Africa Media Review for September 10, 2021

ECOWAS Mediators Heading to Guinea to Meet Coup Leaders
A delegation from West Africa’s main political and economic bloc will head to Guinea on Friday, two days after it suspended the country’s membership in response to a military coup that removed President Alpha Conde. The foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo are due to land in the capital, Conakry, as representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Alpha Barry, the Burkinabe member of the delegation, said on Thursday. The high-level diplomatic mission is expected to demand the return to constitutional order and to push for the immediate release of Conde, who was arrested by special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya on Sunday. ECOWAS has demanded 83-year-old Conde’s unconditional release but has made no mention of any possible sanctions. “The military will want to keep Conde as a bargaining chip during negotiations,” said Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Conakry. … “Consultations have been going on but apparently this is taking much longer than the coup leaders had expected,” Idris added. Al Jazeera

Guinea Junta Tells Central Bank to Freeze Government Accounts
Guinea’s military junta, which seized power over the weekend, said on Thursday that it has ordered the central bank and other banks to freeze all government accounts. On Sunday a group of special forces soldiers said they ousted President Alpha Conde over concerns about poverty and endemic corruption. The banking freeze was aimed at “securing state assets”, a junta spokesman announced on the national broadcaster. “This includes public administrative and commercial establishments in all ministries and the presidency, presidential programmes and projects, members of the outgoing government as well as senior officials and administrators of state financial institutions,” the spokesman said. Reuters

Buhari Urges ECOWAS to Take Proactive Steps to Prevent Coups in Sub-region
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to take proactive steps aimed at preventing coups in the sub-region. According to a statement by Mr Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, the vice president said this on Wednesday at a virtual Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS member-states, where he represented President Muhammadu Buhari. … Mr Buhari joined other global leaders in condemning the coup in Guinea, saying: “I join all well-meaning global leaders to express, in the strongest terms, the condemnation of the government of Nigeria of this unconstitutional change of government, a development that could seriously destabilise the Republic of Guinea. What happened in Guinea is a brazen disregard for the provisions of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, which clearly states that every accession to power must be made through free, fair, and transparent election. The unconstitutional seizure of power in any shape or form is simply unacceptable – four coups within the past few months is a dangerous trend indeed.” Premium Times

WHO Says Africa’s Already Thin Vaccine Supply to Drop by 25%
Africa’s already thin supply of COVID-19 vaccines has taken another significant hit, with the World Health Organization’s Africa director saying Thursday that for various reasons, including the rollout of booster shots, “we will get 25% less doses than we were anticipating by the end of the year.” Matshidiso Moeti’s comments to reporters came as the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said just over 3% of people across the African continent have been fully vaccinated. That coverage drops to around 1.7% in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO. African health officials are dismayed by Wednesday’s announcement that the global COVAX effort to distribute vaccines to low-and middle-income countries is again cutting its delivery forecast. That revision, Moeti told reporters, is “in part because of the prioritization of bilateral deals over international solidarity.” … The Africa CDC says 145 million vaccine doses have been procured across the continent of 1.3 billion people, and 111 million of them, or 77%, have been administered. AP

Africa Steps Up Surveillance of New COVID Variants
The World Health Organization says genomic sequencing capability is being improved in Africa to better detect, monitor and respond to COVID-19 mutations. Several variants of the coronavirus are circulating in African countries. The Delta variant is, by far, the most contagious and virulent. The variants have sparked flare-ups of this deadly disease. However, the Delta variant is most responsible for prolonging Africa’s third pandemic wave. The World Health Organization says Africa’s COVID-19 third wave is now tapering off after a two-month surge, with the number of new cases decreasing by 23% last week. The World Health Organization says the case load remains extremely high, though, with more than 165,000 new weekly cases reported. WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti says the WHO is supporting countries in scaling up pathogen surveillance through genome sequencing. She says together with the South African National Bioinformatics Institute, the WHO is launching a new Regional Center of Excellence for Genomic Surveillance in Cape Town. VOA

Tunisian President Plans to Change Political System, Suspend Constitution – Adviser
Tunisian President Kais Saied plans to suspend the constitution and may amend the political system via a referendum, one of his advisers told Reuters on Thursday in the first clear indication of his plans after moves his critics have called a coup. More than six weeks after Saied seized governing powers, dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament on July 25, he has still not appointed a new government or made any broader declaration of his long-term intentions. “This system cannot continue … changing the system means changing the constitution through a referendum, perhaps … the referendum requires logistical preparation,” said Walid Hajjem, an adviser to Saied. … Saied’s intervention has thrust Tunisia into a constitutional crisis, raising concerns over the future of the democratic system it adopted after the 2011 revolution that led to the Arab Spring. Reuters

Phone and Internet Shutdown in Nigerian State Enters Sixth Day as Security Forces Target Kidnappers
Most residents in Nigeria’s north western Zamfara State have welcomed a government directive ordering a shutdown of internet and phone communications now in its sixth day designed to combat a spate of banditry and ransom-seeking kidnappings plaguing the region. Last Friday, mobile network providers were directed by Nigeria’s telecom regulator to shut down communications in Zamfara for two weeks “to enable relevant security agencies to carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenge in the state,” the Nigeria Communications Commission said in a letter to a telecom firm. The directive came two days after at least 73 students were abducted from a state-run high school in Zamfara’s Maradun district. Military authorities are undertaking targeted raids on the hideouts of kidnappers and other criminal gangs in the state, who are known locally as ‘bandits.’ CNN

School Term Delayed in Nigerian Capital Zone amid Kidnapping Crisis
The start of the school term has been pushed back to an unusually late date in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) without explanation, after schools in nearby states were targeted by kidnappers seeking ransoms. More than 1,100 pupils have been abducted from their schools across northwest Nigeria since December, including in the states of Kaduna and Niger, which border the FCT to the north and west. Several parents in the FCT told Reuters their children had turned up at their schools this week expecting lessons to start only to be told the new term would not commence until Sept. 19. … Several northwestern states have tried to curb the spate of abductions by banning the sale of fuel in jerry cans and the transport of firewood in trucks in order to disrupt gangs who travel by motorbike and camp in remote places. Reuters

UN Chief Says He Fears Afghanistan-like Situation in Sahel
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told AFP on Thursday that he feared the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan would encourage influential jihadist armed groups in the Sahel, as he called for a strengthening of “security mechanisms” in that region. “I fear the psychological and real impact of what happened in Afghanistan” in the Sahel, Guterres said in an interview. “There is a real danger. These terrorist groups may feel enthusiastic about what happened and have ambitions beyond what they thought a few months ago.” Guterres said it is “essential to reinforce security mechanisms in the Sahel,” because it “is the most important weak point, which must be treated.” … “This is the reason why I am fighting for there to be an African counterterrorism force with a mandate under Chapter 7 [which provides for the use of force] of the Security Council and with dedicated funds, which can guarantee a response to the threat level,” he added. “I fear today that the response capacity of the international community and the countries of the region are not sufficient in the face of the threat,” he said. VOA

Armed Groups Benefit from Poaching, Logging in Congo Reserve, Say NGOs
Illegal logging, charcoal production and poaching in and around Virunga National Park, the famed sanctuary of mountain gorillas in eastern DR Congo, are enriching armed groups in the troubled region, local NGOs say. “The majority of armed groups active in North Kivu (province) have set up bases in and around the park,” raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars (euros) each month, 38 environmental and human rights movements say. They spell out the problem in a letter to the province’s military governor, President Felix Tshisekedi and senior officials in Kinshasa and in Goma, North Kivu’s capital. Armed groups “illegally exploit various natural resources to finance themselves,” from ivory trafficking and charcoal production to extorting local fishermen on Lake Edward, according to the letter released on Wednesday. AfricaNews/AFP

Zimbabwe: Information Minister Sued for Spying on Citizens
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has been dragged to court for enacting a Statutory Instrument (SI), which permits monitoring, recording, and storing of communications data between persons where at least one of the communicators is using a Zimbabwe number. Mutsvangwa is jointly sued with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ). The complainant is Alice Kuvheya, a pro-democracy activist who feels the regulation published and gazetted by the respondents under SI 95 of 2021 on April 9 this year is unlawful. She accused the government of spying on its citizens and invading privacy and is seeking a review of the SI. Kuvheya also said the regulations are in violation of the Administrative Justice Act and the right to privacy as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. … “The regulations are providing an opportunity for mass surveillance, thereby jeopardising the anonymity of sources. As a result, there is a real threat to the protection of the sources and the chance that they may face retribution from powerful members of society if their identities are disclosed. The regulations are doing more harm than good to the democratic society of Zimbabwe. It is clear that they are irrational and unjustifiable.” New Zimbabwe

Fake $16,000 Seized in Mozambique – Police
About $16,000 (£11,500) of counterfeit notes have been seized in Mozambique, with investigators suspecting that a regional syndicate is specialising in printing fake currency. Police said they had arrested two Angolans, and arrest warrants for other suspects would be issued. Mozambican, Angolan and South African nationals were suspected to be part of a currency-forging syndicate – though their attempts to forge Mozambique’s metical had failed, police said. The detained Angolans have denied any wrongdoing. One of them said he was a businessman who had entered Mozambique legally two months ago to look for business opportunities, and had no idea why he had been arrested. BBC

Looted Ethiopian Artefacts During Battle of Maqdala to Be Returned Home
Ethiopian artifacts looted during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868 are to be returned to Ethiopia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a press release today, stated that the looted Ethiopian artifacts to be returned Ethiopia thanks to The Scheherazade Foundation, who purchased the items through a UK-based auction house and private dealers. Speaking on the occasion at a reception held at The Athenaeum Club, Ethiopian Ambassador to UK, Teferi Melesse thanked The Scheherazade Foundation for their work in acquiring the precious items and renewed calls for museums, collectors and holders of Maqdala 1868 heritages to return them to Ethiopia. The Scheherazade Foundation CEO, Tahir Shah said he knew what the return of the objects would mean to Ethiopians. He added that he hopes to build bridges between the two nations through his Foundation. ENA