Africa Media Review for August 22, 2023

Niger Suspended by African Union after Coup
The AU Peace and Security Council called on all of its member states and the international community to refrain from any action that could legitimise the junta in Niger. It reiterated calls for the coup leaders to release the elected President Mohamed Bazoum. The West African regional grouping Ecowas has already threatened military action to reinstate him. Niger’s junta has said that civilian rule cannot be restored for three years, but this has been dismissed by Ecowas as unacceptable. BBC

Regional Bloc Says Niger Junta’s 3-year Transition Plan Unacceptable
The Economic Community of West African States has rejected a plan by Niger’s coup leaders to relinquish power within three years. The three-year transition plan proposed by Niger’s military junta was unacceptable, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, told a Nigerian television channel Monday. He said the regional bloc ECOWAS insists on the return of constitutional order as quickly as possible, and that the junta proposed the transition plan as a distraction to remain in power for longer. “In some other countries under military regime in West Africa, they had about three years and already they’re negotiating with their population to have another 18 months,” Musah said. “What legitimacy do they have to already begin with three years? And we know it is not going to end there.” … Musah said it is the pressure from ECOWAS sanctions and threat of military intervention that is making the junta more compliant. “We’re no longer going to get into drawn out haggling with people who have used their power against their own constitution.” VOA

‘Zimbabwe, Our Time Has Come,’ Says Chamisa ahead of Election Push to Unseat Mnangagwa
More than 10 000 people, many clad in bright yellow, gathered on Monday for a climactic show of support for Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa ahead of tense general elections. The southern African country goes to the polls on Wednesday for presidential and legislative elections, with Chamisa, 45, vying to defeat hardline 80-year-old head of state Emmerson Mnangagwa. The vote, taking place against a backdrop of discontent at Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, is being closely watched as a barometer of popularity for the ZANU-PF party, in power since independence 43 years ago. Supporters of Chamisa’s Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) gathered on a parched plot of land in central Harare from where the ZANU-PF’s towering headquarters are visible. “Zimbabwe, our time has come. This is the time!” Chamisa told the crowd from a podium. … The rally was the finale to a bruising campaign in which dozens of Chamisa’s campaign meetings were banned and some of his supporters assaulted by suspected ZANU activists. … The CCC is popular in Harare and other cities, particularly among young people who account for the lion’s share of the electorate, whereas ZANU-PF is stronger in rural areas. “We have been under the same government for 43 years and there is no change,” said David, a 25-year-old sociology graduate from Harare. He preferred to give only his first name in a country where the opposition regularly complain about intimidation. News24/AFP

Zimbabwe’s Election ‘Already Stolen’
Zimbabwe goes to the polls this week, weighed down by a cost-of-living crisis and rural food shortages, but the ruling party’s 40-year grip on the electoral process suggests it’s unlikely to lose power, analysts say. … In June, the well-regarded polling outfit Afrobarometer found that only two out of 10 people in Zimbabwe “are optimistic that things will improve in the near future”. That chimes with a global happiness index released in May that listed Zimbabwe as “one of the most miserable countries” due to economic conditions. … Local rights groups have documented the trail of violence and intimidation aimed at CCC supporters. ZANU-PF also allegedly wields extraordinary influence over both the electoral commission and judiciary – fingers on the scale that have “grossly diminished” the chances of a free and fair election, according to Human Rights Watch. … A shadowy pro-Mnangagwa NGO, the Forever Associates Zimbabwe, is also playing a high-profile role in voter registration – that many see as manipulation. Believed to be connected to the security services, it doles out free food at campaign rallies, and lets it be known it keeps tabs on would-be voters. … For Mandaza, whatever the outcome of Wednesday’s election, ZANU-PF will struggle to remain united. Whereas Mnangagwa had the support of the military to propel him into power in 2017, relations with the military hierarchy are now far more fraught, and there are deep fissures within a faction-prone ZANU-PF. New Humanitarian

Zimbabwe: ZEC Declines Rights Activists’ Election Observer Applications, Cites ‘Security Reasons’
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been accused of breaching the law after turning down local observer applications of pro-democracy campaigners ahead of Wednesday’s plebiscite. In a statement by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the electoral body is accused of contravening Section 68(1) of the Constitution. … According to ZLHR, ZEC failed to provide compelling reasons as to why they barred the observers and cited undisclosed “security reasons”. New Zimbabwe

Terrorist Attacks Rose in Sub-Saharan Africa, Global Terrorism Index Report Says
As the world marked the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism Monday, a new study reported a 50 percent increase in deaths last year from militia groups in Africa. The Global Terrorism Index 2023 report indicates that terrorist attacks became more deadly last year, killing on average 1.7 people per attack in the same year compared to 1.3 deaths per attack in 2021. The Sahel region in Sub-Saharan Africa is now the epicentre of terrorism, with the region accounting for more terrorism deaths in 2022 than both South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa combined. The increase in the region has increased by over 2,000 percent in the last 15 years. … According to the Global Terrorism Index 2023 report, the deadliest terrorist groups in the world in 2022 were the Islamic State and its affiliates, followed by Al Shabaab, Balochistan Liberation Army and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin. East African/VOA

Continuous Shelling in Khartoum and Omdurman Kills at Least 11 in ‘Fiercest Battles Yet’
Yesterday morning, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) launched a fierce attack on army positions east of El Shajara neighbourhood in western Khartoum and the armoured corps base in El Mohandesin in Omdurman. Simultaneously, the army conducted airstrikes on RSF targets in southern Khartoum. At least 11 civilians, including three children, lost their lives yesterday due to the shelling in Khartoum and Omdurman. Residents of El Shajara spoke to Radio Dabanga and described the battles in the area as “the fiercest ones yet”, adding that large explosions were heard in the vicinity of Jabra as the RSF attacked army positions in the neighbourhood and surrounding areas. The RSF’s advance towards El Lamab, north of El Shajara, prompted residents to flee their homes. Several injuries due to indiscriminate shooting were reported. The army bombarded RSF bases in El Medina El Riyadiya, south of Arkaweet, and other areas in the vicinity. Residents in Khartoum’s ‘Southern Belt’ area, part of the periphery of Khartoum known to be poor, reported continuous heavy artillery sounds. Dabanga

Sudan: Nearly 25 Million People Need Humanitarian Aid, Protection
At least 24.7 million people or half of the population in Sudan need humanitarian aid and protection, a top United Nations official said. Eden Wosornu, the Director for Operations and Advocacy Division at the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCA) revealed this while briefing member states on the humanitarian situation in Sudan on Monday. She said the “unbearable” suffering on the people of Sudan continues unabated. “The severity of the situation has been compounded by the widespread destruction of critical infrastructure. In the health sector alone, the fighting has rendered 80 per cent of hospitals across the country out of action,” said Wosornu. Since April 15, the conflict between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (SAF) has reportedly killed over 3,000 civilians and displaced 4 million. Sudan Tribune

Brics Group Looks to Expand at Summit despite Divisions among Key Members
Leaders from developing countries representing almost half the world’s population including China and Russia are meeting in South Africa for a key summit aimed at reinforcing their alliance as a counterweight to the west. The Brics grouping summit in Johannesburg is being hosted by the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and brings together the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, as well the presidents of China, Xi Jinping, and Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. … One issue at the summit will be moves to undermine the dominance of the US dollar in international trade transactions, which would be helpful to Russia as its economy struggles with sanctions imposed after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. China is looking to build a broader coalition of developing countries to extend Beijing’s influence and reinforce its efforts to compete with the US on the global stage. … But both China’s expansion plans and the more explicitly political stance that Beijing has outlined has riled India, the most populous country in the group. Prof Harsh Pant, an international relations expert at the Observer Research Foundation, a thinktank in Delhi, said: “India is looking to ensure that this platform doesn’t just drift off into [being] an openly anti-western platform, and there is a danger of that with both Russia and China having a certain agenda. “India and least of all Modi have no interest in shaping India’s foreign policy in an anti-western direction. Brics was conceived as a geoeconomic platform but is drifting into a geopolitical role and India is not likely to be comfortable with that.” The Guardian

Tunisian Judge Extends Detention of Six Prominent Opponents of President
A Tunisian judge on Tuesday extended by four months the detention of six prominent opponents of the president who have been detained since February on suspicion of plotting against state security, one of their lawyers told Reuters. Islam Hamza said those detained – Abdl Hamid Jlassi, Khayam Turki, Issam Chebbi, Jawher Ben Mbarek, Ridha Belhaj and Ghazi Chaouachi – had registered their objection to the decision, which he described as “political, not judicial”. They were arrested in February as part of a crackdown that included about 20 politicians, businessmen linked to politics, and a private radio owner. The president described them as “terrorists and criminals”. Reuters

Somali Government Announces Amnesty for Al-Shabab
The Somali government has offered amnesty to al-Shabab militants amid an ongoing military offensive in central parts of the country. The move is seen by some analysts as a way to remove al-Shabab fighters from the battlefield, thereby weakening the insurgent group. The amnesty offer is part of a widening approach by the Somali government in its fight against the al-Shabab militant group. The government has deployed the military, targeted financial networks and waged an ideological battle against the group. The announcement by the National Counter Terrorism Center to open doors for defections follows President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s remarks that al-Shabab leadership was not willing to negotiate with the government. Abdiaziz Hussein Issack, a security analyst with Hamad Bin Khalifa Civilization Center, said the amnesty offer to al-Shabab is a strategic tactic by the Somali government to further weaken the group. Already, he said, there have been reports of discontent among the foot soldiers that they are not getting support from the top leadership as the government forces pile pressure on them. VOA

Libya Deports 486 Illegal Migrants from Egypt and Nigeria
Libyan authorities announced on Monday what they said was the deportation of 486 illegal migrants of Egyptian and Nigerian nationalities. The Minister of Interior for the Tripoli-based government, Major General Imad Trabelsi, said 192 migrants from Nigeria, including 102 who arrived from Tunisia, were due to be deported. He added a further 294 who had entered the country “illegally” from Egypt would be sent back to authorities in Cairo. Libyan authorities on Monday repatriated 161 Nigerians, officials said, part of a UN-backed voluntary return scheme as some North African countries see a spike in irregular migration. Interior Minister Imed Trabelsi, of the UN-recognised government based in the war-torn country’s west, met the migrants before their departure. “We cannot bear the burden of clandestine migration alone” without international support, he told reporters at the airport. He said that out of the group, “102 were intercepted at the border as they were trying to” cross between Libya and Tunisia. AfricaNews/AFP

In Tanzania, China is Teaching ANC Leaders How to Keep Government on a Tight Leash – Report
In 2022, the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School opened its doors to six former liberation parties in southern Africa, to applause from both the ANC and the South African government. The school would help those parties “to improve their governing capacity and will play an active role in promoting the development and revitalisation of their respective countries”, the ANC’s Bekizwe Nkosi told Parliament in March that year. It would also ensure those liberation movements “will continue to play a role in the reconstruction and development of the African continent”, said International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor in response. And that is exactly what it is teaching, according to a new report, by way of the Chinese model that keeps the state subservient to the party. The school describes itself as an initiative of the six ruling parties: Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF, Namibia’s Swapo, Mozambique’s Frelimo, Angola’s MPLA, and the ANC. But the pervasive Mandarin on signs and banners point to the big role played by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which funded the concept by way of its own Central Party School, had the campus built by a Chinese construction company, and supplied lecturers and material. The school is, in fact, part of “China’s shadow empire”, say online publication Axios and Danish newspaper Politiken in an article published this week drawing on visits and interviews with alumni. News24

Wagner Boss Posts First Video since Russia Mutiny, Hints He’s in Africa
Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin posted his first video address since leading a short-lived mutiny in late June, appearing in a clip possibly shot in Africa that was released on Telegram channels affiliated with the Wagner Group. Prigozhin is seen standing in a desert in camouflage with a rifle in his hands. In the distance are more armed men and a pickup truck. Prigozhin’s comments and some posts in the pro-Wagner channels suggested it was filmed in Africa. “The temperature is 50+ [at least 122 degrees Fahrenheit] – everything as we like. The Wagner PMC makes Russia even greater on all continents and Africa – more free. Justice and happiness for the African people. We’re making life a nightmare for ISIS [ISIL] and al-Qaeda and other bandits,” Prigozhin said. He added Wagner continues to recruit fighters and the group “will fulfil the tasks that were set”. The video is accompanied by a telephone number for those who want to join the mercenary group. The future of Wagner and Prigozhin has been unclear since he led a brief rebellion against the Russian defence establishment two months ago. … Since the mutiny, some Wagner fighters have moved to Belarus and started training the army there. In comments published in late July, Prigozhin also said Wagner was ready to further increase its presence in Africa. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Tinubu Swears in 45 Ministers amid Concerns over Growth, Insecurity
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Monday swore in 45 ministers to a new cabinet that must get to grips with tackling the problems of sluggish growth, a weak currency and high inflation in Africa’s largest economy. The country also faces widespread insecurity, including the theft of crude oil by criminal gangs. The ceremony took place nearly three months after Tinubu took office on May 29 after winning a disputed presidential election in February which is being challenged by his main opponents in court. “Your obligation is to return public faith in government so that our people can once again believe in government,” Tinubu told the new ministers. The new cabinet will have to confront sluggish growth, caused by a previous collapse in oil prices that weakened the currency, slashed government revenues and drove up inflation. … Tinubu’s cabinet is bigger than that of his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, who had 36 ministers in his first terms and 43 in his second term in office. Under the law, the president must include a member from each of the country’s 36 states. Most cabinet members are political veterans, many of whom were key players in Tinubu’s election campaign. Reuters

Prosecutors Seek War Crimes Trial at ICC for CAR Militia Leader
War crimes prosecutors will argue before judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to put a former militia commander on trial over allegations of organising revenge attacks against Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR). In a three-day hearing at The Hague-based ICC starting on Tuesday, prosecutors will argue about whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Maxime Mokom for his alleged role in directing murder, rape, pillaging and destruction of property as well as attacks against religious buildings, including mosques. Mokom, 44, faces 20 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed by his self-proclaimed self-defence militias in 2013 and 2014. CAR, a former French colony, was plunged into a bloody sectarian conflict after Seleka rebels, a coalition of armed groups mainly composed of Muslims, ousted President Francois Bozize in early 2013. Mokom’s militia, named “anti-Balaka” or “anti-machete”, was formed in reaction to the takeover of the capital, Bangui, by the Seleka and was comprised mainly of Christians and animists. The warlord is accused of providing direct support to anti-Balaka military operations, including funding, weapons, medication and ammunition. The attacks conducted by the militia forced more than 100,000 Muslim civilians to flee Bangui across the border to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad. Al Jazeera

Liberia: First-time Voters Overwhelmingly Back a War Crimes Court
As Liberia commemorates 20 years since the end of the civil conflict that left devastated the country and left 250,000 people dead, a survey of first-time voters conducted in two of the country’s biggest counties found overwhelming support for a court. Nine out of 10 of the participants surveyed – all of whom had been born after the war ended in 2003 – said the establishment of a war and economic crimes court was “very important” to their future and the future of the nation. In a potential warning to presidential candidates, 93% of participants said the candidates’ position on a war crimes court was “very important” in their decision about whom to vote for. Only two of the leading candidates for president in October’s elections – Alexander Cummings of the Collaborating Political Party and Tiawon Gongloe of the Liberia People’s Party – have committed to establishing a court. The governments of incumbent President George Weah and Joseph Boakai, former vice president now a candidate for the United Party, blocked a court and have not responded to FrontPageAfrica/New Narratives questions asking whether they would implement a court. FPA

Building a Digital Army: UN Peacekeepers Fight Deadly Disinformation
With smartphones, editing apps, and innovative approaches, some UN peacekeeping operations across the world are building a “digital army” aimed at combating mis- and disinformation on social media networks and beyond. Designing ways to fight back against falsehoods that can trigger tensions, violence, or even death, the UN has been monitoring how mis- and disinformation and hate speech can attack health, security, stability as well as progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “It has become clear that business as usual is not an option,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a policy brief launched in June on information integrity on digital platforms. “The ability to disseminate large-scale disinformation to undermine scientifically established facts poses an existential risk to humanity and endangers democratic institutions and fundamental human rights,” he wrote in the brief. … Several UN missions have reported social media campaigns in recent years targeting their peacekeeping work. In 2019, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known by its French acronym MONUSCO, raised grave concerns about social media disinformation campaigns calling for violence against peacekeepers during an Ebola epidemic and following a deadly attack by an armed group in the restive eastern region. … To fight back against disinformation, UN peacekeepers are putting new tools into the hands of civilians of all ages. UN News