What’s Going On: Ebola outbreak in DR Congo, AU supports power grab in Chad & more

Also includes updates on situations in Nigeria & Ethiopia

Our Latest Column, “What’s Going On”, Will Tally Notable News Headlines From Across The Continent — The Good, The Bad, And The Horrible — As A Way Of Ensuring That We All Become A More Sagacious African Generation. With This Column, We’re Hoping To Disseminate The Latest Happenings In Our Socio-Political Climate All Over The Continent, Whilst Starting A Conversation About What’s Important For Us To All Discuss. From Political Affairs To Socio-Economic Issues, ‘What’s Going On’, Will Discuss Just That. 

Every so often, we have to remind other parts of the world that Africa is not a country. This is not entirely due to the fact that a  significant portion of people in those parts are unenlightened, as continent-wide similarities when it comes to social, political, and economic issues leave us wondering whether Africa is a country too. For one, Africa is teeming with corrupt and inept leaders—many of them dictators—who have failed to invest in meaningful infrastructure, all while derailing and rejecting systemic change through violent means if necessary. In addition to this, they are fully aided by deeply patriarchal, religion deferring, and ultra-conservative social constructs, that ensure that these harmful systems are in place.

At the same time cross the continent, the current generation of African youth are pushing against these systemic boundaries, in order to continue the arduous work of rewriting the narrative. Even with all of the endeavours, talent and records being witnessed from music to tech, the limitations put in place by the continent’s political landscape still looms large. Every week, disparaging headlines from around Africa make their way to the news, reminding us of the bumps affecting these perceived stripes, and the roadblocks which delay our growth towards more wholesome and enabling societies for all Africans. Below are few news bits of what’s been going in on in the past few days.

African Union supports unconstitutional power grab in Chad

A month ago, Chad’s long serving President Idriss Deby was pronounced dead. At the time of his passing, Deby had been president for three decades and was getting set for his sixth consecutive 5-year term in office. Within hours of his death, a transitional military council led by the former president’s son, General Mahmat Idriss Deby, took over executive duties of the country. The move is unconstitutional, seeing as Chad’s constitution stipulates that the Parliament speaker should take charge of presidential duties in the demise of a sitting president.

The transitional military council has capitalised on former President Deby’s autocratic ruling style, even though disguised as democracy, installing itself into power and allotting eighteen months as the period of its duties before elections can be held. Chadians haven’t hidden their chagrin at the military’s power grab, turning out in protests across the country’s capital, N’Djamena, earlier this month. In true African fashion, the military banned protests and brave citizens who took to the streets anyways were met with brutal, state-sanctioned show of force by the police, including the use of tear gas to break up gatherings.

Instead of reprimanding the military council for taking power unconstitutionally and violating the rights of protesters, the African Union has chosen to lend its support to Mahmat Deby-led council. A fact-finding mission sent to Chad had set out six options for the AU to recommend to Chad, including urging the military to share power with a civilian president, however, the union has chosen to “support the transition process in N’Djamena”. Usually, the events of the past months should’ve elicited reproach and even led to possible sanctions, but considering that the AU has long been committed to protecting, and turning their faces away from, the interests of dictator-styled government, the union’s stance on Chad is anything but shocking.

Kidnapping is an epidemic in Nigeria

In a statement delivered via a twitter thread earlier this month, President Muhammadu Buhari made an “appeal” for the release of the students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, who’d been abducted. Over a week prior, the bodies of two of the kidnapped students were found, bringing the total number of deceased abductees found to five. Speaking on Channels Television on Sunday evening, Ahmad Gumi, controversial Islamic cleric and apparent negotiator to the bandit gangs perpetrating the abductions, claimed that the Greenfield students have yet to be released because the set of bandits involved in this abduction seem to have ties with terrorist group boko haram.

Since late last year, the abduction of students from various levels of educational institutions has become a frequent occurrence in the northern part of Nigeria. Usually, the bandits request a ridiculous sum of money from the government, after which the abducted are released once those demands are met. However, Gumi’s claim that the bandits involved in kidnapping the Greenfield students are linked with Boko Haram complicates things even further. Over the years since establishing itself as a radical, insurgent force, boko haram has terrorised northern Nigeria, infamously abducting 276 students from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state back in 2014.  That incident is symbolic of the ways boko haram has run amok in the region, and there are contentions that such incidents continued to happen afterwards but were seriously underreported.

It’s arguable that boko haram paved the way for bandit groups to target schools and kidnap students, with about half a dozen instances making it to mainstream media over the last few months. These incidents have caused uproar from the Nigerian citizenry, who also aren’t convinced by the government’s response, especially with how they’ve consistently failed to stem boko haram. So far the government has seemed to accede to bandits’ demands on a few occasions, emboldening the kidnap of students since the rewards seem to be quite high. President Buhari’s “appeal” is extremely weak in a time where definite measures need to be taken to stamp this practice of banditry out.

There’s also fears that the latest bout of cases of abductions are being underreported, especially since it’s mostly affecting one region of the country. For those living in the southern part, these cases are only acknowledged when reports filter through. Also, there’s a rise in insecurity everywhere in Nigeria, which is making it increasingly difficult to only focus on the north. At that, it is important to note that the rampant nature of kidnapping is a humanitarian crisis that demands our full attention and outrage. Kidnapping is a nationwide epidemic that keeps growing every day, and a constant clamour for the government, and even external forces, to better secure (Northern) Nigeria is currently the best way to avert this crisis.

Tigray is still being persecuted

The ongoing war—genocide seems more fitting—in Tigray, Ethiopia is violent representation of the popular saying, when two elephants fight it’s the grass that suffers. What initially started as a political standoff between the Tigray’s People Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party representing the Tigray region, and the Ethiopian government has deteriorated into a targeted humanitarian crisis aimed at regular Tigrayans. With armed assistance from neighbouring Eritrean troops and local, informal forces with tribal motivation, the situation has caused forced displacement of people from their homes, torture for young men, and gross sexual abuse on women of varying ages.

“The situation in Tigray, Ethiopia, is, if I use one word, horrific. Very horrific,” World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news conference on Monday. “Many people have started dying actually because of hunger, and severe and acute malnutrition is becoming rampant.” Ghebreyesus went on to add that rape is rampant, and there’s barriers to getting humanitarian aid into Tigray, claiming that the Ethiopian government is using all avenues as weapons of war with little regards to how it affects the most vulnerable in the region.

At the moment, there’s no proof of Eritrean troops vacating the region, even though their presence and aid in the atrocities has been widely condemned by the global community. Also, in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s bid to fully centralise power, the Ethiopian government is still pushing for national elections while violence continues within its border. It’s another reminder that lives are being lost and people are being cruelly persecuted for political and ethnic reasons, which, sadly, is commonplace in Africa’s political landscape.

Congo declares end to latest Ebola outbreak, amidst allegations of sexual assault by aid workers

Since it was first identified in 1976, the Ebola viral disease has had twelve different outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, making the African country the worst hit by the disease. In February, the latest outbreak was first detected in the eastern province of North Kivu, where the previous epidemic lasted for 22 months, only ended last June and claimed over 2,000 lives. By contrast, the just ended outbreak claimed six lives, and was largely eradicated due to vaccination drives by local health workers.

“Huge credit must be given to the local health workers and the national authorities for their prompt response, tenacity, experience and hard work that brought this outbreak under control”, WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement. She went on to admonish for continued vigilance against future outbreaks, and a use of the growing expertise in emergency medical response to address other health threats facing the country, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

The celebrations, though, have now been interjected by new reports of sexual abuse being perpetrated by male aid workers. Nearly two dozen women have come forward alleging unwanted sexual advances and rape by male aid workers, who offered jobs in exchange for sex. According to reports, several women became pregnant after these heinous sexual encounters, with one woman confirmed dead following a botched abortion in an attempt to conceal the pregnancy from her husband and children. In the 14 claims, three of the seven organisations the men claimed to represent are United Nation agencies, and most of the aid workers are Congolese.

Dennis is a staff writer at the NATIVE. Send me pertinent headlines @dennisadepeter