Africa Media Review for September 24, 2021

Empty Vaccine Promises Have ‘Undermined the Global Health System,’ Says WHO Africa Chief
According to WHO Africa, Covid-19 vaccine shipments to the continent must increase sevenfold – from an average of roughly 20 million per month to 150 million – if the continent is going to hit global targets to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population by September 2022. Dr Moeti fears that, if vaccination rates don’t accelerate, the continent will be hit by Covid surge after Covid surge, disrupting the economy and education as well as efforts to tackle other health challenges – from polio and childhood vaccinations to maternal mortality and HIV/Aids. “All the predictions are that this is going to last longer in Africa than in places which have the resources and resilience to bounce back earlier,” she says. “So a big concern, at least in my own mind, is how to recover and what we need to do in order to minimise the duration of the negative impact.” It is these knock-on effects that keep Dr Moeti awake at night…But, she says, there is also a golden opportunity to reshape the continent’s priorities. “The Covid challenge has triggered some very strong reactions at the political level which now need to trickle down to the operational level in health,” she says. “Health has occupied a place which is unprecedented – okay we saw it a bit with the West Africa Ebola outbreak, but that wasn’t sustained. But I believe what’s happened has been on a very different scale. There is an understanding now from leaders that health issues can devastate your economy, so investing in this resilience and mobilising resources is important. We’ve seen the pandemic transitioning into security problems with people rioting in various places, in South Africa, in Senegal. Telegraph

African Leaders Highlight Vaccine Inequity in UNGA Speeches
The inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution came into sharper focus on Thursday as many leaders of African countries, whose populations have little to no access to the life-saving shots, stepped to the podium to speak at the United Nations General Assembly. … South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday pointed to vaccines as “the greatest defence that humanity has against the ravages of this pandemic.” … He and others urged UN member states to support a proposal to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rights established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow more countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to produce COVID-19 vaccines. … Angola’s President Joao Lourenco, meanwhile, said it was “shocking to see the disparity between some nations and others with respect to availability of vaccines.” “These disparities allow for third doses to be given, in some cases, while, in other cases, as in Africa, the vast majority of the population has not even received the first dose,” Lourenço said. … Benido Impouma, a programme director with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa programme, noted during a weekly video news conference that… “with 108,000 new cases, more than 3,000 lives lost in the past week and 16 countries still in resurgence, this fight is far from over.” Al Jazeera

Tunisia Parliament Speaker Urges ‘Peaceful Struggle’ against President’s Power Grab
The speaker of Tunisia’s parliament Rached Ghannouchi called Thursday for “peaceful struggle” against a return to “absolute one-man rule,” a day after President Kais Saied took steps towards rule by decree. “There is no longer any alternative to struggle, naturally a peaceful struggle,” the head of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party said in an interview with AFP. Saied on Wednesday announced decrees that strengthen the powers of his office at the expense of the government and parliament. Ghannouchi called the moves “a step back towards absolute one-man rule” a decade after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution. “We call on the people to take part in peaceful actions to resist dictatorship and return Tunisia to the path of democracy,” he said. The new provisions come almost two months after the president sacked the Ennahdha-supported government of Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament, presenting himself as the ultimate interpreter of the constitution. Ennahdha, the largest party in the divided legislature, condemned the July 25 moves as a “coup d’etat” and a violation of the country’s hard-won 2014 constitution. … civil society groups have warned against a slide towards authoritarianism that would wipe out Tunisia’s democratic gains a decade after the revolution toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. AFP

Anti-Drug Laws Are Being Used to Crush Dissent in the Birthplace of the Arab Spring
The government is meting out extreme sentences to thousands of young Tunisians for any kind of drug use or possession, while President Kais Saied has announced that he will rule by decree. … In a TV studio set amid farm fields in Tunisia this March, politicians, grassroots activists, NGO workers and judicial officials sat in a semicircle on brightly-lit platforms hotly debating the reform or abolition of a national anti-drug law. The debate was broadcasted live throughout Tunisia and beyond. One of those on the panel was Faycel Jebali, 42, from the city of Kef, deep in the mountainous interior of Tunisia. The interior is profoundly marginalized, abandoned by coastal business, and lacking infrastructure and employment. Jebali, along with two others, was arrested in Kef in February 2020 for cannabis use at the city’s football stadium and spent over a year in jail. … Law 52 requires a minimum mandatory sentence of one year in prison for any person found guilty of use and possession of an illegal drug. This includes drugs like cannabis. The law imposes a minimum sentence of five years in prison on repeat offenders. For use and possession judges cannot reduce the sentence in light of mitigating circumstances. Over the years, roughly one percent of the entire population of Tunisia – some 120,000 people – have been jailed as a result of Law 52. VICE

Algeria’s Ex-President Is Dead, but His Regime Lives On
Mr Bouteflika died on September 17th, aged 84. The young people who make up most of Algeria’s population will probably remember him as that decrepit president—and lament that little has changed since his ousting. It is telling that the government buried him at a cemetery for independence fighters, with few of the honours accorded to past leaders. … The public’s frustration had been growing for years when the regime announced in 2019 that Mr Bouteflika would seek a fifth term. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets, chanting “Bye-bye, Bouteflika.” Finally the regime gave in. Slumped in his wheelchair, the president passed his letter of resignation to a colleague. It was the last time most of the public would see him. Yet any hope that Mr Bouteflika’s resignation would bring real change has dimmed. The army remains the dominant power in Algeria. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a former prime minister seen as the generals’ choice, was elected president in 2019. The poll was shunned by most Algerians. Meanwhile, the number of political prisoners is thought to be rising. The government has tried to sow discord in the pro-democracy movement, known as the Hirak. It blames opposition groups and Morocco, with which it recently cut diplomatic ties, for fomenting unrest. Sometimes the government still uses Mr Bouteflika, but now as a scapegoat. The Economist

Tigray Mothers Share Shocking Accounts of Dire Famine Conditions
Eighteen-month-old Haftom Hailay is too weak to cry. All the boy, weighing three kilogrammes, can do is sigh in pain. His mother, malnourished herself, has no milk to breastfeed him. Where they came from in Aragure, a village east of Mekelle, the capital Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, the need for food is desperate. … During the past two months, the main hospital in Mekelle has received 60 children with severe acute malnutrition. Of those 60, six have died, according to Dr Abrha Gebregzabher, a paediatrician supervising the treatment of malnourished children at Ayder hospital. According to the United Nations, more than 400,000 people are facing famine-like conditions and 1.8 million are on the brink of famine across Tigray. The region of some six million people remains under a “de facto humanitarian blockade”, the UN said earlier this month, warning of a “looming catastrophe” and urging all warring sides to allow and facilitate the unimpeded passage of aid. … According to Dr Sentayhu, health centres across Tigray are unable to send patients to the referral hospital due to a lack of fuel affecting ambulance services. “We don’t know how many people are dying across the region from malnutrition. We are disconnected with the health centres due to the telecommunications blackout. We could only know about patients who managed to arrive here. Only a few can make it,” said Dr Sentayhu. Al Jazeera

UN: South Sudan Suffering Human Rights Crisis of Epic Proportions
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan warned that the country is suffering a human rights crisis of epic proportions, enmeshing its population in a cycle of violence, abuse and poverty. The report was submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday. According to the report, nine of the 10 states in South Sudan are engulfed in what the U.N. Commission calls alarming levels of conflict 10 years after independence was declared and despite multiple peace treaties signed to end the civil war that erupted in 2013. Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka said violence in Warrap and Lakes states is of particular concern. “In March and July, the governors of Warrap state and Lakes state ordered the summary execution of more than 56 individuals including minors,” Sooka said. “These extrajudicial killings orchestrated by governors from the ruling party are sufficiently similar, widespread and systematic and may constitute crimes against humanity.” The report documents the prevalence of enforced disappearances, torture, rape, and conflict-related sexual violence and the forced recruitment of child soldiers throughout the country. It finds widespread lawlessness and violence have intensified, resulting in many deaths and the forcible displacement of millions of people. A separate commission report dealing with economic crimes accuses South Sudanese political elites of illicitly diverting millions of dollars from public coffers into private bank accounts. VOA

What’s behind the Rising Violence in Western Niger?
Analysts link the increasing violence in Tillabéri – and the neighbouring region of Tahoua – to the emergence of vigilante groups formed in places like Darey Dey by communities that are fed up with the conduct of the militants. The vigilantes often oppose the imposition of burdensome taxes, which jihadists have levied at increasing rates in recent months – perhaps to compensate for losses sustained to the army and its foreign allies, some analysts think. The self-defence groups also reflect the absence of the state. While Niger’s army was previously present in military barracks along the border with Mali, troops withdrew after hundreds died when militants attacked their bases in late 2019 and early 2020. Left unprotected, civilians began to defend themselves. The latest violence risks ethnicising the conflict. Some of the vigilante groups that have formed are ethnic Zarma – the largest group in Tillabéri – while others are composed of Arabs and Tuaregs. Jihadists, on the other hand, have recruited significant numbers of Fulani herders – leading to stigmatisation of the wider community. … According to Human Rights Watch, jihadists have killed more than 420 civilians in western Niger so far this year, amounting to what the rights group called a “war on the civilian population.” Internal displacement has risen as a result in both Tillabéri and Tahoua – from around 80,000 in December 2019 to nearly 160,000 as of last month. The New Humanitarian

Thousands of Boko Haram Members Surrendered. They Moved In Next Door.
Nigerian military and justice officials say that in the past month, as many as 7,000 fighters and family members, along with their captives, have left Boko Haram, the largest wave of defections by far since the jihadist group emerged in 2002. The turning point for its fortunes appears to have been the death of Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s longtime leader, who blew himself up in May after being cornered by a rival faction. However weakened Boko Haram may be, though, it does not necessarily mean an end to terror for the people of northeastern Nigeria, hundreds of thousands of whom have died, and millions of whom have fled. Fighters from Boko Haram’s rival splinter group — the Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP — are moving into the vacuum, observers in the region say, ferrying truckloads of military equipment from their strongholds in the Lake Chad area southward to Mr. Shekau’s former dens in the Sambisa forest. … Journalists are not allowed into the compound hosting the Boko Haram defectors, a facility known as Hajj Camp, formerly used by Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca. But we were able to interview six people who surrendered in the past month, who each managed to leave the camp for a few hours. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Most described a surrender largely for practical reasons… The New York Times

Why Buhari Government Will Not Name Boko Haram Sponsors Now – Attorney General
Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has reiterated the position of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration not to name sponsors of Boko Haram at the moment. He said the government took the decision in order not to jeopardise ongoing investigations. Malami said this on Wednesday while addressing newsmen in New York, United States, according to a statement by his Spokesperson, Umar Gwandu. He said the government would disclose the identities of the terror financiers at the appropriate time through a judicial process that would entail prosecution. … In recent days, the federal government has come under increasing pressure to publish names of terror sponsors, following the assistance rendered by the UAE government in naming and prosecuting some Nigerians found guilty of funding Boko Haram activities. On September 13, the UAE federal cabinet named six Nigerians among 38 global financiers of terrorism placed on the Emirate’s watch list. A Nigerian government official was also said to be involved. The official’s identity is yet to be publicly revealed by the Emirati authorities, amidst claims that some individuals in the Nigerian government were mounting diplomatic pressure for the name not to be published. There have also been strong insinuations and accusations from many Nigerians suggesting that insurgency in the country is being aided by top military officers and politicians for religious and financial interest. defenceWeb

Somalia Court Convicts Foreigners for Membership in al-Shabab
A military court in Somalia has convicted two foreign extremists for fighting alongside terrorist group al-Shabab. The court in Mogadishu sentenced Darren Anthony Byrnes from Britain and Ahmad Mustakim bin Abdul Hamid from Malaysia to 15 years in jail for being members of al-Shabab and entering the country illegally. They are the first foreign extremists in Somalia to be convicted for al-Shabab membership, court officials said. Prosecutors said Abdul Hamid and Byrnes came to Somalia to support al-Shabab and “destroy” and “shed blood.” A lawyer for the two, Mohamed Warsame Mohamed, said the men denied being members of al-Shabab and claimed to have come to Somalia to visit relatives and friends. He said he would file an appeal if Abdul Hamid and Byrnes chose to do so. … Byrnes entered Somalia through Kenya in 2010 and allegedly worked with Bilal al-Berjawi, a known al-Shabab and al-Qaida operative from Britain who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2012 outside Mogadishu, according to court documents. Byrnes had fought alongside al-Shabab in Mogadishu before the militants were dislodged from the capital in August 2011. At the time, Byrnes was also involved in an al-Shabab plot to attack France, the court said. VOA

Somalia, AU Coordinate to Fight Against al-Shabab
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somalia’s National Army (SNA) launched a center this week to better coordinate their fight against al-Shabab militants, who have threatened to disrupt Somalia’s elections. The Joint Operations Coordination Center at AMISOM Sector One headquarters in Mogadishu was officially launched Wednesday at a ceremony presided over by the army chief of defense forces, General Odowaa Yusuf Rageh, and the AMISOM deputy force commander in charge of operations and planning, Major General William Kitsao Shume. There are currently more than 20,000 peacekeepers in the country, trying to keep Somalis secure from attacks by al-Shabab and Islamic State. Rageh stressed the need for continuous collaboration between the army and AMISOM. He said he success of the center would depend on the relationship of the two headquarters “and how they coordinate in delegating work to the sectors, which then execute any such directives for a successful execution and implementation. I believe our long cooperation and experiences gained over the years will help us get the best out of this center so we can confront the challenges that are ahead.” AMISOM’s Shume said the launch of the operations center, or JOCC, was an important step in the effort to establish fully operational centers across the country. VOA

Congo-Kinshasa: Kabila ICC Trouble? Victims File Complaint against Ex-President at The Hague
Former Congolese President Joseph Kabila could be in trouble after victims of his alleged misdeeds lodged a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing him of killing or torturing their relatives. The complaint, filed on September 16, also targeted senior government officials in his regime, including Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a presidential candidate he supported in 2019 but who lost the election to Felix Tshisekedi. Mr Shadary was minister for interior and security. The complainants are relatives of victims of the 2016-2017 clashes between civilians and Congolese police and army officers in Kasai Central and Kasai provinces. The victims of what is commonly referred to as the Kamuina Nsapu rebellion, which started in 2016, have asked the ICC prosecutor to investigate in order to convict “executioners and accomplices, but also to recognise the victims’ right to compensation.” The EastAfrican

A Lack of Weather Data in Africa Is Thwarting Critical Climate Research
It’s a problem that top climate scientists, local meteorologists and rural farmers all desperately want solved. Africa has just one-eighth the minimum density of weather stations recommended by the World Meteorological Organization, which means there is a problematic lack of data about dozens of countries that are among the most vulnerable to climate change. On the ground, the dearth of data has meant inaccurate forecasts and poor or nonexistent early-warning systems for people increasingly experiencing deadly cyclones, prolonged droughts and intense floods. In the academic world, researchers say the lack of data has led to challenges in measuring the extent of climate change. And for leaders preparing for the United Nations climate summit this fall, the absence of hard numbers could make it difficult to prove global warming’s impact on the continent, said Izidine Pinto, one of the authors of a recent landmark U.N. climate report. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones