/ 28 September 2021

Africa in brief: 18-25 September

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Ted on arrival: Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue suits up for his 41st birthday in 2013, when he still had all his loot.

Paying back the money – one tiny prick at a time

Millions of dollars seized from Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue will be spent on vaccines in his home country, US authorities have decided. The money comes from the sale of seized assets in the US, including a mansion and Michael Jackson memorabilia. Mangue is the son of long-time president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled for more than four decades. The country’s wealth has gone to the president’s family and friends – with little left over to invest in vital things like vaccines.

No vaccines, and a total lack of class

Ugandan schools will not open until January next year, when the government expects that 10% of the population will be vaccinated against Covid-19. Meanwhile, despite having a surplus of hoarded vaccines, countries in the global north are struggling to convince the last third of their populations to get a jab – and are even considering using their extra doses for “booster shots” for their already-vaccinated populations. 

African lives matter

UN secretary general António Guterres wasn’t sparing anyone’s feelings when he addressed the General Assembly last week, talking about the more than 90% of Africans who haven’t been vaccinated: “It is an obscenity. We passed the science test. But we are getting an F in ethics.” The UK, meanwhile, has refused to recognise any vaccines administered in Africa – even ones that it has sent to the continent. Is something other than science informing this approach? 

Another film falls foul of homophobic censors

Kenya’s film board has banned I am Samuel, a film about a gay couple in the country, for being “an affront” to the part of the constitution “which recognises the family as the basic unit of society and defines marriage as between two persons of the opposite gender”. “Once again, the Kenyan government has disparaged its LGBT citizens by banning a documentary that aims to humanise an ordinary Kenyan gay couple,” was the comment from Human Rights Watch. 

China says no to foreign coal

In big news for our continued existence, China’s President Xi Jinping last week announced his country will not be financing new coal-fired power plants overseas. Globally, this will mean a reduction in planned power plants the equivalent of all of South Africa’s emissions (Africa’s largest polluter). Shares in Mozambique’s planned Ncondezi plant collapsed on the news. In South Africa, protests against the state’s continued bet on selling and burning coal entered yet another year. Tellingly, China said nothing about plans for domestic coal plants. 

Ramaphosa pushes for slavery compensation

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa brought up the issue of reparations for slavery in his address to the UN’s general assembly last week. The countries that would need to pay up are also those that need to pay for all the damage being caused by all the heat they pumped into the atmosphere. So no holding out hope then. 

Bring back our bronzes

With Nigeria preparing to ask the British Museum to return the Benin Bronzes (which were stolen), Britain’s culture secretary asked in an interview: “Where do you draw the line with this?” Because “the collections of our great national institutions have been developed over many centuries, many times in questionable circumstances”. To translate the language of obfuscation: What the UK is saying is that if you steal enough for long enough, and build your nation out of that theft, you shouldn’t be held to account. Other museums, including in the US and Germany, have started returning the bronzes in their collection. 

Paris bans pop star

Paris police have banned Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) musician Werrason from performing in the city last weekend. The police cite his closeness to the DRC’s current President Felix Tshisekedi as having the potential to ignite simmering tensions in the diaspora in France. Werrason was also close to former president Joseph Kabila. 

Et tu, Eto’o?

Legendary footballer Samuel Eto’o has declared his candidacy for president of the Cameroonian Football Federation. He’s vowed to clean up the organisation, which has been bedevilled by graft and opportunism in recent years. 

A night at the movies in Mogadishu

Somalia is crazy about movies, with a particular affection for Bollywood classics. But there has not been a functioning cinema in the capital, Mogadishu, for the past 30 years, thanks to civil war and what feels like a neverending political crisis. The country is still in crisis mode. Currently, the president and prime minister are barely speaking to each other, while a majority of the country is still controlled by militant group al-Shabaab. But there is some good news – or, at least, a little escapism. On Wednesday, dozens of people crowded into the National Theatre for the first movie screening since 1991. On the bill were two short films by Somali director Ibrahim CM: Hoos, a horror flick, and Date from Hell. Tickets cost a steep US$10 – unaffordable for many, but not bad for a once-in-three-decades experience. 

The times, they are a-changin’

South Africa’s women’s national football team, Banyana Banyana, defeated Nigeria’s Super Falcons 4-2 last week to emerge winners of the inaugural Aisha Buhari Cup in Lagos. Although it was just a friendly, South Africa’s unexpected victory could prove seminal in the battle for supremacy in women’s football on the continent. Nigeria have dominated the landscape, winning nine of 11 Confederation of African Football women’s championships, including in 2018, when they defeated South Africa on penalties. Now coach Desiree Ellis’s young charges have exacted a modicum of revenge that could signal a changing of the guard in African women’s football.  

This article first appeared on The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here