Africa Media Review for April 15, 2022

Russia Flounders in Ukraine but Doubles Down in Mali
On March 30, as Russian forces continued their struggle to conquer Ukrainian cities, Russian arms suppliers delivered a pair of menacing Mi-35M attack helicopters and an advanced air radar system thousands of miles away in West Africa to the Malian capital of Bamako…The development suggests that despite its military reversals in Ukraine, Russia is seeking to preserve its growing diplomatic and military interests in Africa, where irregular Russian forces have been supplying training and fighting forces to governments and rebel movements from the Central African Republic to Libya…”Wagner is not a counterterrorism force. Wagner is a tool of the Russian government to try and advance its foreign-policy goals,” said Joseph Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. “They’re there to keep the junta in power because the junta serves Moscow’s interests in displacing France and the EU.” Foreign Policy

Tanzania’s First Female President Wants to Bring Her Nation in From the Cold
Samia Suluhu Hassan became the only female head of government in Africa when her predecessor suddenly died. She is setting a new course. … Since taking office, Ms. Hassan has set off on a different path than her predecessor: She encouraged Covid vaccinations by publicly taking the shot herself, lifted a ban on pregnant girls in schools and began to amend some Magufuli-era economic regulations to lure back investors. . … Yet concerns have persisted about the pace of change under her government. Over the past year, activists were abducted, two newspapers were temporarily suspended by the government and the main opposition leader, Freeman Mbowe, was jailed for several months on terrorism-related charges before his release. Political rallies outside elections have been banned in the country since 2016, when the government accused the opposition of wanting to use them to cause mass civil disobedience. Activists also questioned whether Ms. Hassan was committed to reviewing the constitution, which grants vast powers to the executive and was adopted in 1977, when the country was still a one-party state. Ms. Hassan said she wanted to focus on fixing the economy before turning to the “huge” and “costly” endeavor of changing the constitution. … Fatma Karume, a prominent Tanzanian lawyer who was disbarred and had her office bombed for challenging Mr. Magufuli’s government, said Ms. Hassan has the chance to restore Tanzanians’ faith in democracy and transform the country. “She could leave behind a legacy that few other presidents have managed,” Ms. Karume said in an interview at her home in the port city of Dar es Salaam. New York Times

Guinea: Former Ruling Party Suspends Participation in National Conference
Guinea’s former ruling party the RPG will no longer take part in the national conference. The party of former president Alpha Condé broke the news late Thursday as it followed through with threats made weeks earlier. To explain its move, the RPG cited the detentions of several party leaders which it calls arbitrary. The national meetings started in March and are expected to last until April 29. They were presented by the authorities as a platform where political parties, youth groups, women’s organisations and traditional leaders could discuss what the country’s leader Colonel Doumboya called a ”new institutional framework” The suspension of the RPG’s participation lengthens the list of parties which have boycotted the national conference. AfricaNews with AFP

South Africa: ‘Catastrophic’ Durban Floods Leave Trail of Death and Destruction
According to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, heavy rains have swept away homes, sunk highways, flooded bridges, and killed nearly 400 people since Monday night in KwaZulu-Natal, the second-most populous of the country’s nine provinces. The city of Durban and the surrounding mostly low-income areas have been the most affected. The devastation has been so catastrophic that the provincial government has declared a state of disaster. Rescue efforts continue for an unspecified number of missing people, including children. Ntombizakhe Mthembu, a 26-year-old hairdresser from KwaMashu, a Durban township, is keeping her hopes up as she desperately looks for her missing four-year-old daughter. “I woke up around 2am and noticed everything right below my bed covered in water, and my daughter was sleeping next to me,” Mthembu explained. “I told her to stay on the bed, and I helped my mother who was trying to direct the water away.” “Next thing [I know], my mother and I were taken by the water.” Al Jazeera

Algeria Accuses Morocco of Killing 3 in Western Sahara
Tensions between the Algeria and Morocco have risen again after reports of a Moroccan air strike, which killed 3 people in the contested territory of Western Sahara. Algeria has claimed that the attack on a convoy close to the Mauritanian border was “targeted.” Although Morocco has de facto control of much of the territory, its claim to it is not recognized by the UN or most of the international community, although the US did agree to recognize its sovereignty in 2020 in exchange for concessions on Israel. Neither Morocco nor Mauritania have commented on the claims and the killings could not be independently verified. AfricaNews with AFP

Sudan TV Bans Political Talk Show on Army Directive
The official Sudan Television banned, under direct instructions from the army, the broadcast of a talk show dealing with the Sudanese revolution issues and prospects for solutions to the current political strife. Media advisor to the head of the military-led Sovereign Council Brig. Gen. Tahir Abu Haja recently criticized the sacked Sudan TV director, accusing him of opening the official TV to the anti-coup forces and ignoring the news of Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Abu Haja also said they would activate a series of measures to control and censure the media. Samah Mubarak Khater, the presenter of the “From the Revolution onwards” told the Sudan Tribune on Thursday that the decision has been taken after a complaint from a Sudanese army brigadier general about statements made by a member of the Resistance Committees rejecting the participation of the military in any future transitional government. Sudan Tribune

Sudan: Is LRA Rebel Leader Joseph Kony Hiding in Darfur?
Former child soldiers are providing new information about the leader of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony has been on the run since 2005 when the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant. “Joseph Kony is alive,” claims Michel Mbolifouko, a former child soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). “He currently lives in the Sudanese region of Darfur and continues to give orders to his fighters. I saw him with my own eyes,” Mbolifouko told DW. DW correspondent in the Central African Republic (CAR), Jean Fernand Koena, who spoke with numerous former child soldiers recruited by Kony, considers the statements of 15-year-old Mbolifouko to be credible. In addition, other former child soldiers who have fled in recent weeks to the city of Obo, in the east of the CAR, have confirmed that Kony is in Darfur, in western Sudan. DW

Moura Massacre in Mali: Debunking Claims That Civilians Were Armed
[Video] In late March, the Malian armed forces and suspected Russian mercenaries allegedly executed about 300 people in Moura, a village in central Mali. Human Rights Watch opened an investigation into the matter, calling it a massacre. In order to discredit these findings, photos online claim to show hundreds of weapons belonging to civilians, seized by the Malian army. However, the photos have nothing to do with the current situation in Moura. We tell you more in this edition of Truth or Fake.  France24

Nigeria Plans First Census in 17 Years Next Year After Security Delay
Nigeria will next year conduct its first census in 17 years to try to accurately survey its population, estimated at more than 200 million people and the largest in Africa, the head of the national population agency said on Thursday. Censuses are controversial in Nigeria because rival ethnic and religious groups have in the past tried to use them to assert their numerical superiority and claim a larger share of oil revenues and political representation. Nigeria initially planned to hold the census last year but it was scrapped due to growing insecurity, especially in the north where an Islamist insurgency and kidnappings for ransom have been raging. Insecurity remains a challenge as gunmen step up attacks and kidnappings, the latest coming last Sunday when 154 people were killed and dozens kidnapped during an attack in northern Plateau state. Reuters

Ukraine War Increases U.N. Food Agency’s Costs in Hunger-Hit West Africa
Operational costs of the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) will increase by $136 million in West Africa this year because of the global rise in food and fuel prices driven by the war in Ukraine, the agency said on Thursday. The additional costs will hamper attempts to relieve a spiralling food crisis in the region fuelled by conflict, drought, pandemic-linked border closures and the impact of Ukraine’s crisis on food prices and availability. The WFP was already struggling to expand its response to an “unprecedented food and nutrition crisis” in West Africa, and was forced to cut rations in seven countries because of lack of funding even before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. “With the unfolding conflict in Ukraine, ports and suppliers are no longer accessible with shipments from the wider Black Sea delayed or simply cancelled,” WFP Regional Director Chris Nikoi said in a statement. Reuters

Somalia Swears In Lawmakers in Step to Choosing New Leader
Somalia on Thursday inaugurated 290 new lawmakers, bringing the country a step closer to completing a prolonged electoral process marred by alleged corruption and irregularities. The swearing-in ceremony was held in the capital’s heavily fortified Halane military camp, protected by sandbagged fences and high concrete walls. Somali police and African Union troops were deployed to the surrounding areas, putting Mogadishu under lockdown. Dozens more legislators are yet to be selected and sworn in. Later the lawmakers will elect speakers and deputies for both parliamentary chambers before they sit to choose a new president. AP

UN Agencies Warn of Looming Famine in Somalia, Call for More Funding
Drought and increasing food prices are putting millions of people in Somalia at risk of famine, several United Nations agencies have warned, and the country is not receiving the amount of aid it needs to address the crisis, as other global emergencies are being funded. Six million Somalis, or about forty percent of the population, are “on the brink”, said the World Food Programme, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the OCHA humanitarian agency and UNICEF Tuesday, calling the coincidence of poor rainfall and increased global food prices a “perfect storm that could very quickly lead to famine.” RFI

Activists Urge Release of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Rusesabagina
Rights activists and others are urging Rwandan authorities to free the man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” saying his health is failing after an appeals court upheld his 25-year jail term for terror offenses. Paul Rusesabagina, who holds Belgian citizenship and U.S. residency, is credited with sheltering a group of ethnic Tutsi during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. He was convicted in September on charges including membership in a terrorist group, murder and abduction. Rusesabagina is a well-known critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and lived in exile in the U.S. Some activists who spoke Wednesday during an online event in support of Rusesabagina said the U.S. could do more to free the 67-year-old recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. They also appealed to the compassion of Rwandan authorities. AP

WHO: COVID Cases, Deaths in Africa Drop to Lowest Levels Yet
The number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Africa have dropped to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, marking the longest decline yet seen in the disease, according to the World Health Organization. In a statement on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said COVID-19 infections due to the Omicron surge had “tanked” from a peak of more than 308,000 weekly cases to fewer than 20,000 last week. Cases and deaths fell by 29 percent and 37 percent respectively in the last week; deaths decreased to 239 from the previous week. “This low level of infection has not been seen since April 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic in Africa,” WHO said, noting that no country in the region is currently seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases. The agency warned, however, that with winter approaching for southern hemisphere countries, “there is a high risk of another wave of new infections.” Al Jazeera

Humanitarians Cheer Generous Aid to Ukraine but Fear Cost to Other Crises
International relief agencies say they welcome the global outpouring of aid for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion but worry that the crisis is diverting attention and finances from equally urgent humanitarian emergencies in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. The vast scale of the refugee crisis has generated “an extraordinary response” in compassion and aid, an official with the international charity Save the Children said. “The level of both financial support that has poured into Save the Children, to other international NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and U.N. agencies … support coming from the U.S. government, the solidarity, the flags waved the Ukrainian colors — I mean, it’s just an extraordinary level of support,” said Gregory Ramm, who oversees humanitarian response for the charity and is based in Washington. But “there are many crises that are neglected,” he added. “Right now, we have a world facing conflict, facing the climate crisis, COVID, and yet it is difficult to get the world’s attention to Sudan, to eastern Congo, to Yemen, to the Sahel, to those places where children are suffering in the same way that the children of Ukraine are suffering.” Voice of America



Photo: Adam Jones