Africa Media Review for April 19, 2023

Lessons from South Africa for Holding Leaders Accountable
The ongoing inquiry into the allegation that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa may have broken a string of South African laws when about $580,000 was found stuffed in a sofa in his Phala Phala luxury game ranch in February 2020 is a reminder of the perpetual challenge of holding senior government officials accountable. I … Often underappreciated in the back-and-forth of the so-called farmgate scandal are the multiple layers of inquiry and oversight of the South African executive branch that have helped raise public awareness of possible wrongdoing and which serve as a measure of accountability on powerful public officials. While incomplete and at times tenuous, these institutional checks and balances provide insight into South Africa’s democratic resiliency despite the dominance of the ANC—and offer a roadmap to other African countries seeking to strengthen accountability of senior government leaders. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Sudan Was Due to Have a 24-Hour Truce. It Was Quickly Shattered by More Heavy Fighting.
Heavy gunfire shattered a 24-hour truce in Sudan on Tuesday shortly after it was due to take effect under US pressure on warring military factions to halt fighting that has touched off a humanitarian crisis. Loud shooting reverberated in the background of live feeds by Arab television news channels in the Khartoum capital region minutes after the agreed 18:00 onset of the ceasefire. Warplanes were roaring in the skies above Khartoum, a Reuters reporter heard tanks firing shortly after the truce was due to take hold, and a resident told Reuters he heard an air strike being carried out in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city on the opposite bank of the Nile river. Several witnesses reported a large army ground force entering the city from the east. The regular army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) issued statements accusing each other of failing to respect the ceasefire. The army’s high command said it would continue operations to secure the capital and other regions. “We have not received any indications here that there’s been a halt in the fighting,” United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told a news briefing in New York. Reuters

Risk of Regional Powers Picking Sides Raises Stakes in Battle for Sudan
As troops loyal to two Sudanese strongmen battled for control of the country for a fourth day, diplomats were working to prevent any risk of regional powers being dragged into the conflict. “One of the worst things that can happen is that this becomes a regional conflict where countries in the neighbourhood intervene on behalf of either of the parties,” said Endre Stiansen, Norway’s ambassador to Sudan, whose Khartoum residence was hit by a missile on Sunday. As the international airport close to the embassy came under a heavy bombardment – which Stiansen called a “barrage like nothing I’ve ever heard” – the diplomat said there was a risk of regional powers taking sides. “You can have a divided country if this is not handled properly,” he warned. Egypt is a long-term backer of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s armed forces and de facto leader, against Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, according to Kholood Khair, director of the Confluence Advisory think-tank in Khartoum. … Fighting has raged since the weekend between the military loyal to Burhan and the RSF under Hemeti’s command, sparking fears of civil war. At least 180 people have been killed and some 1,800 injured, according to the UN. FT

West Africa and Sahel: Food Insecurity, Malnutrition, Set to Reach 10-Year High
For the first time in the Sahel, 45,000 people are at risk of experiencing catastrophic levels of hunger, or one step away from famine, they said. The majority, 42,000, are in Burkina Faso and Mali, where violent unrest in some areas has hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid. … The number of people who do not have regular access to safe and nutritious food is expected to reach 48 million during the lean season from June to August, according to the latest analysis from Cadre Harmonisé, an early warning tool used by humanitarians. This represents a fourfold increase in the last five years, and the results further confirm a longer-term trend towards a geographic expansion of food security. … The data further showed that 16.5 million children under five are set to face acute malnutrition this year, including nearly five million who are at risk of debilitating severe malnutrition. Their numbers represent a staggering 83 percent rise in global acute malnutrition compared to the 2015 to 2022 average. … “Growing insecurity and conflict means vulnerability is increasing in the region, and it is getting harder to help communities in isolated areas,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, Regional Director for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UN News

More than Mercenaries: Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa
“Wagner itself has developed over time as an organization that’s gone from being a purely private military contracting entity into a multiplicity of business alliances and relations, and a network of companies. Some of them front companies across the countries in which they operate on the African continent,” analyst Julian Rademeyer told DW recently at the Munich Security Conference. “It operates in this legal gray zone between illicit activities and more legal illicit activities. And it straddled those quite, quite effectively.” Sudan has long been a particular focus for Wagner mercenaries, and there are many of them there. Back during the rule of the dictator Omar al-Bashir, who was in power from 1993 to 2019, licences already went to the Russian firm “M-Invest,” which is probably under the control of oligarchs, including Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin. This led to Wagner members being given the job of protecting the M-Invest gold mines in Sudan. … International research has found that the Wagner brand is active in areas that extend far beyond security. In July, All Eyes on Wagner partnered with 11 European media outlets to uncover how the group has been raking in massive profits with precious tropical timber from the Central African Republic. According to the report, the government in Bangui granted a subsidiary unrestricted logging rights across 187,000 hectares (722 square miles). DW

Gunmen Attack Village, Kill Dozens in Northwest Nigeria
Gunmen suspected to be Fulani herders have killed 33 people in an attack on a farming village in northwest Nigeria’s Kaduna state, where intercommunal herder-farmer violence is common, a local official told AFP Tuesday. The assailants stormed Runji village in Zangon Kataf district at around 1900 GMT on Saturday, opening fire on residents and torching homes as people tried to flee, Francis Sani, administrative chairman for the Zangon Kataf area said. “We buried 33 people killed in the attack on Sunday, including women and children,” Sani told AFP by telephone. … Six people were also injured in the attack, which happened three days after a similar attack in nearby Atak’Njei community killed eight people, Sani added. Insecurity will be one of the major challenges for President-elect Bola Tinubu, who won the presidential ballot in February marred by technical problems and opposition claims of vote-rigging. Defense Post with AFP

Nigeria: Osinbajo Faults ‘Weaponisation’ of Ethnic, Religious Bias for Political Purposes
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has urged Nigerians to do away with playing the cards of ethnic and religious prejudices for political purposes. Osinbajo made this call while speaking on Monday at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru in Plateau State as he delivered a lecture entitled Creating a Homeland for All: Nation Building in a diverse democracy. He also urged Nigerians to exploit the country’s socio-cultural diversity for national unity and peaceful co-existence especially with the nation going through post-election cases. Osinbajo faulted the “weaponization” of ethnic and religious biases for political purposes, adding that democratic competition was defined by societal socio-cultural diversity. He said leaders do not “have the luxury of toying with prejudice”, adding that they “have a duty to conduct themselves with a high sense of responsibility even as they prosecute the contest for power”. … “Is it possible to conquer ethnic or religious prejudices and build a unified nation? Yes it is, but it is a journey, not an event; and it is perhaps the most important issue in nation-building,” Osinbajo said. The Guardian

Tanzania Signs Multimillion-Dollar Deals for Mining Projects
Tanzania is positioning itself as a solution for countries looking to be less dependent on China for critical raw materials while accelerating plans for a more sustainable economy. “These minerals are promoting Tanzania’s name worldwide and even the world’s powerful countries are looking at Tanzania. In the future, our country will be a production hub of these minerals which will stimulate investment,” President Samia Suluhu Hassan said at the signing of multimillion-dollar agreements with three Australian mining companies. The agreements, signed this week with Peak Rare Earths, Evolution Energy Minerals and Ecograf, outlined arrangements for the projects’ ownership, development and management. According to Palamagamba Kabudi, chair of the government’s negotiating team, Tanzania will have a 16% stake in each of the jointly established companies. … The continent has 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, including many minerals essential to the green transition. Bird Story Agency

Who Is Angel, the Zimbabwe Ambassador Involved in Gold Smuggling?
Since March, a documentary by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) has shed light on the illicit gold trade in Southern Africa and money laundering involving powerful figures in the region including Auxilia Mnangagwa, the wife of the Zimbabwean president. The footage exposed how several individuals have taken advantage of Western sanctions targeting government and ruling party officials to smuggle large quantities of gold and launder millions of dollars through a complex web of companies and bribes. In the four-episode documentary, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador At Large Uebert Angel offered to use his diplomatic status to launder millions of dollars through a gold smuggling scheme, for undercover reporters posing as Asian criminals. “You want gold, gold we can do it right now, we can make the call right now, and it’s done,” Angel told Al Jazeera’s reporters. Al Jazeera

In Grim Drought, Tunisians Ration Water in State-Ordered Ban
It’s a feeble drip, drip, drip from the taps every night in Tunisia for six months. Spigots are cut off for seven hours from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. in a state-ordered water rationing in most regions across the country, including Tunis, the capital city. Tunisians are on the front lines of a battle against an increasingly severe drought, now in its fifth year in the north African country, with the government issuing a sudden order to its population to ration their water usage from April to September — or risk fines or jail. Households now need a supply of bottled water to wash, use toilets and prepare meals during late night hours. Authorities have also forbidden the use of potable water for irrigation of farmlands, watering green areas in cities and for cleaning streets and cars. Water levels at almost all of Tunisia’s 30-plus dams have fallen drastically, some as low as 17% of their storage capacity. … Human-caused climate change, which is burning up the planet, has made droughts worldwide more likely, with higher-than-average temperatures drying up land and altering rainfall patterns. AP

Why China Is Building Africa’s New Parliaments
Zimbabwe’s new parliament gives an architectural nod to the country’s famous ancient ruins; Lesotho’s has a design resembling a “mokorotlo,” the conical straw hat that’s part of national dress; and Malawi’s has a dome that looks like a calabash. These local elements make these modern parliaments notable departures from southern Africa’s old European-style legislatures built in colonial times, but in fact the new buildings were also designed and built by a foreign power: China. Despite the African design elements, the imposing buildings aren’t that different from China’s own brutalist architecture, and stand out in developing countries, some of which, like Malawi, are among the poorest in the world. … China has so far built or refurbished parliaments in some 15 African countries, including the Republic of Congo, Liberia, Mozambique, the Seychelles and Guinea Bissau, as well as other government buildings such as Burundi’s presidential palace and the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia. … “It provides a way of hedging their bets,” says Batsani-Ncube. Even in political systems dominated by one party, he notes, there’s occasional leadership turnover and “it’s not enough to target the guy who’s in power now, you have to play the long game.” Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, echoes that idea, saying “it affords China the opportunity to cultivate local elites.” VOA