Africa Media Review for August 17, 2023

Niger Coup: West African Military Chiefs Meet to Discuss Response
West African military chiefs are set to meet Thursday, August 17, in Ghana to coordinate a possible intervention aimed at reversing the recent coup in Niger. Alarmed by a cascade of takeovers in the region, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided to create a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger. The meeting of the top brass on Thursday and Friday comes after fresh violence in the insurgent-hit country, with jihadists killing at least 17 soldiers in an ambush. An army detachment was “the victim of a terrorist ambush near the town of Koutougou” in the Tillaberi region near Burkina Faso on Tuesday, Niger’s defence ministry said. Twenty more soldiers were wounded, six seriously, in the heaviest losses since the July 26 coup. ECOWAS issued a statement Tuesday “strongly condemning” the latest attack, urging the military “to restore constitutional order in Niger to be able to focus (its) attention on security… weaker since the attempted coup d’etat.” Talks have taken place this week in Addis Ababa among ECOWAS and Niger representatives under the aegis of the African Union. Le Monde

Rights Body Accuses RSF of Sexual Violence in Sudan’s Darfur Region
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an independent paramilitary force and allied militias in Sudan raped several dozen women and girls in West Darfur’s capital, El Geneina and those fleeing to Chad between late April and June 2023, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. The assailants, the group said, appear to have targeted people because of their Massalit ethnicity and, in some cases, because they were known activists. Since the start of armed conflict in Sudan between the Sudan Armed Forces and the RSF on April 15, the RSF and predominantly Arab allied militias have carried out repeated attacks on towns and villages in the West Darfur state. These attacks, according the U.S-based rights group, have mainly targeted areas inhabited by one of the main non-Arab communities, the Massalit. Sudan Tribune

Ethiopia Arrests Thousands of People in Connection to Security Crisis in Amhara
Ethiopian authorities have arrested thousands of ethnic Amhara people in connection to “the security crisis in Amhara region where the National Defence Force is losing battle after battle, APA can report on Wednesday. The fresh unrest in Africa’s second most populous country comes after Addis Ababa decided to disarm local militia otherwise known as ‘Fano’ Fighters who allied the national defense force during the two year conflict in the northern part of the country. The ongoing mass arrest has been taking place for ten days now [since] Fano fighters, who have strong support from the residents in the region, dismantled the federal army whose soldiers reportedly lost the appetite to fight with the fighters. The mass arrest has been carried out in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia and other major towns of Oromia region where ethnic Amhara people have resided in large numbers. APA

Zimbabwe: CCC Raises Red Flag; Accuses Police Bosses of Ordering Juniors to Vote under Instruction, in Their Presence
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has raised a red flag, accusing Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) senior officers of ordering subordinates to vote under instruction and in their presence as a form of intimidation. A video of junior officers casting their Special Ballots has been shared online. The CCC has also reported the misnomer to the ZRP’s Police General Headquarters (PGHQ) in Harare. Areas where junior officers were being forced to vote in their superiors’ presence reportedly include Kwekwe and Murehwa. “Our incident tracker has been awash with reports from prison officers, police officers and other security forces saying they are being forced to vote under the direction and supervision of our senior,” said Mahere, Monday afternoon. New Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: MDC Leader Says Election “Already a Sham”
Opposition MDC leader Douglas Mwonzora has said opposition parties that will contest incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party at Zimbabwe’s August 23 General Elections are exercising ‘foolish bravery’ as the polls are already a ‘sham.’ Mwonzora withdrew his candidature last week citing massive irregularities in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) decision to bar 87 of his aspiring Parliamentarians from contesting. Speaking to journalists at a Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) dialogue in Harare, Mwonzora said the field was tilted in favour of a Zanu PF win. He gave examples of how his party’s court applications had been sidelined despite their urgency and ZEC’s decision which he said Mnangagwa had noted. “Participating in this election is an act of foolish bravery, this election is stacked against the opposition,” said Mwonzora. “Already laws are being changed as the election process is going on, there is selective application of the law. Some people are being arrested, some are not, some are being arrested and released while some are being detained.” … Opposition parties have not been granted access to Special Voting processes, ballot paper designs and the voters’ roll itself. New Zimbabwe

South Sudan Gearing Up for First Poll: 3 Things It Must Get Right
The people of South Sudan have not exercised the right to choose their leaders since the referendum that secured independence from Sudan in 2011. Instead, they have suffered through cycles of violent conflict that have prevented the democratic transfer of power. … A recent public opinion survey showed that the majority of South Sudanese are opposed to any further delays to elections. Church leaders and civil society organisations have also called for elections. These sentiments indicate that the South Sudanese are tired of a status quo where the ruling elite clings to political power through endless power-sharing arrangements rather than through the ballot. Three key things are needed for a credible poll: electoral laws to guide the process; voter registration and constituency boundaries; a safe environment to vote in. There are major political and logistical challenges in the way of an election in South Sudan. Resolving them will require hard choices and difficult trade-offs. East African/Conversation

Dozens Feared Dead after Boat Capsizes off Cape Verde
Several people have been found dead and 38 others rescued from a boat off Cape Verde, authorities said as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) warned that dozens more people were missing and feared dead. More than 60 people are believed to have died when a migrant boat that left Senegal in July capsized off Cape Verde, the IOM said on Wednesday. … The fishing boat left Senegal a month ago, according to media reports in Cape Verde, an island nation about 620km (385 miles) off the West African coast. … Cape Verde lies on the maritime migration route to the Spanish Canary Islands – a gateway to the European Union. Thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing poverty and war risk their lives to make the dangerous journey each year. They often travel in modest boats or motorised canoes supplied by smugglers, who charge a fee for the journey. Al Jazeera

Senegal Opposition Says Sonko’s Health Deteriorates after 17 Days on Hunger Strike
As his hunger strike enters its third week, concern is growing over Senegal opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s health. Speaking to French broadcaster RFI, the opposition Yewwi Askan Wi coalition said Sonko had rejected its pleas to end the strike. On July 28, Sonko was arrested and charged with plotting an insurrection, undermining state security and criminal association with a terrorist body. He began his hunger strike two days later. On August 6, he was admitted to the main hospital in the capital Dakar. The opposition says it holds the Senegalese government accountable for Sonko’s condition. Sonko, who placed third in the presidential election in 2019, is popular with the country’s youth. In June, he was convicted in a separate case, of corrupting the youth and sentenced to two years in prison. That conviction sparked clashes that left 16 dead according to the government. Sonko’s supporters maintain the charges against him are part of a government effort to derail his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election. AfricaNews

DR Congo MPs Vote to Lift Military Rule in the East
The majority of participants of a three-day meeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament have voted to lift military rule in two eastern provinces deeply affected by long-raging insecurity. The state of siege, where military authority replaced civil rule, was put in place by the central government in May 2021 with an aim of fighting armed groups operating in Ituri and North Kivu provinces. But a recent report to the UN Security Council by Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week said the situation has become worse in the two provinces, where about four million people have been displaced. “The state of siege brought nothing to us…citizens are tired of it. Let the authority be handed back to civilians,” Béatrice Nyiramugeyo, an MP who participated in the meeting, told the BBC Great Lakes. UN-backed Radio Okapi quoted MP Fabrice Adenonga as saying that 195 of 196 participants of the consultative meeting that ended on Wednesday voted in favour of lifting the state of siege. It is now up to President Félix Tshisekedi to “eventually react” on the matter, government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya told a press conference in the capital, Kinshasa. BBC

US Imposes Visa Ban on Congolese Officials for Trafficking Wildlife to China
The US government has imposed visa ban on several Democratic Republic of Congo officials found culpable for trafficking endangered wildlife to China in the latest move to back conservationists. The US State Department on Wednesday listed Cosma Wilungula Balongelwa, former Director General of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), and Leonard Muamba Kanda, the former Department Head of the DRC Management Authority for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Director of ICCN. US also banned Augustin Ngumbi Amuri, the Director-Coordinator of the DRC CITES Management Authority and Legal Advisor to ICCN. Balongelwa had been suspended from office in 2021 for ‘mismanagement.’ Now these individuals will no longer be eligible to enter US soil. Kanda’s wife Rose Nsele Ngokali and Wilungula’s wife, Esther Mwanga Wilungula are also “generally ineligible for entry into the United States”. … A statement issued by US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said these officials “abused their public office by trafficking chimpanzees, gorillas, Okapi and other protected wildlife from the DRC, primarily to the People’s Republic of China, using falsified permits in exchange for bribes.” East African

UN Calls for Women’s Inclusion in Conflict Resolution, Peacebuilding in Nigeria
The United Nations has called for the inclusion of women in resolving conflicts and peacebuilding in Nigeria. The world body made the call via its subsidiary UN Women Monday in Abuja during a sensitisation workshop organised for state lawmakers by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies in conjunction with the Norwegian Embassy. Speaking through the UN Women Country Representative, who was represented at the occasion by the Deputy Director, Representation, Lansana Inonneh, the body said women were disproportionately impacted during conflicts, saying it will be most unfair to bypass them during conflict resolution as they should be embedded in the process, given their status in the society. ”Insecurity impacts every segment of society, but women are disproportionately affected,” she said. While making a case for women in conflict prevention and management, the Country Representative advocated that women and girls must be protected and secured during crises, which could occur through Gender-Based Violence and other armed conflicts. Premium Times

China Publishes Official Political Doctrine in Swahili
China has published the official political doctrine often known as the Xi Jinping Thought, in Swahili. And the move may mean the millions of Swahili speakers in East and Central Africa could get the tale of China’s transformation into a language they know. … The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi indicated the translation is an important marker of China’s 60 years of diplomatic relations with Kenya and that it could help African readers understand the historical backgrounds and cultural roots of China’s path of development, the governing philosophy of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese wisdom about building a better world. … But far from a cultural gesture, some experts say the Chinese government is tapping into a growing language to advance its influence abroad. “It plays into the greater vision of China’s public diplomacy, especially to Swahili-speaking countries like Kenya. It also means the philosophy will be widely accessible to countries where China is seeking deep ties,” said Dr Cavince Adhere, a China-Africa analyst in Nairobi. East African

South Africa Catholic Church Files Class Action Suit against Mining Firms
The Catholic Church said on Wednesday it is shepherding a class action against mining companies in South Africa on behalf of coal miners who suffered from lung disease. … “Very often ex-mine workers are no longer members of trade unions and therefore lack the means and capacity to seek legal recourse from large companies which are responsible for their lung diseases,” said Archbishop of Cape Town Stephen Brislin. “It is thus incumbent on the Church to give assistance where it can… so that they can access compensation that is legally due to them.” … Filed on behalf of 17 former and current mine workers, the case targets global mining giant BHP, its spin-off South32 and South Africa’s Seriti. … Coal is a bedrock of South Africa’s economy, employing almost 100,000 people and accounting for 80 percent of electricity production. The industry is concentrated in the eastern Mpumalanga region which Greenpeace says has some of the dirtiest air in the world. Despite knowing the risks to coal miners, the companies failed to provide their workers with adequate training, equipment, and a safe working environment, according to the class action. AfricaNews

Chinese Social Media Platforms Fail to Control Racism Against Black People: Report
A new report by Human Rights Watch finds that racist content denigrating Black people is increasingly common on the Chinese internet, and that major social media platforms and Chinese authorities have failed to address the issue systematically. HRW analyzed hundreds of videos and posts on popular Chinese social media platforms, including Bilibili, Douyin, Kuaishou, Weibo and Xiaohongshu, since late 2021. … “There are clicks and viewership involved, and that usually means profit for social media content creators,” Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at HRW, told VOA. … Wang from HRW says the rampant circulation of racist content against Black people and Africans on Chinese social media is prompted by the Chinese government’s portrayal of Africa as a “poor, backward” continent that needs investment from China. … Videos or posts that promote racial equality or criticize racism in China will often be censored after becoming a trending topic on Chinese social media platforms. “Unlike the U.S., where racism is widely discussed in the media and academia, there is no press and academic freedom in China, so it’s hard for good content on racism to spread,” Wang said. VOA

‘Love Instead of Hate’: Tunisia Interfaith Procession Calls for Tolerance
Hundreds of Tunisians joined an interfaith ceremony outside the capital where the sermons urged tolerance in the face of rising anti-immigrant sentiment. During the Feast of the Assumption ceremony in Tunis’ La Goulette suburb on Tuesday, Catholic and Muslim participants marched behind a Madonna statue as it was carried to the town hall. There, the archbishop of Tunis and the bishop of Trapani, Italy delivered sermons alluding to Tunisia’s tense migration politics. The tradition, born in the mid-19th century when La Goulette was home to Sicilians, Sephardic Jews, Maltese, Greeks and Spaniards, was halted by Tunisian officials in 1964. It was revived in 2017, and each year since then, the Virgin Mary figurine has been carried slightly farther from Tunisia’s oldest church, consecrated in 1879. In his mass, Archbishop of Tunis Ilario Antoniazzi, 75, said the procession aimed to show how La Goulette and Tunisia could offer a model for coexistence between different religions and nationalities. … Following an anti-immigrant diatribe by Tunisian President Kais Saied in February, hundreds of migrants have lost their jobs and homes, assaults have been reported and several thousand people have been repatriated. Humanitarian sources say at least 2 000 sub-Saharan Africans have been expelled or forcibly transferred by Tunisian security forces to desert regions bordering Libya or Algeria. News24

Africa Can Become New Global Supply Chain Force: UNCTAD
African economies should seize the opportunity to better integrate into technology-intensive global supply chains and boost prosperity, but this depends on their ability to harness key market and investment trends, the UN’s trade and development body UNCTAD said on Wednesday. In a new report, UNCTAD shows that Africa can become a major exporter of higher value-added goods, creating growth and jobs, and fuelling a rise in productivity and wages. Launching the report in Nairobi, UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan insisted it would offer a better future for the continent’s economies. Diversifying trade “builds resilience and enhances innovation”, Ms. Grynspan said, adding that diversifaction was “key” for private sector development and employment opportunities for Africa’s growing population. Ms. Grynspan highlighted three factors driving the “huge” opportunity for the continent. From a geopolitical point of view, countries and businesses are seeking to diversify their suppliers and thus reduce risk. Africa is well placed to tap into this trend, Ms. Grynspan said, which together with the African Continental Free Trade Area offers “great synergies” for participating in global supply chains. UN News