Africa Media Review for August 29, 2023

Zimbabwe Election Uncertainty: Opposition Challenges Narrow Victory
Zimbabwe’s recent national election, resulting in a narrow win for the incumbent ZANU-PF party and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is facing challenges amid allegations of fraud and irregularities by the leading opposition party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change. … Local civil society organizations known to conduct independent oversight on the voting, such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and Election Resource Centre (ERC), who deploy observers and issue projections regarding the voting, saw their offices raided by government security forces as the vote counting was being concluded. Their staff was arrested and all equipment seized, contributing to a climate of uncertainty and intimidation surrounding the election and leading to further criticism by international bodies. Forbes

South Africa and US Note Observer Concerns on Zimbabwe Elections
South Africa and the U.S. separately on Monday noted observers’ concerns with last week’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe and called for peace, after the opposition called the vote a fraud. The elections commission declared incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 80, the winner late on Saturday, but analysts have widely questioned the credibility of the result. Mnangagwa’s main challenger, Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change party, indicated on Sunday that he was counting on the international community to apply pressure over the way the elections were conducted. … SADC’s mission flagged voting delays, the banning of opposition rallies and biased state media coverage as concerns, while the head of the European Union’s observer mission said on Friday the elections took place in a “climate of fear.” … Somya, a senior researcher at think-tank the Southern Africa Liaison Office, said South Africa would likely try to deal with the aftermath of the elections in a multilateral format such as regional bloc SADC. Reuters

The UN Is Undertaking an Unprecedented 6-Month Withdrawal of Nearly 13,000 Peacekeepers from Mali
The United Nations is in the throes of what Secretary-General António Guterres calls an “unprecedented” six-month exit from Mali on orders of the West African nation’s military junta, which has brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group to help fight an Islamic insurgency. The U.N. special envoy for Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, laid out the scale of the operation to the U.N. Security Council on Monday: All 12,947 U.N. peacekeepers and police must be sent home, their 12 camps and one temporary base handed over to the government, and 1,786 civilian staff terminated by the Dec. 31 deadline. … Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 military coup which was followed by rebels in the north forming an Islamic State two months later. The extremist rebels were forced from power in the north with the help of a French-led military operation, but they moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali in 2015 and remain active. … In August 2020, Mali’s president was overthrown in a coup that included an army colonel who carried out a second coup and was sworn in as president in June 2021. The U.N. deployed peacekeepers in 2013 and MINUSMA has become the most dangerous U.N. mission in the world, with more than 300 personnel killed. AP

Mali: Islamist Blockade on Timbuktu Stops Food and Aid as Prices Spike
A two-week blockade by Islamist militants has created food and aid shortages in the ancient city of Timbuktu, the mayor and residents said, as security deteriorates across much of northern and eastern Mali. … The unrest, driven by local affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State, has intensified over the past year after the West African country’s military leaders kicked out French troops, asked United Nations’ peacekeepers to leave, and teamed up with Russian private military contractor Wagner Group. A local al Qaeda affiliate, known as JNIM, has blocked the roads to Timbuktu since around Aug. 13, residents said, cutting food staples and stopping humanitarian aid to the remote city of some 35,000 people whose economy has already been dented by the years of violence. … It was not clear what spurred the blockade. Earlier this month, JNIM said that its fighters had imposed a two-week siege on a village in Mali’s Mopti region to pressure residents who had been helping the army, according to SITE Intelligence Group. Reuters

After Wagner Chief Death, Russia Vows to Keep Helping Mali
Russia pledged at the United Nations on Monday to keep providing “comprehensive assistance” to Mali, where about 1,000 fighters with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group are helping the West African state’s junta fight an Islamist insurgency. Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a plane crash last week and Russian President Vladimir Putin then ordered Wagner fighters to sign an oath of allegiance to the Russian state. … Mali’s junta, which seized power in coups in 2020 and 2021, teamed up with Wagner in 2021. “As many of us feared, the transition government’s decision to close MINUSMA has already triggered renewed violence on the ground,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council on Monday. “Additionally, MINUSMA’s withdrawal limits the ability of the international community to protect civilians from the predations of Wagner, whose activities contribute to greater insecurity in the country,” she said. Reuters

Niger’s Junta Seeks to Strengthen Its Grip on Power and Prepare for Possible Regional Intervention
The mutinous soldiers who overthrew democratically elected Niger President Mohamed Bazoum announced a raft of measures over the weekend that analysts say are aimed at strengthening their grip on power while preparing to defend against any military attempt by regional leaders to reinstate Bazoum. The junta led by Brig. Gen. Abdrahmane Tchiani ordered the Nigerien armed forces to go on maximum alert over “threats of aggression to the national territory” and asked the military-led governments of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso to send troops to help defend them. It also issued a Monday deadline to the French ambassador to leave the country and held a rally to gather support to force French troops out. … [Nate Allen, an associate professor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies] said the junta is aligning with the regimes in Mali and Burkina Faso in “a very strong anti-Western and pro-authoritarian orientation.” … The coup leaders in Niger “are planning on staying in power for the long term,” [Allen] said. “That is a typical pattern we have seen in military regimes … they overstay their welcome often for a very long time.” AP

Somalia Military Offensive Suffers Setback as Troops Retreat
Somali government forces Monday retreated from towns and villages captured in recent months after the al-Shabab militant group carried out a deadly attack on a newly captured base in the village of Cowsweyne. … Without naming towns, Somali government commander Major Ismail Abdimalik said troops pulled back from some previously captured areas. “There are small strategic retreats,” he said while defending the strategy. The retreat followed what appears to be one of the deadliest attacks by al-Shabab on Somali government forces Saturday in Cowsweyne, where troops had initially dislodged al-Shabab on Aug. 22. Somali government officials have avoided giving details of the attack, but multiple security sources who did not want to be identified said the two brigades that captured Cowsweyne suffered heavy losses. A local official described the attack in Cowsweyne as “painful.” … Despite the retreat, brigades from Somali government forces are still holding the town of Elbur, which they captured on Aug. 25. Elbur is deep inside al-Shabab territory and was one of two main targets for the government forces. The troops that were preparing to capture the second main target, Galhareri were the same two brigades attacked in Cowsweyne. VOA

Sudan Army Chief Visits Egypt as Deadly Violence Grips Darfur
Sudan’s army chief travelled Tuesday to Egypt on his first trip abroad since the outbreak of war in April, with the latest violence killing dozens of civilians in battle-scarred Darfur. As Abdel Fattah al-Burhan departed, medics and witnesses said 39 civilians were killed, most of them women and children, in shelling of Nyala, Sudan’s second city in South Darfur state where fighting between the army and paramilitary forces has intensified. The Sudanese general was to hold talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a key ally, on the developments in war-ravaged Sudan and bilateral ties, Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council said. Burhan, dressed in civilian clothes rather his trademark military fatigues, was seen boarding a plane in Port Sudan and later being greeted by Sisi on the tarmac at El Alamein airport in videos released by the council. AFP

Women in Sudan Facing a ‘Tragedy’ of Sexual Violence as Rape Cases Rise
Since Sudan’s conflict erupted in April, Sulima Ishaq has been working around the clock. As the head of the country’s Combating Violence against Women and Children unit, it is her job to document sexual violence. It has now become systematic. Ishaq and her team usually act on tipoffs from doctors and nurses. Sometimes, late at night, she receives calls directly from survivors, who tell her about their ordeals. … The fighting in Sudan has killed at least 4,000 people and forced 4.5 million from their homes. Most of it has centred on Darfur and Khartoum where there have been fierce battles in residential neighbourhoods. … “It is really very hard to get reliable data,” she says, citing poor phone connections, constant power cuts and the difficulty of tracking survivors who have fled to Chad and other neighbouring countries. Fear of reprisals also prevents survivors from speaking out. These factors mean most rape survivors receive little or no assistance from health and social workers. Nearly all the rapes documented by Ishaq’s unit were committed by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, which has occupied civilian neighbourhoods in Khartoum and Omdurman, its twin city, as it battles Sudan’s army for control. Guardian

Coalition of Egyptian Parties Criticize Government in Rare Act of Public Dissent
A new coalition of Egyptian political parties publicly criticized the country’s current government Monday for persecuting politicians, in a rare act of political dissent. In a news conference Monday, Emad Gad, a spokesman for the Free Current coalition, said the practices of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government “represent a severe danger to the political and economic future of our country.” Since coming to power in 2013, el-Sissi’s government has detained thousands of suspected supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group banned as a terrorist organization, and also secular activists and dissidents. Rights groups and former prisoners have accused the Egyptian government of deploying brutal tactics to curb dissent, such as forced disappearances, torture and long-term detentions without trial…. Rights groups and former prisoners have accused the Egyptian government of deploying brutal tactics to curb dissent, such as forced disappearances, torture and long-term detentions without trial. AP

Nigerian Army Rescues Children among Dozens Who Were Abducted by Islamic Rebels in the Northeast
Nigerian security forces have rescued dozens of captives mostly women and children held by Islamic extremist rebels in the country’s hard-hit northeastern region, the army said. The Nigerian army said late Monday the 25 captives were rescued during “clearance operations” by its troops in Borno state’s Gwoza district, a hotbed for the jihadi violence that has upended lives and livelihoods in the region since 2009, when Boko Haram extremists launched an insurgency. Fourteen of the captives were first to be rescued on Saturday in Gobara village while 11 others were freed on Sunday when troops raided the rebel hideout in Gava village, both around 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Borno state capital, Maiduguri, said army spokeman Onyema Nwachukwu. The army shared pictures of the freed hostages that included toddlers. Most of them looked malnourished and wore worn-out clothes, suggesting that they might have been held for a long time. AP

At Least 14 Killed in Church Attack in Eastern Congo, Official Says
At least 14 people were killed in the eastern Congolese province of Ituri on Sunday, after militia attacked worshippers praying in a church, a local official and a civil society leader said on Monday. The Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) group, one of many militias operating in the conflict-ridden east, was behind the attack, said Djugu territory administrator Ruphin Mapela and civil society leader Dieudonne Lossa. … Both said that 9 civilians, 4 assailants and a soldier were killed. Mapela said that militants attacked Mesa, Cepac and Aumopro churches located near the shore of Lake Albert in the Bahema-Nord chiefdom. “We call on the population to remain calm as the armed forces pursue these criminals to put them out of action,” Ituri army spokesman Jules Ngongo Tshikudi said. Reuters

DRC: Tshisekedi Pegs Longer Stay of EACRF on M23 Respecting Ceasefire
The Democratic Republic of Congo has signaled it will be amenable for the longer stay of East African Community Regional Forces (EACRF) as long as they can force armed groups to respect the ceasefire. The apparent climb-down emerged on Monday as President Felix Tshisekedi hosted his Burundian counterpart Evariste Ndiyishimiye, the current Chair of the East African Community. And the meeting saw Tshisekedi, once a bitter critic of EACRF say there has been some positive engagements with regional leaders who now see the need for permanent ceasefire as a requirement for any peace talks with armed groups. The Congolese leader did not expressly mention the end of the EACRF’s mandate, which is supposed to expire in early September. But he did say that there is now a better response from the troop contributing countries. … Ndayishimiye said a Summit of the heads of state will be held soon to examine DRC’s demands. The Congolese president said his country will use that meeting to express its views on the basis of the findings, namely whether the M23 would finally be allowed to go into cantonment. EastAfrican

The Melilla Massacre: How a Spanish Enclave in Africa Became a Deadly Flashpoint
At least 37 people were killed in June 2022 at the Morocco-Spain border, while scores more were injured. … These days, though, Melilla is less defined by its multiculturalism than by its status as a tiny sliver of the European Union in Africa. (There is another Spanish territory on the coast of Morocco, Ceuta, which juts out from Morocco’s northernmost point, across the sea from Gibraltar. Ceuta, too, has been the site of dramatic border crossings by migrants.) Melilla is a border station, a means to enter Europe without crossing the Mediterranean. In recent years, however, both enclaves have become outposts of “Fortress Europe” – the term used by critics of the EU’s harsh immigration policies – whose primary function appears to be keeping people out. Melilla’s frontier status is unmistakable to any visitor. It has the highest proportion of public employees in any part of Spain – almost 50%, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Police cars and Guardia Civil 4x4s seem to be parked on every street. There are some 1,200 border agents and police. Then there’s the military. Melilla has about 3,000 soldiers stationed in the enclave, both the army and the Spanish Legion. Guardian

Africa’s Health Experts Gather in Gaborone to Discuss Pandemic Readiness
More than 1,000 health experts, including African Cabinet ministers, are in Botswana for the World Health Organization Regional Committee for Africa meeting to discuss health challenges facing the continent. Delegates want the continent to be better prepared for the next pandemic — following Africa’s poor response to COVID-19. Speaking at the start of the five-day meeting Monday, Jean Kaseya, head of Africa’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said it is important for the continent to be pandemic-ready, after being found wanting during COVID-19. “The next pandemic is coming,” Kaseya said. “This next pandemic we need to be prepared like other continents are preparing themselves. We need to see how Africa can be more independent by manufacturing their own vaccines. The second one is how we can provide funding for our pandemic preparedness, prevention and response.” … Additionally, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus says climate change is compounding Africa’s health challenges. “The climate crisis is a health crisis, which is why I encourage member states to participate actively at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates, which will feature a day dedicated to health for the first time”… VOA

Africa Climate Summit 2023: A New Global Financial Architecture to Help Green Growth
Kenya’s just a week away from holding the first-ever Africa climate summit. The region is facing some of the most severe effects of the climate emergency. A conservatively estimated 4,000 people were killed and around 20 million were affected by extreme events there last year alone. Some concerned about the outcome of last year’s COP 27 climate conference say that it didn’t go far enough in settling details about funding to help developing countries respond to the loss and damage caused by the crisis. [Video] France24