Africa Media Review for August 24, 2023

Yevgeny Prigozhin Listed as Passenger on Plane That Crashed, Killing All Aboard: Wagner’s Future in Africa Faces Further Uncertainty.
The future of the Wagner private military company in Africa, one of the force’s main areas of operation, with thousands of soldiers on the ground, would be thrown further into uncertainty without Yevgeny V. Prigozhin as its leader. Wagner operatives provide security to autocratic African leaders seeking to stay in power… Wagner also provides [d]isinformation tactics, which have given the group’s members a veneer of popularity even as they have been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including torture, mass killings and rape, in the countries where they operate. … Besides the Central African Republic, Wagner’s launchpad in Africa, Wagner mercenaries are known to be deployed in Libya, Mali and Sudan. In the Central African Republic, Wagner soldiers recently helped the authorities organize a referendum to rewrite the Constitution to allow the president to stay in power indefinitely. … For years, questions have swirled around Wagner’s ambitions in Africa and where the group might expand next, especially in countries where military officers seized power. After the coup in Niger last month, some Western and West African governments feared the country could become Wagner’s next priority. Mr. Prigozhin praised the coup in a voice message on Telegram and offered the group’s services to Niger’s new leaders. New York Times

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s First Video Message since Failed Wagner Mutiny May Have Been His Last
The first video message Yevgeny Prigozhin shared since the end of his failed mutiny against Vladimir Putin, may have ended up being his last – with reports that he was on the passenger list of a jet that crashed about 60 miles from Moscow, apparently killing all on board. In the video, Mr Prigozhin was seen toting an assault rifle and wearing military fatigues, with his comments suggesting the clip was shot in an unnamed African country. The Wagner boss said during the clip that he is recruiting “strongmen” and said the group will “fulfill the tasks that were set” by the Russian government. … According to the Russian social media channels affiliated with the mercenary leader, the Wagner leader was recruiting fighters to work in the continent. He is inviting investors from Russia to put money in the Central African Republic through Russian House, a cultural centre in the African nation’s capital, they suggested. Independent

Zimbabwe Vote Spills into Second Day as Opposition Alleges Rigging
As polling began to close in some voting stations, it was only starting in others, prompting opposition accusations of vote manipulation after a campaign marked by tension and a clampdown. Electoral authorities said fewer than a quarter of polling stations in Harare, an opposition stronghold, opened on time. They blamed the problem on delays in the printing of ballot papers. Th opposition disagrees. “This is a clear case of voter suppression, a classic case of Stone Age, antiquated, analog rigging,” Nelson Chamisa, 45, the head of the leading opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) told a press conference in the capital. … “This is a way to frustrate Harare voters. A way to manipulate the election results,” voter Tafadzwa Dhlodhlo said at a Warren Park polling station. … “The fact they have targeted Harare is an indication that they are scared of people in the urban areas.” At least 6.6 million people were registered to vote, with more than a million living in Harare. … Chamisa narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in 2018, a poll that he condemned as fraudulent and was followed by a deadly crackdown on protests. RFI

Zimbabwe’s Internet Is Strangely Slow – Again
Zimbabweans were experiencing slower internet connections on Wednesday as they cast their votes in general elections to elect a president, parliamentarians and local authority councillors. The slowdown was reported by Surfshark, a Netherlands-based internet monitor, which said some websites were hard to access from Zimbabwe, particularly those linked to human rights and democracy issues. “The internet stands as an indispensable component of democratic elections, enabling individuals to readily access information from diverse sources, engage in meaningful discussions with friends and family, and cultivate impartial viewpoints,” said Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, Surfshark’s spokesperson. “However, in instances where the internet is either fully shutdown or just restricted, the integrity of the election process is put in jeopardy.” According to Surfshark, this was Zimbabwe’s seventh internet slowdown since 2015 – and all previous instances were linked to protests. … Freedom House, a civic group that looks into threats to freedom and democracy, accused the Zimbabwean government of blocking the outside world from noticing what was unfolding in Zimbabwe – and not just via internet interference. Tiseke Kasambala, the director for Africa programmes, said: “We are deeply disturbed by reports that the Zimbabwean authorities have attempted to cover up wrongdoing in the electoral system by deporting regional activists, denying accreditation to local and regional election observers, and refusing access to independent media.” News24

What Niger can learn from Zimbabwe’s 2017 coup
As Zimbabweans voted on Wednesday, August 23, many in the country believe the ruling ZANU PF and the military duped them into backing the 2017 coup that ousted longtime leader Robert Mugabe. Critics argue the new government that took power after the coup, however, has done little to improve the living conditions of Zimbabweans. “I was hoping for a change of government because Zimbabwe had suffered from economic difficulties for a long time. But that did not happen, so I feel I wasted my time,” one resident of Harare who took to the streets during the 2017 coup told DW. “I don’t think coups are a solution to any problem.” … those who have experienced coups feel they will likely be short-lived and not deliver on the people’s aspirations. … Observers say military coups are often favored initially but could end up worse in the long term than civilian regimes. Citing the case of the post-coup administration in Zimbabwe, for instance, critics argue that there is a growing crackdown on freedom of expression, despite claims by the Mnangagwa administration that it has brought stability and economic opportunities to the country. “Unfortunately, military-style leadership is not a replacement for civilian leadership,” [Ghanaian political analyst Mutaru Mumuni Muktar] said. … According to Muktar, the situation has gotten worse in Burkina Faso despite the image being presented by the junta leaders. “Security in Burkina Faso has worsened. It has become worse in the first six months of this year. We are recording unprecedented fatality numbers.” DW

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia Set to Join the BRICS
Iran and Saudi Arabia are among six nations invited Thursday, August 24, to join the BRICS bloc of developing economies. United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia are also set to join the bloc from 2024. The announcement was made at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose country is the current BRICS chair. BRICS is currently made up of the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Those five members agreed at this week’s summit to expand the bloc. It’s the second time that BRICS has decided to expand. The bloc was formed in 2009 by Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa was added in 2010. The BRICS bloc represents around 40% of the world’s population and contributes more than a quarter of global GDP. Three of the group’s other leaders are attending the summit and were present alongside Ramaphosa for the announcement, including Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Le Monde with AFP

Sudan Paramilitaries Press Assault on Key Army Base
Sudanese paramilitaries fought the regular army in Khartoum on Wednesday as they targeted a key military base in the south of the capital for the fourth consecutive day, witnesses said. Fighters from Mohamed Hamdan Daglo‘s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began their assault on the vast strategic base on several fronts on Sunday. Residents of Al-Shajara, the neighborhood where the base is situated, reported “large losses on both sides” on the first day of the attack when the fighting was constant. “This is the longest the fighting has lasted in Al-Shajara,” said one. The army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has put out several statements and videos saying it has repelled the RSF attacks. But the paramilitaries said that since early Wednesday the RSF had “taken control of nearly the entire camp, with only a few minor areas still under contention.” Both sides post regular videos online showing what they say is their men inside the base, but it is not possible to independently verify which force holds which perimeter. Each side has in the past claimed to have taken strongholds in Khartoum while they are in fact still fighting for them, as was the case with the army headquarters and the presidential palace. Defense Post with AFP

DRC Authorities Crack Down on Opposition Ahead of Elections: HRW
A human rights group says the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government is blocking opposition parties from campaigning ahead of December elections and trying to intimidate the party leaders. Human Rights Watch says it has documented a surge in political violence as well as growing incidents of arbitrary arrests, abductions and threats against political rivals. The group says authorities in the DRC are targeting opposition leaders and groups, curtailing their freedom, and arresting officials ahead of the December general election. HRW’s DRC senior researcher, Thomas Fessy, said opposition parties find it difficult to even hold a rally. “Opposition leaders and their supporters have seen their rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and movement severely restricted with demonstrations either violently broken up by the security forces, banned or prevented from taking place, and some political party officials of the opposition have been arrested and detained sometimes by the intelligence services and their rights to due process not respected,” said Fessy. … The United Nations said the narrowing of the civic space, the arbitrary arrests, and detentions risk damaging the credibility of the electoral process and political violence. VOA

Nigeria: Leaked Kaduna Train Letter Exposes Weaknesses In Security Planning And Infrastructure
An attack on the Abuja to Kaduna train line could be imminent, Nigeria’s domestic intelligence agency, the Department of State Services (DSS), recently wrote to alert the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC). … Fortunately, an attack has not occurred in the almost two weeks since the letter was sent. But, beyond the warning, on deeper inspection, the letter raises questions about inter-agency cooperation in Nigeria, and just who has responsibility when it comes to protecting lives and property. … “The letter is interesting in that it indicates there is still a lack of a joined up strategy to protect the railways,” said Chidi Nwaonu, a defence expert and Director of Peccavi Consults. “There is a troubling lack of preparedness, especially following the ambush and abductions last year. What I would have expected to see was the DSS activating a pre-planned contingency operation that had already been planned for, trained for, rehearsed and resourced.”According to the National Security Agencies Act that established the DSS, the intelligence agency’s functions include detecting and preventing crimes against Nigeria’s internal security and protecting non-military classified information related to the country’s internal security. … The second problem the DSS letter prominently points at is the shortage of communication devices among law enforcement agents. “Emphasising the need for walkie-talkies raises several questions, such as how do they normally communicate?” asked Nwaonu. HumAngle

Healthcare Hits New Lows in Somaliland as Conflict Continues
Eight months into a conflict between armed forces of the breakaway state of Somaliland and local Dhulbahante militias in Las Anod, Somalia, hospitals in the embattled city are desperately working to maintain lifesaving supplies. Although the conflict has been effectively reduced to a deadlock, with neither the Somaliland forces nor the Dhulbahante militias able to decisively shift the balance of the fighting, the Somaliland army has continued to indiscriminately target civilian areas of Las Anod with mortars and artillery. On July 8, after the Las Anod General Hospital was targeted in the fifth sporadic shelling in a six-month period by the Somaliland army, the international aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) announced it was ending support to the hospital because it was too dangerous to work there. The latest attack wounded seven hospital staff and three caretakers but caused no fatalities, hospital staff said. … Fighting started early this year, after protests against Somaliland’s control of Las Anod snowballed into an independence movement by the local Dhulbahante clan. Somaliland claims the city as part of its self-declared independent state Al Jazeera

Cameroon Says Seawater Is Swallowing West Coast Buildings, Villages and Plantations
Encroaching waters from the Atlantic Ocean have destroyed several hundred homes and buildings along parts of Cameroon’s 400-kilometer coast on the Atlantic Ocean. Officials in the central African state have temporarily suspended fishing and tourism in the coastal town of Kribi because of the damage. Affected civilians are begging for help from the government. Waves pound crumbling walls, seaside shops and abandoned fishing boats in Kribi, a tourist and commercial city along Cameroon’s Atlantic coast. Remnants of buildings, especially fishermen’s homes, are still very visible, though civilians say some buildings were completely swept away by waves this week. … The Central African Economic and Monetary Community, CEMAC, reports that the ongoing rise in sea levels is potentially catastrophic for an economic bloc whose 30 percent of civilians live along the coastline. VOA

Liberia Marks 20 Years Since the End of Its Civil War. Will a War Crimes Court Ever Be Created?
Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee stood behind a wooden podium in a cramped conference room and recounted her narrow escape from one of the worst massacres in Liberia’s civil war, a devastating conflict that ended 20 years ago this August. Gbowee, then a recent high school graduate, was enrolled in a biology course at the University of Liberia with dreams of becoming a pediatrician when the war that began on Christmas Eve in 1989 threw Liberians into chaos. … Gbowee, who continues to work with women and girls in Liberia, is now speaking out in support of establishing a war crimes court, an effort that has gained momentum in recent years and has fueled prosecutions of Liberians accused of war crimes in both Europe and the United States. One recent case, led by the California-based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and the Liberia-based Global Justice and Research Project, involved a man named Moses Thomas, a former Liberia military commander living in Philadelphia, who was found guilty by a US court for directing the Lutheran church massacre. PassBlue

Town in Chad Helps 200,000 Sudanese Refugees; ‘We Care About Them’
More than 200,000 refugees fleeing Sudan’s civil war have arrived in the town of Adre, Chad, since the middle of June. Before the crisis, the town had a recorded population of just 40,000. In this report, Henry Wilkins asks Adre residents and newly arrived refugees what they are doing to help the influx of new residents. [Video] VOA