Africa Media Review for October 20, 2021

#EndSARS Anniversary: Nigerian Protest Mobilisers Disappointed but Hopeful
On the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 20, soldiers stormed the Lekki tollgate in Lagos, the largest protest location, and opened fire on unarmed demonstrators as they sat, singing Nigeria’s anthem and waving its flag. Many died. Amnesty International said at least 10 people were killed. Obianuju Catherine Udeh, aka DJ Switch, who famously streamed the incident on Instagram, said they counted at least 15 people who had been gunned down. The Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) documented 20 deaths, suggesting in a publication last January that there were many more casualties based on reports of missing people and others who lost loved ones but were unwilling to go on record. Two days after the massacre, President Muhammadu Buhari delivered a speech, which contained no mention of it, but rather warned that the government would not condone disruptions of peace. A year later, the government has still not admitted wrongdoing, making young Nigerians more skeptical about the sincerity of those at the top. … Seeing how hostile the government can be to mass actions organised to demand change and accountability, many young Nigerians are now channelling their efforts to civic engagement, political education and participation, electoral reforms, and public enlightenment. They urge the authorities to uphold the rule of law, protect citizens’ rights, and curb insecurity at all levels. HumAngle

‘Crisis Cell’ Convened to Contain Political Tension in Sudan
At an emergency meeting yesterday, the Sudanese Council of Ministers decided on the formation of a seven-member committee headed by Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok to discuss ways to contain the acute crisis between the ruling partners. … The committee’s seven members, including four members of the Sovereignty Council (two from the military component and two from the two factions of the Forces for Freedom and Change) has been given 48 hours to do its work. … During the meeting, the PM reported his continuous meetings during the past days with the political parties to the crisis, stressing the agreement to continue the dialogue between everyone despite all the differences. “History will judge us by our success in bringing stability and democracy to our country and people,” Hamdok said and reiterated the importance of “addressing the core issues and avoiding personalising matters.” In its emergency meeting yesterday, the Cabinet also renewed the efforts made to address the issue of eastern Sudan, and to finding “just solutions that preserve the interests of our people in the east of the country,” as the roads and ports in Red Sea state remained closed for the 32nd day. Radio Dabanga

New Airstrikes Hit Capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray Region
New airstrikes have hit the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, residents said Wednesday, as video from the scene showed injured people with bloodied faces being helped into ambulances and thick black smoke rising into the sky. Ethiopia’s government said it was targeting facilities to make and repair weapons, which a spokesman for the rival Tigray forces denied. Meanwhile, the United Nations told The Associated Press it is slashing by more than half its Tigray presence as an Ethiopian government blockade halts humanitarian aid efforts and people die from lack of food. … The attack came two days after Ethiopia’s air force confirmed airstrikes in Mekele that a witness said killed three children. The air force said communications towers and equipment were attacked. Mekele hadn’t seen fighting since June, when Tigray forces retook much of the region in a dramatic turn in the war. The airstrikes have caused fresh panic in a city under siege, where doctors and others have described running out of medicines and other basic needs. AP

Mali Asks Islamic High Council to Dialogue with Al-Qaida
Mali’s government has asked the country’s Islamic High Council to begin a dialogue with al-Qaida-linked groups in a new effort to address a nearly decade-long insecurity crisis. It is not clear when the dialogue will begin, but the council will lead discussions with Malian jihadist leaders Iyad Ag Ghaly and Amadou Kouffa of the al-Qaida-linked group known as JNIM, the council said. Mohamed Kibiri, spokesman for the council, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was asked by the government last week to launch discussions. He said they are working with their representatives in the country’s north. “The only directive we have received is to negotiate only with the Malians,” he said. “The other jihadists we consider invaders.” He also said the subject of Shariah law is not “taboo. Everything is negotiable.” Mali’s minister of religious affairs and worship, Mamadou Koné, confirmed that the government asked the council to lead discussions with the two groups. This is not the first time the Malian government has asked the council to open dialogue with jihadist groups. Earlier this year, the council reached a cease-fire agreement between an al-Qaida-linked group and local fighters in a village in the Niono circle in central Mali. AP

Burundi Rolls Out COVID Jabs, Leaving Just Two Countries Yet to Begin Vaccination Drives
Burundi has started to roll out its first Covid-19 jabs, leaving just Eritrea and North Korea as the only countries on Earth not to begin a vaccination drive. The news comes after a year and a half of tentative coronavirus policies in the East Africa nation of 11.5m people. The East African nation recently received half a million Sinopharm doses from China as a donation. The vaccination campaign started on Monday in the commercial capital of Bujumbura. … Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi’s former strongman president, downplayed the severity of the virus at the beginning of the pandemic and did not take significant measures to curb its spread. In June 2020, The Telegraph quoted opposition sources saying that Mr Nkurunziza may have become the world’s first leader to die of the disease. … Last week, the WHO’s Africa Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that an estimated six out of seven coronavirus cases go undetected in the region. Dr Moeti said that while some eight million cases of coronavirus had been detected in Africa since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 50 million cases are estimated to have gone undetected. … Less than five per cent of Africans are full vaccinated, according to Africa Union (AU) data, compared with more than 60 per cent in the European Union. This shortfall is primarily due to supply issues. Most African countries have been highly effective at distributing Covid-19 shots. Africa had used more than 70 per cent of the vaccines it had received, according to the UN. Telegraph

South Africa: The Great Vaccine … Bake Off … Has Begun
The World Health Organization has hired the company, called Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines [a pharmaceutical startup in South Africa], as part of a $100 million plan to figure out how to make an mRNA vaccine against COVID that is as close as possible to the version produced by Moderna. Until recently, Afrigen specialized in developing veterinary shots using fairly traditional methods. Now, says Afrigen’s Managing Director, Petro Treblanche, the company’s labs are a hive of research into the cutting-edge technology behind mRNA vaccines. … Once Afrigen has sorted out all the complicated steps to make Moderna’s shot on an industrial scale, WHO and other partners plan to pay Afrigen to become a teaching center. “We call it a ‘technology transfer hub,’ ” says Martin Friede, the WHO official in charge of this effort. “Manufacturers from around the world will be invited to come and learn the entire process. So this will accelerate the availability of the technology, not to one manufacturer but to many manufacturers.” Specifically manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries, Friede says the pandemic has shown they’re sorely needed. “There are regions on earth — the whole of Africa, for example, the whole of the Middle East — that really suffer because they’ve got no vaccine production capacity,” says Friede. … Friede says it makes sense to set up more manufacturers of mRNA vaccines in particular because the technology appears so effective against COVID and because it shows promise against other diseases including malaria and tuberculosis. NPR

Rwanda Tries to Ease Tension after Incursion in DR Congo
Rwanda army has acknowledged incursion into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, describing it as unintentional. The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) said it was pursuing smugglers who crossed the border at Hehu in Rubavu District. … In Kinshasa, civil society organisations and Congolese politicians had described the incursion as “an act of provocation.” The National Assembly even summoned the Defence minister to respond to the lawmakers’ queries on the reported border clash between RDF and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). On Monday, Congolese military officials accused the Rwandan army of invading six villages in North Kivu province, resulting in a clash between the two sides. “They came within 200 metres of the national road number 2. They were contained by armed forces … until the arrival of reinforcements, they turned back,” Col Ndjike Kaiko Guillaume, head of the military operations in North Kivu said. … Congolese army officials said they would refer the matter to an International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. The EastAfrican

After Mining, DR Congo Turns Focus on ‘Illegal’ Forest Harvesting Contracts
The Democratic Republic of Congo government has announced an imminent purge of “doubtful contracts” in the forestry sector, promising another round of anxiety in an area of the economy deemed exploited by foreign entities. The decision was announced on Monday by the government spokesman and Minister for Information Patrick Muyaya, who said Kinshasa would revisit all permits on tree harvesting to ensure they are not exploiting the country. Mr Muyaya said line officials had been directed to conduct a “technical and financial” audit on all forest concessions in the DRC. President Felix Tshisekedi, he said, has also ordered Ève Bazaiba, the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Environment and Sustainable Development, to suspend “all doubtful contracts pending the outcome of the audit.” … DRC law limits the acreage control by a single firm to 500,000 hectares. … In Africa, the DRC is the leading forestry country, home to 60 percent of the Congo Basin’s dense forests, the second-largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon with 375 million hectares. … Last month, Kinshasa also announced a purge of mining contracts, promising to suspend those with exploitative clauses and renegotiate them. The programme to clean the sector, Congo’s biggest source of revenue, is a result of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July. The EastAfrican

Credit Suisse Fined £350M over Mozambique ‘Tuna Bonds’ Loan Scandal
Credit Suisse has been fined nearly £350m by global regulators, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, and agreed to forgive hundreds of millions of dollars worth of debt owed by Mozambique in an attempt to draw a line under the long-running “tuna bonds” loan scandal. The Swiss banking company had been accused of “serious” failings in its financial crime controls by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice that will put the bank under heavy monitoring for three years after having “defrauded US and international investors.” The financial settlement, which will be paid to UK and US regulators, relates to a global investigation into the “tuna bonds” loan scandal that pushed Mozambique into financial crisis. … The tuna bonds scandal arose from $1.3bn (£940m) worth of loans that Credit Suisse arranged for the Republic of Mozambique between 2012 and 2016. The loans were said to be aimed at government-sponsored investment schemes including maritime security projects and a state tuna fishery, located in the capital Maputo. However, a portion of the funds were unaccounted for, with one of Mozambique’s contractors later found to have secretly arranged “significant kickbacks” worth at least $137m, including $50m for bankers at Credit Suisse meant to secure more favourable deals on the loans, according to regulators. The Guardian

Dutch Prosecutors Place Eritrean on Most Wanted List
Dutch authorities placed an Eritrean on the Netherlands’ most-wanted list Tuesday, as they seek to prosecute him for his alleged involvement in large-scale human trafficking, abuse of migrants trying to reach Europe and extortion. The Dutch Public Prosecution Service charges that Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam leads a criminal organization that targets Eritrean migrants trying to make the risky Mediterranean Sea crossing from Libya. The notice calls the 37-year-old “one of the world’s most notorious and cruelest people smugglers” and says he is head of a camp in Libya that houses thousands of migrants. “His victims are subjected to severe beatings, kidnapping, rape, and/or unlawful deprivation of liberty,” the notice says. “Many do not survive the journey to Europe, and even if they do make it to the Netherlands, he extorts money from them by making them pay him for the next member of their family who is on their way to Europe.” … Habtemariam’s location is unknown. He escaped from custody in Ethiopia while on trial there last year on people smuggling charges, Dutch prosecutors said. He was convicted in his absence and sentenced to life imprisonment. AP

Senegal Seizes Record 2 Tonnes of Cocaine off Atlantic Coast
Senegal seized more than two tonnes of pure cocaine from a ship off its Atlantic coast, the navy said on Tuesday, in the West African country’s largest ever cocaine bust. The 2,026 kg of cocaine was found on a ship 363 km (226 miles) off the coast by naval forces backed by air support from the French air force, the navy said in a statement. The ship had five crew members aboard, it added. Drug smugglers typically use West Africa as a transshipment point for cocaine en route from South America to Europe. In January, authorities in neighbouring Gambia seized nearly three tonnes of cocaine from a shipment of industrial salt originating in Ecuador. Morocco police on Monday seized one tonne and 335 kilograms of cocaine concealed in a container ship in Tangier Med Port. Reuters

They Fought Apartheid in South Africa. Now They Want Veterans’ Benefits.
Lesley Kgogo was 17 years old when he traded a school uniform for military fatigues and joined the armed wing of the African National Congress in the fight to overthrow the apartheid regime in South Africa. He was among thousands who trained and slept in bush camps in other countries and then returned to join the insurgency that ultimately helped to topple the repressive white-minority government. More than 40 years later, in a democratic South Africa now led by the African National Congress, Mr. Kgogo slept outside the party headquarters in protest, joining dozens of other former combatants who say that the government they helped install has overlooked their great personal sacrifice. They are demanding benefits they say were promised to them years ago as the armed units were disbanded — pensions, housing and scholarships for their children. … Some of these veterans of South Africa’s liberation struggle grabbed the country’s attention last week with a confrontational protest that landed 53 of them in jail. On Tuesday, they were charged with kidnapping. The police and prosecutors say the charges resulted from an incident last Thursday, when the veterans barricaded the doors of a hotel ballroom and refused to let Thandi Modise, the country’s minister of defense and military veterans, leave. … The South African government has conceded that dozens of former freedom fighters have not received their promised benefits. But officials blamed obstacles, including an out-of-date database and the very definition of who is a veteran. The New York Times

A New Showmax Documentary Dispels Myths about Traveling around Africa
Twenty-year-old Othmane Zolati left his home country, Morocco, in 2015 with $80, a backpack, and a pocket camera. After going through 18,000 miles and 24 countries in almost four years, he got to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa in South Africa and a dream destination for him. He had backpacked, walked, hitchhiked, cycled, and skateboarded through the continent. Zolati’s journey is documented in a new Showmax documentary, Africa and I, which shows Africa’s beauty, its diversity, and its people’s generosity while dispelling stereotypes about the continent and also highlighting the challenges of traveling around the continent. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones