Africa Media Review for August 30, 2023

Burkina Faso Crisis Continues to Spiral
Following two military coups d’état in 2022, militant Islamist groups in Burkina Faso have moved to encircle Ouagadougou leaving a trail of unprecedented violence in their wake. Originating in Mali, militant Islamist groups threaten an increasing number of communities throughout Burkina Faso, shifting the epicenter of violence in the Sahel. Military coups in January and September 2022 have exacerbated the situation. Since the coups, the number of people killed by militant Islamist violence has nearly tripled compared to the 18 months before the January 2022 coup. This violence, coupled with the geographic spread of extremist activities effectively surrounding Ouagadougou, puts Burkina Faso more than ever at the brink of collapse. At the current trajectory, an estimated 8,600 people will be killed in violence linked to militant Islamist groups this year. This represents a 137-percent increase from the previous year, which saw 3,627 fatalities. … The civilian population has come under increasing attack by militant Islamist groups since the country has fallen under the grip of the military junta. During the 18 months since the first military coup, the number of civilians killed by militant Islamist groups increased by 165 percent compared to the same period prior to the coup. More than 1,700 civilians are projected to be killed by militant Islamist group violence in 2023. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Gabon Live: Coup Attempt Underway with President Bongo under House Arrest
A dozen mutinous soldiers appeared on Gabonese national television, announcing the cancellation of recent election results and the dissolution of “all the institutions of the republic”. Wednesday’s announcement came after President Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64 was re-elected for a third term, in an election the opposition described as a ‘fraud orchestrated’ by the ruling party. The soldiers say they have the president under house arrest in a location believed to be the presidential palace. He is the son of Omar Bongo who was president from 1967 till his death in 2009. The younger Bongo has been in power since then. … Speaking to Al Jazeera from Dusseldorf, Germany, political analyst Adama Gaye says the ongoing coup in Gabon did not come as a surprise. … “He [Bongo] was trying to create the condition for him to clamp down on the opposition and to fabricate another victory for himself in another rigged election. But this time around, the military realised that this was too far-fetched and they had to act, and that is what they did,” Gaye added. Al Jazeera

Ali Bongo – Gabon’s President Arrested in Army Coup
[…] He wasn’t born in the presidential palace, but almost. He was about eight when his father became president,” François Gaulme, a French historian and author on Gabonese politics, told the BBC. … Ali Bongo served in his father’s government as minister of defence, a role he held for 10 years. Before that his first appointment, as Gabon’s foreign minister in 1989, ended after three years because of a constitutional change requiring ministers to be over the age of 35. He was 32 at the time. … [T]hroughout his entire time in office, President Bongo’s legitimacy has been questioned by his opponents. The claims would resurface in 2016, when the main challenger in the presidential election was Jean Ping, the former African Union chairman and father to two of Mr Bongo’s sister’s children. Mr Ping alleged fraud in one of the president’s main strongholds, Haut-Ogooué province, where Mr Bongo won 95% of the vote on a turnout of 99.9%. He won overall by the slimmest of margins – just 6,000 votes. Civil society backed up the allegations of rigging, which were denied by the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG). … Rights groups also allege the Bongo family turned Gabon into a “kleptocratic regime”, looting its natural resources, oil wealth and rainforests, while members of Gabon’s political opposition have long accused family members of embezzling public money and running the country as their private property. BBC

Zimbabwe Opposition Calls for Re-run of Elections and African Mediation
Zimbabwe’s main opposition party on Tuesday called for last week’s elections to be re-run, saying the polls were riddled with flaws and calling on other African countries to help mediate in its impasse with the ruling party. But the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) party did not say how it would seek to force the re-run, refusing to answer reporters’ questions about whether it would file a court case to try to overturn the disputed result. “The only resolution and way forward… is that Zimbabwe needs a fresh and … proper election to end the current crisis,” CCC deputy spokesperson Gift Siziba told a news conference. “We have made it very clear that the entire election in this country was flawed,” he said, alleging there had been deliberate voter suppression leading to a low turnout in urban areas where the CCC tends to perform strongly. … The elections commission said Mnangagwa received roughly 53% of the vote against 44% for the CCC’s Nelson Chamisa. But political analysts were quick to question the credibility of those results. … “They are compiling their own voter tabulations, based on polling station data rather than constituency level, but this is taking time. They will want to be very sure of their evidence before they mount a challenge, but the longer it takes the less public empathy they may find,” he said. SADC’s observer mission said the elections were marred by voting delays, the banning of opposition rallies and biased state media coverage, while the European Union’s observer mission said they took place in a “climate of fear”. Reuters

Niger Spiralling into ‘Protection Crisis’ Following Takeover: UNHCR
The political crisis in Niger has created uncertainty for scores of vulnerable displaced people, with restrictions on humanitarian operations limiting aid and protection, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday. UNHCR’s representative in Niger, Emmanuel Gignac, said that sanctions imposed on the country by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) following last month’s military takeover do not include any exemptions for humanitarian aid. Mr. Gignac observed that food and commodity prices, already climbing before this crisis, jumped after sanctions were introduced. If humanitarians are unable to bring in food and medical assistance, the effects may be “catastrophic”, he warned. Moreover, the security situation, fuel shortages and disruptions to the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) have seriously impacted aid workers’ mobility, keeping them from reaching those most in need. Mr. Gignac also voiced concern for the impact of the sanctions on electricity supply “we are almost constantly on generators, and consuming a lot of fuel” he said, indicating the inevitable impact on fuel supply in months to come. UN News

Mali: New Army Air Strikes in the North
The former Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali on Tuesday accused the army of new air strikes on its positions, in a climate of tension that has raised fears of a resumption of hostilities. A spokesman for the Coordination des mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA) told an AFP correspondent that the Malian army had struck CMA positions in Anéfis for the second day running. He reported no damage. As on the previous day, the Malian army said on social networks that it had carried out airstrikes in the Anéfis sector, but “against columns of vehicles (from) armed terrorist groups” which, it claimed, were preparing attacks against civilians and military posts. The CMA is an alliance of Tuareg-dominated independence and autonomist groups that rebelled against the Malian state in the north in 2012, along with radical Islamists. The CMA signed a peace agreement with the Malian government in 2015. AfricaNews/AFP

At Least 183 Killed in Clashes in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region
At least 183 people have died in violent clashes in Ethiopia’s Amhara region since July, according to the United Nations. “We are very concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in some regions of Ethiopia,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva. “In Amhara region, following a flare-up in clashes between the Ethiopian military and the regional Fano militia, and the declaration of a state of emergency on 4 August the situation worsened considerably.” Tension in the northern region of Amhara worsened this year after the end of a devastating war in the neighbouring region of Tigray that also drew in fighters from Amhara. Clashes erupted in Amhara in early July between the national army and local fighters known as Fano, a few months after the federal government announced it had started dismantling regional forces across the country. The move triggered protests by Amhara nationalists. The violence prompted Ethiopian authorities to declare a six-month state of emergency on 4 August. RFI

Displaced Lack Food and Shelter in Northern Sudan
The health centre for the displaced in Ed Damer, capital of River Nile state in northern Sudan, received six cases of malnutrition since Friday, and there is a severe shortage of shelter for more than 6,000 people who have fled the war in Khartoum. A volunteer at the Ed Damer Emergency Room, a health centre set up by the locality authorities for the treatment of the new arrivals, spoke to Radio Dabanga yesterday. He attributed the outbreak of disease among the displaced to an acute shortage of food and life-saving medicines, along with the deterioration of the surrounding environment. “The displaced receive only one tiny meal a day,” he said.  “The shelter centres in Ed Damer locality are overcrowded,” he added, explaining that over 6,000 displaced have been distributed among houses and the shelter in Ed Damer. The number of families exceeds the capacity of the centre, which can only accommodate 320 families. The source reported that the displaced requested the Ed Damer authorities to open schools to house them, but the authorities refused to do so. Dabanga

South Sudan: Machar, South African Official Discuss Free and Credible Elections
South Sudan’s First Vice President, Riek Machar and South Africa’s Deputy President, Paul Mashatile on Tuesday met to discuss prerequisites for a free, credible and transparent election in South Sudan. The meeting, Mahar’s office said in a statement, was held in Juba, South Sudan. “The two leaders discussed bilateral relations, the progress and challenges facing the implementation of the of the revitalized agreement, and strengthening economic cooperation between the two sisterly countries,” partly reads the statement. … “His Excellency Mashatile emphasized that he journeyed to Juba on behalf of the South African President, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, as a special envoy to track the implementation of the revitalized agreement and assist in resolving challenges that may hinder free and fair elections at the end of the transitional period,” the statement concluded. In July, the head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom said Africa’s newest nation could still make significant strides towards this December 2024 target to hold elections with political will, adequate resourcing and a commitment to create an appropriate political environment. Sudan Tribune

Mali President Signs New Mining Code in Bid to Raise Govt Stake
Mali’s interim President Assimi Goita has signed into law a new mining code which will allow the military-led government to increase its ownership of gold concessions and recoup what it says is a major shortfall in production revenues. The new code, signed on state television late on Monday, will allow the state and local investors to take stakes as high as 35% in mining projects compared with 20% now, and could more than double the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product to around 20%, the government has said. … Goita overthrew two presidents in 2020 and 2021 in coups driven by frustration at the handling of an Islamist insurgency, which has only worsened since his military government took power. He has said he will organise elections and restore power to civilians in 2024. Reuters

Uganda Man Charged with ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’, Faces Death Penalty
A 20-year-old man has become the first Ugandan to be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” – an offence punishable by death under the country’s recently enacted anti-gay law. The defendant was charged on August 18 with aggravated homosexuality after he “performed unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 41-year-old man. The charge sheet did not specify why the act was considered aggravated. “Since it is a capital offence triable by the High Court, the charge was read out and explained to him in the Magistrate’s Court on [the] 18th and he was remanded,” said Jacqueline Okui, spokesperson for the office of the director of public prosecutions. Okui did not provide additional details about the case. She said she was not aware of anyone else having been previously charged with aggravated homosexuality. Justine Balya, a lawyer for the defendant, said she believed the entire law was unconstitutional. The law has been challenged in court, but the judges have not yet taken up the case. Al Jazeera

Logging is Growing in a Nigerian Forest Home to Endangered Elephants. Rangers Blame Lax Enforcement
Roaring chainsaws sent trees crashing to the ground, and bare-chested men hacked away at the branches beside a muddy road. Others heaved logs onto a truck, where they were tied in place with wire. The work was similar on the other side of the road, with a timber-laden truck coughing dark plumes of smoke as it pulled away. This was miles into the conservation zone of Omo Forest Reserve in southern Nigeria, a protected area where logging is prohibited because it’s home to threatened species like African elephants, pangolins and white-throated monkeys. But forest rangers, seeing the impunity, were hesitant to act. “We see people we arrested and turned over to the government back in the forest, and they get emboldened,” ranger Sunday Abiodun told The Associated Press during a recent trip to the reserve. Conservationists say the outer region of Omo Forest Reserve, where logging is allowed, is already heavily deforested. As trees become scarce, loggers are heading deep into the 550-square-kilometer conservation area, which is also under threat from uncontrolled cocoa farming and poaching. … Sawmillers get annual permits from the government to cut down trees until their designated area is completely deforested. Then they can apply for a new section. They say the permit fee of 2 million naira ($2,645) is intended to cover the government’s costs to replace trees but that this rarely occurs. AP

Climate Change Exacerbating Conflict and Poverty — IMF
Climate shocks are already disproportionately affecting war-torn countries, a report from the IMF has shown. Many also bear the least responsibility for climate change. Fragile countries, and those impacted most by conflict, are already being unevenly hit by the effects of climate change, and are less able than other countries to mitigate those impacts, according to a report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday. Fragile and conflict-affected states, referred to by the report as FCS, are those countries whose location and dependence on agriculture make them most vulnerable to extreme weather. They are also some of the most prone to conflict, which in turn hinders their ability to recover from disruptive weather events that, according to the IMF, have happened on average once every four years in these countries since 1980. This situation is only expected to get worse and temperatures continue to rise. By 2040, the so-called FCS will see around two months of temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to just 15 days of high temperatures expected for other countries. DW

Asia, Africa Bear Brunt of Pollution Health Burden – Research
Despite improvements in China, air pollution across the globe continues to pose the greatest external risk to human health, with countries in Asia and Africa suffering most of the impact, new research showed on Tuesday. Around three quarters of the adverse health effects of air pollution is concentrated in just six countries – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria and Indonesia, the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) said in its annual Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report. If hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5 were brought down to levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), average life expectancy would rise by 2.3 years worldwide, saving a combined 17.8 billion life years, the report estimated. While average world pollution levels have fallen slightly over the past decade, almost all of the improvement has been driven by China, where a 10-year “war on pollution” has seen PM2.5 fall by more than 40% since 2013. Reuters