Africa Media Review for October 8, 2021

Failure to Share COVID Vaccines Equally Is ‘Immoral and Stupid,’ Says UN Chief
The head of the United Nations has called for an additional $8 billion to ensure that 40 per cent of the world is vaccinated by the end of the year. Speaking at the launch of a World Health Organization plan that sets out how to vaccinate 70 per cent of the global population by the middle of 2022, UN Secretary general Antonio Guterres said if the virus is allowed to spread “like wildfire” in the world’s poorest nations new variants will emerge. “And all the vaccination effort made in developed countries will fall apart, and these people will not be protected,” he warned. “With vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 million doses per month, we can reach 40 per cent of people in all countries by year’s end if we can mobilise some $8 billion to ensure that distribution is equitable.” Mr Guterres added that inequitable distribution of vaccine was not only a “question of being immoral, but also a question of being stupid.” So far, more than 6.3 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally but 75 per cent of these doses have been given to people in high income countries – which make up half the world’s population. More than half of the world has yet to receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data, and less than five per cent of Africans have been fully vaccinated. Last week the WHO revealed that around three quarters of countries in Africa had missed a target to vaccinate 10 per cent of their populations by the end of September. Telegraph

African Union to Start Talks with WHO on Rollout for First Ever Malaria Vaccine for Children
Africa will start talks with the World Health Organisation about getting the first approved malaria vaccine to the continent as soon as possible, the African Union’s top health official said on Thursday, amid calls for funding for drugs beyond Covid-19. John Nkengasong spoke a day after the WHO said RTS,S – or Mosquirix – developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline should be widely given to children in Africa. Experts said the recommendation was potentially a major advance against a disease that kills a quarter of a million African children each year. “We will be engaging with GAVI (the vaccine alliance) and WHO in the coming days to understand first of all the availability of this vaccine,” Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told an online news conference. Calling malaria a major killer in Africa, Nkengasong urged donors not to play a zero-sum game “where we fund Covid-19 vaccines and neglect malaria vaccines.” He said it was unclear when the vaccine will be accessible to the many African countries where malaria is endemic because the cost per dose is not known and it is not clear how quickly production can be scaled up. GSK has to date committed to produce 15 million doses of Mosquirix annually up to 2028 at a cost of production plus no more than 5% margin. Al Jazeera

Macron Seeks to Rejuvenate Relationship with Africa at Revamped Summit
French President Emmanuel Macron has invited hundreds of young people hailing from African “civil society” to attend an unprecedented Africa-France summit in the southern French city of Montpellier on Friday. France has framed the gathering as one meant to “provide a new foundation” for the relationship… Invited guests include young entrepreneurs, artists and athletes from the African continent who will meet counterpart French nationals and members of the African diaspora to discuss matters economic, political and cultural. A panel of 12 African young people from Mali, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, South Africa, Kenya and elsewhere are slated to meet with Macron during a plenary session Friday afternoon. The panel was selected after months of talks across the continent led by Cameroonian intellectual Achille Mbembe, who was tasked with preparing the summit. … Mbembe also noted that, among all the prevailing differences of opinion, “none is more corrosive than France’s presumed support for tyranny on the continent.” The recent Chadian example, when the French president offered immediate support after the assassination of President Idriss Déby to the military junta installed by Déby’s son, Mahamat, remains close to mind. Ahead of Friday’s summit, the Élysée Palace insisted that “all the sore points will be on the table.” They include France’s military operations on the continent, as well as matters of sovereignty, governance and democracy. France24 with AFP

NATO Studying ‘Options’ to Bolster Africa Anti-Jihadi Force, UN Says
NATO is studying options to bolster support for the multinational G5 Sahel Joint Force in the troubled three-borders region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where a surge in jihadis violence has cost thousands of lives, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a letter seen by AFP on Thursday. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization could extend such support through its Support and Procurement Agency, the U.N. chief said in a recent letter to the Security Council. Guterres said he is convinced of the need to create a U.N. support office for the G5 Sahel force, which comprises around 5,000 soldiers from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, which would be funded by contributions from the United Nations. He said such a technique would be “the most effective approach to provide sustainable and predictable support to the Joint Force.” … The Security Council, currently led by Kenya, is set to send representatives for a visit to Mali and Niger at the end of the month, to study the security situation. Guterres pointed out that despite the African Union’s willingness to take on an integral role in fostering cooperation in the region, “the AU stressed that it would require financial support by another donor” to manage logistical support of the Joint Force. The U.N. currently provides fuel, water and food to the Joint Force through the Minusma peace-keeping mission in Mali, plus bilateral medical support arranged in the last few years. AFP

Secrete Trove Illuminates the Lives of Billionaires
When three of Africa’s wealthiest people wanted to win favors from the Nigerian oil minister, they didn’t pay cash, according to company filings and court papers describing the alleged transactions. Instead, the oil tycoons arranged to influence her with shell companies, each one holding a valuable piece of London real estate, according to the documents. Other shell companies owned by the oilmen provided the minister and her family with a chauffeured car, and they shipped her luxury furnishings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, U.S. prosecutors later alleged. With billions in Nigerian oil revenue at stake, the men engaged in “an international conspiracy,” according to U.S. prosecutors, offering millions of dollars’ worth of gifts in exchange for “lucrative business opportunities.” … The missing billions in oil wealth are “a crime against the people of Nigeria,” said Olanrewaju Suraj, chairman of Human and Environmental Development Agenda, a Nigerian human rights group supported by the MacArthur Foundation that has catalogued governmental corruption. “That money would have gone a long way to educating the uneducated, who are turning into bandits. It would have provided security for people who are subjected to daily kidnappings. It would have provided jobs for young people clamoring for secession. The Washington Post

Nigeria’s #EndSars Protests: What Happened Next
[A year ago t]ens of thousands of young Nigerians took to the streets to protest against police brutality after a video went viral of a man allegedly being killed by the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), sparking what became known as the #EndSars demonstrations. … The demonstrations rocked the country for two weeks – and led to the government agreeing to disband Sars and set up judicial panels of inquiry to investigate the widespread allegations of abuse by officers. … Other police units have been set up in the wake of Sars’ disbandment – and kidnapping for ransom affects every state in the country. … Amnesty says it too receives reports of alleged atrocities by resurfacing Sars officers, saying the authorities are yet to carry out real reforms. … The government ordered each of Nigeria’s 36 states, along with the capital, to look into the abuses. Seven states did not comply … and those where the judicial panels did sit were hit by prolonged adjournments with members of the police not showing up when called to give testimony, and were criticised for a lack of transparency. Of the 18 states that have concluded hearings, none appear to have made their findings public, fuelling accusations that the process was just a PR exercise. Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at the Nigerian think-tank SBM intelligence, says compensation worth more than $1bn naira ($2.4m; £1.8m) has been issued to victims of police brutality and their families by the panels. “But nothing in the way of concrete recommendations have been instituted or have been passed into laws,” he told the BBC. BBC

Nigeria Rescues 187 People from Kidnappers
Nigerian security agents on Thursday rescued 187 people who had been abducted by armed gangs in the northwestern state of Zamfara, police said, after authorities launched a sweeping security operation against the kidnappers. Since December last year, Zamfara has been at the centre of often violent kidnappings by heavily armed bandits who have targeted schools, villages and people travelling on highways for ransom. The government last month shut telecommunication services in Zamfara and other states to disrupt coordination among the gangs. Mohammed Shehu, the police spokesman for Zamfara, said in a statement that the 187 people, including women and children, had been seized by kidnappers from four local government areas in the state some weeks ago. Reuters

South Sudan Orders Bank Accounts of Activists Frozen
South Sudan has ordered the freezing of bank accounts of five members of a coalition of activists calling for political change. The People’s Coalition for Civil Action, formed in July, has called for President Salva Kiir and his rival deputy Riek Machar to step down, accusing them of failing the people of South Sudan for a decade of war and fragile peace. In a letter seen by The Associated Press, the director-general of the government’s banking supervision division on Wednesday directed all commercial banks operating in South Sudan to block accounts belong to the five activists “with immediate effect.” The statement didn’t give reasons for the order. The Central Bank of South Sudan confirmed the letter. A government spokesman could not be reached. The order freezes the accounts of Abraham Awolich, former executive director of the Sudd Institute; Rajab Mohandis, executive director for the Organization for Responsive Governance; Wani Michael, former executive director of the Okay Africa Foundation; Jame David Kolok, executive director of the Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance and Kuel Aguer Kuel. Awolich, a co-founder of the coalition, said they would not be deterred by the government’s order, which he called “a war against civil society in South Sudan.” AP

Under Fire for Abuses, Egypt Releases Human Rights Strategy to Mixed Reviews
For years, Western governments and human rights groups have urged Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to ease his crackdown on dissent, which has seen the arrests of thousands of people, including activists and journalists. Now, after Sissi unveiled the country’s first-ever human rights strategy last month, some advocates are cautiously optimistic and say he may be making incremental progress on human rights. Others say warily that this signals little more than a desire to quiet foreign pressure. Sissi released the document days before the Biden administration announced it would impose new human rights-related conditions on $130 million of the around $1.3 billion in assistance the United States provides to Egypt each year. The conditions include that Egypt end prosecutions in Case 173, which investigated civil society and rights groups, and either drop charges or release 16 individuals whose names have been raised by U.S. officials with the Egyptian government. … “It’s a good step. It’s positive,” said Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, a former lawmaker who was outspoken on human rights abuses. … The government strategy offers an opportunity, he said, to hold officials accountable for carrying out the ideas presented. “We need to see something happening on the ground,” he said. The Washington Post

US Criticizes Tunisia Press Crackdown
The United States on Thursday criticized Tunisia’s shuttering of a television station and urged a clear pathway to restore democratic rule. Authorities on Wednesday confiscated equipment of Zitouna TV, which is considered close to the opposition Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, saying it was operating illegally. “We are concerned and disappointed by recent reports from Tunisia on infringements of freedom of the press and expression,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. He called on Tunisia’s government to “uphold its commitments to respect human rights as outlined in the Tunisian constitution” as well as in a September decree by President Kais Saied. “We also urge Tunisia’s president and new prime minister to respond to the Tunisian people’s call for a clear roadmap for a return to a transparent democratic process involving civil society and diverse political voices,” Price said. AFP

Facebook’s Role in Myanmar and Ethiopia under New Scrutiny
Whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony to US senators on Tuesday shone a light on violence and instability in Myanmar and Ethiopia in recent years and long-held concerns about links with activity on Facebook. … Haugen warned that Facebook was “literally fanning ethnic violence” in places such as Ethiopia because it was not policing its service adequately outside the US. About half of Myanmar’s population of 53 million use Facebook, with many relying on the site as their primary source of news. In June this year, an investigation by the rights group Global Witness found that Facebook’s algorithm was promoting posts in breach of its own policies that incited violence against protesters marching against the coup launched by the military in February. … “We didn’t have to look hard to find this content; FB’s algorithm led us to it,” said Rosie Sharpe, a digital researcher who worked on the report. … Facebook has faced similar criticism in Ethiopia, which has been engulfed in an armed conflict between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). … In her testimony Haugen blamed engagement-based ranking for “literally fanning ethnic violence” in countries like Ethiopia. “Facebook … knows, they have admitted in public, that engagement-based ranking is dangerous without integrity and security systems, but then not rolled out those integrity and security systems to most of the languages in the world,” Haugen said. The Guardian

UN: ‘Transitional Justice’ Key to Unblocking Vicious Cycle of Violence in DR Congo
A report by U.N. human rights chief Michele Bachelet finds some progress has been made in the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the report finds extensive violations and abuses continue unabated in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Bachelet is calling for a system of what the U.N. calls “transitional justice” to address the situation. The report says the total number of human rights violations and abuses in eastern Congo dropped slightly during the period between June 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021, compared to the year before. Despite this decrease, it says the number of people killed in summary and extrajudicial executions rose to more than 600. That includes nearly 400 people killed by a rebel group in Ituri province, and 236 people killed by members of the Congolese security and defense forces in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu. U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif, who presented the report to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week, said violations by Congolese armed forces continue to pose serious concerns. … During the reporting period, Al-Nashif said, Congolese courts have convicted nearly 300 members of the DRC armed forces, Congolese national police as well as members of armed groups on various charges. Some were found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes. She says it is critical that the DRC implement a system of transitional justice so perpetrators of violations and abuses continue to be prosecuted. VOA

Congo’s $6 Billion China Mining Deal ‘Unconscionable,’ Says Draft Report
Democratic Republic of Congo should renegotiate its $6 billion infrastructure-for-minerals deal with Chinese investors, according to the draft of a report commissioned by a global anti-corruption body of governments, companies and activists. The draft, seen by Reuters, describes the deal that was first signed in 2008 as “unconscionable” and urges Congo’s government to cancel an amendment signed secretly in 2017 that sped up payments to Chinese mining investors and slowed reimbursements of investment in infrastructure. The final report is expected to be released this month by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which tracks revenue flows in the oil and mining sectors and counts more than 50 countries, including Congo, as members. The report has no legal force but, if the draft’s main conclusions remain, it could bolster Congo’s push to secure more favourable terms from mining contracts with Chinese investors. President Felix Tshisekedi’s government is reviewing the 2008 contract and the reserve levels at China Molybdenum’s Tenke Fungurume mine after saying Congo was not getting a fair deal. Prime Minister Sama Lukonde Kyenge told a mining conference on Thursday: “There has to be some adjustment.” Reuters

Zambia Finds $2 Bn More Debt on Books, with China Major Creditor
Zambia’s newly elected government on Thursday said it owed $2 billion more to foreign creditors than previously thought, with more than $6 billion owed to China alone. The resource-rich but impoverished African nation said external debt stood at $14.48 billion at the middle of the year — more than 60 percent of gross domestic product. Debt had ballooned under the government of Edgar Lungu, who was toppled in August elections by veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema. Hichilema is in talks for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund after Zambia became the first African nation to default on its debt during the coronavirus epidemic. Of the total debt, Zambia owes China $5.75 billion — or $6.18 billion including unpaid interest, Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane told parliament. “The stock of public and publicly guaranteed external debt at the end of the second quarter stood at $14.48 billion excluding interest arrears,” he said. Lungu was accused of borrowing heavily to splash out on infrastructure projects during his six- year tenure. Despite vast reserves of copper and other minerals, Zambia’s economy contracted in 2020 — the first recession sincew 1998 — and inflation remains in double digits. Hichilema campaigned on a pledge to improve governance and restore an economy that over years of rapid growth transformed the nation into a middle-income country. AFP

Burkinabe Ex-Leader Compaore to Snub Sankara Assassination Trial
Burkina Faso’s former President Blaise Compaore, the main defendant in a long-awaited trial on the 1987 assassination of his predecessor Thomas Sankara, will boycott the upcoming proceedings, according to his lawyers. In the trial opening on Monday, Compaore and 13 others face an array of charges in the death of Sankara, a charismatic revolutionary followers describe as the African Che Guevara. … Sankara took power in the Sahel state in 1983, renaming the country the following year from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means “land of the honest men.” He enacted a string of sweeping economic and social policies, including nationalisations, public housing and a ban on female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages. But he was killed on October 15, 1987, aged 37, during a putsch led by Compaore, a former friend. In 2015, authorities exhumed what are thought to be Sankara’s remains from a grave in Dagnoen, on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. Sankara’s widow said an autopsy revealed his body was “riddled with more than a dozen bullets.” To this day, graffiti calling for “Justice for Sankara” is a common sight throughout the capital. Compaore was himself forced from office in 2014 by a popular uprising – after 27 years in power – and fled to the Ivory Coast, where he obtained Ivorian nationality. Many in Burkina Faso hope the trial will shed light on one of the bloodiest chapters in the country’s volatile history. Al Jazeera

ECOWAS Elects Gambian Diplomat Omar Touray as President
The Economic Community of West African States has elected Gambian diplomat Omar Touray as Ecowas Commission president. Dr Omar Touray was elected at the just concluded Extraordinary Session of the Ecowas Council of Ministers on Institutional Reform in the Ghanian capital, Accra, said a statement issued by the Gambian presidency and published on Thursday. His term will run from 2022-2026. Dr Touray will be the first Gambian to hold the top position at the Commission, and will replace Ivorian Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, who assumed the rotational position in March 2018. Ecowas, a 15-member sub regional bloc, was founded in 1975 as a vehicle for regional integration. The Ecowas Commission is one of two main institutions within the body, alongside the Ecowas Bank for Investment and Development (EBID). The Commission is the Executive arm of the Community, and the President is appointed by the Authority of Heads of State for a non-renewable period of four years. … “President Adama Barrow received the news today with delight,” the statement says, adding that Gambia has “gained more respect among its peers in the sub-region since he came to office in 2017.” The development also comes as Gambia heads for general elections this December, when Barrow will be seeking a second term. The EastAfrican

Abdulrazak Gurnah Is Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
Growing up in Zanzibar, an archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, Abdulrazak Gurnah never considered the possibility that he might one day be a writer. “It never occurred to me,” he said in an interview. “It wasn’t something you could say as you were growing up, ‘I want to be a writer.’” He assumed he would become “something useful, like an engineer.” Then, in 1964, a violent uprising forced Gurnah, at age 18, to flee to England. Miserable, poor, homesick, he began to write scraps about home in his diary, then longer entries, then stories about other people. Those scattered reflections, the habit of writing to understand and document his own dislocation, eventually gave rise to his first novel, then nine more — works that explore the lingering trauma of colonialism, war and displacement. “The thing that motivated the whole experience of writing for me was this idea of losing your place in the world,” he said. … Gurnah, 72, is the first Black writer to receive the prize since Toni Morrison in 1993… Lola Shoneyin, the director of the Ake Arts and Book Festival in Nigeria, said that she expected the Nobel Prize would draw a larger audience for Gurnah on the African continent, where his work is not very widely known, and that she hoped his historical fiction might inspire younger generations to reflect more deeply on their countries’ pasts. “If we are not looking very actively and deliberately at what has gone on in the past, how can we forge a successful future for ourselves in the continent?” she said. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones