Africa Media Review for August 1, 2023

African Militant Islamist Group-Linked Fatalities at All-Time High
A year-on-year mid-year review of violence involving African militant Islamist groups assessing trends over the past decade underscores the surge in fatalities in the Sahel and Somalia. Key findings include: Fatalities linked to militant Islamist groups reached 22,288 over the past 12 months. This represents a 48-percent increase from the previous year that saw 15,024 fatalities. 80 percent of these fatalities and events are happening in the Sahel and Somalia, which saw spikes in annual militant Islamist-linked deaths of 39 and 157 percent, respectively. The Sahel continues to be the region experiencing the most violent events (2,911) and fatalities (9,818). Significant drops in militant Islamist violence in North Africa and northern Mozambique helped moderate the continental increase in violent events, which rose 4 percent. [Infographic] Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Niger’s Coup and the International Community’s Opposition
On Sunday, ECOWAS leaders met in an extraordinary summit and gave Tchiani and the other coup leaders seven days to step down and reinstate civilian President Mohamed Bazoum, with the threat of force should they not comply in the timeframe. In the immediate term, ECOWAS closed the borders between Niger and ECOWAS countries, instituted a no-fly zone for commercial flights in and out of the country, froze the country’s assets in ECOWAS central banks and commercial banks, and instituted a travel ban and asset freeze for those involved in the coups and their families, among other actions. … Tchiani’s claim to power rests on the idea that Bazoum’s government had failed to deal with the violent Islamist extremism that has festered in the region over the past decade. … According to a February report from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the vast majority — 90 percent — of last year’s violent events related to Islamist extremism in the Sahel occurred in Mali and Burkina Faso. And while the number of violent events in Niger doubled to 214, the number of deaths due to extremism declined by half. … Bazoum had reportedly tried to force Tchiani into retirement, as Daniel Eizenga, a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, points out. “The coup justifications have no foundation to stand on in Niger,” Eizenga said. Vox

Niger Arrests Politicians after Coup, Other Juntas Voice Support
he junta that seized power in Niger last week detained senior politicians on Monday, their party said, defying international calls to restore democratic rule, while fellow military rulers in West Africa expressed their support. The overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum has sent shockwaves across West Africa… Regional bloc ECOWAS has imposed sanctions, including a halt in all financial transactions and a national assets freeze, and said it could authorise force to reinstate Bazoum, who is still locked in his palace. But the juntas of neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea all voiced their support for the coup’s leaders on Monday. “Mali and Burkina Faso warn that any military intervention in Niger will be considered as a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,” said a joint statement read on both countries’ national broadcasters. Reuters

Gunfire Heard in Centre of Burkina Capital Ouagadougou
A burst of gunfire was heard in the early hours of Tuesday in the centre of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, near the air base, an AFP journalist observed. The gunfire began to be heard at around 00:45 (local time and GMT) in the heart of the Burkinabe capital, before ceasing around 40 minutes later. “It was an unfortunate incident limited to the air base”, a security source told AFP, without giving any further details, claiming that “the situation is under control.” Traffic was temporarily halted, but resumed timidly after the shooting, as the AFP journalist observed. The heavy gunfire came 10 months after a coup d’état, the second in less than a year in a country plagued by jihadist violence. … On 30 September 2022, a coup d’état brought Captain Ibrahim Traoré to power in Ouagadougou, overthrowing Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, who had carried out the first putsch and overthrew the elected President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré on 24 January of the same year. AfricaNews with AFP

How the Russian Propaganda Machine Works in Africa
In the early hours of the Russia-Africa summit, a rumor was gaining ground: Was Yevgeny Prigozhin in St. Petersburg to work behind the scenes on the meeting that would take place on Thursday, July 27, and Friday, July 28? … Prigozhin’s conquest of certain African countries has been achieved not only by his mercenaries but also by his bots and troll machines, which secured Russia’s first victory: That of the mind. … Since the first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in 2019, Prigozhin has set up a sophisticated propaganda machine to try and restore his country’s diplomatic influence, lost a quarter of a century ago with the collapse of the USSR. Its objective was to promote the “dissemination of information about Russian and Soviet support to African countries in their struggle for independence” and the “formation of negative attitudes towards European powers and the United States,” as stated [in a Wagner internal memo seen by Le Monde.]. Le Monde

Senegalese Government Dissolves Opposition Party, Two Dead in Demonstrations
By dissolving the party of his main opponent, Senegalese President Macky Sall knew he was taking a perilous decision, at the risk of inflaming the streets. The announcement came in the late afternoon of Monday, July 31, through the voice of Interior Minister Antoine Félix Diome: the African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics and Fraternity (PASTEF) party has been dissolved by decree. With this move, the authorities intend to deal a fatal blow to Ousmane Sonko, the ruling party’s most serious rival in the run-up to the February 2024 presidential election. A few hours earlier, the president of PASTEF had been detained in the Sébikotane prison. The dissolved party had “frequently called on [its] supporters to stage insurrectionary movements” resulting in “numerous casualties and injuries, as well as acts of ransacking and looting of public and private property”, explained the minister of the interior. This was a reference to the unrest in Senegal in March 2021 and June 2023, which left over 40 people dead, following the arrest and subsequent sentencing of Sonko on June 1 to two years of imprisonment in a case in which he was accused of rape. Le Monde

Nigerian Leader Has Announced Economic Measures to Ease Hardship as Labor Unions Threaten Protests
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu on Monday announced economic measures to ease growing hardship in Africa’s most populous country as labor unions threatened protests to demand more action. Several government policies introduced by Tinubu since he took office in May have further squeezed millions of Nigerians. The government ended decades-long gasoline subsidies that Tinubu said favored the rich, but the decision has more than doubled the price of gas, causing a sharp spike in prices of food and other essential commodities. In a state broadcast late Monday, the Nigerian leader said he understands that Nigeria’s economy is going through a “tough patch” but added the government has saved more than one trillion naira ($1.16 billion) since the subsidy was scrapped in late May. Past funds for the subsidies were “being funneled into the deep pockets and lavish bank accounts of a selected group of individuals,” he added. … The Nigerian leader said he has ordered the release of 200,000 metric tons of grains to households across the country to help stabilize the price of food… AP

Darfur Refugees in Chad Scramble for Shelter as Rainy Season Starts
Thousands of refugees fleeing Darfur to neighbouring Chad to escape fighting and ethnically targeted attacks in Sudan’s western region are struggling to secure basic shelter and supplies as heavy rains and winds batter makeshift camps. The United Nations estimates over 300,000 fled from Darfur to Chad since April 15 when fighting between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out in the capital of Khartoum. Islam, one of the roughly 33,000 refugees in the camp in Chad’s Ourang, pleaded for shelter from the relentless rain as she stood in front of destroyed tents. “Please provide us with a shelter as soon as possible. This is humiliating. Anyone in here lost three or four people and came here with nothing to eat or drink,” she said as tears streamed down her face. Some now stay in flimsy tarpaulin tents brought down easily by the rain, others bundle themselves in blankets to stay warm. … A recent attack on the west Darfur town on Sirba killed more than 200 and made thousands more flee, according to the Darfur Bar Association. Reuters

Overfishing Depletes the Zambezi
Since quitting her post as a teacher about six years ago, 33-year-old Hazel Svinurai has made numerous break-of-dawn trips to the edges of the Zambezi River, about 500km from her home in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo, to buy fish for resale. The poor rural outpost of Binga, on the banks of the giant water body which is the fourth-longest river in Africa, provided Svinurai with a steady source of income. But in recent years, supply has waned. “It was never like this when I was first introduced to buying fish in Binga, long before the Covid‑19 pandemic,” she told the Mail & Guardian. “I used to go to Binga for no more than two days as I would find ready fish in abundance. “Now my sources say the catch is low and the last time I was there early this year I stayed for more than a week waiting to have enough to take back to Bulawayo.” In recent years, as Zimbabwe’s economy has taken a relentless battering, informal traders have turned to the fish trade. Binga and the Zambezi River have played host to hundreds of people seeking a livelihood from one of the country’s least protected natural resources. Mail & Guardian

African teams at FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Nigeria advance, Zambia out, Morocco and South Africa with hope
African team are leaving their mark on the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, as 32 countries seek to win the biggest prize in women’s football. For the first time in the history of the tournament, four teams from the continent are competing at the tournament. The mix of teams involves World Cup regulars like Nigeria, as well as debutants like Morocco. … The best-ever Women’s World Cup performance by an African side was seen by Nigeria at the 1999 World Cup, where they reached the quarterfinals. Despite losing 7-1 to hosts and eventual tournament winners USA in the group stages, they won their other two matches against Denmark and North Korea (both 3-0) to advance to the quarterfinals. Sporting News