24 June 2021

South Africa: After 27 years of freedom “(t)enure reform policy has yet to deliver legislation to secure the land rights of people in communal areas.” Now, in a landmark ruling concerning about a third of the province, a “high court has declared that people living on customary land in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, notionally held in trust by the Ingonyama (king) of the Zulu people, are the ‘true and beneficial owners’ of that land” and not the Ingonyama Trust Board which had tried to convert the customary land rights to rent-paying leases. “The court also found that the minister in charge of land reform has breached her duty to respect, protect and promote these informal land rights, as required by law.” What is needed is to express the principles of customary land ownership “in law in a way that provides certainty, and ensures the protection of land rights holders” plus a clear definition/delimitation of the powers and functions of traditional leaders in relation to land. What would be important is “mobilisation of rural dwellers, as well as those living in informal settlements, to push for pro-poor, structural change within a democratic political framework”. Because only very few will go to court – it is too expensive and takes too long.

Mozambique: While SADC approved the deployment of a standby force to help Mozambique fight the Islamists, there have been new clashes with the Islamists near the town of Palma after they attacked a government forces’ position in Patacua.
BBC Africa Live 24 June 2021. 5:57

Mozambique: There is on average one assault per day in Cabo Delgado province. While the country’s security forces are incapable “to contain the violence and protect civilians”, the government has been reluctant to accept SADC military help. Over the past decades, Frelimo has pursued a strategy of extraversion “ruling elites siphoning off the fees generated by international aid and foreign direct investment for their enrichment”. The Islamist attacks and the wave of displacement may be considered, by these same elites, “as a chance to continue receiving large sums of foreign aid – and possibly even increase the amount”. In that case, SADC would not be a partner to ensure security for Cabo Delgado inhabitants, but “an adversary in raising funds for the insurgency response”. On top of that, Frelimo’s prestige may suffer if they are seen to need foreign military aid and even threaten its political survival.

Egypt: For a long time, Egypt had its attention turned towards Arab countries and Israel, but over the past few years, it has re-engaged with sub-Saharan Africa, especially with the Nile Basin countries. It “has signed a string of military and economic agreements with Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Djibouti” and “has substantial integration agreements with Sudan”, the two countries conducting joint military exercises recently. Behind all this is Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd).

Zimbabwe: The National Youth Service (NYS) – “alleged to have unleashed terror on civilians not aligned with the ruling party” in Mugabe’s times – is about to be revived following the cabinet’s April 2021 decision to introduce a National Youth Training Programme. “Like its predecessor, the revived programme is anticipated to primarily provide boots on the ground for the security sector and ruling party.” In the past, “NYS members had mandatory military training. They were allegedly used for political purposes, especially in rural and peri-urban areas, and linked to election-related violence, including sexual abuse and torture.” Now, national elections are to be held in 2023. And youths fear that “a NYS certificate could become a requirement for work seekers, especially in the public sector”.

Mali: There hasn’t even been one single prosecution in Mali related to the illegal trade in cultural property. Yet illegal trade in artefacts is rife, with archaeologists estimating that 90% of sites in Mali have been looted. This occurs amidst severe insecurity, with organised crime networks and violent extremist groups collaborating and smuggling routes favouring ungoverned spaces. Under present circumstances, difficult to take effective counter-measures.

Nigeria/Boko Haram: According to a new UN report, almost 350,000 people have died in north-east Nigeria because of the conflict with Boko Haram, 10% in fighting, the other 90% because of indirect impact of the war. Almost 2 million were forced to flee from home and “(a)gricultural production has been hit hard, leading to disease and hunger.”
BBC Africa Live 24 June 2021. 14:05

23 June 2021

Ethiopia: The Ethiopian air force is reported to have struck Togoga, a town 25 km from Tigray’s capital Mekelle. There were reportedly “heavy casualties” amongst civilians, a market having been hit. The government denies that civilians have been targeted.

Lake Chad: The Transaqua Project – diverting water from Congo River to Lake Chad via a 2,400km-long canal – is meant to compensate the shrinking of Lake Tchad. While the riparian states of Lake Chad Basin, the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC/Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Algeria, Central African Republic, Libya, Sudan), the African Development Bank (AfDB), Italian state-owned company Bonifica and state-owned hydropower contractor PowerChina all support the project, Congo-Kinshasa and French scientists oppose it, the latter warning that such a large-scale project could cause irreversible environmental damage in both the Congo and the Lake Tchad basins. “The Transaqua Project remains in the planning and feasibility study stage.”