Africa Media Review for August 18, 2023

Jihadist Attacks Are on the Rise since Niger Coup
Contrary to the junta’s claims, deposed president Mohamed Bazoum had implemented an original security approach that had helped contain the jihadist threat. Three weeks after the coup, the underlying causes or opportunistic motivations that led senior officers of the Nigerien army to depose President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 and deprive him of his freedom remain to be determined. One of the reasons given by the Niamey coup leaders – as in recent months by other coup leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso – to justify themselves is the “continuing deterioration of the security situation.” But this argument does not stand up to analysis of the data collected on the ground in recent months. In Niger, the succession of Islamist attacks since the coup does not establish a definitive cause-and-effect relationship but it does raise questions. On Tuesday, August 15, a detachment of Nigerien special forces was ambushed on the national road linking the towns of Boni and Torodi, some 60 km west of Niamey, on the way to the border with Burkina Faso. According to a provisional report by the Niger Ministry of Defense, at least 17 soldiers were killed and 20 wounded. This was the deadliest attack in recent weeks. Two days before, on Sunday, six National Guard soldiers were killed in the vicinity of Tillabéri, the main insurgent zone in the so-called “tri-border” region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The National Guard is paying the heaviest price in the assaults launched by Islamist insurgents in recent weeks, since the fighting units usually deployed in the field have been recalled to Niamey. Le Monde

‘No Legal Basis’: UN Human Rights Chiefs Slams Niger President Treason Case
The United Nations human rights chief on Friday said there was no legal basis for Niger’s military junta to prosecute deposed president Mohamed Bazoum for high treason, saying the “very notion of freedoms” in the country was at stake. The military junta, which seized power in a coup last month, said it would prosecute Bazoum for high treason over his exchanges with foreign heads of state and international organisations, prompting condemnation from the United States and West African leaders. “This decision is not only politically motivated against a democratically elected President but has no legal basis as the normal functioning of democratic institutions has been cast aside,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a statement. He said: “The very notion of freedoms in Niger is at stake. Generals cannot take it upon themselves to defy—at a whim—the will of the people. Rule-by-gun has no place in today’s world.” News24/Reuters

ECOWAS Defence Chiefs Enter Second Day of Ghana Talks on Niger Coup
ECOWAS defence chiefs continued their talks in Ghana on Friday on the crisis in Niger after coup leaders there ignored the West African bloc’s deadline to step down, leaving the region’s countries with few options in their effort to restore democratic rule. … FRANCE 24’s Justice Baidoo, reporting from Ghana, says that “all options are still on the table” at the ECOWAS talks. West African defence chiefs are “offering the junta in Niger an option to choose the peace process, which is for them to stand down without the military force”, Baidoo added. He also said that it had been “very difficult to get any information from a lot of the ECOWAS officials who are here. In one hand they say that they are very settled in that this action is going to happen. In another they are unable to tell when and how that is going to happen”. France24

Victory for Niger’s Coup Leaders Would be ‘The End of Democracy’ in Africa, Politician Warns
If mutinous soldiers who ousted Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum succeed, it will threaten democracy and security across the region and the continent, a high-ranking member of Bazoum’s political party warned in an interview with The Associated Press. Boubacar Sabo, deputy secretary general for the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, said Bazoum had been “kidnapped” by members of the presidential guard who overthrew him on July 26 and have since kept him under house arrest. “What is happening in Niger, if it succeeds, is the end of democracy in Africa. It’s over. … If we fight today, it is to prevent these kind of things from happening and to ensure a future for our continent,” Sabo said Thursday. VOA/AP

‘No One Can Get to the Bodies in This Chaos’ Horror of War as Sudan Fighting Spreads to the South
Fighting between two rival generals has spread to cities in war-ravaged Sudan’s south, witnesses said on Friday, raising concerns for hundreds of thousands who have fled violence in the Darfur region. The vast western region as well as the capital Khartoum have seen some of the worst bloodshed since fighting erupted on 15 April between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Battles resumed late on Thursday in the North Darfur state capital of El Fasher, witnesses said, disrupting nearly two months of calm in the densely populated city that has become a shelter from the shelling, looting, rapes and summary executions reported in other parts of Darfur. “This is the biggest gathering of civilians displaced in Darfur, with 600 000 people in El Fasher,” said Nathaniel Raymond of the Humanitarian Research Lab at the Yale School of Public Health. One resident told AFP: “As night fell, we heard battles with heavy weapons from the city’s east.” Witnesses also reported fighting in Al-Fulah, the capital of West Kordofan state which border Darfur. … Numerous rights groups and witnesses who fled Darfur have reported the massacre of civilians and ethnically driven attacks and killings, largely by paramilitary forces and their allied Arab tribal militias. News24/AFP

Tamazuj Group Aligns with RSF in Sudan’s Ongoing War
The Third Front, known as Tamazuj, on Thursday, declared its formal alliance with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the ongoing battle against the Sudanese army. Tamazuj is one of the armed groups that inked the Juba Peace Agreement in 2020. However, the group remained isolated and unpopular following claims that it might have been engineered by military intelligence. “The Tamazuj movement officially declares its engagement in the struggle alongside the Rapid Support Forces against the remnants of the former regime. These elements manipulated the armed forces to secure their ascent to power and revive the oppressive totalitarian regime,” reads a statement signed by the group leader Mohamed Ali Qureshi. … Following the Juba Peace Agreement, the Tamazuj leadership persisted in their demands for treatment akin to leaders of other signatory movements. They voiced dissatisfaction over the lack of privileges or government positions granted to them. They also repeatedly threatened to rebel against the government. Sudan Tribune

Two Dozen Nigerian Troops Die in Air Crash and Evacuation Mission Gone Awry
At least two dozen Nigerian security operatives have died in total after a helicopter conveying dead and wounded soldiers from an evacuation mission in Niger state, 249km (155 miles) north of Abuja, crashed on Monday. The evacuation mission had been to retrieve soldiers wounded or killed in an ambush by armed bandits in Chukuba village in the Shiroro local government area of Niger state. The figures were given by a spokesperson for the Nigerian military, Major General Edward Buba, during a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday. He said there were 14 soldiers and seven wounded ones aboard the aircraft when it crashed, alongside two pilots and two crew members. Buba said an investigation is under way to determine the cause of the crash. Authorities have yet to disclose the details of the evacuation mission or any more information about the crash, including whether there were any survivors. … Local news outlet Leadership reported that the helicopter was evacuating the bodies of security operatives killed by bandits before crashing in Chukuba. The newspaper said sources confirmed the armed men carried sophisticated weapons that could bring a helicopter down. Al Jazeera

Good Governance Watchdog Deported From Zimbabwe Days Before Polls
The international CEO of Good Governance Africa (GGA) Chris Maroleng and three of his colleagues were deported from Zimbabwe just days before the elections. The GGA said in a statement released on their website that the group had been in the country for “only two days” when their “illegal” deportation took place. Maroleng said his team was given permission to enter the country beforehand by officials at the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria. “GGA was in Zimbabwe to conduct field research on election conditions and challenges, with several interviews set up with high-profile stakeholders in Harare and Bulawayo, the statement said. Zimbabwean immigration officials arrived at their hotel in Bulawayo, saying that they’re doing a routine inspection of their passports. “They then summoned us to their offices and asked questions about the reasons for our visit to the country. I explained our research objectives. About an hour later we were told we had to leave the country immediately. They escorted us back to the hotel and then to the airport,” Maroleng said. The thinktank said they were “shocked and dismayed … but not surprised, as the pattern of bullying, anti-democratic behaviour by the ZANU-PF-led government – especially in the run-up to elections – is well documented,” he said. AllAfrica

‘Sweets for the People’: Zimbabwe’s Voters Lured by Land Barons’ Promises
As elections loom, powerful figures linked to Zanu-PF, the ruling party since independence, are exploiting desperation for housing to ensure loyalty – and punish opposition supporters. … Edith Ncube, 39, a self-employed mother of four, said she was advised by a party official to become a Zanu-PF member if she wanted to be housed. “After years of failing to get a stand through the municipality, I was frustrated with the bureaucracy and expensive costs,” she says. “The risk that you are cheated and lose all your lifetime savings is always there, so then I opted to pay $50 to get a stand through the party structures in Harare, which meant that I automatically became a member.” She now attends party meetings. “We have been promised that as long as we support the ruling party, we will keep our stands,” she says. Caleb Zhanje, 73, says his years of allegiance to the ruling party earned him a 2,000 sq metre plot in 2008. “The stand was sold to me by two men who claimed to be [liberation] war veterans,” he says. But party loyalty did not prevent him being cheated. “At first, we were made to believe it was a cooperative, and we contributed money every month, only to realise that these people were abusing our funds.” Zhanje ended up losing half of the land and so far has not been able to build on the rest of it. “This year, I was instructed to become a registered voter in that constituency, or else I would lose the stand,” he says. The Guardian

SADC to Deploy Army to DRC, Extend Mozambique Mission
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) leaders on Thursday agreed to deploy troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and extended the bloc’s military mission in Mozambique, in a move they said is meant to bring peace to the region. The resolutions were made after the 43rd Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, the highest organ of the southern African bloc. The decision means member states of the bloc could deploy a new mission to the DRC, making it three the number of foreign military missions in eastern parts of the country where hundreds of armed groups roam. The two others; the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco) and the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) have operated controversially, sometimes accused of being lethargic and facing angry civilians in protests. … SADC’s decision, openly favoured by Kinshasa earlier, means the troops will be deployed as a complement of EACRF, rather than compete for attention. East African

Libya: Tripoli-Based Prime Minister Warns Militia Groups against Further Clashes
Libya’s prime minister warned Thursday that he would not tolerate any further militia clashes, following the bloodiest bout of fighting to rock Tripoli this year, which killed at least 45 people. Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity Abdul Hamid Dbeibah made the statement at a meeting of Tripoli elders, saying that “touching civilians is forbidden”. He added that if rival militias are not “calmed down”, then “there will be other decisions regarding them”. “Every day people are terrorized. People’s lives are not a game. There will be other measures against them, we have to be harsh,” he said. … Dbeibah’s statements came as Mahmoud Hamza, a commander from the powerful 444 Brigade, was released and returned to his militia’s headquarters in Tripoli, according to footage broadcasted across Libyan media late Wednesday. Hamza was detained by the rival Special Deterrence Force at an airport in Tripoli on Monday sparking a 24 hour of gun battle between the two forces in Tripoli. AfricaNews

‘There’s No Future in This IDP Camp’: Why Somalia’s Crisis Needs a Rethink
After three decades of conflict and humanitarian crisis, almost four million people – roughly a quarter of Somalia’s population – have been uprooted at least once from their homes. Most have settled in overcrowded informal settlements in the capital, Mogadishu, and a handful of major towns, where they face the bleakest of futures. That uninterrupted flow of people looking for aid, safety, and work has given Somalia one of the fastest urbanisation rates in the world. There is little expectation that those who have lost everything, fleeing an unprecedented stretch of failed rains and a resilient jihadist insurgency, will ever return to their rural homes. That poses a challenge for Somalia’s fragile government and funding-constrained aid sector, relief workers say. The rate of migration means Somalia’s crisis is now overwhelmingly an urban one. That requires a shift from traditional short-term emergency aid to more sustainable and development-minded long-term responses – so-called “durable solutions”. “People are not going back,” said Abdullahi Halake, co-author of a new report on urban displacement by Refugees International. “You need to start thinking of these informal settlements as permanent settlements – mini-cities. They need services; it needs to be sustainable, and on an order of magnitude, because climate change will only get worse.” New Humanitarian

Cape Verde Boat Disaster: Vessel Drifted for Month after Alarm Raised, Says NGO
A Spanish NGO alerted authorities from four countries on 20 July about a boat carrying an estimated 130 asylum seekers that was found earlier this week with just 38 survivors and the bodies of seven dead people on board. Relatives of those onboard said the large fishing vessel had left Fass Boye, a seaside town in Senegal on 10 July, and was heading for Spain’s Canary Islands. The boat was spotted on Monday about 150 nautical miles (277km) north of the Cape Verdean island of Sal. “Our organisation … became aware of the departure of the boat on 20 July,” the Walking Borders NGO said in a statement. “The relatives of the people onboard informed us that they had left on 10 July and that 130 people were onboard. We activated our organisation’s search protocol, informing the authorities of the corresponding countries [Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco and Spain] in the rescue of the route between Senegal and the Canary Islands.” The boat appears to have been left adrift for almost a month at the mercy of powerful trade winds in the Atlantic. The Atlantic migration route from west Africa to the Canary Islands, typically used to reach mainland Spain, is one of the world’s deadliest. The Guardian

Senegal Opposition Leader Sonko in Intensive Care
Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, at the centre of a crisis that has rocked Senegal ahead of presidential elections, has been admitted to intensive care after launching a hunger strike, his lawyers said on Thursday, August 17. Sonko began the protest on July 30 after he was accused of fanning deadly violence between his supporters and the security forces. He was admitted to intensive care at Dakar’s main hospital, said one of his lawyers, Cire Cledor Ly. … Another lawyer, Bamba Cisse, also said Sonko was in intensive care, while Sonko’s Facebook page said he had been brought in on Wednesday evening “after falling ill.” Several government officials were approached by Agence France-Presse (AFP) but declined to give a response. Le Monde

Violence Against Aid Workers Shows No Respite, UN Says
A total of 62 humanitarian aid workers have died this year around the world, the United Nations said Thursday as it prepared to mark 20 years since a devastating attack on the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. The U.N. observes World Humanitarian Day on Aug. 19 each year as it remembers the suicide bombing, which claimed 22 lives, including that of Sergio Vieira de Mello, then the U.N. high commissioner for human rights and the head of the U.N. mission in Iraq. Besides the 62 deaths this year in the world’s conflict zones, another 84 aid workers were wounded and 34 were kidnapped, according to the Aid Worker Security Database, compiled by the consulting firm Humanitarian Outcomes. The fatality figure for all of 2022 was 116. For several years running, South Sudan has been the world’s most dangerous place for aid workers. As of Aug. 10, there had been 40 attacks on humanitarian staffers there with 22 lives lost, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Next on the list was Sudan to the north, with 17 attacks on aid workers and 19 deaths so far this year. Such high figures had not been seen since the Darfur conflict from 2006 to 2009. VOA/AFP

Ukraine Announces a Long Fight against the “Russian Hold in Africa”
The head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba announced to AFP a “long-term” fight to “revive” Kiev’s relations with Africa and reduce the “grip” of Moscow on this continent based, according to him, on “coercion, corruption and fear”. … “Many years have been lost, but we are going to push forward a Ukrainian-African renaissance, to revive these relations,” Kouleba said in an interview with AFP on Wednesday. “This continent needs systematic and long-term work,” added the minister, who has already made three tours in Africa since last fall. … “[A] slow erosion of Russian positions in Africa is underway”, assured the minister, citing Liberia, Kenya, Ghana, the Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea among Kiev’s new partners on the continent. “We don’t want to be another Russia. Our strategy is not to replace Russia, but to liberate Africa from Russian rule,” he said. Mr. Kouleba accuses the Kremlin of using “coercion, corruption and fear” to keep African countries in its fold while assuring that Moscow had only “two powerful working tools in Africa: propaganda and (the paramilitary group) Wagner”. AfricaNews

Rape at the Heart of Africa: Survivors Break the Silence
Thousands of women have been raped by armed groups in the Central African Republic, a forgotten country, the second poorest in the world, where war and patriarchy wreak havoc on women’s bodies with impunity. Sexual violence is also normalized within families and communities. Against all odds, some survivors have decided to speak out. … Although they have everything stacked against them, there are those who have begun to break their silence. Euphrasie Yandoka, founder of an association to support women and girls who are victims of sexual violence (ANAF), wants her story to be known. “If we don’t talk about it, it will never end,” she says with her eyes wet with anger. … Sexual violence has become a public health problem in the country. All of the armed actors are accused of perpetrating rapes on women and children: the groups of rebels and bandits who hide in the forests, the regular army that fights them, Wagner’s Russian mercenaries and even the international forces of MINUSCA, the UN mission deployed in the Central African Republic since 2014. The culture of patriarchal violence also ends up permeating life outside the conflict, within families and communities, as MSF data confirm. … Sexual assaults are crimes under the Penal Code and there is even a specialized police unit, but according to its deputy director, Charlotte Issa, in Bangui only 19 allegations of rape have come to trial in all of last year. Since there is no functional justice in many cases everything is resolved through economic agreements between the families. Ara