Africa Media Review for August 5, 2022

Ukraine’s Zelensky: Africa Gains Nothing from Russian Ties
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday warned African countries against supporting Russia’s aggression on his country, saying the continent had gained little from siding with Moscow. Zelensky told a group of African journalists that it was in Africa’s interest to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine because it would amount to supporting “the truth.” “They are not investing in any countries. That means Russia does not believe in you. All they are doing is making political investments. They have just one percent of investments in Africa, yet they are 30 times our size,” Mr Zelensky told the online press conference, his first with the continent… On Thursday, President Zelensky said Africa should not see the war as distant but look at Ukraine as a victim of an invasion violating international law, which African countries have signed. He said he would send his Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba to Africa in September. “We would like the African countries not just to support Ukraine…but they should support the truth. There is no value we can attach to freedom, and Russia cannot be using the oil to buy the freedom of others,” he said. In spite of sanctions on Russia, the mounting energy costs and rising food prices recently forced a mediated deal to have ships allowed into Ukrainian ports and ferry away its grain, the world’s biggest source. Russia has been the largest gas supplier to Europe, and the sanctions have forced a debate on whether Europe could relapse to fossil fuels such as coal as it builds its own system of clean energy. East African

South Sudan Extends Transitional Government by Two Years
South Sudan’s leaders announced on Thursday that the country’s post-war transitional government would remain in power two years beyond an agreed deadline, in a move foreign partners warned lacked legitimacy. Martin Elia Lomuro, the minister of cabinet affairs, said the decision was taken “to address the challenges that impede the implementation of the peace agreement”, following a 2018 deal to end a five-year civil war that left nearly 400 000 people dead. “Thus a new roadmap has been agreed,” the minister said, speaking in the presence of President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, who formed a unity government more than two years ago after half a decade of fighting. The world’s newest nation was meant to conclude a transition period with elections in February 2023, but the government has so far failed to meet key provisions of the agreement, including drafting a constitution. AFP

Troika Boycott Launch S. Sudan’s Transitional Period Roadmap
Members of the Troika nations vowed to boycott Thursday’s launch of a roadmap to extend South Sudan’s transitional period roadmap for 24 months, citing lack of inclusivity in the entire process. The Troika nations comprise of the United States, United Kingdom and Norway. Late last month, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar agreed to extend the lifespan of the revitalized peace deal, amid concerns that key benchmarks in the accord are still unimplemented. “While we understand that your transitional government is discussing a roadmap to deliver the many outstanding provisions of the revitalized agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, we regret that we are unable to attend the function at the freedom hall ]tomorrow [August 4, 2022) at ambassador or charge de affairs. This is because we understand that all the relevant parties to the R-ARCSS [Agreement on Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan] have not been included in consultations about the contents of the roadmaps and the extension to the transition period,” partly reads the Troika’s statement. Sudan Tribune

In a First, Somalia-Based Al-Shabab Is Attacking in Ethiopia
The al-Shabab extremist group has exploited Ethiopia’s internal turmoil to cross the border from neighboring Somalia in unprecedented attacks in recent weeks that a top U.S. military commander has warned could continue. The deadly incursions into Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country and long seen as an anchor of security in the Horn of Africa, are the latest sign of how deeply the recent war in the northern Tigray region and other ethnic fighting have made the country more vulnerable. Ethiopia has long resisted such cross-border attacks by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, in part by deploying troops inside Somalia, where the extremist group controls large rural parts of the country’s southern and central regions. But the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and its security forces have struggled with unrest at home especially since the Tigray conflict began in late 2020. Experts say al-Shabab, also emboldened by instability under Somalia’s previous administration, is seizing the chance to expand its footprint and claim the killing of scores of Ethiopian security forces. But the group is also feeling the pressure of a renewed push by Somalia’s new government and the return of U.S. forces to the country after their withdrawal by former President Donald Trump. AP

‘It’s an Illusion of Choice’: Why Young Kenyans Are Boycotting the Election
A growing number of 18- to 35-year-olds say they are not planning to vote in Kenya’s presidential elections next week. About 40% of the 22 million people registered to vote in Tuesday’s elections are aged 18 to 35. Under-35s make up 75% of the country’s population. Civil society groups said they faced particular resistance to registering during engagement campaigns from newly eligible voters aged between 18 and 25. “Many young people are saying that they won’t be voting, that elections have not proved an effective way to cause change,” said Loise Mwakamba, from the parliamentary watchdog Mzalendo Trust. Like many previous elections, next week’s polling is set to be a close race. Two of the presidential contenders, the longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga and deputy president William Ruto, have served high up in government: Odinga as prime minister between 2008 and 2013, and Ruto in the outgoing government. Guardian

Senegal’s Ruling Coalition Loses Parliamentary Absolute Majority
It is the first time since the West African nation’s independence in 1960 that the ruling party’s group loses its absolute majority in Parliament. It will have to rely on other forces in parliament to pass legislation. The opposition had hoped the elections would impose a cohabitation, or divided government, on Sall and curb any ambitions he may have for a third term. And it seems to have succeeded. The main opposition coalition Yewwi Askane Wi won 56 seats, while its ally Wallu Senegal won 24 seats. Some seven million Senegalese were eligible to vote in the election in order to choose between 8 coalitions. The interior ministry said the participation rate was 47 percent. The ruling coalition – which includes Sall’s party Alliance for the Republic (APR) and other parties- lost 43 seats from the 125 it secured in 2017. According to local media; the opposition gained ground, particularly in urban area. Three other seats were won by three small coalitions who could serve as kingmakers. AfricaNews with AFP

Mali’s Capital Bamako Boosts Security Fearing Jihadi Attacks
“The withdrawal of the French forces has certainly left a vacuum, especially at the intelligence level, and this puts Bamako and other areas of the country in a more vulnerable position against jihadist groups, and through previous experience, preventing infiltration and attacks is very difficult,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South. “If these groups can infiltrate and attack Mali’s most protected base at Kati, then they can do the same against strategic locations in Bamako,” warned Lyamouri. The pace of the jihadi attacks has increased and in June a leader of the al-Qaida-linked group JNIM issued a threat that the capital would soon be directly attacked. The United States is moving all nonessential staff out of Bamako and like many other Western countries has advised travelers to avoid visiting Mali. Mali’s military has tightened security in the capital and has closed major roads “to counter this terrorist threat in both Kati and Bamako. Some roads leading to the military camp or to the residence of the transitional president are also cut off,” Col. Souleymane Dembele, spokesman for the Malian army, told The Associated Press. AP

Stories of Survival and Self-Sacrifice from Mali’s Local Jihadist Dialogues
Jihadists began spreading across Mali in 2012 and have since expanded throughout the central Sahel, which includes neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. The humanitarian crisis in the region is now considered one of the worst in the world by aid groups. The main response to the violence has been military. Foreign forces – most notably France – Russian mercenaries, and UN peacekeepers are all present alongside local armies. Sahelian civilians have also formed their own self-defence militias. But since 2020 a significant number of communities have launched dialogues with jihadists to try and halt attacks and find some kind of common ground…The stories include efforts to liberate hostages, lift brutal sieges, and wring surprising concessions out of the militants. Though the leaders have past experience mediating local disputes, none are used to addressing conflict on this kind of scale. The accords being struck have improved security in certain areas and demonstrated a degree of civilian willingness to compromise with militants. That could prove pertinent should Sahelian governments pursue more definitive national talks with jihadists. Still, the pacts are fragile and require a pledge by communities to follow strict sharia. The efforts have also failed to alter the downward trajectory of the broader conflict, which has worsened in recent weeks with jihadist attacks near the capital city, Bamako. New Humanitarian

Tunisia: Democracy Fades in the Arab Spring’s Success Story
In Tunisia, activists and politicians are coming to terms with the passage of President Kais Saied’s new constitution last month and a new vision of the future—one where their relationship with power has been fundamentally altered. The new constitution grants Saied vastly unchecked powers, creating a parliament that’s responsible to him and allowing him to fast-track his own legislation at the expense of the body’s own. Critically, there is no mechanism to remove the president, with ministers, along with the security services, police, and judiciary, all now answerable to one man. According to Tunisia’s Independent High Authority for Elections, known by its French acronym ISIE, around 95 percent of the 30.5 percent of eligible voters who turned out to vote on July 25 cast their ballots in favor of the new constitution. Both activist groups and political parties have questioned the legitimacy of the results, pointing out that a supposed 30 percent turnout is hardly a foundation on which the president can build his much vaunted “new republic.” Foreign Policy

Malawi Accuses US Firm of Owing $300 Billion in Unpaid Mining Taxes
US company Columbia Gem House has denied accusations from Malawi that it owes more than $300 billion in unpaid taxes on minerals extracted in the country. In a letter dated July 26, Malawi’s attorney general Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda accused the firm of evading duty on sales of rubies and sapphires mined at its Chimwadzulo Mine in Ntcheu from 2008. The letter alleges Nyala Mines Limited, which it describes as a Columbia Gem House subsidiary, paid taxes of just $600 against projected $24 billion revenues from their Malawian operation. But the US firm this week denied any link to the alleged case. “Columbia Gem House is not, and never has been, an owner of Nyala Mines or any other entity in Malawi, nor a signatory to any lease agreement with the Government of Malawi,” it said in an email to AFP. The attorney general, Nyirenda, told AFP on Thursday that he stood by the accusations. “I stick to the contents of the letter,” he said. Cabinet spokesman Gospel Kazako confirmed that the attorney general represented the “government of Malawi” in the case, refusing to provide further comment. “The issue is in the hands of legal experts,” he said. But, he confirmed, “we are claiming what is due to us from Colombia Gem House.” The US company said neither it nor the US embassy had received the letter from the attorney general. AFP

Death Toll Reaches 36 in Eastern DRC as Protesters Turn On UN Peacekeepers
Fears of a new wave of violence in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are growing after weeks of deadly protests against UN peacekeepers and rising regional tensions. Thirty-six people, including four UN peacekeepers, have died in the past two weeks as hundreds of protesters vandalised and set fire to UN buildings in several cities in eastern frontier provinces. Though there have been similar waves of protests before, few have caused so many casualties. With elections due next year, analysts say political actors are fuelling unrest. Last week, the DRC effectively expelled a spokesperson for Monusco, the UN’s peacekeeping force in the country, after allegedly making “indelicate and inappropriate” statements that authorities said contributed to the tensions with the local population. Authorities said this week they wanted to reassess the peacekeeping mission’s withdrawal plan. Guardian

Life Expectancy in Africa Increases Nearly 10 Years
Life expectancy in Africa rose by nearly 10 years between 2000 and 2019, from 46 years to 56 years, according to the World Health Organization’s State of Health in Africa report released Thursday. However, WHO officials note that is still well below the global average of 64 years. WHO Assistant Regional Director for Africa Lindiwe Makubalo warned the life expectancy gains could easily be lost unless countries strengthen and make greater investments in the development of health care systems. Speaking from the Republic of Congo’s capital, Brazzaville, she said Africa has made a good start in that direction over the past two decades. On average, she noted, access to essential services like basic primary health care improved to 46% in 2019 compared with 24% in 2000. “Other factors include improvements in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health,” Makubalo said. “Additionally, the rapid scale-up of health services to tackle infectious diseases such as HIV and TB, as well as malaria, over the past 15 years has been a strong catalyst for improved health life expectancy.” Voice of America

Africa Revives Push for Colonial-Era Reparations
In a joint initiative, African countries are renewing their efforts to obtain reparations from European countries for the transatlantic slave trade and other colonial-era wrongs committed centuries ago. The slave trade — which affected millions of Africans — was the largest forced migration in history and one of the most inhumane. Over 400 years, Africans were transported to many areas of the world, yet no reparations have as yet been paid. The process is proving much slower than many Africans expected. This week Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, revived the push for slavery and colonial retribution.  “No amount of money can restore the damage caused by the transatlantic slave trade — and its consequences — which has spanned many centuries, but nevertheless, it is now time to revive and intensify the discussions about reparation for Africa,” Akufo-Addo said at a summit on reparations and racial healing in Accra, Ghana. Ghana was one of the points of departure for many of those enslaved in West Africa and, for the Ghanaian leader, the time for reparations for colonial crimes and slavery is “long overdue.” DW

Blinken to Lay Out Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa During Visit
[Video] US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will launch a three-country tour of Africa on Sunday in South Africa. He is expected to deliver a major speech laying out the Biden administration’s strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa. Experts tell VOA that human rights concerns will likely be high on the agenda. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports. Voice of America



Photo: Adam Jones