Africa Media Review for August 1, 2022

Morocco Builds ‘Ecosystem of Repression’ to Quash Dissent, Report Says
A report by the rights group based on two years of research, released Thursday, argues that in addition to the speech-related charges that the Moroccan government has long used to stifle criticism, authorities increasingly accuse journalists and dissidents of more-serious crimes, such as sexual assault, and sentence them to prison in unfair trials. “Authorities use a playbook of underhanded tactics to repress dissenters while striving to keep intact Morocco’s image as a rights-respecting country,” Lama Fakih, the Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement accompanying the report. Morocco sought in recent decades to portray itself as a regional standout on human rights, beginning in the 1990s, when the late King Hassan II — known for his brutal repression of dissidents — began to soften his rule. “Since then, Morocco has always played as one of its cards, ‘We are moving forward on human rights; we are increasingly democratizing,’ ” said Eric Goldstein, a deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. But the Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia in late 2010, scared the monarchy, and “they decided to basically put the genie back in the bottle.” “Now we’re in a situation where there isn’t really a Moroccan exception,” he said. Still, Morocco has sought to maintain perceptions, Goldstein said — so authorities have turned to the subtler, more sophisticated methods of repression detailed in the report. Washington Post

Busy Schedule for AU Observers with Upcoming Elections in Senegal, Kenya
The African Union (AU) Election Observation Mission is in for a major month of work, with two teams dispatched to Senegal and Kenya where there are upcoming elections. Senegal holds legislative elections on 31 July. The polls, according to the opposition, would be a dress rehearsal for the 2024 presidential elections and if they gain a parliamentary advantage, they will use it to stop President Macky Sall in his tracks from seeking a third term. Then on 9 August, Kenya will hold general elections which will mark the end of the Uhuru Kenyatta presidency…In the upcoming election, Kenyatta is bidding for his former political rival, Raila Odinga. Raila’s father, Jaramogi Odinga, became Kenya’s first post-independence vice-president in 1964. The senior Odinga and Kenyatta would later become political rivals. With Uhuru and Raila born in political aristocracy, their alliance today is seen as a way of cementing dynastic politics in Kenya. News24

Ruling Coalition Claims Senegal Election Win as Opposition Disputes Announcement
Senegal President Macky Sall’s ruling coalition said on Monday it has won 30 of the country’s 46 administrative departments, giving it a slim majority parliament following Sunday’s legislative election. Former prime minister Aminata Toure, who led the ruling coalition’s list in the legislative election announced the partial results on national television from the party’s headquarters early on Monday after Sunday’s vote. “This gives us an unquestionable majority,” Toure said to the cheers of supporters. She did not say how many of the 165 parliamentary seats the party won. Under Senegal’s hybrid electoral system 97 candidates who win a majority of votes in administrative departments are elected, while 53 from national lists are elected using proportional representation, and 15 are elected by Senegalese living outside the country. Barthelemy Dias, mayor of the capital Dakar, and a leader of the main opposition coalition which has been energised by economic hardship and fears of Sall’s third term ambition, immediately disputed the results announced by Toure, warning that it was not her place to announce results of the election. France 24

Why Dangerous Content Thrives on Facebook and TikTok in Kenya
As Facebook and its competitor TikTok grow at breakneck speed in Kenya, and across Africa, researchers say the technology companies are failing to keep pace with a proliferation of terrorist content, hate speech and false information, taking advantage of poor regulatory frameworks to avoid stricter oversight. “It is a deliberate choice to maximize labor and profit extraction, because they view the societies in the Global South primarily as markets, not as societies,” said Nanjala Nyabola, a Kenyan technology and social researcher. About 1 in 5 Kenyans use Facebook, which its parent company last year renamed itself Meta, and TikTok has become one of the most downloaded apps in the country. The prevalence of violent and inflammatory content on the platforms poses real risks in this East African nation, as it prepares for a bitterly contested presidential election next month and deals with the threat of terrorism posed by a resurgent al-Shabab. Washington Post

Kenya: Youth Apathy Sours African Election Fever
Kenya is predominantly young, with youths making up about 80% of the population of 56 million. But many young people seem disinterested in the political and electoral process. Some say this has to do with insufficient information but not everyone agrees. “We cannot say it is a lack of civic education but a lack of solid interest in things that matter,” Edwin Kegoli, a Kenyan political analyst, said. “We don’t want to participate in electoral matters fully but we are the ones who will be on social media platforms complaining about bad governance and the deplorable state of the economy,” he said. “So, we are the first to complain and the last to participate in the national discourse.” Many young people, who also form the bulk of the unemployed, grumble about being marginalised in terms of opportunities. At least 1 million young Kenyans enter the labour market each year but most struggle to get jobs, according to the Kenya Private Sector Alliance. Wilkister Aduma, a youth leader who runs an NGO that supports young people seeking elective seats, said the “political space” had encouraged a climate of “apathy.” “This is why young people have found themselves on that side because what they’re looking at is the opportunities. If they don’t see the opportunities, they don’t relate,” Aduma said.  The political activist said he believed the current economic hardships had also fuelled voter apathy among youths. Others say young people have lost faith in the entire electoral process because of a lack of trust in politicians. Mail & Guardian

Second Round of Parliamentary Elections in Congo-Brazzaville
Voters in the Republic of Congo were voting Sunday to choose 50 candidates in 25 constituencies in the second round of legislative elections. Opposition groups in the country, which is also known as Congo-Brazzaville, had denounced the results of the first round as fraudulent. The Congolese Labour Party (PCT) of President Denis Sassou Nguesso won the first round of voting on July 10, taking 102 of the 151 seats in the national assembly. It still has 14 candidates in a run-off vote. The PCT is followed by the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), the main opposition force, which has four deputies and four of its candidates are in the run-off. The Union of Humanist Democrats (UDH-Yuki) of the late opposition leader Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas was able to get three candidates elected in the first round and seven others are competing this Sunday. At the Alphonse Massamba-Debat primary school with 18 voting booths, the first voter was registered at 7:31 am (0631 GMT). AfricaNews with AFP

Blinken to Visit Africa to Counter Russian Charm Offensive
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel next month to South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, the Department of State announced on Friday, as Washington ramps up diplomacy in Africa to counter a Russian charm offensive. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will also go in August to Ghana and Uganda and the US aid chief, Samantha Power, recently completed a trip to longtime Washington ally Kenya, as well as Somalia, where she highlighted the rise in malnutrition aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The diplomacy came after Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov undertook his own extensive tour of Africa, where he has sought to cast spiraling global food prices as a consequence of Western sanctions – an idea rejected by Washington, which points to Moscow’s blockade of Ukrainian ports. Blinken will send a message that “African countries are geostrategic players and critical partners on the most pressing issues of our day, from promoting an open and stable international system, to tackling the effects of climate change, food insecurity and global pandemics to shaping our technological and economic futures,” a Department of State statement said. Al Jazeera

African Airlines Caught in Ukraine Turbulence
And since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, cargo air freight and air tickets charges have increased to match the rise in jet fuel prices, engaging a reverse gear to an industry already struggling with post-Covid-19 recovery. According to the African Airlines Association, airlines on the continent are likely to post losses of up to $4.1 billion this year on the back of expensive jet fuel. This is equivalent to 23.4 percent of 2019 revenues. In a fight-back, the airlines have joined forces to negotiate better prices and a steady flow of jet fuel in a bid to help stave off a potential crisis caused by supply issues and soaring costs…International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that rising jet fuel prices were likely to cause airfares to increase this year, as airlines grapple with higher operating costs. IATA director general Willie Walsh said as long as jet fuel costs continue to remain unstable and jump in price, so will airfares as they are passed along to consumers. “Flying will be more expensive for consumers, without doubt,” said Walsh. There has been a global rise in the cost of jet fuel since the beginning of this year as a result of a number of logistics challenges, among them Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. East African

Nigeria: Insecurity: Police on Red Alert in Lagos, ISWAP Claims Zuma Rock Attack on Soldiers
Amid terror scare across the country, the Police Command in Lagos State has placed its operatives on red alert over ‘intercepted’ plans by gunmen to attack the commercial capital of the country. This was contained in a statement issued, yesterday, by the Command’s spokesman, SP Benjamin Hundeyin. According to him, the Command is not unmindful of intelligence reports suggesting that Lagos could be on the radar of some persons planning attacks across the country… Hundeyin had earlier stated that the police and other security agencies are prepared for any planned terrorists’ attack on Lagos. Speaking during a Twitter Space webinar, on Saturday, he said: “We are working seriously with other security agencies. The Department of State Services (DSS) keeps sending intelligence reports to us. “All resources are available. Our equipment has been optimally deployed to ensure that we don’t have any attack in Lagos,” the police spokesman said. Last week, security agencies got a security report that the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram planned to attack Lagos, Kaduna, Kogi, Katsina and Zamfara states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Guardian Nigeria

Sudan’s Military Leaders Launch ‘Manhunt’ for Suspected Sources After CNN Gold Investigation Sparks Protests
Sudan’s military authorities have launched a “manhunt” for people suspected of providing information to CNN for an investigation that exposed Russia’s plundering of gold in the African nation, according to multiple former and current officials. Relatives were also threatened in a bid to silence suspected leakers. One source said authorities were “harassing us, harassing the people we love, desperately hunting for leaders. It’s a clear message. Authorities are scared and they’re responding in the only way they know how: with violence.” Thousands of protesters rallied in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Sunday calling for an end to military rule following the CNN investigation, accusing Sudan’s military leadership of being “thieving soldiers.” The investigation, based on multiple interviews with high-level Sudanese and US officials and troves of documents reviewed by CNN, painted a picture of an elaborate yearslong Russian scheme to plunder Sudan’s riches in a bid to fortify Russia against increasingly robust Western sanctions and buttress Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine. CNN

Sudan Timeline April – June 2022: Popular Resistance to Junta Escalates, Banditry and Intercommunal Strife in Darfur and Across Sudan as 15 Million Face Hunger
The second quarter of 2022 witnessed an escalation of popular resistance to the ruling military junta in Sudan, presided over by Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, and Lt Gen Mohamed ‘Hemeti’ Dagalo. Lawlessness and banditry by armed groups scourge Darfur and Kordofan, while inter-communal and tribal clashes erupted across the country. The start of talks between Sudanese stakeholders facilitated by the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), African Union (AU), and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Trilateral Mechanism, offered a glimmer of hope, despite an often testy relationship between the Khartoum junta and the international community…Meanwhile, deepened by the fact that Sudan has lost $4,364 billion in aid from the international community in the eight months since the October 2021 military coup d’état, the Sudanese economy falters as the Sudanese Pound continues its downward spiral against international currencies, and an increasing number of people across Sudan face hunger and destitution as food prices reach unaffordable heights, amid warnings from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) that 15 million people in Sudan are facing acute food insecurity. Dabanga

Egypt Protests Ethiopia Plans to Fill Mega Nile Dam for Third Year
Egypt said it had protested to the UN Security Council Friday against Ethiopian plans to fill the reservoir of a controversial Nile dam for a third year without agreement from downstream countries. The multi-billion dollar Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) on the Blue Nile is set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa but has been at the centre of a dispute with Egypt and Sudan ever since work began in 2011. Egypt “received a message from the Ethiopian side on July 26, stating that Ethiopia would continue filling the reservoir of the Renaissance Dam during the current flood season,” a foreign ministry statement said. In response, Egypt wrote to the UN Security Council “to register its objection and complete rejection of Ethiopia’s continuation of filling the Renaissance Dam unilaterally without a deal.” East African

Funds to Chase More African Unicorns
Global investors are replenishing their war chests to tap opportunities in underserved areas as they chase down new unicorns in Africa’s vibrant startup market. In just under two months, three funds have launched fundraising drives, targeting growth and venture capital, with some recording a positive reception and one fund has already surpassed its initial target. Endeavor Catalyst, a co-investment fund created by the international accelerator Endeavor, recently announced the close of its fourth fund, a $292-million venture capital fund. This is its largest fund in close to 25 years and more than its initial target of between $200-million and $250-million. The early-stage investor said the investments will be used to support a self-sustaining business model and fuel Endeavor’s mission of supporting more entrepreneurs in emerging and underserved markets. Among the notable African technology funding rounds the global VC firm has participated in is Flutterwave’s $35-million series B in 2020, before it became Africa’s fourth unicorn. Mail & Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones