Africa Media Review for September 3, 2021

Most African Nations to Miss Month-End Virus Vaccination Target
Almost 80% of African countries will fail to meet a target set by the world’s highest health policy-setting body to fully vaccinate 10% of their most vulnerable populations against the coronavirus by the end of the month. Data from the World Health Organization shows that at the current inoculations and vaccine delivery rate, 42 out of 54 African nations will miss the goal set by the World Health Assembly in May, WHO Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said during a weekly virtual briefing on Thursday. “As long as vaccination rates are low, the risks of severe illness and deaths remain high,” said Moeti. “Only 39 million people, less than 3% of Africa’s population are fully vaccinated compared to more than 50% in Europe and the U.S.” The low vaccination rates not only threaten Africa’s ability to curb the virus but the rest of the world’s as new Covid-19 variants develop. “Vaccine hoarding has held Africa back and we urgently need more vaccines,” said Moeti. “But as more doses arrive, African countries must zero in and drive forward precise plans to rapidly vaccinate the millions of people that still face a grave threat from Covid-19.” While Africa’s third wave peaked in July, a decline in new cases is slower than after previous waves. More than 214,000 new cases were reported in the past week, with 25 out of 54 countries still reporting high or fast-rising case numbers, said Moeti. Bloomberg

Worst Tripoli Fighting in a Year Shows Limits of Libya Peace Push
Fighting broke out in Tripoli early on Friday between rival armed forces, witnesses said, the heaviest clashes in the Libyan capital since the conflict between eastern and western factions paused a year ago. A resident of the Salah al-Din district in southern Tripoli said shooting began at about 2.30 a.m. and continued through the morning with medium and light weapons. There was no immediate report of casualties. Conflict in Tripoli between the armed groups who vie to control both territory and state institutions would further undermine the prospect of December elections as part of a plan to end a decade of chaos, violence and division. Despite a ceasefire and progress earlier this year towards a political solution to Libya’s crisis, there has been no movement towards integrating its myriad armed groups into a unified national military. … The new fighting pitted the 444 Brigade against the Stabilisation Support Force, two of the main forces in Tripoli, a witness said. It follows major clashes last month in the city of Zawiya, west of Tripoli, and smaller incidents of friction or clashes inside the capital including a gunfight this week at a state institution. In eastern Libya, controlled by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), there have also been shootings and other incidents of violence in recent months. Reuters

U.N. Warns Catastrophe Looms in Ethiopia’s North, Urges Government to End De Facto Aid Blockade
A de facto blockade on aid to the Tigray region in Ethiopia’s north is bringing millions of people to the brink of famine, the United Nations humanitarian agency said on Thursday, warning of “looming catastrophe.” The U.N. agency OCHA called on all parties in a 10-month-old war in Tigray to allow the movement of aid into the region where it said 5.2 million people, or 90% of the population, urgently need humanitarian assistance. Those include 400,000 people who are already facing famine conditions, it said. The agency called on the Ethiopian government in particular to allow aid supplies and personnel to move into and within the country by “lifting bureaucratic impediments” and clearing other hurdles to aid getting through. There is only one road into Tigray that the U.N. and aid groups can currently use, and logistical and bureaucratic obstacles make passage “extremely difficult,” OCHA said, adding that 172 trucks are stranded in the town of Semera near Tigray. … OCHA also said in its statement that, although the U.N. estimates a minimum of 100 trucks of food, non-food items, and fuel must enter Tigray each day to sustain the population in the region, not a single truck has entered since Aug. 22. “Food stocks already ran out on 20 August,” it read. Reuters

Tigray Crisis: AU Juggles Perception Balls as Ethiopia, TPLF Dig In
The African Union (AU) could be playing a tricky balancing act as it seeks to help Ethiopia mitigate a deadly conflict in the country’s Tigray region. Headquartered in Addis Ababa, the country’s capital, the AU has called for dialogue and peace, while also cautioning the world against pushing Ethiopia’s hand and violating its territorial integrity. That has proved to be equal parts pleasing and annoying to the parties in the conflict that started in November last year. Last week, the AU announced Nigerian ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo as the new High Representative for the Horn of Africa region. While the continental body did not single out the Ethiopian conflict, AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat did suggest that Obasanjo will immediately dive into active conflicts in the Horn. But how Obasanjo will tackle his new role with regard to Tigray is uncertain. Back in November, when the conflict was just starting, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the then AU chair, sent a delegation to Addis Ababa to get the parties to talk. However, Addis Ababa declined the offer involving the Panel of Eminent Persons comprising former presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Joaquim Chissano and Kgalema Motlanthe. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with the ex-presidents, but argued that the operation against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was a law enforcement operation guided by local laws, not an international conflict. Ten months down the line, Addis Ababa has declared TPLF, once a powerful part of the country’s former ruling party, as a terrorist group and ruled out any dialogue with the rebels, even though a national dialogue conference is scheduled in the country later this month. Nation

Algerian Dissident Case Raises Fears over Tunisian Rights
An Algerian dissident appeared in court in Algiers on Wednesday accused of terrorism, a person in court said, confirming he was no longer in Tunisia where he had held refugee status. Soulimane Bouhafs was accused of membership of MAK, a Kabylie region separatist group that Algeria declared a terrorist organisation last year, and was remanded in custody. The case has outraged rights groups in Tunisia, who say the government handed Bouhafs over to Algerian authorities in breach of his refugee status. Neither Algerian nor Tunisian officials were immediately available for comment on Wednesday. The case has raised questions over the rule of law in Tunisia after President Kais Saied seized governing powers in July, suspending parliament for an emergency period that he has indefinitely prolonged, in moves his critics call a coup. On Sunday, Algeria detained Tunisian media mogul Nabil Karoui, Saied’s main opponent in the 2019 presidential election, as he was entering from Tunisia, local media reported. … Since Saied’s intervention in July, numerous officials have been detained or put under house arrest on existing charges and Amnesty International said it has identified at least 50 people subjected to travel bans. A group of Tunisian rights organisations said on Tuesday that witnesses had seen cars with unusual licence plates arriving at dissident Bouhafs’ house and taking him to an unknown destination. Algeria is cracking down on MAK, which seeks independence for the mostly Berber-speaking Kabylie region, citing what it says is Moroccan support for the group as one of the reasons it cut diplomatic ties with Rabat last week. Reuters

Almost 6,000 Boko Haram Fighters Have Surrendered, Nigerian Army Says
Close to 6,000 fighters from the Boko Haram Islamist insurgent group in northeast Nigeria have surrendered in recent weeks, the Nigerian armed forces said on Thursday, attributing the development to the military’s counter-insurgency efforts. Some 350,000 people have died in the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian army since it began 12 years ago, according to a United Nations estimate, and the fighting has spilled over to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. “Within the last few weeks, more than 5,890 terrorists comprising foot soldiers and their commanders have surrendered with their families to own troops in the North East Zone,” said Brigadier General Bernard Onyeuko, spokesman for the armed forces. He said 565 of the surrendered fighters had been handed over to the government of northeastern Borno State for “further management after thorough profiling,” but gave no further details. … Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, died in May. According to ISWAP, he was fleeing a battle with ISWAP and detonated an explosive device before he could be captured. Reuters

Slain Tanzanian Gunman Was a Terrorist, Police Say
The gunman who killed four people in Tanzania’s financial capital Dar es Salaam last week before being shot dead was “a terrorist” who was radicalised by social media, police said Thursday. The gunman — identified by police as Hamza Mohamed — went on a rampage on August 25, killing three officers and a private security guard in the city’s diplomatic quarter, in a rare attack in the East African nation. “Our investigations have revealed that Hamza Mohamed was a person who had a secret life with all indicators of terrorism,” the director of criminal investigations Camillus Wambura told journalists, describing him as a “terrorist.” “He spent much of his time to learn about the kinds of terrorism incidents such as those conducted by Al-Shabaab and ISIS through the internet, like many terrorists do,” Wambura added. In addition to the four dead, six other people were injured in the shooting spree, which took place near the entrance of the French embassy. AFP

Somali Security Agency Blames Employee’s Disappearance on al-Shabab
Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency said Thursday that the terrorist group al-Shabab had killed a female employee who was abducted in Mogadishu in June. But close family members questioned the claim. Ikran Tahlil Farah, 24, worked with the agency’s cybersecurity department. She was abducted June 26 near her home in Mogadishu’s Abdulaziz district, which is close to NISA headquarters. The agency posted a brief statement on its website Thursday saying its investigation had determined that the young woman’s kidnappers handed her over to al-Shabab militants, who later killed her. The agency did not release details about when or where it believed Ikran was killed. Al-Shabab has not publicly acknowledged any role in Ikran’s disappearance. The Islamist extremist group previously has publicly executed people it accused of spying for the Somali government and for Western countries, including the United States. … Former NISA Director-General Abdullahi Ali Sanbalolshe told VOA Somali in July that “some people” told him Ikran had records about a program that secretly sent Somali military recruits to Eritrea to train. Allegations surfaced in June that those recruits have been fighting and dying in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict. Opposition leaders have been pressuring Somalia’s spy agency and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble for information about the disappearance of the intelligence agency employee. VOA

Six Kenyan Police Officers Charged over Murder of Brothers
Six Kenyan police officers were charged on Thursday with murdering two brothers, a month after the deaths that triggered widespread protests. The officers – four men and two women – all pleaded not guilty and were remanded in custody, one of their lawyers, Danstan Omari, said. The two brothers, Emmanuel Mutura Ndwiga and Benson Njiru Ndwiga, were found dead in a morgue in the eastern county of Embu in early August, The Standard Newspaper and other Kenyan media reported. The young men had been arrested by police days earlier on charges of violating a curfew imposed to contain the coronavirus, media reported. Angry crowds took to the streets and campaigns sprang up on social media demanding justice for the brothers, who were both university students. Rights groups have accused the government of failing to crack down on violent police tactics – accusations dismissed by the government and the police. Reuters

Ugandan Academic Arrested over ‘Espionage’: Military
Ugandan security forces on Thursday arrested one of the country’s top academics on suspicion of espionage, the military said. Lawrence Muganga, vice-chancellor of the private Victoria University, was arrested in broad daylight at the university’s main building on one of the busiest streets in the capital Kampala. Amateur video posted on social media showed plainclothes gunmen forcing a man said to be Muganga into a type of van known in Uganda as a “drone,” which is associated with abductions of government opponents. Commentators on social media suggested he had been taken because he is seen as being close to the military intelligence service of Uganda’s regional rival Rwanda. Muganga is perhaps Uganda’s most prominent Banyarwanda — of Rwandan ethnicity — and has acted as a spokesman for a section of the community in Uganda. Earlier this year, he led a campaign to have the ethnic Rwandan community renamed Abavandimwe because he said they were being “marginalised” by the Ugandan government and denied public services such as ID cards as they are viewed as “foreigners.” One of Uganda’s most prominent businessmen, Frank Gashumba, backed the campaign, claiming ethnic Rwandans suffer “dehumanisation” in Uganda. AFP

Popular Rwandan Rapper Dies in Custody
A popular Rwandan rapper known as Jay Polly died in custody early Thursday, officials and media reports said, the second detained musician to die in mysterious circumstances in less than two years. Polly, whose real name was Joshua Tuyishime, was being held on drugs charges and had found out on Wednesday that he was due to stand trial in December — eight months after his arrest. Rwanda’s Correctional Service said Tuyishime and two of his friends had consumed a mixture of aftershave alcohol, water and sugar, and that an investigation had been launched into his death. … The musician was arrested at his home in April for hosting a party in violation of Covid regulations and was later paraded along with other suspects in front of the media. … In February last year, Kizito Mihigo, whose music was banned by President Paul Kagame’s government, was found dead in his cell, just days after he was caught trying to flee the country. AFP

Africa Youth Hit Hard by COVID Lockdowns, Downturn
The future looked promising for Tinashe Mapuranga, an intern at a leading bank in Zimbabwe who appeared set to get a staff position as soon as he completed his college degree. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Amid the lockdowns, the 24-year-old was one of the first to be laid off and has no idea when he’ll be able to get his degree because of frequent school closures. Mapuranga spends most of his time at home, tending a tiny vegetable garden that is the family’s main source of food. His mother ekes out a living traveling to South Africa to sell things like stone carvings and brooms on the streets, a trade also badly hit by the pandemic. Mapuranga’s situation might look dire, but he says he’s concerned about some of his unemployed peers who have fallen into alcohol, drugs and prostitution. Across Africa, many others like Mapuranga are battling the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, losing jobs and seeing their education disrupted, a survey of people aged 18-24 in 15 countries has found. The pandemic increased the already-high level of unemployment among the group, according to preliminary findings of the second annual Africa Youth Survey. Nearly 20% of the 4,500 respondents said they became unemployed because of the pandemic and 37% were forced to stop or pause their education. AfricaNews with AP

Nigerian Authorities, Nonprofits Tackle Misinformation to Boost Vaccine Uptake
Music and jingles fill the air in a camp for displaced people in the capital, Abuja. The songs are addressing one problem — misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine. Helen Nwoko and her team at Aish Initiative said they’re on a mission in the camp to address many who have been misled by a viral social media video that portrayed vaccines as a microchip with magnetic qualities. She said various myths and misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines are negatively affecting uptake. “From the records we get on the people who have been vaccinated in Nigeria, the percent is too low, compared to what we’re supposed to get,” Nwoko said. “Then we said, ‘Let’s start from [these] vulnerable groups. These are people who are in an enclosed place.'” Nwoko is the executive director of the nonprofit, an NGO promoting and encouraging vaccine uptake and humanitarian education in Nigeria. The Abuja camp vaccine sensitization program is a joint effort between the nonprofit, Nigeria’s Ministry of Health, and the National Orientation Agency, and it is reaching vulnerable groups in rural areas, where authorities said it is most needed. Agnes Bartholomew was at the Abuja camp’s sensitization program and now said she is ready to take the jab. “If they bring it [vaccine], I’ll take it,” Bartholomew said. “But they said they’ve not brought it. That’s what we’re waiting for.” VOA

South Africa Will No Longer Send Vaccines to Europe
Millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson (J&J)’s Covid-19 vaccine produced in South Africa and intended to be shipped to Europe will remain in Africa. The doses were manufactured by South Africa’s Aspen, a partner of J&J, for the European Union. But advocacy from the African Union (AU), as well as interventions from the presidents of South Africa and the European Commission, led J&J to stop shipments outside of Africa. Further, the 20 million doses already shipped to the EU will be returned, said the AU’s envoy Strive Masiyiwa. Given the acute shortage of vaccines in Africa, the agreement to ship South African-produced doses to the EU had come under severe criticism from vaccine equity advocates as well as international organizations, including the World Health Organization. Last month, after being criticized for the agreement, the EU said its import of doses from South Africa was a temporary solution after J&J’s US partner, Emergent Biosolutions, had problems producing vaccines in one of its factories. … The vaccines made by Aspen are initially imported from the US, then bottled and packaged in South Africa—a stage of the vaccine-making process known as “fill and finish.” These vaccines will now stay in the continent, going towards the fulfillment of the order of more than 250 million doses—with the option of another 180 million—J&J is meant to supply to South Africa and the AU. Quartz

South Africa: Criminal Case Laid against India’s ‘Environmental Hero Company’ after Massive Durban Air, Water and Soil Pollution
Criminal charges have been laid against the Mumbai-based agrochemical giant UPL Limited (formerly known as United Phosphorus Limited) in the aftermath of the arson attack on its pesticide and other toxic farm chemicals warehouse in Cornubia, Durban, on 12 July. Criminal case number CAS 06/09/2021 has been registered at the Verulam police station against UPL for “environmental pollution”, Dr Zakhele Dlamini, a senior official of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) told the KZN legislature’s portfolio committee on environmental affairs on Thursday. Dlamini said the initial charges may be supplemented by further criminal complaints by the eight government agencies investigating the matter — and his department was also in the process of issuing a further urgent “warning” directive against UPL to compel it to provide further information on matters relating to the pollution of the environment in the wake of a massive chemical fire that burnt for 11 days. … In a clear signal that government authorities are dissatisfied with the information provided by UPL and some of its consultants, Dlamini also hinted at the possibility of serving court interdicts against the company. “We will be issuing a warning to the company today, and to some of the [specialist consultants]. They will realise that we have changed a gear and we believe these due processes are going to yield the required result.” Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones