Africa Media Review for October 6, 2021

SADC Leaders Extend Mozambique Military Mission to Combat Insurgency

Regional leaders have extended the Southern African Development Community (SADC) military mission which intervened in Mozambique in July to combat an Islamist insurgency in the country’s northernmost Cabo Delgado province. The SADC Mission in Mozambique (Samim) was due to end on October 15, but presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana and Hage Geingob of Namibia met in Pretoria on Tuesday to assess its progress so far. They said its achievements had been “remarkable” and decided to extend its deployment beyond the initial three months, without putting a new time limit on the mission. Ramaphosa told the summit that despite the progress which Samim had made in restoring peace and stability to Cabo Delgado, its work was not complete, “and the coming few months will be critical in shaping the trajectory of the SADC intervention in Mozambique.” Daily Maverick

Child Soldiers Liberated in Mozambique, Says UN

Government forces have rescued abducted children who were forcefully recruited by Al-Shabaab jihadist group in northern Mozambique, the United Nations said Tuesday. The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) could not give further details on the numbers of youngsters involved, for fear of jeopardising efforts to liberate more children. … Last week Human Rights Watch said Al-Shabaab had kidnapped hundreds of boys in the northeastern region and forced them to join their ranks as child soldiers. “There are thousands of children who have been displaced” since the March attacks, Elder said. “In those areas… we consider thousands of children to be at risk and certainly no children so far have been released. “I’d like to give you more details on any children rescued, but of course we don’t want to endanger any ongoing negotiations.” Elder said that as humanitarian access to Cabo Delgado began to improve, there were increasing reports of abductions and the use of children in armed groups. He said Unicef had certain evidence of sexual violence against girls and forced marriages of girls. AFP

New European Taskforce Takes On Mali’s Elusive Militants

When the soldiers reached the end of the road, they descended from their trucks and motorbikes and partially deflated the tyres to make it easier going across the soft terrain of eastern Mali. Then they rumbled onwards in the moonlight along a grassy trail that snaked through Islamic State’s stronghold there. “We are in an area where there have been numerous thefts of cattle recently. Remain vigilant,” said a senior officer as a herd of cows slowed the convoy’s progress. “We are entering a region of armed terrorist groups.” The troops were part of the Takuba Task Force, a group of elite soldiers from across Europe charged with turning the tide in a decade-long Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians in the Sahel, the band of arid terrain south of the Sahara Desert. … Takuba is using smaller, more mobile units with lighter equipment that travel mostly at night and that commanders say better suit the conflict. Game-changing tactics are sorely needed in the Sahel, where violent attacks across Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso increased eight-fold in 2015 to 2020, according to the United Nations. This has driven 2 million from their homes and left swathes of territory out of governments’ control. Reuters

Pentagon Warns against Deal Bringing Russian Mercenaries to Mali

For weeks, U.S. and French officials have publicly tried to dissuade Malian leaders from moving forward with a reported deal that would pay Wagner $10.8 million a month for 1,000 mercenaries to train Mali’s military and provide security for senior officials. … “Given the Wagner Group’s record, if these reports are true, any role for Russian mercenaries in Mali will likely exacerbate an already fragile and unstable situation,” U.S. Defense Department spokesperson Cindi King told VOA. … The U.S. had been providing training and other support to Mali as it tries to confront the threat from various terrorist groups, including the Islamic State affiliate IS-Greater Sahara and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, also known as JNIM. But that support was suspended following the August 2020 coup that saw elements of the Malian military depose the country’s elected leaders. … Some Western officials with knowledge of the potential deal between Mali and the Wagner Group have called the potential deployment of the Russian mercenaries “a real concern.” The officials point to what they describe as a destabilizing impact of about 2,000 Wagner mercenaries in the Central African Republic, where allegations of human rights abuses and exploitation have been rampant. VOA

The U.S. Posted a Huge Reward for a Suspected Drug Kingpin in Guinea-Bissau. But Capturing Him Is Complicated.

The [$5 million reward for information that leads to Antonio Indjai’s arrest or conviction] arrived as Guinea-Bissau’s president was pushing to shake off the nation’s reputation as Africa’s first narco-state. Handing over an alleged mastermind could be cast as a step toward redemption. Yet much of the country’s military is seen as loyal to Indjai. “The soldiers will revolt,” said one armed forces official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case. “Indjai has men all over the units. The president risks paying with his life — just like the rest of his government.” Over the last 17 years, Guinea-Bissau has suffered two coups, a civil war, an attempted power grab and a presidential assassination. … Indjai himself led a military takeover in 2012 and remains the target of a U.N. travel ban. More than half the nation’s soldiers belong to his ethnic group, the Balanta — a legacy of Indjai’s enlistment priorities that analysts say cemented his grip. … Cartels have fueled the route by funding campaigns for politicians and paying off military officials, according to a 2014 report by the West African Commission on Drugs, placing the leaders “at the service of drug traffickers” while neglecting the needs of civilians. Nearly 70 percent of Bissau-Guineans live below the poverty line. Most complete less than four years of schooling. The typical health-care facility lacks reliable electricity and running water. The Washington Post

Pandora Papers Expose African Leaders’ Offshore Secrets

The Pandora Papers are a massive trove of nearly 12 million confidential documents that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The tax documents expose secretive offshore financial structures and trusts in tax havens, thereby casting a light on the shadowy financial tactics of the world’s powerful, including those in Africa. The ICIJ investigation found that nearly 50 politicians and public officials from 18 African countries had connections to offshore entities. The most important include: Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya; Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the Republic of the Congo; Ali Bongo Ondimba, president of Gabon; Patrick Achi, prime minister of the Ivory Coast; Jim Muhwezi, security minister of Uganda; Aires Ali, former prime minister of Mozambique. Leaked records show that Kenyatta’s family has been “secretly accumulating a personal fortune behind offshore corporate veils,” the ICIJ finds. Kenyatta, along with his mother, sisters and brother, owned assets worth more than $30 million (€25.8 million), according to Pandora Papers records. These assets were shielded “from public scrutiny through foundations and companies in tax havens” in Panama and the British Virgin Islands. DW

Tigray: Food Aid Reaches Afar and Amhara, but Situation Still ‘Dire’

The first round of food distributions to people in Afar and Amhara regions impacted by the spread of the conflict in northern Ethiopia has been completed, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday. However, distributions of supplies into Tigray are lagging behind due to various impediments to the movement of humanitarian aid, the UN agency warned. “It is absolutely vital that we have the full cooperation and support of all parties to the conflict so that we can reach all affected populations with urgently needed food assistance before we have a humanitarian catastrophe on our hands across all of northern Ethiopia,” said Tomson Phiri, WFP spokesperson. “Up to seven million people across the three regions (Tigray, Amhara and Afar) are now in dire need of food assistance; 5.2 million people in Tigray and the rest are in Afar and in Amhara,” he told journalists in Geneva. In Afar and Amhara regions over 840,000 people (700,000 in Amhara and 140,000 in Afar) have been displaced due to the current conflict, according to the government estimates. UN News

Libyan Lawmakers Postpone Parliamentary Elections until January

Libya’s legislative elections have been postponed until January, the country’s eastern-based parliament said on Tuesday, instead of being held on December 24 as planned. “The election for members of the House of Representatives will take place 30 days after the presidential vote,” still scheduled for December 24, parliamentary spokesman Abdullah Bliheg told a press conference. Elections are supposed to help unify the country after years of conflict and division, but disputes over their legal and constitutional basis have laid bare the extent of the split between the country’s east and west. The House of Representatives, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, has been in disagreement over electoral laws with a rival body, the equivalent of Libya’s senate, in the western city of Tripoli. Bliheg said holding the presidential poll was the priority, leading to the move to delay the legislative ballot. … The Tripoli-based unity government of interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah took office in March with a mandate to lead the country to the December ballots. But negotiations over electoral laws have placed growing doubts over the process. On Tuesday, the western-based chamber said it had rejected a law that eastern-based MPs adopted a day earlier on the legislative elections which had been scheduled for December. AFP

Dozens Dead in South Sudan Intercommunal Fighting

At least 36 people were killed in clashes between four communities in South Sudan over the weekend, according to Warrap state officials. Warrap Governor Aleu Ayieny Aleu called the latest wave of fighting in in Tonj East and Tonj North counties “devastating.” He told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus radio program that the clashes were linked to cattle raids and revenge attacks. Thousands have fled the region and at least 36 others were injured, Aleu said. Many could not be transported to medical care due to flooding and the poor condition of roads. “The bigger problem is how we can transport the wounded civilians to hospital,” Aleu said. “Here I appealed to humanitarian partners to quickly step in, since the situation is normalizing, to transport these victims to hospital.” Due to the flooding which destroyed several roads, government forces were unable to reach areas of the fighting. … State officials sponsored a peace conference between residents of Tonj East and Tonj North counties in Romic, where resolutions were drafted that called for uniform disarmament, compensation for victims and victims’ families, and the return of looted property to rightful owners. Commissioner Kook said the only way to end the clashes is to carry out a thorough disarmament campaign and establish a strong justice system. VOA

Cameroon Teachers Call for Better Protection From Conflict

The song “Oh Teachers” by Cameroonian singer Aunty Clo blasted through speakers Tuesday at Yaounde’s city council courtyard with about 200 teachers listening. Aunty Clo’s lyrics are about how teachers should be respected and protected as they are the ones tasked with molding young minds for the future and Cameroon’s development. Most of the teachers attending the protest, held to mark U.N.-declared World Teachers Day, say they fled the Boko Haram insurgency in the north or fighting between the government and English-speaking separatists in the west. Fifty-two-year-old Peter Tar, a spokesperson for the teachers, says instructors working in Cameroon’s conflict zones endure a lot of suffering. “Teachers are being persecuted every day, every hour. Some have been brutally killed. Others, brutally deprived of some parts of their bodies, forced out of their areas to become internally displaced persons. Some are now jobless. My heart bleeds for these teachers. I pray peace should return,” he said.  … More than 40 teachers have been killed in Cameroon since 2017. At least 300 others were abducted and freed only after their families paid ransom. Hundreds of schools in the north and west were destroyed or shut down. Valentine Tameh, president of the Teachers Association of Cameroon, says teachers sometimes have no option but to flee the violence. VOA

8 Governors of Lake Chad Region Basin Discuss Regional Security in Cameroon

Eight state governors from the five countries sharing the border with the Lake Chad basin met in Cameroon on Monday, Oct. 4 to discuss issues about regional security cooperation. The eight governors met in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital, where they brainstormed for two days on how to chart a path to improved stability within the Chad basin. … Governor Zulum presented Borno’s position with a call on the need “to drastically increase the level of trans border alliance on security before strategic and territorial action plans can work.” “All these territorial action plans can never be feasible without security. The first thing that we need in the entire region is to address security issues,” Zulum said, “particularly on the shores of Lake Chad. It is necessary to undertake holistic security operations on the shores of Lake Chad to clear the insurgents, otherwise, we are not going anywhere.” The statement said Governor Zulum conveyed his “great concern over the non-utilisation of Lake Chad Basin’s shore which he noted can provide huge economic potential to benefit the people of the region.” HumAngle

Nigerians Optimistic about Launch of New Digital Currency eNaira
Many Nigerians are optimistic as Africa’s largest economy gears up to launch the continent’s first central bank-backed digital currency, the eNaira. Authorities hope to tap into the popularity of cryptocurrency so it can better monitor digital currency transactions, curb black market trading in the paper naira and also help integrate millions of Nigerians into banking. But critics say the digital currency will also give Nigeria’s central bank more control. The launch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) digital currency, or the eNaira, was initially scheduled for October 1 as part of activities to mark Nigeria’s Independence Day – but was postponed by authorities. … local reports say the eNaira website recorded more than one million hits in the hours ahead of the initial launch – what blockchain experts like Janet Kaatyo say is a welcome development. “It is going to make cross border payments easier and it is going to make it easier for the naira to be widely used and accepted,” said Kaatyo. “So, Nigeria is gradually getting to the point where cryptocurrency is seen as an unstoppable force.” Kaatyo believes the eNaira will promote blockchain technologies like cryptocurrency, which Central Bank authorities banned in back in February, citing its volatility and investment risk for citizens. VOA

Nollywood Booming While African Film Industries Could Create 20m Jobs – Report

Film industries in Africa could quadruple in revenue to $20bn (£15bn) and create an extra 20m jobs in creative industries, according to a report about cinema on the continent. The booming film industry in Nigeria – Nollywood is the world’s second largest film industry in terms of output – and Senegal were examples of African countries with defined business models and growing avenues for local film productions, which are increasingly sought after by television and streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, said the report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). Most creative industries in Africa were grossly underserved, in part due to the failure of policymakers and local authorities to protect and invest in audio-visual industries, and there was the potential to add 20m jobs to an estimated 5m across African countries, said the report. … The report, published on Tuesday, was commissioned after a meeting of Africa’s culture ministers in 2019 and considered ways that largely low-income countries could boost growth in creative industries. The findings and recommendations will be discussed at a meeting of key stakeholders in film and culture across Africa at the Pan-African Festival of Cinema and Television in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, later this month. The Guardian

Google to Invest $1 Billion in Africa over Five Years

Google plans to invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to ensure access to fast and cheaper internet and will back startups to support the continent’s digital transformation, it said on Wednesday. The unit of U.S. tech company Alphabet Inc made the announcement at a virtual event where it launched an Africa Investment Fund, through which it will invest $50 million in startups, providing them with access to its employees, network and technologies. In collaboration with not-for-profit organisation Kiva, Google will also provide $10 million in low interest loans to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa get through the economic hardship created by COVID-19. … oogle said a programme pioneered last year in Kenya in partnership with Safaricom that allows customers to pay for 4G-enabled phones in instalments would be expanded across the continent with mobile operators such as MTN, Orange and Vodacom. The company has been building an undersea cable to link Africa and Europe, which it says will bring faster internet and lower connectivity costs. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones