Africa Media Review for September 21, 2021

Sudan’s Leaders Say They Thwarted a Military Coup Attempt
Sudanese authorities said they thwarted an attempted military coup on Tuesday, the latest sign of instability in an African nation battling persistent economic hardship under a fragile transitional government. Sudanese state television said that soldiers had tried to seize control of a state media building in the city of Omdurman, across the Nile from the capital, Khartoum, but they were rebuffed and arrested. “There has been a failed coup attempt,” state media said. The possibility of another coup has haunted Sudan’s transitional government since 2019 when country’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was overthrown in a military takeover prompted by widespread popular protests. Although disgruntled officers loyal to Mr. Bashir have hatched several plots since 2019, all have been foiled before they came to fruition. Tuesday was the first time that an attempted takeover had spilled onto the streets, said Amjad Farid, a former deputy chief of staff to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The latest events underscored the urgent need to get Sudan’s military under full civilian control, he added. “There will be no stability without civilian oversight over all the state apparatus, including the military and intelligence agencies,” Mr. Farid said. “A genuine reform process needs to start now.” The New York Times

Hero of Hotel Rwanda Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison after Widely Criticized Trial
A renowned hero of the Rwandan genocide, who later became a vocal critic of long-ruling Rwandan President Paul Kagame, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges after a trial that was widely condemned as a rigged process. The governments of the United States and Belgium, along with human-rights groups such as Amnesty International, questioned the fairness of the trial that led to the guilty verdict on Monday for Paul Rusesabagina. His family said it was effectively a death sentence for the 67-year-old man, who is in poor health. Mr. Rusesabagina is a former hotel manager who rescued more than 1,200 people from the genocide by sheltering them at his luxury hotel – a saga that inspired the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda. … Mr. Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and U.S. resident who received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, was lured onto a private jet in Dubai last year with a fake invitation to speak to Burundian churches. The plane had been secretly chartered by the Rwandan government and he was flown to Rwanda, where he says he was tortured for days in detention. His family called it a kidnapping. Human-rights groups said it was an illegal “enforced disappearance.” … The Rusesabagina case has cast a spotlight on the Kagame government’s capacity to reach beyond its borders to arrest or kill Rwandan dissidents in exile. Over the past two decades, a large number of Rwandan dissidents in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique and other countries have been targeted for attack, allegedly by Rwandan security forces. The Globe and Mail

In Senegal, Demand for Covid Vaccines Grows, but They’re Hard to Get
In July, the third wave hit Senegal harder than previous ones. Hospitals filled up, and there were reports that the number of burials at Dakar’s main cemetery had increased sharply. Testing rates are low, but for a few weeks, around a quarter of tests were coming back positive. One day in July, 38 percent of them did. … The third wave in Senegal came with a complication: It coincided with the beginning of what everybody calls “l’hivernage” — the rainy, hot season — a time when, even in pandemic-free years, people tend to get sick with malaria, flu or stomach bugs. The symptoms overlap somewhat with those of Covid and sometimes doctors do not recommend coronavirus tests, so sick people are often not sure what they have. This has inspired more Senegalese to seek out vaccines, if they could find them. In late August, like many health facilities in Senegal, Ngor hospital was completely out of both Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson shots, and could give only second doses of AstraZeneca. Senegal is hardly the only African nation to go wanting when it comes to vaccines. Only 3.7 percent of people in Africa have been fully vaccinated, compared with 54 percent of the American population and 60 percent of the European Union’s. The New York Times

Rebel Attacks Kill 15 Soldiers in Troubled Cameroon
About 15 soldiers and several civilians have died in two attacks in English-speaking western areas of Cameroon in the grip of a breakaway campaign, the defence ministry said Monday. Heavily armed “terrorists” ambushed a convoy of elite rapid intervention forces at Bamessing in the Northwest Region on 16 September, the ministry statement said. “Using IED (improvised explosive devices) and an anti-tank rocket launcher, the insurgents immobilised the vehicles (in the convoy) before opening heavy fire on the latter,” it added. Another IED hit a military convoy at Kumbo, in the same region, on 12 September. The ministry estimated the total death toll at “about 15 soldiers and several civilians.” Western Cameroon is in the grip of a four year conflict triggered by militants demanding independence for two predominantly English-speaking regions in the francophone-majority state. More than 3,500 people have been killed and over 700,000 have fled their homes. Rights groups say abuses have been committed by both separatists and the armed forces. AFP

Three Dead, Dozens Hurt in Burundi Blasts
A series of explosions hit Burundi’s economic capital, killing at least three people and injuring dozens on Monday evening, police and media reports said, the latest in a string of attacks. The blasts in Bujumbura followed a deadly grenade explosion in a bar in the capital Gitega on Sunday and a series of mortars launched on Burundi’s international airport Saturday night. At least two grenades exploded in a bus parking lot in Bujumbura’s city centre on Monday at around 7pm, a police source and eyewitnesses said. “One of the victims was killed and 29 others injured, some seriously,” the police official said on condition of anonymity, giving a provisional toll. The blasts triggered panic among bus drivers, passengers and pedestrians, who frantically tried to escape the carnage. The third blast targeted a market, killing at least two people and injuring several others, the Iwacu newspaper reported. … The RED-Tabara rebel group –accused of being behind many deadly attacks or ambushes across the country since 2015 — claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack in a statement on Twitter. AFP

Aid Reaches Mozambique’s Insurgent-Hit Palma after 6 Month Hiatus
Aid has reached Mozambique’s northern coastal town of Palma for the first time since it was overrun by jihadists in March, the United Nations said on Monday, even as beheadings were reported in another area. Palma – the operational hub of a multi-billion-dollar gas project of France’s TotalEnergies – had been off bounds since it was attacked by Islamic State-linked militants earlier this year. Dozens of people were killed, some beheaded, and thousands fled through surrounding forests, joining hundreds of thousands already displaced by the violence. Humanitarian access to the town remained difficult as local troops worked alongside soldiers sent by several other African countries to stem the insurgency. “For the first time since March, humanitarian aid reached people in Palma,” tweeted the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) in Mozambique, adding that 2 ,150 families had received emergency food, hygiene and shelter kits. AFP

Ethiopia Announces Partial Second Round Vote
Conflict-torn Ethiopia said Monday it would not hold polling in at least 26 constituencies during the next round of landmark national polls due to security issues. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party secured a new five-year term in the first round in June by claiming 410 out of 436 contested seats in the federal parliament. But logistical challenges and insecurity led to delays in some areas, and a second round of voting is planned for September 30. More than seven million voters can choose representatives for 47 federal parliamentary seats and 105 regional ones, electoral board spokeswoman Solyana Shimeles said Monday. However 18 constituencies in Amhara region and eight in Oromia region will not vote now, Solyana said. Amhara has been scarred by fighting between government troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group, while Oromia is grappling with an insurgency by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Polling will also not take place in some constituencies in the Afar and Benishangul-Gumuz regions, the electoral board said, without specifying how many. … Ethiopia has 547 constituencies nationally, but the electoral board has written off plans to hold elections in Tigray, which is currently mostly under TPLF control. Ethiopia’s new government is set to be formed on October 4. AFP

France to Host International Conference on Libya Ahead of Scheduled Elections
“In view of the December elections, France will organize, around the President of the Republic, an international conference on Libya on November 12,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, during a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Le Drian and his German and Italian counterparts, Heiko Maas and Luigi Di Maio, will also co-chair a meeting devoted to Libya on Wednesday in New York. France is asking for the elections to be held on schedule and for the “departure of foreign forces and mercenaries,” said Le Drian. The ratification earlier this month of an electoral law that was clearly tailor-made for Khalifa Haftar, the military strongman who controls eastern Libya, raised tensions three months before the crucial ballot. The law was not put to a vote and was signed by the head of the parliament seated in the eastern city of Tobruk, Aguila Saleh, a Haftar ally. The head of the Tripoli-based High Council of State (HCS), which has been acting as a senate, Khalid al-Mishri, rejected the legislation, which he said had been passed “without a legal vote or consensus.” The HCS on Monday proposed a postponement by at least one year of the presidential election, owing to a lack of consensus on the electoral law. AFP

US Calls for Somalia Leadership to Resolve ‘Dispute’
The United States called Monday on the president and prime minister of Somalia to resolve their “dispute,” so as not to further delay the country’s electoral process, with the African nation’s presidential election scheduled for October 10. “Cooperation among Somalia’s leaders — particularly President Farmaajo and Prime Minister Roble — is essential to ensure that the country quickly completes its ongoing electoral process,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “The dispute between President Farmaajo and Prime Minister Roble risks complicating this process and needs to be resolved immediately and peacefully.” The rivalry between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, popularly known as Farmaajo, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has raised concerns for the country’s stability. The long-brewing dispute escalated this week when Farmaajo suspended Roble’s executive powers, a move the premier rejected as unlawful. Somalia is due to vote for a president on October 10, but the leaders’ spat threatens to imperil the repeatedly delayed poll and distract from efforts to confront a long-running Islamist insurgency. AFP

Assets Seized From Equatorial Guinea VP to Pay for Vaccine, Medicine
The U.S. Department of Justice says it will use money from assets seized from Equatorial Guinea Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, which the DOJ alleges Obiang obtained through corruption. Of that amount, $19.25 million will go to the United Nations to buy COVID-19 vaccines, and $6.35 million will pay for medicine and medical supplies for Equatorial Guinea. In a news release, the DOJ said Obiang used his position as minister of Agriculture and Forestry in 2011 “to amass more than $300 million worth of assets through corruption and money laundering, in violation of both U.S. and Equatoguinean law.” According to a 2014 settlement agreement, Obiang was required to sell a $30 million mansion in Malibu, California, a Ferrari automobile, and “various items of Michael Jackson memorabilia,” DOJ said. “As provided in the agreement, $10.3 million of these settlement funds were to be forfeited to the United States, and the remaining settlement funds would be distributed to a charity or other organization for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea,” the DOJ news release said. VOA

Russian Mercenaries Accused of Killing Beina Youth President, 3 Others in Central African Republic
Beina Town in the Gamboula sub-prefecture to the west of the Central African Republic has been thrown into shock and anger following the discovery of the lifeless bodies of the President of the youth movement in the town and three other youths who disappeared since Monday, Sept. 13. The bodies were found at the banks of the Bombe River. Families of the four youths have accused Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Security Group of being responsible for the murder of the youths after abducting them three days before the bodies were discovered on Thursday, Sept. 16. Shortly after the disappearance of the four youths, their families and youths of Beina launched a massive search for them before eventually discovering their bodies at midday on Thursday at the banks of the river. But families of the deceased are alleging that they were killed by the Russian mercenaries. “There are no rebels in the Beina center. It was the Russians who have just arrived in the locality with their racketeering. Before the murder of the four, the Russian had earlier killed two youths in the same town,” Marc-Vivien, a close family member of one of the murdered youths said. HumAngle

Nigeria Extends Phone Blackout as Crackdown on Banditry Spreads
Nigerian authorities imposed a communications blackout on Monday in several parts of Sokoto state as a crackdown against armed kidnappers in the country’s northwest region spreads. Gangs of armed men seeking lucrative ransom payments, known locally as bandits, have spread across northwestern Nigeria over the past year, kidnapping more than 1,000 students from schools and taking others from hospitals, homes and roads. Muhammad Bello, Sokoto state’s special adviser for media and publicity, said the state governor, in collaboration with the country’s Communications Ministry, had blocked communications services in 14 local government areas. The state earlier this month closed some roads to motorists, suspended animal trades and prohibited the transportation of more than three people on motorcycles as part of efforts to curb banditry, Bello said. Sokoto shares a border with Zamfara state, which has been one of the worst-hit states in a wave of mass abductions of students from schools by gangs of ransom seekers operating from remote camps. Reuters

Religious Rehab Centres Fill Gap as Nigeria Grapples with Soaring Drug Use
Nigeria has been grappling with a growing drug problem for several years, with cases surging since 2016. In its World Drug Report, published in June, the UN recorded a rise in the country’s rate of abuse from 5.6% in 2016 to 14.4% in 2018, with cannabis the most commonly used drug. … Ease of access to drugs, poverty, job insecurity and unemployment have fuelled the increase. Now there are concerns that lockdown restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the problem. According to Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the south-west of the country has the highest rates of abuse and trafficking, with more than 22% of 15- to 65-year-olds using drugs in the past year. In Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state, hundreds have passed through the same rehab centre as Kola, the Goodworker Ministry International. … Poverty and food inflation have also increased in the past year – 100.9 million Nigerians are predicted to be living in poverty by 2022 – and so has crime. “The fact that they were hungrier at that time made them do stuff,” Agboola says. “If anything disrupts their day-to-day activities, they will come at people. That was why crime increased. The Guardian

South African Whistle-Blower: I Don’t Feel Safe
The recent murder of South African civil servant Babita Deokaran, who blew the whistle on government corruption, has highlighted the dangers for those who speak out against the mounting problem, writes the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani. “What happens when your boss is corrupt [and]… the president is implicated?” Mosilo Mothepu’s question hangs in the room, demanding an answer that has to balance morality, good citizenship and personal safety. Six years ago she was faced with the dilemma of what to do, and decided to call out the corruption. Everything changed. “I don’t feel safe, I don’t follow a routine, I always feel like someone is following me so that peace of mind is not there. It’s been hard, it’s been very hard,” she says. There is a determination about her, and a belief that she did the right thing, but it has come at a cost. “I naively thought that a report will come out and people will be convicted and go to jail and within a couple of months I would find work and life will just continue as normal. “Instead, I was unemployed for two years,” she says, fighting back tears. In 2015, Ms Mothepu was an executive director at investment firm Trillian. It was linked to the Gupta family, which has been accused of being at the centre of a huge corruption scandal known as state capture. … It is because of whistle-blowers like her that many of the country’s corruption scandals have come to light. Despite some legal protection being available, Ms Mothepu’s fears for her safety are not unjustified. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones