Africa Media Review for April 21, 2022

Housing Crisis Propels High Death Toll in South Africa Floods
South Africa suffered one of the worst natural disasters in its recorded history when last week’s storms in the Durban area killed at least 448 people, destroyed thousands of homes and left behind shocking scenes of devastation. Shipping containers were toppled like Legos onto a major highway. Vacation houses, their support pillars washed away, dangled from mud-streaked hillsides. Tin shack homes were buried. Some scientists attribute the intensity of the storms to climate change. But the catastrophe has underscored an often overlooked reality of the fight against extreme weather: Protecting people is as much about tackling social issues as environmental ones. The failure of government leaders in South Africa to resolve a longstanding housing crisis — fueled by poverty, unemployment and inequality — played a major role in the high death toll from last week’s storms, activists and scholars said. “Very often, not just in South Africa, but in many other developing countries as well, there simply isn’t the money, there’s not the expertise and there isn’t the government will to invest properly in protecting the poorest in society,” said Jasper Knight, a professor of physical geography at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. New York Times

He’s Pro-Russian, Anti-Zelensky and Rallying for Putin in West Africa
He could find no Russian flags at the store, so Ismael Sawadogo asked a tailor to sew three: one to wave on his motorbike, one to wear as a poncho and one in the style of a 1950s diner hat. “I love Putin, Putin, Putin!” he said, stripping off his periwinkle dress shirt in the middle of the roadside shop to slip on the custom white, blue and red stripes. He handed over 5,000 West African CFA francs, or about $8 — almost a quarter of his monthly earnings. “I’m ready for the rally,” he said, grinning. Sawadogo, a 30-year-old seller of children’s toys, said he became a fan of Vladimir Putin last year after watching videos about Russian commandos on Facebook. Interest swelled to passion when extremists overran his childhood village and torched the primary school where his brother taught. Messages flooding his social media feeds blamed France and the West for fueling the bloodshed — while framing Putin as a hero poised to help. “Thank you, Putin,” read one post on his screen. “You are the Jesus of modern times.” Washington Post

First Russian ‘Adviser’ Confirmed Killed in Mali Blast, Report
A Russian national operating alongside Malian soldiers was killed by a roadside bomb in Sahel state, marking the first confirmed death of what in Mali are officially described as Russian military instructors. According to an army document seen by AFP, a Malian army unit accompanied by a “Russian adviser” struck an improvised explosive device near the town of Hombori on Tuesday. The Russian adviser died after being airlifted to the central Malian town of Sevare, the Malian army memo said. An official at a hospital in Sevare, who asked not to be named, confirmed the death and said the Russian was in his 30s. An elected official in central Mali, who also requested anonymity, said that he had “learned of the death of a Wagner agent.” Al Jazeera

UN Investigators Denied Access to Site of Mali Killings
The United Nations says it is “extremely concerned” that Mali has not allowed independent investigators to visit the town of Moura, where local troops and suspected Russian mercenaries allegedly killed hundreds of civilians. At the end of March, a five-day “military operation” in the central Malian town of Moura reportedly left at least 300 men dead. There are further allegations that civilians were summarily executed during the raid on the town of about 10,000 inhabitants that had been infiltrated by Islamist militants. Survivors claim that white mercenaries – suspected to be Russians – took part in the massacre that sparked international outrage, prompting the UN to open an investigation. RFI

Nigeria: Experts Kick Over ‘Inaction’ Three Weeks After Kaduna Train Bombing, Abduction
Three weeks after the train bombing that claimed several lives and kidnapping of dozens along the Abuja-Kaduna corridor, stakeholders in the security sector have blasted government over its supposed lukewarm posture to the rescue of the abducted victims. Recently, many Nigerians had knocked the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for building a rail system without adhering to international best practice by putting in place a top-notch security infrastructure. Security expert, Frank Oshanugo, observed: “The fact that three weeks after the attack on the train and abducted passengers are yet to be rescued by security agencies is a clear evidence that Nigeria is a failed state.  It is only a failed country that would take the lives and security of its citizens for granted…National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said: “The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 as amended in Section 14(2)(B) states that the primary duty of government is the protection of life and property of the citizens. Further up the same section, we are told that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from where those holding public offices derive legitimacy to exercise authority.” He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sack his National Security Adviser, Minister of Defence and the IGP due to what he called, “their collective incapacity or unwillingness to act with available intelligence to degrade, decapitate the operational capacity of these terrorists means that they know something that many of us don’t know, and they are not doing the duties for which they were being paid.” Guardian Nigeria

Nigeria: Buhari Meets ICC Prosecutor, Says Boko Haram Not About Religion, Ethnicity
President Muhammadu Buhari says Boko Haram insurgency has neither religious nor ethnic underpinning, and that with adequate education, majority of Nigerians now know the truth. The president stated this when he received the Chief Prosecutor of International Criminal Court (ICC), Karin Khan, at the State House, Abuja, on Wednesday. He said that with concerted public enlightenment, it had become clear to Nigerians that Boko Haram was a perversion of religion rather than an Islamic ideology. He said: “God is justice. You can’t kill innocent people and shout ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is great). It’s either you don’t know that God at all or you are simply being stupid. “To say that Western education is unacceptable (Haram) is very fraudulent. That is why we are fighting them and educating the people, and we are succeeding a lot. “We came to office when things were very bad but we are educating the people. Education is fundamental. Religion and ethnicity are out of it. “Some people have just made it a lifestyle to cause confusion, destruction and death.” On his part, the ICC prosecutor said that extremism was like cancer “which spreads and can also recede.’’ According to him, what Boko Haram does in collaboration with Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) “is perversion of religion.” NAN

Analysis: In Guinea Bissau, April Brings Reminders of Instability
April has always been a significant month in Guinea Bissau’s political calendar. In April 1974, soldiers in Portugal began the Carnation Revolution, which ended the war its reluctant army had been waging against independence fighters in five of its colonies, including Guinea Bissau. April 2014 saw the death of Kumba Yalá, the first president to come from the opposition since independence in 1974. During his three-year-stint in office until being overthrown in a 2003 coup, Yalá proved to be as dysfunctional and unpredictable as his nemesis, three-time President João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira…The thread connecting these events is the military. Freedom fighters were central to the independence struggle and to the African Independence Party for Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), the party that led the struggle. The military has always been close to the heart of Guinea Bissau’s politics and its patronage systems, which were initially fuelled by proceeds from the country’s principal export – cashew – and the aid money that started flowing in after independence. But in recent decades, a much larger business model emerged with the arrival of cocaine. Latin American drug barons found Guinea Bissau’s “un-patrolled” coast an excellent place for the transhipment of their wares, on their way to the rich markets of Europe. Al Jazeera

Italy Signs Gas Deal With Angola in a Bid To Boycott Russia
Italy on Wednesday penned a deal with Angola to ramp up gas supplies from the southern African country as it urgently scrambles to break away from Russian gas over the Ukraine war. A declaration of intent was signed to develop “new” natural gas ventures and to increase exports to Italy, a statement from the Italian foreign minister announced. “Today we have reached another important agreement with Angola to increase gas supplies,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in the statement. “Italy’s commitment to differentiate energy supply sources is confirmed,” said Di Maio at the end of a two-and-half-hour long visit to Luanda. Prime Minister Mario Draghi wants to add Angola and Congo-Brazzaville to a portfolio of suppliers to substitute Russia, which provides about 45 percent of Italian gas. “We do not want to depend on Russian gas any longer, because economic dependence must not become political subjection,” he said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera daily published on Sunday. “Diversification is possible and can be implemented in a relatively short amount of time — quicker than we imagined just a month ago,” he said. AfricaNews with AFP

South Africa’s EFF Leads Peaceful Protests at Eswatini Borders
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South Africa’s third-largest political party, has organised peaceful protests along the country’s borders in the KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces with the neighbouring Eswatini. Tuesday’s protests, the EFF said, were part of renewed efforts to raise awareness about “ongoing repression against pro-democracy protests in Eswatini.” EFF spokesman Sinawo Tambo told Al Jazeera, “We closed the borders to show [King] Mswati that borders are merely fences and that if the EFF and many South Africans resolve to pledge our concrete solidarity with the people of Eswatini, we would flood the borders which separate us and deliver freedom to our people.” King Mswati III, who came to power at the age of 18 in 1986, has ruled Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, for 36 years. Since May 2021, the Southern African country has been plagued by civil unrest and violent demonstrations against its ruler following reports that a 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, had been killed by the kingdom’s police. And the show of support by the South Africans is being applauded by their neighbours. “We appreciate the solidarity shown by the EFF,” said Lungelo Dube, a human rights activist from Eswatini. “It sends a strong message of our rejection of the current regime to the international community.” “The people of Swaziland can not breathe,” he continued. “We want accountability, we want the lives of our people to matter. We want the quality of life to increase for our people. Democracy is long overdue.” Al Jazeera

Sudan: Cold Shoulder for UN, Warm Embrace for Russia
Six months after the military-led coup, which eventually ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and put a military government in place, Sudan is again at crossroads. Chances are high that the UN-led democratic process that followed the coup is about to end, and with it civil society’s hopes for a government without military leadership.  In response to a recent  speech by Volker Perthes, the head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan, Sudan’s military head General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and other military members have been calling for a “jihad” against Perthes, and have threatened to “expel the UN special representative” from the country. Perthes had said that “in the absence of a political agreement to return to an accepted transitional path, the economic situation, the humanitarian situation, and the security situation are deteriorating.” The military’s harsh rhetoric has reached such a fever pitch that the UN has now officially called to stop the “hate speech.”  The true reason behind these heated exchanges is becoming increasingly evident. While Sudan’s military is turning its back to any possible democratic road map under UN leadership, the country has been quietly moving closer to its fellow autocratic ally, Russia. DW

Ethiopians Line Up at Russian Embassy As Officials Deny Recruitment Effort
Hundreds of Ethiopians reportedly have been been lined up for days outside the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa this week in hopes of being recruited to fight for Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine. But the embassy has dismissed claims it is recruiting foreign fighters and says the Ethiopians are there to show their solidarity with Russia. Witnesses say the embassy is not bringing the hopefuls inside but say staffers have come outside to take documents. Feleke Gebrekidan was among the Ethiopians who have spent long hours waiting outside the embassy. He has military experience, he said, having served in the Ethiopian military for over a decade. He said the would-be recruits are former members of the Ethiopian army, who do not have jobs at the moment. Having heard that the Russian embassy is currently recruiting, he said he and other came with their credentials. He said he even brought the clearance he received after serving in the military. Voice of America

Central African Republic: UN Condemns Recent Attacks on Humanitarians in Central African Republic
The top UN humanitarian official in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Wednesday underlined the need for safe access to vulnerable people following two recent attacks against aid organizations operating in the south of the country. Denise Brown, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the CAR, was deeply shocked and dismayed by the attacks, which occurred on 7 and 9 April. Six aid workers and a health district worker were injured, one seriously. The attacks forced one humanitarian organization to suspend its mobile clinics and activities to improve access to clean water for some 11,000 people in remote areas in Basse-Kotto prefecture. “Every time humanitarians come under attack, the lives of thousands of vulnerable people are at risk. Aid workers who assist people under extremely difficult conditions must not be attacked,” said Ms. Brown…The country is among the most challenging for aid workers, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, and security incidents hamper delivery of desperately needed aid. Between 1 January and 15 April of this year, some 43 incidents affecting humanitarian organizations there were recorded, with 11 aid workers injured. Last year, at least one incident per day was recorded, half of which were burglaries, robberies and intrusions. “Civilians are the primary victims of the conflict in the Central African Republic and humanitarian assistance is a matter of life and death for millions of people. Humanitarians who come to their rescue in a neutral and impartial manner must be granted free and safe access,” said Ms. Brown. UN News Service

Imagining African Governance Futures in 2063
The African Governance Report on Africa’s Governance Futures for the Africa We Want was recently launched in Cape Town. The African Union (AU) African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and African Governance Architecture Platform (AGA) developed the report in partnership with the Institute for Futures Research (IFR) at the Stellenbosch University Business School, alongside other academic and research centre partners. The report imagines possible futures of African governance in 2063 using the AU Agenda 2063 Aspirations as a yardstick. Four developed scenarios are presented focusing on the best, worst, surprise and baseline case of African governance future possibilities in the next four decades. The various futures described in the 2063 African governance scenarios are possibilities that may result as an outcome of today’s policy decisions and implementation of strategic actions. The scenarios are intended to enrich the debate and to broaden engagement on the best governance approaches and models fit for purpose to achieve the African future we want. Mail & Guardian

The 77 Percent — Why Is Gambia Pushing Women Out of Politics?
[Video] In The Gambia, only five women made it to the 58-member Parliament after recent elections. Despite women making up more than half of the Gambian population, they account for less than 9% of lawmakers. The erosion of women’s participation in national politics, has angered gender activists who are determined to turn this tide. Listen to this week’s 77 Percent to find out more. DW



Photo: Adam Jones