Africa Media Review for April 18, 2022

Mercenaries Extend Russia’s Influence in Africa
It’s the latest account of Russia’s growing military influence across certain African nations battling armed rebels. The Wagner Group is connected to conflicts in the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Mozambique, among others. Security observers say the Wagner Group’s lack of accountability and track record of human rights violations remain a cause for concern and illustrate Russia’s clout in the region…Across Africa, Wagner’s activities are only part of Russia’s campaign to restore Soviet-era partnerships. Joseph Siegle, director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, said Russia’s narrative portrays it as another world power whose support is not preconditioned on democratic principles or respect for human rights. Siegle said a similar tactic is evident in Russia’s involvement in Syria and other countries. Russia provides military training, equipment, and the Wagner Group’s support to beleaguered leaders facing security challenges in countries with mineral or hydrocarbon assets. The partnerships are paying off: In 2019, 43 African heads of state attended the first-of-its-kind Russia-Africa summit. Between 2015 and 2019, Moscow signed 19 military collaboration agreements with African governments. World

Facebook Struggles As Russia Steps Up Presence in Unstable West Africa
Facebook is struggling to contain pro-Russian and anti-western posts that are contributing to political instability in west Africa, investigators and analysts have said. The platform, which has expanded rapidly across the continent in recent years, has made significant investment in content moderation, but still faces enormous challenges in curbing deliberate disinformation campaigns. One major area of concern is the strategically important Sahel region, which has suffered a series of military takeovers over the last 18 months. Campaigns on Facebook appear to have prepared the ground for many of the coups, pushing an anti-western, pro-Russian agenda that has undermined governments. The efforts are similar to the “hybrid warfare” campaign launched by Moscow in Ukraine and elsewhere. Guardian

New Parliament To Choose a President in Somalia
The newly elected members of Somalia’s Federal parliament have on Saturday convened their first session in Mogadishu to discuss the preparation of the election for the leadership of both houses. The Lower House appointed a 10-member committee consists all MPs while the Senate picked a six-member, including two women, all tasked with organizing of the election of the speakers. No date has been set for the election, but the teams will work around the clock to prepare a swift vote as the country is already behind the schedule of the polls for more than a year due to the political crisis. The 329-member national assembly will choose a new parliament in the coming weeks or months in an indirect ballot in Mogadishu that will culminate months of standoff and delays in the elections. The International community has welcomed a swearing in of the new Somali parliament and called for the completion of the voting process for the remaining Lower House seats in HirShabelle and Jubaland. Shabelle

U.S. Offers Protection to People Who Fled War in Cameroon
The Biden administration announced on Friday that it would offer temporary protected status to nationals of Cameroon, shielding them from deportation and enabling them to obtain work permits, amid escalating armed conflict that has spawned a humanitarian crisis in the African country. Some 40,000 nationals of Cameroon, many of whom sought safe haven in the United States in recent years, are expected to be eligible. The largest communities of people from Cameroon are in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and California. Immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers had been ratcheting up pressure on the Biden administration in recent months to extend the humanitarian protection to Cameroon, especially after the administration moved swiftly when war erupted in Ukraine to offer temporary protected status last month to people from that country who were already in the United States. New York Times

Mali Says ‘Dozen Terrorists’ Killed in Airstrikes
Mali’s military-dominated government says it “neutralized” 203 jihadis in Moura at the end of March, but witnesses interviewed by media and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say soldiers actually killed scores of civilians with the help of foreign fighters. No photos or video to support either the account by Malian authorities or HRW have emerged from Moura since then. The U.N. mission in Mali has for days been asking to be allowed to send a team of investigators to the area but without success. Ruled by a military junta since August 2020, Mali has been in a political crisis since 2012. Voice of America

Nigeria Army Says 70 ‘Terrorists’ Killed in Air Raid
The Nigerian air force says it has killed more than 70 ISIL (ISIS)-affiliated fighters in the north of the country, at the border with Niger, in an air raid. Saturday’s statement said aircraft from Nigeria and Niger took part in the operation. The Lake Chad area, where Nigeria said it launched the air raid, is known for hosting fighters of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an armed group active since 2016. With older rivals Boko Haram, the two factions have killed more than 40,000 people in the past decade. More than two million people are still displaced from their homes due to ongoing violence. Al Jazeera

Joint West African Force Says More Than 100 Insurgents Killed in Recent Weeks
A joint military force from Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon said Sunday it had killed more than 100 Islamist insurgents, including 10 commanders, in the past few weeks, as it intensifies a ground and air offensive in the Lake Chad region. Boko Haram fighters and its splinter Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group have for more than a decade battled the Nigerian army in a conflict that has sucked in neighboring states. Multinational Joint Task Force spokesman Colonel Muhammad Dole said troops had ventured deep into enclaves controlled by insurgents in the Lake Chad area and recovered several weapons, food and illicit drugs. “Within the period of this operation, well over a hundred terrorists have been neutralized, including over 10 top commanders…following intelligence-driven lethal airstrikes in the Lake Chad islands by the combined air task forces,” Dole said. Voice of America

West African Scientists To Boost COVID-19 Vaccine Production
Medical laboratory and research scientists from West Africa are set to chart a course that will assist in building local capacity for the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical products in the sub-region. According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Public Relations and Outreach Lead, CelebrateLAB Conference, Efam Dovi, disclosed this yesterday in a statement in Lagos. Dovi noted that the outbreak of COVID-19 disease saw West Africa, and indeed Africa, suffer inequity in access to masks, diagnostic devices, testing kits and other medical supplies, as well as vaccines. “While health inequity against the continent is not new, the COVID-19 pandemic reopened the conversation on ensuring the continent’s self-sufficiency in healthcare products and solutions through local manufacturing to expand access to healthcare. This effort will require wider collaboration across the region to ensure that the needed expertise and resources are available to create the right environment for product manufacturing. Critical among these initiatives will be building professional expertise in clinical research and health diagnostics to ensure that medical products manufactured in Africa are suitable for Africans,” she said. Guardian Nigeria

Fuel Ship Sinks off Tunisia, Threatening Environmental Disaster
Tunisian authorities intensified efforts Saturday to avoid an environmental disaster after a merchant fuel ship carrying 1,000 tons of fuel sank off the coast of Gabes on Friday, two security sources told Reuters. The Tunisian navy had rescued all seven crew members from the ship, which was heading from Equatorial Guinea to Malta, and sent a distress call seven miles away from southern city of Gabes, the sources added. The cause of the incident was bad weather, the environment ministry said, adding that water had seeped into the ship, reaching a height of two meters. Authorities were working to avoid an environmental disaster and reduce any impact, the ministry said in a statement. It said barriers would be set up to limit the spread of fuel and cordon off the ship, before suctioning the spillage. The coast of Gabes has suffered major pollution for years, with environmental organizations saying industrial plants in the area have been dumping waste directly into the sea. Voice of America

Libya Oil Company Says Field Closed Amid Political Impasse
Libya’s national oil company said Sunday it was forced to shut down an oil field amid a political impasse that threatened to drag the North African nation back into armed conflict. The state-run National Oil Corp. said a group of people entered al-Feel field in the country’s south on Saturday, effectively stopping production. It didn’t say who the people were or whether they were armed…Over the past two months, divisions among Libyan factions have deepened, with militias mobilizing — especially in the western region. That has raised fears that fighting could return after more than 1 1/2 years of relative calm. Sunday’s closure comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has rattled markets worldwide, causing crude oil prices to soar above $106 per barrel. AP

Eritrea Presents New Peace Initiative To End Sudan’s Political Strife
Eritrean government presented Saturday an initiative to the Chairman of the Sovereign Council in Sudan aimed at ending the political strife in the neighbouring country. Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan received, for the second time in six days, an Eritrean delegation including Foreign Minister Osman Saleh, and Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab. The same delegation met Al-Burhan on April 11 to discuss the political situation in Sudan and expressed the Eritrean government’s solidarity with al-Burhan in his efforts to overcome the ongoing crisis. According to a statement issued by the Sovereign Council following the meeting, the delegation handed al-Burhan a message from Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. “The delegation came bearing a vision that aims to bridge the views of the Sudanese parties to resolve the political crisis in the country,” further reads the statement. The initiative was made out of Eritrea’s keenness and desire to establish security and stability in Sudan and the region, further said the Sovereign Council. Sudan Tribune

DR Congo’s Entry in EAC Makes the Militia Menace a Regional Problem
By the time Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi signed the deed to formally join the East African Community, his people had already cited centuries of close ties, thanks to common languages and ethnic groups. “We are similar people. I can speak in my local language and be understood in DRC. And [Rwanda President Paul] Kagame can speak Kinyarwanda and be understood in Rutshuru, DRC. We are a people who are linked. But above all, we have what Europe doesn’t: A common language, Swahili. Why can’t we use all this to work towards two goals: prosperity and sustainable security,” said Uganda President Yoweri Museveni in Nairobi at the signing. These common things and the DRC’s expansive resources and markets mean a new market of more than 90 million people will be added to the bloc of seven members. However, there are fears that a potentially conflicting competition between countries to capture large parts of the new market may in fact become a regional problem of insecurity. At the signing ceremony, leaders spoke of economic ambitions including widening integration. But they were also equally concerned about security at one another’s borders. East African

Central Africa Conflict Special Court: A Breakthrough Facing Challenges
Central African Republic’s Special Criminal Court, a hybrid court of local and foreign magistrates charged with trying war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2003, opens its first trial Tuesday, seven years after its formation. In CAR, the rule of law is threadbare, eroded by decades of civil wars, the last of which began nine years ago and is ongoing. With some two-thirds of the country in militia hands as recently as a year ago, the tribunal has had to overcome a litany of obstacles…President Faustin Archange Touadera is accused by the UN, EU and France of cosying up to Moscow and the Russian private security company Wagner, and of exploiting his country’s vast mineral wealth in exchange for its protection against rebels. While the court has been praised by some as a model of justice prime for exportation to other countries blighted by civil war, others doubt its actual effectiveness. The chief criticism is that it has been slow in opening its first trial of three alleged war criminals. The court was created in 2015 with the backing of the United Nations and is made up of national and international judges and prosecutors from France, Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. On Tuesday it will hear its first trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in May 2019. The defendants are members of one of the most powerful armed groups that have terrorised the population for years, the 3R. They are accused of massacring 46 civilians in villages in the northwest of the country. News24

Malawi Police Accused of Hacking Website of Investigative Media Group
The Media Institute of Southern Africa in Malawi (MISA-Malawi), a watchdog group, has accused the Malawi Police Service of hacking a website for the Platform for Investigative Journalism. The accusation comes after the media organization said Thursday that its website was compromised. Police have denied the allegation, saying the group lacks evidence. The website hacking came more than a week after police arrested the managing director for the Platform for Investigative Journalism, Gregory Gondwe. They wanted to find out where and how he obtained documents he used in a story about corruption involving government authorities. Police could not get Gondwe to reveal the information; however, they did confiscate a mobile phone and laptop belonging to him and forced him to reveal passwords. Gondwe was unconditionally released four hours later due to international pressure, largely from the U.S. and British embassies in Malawi. Police returned his equipment a day later. Voice of America

World Bank Projects Africa Growth To Drop to 3.4pc
Africa’s economic growth is projected to drop to 3.4 percent this year, down 0.6 percentage points from the four percent growth recorded in 2021, due to new macroeconomic shocks. The latest Africa Pulse report, a biannual analysis of Africa’s macroeconomic outlook by the World Bank, released on Wednesday, said inflation and higher costs of living contribute to the decline. According to the report, the decrease is from economic shocks including effects of new Covid-19 variants, inflation, supply disruptions, rising public debt, climate shocks and a general slowdown in the global economy, especially in the US and China. “The slowdown in growth reflects challenges facing Africa prior to the Ukraine crisis, but have been exacerbated by the war,” said Albert Zeufack, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa. East African