Africa Media Review for September 17, 2021

West African Leaders Impose Sanctions on Guinea Junta
Regional leaders from the ECOWAS group of countries have called for elections in Guinea following a military coup. It is the second country in the region now under the rule of a junta. Leaders from 14 of the 15 Western African countries in the ECOWAS regional group met in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Thursday to discuss their approach towards Guinea after it was suspended following a coup there earlier this month. The Economic Community of West African States decided to freeze bank accounts and introduce travel bans for the junta members and their families. They called on the junta to hold elections within six months and release President Alpha Conde from detention. He was ousted on September 5. … ECOWAS President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said after the emergency summit on Thursday that the group had indeed imposed sanctions on Guinea and that the member states insisted there was no “need for very long transition for the country to return to democratic order.” Economic sanctions were imposed on the junta in Mali last year, but they were, subsequently, lifted after it committed to holding democratic elections in February 2022. With the military still in power, the prospect of next year’s elections has become dimmer. Following the announcement of sanctions in Guinea, Kassi Brou also announced new sanctions against those it deemed to be impeding the return to democratic, constitutional rule in Mali, Reuters reported. AFP, AP, Reuters

African Public Health Experts Call for the U.N. General Assembly to Speed the Delivery of Vaccines.
As world leaders prepared to gather at the United Nations General Assembly, African public health experts called on Thursday for action to speed up delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to their continent, where according to the World Health Organization, only 3.6 percent of people have been fully inoculated against the disease so far. Shortfalls in supplies from Covax, the global vaccine-sharing initiative, have left African countries with just half the doses they need to meet the global target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of their populations by the end of 2021. Inequities in the distribution of vaccines remain stark: Africa is home to about 17 percent of the world’s people, but only 2 percent of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O. “As the U.N. General Assembly meets next week, I urge African leaders to call on them to ensure equitable access to vaccines,” Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, chairwoman of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, said in an online news conference on Thursday. … Wealthy countries globally have supplied only a fraction of the doses they promised to Covax. … Dr. Moeti added that African nations had significantly expanded their delivery capacity, administering 13 million doses last week, more than triple the figures from previous weeks. Even so, at their current pace the countries will not reach the 40 percent vaccination target until next March, she said. The New York Times

Mali Passes Amnesty Laws for Putschists
Mali’s interim legislature on Thursday passed laws granting amnesty to the perpetrators of the two recent coups in the troubled Sahel state, the government and parliamentary officials said. In August last year, army officers led by Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after weeks of anti-government protests. Under diplomatic pressure, the army subsequently handed power to a civilian-led interim government tasked with steering Mali back towards civilian rule. But Goita deposed interim president Bah Ndaw in May, in a second coup, and was later declared interim president himself. On Thursday, two bills were passed by the so-called National Transitional Council, which serves as an interim parliament, giving amnesty to those involved in both putsches. Mali’s justice ministry said in a statement that 99 deputies voted in favour of the motion, with two votes against and two abstentions. Souleymane De, the chairman of the legislature’s legal committee, told AFP the new laws mean that those involved in the two coups cannot be prosecuted. AFP

Death of Jihadist Behind Attack on U.S. Soldiers Is Latest Blow for Militants
Even before France announced Wednesday that its forces had killed the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, the terrorist group appeared to be struggling. The group that once used to carry out major attacks on military bases in Niger and Mali, and in 2017 killed four U.S. soldiers and five of their Nigerien partners, has lately been reduced to massacring defenseless villagers. In announcing the death of the group’s leader, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, declared it “another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel.” It may be a blow from which I.S.G.S., as the group is known, cannot recover, especially given the French military’s claim in July that it had killed two of its other leaders, both also surnamed al-Sahraoui. But that is uncertain. … [I]n 2020, the group’s fortunes fell. Over that year, an estimated 400 to 500 of its fighters were killed by French strikes and in battles with a group aligned with Al Qaeda, Jama’at Nusratul Islam wal Muslimin. The following year, they increasingly turned their guns on civilians, killing over 100 villagers in an attack in January and 58 men returning from a trade fair in March. “These massacres should be seen as a sign of weakness, not strength,” Ms. Armstrong said. “They’re killing farmers, not soldiers.” The New York Times

Tunisia Emergency Measures Threaten Rights: Activists
Civil society groups in Tunisia warned on Thursday that freedoms were being rolled back after President Kais Saied imposed a string of emergency measures. Saied on July 25 sacked the government, suspended parliament and put himself in charge of the prosecution. He also lifted parliamentarians’ immunity, and several now face trial on corruption, fraud and similar charges. Saied has renewed the measures for a second 30-day period, and has yet to respond to calls for a roadmap. The Tunisian Association for the Defence of Individual Liberties (ADLI) warned of “many dangers threatening democracy and the rule of law” under Saied’s “state of exception.” Arguing that parliament is “a democratic space, despite its faults and weaknesses”, the rights group warned that several of Saied’s measures were “contrary to the rules of democracy.” It pointed to the sacking of prime minister Hichem Mechichi and warned against “the concentration of executive power in the hands of the president.” On Saturday Saied mooted the possibility of amending the country’s 2014 constitution, which had put in place a mixed presidential and parliamentary system that has seen years of political crises. AFP

Somali PM Dismisses Farmaajo’s Directive Withdrawing His Powers
Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has rejected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo directive on withdrawal of his powers. Farmaajo, in a statement released by Villa Somalia on Thursday, said that he had suspended PM Roble’s powers to hire and fire government officials until after elections are held. However, Roble said the directive was unconstitutional and the president has no powers to prevent the prime minister from conducting his duties. “The letter issued by the President titled ‘Suspension of the powers of the Prime Minister promoting elections’ clearly violates the Provisional Constitution,” Roble said in a statement. … Earlier on Thursday, Farmaajo ordered the suspension of the prime minister from leading the electoral processes and related security matters. The EastAfrican

Controversy over Voting Law Overshadows Libya Election
Less than a year since a landmark ceasefire, war-torn Libya is preparing for elections, but controversy over a voting law poses a new threat to the UN-led peace process. Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh last week ratified legislation that would govern the country’s presidential elections, set for December 24. But the final version of the bill had not been presented to the assembly for a vote. Critics charge that Saleh bypassed due process and pushed through a law favouring his ally, the eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar. They cite a clause stipulating that military officials may stand in presidential polls, on condition that they withdraw from their roles three months beforehand — and that, if unsuccessful, they will receive backpay. That would allow for a presidential run by Haftar, whose forces control eastern Libya, where the parliament is based, as well as parts of the south. Haftar reached a UN-brokered ceasefire with western Libyan forces last October. The lull in violence and a UN-led transition process have sparked hopes that Libya could move on after a decade of violence that followed the fall and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 revolt. AFP

Egypt, Sudan Back Resumed Nile Dam Talks as UN Urges Deal
Egypt and Sudan have expressed readiness to resume talks with Ethiopia on its controversial Nile dam after the UN Security Council urged the three governments to swiftly reach a binding deal. Set to be Africa’s largest hydroelectric project when completed, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has sparked an almost decade-long diplomatic stand-off between Ethiopia and downstream nations Egypt and Sudan. On Wednesday, the UN Security Council adopted a statement encouraging the three countries to resume negotiations under the auspices of the African Union to swiftly conclude a binding deal. The Egyptian foreign ministry welcomed the Security Council statement as an “important impetus” for success in renewed talks. Sudan backed the resumption of AU-led talks during a Wednesday visit by a delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the current AU chair. The Sudanese foreign ministry said it wanted changes to the “ineffective method that has characterised previous rounds of negotiation.” AFP

After Initially Denying Responsibility, Nigeria’s Air Force Admits to Strike in Area Where Civilians Were Reported Killed
Nigeria’s air force confirmed that there was an airstrike targeting a branch of the Islamist group Boko Haram in the northeast part of the country where civilians were reported to have been killed, a spokesman said Thursday. The incident comes amid debate about the Nigerian government’s counterterrorism tactics, which critics say too often claim the lives of innocent people. … “Government will work closely with the security forces especially the Nigeria Air Force to establish what actually happened,” Gov. Mai Mala Buni said in a statement. Gabkwet initially denied that the air force was involved. But on Thursday, after Buni called for an investigation, the spokesman released a statement saying one of the air force pilots fired shots after observing “suspicious movement consistent with Boko Haram terrorists behavior.” … Matthew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Program at Chatham House, said civilian casualties in the fight against Boko Haram are common but rarely acknowledged by the government. The combat aircraft that Nigeria and Niger are using to fight the group, Page said, are “not effective counterinsurgency tools.” “You’re using a meat cleaver rather than a surgeon’s scalpel,” he said. The Washington Post

South African Court Rejects Former President’s Plea to Overturn Prison Sentence
South Africa’s highest court on Friday rejected an appeal to throw out the prison sentence of Jacob Zuma, the former president who was jailed for refusing to appear before a commission investigating corruption accusations that tainted his tenure as the nation’s leader. Mr. Zuma’s arrest was hailed as a victory for South Africa’s young democracy, a sign that not even a former head of state was above the law. It was also a signal from President Cyril Ramaphosa that his administration would deal decisively with corruption. Mr. Zuma, 79, was released on medical parole last week, after serving a fraction of his 15-month jail term, much of which was spent in the prison’s medical ward. But the court on Friday rejected his appeal to have the prison sentence overturned. Despite what it called Mr. Zuma’s “creative attempts” to prove his case, the Constitutional Court found that his arrest was warranted. “To his peril, Mr. Zuma declined to participate in the contempt proceedings and disdainfully dismissed further opportunity when invited to do so,” said Justice Sisi Khampepe, as she read the court’s majority decision. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones