn in 2019, just two percent more than in 2018. The OECD data shows Asian countries on average received 43 percent of the climate finance in 2016-19, while Africa received 26 percent. Gahouma said a more detailed shared system was needed that would keep tabs on each country’s contribution and where it went on the ground. “They say they achieved maybe 70 percent of the target, but we cannot see that,” Gahouma said on Tuesday. Al Jazeera

Ethiopia Conducts Air Strikes on Capital of Tigray Region
Ethiopia’s military launched air strikes on the capital of the war-battered Tigray region on Monday, a dramatic escalation in the year-long conflict. … A senior official at Tigray’s largest hospital said three people had been killed, including two children. They were the first air raids on Mekele since the early stages of the war in northern Ethiopia that has killed untold numbers of people and triggered a deep humanitarian crisis. … One strike, the sources said, occurred near a cement factory on the outskirts of Mekele, the city held by the TPLF since it was recaptured from government forces in June. The second hit the city centre near the Planet Hotel, often used by top officials from the TPLF, the region’s former ruling party. A government spokesman initially branded the reports as lies concocted by the TPLF “to misguide the international community” and apply pressure on Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa. … UN chief Antonio Guterres was “deeply concerned” about the escalation of the conflict and called for all sides to avoid targeting civilians and to stop fighting, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. US State Department spokesman Ned Price issued a similar entreaty. “We urge all parties to end hostilities immediately and for the Ethiopian government and the TPLF… to enter into negotiations without preconditions toward a sustainable ceasefire.” AFP

Ethiopian PM Threatens to Stop Food Aid Entering the Country
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has implied that he may stop international food aid from being delivered to the millions of people facing starvation in Tigray to decrease diplomatic pressure on the country. “If we make sure that this thing called wheat [food aid] does not enter Ethiopia, 70 per cent of Ethiopia’s problems will be solved,” said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in a statement reported by state-owned Ethiopia Television. … The news comes as airstrikes reportedly hit the Tigrayan regional capital of Mekelle amid a massive Ethiopian national army offensive to crush rebellious fighters and a de facto government aid blockade on the mountainous region. … Earlier this year, the head of OCHA, the United Nations humanitarian body, told The Telegraph that starvation was being used as a weapon of war in the conflict. … The UN says that Tigray needs about 500 trucks of life-saving assistance every week, but less than 10 per cent of that has been met over the last six months. … Last week Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, warned of the dire situation. “Fuel shortages, a continuing communications black-out and other challenges make it difficult to assess the exact extent of the need. But we are seeing acute malnutrition rates, at levels comparable to those we saw at the onset of the 2011 Somalia famine.” Telegraph

Gunmen Kill 43 in Nigeria’s Troubled North
Gunmen from a suspected criminal gang attacked a village market in northwest Nigeria’s Sokoto state, killing 43 people, the state government said Monday. Heavily armed gangs known locally as bandits have terrorized northwest and central Nigeria for years, raiding and looting villages, but attacks have become even more violent in recent months. “Forty-three people have been confirmed dead following the attack by bandits in Goronyo village” on Sunday, Sokoto government spokesman Muhammad Bello said in a statement. “It was a market day and there were many traders,” Bello told AFP by phone. Police spokesman Sanusi Abubakar also confirmed that bandits attacked Goronyo late on Sunday. Phone networks in the area have been suspended for weeks to disrupt the gangs’ operations, making information-gathering difficult. A gang raided another village market on October 8, in Sabon Birni district near the border with Niger, killing 19 people. Since last month, Nigerian troops have been conducting air and ground operations against bandit camps in neighboring Zamfara state. Telecom services were also shut down in Zamfara, and parts of Kaduna and Katsina states. The Defense Post with AFP

Nigerian Army Says 24 Islamist Insurgents Killed
Nigerian troops killed 24 suspected Islamist insurgents in two attacks in the northeast and recovered some weapons, the army said on Tuesday. Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have been fighting the Nigerian armed forces for more than a decade in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. Major General Christopher Musa, commander of the anti-insurgency task force, told Reuters that soldiers killed 16 Boko Haram insurgents a few kilometres from Maiduguri city, the capital of Borno state. Musa said that during the encounter with the insurgents two gun trucks were seized and one was destroyed. President Muhammadu Buhari has said security forces are making gains against insurgents in the northeast and also against armed bandits who have carried out kidnappings for ransom and killed hundreds in the northwest. Last week, Nigeria’s top general said ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi was dead, without giving details. Reuters

Maintain Momentum in CAR, UN Urged
Last week’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire in the Central African Republic (CAR) is a positive step, the top UN official there told the Security Council as he sought continued support for peace and reconciliation efforts. Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative and head of the MINUSA peacekeeping mission stressed a need to maintain “positive momentum” as CAR authorities work toward democracy and stability in the wake of presidential and parliamentary elections. The UN mission’s mandate expires next month and Ndiaye said an extension is needed to assist with local elections, last held more than 30 years ago. The extension, along with government determination and engagement by international partners are essential for lasting political solutions in CAR. “With the support of all the members of the Council, we will make best use of our good offices to promote a transparent, co-ordinated and coherent approach to generate contributions to resolving the crisis in CAR,” he said through an interpreter. Ndiaye said the 15 October ceasefire declaration by President Faustin Archange Touadéra was “a major step” toward dialogue in a country plagued by armed violence for nearly a decade. defenceWeb

Rwandese Militia Group Invades Six Villages in the Eastern DR Congo
The Armed Forces of the DRC has accused the Rwandan military group by the name Buhumba of infiltrating and invading the Nyiragongo region in North Kivu located in the eastern parts of the country. Kinshasa claims to have recovered one Rwandan weapon and a few other items and further claimed that the forces had occupied six villages at the time. “We had just woken up when we heard gunshots. A lot of shots! A few minutes later we saw Rwandan soldiers arrive in our neighborhood, and we had no choice but to flee and leave our cattle behind, and when we returned, they had already taken everything away,” a resident explained. … “The Rwandan army is organized at the border but the Congolese army is not organized because of the lack of manpower and the lack of logistics capable of containing the attacks that can occur at any time,” said Mambo Kawaya, a rights activist from the area. Meanwhile, the Congolese army claimed to have repelled this incursion. AfricaNews

The World Needs More COVID Vaccines, So the U.S. Is Helping Finance Overseas Plants
When President Biden met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last week, he said the United States would donate millions of COVID-19 doses to the African Union, part of an effort to close the vaccination gap between rich and poor nations. This week, his top development financing official is traveling to South Africa and India to talk about how the United States can help boost vaccine production in parts of the world where vaccination rates have lagged. David Marchick of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is leading a team of Biden officials on the trip. They will visit three vaccine manufacturing sites that Marchick says could help produce 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2022. “We’re trying to help create hubs for vaccine manufacturing and hubs for this type of expertise,” Marchick told NPR. “Much like Silicon Valley is a hub for technology.” The DFC helps secure U.S. financing for infrastructure projects in the developing world. … Since the start of the Biden administration, the DFC has committed nearly $600 million to COVID vaccine-related investments. Marchick’s team will meet with health ministers and pharmaceutical executives. In South Africa, they plan to tour the facilities of Aspen Pharmacare, which is making Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and visit the Biovac Institute in Cape Town where Pfizer vaccines will be produced. NPR

Attacks on Freedom of Expression ‘Devastating’ for Public Health
Attacks on freedom of expression by governments, and the spread of misinformation globally during the COVID-19 pandemic have had “a devastating impact” on people’s ability to access accurate information to help them cope with the health crisis, Amnesty International has said. The report – Silenced and Misinformed: Freedom of Expression in Danger During COVID-19 – published on Tuesday reveals how authorities’ use of censorship and punishment during the pandemic has reduced the quality of information reaching people. The pandemic provided a “dangerous situation” where governments used new legislation to shut down independent reporting and condemn critics or even those who tried to examine their government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, the report said. “Throughout the pandemic, governments have launched an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression, severely curtailing peoples’ rights,” said Amnesty’s senior director for research advocacy and policy, Rajat Khosla. … Other countries, including Tanzania, Russia and Nicaragua implemented “oppressive laws, restricting the right to freedom of expression and silencing critics under the guise or in the context of the pandemic.” Al Jazeera

Nigeria: ‘He Died in My Arms.’ Twelve Months On, a Mother’s Agonizing Wait to Find Out Why Her Son Died at Lekki Toll Gate
One year on from the Lekki toll gate shootings, and no one has taken responsibility for what happened that night, nor has anyone been held to account. In a short report released Tuesday, titled “Nigeria: A Year On, No Justice for #EndSARS Crackdown,” Human Rights Watch said: “The prospects for accountability remain inconclusive and bleak. Nigerian authorities should take concrete and decisive steps to ensure that those implicated in abuses against protesters are held accountable.” The judicial hearing set up in October 2020 by the Lagos state government to look into cases of police brutality — and the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad — and to investigate the tollgate incident has been beset with delays and other issues. Last month, it abruptly suspended sitting, saying it did not have enough time to complete its reports on the cases, including the Lekki shooting. It reopened briefly a few weeks later to hear additional testimonies and ended its sitting Monday. However, its report is still being prepared. “Nigeria’s authorities should take effective steps toward accountability to show victims that their loss, pain, and suffering is not in vain,” said Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Anything less will worsen distrust of the government and reinforce the perception that the lives of citizens do not matter.” CNN

Africa Begins to Emerge as Car Industry Hub
Morocco is an emerging automotive manufacturing hub, while South Africa has a history of carmaking. But multinational vehicle manufacturers are also setting up production plants in Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria and Rwanda, and locally owned African producers are starting out on this road less traveled. Africa has more than a billion people, 17% of the world’s population, but accounts for only 1% of cars sold worldwide, compared with China’s 30%, Europe’s 22% and North America’s 17%, according to the Paris-based International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA). Africa has on average 44 vehicles per 1,000 people, compared with the global average of 180 and 800 in the United States, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. In 2018, Morocco overtook South Africa as the biggest African exporter of passenger cars with exports in 2019 at $10 billion (€8.5 billion). The two countries mainly make cars for foreign markets, but also have relatively large domestic markets. VW, Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler and BMW are among the biggest car companies in Africa, making up over 90% of all passenger cars produced and a third of the cars sold in South Africa in 2019. Meanwhile, about 80% of the 400,000 cars produced in Morocco are sold to Europe, with France, Spain, Germany and Italy the main destinations. DW