Africa Media Review for September 16, 2021

French Forces Kill IS Sahel Jihadist Leader Wanted by US
France said on Thursday its troops deployed in the Sahel region of Africa had killed the head of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) extremist group who was wanted for deadly attacks on US soldiers and foreign aid workers. Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi formed ISGS in 2015 after splitting with Al-Qaeda linked jihadists and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group, which at that time controlled swathes of Iraq and Syria. … “This is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” Macron said. Defence Minister Florence Parly said Sahrawi died following a strike by France’s Barkhane force, which battles jihadists across the arid expanses in the Sahel region of Western Africa. “It is a decisive blow against this terrorist group,” she tweeted. “The attack was carried out a few weeks ago, and today we are certain that it was the Number One of ISGS,” Parly told RFI radio later Thursday, without identifying where Sahrawi was killed. Sahrawi was “the one we were looking for, since he was the uncontested, authoritarian leader with no rival” within the jihadist group, she said. … Sahrawi was behind the killing of French aid workers in 2020 and was also wanted by the United States over a deadly 2017 attack on US troops in Niger. The group is also blamed for most of the jihadist attacks in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. AFP

Third Wave of Virus Infections Continues to Rage in Africa
Africa remains in the throes of a third wave of coronavirus infections, despite a recent decline in new cases, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control & Prevention. [John Nkengasong, the center’s director] estimates that 70% of the population may need to be inoculated to curb the spread of the disease. It’s unlikely that Africa has had “a significantly higher number of deaths than has been reported,” Nkengasong said. “What we know for sure is that we have an excess number of infections. There are people that have been infected and we didn’t count them.” Bloomberg

Germany Concerned by Talk of Russian Mercenary Ops in Mali
The German government expressed concern Wednesday at reports on the possible deployment of Russian mercenaries in Mali. Germany has several hundred soldiers taking part in United Nations stabilization and European Union training missions in the West African country. “We find the possibility of such a cooperation (between Mali and private mercenaries) very worrying too,” said German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr, echoing comments by government officials in France, which has a much larger military presence in Mali. A defense ministry spokeswoman, Christina Routsi, said that if the Malian government were to go ahead with the reported plans then Germany would reach out to its European and international partners, and “examine possible consequences.” AP

‘Serious Decisions’: West African Leaders to Hold Summit on Guinea Coup
West African leaders will meet on Thursday to decide how to respond to the coup in Guinea and how to pressure the junta leaders to return the country to constitutional rule, Ghana’s foreign minister said. The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has condemned the putsch that overthrew President Alpha Conde, the third coup in West and Central Africa since April. … Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, who chairs the ECOWAS council of ministers, told a news conference in Accra that the mission would report back to the national leaders during Thursday’s summit in Accra. … Botchway said that, during the mission’s meeting with the junta on Friday, the coup leaders had not been in a position to say how long it would be before they returned the country to constitutional rule. “It is now up to the heads of state to take some serious decisions on Guinea. How they want to see the transition and for how long it will be,” she said. … Botchway, asked by journalists whether ECOWAS should have done more to prevent Conde from extending his presidency, said the bloc was working to amend its rules to prevent such situations happening in the future. “There is a need amend the ECOWAS charter to have more stringent measures to proactively deal with situations where presidents try to change constitutions to remain in power,” she said. Reuters

Eritrean and Tigrayan Forces Killed and Raped Refugees – HRW
Eritrean soldiers and Tigrayan militias raped, detained and killed Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, an international rights watchdog said on Thursday. … Tigrayans distrusted them because they were the same nationality as occupying Eritrean soldiers, Eritreans because the refugees’ loyalty was suspect after they fled their homeland. “The horrific killings, rapes, and looting against Eritrean refugees in Tigray are clear war crimes,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), whose work – first reported by Reuters – drew on interviews with 28 refugees and other sources, including satellite imagery. … A spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said formal, uniformed Tigrayan forces had only recently moved into the area and that it was possible abuses were committed by local militias. “It is mostly the last month or so that our forces moved into those areas. There was a huge Eritrean army presence there,” Getachew Reda told Reuters. “If there were vigilante groups acting in the heat of the moment I cannot rule that out.” Reuters

UN Urges Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to Resume Nile Dam Talks
The UN Security Council adopted a statement Wednesday encouraging Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan “to resume negotiations” under the auspices of the African Union to swiftly conclude a deal on a controversial mega-dam on the Nile. The pact should be a “mutually acceptable and binding agreement on the filling and operation” of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, “within a reasonable time frame,” the Security Council said in a declaration drafted by Tunisia. The members of the United Nations’ top security body also invited all observers who would be acceptable to the three parties in the disputed project “to continue supporting the negotiations with a view to facilitating resolution of outstanding technical and legal issues.” “The Security Council calls upon the three countries to take forward the AU-led negotiation process in a constructive and cooperative manner,” the statement said. The dam was the subject of a Security Council meeting in early July, even though its members have differing opinions on the need for the body dedicated to world peace to take on a subject related to water supply. AFP

Burundi Rights Abuses Worsening under New Government: UN
Despite Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye’s pledges to end repression, the human rights situation in the East African country has “deteriorated” in the 15 months since he took office, United Nations investigators said Thursday. Ndayishimiye’s election last year had raised hopes of a more open political environment emerging after many years of violence and severe rights violations in the troubled nation. But in a report released Thursday, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi said that although the authorities appeared to have eased some restrictions, conditions had actually worsened for opposition parties, journalists and NGOs, which are facing a renewed crackdown. “Since President Ndayishimiye’s inauguration 15 months ago, not only have grave human rights violations continued to occur, but in some respects the situation has deteriorated,” commission chairman Doudou Diene said in a statement. “Members of opposition parties… are still regularly targeted by abusive restrictions and are subject to grave human rights violations such as disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions and torture,” the UN statement said. Observers had hoped that Ndayishimiye’s government would help the country turn a corner and improve its human rights record, but UN investigators said Burundian security forces were still committing violations. AFP

Rwandan Dissidents Fearful after Prominent Critic of President Kagame Gunned Down in Maputo
Prominent millionaire businessman Revocant Karemangingo was gunned down in broad daylight in his car by gunmen using automatic weapons as he returned home from one of his businesses in the capital’s outlying Matola suburb. A member of Rwanda’s majority Hutu ethnic group and an outspoken critic of Kagame, he had moved to Mozambique decades ago and was vice-president of the Association of Rwandan Refugees in Mozambique. Etienne Mutabazi, South Africa-based spokesperson for the opposition Rwanda National Congress (RNC), told Daily Maverick that Karemangingo’s murder appeared to have justified the concerns which the Rwandan opposition community in exile expressed when Rwandan troops moved into Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province in July to fight Islamic State-linked insurgents. “They came allegedly to fight against Islamic insurgents. However, at the time we said Rwanda was probably more interested in seeking economic interests and pursuing Rwandan refugees in Mozambique.” He referred to other Rwandan refugees and dissidents who had recently been killed or were suspected to have been. In May 37-year-old Rwandan journalist Ntamuhanga Cassien, also a critic of the Kagame government who had fled Rwanda, disappeared in Maputo and has not been heard from since. Daily Maverick

Police Beat Journalist, Fire Tear Gas during Congo Election Protest
Police beat a journalist and fired tear gas to disperse a small crowd in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa on Wednesday during an opposition protest over alleged election meddling, eyewitnesses said. Around 20 protesters gathered in response to a call by opposition leader Martin Fayulu and were met with stiff resistance from police. Police beat and temporarily detained Patient Ligodi, a journalist working for Radio France International, while he was interviewing Fayulu. “They threw me to the ground and started to hit me,” Ligodi said in a video shared on social media. Video shot by broadcaster France 24 showed Ligodi being dragged into a police car by several armed officers. RFI condemned the use of force. It said that Ligodi was aggressively questioned in a police van before being thrown from the vehicle while it was moving. The police, who had banned the march citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, said Ligodi had been mistaken for a protester. … In recent months the eight religious groups tasked with nominating a candidate to lead the election commission in the 2023 elections have failed to reach a consensus. Reuters

New South Sudan Parliament Can ‘Infuse Urgency’ into Peace Process
Nicholas Haysom, UN Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said 30 August saw the inauguration of the reconstituted Parliament, with members sworn in on 2 August – including the first female Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and female Deputy Speaker of the Council of States. “This development paves the way for a much-delayed charge on the legislative programme envisaged by the Peace Agreement,” he said, stressing that it must now be complemented by the reconstitution of state legislatures. He said the extensive legislative agenda includes passage of priority bills already prepared by the National Constitution Amendment Committee on the reform of security, financial, judicial, constitutional and electoral institutions. With 12 September marking the three-year anniversary of the revitalized peace agreement in South Sudan, “certainly, the reconstitution of the national parliament presents an opportunity to infuse urgency in the implementation of the peace process,” he stressed. A ministerial task force has presented a bill on the constitution-making process to the Minister of Justice and regional development body IGAD, he added. The constitution making process – an important peace process benchmark – marks a critical step forward in its own right, the Mission chief said, signifying a social contract between all South Sudanese on the arrangements by which they can live together in peace and harmony. UN News

Sudan: Joint Force Launched for Security in Darfur
A joint force comprising regular Sudanese forces and contingents from the parties to the Juba Peace Agreement, was officially launched by the Governor of Darfur, Minni Arko Minawi in El Fasher yesterday. This initial joint force will form the nucleus of a larger force designed to protect civilians in Darfur, as stipulated in the agreement. Speaking at the launch in the North Darfur capital of El Fasher, Minawi underlined that the five governors of the Darfur states, discussed the issue of security in an extensive manner in a meeting earlier this week. Minawi stressed that the mission of the joint force is not to engage in combative confrontation the forces of the non-signatory movements, except within the framework of defence. The joint force in North Darfur will not only act on reports from victims, but also will work to deter any attempt to block roads, steal livestock, burn villages and farms, or damage property. “The joint force to establish security and protect the people, will start with El Fasher and its surroundings, to be spread to other parts of the state, and later the entire region,” Minawi said. The Darfur governor called on the members of the joint force “to engage in dialogue and communicate with the people and make them aware of the Juba Peace Agreement,” and called for the formation of a contingent mounted on camels to reach the people in those remote and rugged areas inaccessible to vehicles. Minawi underlined that “the joint force has the full mandate and support from the judicial authorities, such as the judiciary and the prosecution.” Radio Dabanga

UN Withdraws Gabon Peacekeepers from CAR over Sex Abuse Claims
The United Nations has sent home all 450 Gabonese troops from its peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic and opened an investigation after allegations of the sexual abuse of five girls, it said on Wednesday. The mission, known as MINUSCA, said the allegations related to unidentified Gabonese peacekeepers operating in the centre of the country. Gabon’s Defence ministry said it has also opened an inquiry. “If the allegations are proven to be true, the instigators will be put in front of a tribunal and judged with extreme rigor,” the ministry said. Central African Republic, rich in diamonds, timber and gold, has struggled to find stability since a 2013 rebellion ousted former president Francois Bozize. Violence has flared since a December election saw President Faustin-Archange Touadera win another term, an outcome disputed by a coalition of militias. Allegations of sexual abuse have dogged the UN mission over the years. INUSCA’s former head, Babacar Gaye, resigned in 2015 amid sexual abuse allegations against peacekeepers, fresh cases of which emerged in 2016. Reuters

Nigerian Jet Thought to Have Killed Civilians in Pursuit of Militants
The Nigerian air force said on Thursday it may have killed and injured civilians while pursuing suspected Islamist insurgents in the northeast state of Yobe, in an incident that residents said left at least six people dead. Nigeria’s northeast is the hotbed of two Islamist insurgencies: Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West African (ISWAP) branch, which split from the former group in 2016. An air force spokesman said a fighter jet responded to intelligence on suspicious movements of suspected insurgents from either the Boko Haram group or ISWAP on Wednesday and fired “some probing shots”, killing and injuring civilians in the process. Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet did not specify numbers. “Unfortunately reports reaching Nigerian Air Force headquarters alleged that some civilians were erroneously killed while others were injured,” he said in a statement. … At least 45 people had been and were taken to Gaidam General Hospital in Yobe, the three residents said. Reuters

Why Support for Secession Is Growing in Southeast Nigeria
When President Muhammadu Buhari flew into southeastern Imo State last week to commission a handful of development projects, he was greeted by deserted streets and shuttered businesses: Residents were demonstrating against his leadership by staying at home. … “The stay-at-home [in response to Buhari’s visit] was basically people saying, ‘We reject the way you’re treating us – and we want a turnaround’,” said Clement Nwankwo, executive director of an Abuja-based rights group, the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre. Agitation for secession – previously just polemical – has increasingly turned violent, especially in Imo. Early this year, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the armed wing of the pro-separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), began a series of attacks against the security forces that has killed more than 20 police officers. The federal government’s response has been “ruthless excessive force”, according to Amnesty International. It has documented the deaths by the security forces of at least 115 people between March and June and believes there could be hundreds more – with many of the victims unlikely to have had anything to do with ESN. With the army deployed in all 36 states, Nigeria’s problems are at root about a crisis of governance, noted Idayat Hassan, director of the Centre for Development and Democracy, an Abuja-based think tank. “It’s time for Nigeria to sit back and ask if force is the solution to all these problems,” she told The New Humanitarian. The New Humanitarian

One Million Nigerian Children to Miss School Due to Threat of Violence
One million Nigerian children will likely stay away from school because of the threat of violence after a series of mass kidnappings and attacks targeting students this year, the UN said on Wednesday. More than 1,000 pupils have been snatched in mass abductions for ransom by criminal gangs in Nigeria’s northwest and central states since December with dozens still in captivity. The UN children’s agency UNICEF said there had been 20 attacks on schools in Nigeria this year and more than 1,400 pupils were taken and 16 had died. Most have been released after ransom negotiations, but only after weeks or months in captivity, often in appalling conditions in rural camps. “Families and communities remain fearful of sending children back to their classrooms due to the spate of school attacks and student abductions,” UNICEF said in a statement. More than 37 million Nigerian children are due to start the new school year this month, the agency said, while an estimated one million would likely not return. Some state governments have temporarily closed up schools after kidnappings. AFP

African Leaders Discuss Ways to Minimize Impact of Climate Change
High-level African officials met virtually this week to discuss the challenges Africa faces in trying to manage a growing population amid climate change. The conference was aimed at identifying ways African governments can manage these pressures to minimize or avoid conflict. Africa generates about 3% percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the lowest of any continent. But it’s more vulnerable than any other region in the world, since Africans depend so heavily on their natural environment for food, water and medicine. Speaking at a virtual conference Tuesday on climate, conflict and demographics in Africa, Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said African governments need to keep the climate in mind as they try to boost their economies. “Our first obligation for us and for African countries must always be to ensure the well-being of our people through access to development services, including electricity, health care, education, safe jobs and a safe environment, including access to clean cooking fuels. We must prioritize solutions that align the development and climate agenda, and that is absolutely important,” said Osinbajo. The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, based in Brussels, says that in 2019, Africa recorded 56 extreme weather events compared to 45 in the previous year. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones