Africa Media Review for October 25, 2021

Sudan’s Army Detains PM and Other Civilian Leaders in Coup Attempt
Sudan’s military has launched a coup, arresting the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, and other senior ministers in overnight raids, disrupting internet access and blocking bridges. In response, thousands flooded the streets of Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman to protest. Footage shared online appeared to show protesters blocking streets and setting fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them. The information ministry said protesters were facing gunfire as they gathered near the headquarters of the defence ministry. Protesters could be heard chanting, “The people are stronger, stronger” and “Retreat is not an option!” as plumes of smoke filled the air. After weeks of escalating tensions between military and civilian members of the country’s transitional sovereign council, and rival street protests, Sudan’s information ministry said “joint military forces” had arrested civilian council members and government officials and taken them to an undisclosed location. … The US, which has been mediating in Sudan, condemned the arrests and threatened to withhold assistance, and domestic opponents of the military opposition called for nationwide protests and a general strike. The Guardian with AP and Reuters

UN Security Council Mission Visits Mali, Urges February Vote
A U.N. Security Council mission that is visiting Mali this weekend to assess the security situation is urging the country’s authorities to set elections for February to meet agreements reached with a West African regional bloc after a coup last year. The mission led by Kenya’s ambassador to the U.N., Martin Kimani, met with civil society organizations, groups that have signed a peace agreement, Mali’s prime minister and transitional president Col. Assimi Goita during their weekend visit. … Malian authorities have said after the meetings with the U.N. Security Council mission, they want to organize days of consultations in December amongst Malian groups to determine a path toward elections. “The Malian authorities have spoken to us about these meetings as a prerequisite for the elections. These meetings will take place in December,” said Abdou Abarry, Niger’s ambassador to the U.N. who was a part of the delegation. “We are not opposed to it, but only insist it does not delay the end of the transition and give Malians the opportunity to choose their leaders.” AP

eSwatini Opposition Rejects King Mswati’s Offer of a National Dialogue
eSwatini’s political and civil society opposition has firmly rejected King Mswati’s offer — which followed his meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s special envoy on Thursday — to hold a national dialogue to discuss the troubled country’s political future. Eswatini’s main political party, the banned Pudemo, vowed this weekend to continue with protests and strikes to force Mswati into real democratic negotiations. The country’s traditional leadership, the Indvuna Yenkhundla, announced Mswati’s acceptance of a national dialogue on Friday, after a regional delegation led by Ramaphosa’s special envoy, former Cabinet minister Jeff Radebe, had met the king. The delegation representing the security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) — which Ramaphosa currently chairs — also met Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini, Pudemo, members of Parliament, diplomats, trade unions and other political and civil society groups. The Indvuna Yenkhundla announced that Mswati would call the national dialogue after the annual Incwala ritual when the king goes into isolation. Swazi sources said the Incwala would finish near the end of January, so it seemed unlikely that the national dialogue would take place before February. Daily Maverick

Africa Tries to End Vaccine Inequity by Replicating Its Own
In a pair of Cape Town warehouses converted into a maze of airlocked sterile rooms, young scientists are assembling and calibrating the equipment needed to reverse engineer a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to reach South Africa and most of the world’s poorest people. The energy in the gleaming labs matches the urgency of their mission to narrow vaccine disparities. By working to replicate Moderna’s COVID-19 shot, the scientists are effectively making an end run around an industry that has vastly prioritized rich countries over poor in both sales and manufacturing. And they are doing it with unusual backing from the World Health Organization, which is coordinating a vaccine research, training and production hub in South Africa along with a related supply chain for critical raw materials. It’s a last-resort effort to make doses for people going without, and the intellectual property implications are still murky. … If the team in South Africa succeeds in making a version of Moderna’s vaccine, the information will be publicly released for use by others, Terblanche said. Such sharing is closer to an approach U.S. President Joe Biden championed in the spring and the pharmaceutical industry strongly opposes. AP

Ethiopian Airstrikes in Tigray Force UN Flight to Turn Back
Ethiopian military airstrikes on Friday forced a United Nations humanitarian flight to abandon its landing in the capital of the country’s Tigray region, and a government spokesman said authorities were aware of the inbound flight. It appeared to be a sharp escalation in intimidation tactics authorities have used against aid workers amid the intensifying, year-long Tigray war. Further U.N. flights have been suspended to Mekele, the base of humanitarian operations in Tigray, the World Food Program told The Associated Press. It said the flight with 11 passengers had been cleared by federal authorities but “received instructions to abort landing by the Mekele airport control tower.” It safely returned to Addis Ababa. U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said: “The U.N. had not received any prior warning of the attacks on Mekelle and had received the necessary clearances for the flight.” He expressed “grave concern” for civilians facing airstrikes in Mekele and insufficient humanitarian assistance into Tigray, and alarm at the worsening toll of fighting on civilians in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. AP

Why Nigeria’s Fragile Democracy Is Facing an Uncertain Future
A series of overlapping security, political and economic crises has left Nigeria facing its worst instability since the end of the Biafran war in 1970. With experts warning that large parts of the country are in effect becoming ungovernable, fears that the conflicts in Africa’s most populous state were bleeding over its borders were underlined last week by claims that armed Igbo secessionists in the country’s south-east were now cooperating with militants fighting for an independent state in the anglophone region of neighbouring Cameroon. The mounting insecurity from banditry in the north-west, jihadist groups such as Boko Haram in the north-east, violent conflict between farmers and pastoralists across large swathes of Nigeria’s “middle belt”, and Igbo secessionists in the south-east calling for an independent Biafra once again, is driving a brain drain of young Nigerians. It has also seen the oil multinational Shell announce that it is planning to pull out of the country because of insecurity, theft and sabotage. The Guardian

575 Inmates Escape in Latest Nigeria Jailbreak
Gunmen have attacked a prison in southwest Nigeria, freeing around 575 inmates, officials said Saturday. The third jailbreak in Africa’s most populous country this year raises more concerns about how safe detention facilities are in the West African nation where authorities have struggled to stem rising violence. A handful of security facilities, especially police stations, have been attacked in a similar manner in the past year. Olanrewaju Anjorin, a spokesman of the Oyo correctional center in Oyo state, told The Associated Press that the gunmen attacked the facility late Friday and an investigation into the incident which will reveal the extent of damage has begun. Francis Enobore of the Nigerian Prisons Service also confirmed the incident and said he was on his way to the attacked facility. … In 2021 alone, more than 2,000 inmates were freed in two earlier jailbreaks: on Sept. 13 when 240 inmates were freed after gunmen attacked a detention facility in north-central Kogi state with explosives and on April 5 when at least 1,800 were freed in the southeast Imo state when another facility was also blown up. AP

At Least 20 Killed as Somalia Troops Battle Moderate Islamist Militia
At least 20 people were killed and more than 40 wounded on Saturday when a moderate Islamist group clashed with Somali government troops over control of a town in central Somalia, according to witnesses and regional officials. The clashes started at dawn Saturday morning when government troops, who have been amassing on the outskirts of Guri-El, a central Somali town some 400 kilometers north of the capital, Mogadishu, attacked bases held by Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) rebels. According to residents, both sides used heavy artillery, mortars, machine guns, and vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft guns during a fierce battle in the streets. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, military officials from the opposing sides told VOA that both sides suffered fatalities. A senior official with the Somali National Security Agency, Col: Abdirisaq Mohamud Yusuf, told VOA that the regional commander of Somali’s Danab Brigade, Abdiladif Feyfle, was among the dead. … Falagle also said government troops ultimately took control of the town and that opposing combatants retreated. VOA

Blast in Ugandan Capital Kampala Kills One, Injures Three
An explosion in Uganda’s capital Kampala, that killed one person and injured three others, was “a terrorist act”, according to police and President Yoweri Museveni, who promised to hunt down those responsible. A bomb packed with nails and shrapnel exploded at about 9pm (18:00 GMT) at a popular street-side restaurant strip in Kawempe division in Kampala on Saturday, according to police. The explosion killed a 20-year-old waitress and injured three people, two of whom were in critical condition, police said, adding all indications suggest an “act of domestic terror.” The ISIL (ISIS) armed group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted in an affiliated Telegram channel. It said some of its members detonated an explosive device in a bar where “members and spies of the Crusader Ugandan government were gathering” in Kampala. Al Jazeera

China’s Reach Into Africa’s Digital Sector Worries Experts
Chinese companies like Huawei and the Transsion group are responsible for much of the digital infrastructure and smartphones used in Africa. Chinese phones built in Africa come with already installed apps for mobile money transfer services that increase the reach of Chinese tech companies. But while many Africans may find the availability of such technology useful, the trend worries some experts on data management. China has taken the lead in the development of Africa’s artificial intelligence and communication infrastructure. In July 2020, Cameroon contracted with Huawei, a Chinese telecommunication infrastructure company, to equip government data centers. In 2019, Kenya was reported to have signed the same company to deliver smart city and surveillance technology worth $174 million. A study by the Atlantic Council, a U.S.-based think tank, found that Huawei has developed 30% of the 3G network and 70% of the 4G network in Africa. … Bulelani Jili, a cybersecurity fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard University, says African citizens must be made aware of the risks in relations with Chinese tech companies. “There is need [for] greater public awareness and attention to this issue in part because it’s a key metric surrounding both development but also the kind of Africa-China relations going forward…. We should also be thinking about data sovereignty is going to be a key factor going forward.” VOA

Somalia’s ‘Gravedigger’s Wife’ Grabs Top Prize as Best Film, Music at FESPACO
“The Gravedigger’s Wife”, from Somali director Ahmad Khadar, grabbed the Golden Stallion of Yennenga on Saturday night for best picture, while home-grown Burkinabé documentary “Night Nursery” was named best documentary at the 27th edition of FESPACO. … Some potential festival-goers may have stayed away from FESPACO due to Covid-19 and security issues, but the festival went ahead without any major incident. There was a high-visibility police presence across the capital, barring routes and stopping cars for regular checks as the population swelled due to FESPACO. For the most part, though, the festival went on, with outdoor events and concerts sprinkled throughout Ouagadougou for visitors and Burkinabés to enjoy. RFI



Photo: Adam Jones