Africa Media Review for April 28, 2021

The Dismantling of Benin’s Democracy
President Patrice Talon’s manipulation of electoral rules and cooption of democratic processes have caused Benin to slide quickly from a multi-party democracy to a semi-authoritarian regime, portending heightened instability. Benin’s April 11 presidential election was a quiet affair. There was little media attention or sensational developments. Indeed, the outcome was a foregone conclusion following President Patrice Talon’s effective barring of serious competitors. The resulting boycott led to an estimated 26-percent voter turnout. The polls were both literally and figuratively quiet. Also muted were any objections from regional actors. … These events have shown that democracy does not only die with a bang at the hands of coup leaders but that it can be swiftly and silently legislated into a skeleton of its former self absent a joint domestic and international effort to block such an outcome. The consequences in Benin’s case are particularly painful given that the country was not long ago a proud beacon of democracy globally. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Somalia’s President Drops Bid for Extended Term after Chaos
Somalia’s president early Wednesday bowed to growing opposition to his extended stay in office, urging a return to negotiations on the country’s delayed election and vowing that the sight of rival soldiers clashing in the streets of the capital would not happen again. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed delivered the national address after midnight following fast-moving events that saw two key regional states object to his two-year extension and the prime minister welcome their action. The president did not resign, as some expected, but he said he will speak to parliament on Saturday to inform them of developments. He had faced growing opposition after the lower house of parliament approved the extension of his mandate and he signed it into law, to the fury of Senate leaders who called the move illegal. Now he is ready to go ahead with elections based on the Sept. 17 agreement between his government and regional states, which the international community had emphasized. AP

Thousands Demonstrate in Chad against Military Transition
Thousands protested and [at least] two people were killed in Chad Tuesday in demonstrations against the rule of a transitional military council headed by the son of the late President Idriss Deby Itno, who died last week. Authorities also detained several protesters and journalists. Many of the journalists were later released. … Demonstrators carried signs demanding that power be handed to civilians. … Authorities also detained several protesters and journalists. Many of the journalists were later released. … France and Congo strongly condemned “the crackdown on protests” in Chad and called for the end to all violence, in a joint statement issued Tuesday. The presidencies of both countries expressed their support for an “inclusive transition process, open to all Chadian political forces, led by a civilian government” with the aim to organize elections within 18 months. French President Emmanuel Macron and Congo President Felix Tshisekedi issued the statement following a meeting the two leaders had in Paris on Tuesday. AP

2 Spanish Journalists and an Irish Ranger Killed in Burkina Faso Ambush
Two Spanish journalists making a documentary about anti-poaching efforts and an Irish ranger were kidnapped and killed in Burkina Faso, according to the Spanish government and a wildlife conservation organization, following recent warnings by the authorities about a possible resurgence of attacks in the West African nation. The killings on Monday came as violence is increasing in Burkina Faso and the security situation in the Sahel is deteriorating, especially in the border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Burkina Faso has seen attacks from many armed groups, several of them linked to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. … The two journalists were part of a group of 40 who were ambushed on Monday in a nature reserve in eastern Burkina Faso near the border with Benin, said Arancha González Laya, Spain’s foreign minister. … Last year was the deadliest for militant Islamist violence in the region, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a U.S. Defense Department research institution. About 4,250 people were killed — a 60 percent increase over 2019 — with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara linked to more than half of the deaths. The New York Times

More Than a Dozen Killed in Attacks in North Burkina Faso, Says Local Source
Gunmen killed at least 15 people in an overnight raid on several villages in northern Burkina Faso, an elected local official said Tuesday. “Armed individuals carried out a murderous raid on Monday on villages and hamlets in the Seytenga area killing about 15 people,” the official, who asked not to be named, told AFP from the nearby major Sahel town of Dori, close to Niger. He said Yatakou village was the first to be attacked and “at least 10 people died” there while five more were killed at Sofokel. Most of the dead were men, he added. A security source confirmed a “series of attacks” and reported casualties but gave no figures. Troops have been despatched to secure the area and supervise the removal of the bodies, the source said. AFP

Record 29 Million in the Sahel in Need of Humanitarian Assistance
A record 29 million people in six countries of the unrest-hit Sahel region are in need of humanitarian assistance in the face of “unparalleled” insecurity and growing hunger, the United Nations and NGOs have warned. In a statement released on Tuesday, the signatories said another five million people were now in need of assistance in Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and northeastern Nigeria compared with last year. In recent years, large parts of the western Sahel, a semi-arid region directly south of the Sahara Desert, have been plagued by violence that involves multiple armed groups, military campaigns by national armies and international partners as well as local militias. “The conflict in Sahel is growing wider, more complex and involving more armed actors,” said Xavier Creach, Sahel coordinator for the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) and deputy director for West and Central Africa. “Civilians end up paying the price as they face an increasing number of deadly attacks, gender-based violence, extortion or intimidation, and are forced to flee, often multiple times.” Al Jazeera

Dozens of Militants Killed in French-Malian Army Operation
A military operation this week by Malian and French forces in war-torn central Mali eliminated 26 militants, the Sahel state’s army said on Tuesday. Mali’s military command said in a statement that the operation took place early Monday in Alatona, near the border with Mauritania. The operation targeted militants who had staged an ambush on Saturday, according to the statement, which did not provide details on that attack. French and Malian troops launched a counter-attack after determining their location. Soldiers “neutralised 26 terrorists” in the joint operation, according to Mali’s army, and also destroyed two pick-up trucks and captured “a large quantity” of arms. AFP

Jihadists Kill 12 Soldiers in Chad: Governor
Fighting between the army and jihadists in the Lake Chad region on Tuesday left at least 12 Chadian dead, a provincial governor told AFP. Mahamat Fadoul Mackaye said 40 Islamist fighters were also killed following the attack on an army position in the marshy region used as a rear base by jihadist groups including Nigeria-based Boko Haram and a dissident branch, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). “The defence forces responded vigorously to chase away the enemy, which left 40 bodies and weapons, but we mourn the loss of 12 soldiers,” Mackaye told AFP by telephone. Both Boko Haram and ISWAP regularly target the army as well as civilians. ISWAP split from Boko Haram in 2016 and became a dominant group, launching attacks on military bases and ambushing troops while abducting travellers at bogus checkpoints. Tuesday’s fighting took place at dawn between the towns of Ngouboua and Kaiga, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital N’Djamena, a high-ranking security forces official said, requesting anonymity. AFP

“Nation Is on Fire”: Nigerian Lawmakers Demand Action on Security Crisis
Nigeria’s parliament called on the presidency, armed forces and police to address the country’s mounting security crisis on Tuesday, with the lower house urging President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency. The resolutions come as a wave of violence and lawlessness sweeps across Africa’s largest economy. Security forces, including the military deployed across most of Nigeria’s states, have shown little ability to stem the tide. “The president should immediately declare a state of emergency on security so as to fast track all measures to ensure the restoration of peace in the country,” said a resolution passed by the lower house. In the northwest, gunmen have kidnapped more than 700 schoolchildren since December, as militants pillage communities in the region. Earlier on Tuesday, Rivers state, in Nigeria’s oil-producing heartland, said it will ban people crossing its borders at night due to insecurity. Reuters

Help Us Tackle Insecurity in Nigeria, Buhari Urges US
Overwhelmed by the recent spike in national and regional insecurity, embattled Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the United States for assistance to tackle insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and secessionist violence. President Buhari on Tuesday had a virtual meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, amidst clamour at home for the President to seek foreign assistance to deal with the spreading violence. He also asked the international community to support Nigeria and the sub-region in tackling growing security challenges to avoid spill-overs. … Blinken said he was pleased to make Nigeria part of his “first virtual visit to Africa,” noting that Nigeria and the United States of America, share a lot in bilateral issues. He said the US would engage Nigeria on “how to build our economies back after the Covid-19 pandemic, security for vulnerable communities, and climate issues.” The EastAfrican

Southern African Countries May Help Mozambique Fight Rebels
The 16-nation Southern African Development Community is considering a proposal to deploy more than 2,500 regional troops to help battle extremist rebels in northern Mozambique. The proposed military support to Mozambique will be considered on Thursday at a summit meeting of regional leaders in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo. The regional group should provide ground soldiers as well as air and naval support to help Mozambique defeat the insurgency in its northern Cabo Delgado province, recommended a SADC military mission that visited northern in a report seen by The Associated Press. Mozambique needs help with logistics, intelligence, and boots on the ground to retake territory currently held by the extremist rebels, including the strategic port town of Mocímboa da Praia, which has been under insurgent control since August 2020, says the report. The mission’s proposal is signed by Botswanan Brigadier Michael Mukokomani, chief of staff of the SADC Standby Force whose deployment is being recommended. AP

Botswana President in Self-Quarantine, To Miss Meeting on Mozambique Attacks
Botswana’s president will miss a Southern African regional meeting he had been due to chair on Thursday to discuss recent attacks on Mozambique after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, prompting him to self-quarantine, his office said on Tuesday. Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique will be attending a summit of a division of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), where they will receive a report on how they can help Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province following Islamic State-linked attacks there. Botswana is the current chair of that division, which is tasked with promoting peace and security in the region. Vice President Slumber Tsogwane will lead Botswana’s delegation to the summit, the president’s press secretary, Batlhalefi Leagajang, said in a statement. Reuters

UK Sanctions 22 People Linked to Notorious Graft Cases
The United Kingdom has issued sanctions and travel bans against 22 individuals from South Sudan, South Africa, Sudan and Russia for their involvement in notorious corruption. The development came after the UK parliament on Monday enacted a new Global Anti-Corruption Regulation – a historic law that gives the UK powers to prevent those involved in corruption from travelling to the UK or using its financial system. Those on the sanctions list include: brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their associate, South African businessman Salim Essa, for their roles in serious corruption. In a statement released Monday evening, UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the four were at the heart of a long-running process of corruption in South Africa which caused significant damage to its economy. The four are facing similar sanctions issued by the United States Treasury in 2019. They are accused of using their friendship with Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former president, to profit financially and influence ministerial appointments.Also on the list is Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali, widely known as Al Cardinal, for his involvement in the misappropriation of significant amounts of state assets. “This diversion of resources in collusion with South Sudanese elites has contributed to ongoing instability and conflict,” Secretary Raab said. The East African

Blinken Presses Kenya on Refugees and Democracy in Virtual Meeting
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday implored Kenya to relax its planned closure of refugee camps even as Washington promised more funding to help those fleeing trouble in the region. In a virtual meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Blinken reiterated his government’s support for Kenya’s refugee protection, security and health. … Also discussed was Kenya’s elevated role in regional peace and security as a member of the UN Security Council. Other matters discussed by President Kenyatta and Secretary Blinken were human rights, refugees, health and climate change,” said Kanze Dena Mararo, the State House Spokesperson. … Earlier, Blinken used a virtual session with African youth to call for more opportunities for the young on the continent, and issued an indirect jab at China’s opaque operations. In a virtual meeting with the alumni of Young African Leaders Initiative [YALI], Blinken said Africa’s youthful population will remain its biggest resource, as long as governments run programmes that are inclusive and provide opportunities. … Blinken called for open democratic governance and inclusivity in order to contribute to the growth of African economies. The EastAfrican