25 March 2021

World/Covid: An overview of governments trying to contain the virus.

Chad: Despite “a groundswell of opposition” against his candidature, president Idriss Déby Itno, after 30 years in power, is likely to win the elections. This is amongst other reasons, because he has used Chad’s oil revenues to arm the military and because he uses it to counter attacks on his rule, also to restrict the opposition from campaigning. Internationally, he has the seemingly unconditional support of France, is seen as indispensable in the fight against Boko Haram and has placed key allies in key positions (e.g. president of the African Union commission, UN representative for West Africa), he himself being presently chair of the G5 Sahel.

Kenya/Clean Cooking: Using solid fuels (wood, charcoal, dung and straw) for cooking/heating/lighting. generates toxic pollutants, especially “fine Particulate Matter” (PM2.5) and Kenya is trying to get people to change these fuels for cleaner ones. But Covid may have disrupted the process of change: “Of particular concern is our finding that 69% of liquid petroleum gas or electricity users before the Covid-19 pandemic reported a subsequent switch to kerosene. (…) This is worrying as prior to Covid-19 a study found kerosene using households had PM2.5 levels almost equal to those in charcoal or wood-using households

Kenya: The pronounced shrinking of green spaces in Nairobi increases the likelihood that people will catch zoonotic diseases because species such as rodents proliferate. This particularly concerns the most densely populated, poor areas. The article reports the results of research undertaken in Nairobi and proposes solutions.

Mozambique: On Wednesday, terrorists attacked Palma in the country’s Far North, close to the gas project-to-be – hours after resumption of construction work interrupted for more than two months because of terrorist attacks. Banks, shops, a hotel, and the barracks of the riot police were targeted. Government troops regained control of the town early Thursday morning. The number of casualties is not yet known.
BBC Africa Live 25 March 2021. 11:22

Cameroon: The Anglophone crisis is by no means over. The number refugees rose from 20,485 in January 2018 to 63,235 in January 2021. The number of IDPs stood at 705,000 in November 2020 compared to 679,000 a year earlier. Although the military response was prioritized (with its abuses), “Cameroon’s approach to the crisis has always encompassed both political and military dimensions. At stake here is the quality of the political agreement on offer”. The political “solutions” offered (commissions to promote bilingualism and multiculturalism, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, the establishment of a special status for English-speaking regions, etc.) have not been up to the mark. Such solutions were by no means the result of dialogue and discussion, but were unilaterally imposed by the government.

Nigeria: The closing of land borders with Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger in August 2019 was said to stop smuggling. But it hasn’t. The real reasons for the border closure might have been protectionist, especially regarding rice and maize. A partial reopening of land borders was announced on 16 December 2020 and passage by light vehicles and pedestrians was allowed since January 2021. If smuggling is to be stopped, “(r)ather than closing borders, Nigeria and its neighbours should invest in better border security and surveillance and ensure the development and upliftment of border communities that rely on smuggling as a livelihood source.”

Senegal: Triggered by legal proceedings against Ousmane Sonko and then his arrest, the recent “(c)lashes between civilians and law enforcement lead to the death of at least 11 people and the injury of nearly 590. Scores of protesters were arrested, and the looting and destruction of property, including public buildings, caused significant damage.” The regime is perceived as using the justice system to achieve its political goals and exclude opposition members. The judiciary needs more independence, as recommended by the National Commission for Institutional Reform (CNRI) in 2013.

Algeria/France: Shortly after Algeria’s issuing international arrest warrants against government critics including journalists, social media users and a former diplomat, an extradition agreement between France and Algeria has come into force. “The Algerian authorities accuse activists based in France of undermining the security of the country and associating with terrorist groups”. On Wednesday, Hirak protesters chanted their support for some of those named on the arrest warrants.
BBC Africa Live 25 March 2021. 16:14

24 March 2021

Ethiopia/Eritrea: One day after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed acknowledged that Eritrean troops had been in Tigray following the outbreak of conflict in November, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published a report that claims that Eritrean soldiers committed a massacre over two days in the city of Aksum at the end of November, killing more than 100 civilians.
According to a 26 February report by Amnesty, the number of dead was significantly higher.
BBC Africa Live 24 March 2021. 10:39

Uganda: 18 men arrested in the run-up to the January elections have been freed, some of them were “dumped by security services in different parts of Kyotera district, south of Kampala, late on Monday night.” Hundreds of opposition activists and campaigners are thought to have been “picked up during the election campaign. The government admits it is holding more than 200 people on charges related to violent acts during the elections, but many still remain unaccounted for and are believed to be still in the hands of the security services.” The 18 released are not part of the 200 that the government admits to holding.
BBC Africa Live 24 March 2021. 9:14
In this context also read:

Uganda: An interview with the human rights expert Jamil Ddamulira Mujuzi. According to the Uganda Human Rights Commission, there is continued long and arbitrary detention of suspects in police custody – which is illegal, an arrestee has to be brought before court no later than 48 hours from the time of arrest. Detentions are often meant to intimidate, persecute and weaken the opposition. Furthermore, alleged cases of torture seem to be on the rise, most of it carried out by police, army and prison authorities. None of the perpetrators has been prosecuted. The army must stop being involved in law enforcement. The culture of impunity must stop.

Mozambique: The cost of bread is to rise by 25% in Maputo from 1st of April. The bakers say they have no other choice, the cost of flour having increased by 27%. In 2010, a 30% rise in the price of bread sparked riots across Mozambique with a dozen people dead and more than 400 injured. The government then subsidised bread for some time and since then, price rises had been small.
BBC Africa Live 24 March 2021. 16:53

Kenya: Once more, the government wants to close down the Dadaab refugee camp, saying it poses a security threat as some of the refugees are linked to the Somalian terrorist group al-Shabab. UNHCR has 14 days to close the camp as well as the Kakuma camp. “In 2017 a High Court judge blocked a similar bid to close the camp, ruling that it was tantamount to an act of group persecution.” Dadaab was set up in 1991.
BBC Africa Live 24 March 2021. 7:58

African cities: “Walking cities” that aren’t walkable – walking conditions in African cities are precarious and unsafe although many have no other choice but to walk. Auto-mobility is prioritised. Risks abound – research found 120 risks walkers are exposed to in Moyiba, an informal settlement in Freetown, Sierra Leona. The article provides some insights and recommendations from that research.

Libya: “On March 16, the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring and NATO’S intervention, a government uniting the east and west of Libya took power for the first time since 2014. This opportunity is Libyans’ last and best chance for stability and prosperity.” According to the author, the odds of this succeeding or failing are even.