Africa Media Review for October 5, 2021

Migrants Tortured and Killed in Libya by Russian Mercenaries among Others – UN
A UN report by human rights investigators in Libya details a number of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity against detainees and migrants in Libyan prisons. The investigators said that they now have a confidential list of suspects. … The report pointedly accused mercenaries employed by Wagner, a Russian security company, of shooting prisoners in September 2019. “There are thus reasonable grounds to believe that Wagner personnel may have committed the war crime of murder,” it said. The investigators also found a computer tablet used by Wagner that was left behind, detailing where land mines were planted in 35 different places near civilian buildings. These mainly Russian-made mines had been maiming civilians since June 2020, when a number of people returned to their homes, according to the report. … Libya has been in a state of unrest since 2011, when a number of armed groups who rose up against Libyan strongman Moamer Khadafi have been fighting it out for power, weapons, and control and traffic of migrants there. The various factions have been supported by a number of countries, with Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates backing eastern forces, while Turkey supporting the government in the west. On Sunday, the Libyan foreign ministry said that some foreign fighters had left the country, adding that the unity government is asking for international help to push for the rest to withdraw. RFI

US Urges Guinea Coup Leader to Set Election Timeline
The United States on Monday urged Guinea’s coup leader to set a timeline for new elections after he was sworn in as interim president. Colonel Mamady Doumbouya said he was committed to a transition to civilian rule, but was sworn in Friday to lead the West African nation for a transition period of unspecified length. “The United States urges Guinea’s military junta to appoint a civilian head of the transitional government and commit to a timeline for free and fair elections to return the country to civilian rule, democracy and constitutional order,” a State Department spokesperson said. The spokesperson said that civilians including opposition leaders, women and marginalized groups needed to have a “central role” in the transition. The military on September 5 ousted Alpha Conde, who became the turbulent nation’s first democratically elected president in 2010 but last year pushed through a controversial new constitution that allowed him to seek a third term, setting off deadly protests. The region’s bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is demanding that elections be held within six months and that Conde be released. AFP

Somalia’s Long-Awaited Presidential Elections Face Another Delay
Presidential elections in Somalia that were due to take place on Oct. 10 will be rescheduled, a postponement that’s likely to compound divisions among the country’s political elite. “Everyone sees there will be a delay in the presidential elections,” federal government spokesman Mohamed Ibrahim said on Tuesday. “The specified date will not be met.” Ibrahim attributed the postponement to administrative problems during the lead-up to the plebiscite and didn’t specify when it will eventually happen. The vote was originally scheduled for February, and the initial delay triggered violence amid a plan for President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to remain in power until it took place. Tensions between the president and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble have also increased of late over the death of a female Somali intelligence officer. Roble has accused the president of failing to investigate the death of Ikran Tahlil, an agent who the nation’s intelligence agency said was killed by al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked group. The insurgents deny any involvement in her death. Bloomberg

A Year after COVID Vaccine Waiver Proposal, WTO Talks Are Deadlocked
A year after South Africa and India introduced a novel proposal here to temporarily waive intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies at the World Trade Organization, negotiations are deadlocked and directionless, trade sources said on Monday after a meeting on the topic. More than 100 countries backing the waiver say it will help save lives by allowing developing countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines. But a handful of countries, including some hosting major pharmaceutical firms such as Switzerland, remain opposed. Washington threw its weight behind the proposal here in May, raising expectations of a breakthrough that has so far failed to materialise. At a closed-door TRIPS Council meeting on the waiver on Monday, Norway’s Dagfinn Sorli seemed frustrated and asked delegates: “Where do we go from here?,” according to three trade sources who attended. … The meeting was the penultimate scheduled session on the waiver ahead of a major ministerial conference in November-December which provides a rare opportunity for new trade deals, such as on intellectual property, to be finalised. WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has identified solutions to vaccine inequity as a priority for the global trade body, which has been facing questions recently about its relevance. Reuters

Pandora Papers: Global Investigation Exposes Secrets of Some of Nigeria’s Rich and Powerful
A new global investigation exposing the offshore hideaways of some of the world’s most powerful personalities is launching today after two years of discreet work by investigative journalists around the world. … The reporting, which is still ongoing, involves more than 600 journalists from 150 news organisations around the world. … The collaboration has so far revealed the financial secrets of not less than 35 current and former world leaders, more than 330 public officials in more than 91 countries and territories. … Premium Times is the only Nigerian newspaper participating in what has now been dubbed the biggest journalism partnership in history. … Our stories will also show how some of these [influential Nigerians] flout extant laws and legislations as they hide these assets, some of which have attracted the interest of law enforcement agencies in the UK and elsewhere. … It is not illegal for Nigerians who are not public officers to own offshore accounts, and many prominent businesses do have them. However, some public officials found to have accounts did not disclose them as expected by law. Premium Times

14 Soldiers Killed by Jihadists in Burkina Faso
At least 14 soldiers were killed and seven injured by extremists at the Yirgou military barracks in Burkina Faso’s Sanmatenga province on Monday, the government said. The soldiers were targeted at 5 a.m. by a large number of heavily armed men and showed “great combativeness,” Minister of Defense Aime Barthelemy Simpore said in a statement. The government immediately launched an aerial and ground offensive, he said. Locals near the attack said they were shocked, given there had been an increased military presence in the area recently. “We are totally devastated because of what happened,” Abdoulaye Pafadnam, the mayor of nearby Barsalogho town, told the Associated Press by phone. “Many defense and security forces were sent to cover the area, and it was very encouraging to see that. We did not think that such an attack would happen in our zone….But when 12 soldiers get killed and equipment is taken away, it creates a big fear,‘’ he said. … Conflict analysts say the intensifying of attacks are due to some jihadist groups trying to consolidate gains before the rainy season ends, when violence typically increases and that the spike in explosives is a response to more airstrikes by the army, said Heni Nsaibia a senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. AP

5 Civilians Killed in Landmine Explosion in Bowara Village, Central African Republic
Five civilians were killed on Sunday, Oct. 3 in a landmine explosion in Bowara village situated 63 km from Bocaranga in the Ngaoundaye sub-prefecture on the Ndim-Kowone highway. According to eyewitness accounts, the victims who were killed around midday were on motorcycles from Paoua town in Lim-Pende prefecture on their way to Ndim in the Ngaoundaye sub prefecture. “On arrival in Bowara village, their two motorcycles hit a landmine which exploded and killed all of them. Among the five dead was a four-year-old child,” a civil society source in the village told HumAngle. “Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Security Group arrived in Ngaoundaye sub prefecture last week and three days later, we have started hearing talk of deaths from mine explosions whereas the populations in this area have never heard or known anything about landmines.” HumAngle

Sudan Says 4 Militants, 1 Officer Killed in Khartoum Raids
Sudan’s security forces killed four suspected Islamic State group militants in lengthy raids on their hideouts Monday in the capital, in an operation that also left one military officer dead, officials said. The raids took place in the same Gabra neighborhood in southern Khartoum where five intelligence officers were killed in a shootout with suspected IS militants last week. The General Intelligence Agency said in a statement that forces detained four other suspected militants in two hideouts. The militants opened fire on forces using Kalashnikov rifles, RPGs and grenades, it said. The statement said the clashes also wounded three other offices, including two from the GIA and one from police. The GIA said its forces also raided a hideout Sunday in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, arresting eight suspected foreign militants. The agency did not reveal the nationalities of suspects arrested or killed in the raids. Militant attacks have been rare in Sudan, which hosted Osama bin Laden in the early years of his jihadi movement that led to the creation of al-Qaida. The latest incidents, however, underscore the fragility of Sudan’s path to democracy, more than two years after the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir amid a public uprising against his three-decade rule. AP

National Initiatives to Defuse Political Tensions in Sudan
Several initiatives have been launched in Khartoum last week, to defuse tensions between various components of the Sudanese government. In response to the conflicts within the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), an important partner in the transitional government, a new coalition of 16 political and armed groups calls for “consensus within the FFC”. A number of civil society leaders have formed mediation committees, including prominent lawyer and human rights defender Nabil Adib, in an attempt to bring the conflicting government parties together again. The Return to the Platform Committee, set up by Professor Khaled Yaji, has initiated meetings with members of the Sovereignty Council in the wake of fierce disputes between the military and civilian components of the Sudanese government in the media that erupted following an aborted coup two weeks ago. … On Saturday, thousands of people took part in demonstrations in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and other places in the country yesterday, in support of the democratic transition in the country. The demonstrators called for the establishment of a civilian government. Radio Dabanga

Police Arrest Ethiopia Insider’s Founder
Journalist Tesfalem Waldyes, the founder and editor-in-chief of Ethiopia Insider, an Ethiopian news and analysis website, is in police custody, according to media reports. Tesfalem’s colleagues and friends said his whereabouts hadn’t been known since Saturday, but federal police confirmed his detention to the BBC, saying there is nothing to be concerned about. Police didn’t give additional details. Shortly after the detention, Befeqadu Hailu, the executive director of the Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy, said Tesfalem went missing after covering the Irreecha festival in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Irreecha is a cultural event celebrated by Ethiopia’s ethnic Oromo community. Befeqadu also said via Twitter that Tesfalem’s plan for Sunday was to report on the festival, which also took place at a second location, Bishoftu. … After covering the event in Addis Ababa, Tesfalem posted a video on Ethiopia Insider’s Facebook page that showed attendees expressing their criticism of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration. Attendees also demanded the release of political prisoners, chanting, “Jawar, Jawar!” Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo activist and opposition leader, has been imprisoned, charged with terrorism and other crimes alongside other prominent Oromo politicians. … The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists says at least seven journalists are imprisoned in the country. VOA

‘They Wanted to Kill Me’: The Lawyer Taking On Police Brutality in Kenya
When the police started shooting at David Makara in his home town of Nyahururu, in Kenya, he ran before quickly collapsing. Two bullets had hit him – one in his right arm, one in his hip – but he only realised when he looked down and saw his hand dangling from his wrist and blood pouring out. “I thought I was going to die,” he says. … Makara survived, but his arm was amputated. “I woke up the following morning to a bitter realisation that I was now a person with a disability. My right hand had gone.” When the police realised that Makara was still alive, they went to the hospital, threatened the staff, handcuffed Makara to his bed, and charged him with a violent crime that could have put him in prison for life. With little money, the thought of hiring a lawyer seemed impossible for Makara. But after his community protested in the streets against the charges, International Justice Mission, an organisation that protects people in poverty from violence, learned of the case and assigned him a lawyer, Victor Kamau, who is blind. “I thought the situation was hopeless,” says Makara. … However, he was proved wrong. Kamau worked tirelessly to have the charges dropped and the police officers charged. Makara was so inspired by Kamau that he decided to study law. He learned to use his left hand to write and was admitted to the bar in 2017. Now, he represents marginalised communities and victims of violence. He also chairs the Kenyan chapter of the Global Survivor Network, an organisation of survivors of police brutality who advocate for justice and safer communities. The Guardian

Senegal’s Old Capital on the Frontline against Rising Sea
In the northern Senegalese city of Saint-Louis, excavators are ripping up the beach to lay giant blocks of basalt, in an eleventh-hour effort to keep the sea at bay. When work is finished, a black sea wall will stretch for kilometres along the coastline of the West African country’s former capital, famed for its colonial-era architecture. Dire warnings about the risk of rising sea levels due to climate change are already a grim reality in Saint-Louis, where seafront residents are abandoning their homes to the encroaching Atlantic Ocean. But the sea wall is a stopgap. … Long a problem, floods have become more severe in neighbourhoods such as Guet Ndar, a packed fishing district where brightly painted wooden canoes line the shore. Coastal erosion is also eating away at the shoreline. Many locals have had little choice but to move to a displacement camp inland as their homes have been swallowed up by the raging sea, the erosion and the crumbling ground beneath them. The sea barrier is Senegal’s attempt to manage the compounding problems. But experts point out that while it can protect against freak surges, it cannot stop the rising sea. AFP



Photo: Adam Jones