Africa Media Review for August 3, 2023

Niger Ambassador Sees Junta Surrendering Power as Sanctions Bite
Diplomatic and economic sanctions imposed by Niger’s neighbors in the wake of a coup are beginning to bite, as the junta begins talks with regional leaders about the political crisis, the nation’s ambassador to the US said. The “sanctions have started having an effect in Niamey as we speak,” Kiari Liman Tinguiri said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg TV. “The military junta, who has launched this attempt of a coup, will come to reason and give back power to save the unnecessary suffering for our people.” The Economic Community of West African States this week closed air and land borders with Niger, froze the nation’s assets at the regional central bank, and banned commercial flights, among other steps aimed at compelling the junta to reinstate the nation’s democratically elected president. Nigeria, Niger’s southern neighbor, ratcheted up the pressure on the junta to relinquish power by cutting its electricity supply to the country. A delegation of Ecowas officials arrived in Niger’s capital, Niamey, on Wednesday for negotiations with the coup leaders. A group of junta officials led by Niger’s army chief of staff also traveled to Mali and is expected to visit Burkina Faso — two neigboring states also ruled by the military. Bloomberg

Nigeria Cuts Electricity to Niger after Coup
Nigeria has cut its electricity supply to Niger, AFP learned on Wednesday from a source close to the management of the Nigerien Electricity Company (Nigelec), in line with the sanctions decided by the West African neighbors of Niger destabilized by a coup. “Nigeria disconnected since yesterday (Tuesday) the high voltage line that carries electricity to Niger,” the source said. A Nigelec agent for his part indicated that the capital, Niamey, was “supplied thanks to local production”. On Sunday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, decided on sanctions against the putschists who toppled President-elect Mohamed Bazoum a week ago. In addition to a one-week ultimatum to restore constitutional order and the suspension of financial transactions with Niger, ECOWAS decreed the freezing of “all service transactions, including energy transactions”. According to a report by Nigelec – the country’s sole supplier -, in 2022, 70% of Niger’s share of electricity came from purchases from the Nigerian company Mainstream. Electricity is produced by the Kainji dam (western Nigeria). AfricaNews/AFP

World Bank, ‘Alarmed’ by Events in Niger, Pauses Disbursements
The World Bank on Wednesday said it was “alarmed” by efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government in Niger, and had suspended disbursements in the African country until further notice, except for private-sector partnerships. Niger has one of the largest World Bank portfolios in Africa, amounting to $4.5 billion covering the country’s priority sectors, and it has also received $600 million in direct budget support from the bank between 2022 and 2023. “The World Bank believes that peace, stability, and rule of law are fundamental for creating a world free of poverty on a livable planet. We are alarmed by efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government in Niger,” it said in a statement. “As a result, the World Bank has paused disbursements for all operations until further notice other than private sector partnerships which will continue with caution.” The World Bank said it would continue monitoring the situation. … The Bank’s private sector arm, IFC, has mobilized close to $50 million of investments in Niger in the last three years with projects worth $75 million under consideration for this year. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, the World Bank’s political risk arm, has supported one project in Niger’s financial technology sector valued at $2.25 million, and has been developing a pipeline of projects in the renewable energy and telecom sectors. Reuters

Mali: Influencer Sentenced to Prison for Denouncing the Junta’s “Failure”
An influential Malian woman was sentenced on Wednesday to a year’s imprisonment after speaking out against the ruling military and its “failure” to deal with insecurity and inflation, according to her lawyer. She must also pay a fine of one million Francs cfa (1,500 euros). “We have appealed,” Rokia Doumbia’s lawyer, Kassoum Tapo, told AFP by telephone. Under the colonial regime that has been in power in Mali since 2020, it is difficult for dissenting voices to make themselves heard without the risk of being worried. This Sahelian country is confronted with multifaceted violence, including jihadist attacks. Rokia Doumbia, known in Mali for her commitment to fighting the high cost of living and with a strong following on social networks, was charged with “insulting the Head of State”, “inciting revolt” and “disturbing public order through the use of information and communication technologies”. “In March, she launched a “live” message on TikTok addressed to the head of the junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, before being imprisoned. “This transition is a failure with 0% (of results). I wouldn’t even give 1%, but 0%”, she had declared, referring to the period of military government that was supposed to precede the return, announced for 2024, of civilians at the head of the country. “No Malian lives in peace”, she added, even though the authorities regularly claim to have regained the initiative against the jihadists. “Insecurity is gaining ground everywhere”, she said. AfricaNews/AFP

Fighting Between Sudan’s Army, Rebel Groups Intensifies in Kordofan Area
[Video] Much attention has been given to fighting in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, and its troubled Darfur region; however, the Kordofan area, on the border with South Sudan, has also been seeing intense clashes. Thousands of people in the area have fled to South Sudan, as fatalities due to the conflict increase. Henry Wilkins looks at this new front in this report from Renk, South Sudan. VOA

Soaring Famine in War-Torn Sudan to Impact over 20 Million People
“Over 20.3 million people, representing more than 42 percent of the population in the country, are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity,” the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation announced. Half that number was already highly food insecure last year, before war broke out between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In a new escalation of an already disastrous humanitarian situation, “6.3 million people are one step away from famine”, the UN warned on Wednesday. The fighting has destroyed critical infrastructure, severely hampered agriculture and blocked the delivery of crucial aid. More than half of the population is “facing acute hunger” in West Darfur, which has seen some of the worst clashes, including civilians targeted for their ethnicity and mass sexual violence. The latest figures from the International Organization for Migration show that more than three million people have been internally displaced, with almost a million more fleeing across Sudan’s borders. The IOM figures show that upwards of two million people have fled Khartoum alone—40 percent of its estimated pre-war population. France24

Sudan Paramilitary to Blame for Most Atrocities: Amnesty
Both the Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), locked in a vicious conflict since mid-April, have committed extensive war crimes, London-based Amnesty International said in its latest report on Thursday. The report listed crimes ranged from sexual violence against women and girls to attacks targeting minorities in the restive Darfur province, as well as attacks on a Coptic church in a Khartoum district. Amnesty pointed its finger at the RSF as the prime perpetrator of most atrocities it documented. The rights group nevertheless stressed it also documented crimes by the military, led by army General Abdel Fattah Burhan. “These paramilitary groups that have committed a very large percentage of the abuses. They are not the only perpetrator. But according to what we’ve been able to document until now, they are the main perpetrator,” Donatella Rovera, one of the authors of the report said in reference to the RSF. Rovera told DW that the RSF fighters were more present on the ground in various neighborhoods of the capital, Khartoum. The paramilitaries have positioned themselves since the start of the fighting in densely populated areas, which have consequently made such areas targets for the armed forces’ aerial attacks. DW

Violent Unrest is Rising in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region after Attempt to Disarm Fighters, Witnesses Say
Violent unrest is escalating in Ethiopia’s Amhara region as federal security forces clash with a local ethnic militia, leading the deputy prime minister in an unusually outspoken statement to call the situation “increasingly grave.” Ethiopia’s second most populous region has been gripped by instability since April, when federal authorities disarmed the Amhara regional force as part of the recovery from a devastating two-year conflict in the neighboring Tigray region. Authorities last year also tried to dismantle the Amhara militia known as Fano. Both forces had fought alongside federal ones in the Tigray conflict, but now the federal government wants to centralize its security powers. Many Amhara, however, are deeply attached to their regional fighters and accuse the federal government of trying to undermine their region, which federal officials reject. … Britain on Tuesday issued a travel warning describing the Lalibela airport as “taken over by Fano militias” and noted instability along the A2 highway that links the eastern part of the Amhara region with Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Elsewhere in the Amhara region, residents said protesters blocked roads and Fano militia ambushed military units, while government officials fled several towns. A witness said there was “heavy fighting” in Gondar, another popular tourist town, on Thursday. All spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety. AP

Time Running Out on Election Timeline for South Sudan, UN Official Warns
Action is needed now to pave the way for timely and credible elections in South Sudan next December, the UN Special Representative for the country told journalists in the capital, Juba, on Wednesday. “With only 17 months remaining on the Roadmap timelines before elections in 2024, I repeat what I had said in an earlier press conference, that 2023 is a ‘make or break’ year,” Nicholas Haysom said. Mr. Haysom heads the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) which reported that “a race against time” is now underway in the world’s youngest nation as the vote looms against a backdrop of surging intercommunal violence and the impacts of the crisis in its neighbour to the north. The elections, which were originally scheduled for February 2023, will mark the completion of democratic transition following years of conflict. … Mr. Haysom noted that with the countdown on for the elections, “foundational tasks” necessary for South Sudanese to head to the polls remain incomplete. Chief among them is the need to reconstitute three essential bodies, namely, the National Constitutional Review Commission, the National Elections Commission, and the Political Parties Council. UN News

Vladimir Putin Aiming for ‘Global Catastrophe’, Says Volodymyr Zelenskiy
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has accused Vladimir Putin of trying to trigger a “global catastrophe” and the collapse of global food markets after Russian night strikes against a grain silo and loading facilities at an inland port on the Danube River. Drone attacks early on Wednesday hit Izmail, Ukraine’s main inland port which is across the Danube from Romania, triggering a spike in global grain prices. Several buildings in Izmail were destroyed, halting the loading of ships that were being used to sidestep a de facto blockade on Ukrainian food exports Russia imposed in mid-July, when Moscow left a UN-brokered grain export arrangement and started targeting Ukrainian grain storage and export infrastructure. The Ukrainian government said 40,000 tonnes of grains, which had been destined for countries in Africa as well as China and Israel, had been destroyed. … After the fresh waves of drone strikes overnight, Erdoğan, in a phone call to the Kremlin, invited Russia’s president to engage in fresh talks over the agreement, with a spokesperson saying the Turkish leader had “expressed the importance of refraining from steps that could escalate tensions during the Russia-Ukraine war, emphasising the significance of the Black Sea initiative, which he described as a bridge of peace”. The Guardian

Senegal Suspends TikTok amid Clampdown on Dissent
Senegalese authorities have blocked access to social media app TikTok, widening a clampdown on dissent days after they dissolved the main opposition party and detained its leader. “The TikTok application is the social network of choice for ill-intentioned people to spread hateful and subversive messages threatening the stability of the country,” the minister of communications and the digital economy, Moussa Bocar Thiam, said in a statement on Wednesday. Authorities cut mobile data access on Monday, with several human rights groups denouncing the measure. A power struggle between PASTEF party leader Ousmane Sonko and President Macky Sall has led to violent demonstrations at times and damaged Senegal’s reputation as the most stable democracy in West Africa. Al Jazeera

Liberia Set to Concede 10% of Its Territory to Emirati Company for Carbon Credit Production
Liberia is preparing to grant the exclusive rights of over 1 million hectares of forest, about 10% of the country’s land area, to a private Emirati company that will be tasked with marketing the carbon credits obtained from conservation or reforestation projects. A memorandum of understanding between the Liberian Ministry of Finance and the company, Blue Carbon LLC, was concluded in March, and the final contract, set to last for 30 years, is said to be in the process of being signed. Blue Carbon LLC, which is also in talks with Zambia and Tanzania, was set up less than a year ago by Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, a member of the ruling family in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The oil-rich emirates will be the controversial host of the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) at the end of November. According to a confidential and still preliminary version of the contract that Le Monde had access to, the parties plan to use this global event to make public an agreement between the Liberian and the UAE governments concerning the transfer of pollution rights, as provided for in the Paris Climate Agreement. This will enable countries to meet the targets to which they have committed, in order to limit the average rise in global temperatures to less than 2°C, or even 1.5°C. Le Monde

Fixing Africa’s Electricity Woes Needs More than Just Power
With 567 million people without access to electricity, sub-Saharan Africa is the least electrified region in the world. This means around half of people on the continent can’t flick on a light to do homework, turn on a fan to cool themselves or charge their cellphones to order more fertilizer. “It is really pathetic that sub-Saharan Africa has been left behind,” said Abubakar Sambo, a former director general of Nigeria’s Energy Commission, who added that other regions, such as Asia and the Middle East, are approaching near-universal electricity access. Access to electricity on the continent also isn’t socially inclusive, he told DW. More than four out of five people living in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa were without it in 2021. Although many African nations are increasing their electricity supplies, the improvement is barely keeping pace with sub-Saharan Africa’s population growth. Because of this, the total number of people without access to electricity in the region stayed roughly the same in 2021 as in 2011, according to the latest energy progress report published by a group of international agencies, including the World Bank and the Intentional Energy Association (IEA). … The reasons for Africa’s dire delivery of electricity are myriad. These include everything from aging infrastructure and a shortage of skilled labor to vandalism, non-payment of electricity bills and even drought in those countries which rely on hydropower. DW