Africa Media Review for August 7, 2023

Niger’s Military Shuts Down Airspace as it Warns of an Imminent Attack
Niger’s mutinous soldiers closed the country’s airspace and accused foreign powers of preparing an attack, as the junta defied a deadline to restore the ousted president. Niger’s state television announced the move on Sunday night, hours before West African regional bloc ECOWAS had demanded that the coup leaders reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum or face military force. In his televised address, coup spokesperson, Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane said “The National Council for the Safeguard of the Country is launching a vibrant appeal to its youth, the noble sons and daughters of our country, that they be ready to defend our country.” … An ECOWAS delegation was unable to meet with Tchiani, who analysts have asserted led the coup to avoid being fired. AfricaNews

Insight: Behind Niger’s Coup, a Feud over the Former President’s Legacy
Niger’s coup was the culmination of months of acrimony between President Mohamed Bazoum and his chief guard over the leader’s attempts to emerge from the shadow of his predecessor, people familiar with the matter said. Since taking over from his political godfather Mahamadou Issoufou in 2021, Bazoum had sought to stamp his authority on the West African country by sidelining a number of senior people in both the military and public administration. That assertive drive became his Achilles heel. When the head of his powerful presidential guard, General Abdourahamane Tiani, feared he was next for the chop, he turned on his boss, confident other military commanders would eventually fall in line, the people familiar with the matter said. … Since coming to power, Bazoum had reinforced military cooperation with France and the United States, curbed the autonomy of Nigerien army commanders and launched anti-corruption programs that targeted some of Issoufou’s proteges, notably in the oil sector, making enemies in the process. Tiani, who was head of Issoufou’s guard for a decade and helped thwart a coup days before Bazoum took over, stayed on in his role under the new president, commanding the most powerful and best-equipped force based in the capital Niamey. But in recent months, Bazoum had curtailed the size of the presidential guard, which was about 700-strong at the time of the coup, and started to scrutinize its budget. Reuters

Benin Pledges Support for ECOWAS over Niger
Benin has insisted that diplomacy is the preferred solution to managing the crisis caused by the military coup in Niger. The country’s foreign minister, Olushegun Adjadi Bakari, told reporters his country was demanding the immediate release and reinstatement of President Bazoum. Bakari also pledged his full support for efforts by the west African bloc ECOWAS to resolve the ongoing crisis. “We are and we fully subscribe to the diplomatic actions that are underway and that remain the preferred solution for the time being,” said Bakari. “But if tomorrow, for whatever reason, whatever action ECOWAS were to take, Benin would in fact be fully involved as a member of ECOWAS.” … Bakari added: “So, today, the only thing to remember is that the president of Niger recognised by ECOWAS, the African Union and the entire international community is President Bazoum. “President Bazoum is currently being held hostage, and what we want is for him to be reinstated as President of Niger.” Several West African states, including Senegal, have pledged to send in troops if the bloc decides to intervene. AfricaNews/AFP

Niger Junta Seeks Wagner Help to Combat outside Military Threat
Niger’s new military junta has asked for help from the Russian mercenary group Wagner as the deadline nears for it to release the country’s ousted president or face possible military intervention by the West African regional bloc, according to an analyst. The request came during a visit by a coup leader, General Salifou Mody, to neighboring Mali, where he contacted someone from Wagner, Wassim Nasr, a journalist and senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, told The Associated Press. He said three Malian sources and a French diplomat confirmed the meeting first reported by France 24. “They need [Wagner] because they will become their guarantee to hold onto power,” he said, adding that the group is considering the request. A Western military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment, told the AP they have also heard reports that the junta asked for help from Wagner in Mali. … Defense chiefs from ECOWAS members finalized an intervention plan Friday and urged militaries to prepare resources after a mediation team sent to Niger Thursday wasn’t allowed to enter the city or meet with the junta leader, General Abdourahamane Tchiani. Nation

Wagner’s Real Money Never Came from Diamonds and Gold
Wagner’s businesses in Africa isolate and create dependent economies, not funding for private armies. … “Considering the fact that this sector is well-corrupted and there are a number of local beneficiaries (local criminal groups, corrupted officials and politicians, etc), the amount of money that the Wagner group could hypothetically gain from the sector does not exceed much the operational costs of the Russian mercenaries there,” [Pavel] Luzin told Vox. “The important fact: the Russian mercenaries do not care about the profit at all, they play a political role as the Kremlin’s proxy, it is not the business.” Rather than seeking to profit off raw materials, Wagner’s co-optation of mining concerns and other major industries of the African countries where it operates is about controlling that economy and shaping the government’s decision-making to their advantage, a form of political appropriation called state capture. “It’s always been a political tool primarily and it’s always been a means to co-opt and effectively gain state capture over isolated regimes that are dependent on an external force,” Joseph Siegle, director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told Vox. Wagner — as a proxy for the Russian state — can deeply embed itself into countries like Mali, CAR, and Sudan where the leadership is unstable or nonexistent, and as those countries are further isolated, they increasingly rely on Wagner and Russia, Siegle said. Vox

The Faces of Russia’s Influence across the African Continent
From military figures to politicians, and from media executives to social media influencers, what the following people all have in common is that, whether ideologues or opportunists, they defend the interests of Russia, and the Kremlin in particular, across the African continent. … [H]ere is an overview of some of the well-known Africans upon whom Moscow relies to consolidate its influence. Choguel Maïga, the megaphone: Having led demonstrations in the capital city of Bamako in 2020 calling for the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (2013-2020), under whom he had previously served as a minister, Choguel Maïga had long been a minor player in Malian politics … he was able to rise to higher office thanks to the Malian putschists’ second coup d’état in May 2021. Sadio Camara, the Dedicated Soldier: Colonel Sadio Camara is a crucial pawn for Russian security interests in Mali and West Africa. Since becoming minister of defense in the wake of the August 2020 coup, this Russian-trained officer has made numerous trips to Moscow aimed at strengthening military cooperation between the two countries. … Harouna Douamba, the Man of Disinformation: This Ivorian businessman, originally from Burkina Faso, is the head of a pro-Russian, anti-Western disinformation network in the Central African Republic and Burkina Faso. Described by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as a “lobbyist close to the Wagner world,” Douamba became a key player for Russia in Africa in 2018, following a business failure. Le Monde

France Suspends Development and Budget Aid to Burkina Faso
The statement comes days after Burkina Faso and Mali announced that they would consider any military intervention against the new military rulers in Niger as a “declaration of war”. The West African bloc ECOWAS last Sunday issued Niger’s new rulers with an ultimatum to hand back power to the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum within the week or face possible military intervention. France’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that it “firmly and resolutely” backed efforts by ECOWAS to reinstate Bazoum. France24

UAE Sends Military Vehicles to Niger Neighbor Chad
The United Arab Emirates has sent military vehicles and other security gear to Chad in support of anti-“terrorism” efforts and border protection, the oil-rich Gulf state said on Sunday. Chad is a neighbor of Niger, where a coup late last month toppled one of the last pro-Western leaders in the terror-plagued Sahel region. The UAE’s official news agency WAM included a photo of several desert-colored armored vehicles, with the Emirati and Chadian flags draped over two of them. Emirati firm NIMR manufactures the vehicles. “The UAE has sent a shipment of military vehicles and security equipment to the Republic of Chad, to support its capabilities in combatting terrorism and enhancing border protection,” WAM said, without providing details on the equipment. WAM said the two countries had signed a military cooperation agreement in June during a visit by Chad’s president, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, who has led the country since his father, Idriss Deby Itno, died from wounds battling rebels more than two years ago. VOA/AFP

Sudan War: Airstrikes on Republican Palace, Civil Servants Await Salaries while Oil Ministry Raises Fuel Prices
Fighting between the Sudan Armed forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) intensified on Sunday, with the air force attacking the Republican Palace in central Khartoum. Six people were killed in attacks on RSF sites in Omdurman. Banks in several states have opened their doors again. The Ministry of Energy and Oil has raised the fuel prices. The Ministry of Finance is only paying salaries of civil servants in the federal government and in Khartoum. Clashes between the SAF and the RSF have led to the death of five people in old Omdurman on Friday. The house they were in, was hit by a missile launched by the RSF, the Wad Nubawi Resistance Committee reported in a statement yesterday. The resistance committee strongly condemned the fighting in residential neighbourhoods, and accused the RSF of continue their human rights violations, including expelling people from their homes and stealing their property and vehicles. The grass roots activists called for the classification of the RSF as a “terrorist militia,” and said they categorically reject a merge of the RSF with the SAF, as was negotiated before fighting broke out on April 15, but instead led to the current prolonged war. Dabanga

Fighting Has Plunged Sudan into a Humanitarian Catastrophe, Senior UN Officials Say
The conflict in Sudan has left 24 million people — half the country’s population — in need of food and other assistance, but only 2.5 million have received aid because of vicious fighting and a lack of funding, two senior U.N. officials said Friday. Eden Worsornu, director of operations for the U.N. humanitarian agency, and Ted Chaiban, deputy executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, who just returned from Sudan, painted a dire picture of devastation and upheaval in Sudan, with no peace talks in sight. Worsornu said hotspots, such as the capital of Khartoum and the southern Kordofan and western Darfur regions, “have been shattered by relentless violence.” Nearly 4 million people have fled the fighting, facing scorching heat up to 48 degrees Celsius (118 F), and threats of attacks, sexual violence and death, she said. … The U.N. has been trying to get aid to 18 million Sudanese, but 93 of its humanitarian partners were able to reach only 2.5 million between April and June because of the severe fighting and difficulties getting to those in need. AP

‘People Are under Siege’: Why Ethiopia’s War in Tigray Isn’t Over
[…] The Irob are a small community of about 35,000 people who speak their own language – Saho – and mostly live in the north-eastern pocket of Tigray to which they give their name. It is a remote border area that has long been claimed by Eritrea. … A peace deal struck between the TPLF and Ethiopia’s government in November 2022 has ended the fighting in Tigray, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Eritrean troops withdrew from much of the region shortly afterwards, but nine months later they still occupy several areas along the border, including four of Irob’s seven subdistricts. Even though an implementation accord signed shortly after the ceasefire states that “foreign” forces should leave Ethiopian territory. Father Tesfaye and activists say Eritrean troops continue to loot livestock and kidnap people in Irob and elsewhere. The advocacy group Irob Anina has counted 56 disappearances from Irob and the next-door district of Golomkeda since the ceasefire. There are fears they have been forcibly recruited into Eritrea’s military. “There has been no improvement for us since the peace,” says Father Tesfaye. “The Eritreans have not moved; they are blockading the road.” The Guardian

Ten Dead Migrants Wash Ashore in Tunisia
The bodies of 10 migrants have been found on a beach in Tunisia, near the city of Sfax which has seen a spike this year in Europe-bound sea crossings, authorities said on Sunday. Tunisia has become a major gateway for irregular migrants and asylum seekers primarily from other parts of Africa, attempting perilous voyages in often rickety boats in the hopes of a better life. “Ten bodies have been found over the past 48 hours by coast guard units” north of Sfax in Tunisia’s centre-east, the national guard said in a statement. Sfax court spokesman Faouzi Masmoudi told AFP it had been informed of the discovery of “eight bodies, all apparently sub-Saharan Africans” and investigators were working to identify them. The dead migrants were “found between Friday and Saturday” during a windstorm that had possibly sunken their boat, Masmoudi said, but noted no reported shipwrecks off Sfax. They may have embarked from another area along Tunisia’s coast, the spokesman added. According to the North African country’s interior ministry, 901 bodies had been recovered this year by 20 July following maritime accidents in the Mediterranean Sea, and 34 290 others had been rescued or intercepted. News24/AFP

AU Mission Sticks to Somalia Exit Plan as Shabaab Hit Kenya
The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) is keeping its exit plan, preparing a pool of another 3,000 troops to leave the country as part of a longterm rebuilding plan for Mogadishu. But that may mean deeper security challenges for neighbouring Kenya, which has lately been suffering from attacks from the militant group Al Shabaab. This week, Atmis chiefs said the latest drawdown of troops will be done by end of September. And the African Union and the United Nations missions in Somalia reaffirmed their support for Somalia’s state-building to fill the gap. Yet, the programme directly affects Kenya which may be banking on adequate stability in Somalia to manage own security. Mohamed el-Amine Souef, head of Atmis, and Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, head of the UN Support Office in Somalia (Unsos) visited Kismayu, a town in southern Somalia, where they met UN and Atmis personnel to discuss ongoing offensive against the Shabaab, security and political issues. And Souef urged the personnel to continue to provide specialised training and knowledge transfer to Somalia’s public servants to help increase the number of skilled personnel in various sectors. East African

Two Senegal Opposition Figures Now Able to Run for President
Parliament in Senegal has restored the right of two opposition figures to stand in next year’s presidential election. It voted to allow people who’ve been convicted but then pardoned or amnestied to run for public office. That clears the way for Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, who were prevented from standing in 2019. Senegal’s most prominent opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, is facing criminal charges that would stop him from running to replace President Macky Sall, who cannot stand for a third term. BBC

Senegal’s Opposition Leader Ousmane Sonko Hospitalized a Week into Prison Hunger Strike
Senegal’s jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who has been on a hunger strike in prison to protest criminal charges against him, was hospitalized Sunday, his party said. Sonko was imprisoned last week in advance of criminal proceedings against him on charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy against the state and other charges. The reason for his hospitalization at the Main Hospital in downtown Dakar was not immediately clear. “Prior to his imprisonment, he was in good health and had no known illnesses,” said the statement from Sonko’s now-dissolved Patriots of Senegal (PASTEF) party. Sonko announced July 30 on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that he would start his hunger strike. The announcement came a day before a judge in the capital of Dakar ordered his imprisonment. … Sonko placed third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election and is popular with the country’s youth. His supporters maintain the charges against him are part of a government effort to derail his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election. Sonko’s health emergency comes the day after his lawyer, Juan Branco, was arrested in Mauritania and extradited to Senegal, where he is in a Dakar prison, according to Branco’s lawyer, Robin Bindard. AP

Angolan Police Accused of Murdering at Least 15 People since January
Angola’s police have allegedly killed over a dozen activists since January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday, urging government to swiftly probe reports of abuse and rights violations. The country’s law enforcement authorities have also been accused of the arbitrary arrests and detention of hundreds, the NGO said in a statement. Angolan law enforcement authorities including police, state security and intelligence services “have been implicated in unlawful killings of at least 15 people,” HRW said. Political activists, artists and protest organisers were the main targets of the “alleged rights violations,” which HRW has condemned. “Angolan authorities should urgently act to end abusive police policies and practices and ensure that there is justice for victims and their family members,” Zenaida Machado, senior Africa researcher at HRW said in the statement. Although the government has attempted to improve law enforcement, criminal prosecutions against police officers who commit these violations remain rare, HRW said. The arrests are more frequent in the oil rich northern province of Cabinda, close to the Democratic Republic of Congo. News24/AFP

Libya’s High State Council Elects New Leader as Political Gridlock Deepens
One of Libya’s top governing bodies has elected a new leader in a development that could further fracture the deeply divided country. The Tripoli-based High State Council (HSC) on Sunday chose Mohammed Takala in a run-off by 67 votes to 62, unseating its former head Khaled al-Mishri, who had led the HSC since 2018. The introduction of a new leader at the helm of a key political institution could add more uncertainly to the country’s already divided politics. The international community and the United Nations have repeatedly said that nationwide elections are key to ending the country’s decade-long power vacuum. But for years, rival leaders have failed to agree to a set of election laws that would set the terms of that vote. … The HSC holds significant influence in political matters under a 2015 agreement and has been negotiating a path to elections with Libya’s main parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), which is based in the country’s eastern city of Tobruk. … Many Libyans … believe the HoR and HSC have little interest in holding an election that could diminish their power. Al Jazeera

UAE Raises Stakes in Competition for the Lucrative African Market
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has joined the bandwagon of global superpowers scrambling to gain commercial influence in Africa, targeting a share of the continent’s 1.2 billion people market for its goods. The latest report by property consultant firm Knight Frank shows UAE is the biggest source of FDI for Africa among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and remains focused on the continent’s high-growth sectors such as infrastructure, energy, transport, logistics, and technology. Over the past decade, the UAE has emerged as the fourth-largest investor globally into Africa — after China, Europe and the US, according to the White&Case, a global, New York-based law firm that serves companies, governments and financial institutions. … It is now emerging that Africa is fast becoming one of the most important markets for Abu Dhabi, which invested $5.6 billion in 71 projects in the continent in 2021, with the most significant being The Agtech Park in Egypt. The top five destination countries for FDI inflows from GCC to Africa between 2012-2022 are Egypt ($69.8 billion), Morocco ($4.6b), Algeria ($3b), Nigeria ($2.6b) and South Africa ($2.3b). The top five sectors of FDI inflows include construction ($36.2b), environmental technology ($31.7b), energy ($10.1b), transport and warehousing ($6.6b) and agribusiness ($3.2b). Investors are also looking at other sectors such as sea ports, telecommunications, airlines and airports. Dubai’s DP World, a major player in global supply chain solutions, has invested over $1.8 billion in Africa over the last 10 years, and plans to invest a further $3 billion over the coming years. East African

World Cup: Nigeria Fall to England in Penalty Shootout
England have knocked Nigeria out of the Women’s World Cup in a last-16 penalty shootout, with Chloe Kelly scoring the decisive spot-kick, following a 0-0 draw over 120 nerve-jangling minutes. Beth England, Rachel Daly and Alex Greenwood also converted in a 4-2 shootout win for the European champions, who had a player sent off in regulation time. England played with 10 women through extra time after forward Lauren James, their top scorer with three goals in the group stage, was sent off in the 87th minute for an ill-tempered stamp on the back of Michelle Alonzi after the two went down in a tangled heap. … Nigeria forced Mary Earps to work early, and the England keeper stood tall with a couple of great saves in front of 49,461 fans at Lang Park. … The Lionesses did not have a shot on target until the 77th minute when Daly had a great chance with a header off Greenwood’s corner that forced goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie to get down quickly and save. Al Jazeera