Africa Media Review for October 4, 2021

Ethiopia’s PM Sworn In for a Second Term as War Spreads

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been sworn in for a second five-year term running a country in the grip of a nearly year-long war. Abiy’s Prosperity Party was declared the winner of parliamentary elections earlier this year in a vote criticized and at times boycotted by opposition parties but described by some outside electoral observers as better run than those in the past. The prime minister, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner for restoring ties with neighboring Eritrea and for pursuing sweeping political reforms, now faces major challenges as war in the Tigray region spreads into other parts of the country, deadly ethnic violence continues and watchdogs warn that repressive government practices are on the return. The 11-month war is weakening Ethiopia’s economy, once one of Africa’s fastest-growing, and threatening to isolate Abiy, once seen as a regional peacemaker. Just four African heads of state — from Nigeria, Senegal and neighboring Somalia and Djibouti — were attending Monday’s ceremony. … As Abiy faces another term, “I think it will give the government the chance to renew its commitment to reform and to enhance the human rights situation in the country,” Amnesty International researcher Fisseha Tekle told The Associated Press. AP

UN Secretary-General Rebuffs Ethiopia’s Demand for Senior UN Officials to Leave the Country

The United Nations has rebuffed Ethiopia’s decision to expel seven senior UN officials as the country’s war-torn northern Tigray region descends into famine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday. Ethiopia declared the officials, who are responsible for coordinating critical humanitarian assistance, “persona non grata” on Thursday, just days after the UN’s aid chief warned that hundreds of thousands of people were starving due to the government’s blockade of aid deliveries. Guterres told the President of the UN Security Council on Friday — in a letter seen by CNN — that the UN would push Ethiopia “to permit these critical UN staff to resume their functions in Ethiopia and grant them the necessary visas.” “If the current trajectory continues, I fear for the future of many Ethiopian lives, and indeed for the stability of the country and the region. Political dialogue and a ceasefire are urgently needed. It is still not too late to take steps to improve the situation, and I urge Council members to support efforts in that regard,” Guterres said. … “This is a turning point, not just in this conflict, but for how the world responds to conflicts and humanitarian crises around the world. The UN needs to be strong, and they must have the absolute backing of the Security Council, influential leaders in the region, and the entire international community,” the UN diplomat told CNN. CNN

Africa’s Big Adaptation Ask at COP26

In the picturesque Cape Verde islands, which will be among the hardest-hit African countries as global temperatures increase, policymakers and scientists from across Africa gathered this month to hammer out a unified African position on climate change. This is important because world leaders are gathering in November at COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow – to figure out how to respond to this existential threat to life on Earth. The African Group of Negotiators (AGN) on Climate Change, an alliance of African states, will represent and negotiate the continent’s common agenda. At the very top of this agenda is how to pay for all the changes we will have to make to adapt to a changing climate: from changing rainfall patterns cutting crop yields to the damage done from flood waters rushing through dense settlements, and myriad other impacts. … At COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, [developed countries] pledged to mobilise $100-billion a year by 2020 to support vulnerable developing countries in tackling climate change and its impacts. This commitment was reaffirmed at COP21 in Paris in 2015. … “The promise has not materialised, and even if it were to materialise, the $100-billion per year would still be grossly inadequate,” says a statement adopted by African delegates in Cape Verde. Mail & Guardian

One Policeman Killed, at Least Ten Civilians Wounded in Chad Opposition Protest

One policeman was killed and around ten people were wounded in Chad’s capital N’djamena on Saturday after police used tear gas to disperse a protest against the ruling junta that had strayed from the approved route, a police spokesperson said. Civil society coalition Wakit Tamma had asked supporters to take to the streets to denounce the Transitional Military Council (CMT), which seized power in April after President Idriss Deby was killed while visiting troops fighting an insurgency in the north. “There were clashes which resulted in around 10 minor injuries and the death of a police officer following a fall,” said police spokesperson Paul Manga. Wakit Tamma accused police of using excessive force and said around 20 people were wounded, including some by live rounds. “This brutality by law enforcement officers is all the more unacceptable because the march was peaceful and moreover authorised,” it said in a statement. Reuters

South Sudan Risks Cycle of War as Plunder Continues despite US, UK Sanctions

South Sudan’s journey to recovery from conflict may take longer than planned as the country’s elites dodge US sanctions and continue to bleed the national coffers. Now civil society organisations and activists say looting of national monies with no repercussions may create a cycle of war as politicians and other influence peddlers jostle to get into or close to government. The theft, which has continued unabated, even when the country was at war, means that targeted sanctions imposed on some of the elites in the country may have had nearly zero impact. The details are contained in a recently released report by a UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, and an admission by the country’s Auditor-General, showing that as much as $73 million may have been siphoned off government coffers by individuals including those proscribed by the US government. The activists blame President Salva Kiir’s approach of recycling senior government officials as one reason corruption plagues the country. The Human Rights Watch said the theft had deprived the country of critical funding as well as undermined “the government’s ability to meet the needs of millions who are currently food insecure and to protect the rights to health and education.” Transparency International lists the country as the second worst on the continent — only ahead of Somalia — in graft. The EastAfrican

Somali Militia, Former Government Ally, Captures Two Towns from Federal Forces

A militia previously allied to the Somali government in its fight against militant group al Shabaab has captured two towns in central Somalia from federal forces, saying it was taking control where the government had failed to end the insurgency. On Thursday, Somali federal forces attacked the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia in Galmudug state, culminating in fighting that saw its troops ousted from the towns of Mataban and Guriceel, spokespeople for both ASWJ and the Somali National Army (SNA) told Reuters. The army accused the ASWJ of planning to attack its troops, which the group denied. “Yesterday, we attacked ASWJ … because we knew they were planning to attack us,” Captain Nur Abdullahi, an officer for the SNA told Reuters from the Galmudug capital. Sheikh Ismail Farah, a spokesman for ASWJ, said the group had had no such plans and did not want to fight the government. “We are ready to eliminate al Shabaab. Al Shabaab is our common enemy,” he said. Reuters

Mozambique’s Tuna Corruption Scandal Puts Justice on Trial

The biggest corruption trial in Mozambique’s history is under way at a maximum security prison, at the same time as the credibility of the country’s judicial system is on trial in neighbouring South Africa. The scandal involves more than $2.7bn (£2bn) of undisclosed state debts – money which the government borrowed to set up a sophisticated tuna industry – to buy trawlers and military patrol boats, but much of it was allegedly diverted to corrupt officials. Manuel Chang, the former finance minister who signed off on the loans about eight years ago, has been in detention in South Africa since December 2018. The 66-year-old politician and economist, who denies accepting $7m in bribes, was arrested at the request of the US, where investors were affected by the scandal. But he has been in limbo in South Africa for years as Mozambique filed a competing request for his extradition. His fate seemed decided in August when South Africa’s justice minister resolved that Mr Chang should be sent to Mozambique to face justice. However, the decision was greeted by howls of protest from civil society groups in Mozambique and South Africa – they question whether Mozambique had the political will or capacity for a proper prosecution. … Back in Mozambique, 19 individuals, including the son of former President Armando Guebuza, have gone on trial – it began in the grounds of a jail in the outskirts of the capital, Maputo, in August. BBC

Jihadist Chief, 18 Fighters Killed in Mozambique, Bloc Says

A local jihadist leader and 18 fighters were killed during a military strike on their base in Mozambique’s insurgency-hit north, a bloc of southern African nations said Saturday. Al-Qaida-linked jihadists have been terrorizing Mozambique’s gas-rich Cabo Delgado region since 2017, raiding villages and towns in a bid to establish a caliphate. Local jihadist leader Rajab Awadhi Ndanjile was killed along with 18 other fighters in an offensive on September 25 on the militants’ base in the Nangade district of Cabo Delgado, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional grouping said. Many members of the 16-nation bloc have deployed troops in Mozambique to fight the insurgents. SADC said Ndanjile recruited and indoctrinated fighters and was involved in the first attack in the region and “subsequent attacks on villages” as well as the “abduction of women and children.” AFP

Nigeria Jihadists Attack Surrendered Rivals in Camp

Islamic State-allied jihadists have attacked a camp housing surrendered rivals from Boko Haram in the country’s northeast, the military said on Sunday. Saturday’s attack on Damboa in Borno State came after several thousand Boko Haram militants and their families surrendered in recent months following the death of their leader in May. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has emerged as the dominant force in Nigeria’s 12-year conflict, but factions of Boko Haram are still fighting against their control. The army said troops drove back ISWAP fighters who tried to attack the camp where surrendered Boko Haram jihadists were being held, but the statement did not give any casualty figures. … ISWAP has been consolidating in areas it controls in northeast Nigeria since May when Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau killed himself to avoid capture by jihadist rivals. But infighting between ISWAP and a pro-Shekau faction the Lake Chad region left scores of fighters dead last week, according to security and civilian sources in the area. AFP

The Cameroonians Determined to Keep a Corner of Their Homeland Forever English-Speaking

Formerly Southern Cameroons, this anglophone region was British-ruled – until 60 years ago on October 1. It became famous as the setting for some of the naturalist Gerald Durrell’s early animal-collecting expeditions. In books like The Bafut Beagles and A Zoo in My Luggage, he describes catching bush babies and nose-horned vipers with the help of the Fon of Bafut, an anglophile local king who was partial to gin and bitters. Today, though, the lush forests of Durrell’s former stomping ground have become the setting for a vicious civil war, which has left more than 3,000 dead and forced a million to flee from their homes. … On one side are the anglophone region’s five million English-speakers – about a fifth of the population – who want to break away from “La République” altogether. And on the other is Cameroon’s francophone dictator, Paul Biya, an old-school strongman who has said an all-too-firm “non” to their demands for greater equality. … “Peace talks within Cameroon seem to have stalled, and the whole thing has become very polarised,” says Paul Melly, an expert on francophone Africa at London’s Chatham House think tank. “You get the sense things haven’t got much better.” Telegraph

Troika ‘Deeply Concerned’ about Delayed Sudan Peace Process

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement by the Sudanese government and a number of rebel groups, the Sudan Troika congratulated the Sudanese and commended the signatories for upholding their partnership. The Troika, as well as the president of the Sovereignty Council and the chairperson of the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance called for a rapid implementation of the agreement. The signatories must recommit to fully implement the Juba Peace Agreement (JPA), the Troika, consisting of the USA, the UK, and Norway, said in a statement on Sunday. The three countries praised “the steps that have been achieved in implementing the Juba Peace Agreement in the field of transitional justice, including cooperation with the International Criminal Court, and the commitment to hand over former President Omar al-Bashir and others. The Troika however states it is also “deeply concerned” about the delays in the implementation of the agreement. “This includes establishing the Peace Commission, the Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism, the Transitional Legislative Assembly, and establishing the Darfur Security Keeping Forces and JPA security arrangements. Radio Dabanga

AFRICOM Commander Concludes Visit to Libya, Algeria, Tunisia

US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, US Africa Command, has wrapped up a two-day visit to Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia as part of an African tour. Townsend travelled to Libya with US Special Envoy and Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland where they met with interim Government of National Unity Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Abdulhamid Dabaiba, in advance of the 24 December elections and to support the country’s stabilization and national reconciliation. Townsend and Norland also received the 5+5 Joint Military Commission in Tripoli, the first time this group has met in the Libyan capital. “US Africa Command continues to support Ambassador Norland’s diplomatic efforts to ensure Libya holds presidential and parliamentary elections this December. We also support the UN-facilitated political reconciliation process and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Libya,” said Townsend. … “As we discussed, the elections on December 24 will also mark a key step towards a stable, unified national government with a mandate from Libyan voters. The United States will continue working to support full implementation of the ceasefire agreement including the withdrawal of all foreign forces and fighters in accordance with the wishes of the Libyan public,” [Norland said]. defenceWeb

Algeria Bans French Military Planes as Diplomatic Row Deepens

The diplomatic discord between Algeria and France has deepened after Algiers banned French military planes from its airspace, its latest response to a row over visas and critical comments from President Emmanuel Macron. France’s jets regularly fly over the former French colony to reach the Sahel region of western Africa, where its soldiers are helping to battle jihadist insurgents as part of its Operation Barkhane. “This morning when we filed flight plans for two planes, we learned that the Algerians had stopped flights over their territory by French military planes,” an army spokesperson, ColPascal Ianni, told AFP. He said the decision had “slightly impacted” supply flights but “does not affect our operations” in the Sahel. The move heightened tensions that had flared on Saturday when the Algerian government recalled its ambassador to France, citing “inadmissible interference” in its affairs. According to French and Algerian media reports, Macron told descendants of figures in Algeria’s 1954-62 war for independence that the country was ruled by a “political-military system” that had “totally rewritten” its history. … Last year the Algerian government criminalised the dissemination of what it considers “false news” that harms national unity. AFP

Gambia: The Story of a Jammeh-Era Survivor

The West African country’s decision to delay a long-awaited report into the crimes committed under longtime leader Yahya Jammeh comes as families torn apart by the brutal regime struggle to heal decades on. … When Awa Njie married her late husband, Don Faal, in February 1994, she could hardly imagine the cruel fate that would befall her young family at the hands of her country’s regime. … Her son, now 27 years old, didn’t know what happened to his father until Njie testified at Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in 2019, a probe into crimes committed under Jammeh’s rule. During the hearings, some of her husband’s killers admitted to their role in his murder. … Stories like Njie’s are sadly common in Gambia. Victims of torture and the relatives of those who were killed or disappeared are still waiting for justice as the TRRC prepares to release its report following testimonies from nearly 400 people. Based on South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the TRRC was set up in 2017 after Jammeh lost the 2016 election to Adama Barrow. Witnesses began giving evidence in 2019, detailing Jammeh’s use of torture and rape and witch hunts at the hands of the so-called Junglers, a paramilitary group that acted as a death squad. The official final report, spanning 16 volumes, was expected in July. However, it will now be released at an unconfirmed later date, with a member of the TRRC saying “we are not yet ready.” DW

African Pension Funds Have Grown Impressively

The African Development Bank reckons that the continent needs $130bn-170bn of infrastructure spending a year to bring roads, water, power and internet to its people. Businesses are crying out for capital. What little they get often comes from foreigners, who are quick to pack their bags when things get tough. There is no such risk with local pension funds, which collectively manage around $350bn of assets in sub-Saharan Africa, according to RisCura, an investment firm. And yet many local funds say they struggle to find places to invest. Pension funds have grown impressively in recent decades, for diverse reasons. In South Africa the government pumped cash into the civil service pension scheme to allay members’ worries about losing benefits at the end of apartheid. Its successor, the Government Employees Pension Fund (gepf), is the largest in Africa, with assets of about $110bn. In Nigeria a mandatory pension system was introduced in 2004, and funds’ combined assets have grown nine-fold over the past 15 years, to $31bn. Pension schemes typically cover only the small fraction of Africans who have formal jobs. But they can still be big fish in small ponds. In Namibia, for example, the value of retirement fund assets is larger than the country’s annual GDP. The Economist

Alemayehu Eshete, Singer Known as the ‘Abyssinian Elvis,’ Dies at 80

Alemayehu Eshete, a soulful Ethiopian pop singer widely known as the “Abyssinian Elvis” who became a star in the 1960s when a cultural revolution took hold of Addis Ababa, died on Sept. 2 at a hospital there. He was 80. Gilles Fruchaux, the president of Mr. Eshete’s reissue label, Buda Musique, confirmed the death. For years under Haile Selassie’s imperial rule, Ethiopia’s music industry was controlled by the state. Orchestras dutifully performed patriotic songs at government events, while defiant bands played Little Richard songs at night in clubs. It was forbidden to record and distribute music independently. … But in the late 1960s, as Selassie grew old and the grip of his rule loosened, Addis Ababa experienced a golden age of night life and music, and Mr. Eshete became a swaggering star of the so-called “swinging Addis” era. The sound that dominated this period was distinct: an infectious blend of Western-imported blues and R&B with traditional Ethiopian folk music. It was typified by hypnotic saxophone lines, funky electric guitar stabs and grooving piano riffs. … But a Communist military junta, the Derg, took control of Ethiopia in the mid-1970s, and the swing in Addis came to an end. In what became known as the Ethiopian Red Terror, the Derg ousted Selassie, and thousands were massacred. A curfew extinguished night life in Addis, and musicians left the country in droves, creating a lost generation of Ethiopian musical stars. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones