Africa Media Review for August 23, 2023

African Conflicts Displace Over 40 Million People
An additional 3.2 million Africans have been displaced due to conflict over the past year. This represents a 13-percent increase and continues an unchecked upward trend observed since 2011. There are now an estimated 40.4 million forcibly displaced Africans (internally displaced persons, refugees, and asylum seekers), more than double the figure in 2016. For perspective, 40 million forcibly displaced people is more than the populations of Angola, Ghana, or Morocco. More than 77 percent of these 40 million are internally displaced within their countries. Of those who leave their country of origin, an estimated 96 percent of refugees stay in Africa. Most of those that move off the continent do so via legal channels (e.g., resettlement or education visas). Of the 15 African countries generating the largest number of forcibly displaced people, 14 are experiencing conflict. Twelve of these 15 countries are also authoritarian leaning, underscoring that exclusive government is both a direct (via repression) and indirect (via conflict) driver of forced displacement. Recognizing and addressing these primary drivers, therefore, is critical to alleviating the observable symptoms of record numbers of forcibly displaced people. [Infographic] Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Polls Open in Zimbabwe as the President Known as ‘The Crocodile’ Seeks a Second and Final Term
Polls opened in Zimbabwe on Wednesday as President Emmerson Mnangagwa seeks a second and final term in a country with a history of violent and disputed votes. These are the second general elections since the ouster of longtime repressive ruler Robert Mugabe in a coup in 2017. Twelve presidential candidates are on the ballot, but the main contest is expected to be between the 80-year-old Mnangagwa, known as the “the crocodile”, and 45-year-old opposition leader Nelson Chamisa. Mnangagwa narrowly beat Chamisa in a disputed election in 2018. Chamisa hopes to break the ruling ZANU-PF party’s 43-year hold on power. Zimbabwe has known only two leaders since gaining independence from white minority rule in 1980. A runoff election will be held on Oct. 2. if no candidate wins a clear majority in the first round. This election will also determine the makeup of the 350-seat parliament and close to 2,000 local council positions. … Ahead of the election, the opposition and human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused Mnangagwa of seeking to silence dissent amid rising tensions due to a currency crisis, a sharp hike in food prices, a weakening public health system and a lack of formal jobs. … Several local human rights activists, including lawyers and a clergyman viewed as critical of the government, have been denied accreditation to observe the vote. The U.S. State Department has condemned Zimbabwe’s decision to deny accreditation to them and to several foreign journalists. AP

As Niger’s Crisis Drags On, Its West African Neighbors Are Tested
Nearly one month after mutinous soldiers mounted a coup in Niger, diplomatic talks to resolve the crisis have made little progress. The elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, remains held captive by soldiers who once protected him. The threat of military intervention by a major West African political bloc looms. At stake is not only the fate of democracy in Niger but the credibility of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the 15-member bloc of West African countries that is at the center of efforts to tackle the impasse and restore constitutional order to Niger. Even as the group continues to pursue a negotiated resolution, ECOWAS has announced that it has decided upon an undisclosed “D-Day” for military intervention in Niger. … Rahmane Idrissa, a Nigerien political scientist based in the Netherlands, said that what is at stake for ECOWAS is the norm that “governments should exist through democratic legitimacy, rather some sort of military populist agenda.” “It’s a theoretical stake, because of course in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, ECOWAS has not lived up to that reality,” he said. “But if you want to have a future, you at least need to be looking toward the horizon … and Tinubu is trying to create the momentum for ECOWAS to move forward.” Washington Post

South Africa Rolls Out Red Carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping as Beijing’s Influence in Africa Grows
China’s strategy has been more subtle than Moscow’s approach. Russia has dominated the headlines with its military expansion in Africa, including the deploying of thousands of Russian-funded Wagner Group soldiers to bolster the national armies of several countries on the continent. … But in the vast majority of African countries, Russia’s trade and investment are relatively tiny. China has become the biggest trading partner for most African countries, and Mr. Xi’s visit this week is reinforcing Beijing’s power and stature in the region. In a sign of Chinese priorities, his visit to South Africa is only his second trip outside China in the past eight months. On Tuesday, he showed a keen understanding of South Africa’s political needs, announcing $12-million in emergency power equipment to help tackle the country’s disastrous electricity shortages. He also pledged a further $36-million in unspecified development aid and an increase in Chinese imports of South African agricultural products. … More than 50 heads of state are attending the BRICS summit in Johannesburg this week – the largest number of participants since the bloc’s first formal meeting in 2006. Globe and Mail

At a Much-Watched BRICS Summit, Putin Tries to Rally Support
The five-nation BRICS summit is focused on whether to expand the club and how to be a counterweight to Western powers, but the meeting opened in Johannesburg on Tuesday in the shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with President Vladimir V. Putin attempting to rally the members via video to Moscow’s side. In a speech to fellow leaders of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa group, Mr. Putin blamed the West for Russia’s exit from an agreement on Ukrainian grain exports that had helped stabilize global food supplies and prices, a matter of serious concern to many developing countries, including those in the bloc. But Mr. Putin, alone among the five heads of government, was not in South Africa, and delivered his recorded message over a giant video screen in the convention center because he is wanted for war crimes under an warrant issued by the International Criminal Court. … Critics have accused Moscow of using hunger as both a weapon and a means to bankroll the war. While not taking sides on the war, Mr. Ramaphosa called for resumption of the grain deal and for the return to Ukraine of children taken by Russia, one of the charges lodged against Mr. Putin by the international court. New York Times

African Union Preparing for Inter-Sudanese Dialogue
The African Union yesterday announced that it will organise a preparatory meeting for a Sudanese-Sudanese dialogue in September. Among those invited are former Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, representatives of various political blocs, professional groups, rebel movements, academics, and civil society leaders. The list includes the two opposing factions of the Forces for Freedom and Change the mainstream FFC-Central Council and the FFC- Democratic Block, the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and the Communist Party of Sudan, which withdrew from the FFC-CC, rebel leaders who signed the Juba Peace Agreement with the Sudanese government in October 2020, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Abdelaziz El Hilu and the mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Abdelwahid El Nur. The preliminary meeting aims to discuss the extent of representation in the Sudanese-Sudanese dialogue and the parties to be invited, the agenda, the structure of the dialogue, the place and date, its funding, and the role of the international community. Dabanga

Chad Rebel Group Threatens Military-Led Government
A Chadian rebel group on Tuesday threatened to stand up to the country’s military-led government, days after another rebel group announced an end to a 2021 ceasefire that prompted the interim president to move to the frontline. Tensions have flared again on Chad’s northern border with Libya, where fighting between rebels and the army subsided after president Idriss Deby was killed on the battlefield in 2021. His son Mahamat Idriss Deby seized power after his father’s death and sought to restore peace, pardoning hundreds of imprisoned rebels and encouraging groups to take part in peace talks. More than 30 rebel and opposition factions signed a peace pact with Chad’s transitional authorities in Doha last year, although the most powerful insurgent group, the Libya-based Front for Change and Concord (FACT), refused to take part. … Deby suffered another setback on Saturday when FACT accused authorities of bombing one of its bases earlier that week and ended a ceasefire it declared in 2021. Deby responded on Sunday saying the army attacked after FACT rebels crossed into Chadian territory. … Another rebel group followed suit on Tuesday, vowing to use “all necessary means” to restore democracy in Chad. Reuters

Russian Army Officials Received in Libya after Khalifa Haftar Invite
Russian military officials including Moscow’s deputy defence minister arrived in Libya on Tuesday after receiving an invite from pro-Moscow military strongman Khalifa Haftar. Haftar, who backs the country’s eastern administration, is close to Russia’s private Wagner mercenary group, whose troops guard military and oil infrastructure in the country. “This is the first official visit of a Russian military delegation to Libya,” Moscow’s defence ministry said. It said the visit, led by Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov, was organised after talks with Libya at the Army-2023 expo and Moscow Conference on International Security earlier this month. … The meeting came amid renewed focus on Russia’s activities in Africa, after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin announced in a video published Monday that his group was making the continent “freer.” AfricaNews

Russian Mercenary Leader Yevgeny Prigozhin Said to Be Recruiting Wagner ‘Strongmen’ for Africa
Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin on Monday published his first recruitment video for the Wagner Group since organizing a short-lived mutiny against defense officials in Russia, according to information on Russian social media channels. Prigozhin moved into the global spotlight in June with a dramatic, short-lived rebellion that posed the most serious threat to President Vladimir Putin of the Russian leader’s 23-year rule. The Wagner founder long benefited from Putin’s powerful patronage, including while he built a private army that fought for Russian interests abroad and participated in some of the deadliest battles of the war in Ukraine. In the video, which was posted on Telegram messaging app channels which are believed to be affiliated with Prigozhin, a person who appears to be the 62-year-old mercenary leader says the Wagner Group is conducting reconnaissance and search activities… “We are hiring real strongmen and continuing to fulfill the tasks which were set and which we promised to handle,” the speaker in the video says, toting an assault rifle and wearing military fatigues. Pickup trucks and other people dressed in fatigues are in the background. … The Kremlin has used the Wagner Group since 2014 as a tool expand Russia’s presence in the Middle East and Africa. AP

Malian Junta Cracks Down on Critics
The recent arrest and conviction of a Malian TikTok influencer and other critics of Mali’s military government have raised concerns among human rights activists about what they say is a crackdown on the government’s political opponents and the suppression of press freedoms since the junta took power. A VOA reporter talked to human rights workers in Mali’s capital, Bamako, who say the trend is worrying and likely to continue under military rule across the Sahel. [Video] VOA

Miners Hope to Keep ‘Gold Shining’ in Mali despite Ownership Law
Some of Mali’s top gold producers said a new law to allow the military-led government to increase its ownership of mines should not apply to existing operations, but analysts said it was likely to deter future investment. … It will become effective once signed by President Assimi Goita, although it is unclear when that will be. … Until now gold mines, concentrated in the south of Mali and around the capital, away from the more unstable north of the country, have been largely shielded from instability and volatile tax regimes that have deterred investment in much of West Africa. Reuters

Private Jet Loaded With Fake Gold Unfurls a Mystery in Two Countries
When Zambian authorities searched a private jet that arrived from Egypt last week, they found a mysterious trove that included millions of dollars in cash, hundreds of bars of what appeared to be gold, and weapons. They arrested 12 people, six of them Egyptian citizens, and the haul stirred wild speculation in both countries. Zambian officials launched an inquiry into what they called a gold scam, eliciting a jittery response from Egyptian authorities. The Zambian officials said the gold was, in fact, fake — made of copper and zinc, probably in order to fleece foreign buyers. “This has been a clear case of scamming, gold scamming,” Nason Banda, director general of the country’s Drug Enforcement Commission, told a news conference days after the Aug. 14 raid. He said investigators at the airport had been tipped off beforehand about the plane’s suspicious cargo. Egyptian media outlets reported that several members of Egypt’s military and security services appeared to be among those arrested. … Two journalists covering the episode were detained in Cairo without charge on Saturday, then released on Sunday. New York Times

Kenyan Court Orders Mediation in Meta Labour Dispute
A Kenyan court has given Facebook’s parent company Meta (META.O) and content moderators suing it for unfair dismissal 21 days to resolve their dispute out of court, a court order showed on Wednesday. The 184 content moderators are suing Meta and two subcontractors after they say they lost their jobs with one of the firms, Sama, for organising a union. The plaintiffs say they were then blacklisted from applying for the same roles at the second firm, Luxembourg-based Majorel, after Facebook switched contractors. … Kenya’s former chief justice, Willy Mutunga, and Hellen Apiyo, the acting commissioner for labour, will serve as mediators, the order said. If the parties fail to resolve the case within 21 days, the case will proceed before the court, it said. … A judge ruled in April that Meta could be sued by the moderators in Kenya, even though it has no official presence in the east African country. The case could have implications for how Meta works with content moderators globally. Reuters

Biden Making Good on His ‘All-In’ on Africa Pledge – Amb. Carson
President Biden will visit Africa this year to showcase the United States’ commitment to the region. His administration appointed Ambassador and experienced diplomat Johnnie Carson to the newly created role as ‘Special Presidential Representative for U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Implementation,’ Carson’s task is coordinating delivery on the promises made to 49 African delegations and African Union leaders who attended the December Summit in Washington DC. In a guest column for AllAfrica, Carson outlined six key areas of engagement with Africa, including high-level visits by U.S. officials and the appointment of a President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement. AllAfrica

Gabon’s President Eyes Third Term as Opposition Seeks End to Bongo Dynasty Rule
Gabonese President Ali Bongo has campaigned for re-election in remote corners of the rainforested nation this month, seeking to dispel opposition claims he lacks the strength and track record to fulfil generous electoral promises in a third term. The Central African state holds presidential, legislative and local elections on Aug. 26. Of Bongo’s 18 competitors, six have backed a joint candidate in an effort to marshal the opposition vote and end his family’s 56-year grip on power. The vote is a much-anticipated test of support for Bongo. Detractors say he has done too little to funnel Gabon’s oil wealth towards the third of its 2.3 million population living in poverty and question his fitness to govern after a stroke in 2018. … “We have to manage the country differently. Our youth has the right to have something else, especially in this country of such immeasurable wealth,” said [Albert Ondo Ossa, the 69-year-old economics and management professor picked by an alliance of six main opposition parties as their joint candidate last Friday] when he won the joint nomination. “Gabon is not the property of the Bongos.” Reuters