Africa Media Review for August 8, 2022

Kenya’s Raila Odinga and William Ruto in Final Election Push
Veteran Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga clambered on to the stage to address the ebullient crowd of 20,000 supporters backing his latest run for the presidency. “Kenyans have four big enemies . . . diseases, stupidity, poverty and corruption,” he told those gathered in the central city of Kiambu to cheer on the 77-year-old’s fifth attempt to lead east Africa’s largest economy. The country’s problems will be solved “if we eliminate the last enemy of corruption”, he said to cheers…Odinga’s chance of victory has been boosted by an endorsement from the outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is stepping down after two terms. The pair were adversaries before they struck a deal four years ago and Kenyatta switched to back his longtime enemy. It means Odinga, a political prisoner in the 1980s, has become the establishment candidate after decades in opposition. Tuesday’s presidential election is expected to go down to the wire, with Odinga and the other main candidate, vice-president William Ruto, neck and neck in the polls. Ruto, 55, casts himself as a political outsider despite the fact he has been the current administration’s deputy leader for two terms. Financial Times

Kenya Shilling Weakens to Record Against Dollar on Elections Eve
Kenya’s shilling slid to a record low against the dollar, widening its fall since the start of the year to 5.7%, as greenback supply dries up ahead of elections scheduled for Tuesday and amid rising demand for key imports. The currency of East Africa’s largest economy weakened to an all-time low of 119.68 per dollar, after falling for the 14th consecutive month in July, with the longest stretch of 30-day losses on record. It recouped some losses to trade at 119.17 shillings by 1 p.m. in Nairobi. “We expect the local currency to continue to remain under pressure due to the increasing dollar demand as global oil prices remain elevated on the back of higher import bill and reduced dollar inflows from key export-earning sectors,” according to Nairobi-based brokerage AIB-AXYS Africa. Kenya’s biggest source of foreign currency is remittances by citizens living outside its borders. Inflows in the first half rose 17% to $2.04 billion from a year earlier, according to central bank data. Bloomberg

Kenyan Candidates Turn to Music of the Street in Their Bid for Youth
The election jams play at nightclubs and on YouTube, at gas stations and on the minibuses speeding through traffic. Ahead of Kenya’s presidential election on Tuesday, the catchy songs are an ever-present soundtrack. With the contest projected to be a neck-and-neck competition, former prime minister Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto have both turned to Kenya’s young musicians for a boost…In seeking to replace outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, the contenders are especially eager to reach Kenya’s massive youth population. Those under the age of 35 make up more than three-quarters of the population, and people ages 18 to 35 make up a whopping 40 percent of the registered electorate…To capture their votes, politicians are turning more than ever to music — including groups like Mbogi Genje, who are part of a genre of Kenyan hip-hop called gengetone — said Patrick Monte, a musicology lecturer at Kabarak University in Nakuru who studies the intersection of politics and music. Whether the strategy will succeed, given the extent of youth disillusionment, is an open question, he added…Young people, whose unemployment rate jumped in recent years to 14 percent, are experiencing a crisis, Odinga said. He said he has a plan to boost employment, including more effective job training, but communicating his plans to younger voters has been hard. Music proved among the best ways. “That’s why we went in that direction,” he said. Both campaigns have focused on improving the lives of Kenya’s poor, who have been devastated by rising food and fuel prices. Despite recent economic growth, about 35 percent of Kenyans live on less than $2 dollars a day and the top 0.1 percent of Kenyans own more wealth than the bottom 99.9 percent. Washington Post

Antony Blinken in Africa: Here’s What Rights Groups Want Him to Address in Rwanda and DRC
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken started his whirlwind three-nation tour of Africa in South Africa over the weekend. After his visit to South Africa, he is expected to travel to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), two neighbouring countries with fractured relations…A prominent problem in eastern DRC’s conflict is the M23, originally made up of soldiers who mutinied in early 2012.  According to HRW, the rebels “went on to commit widespread war crimes, with support from Rwandan troops.” Rights groups say that for more than a decade, the DRC has failed to defuse the remnants of the rebel outfit. This resulted in them regrouping last year amid poor political will for peace and stability. “Since May, M23 forces have at times overrun UN-backed Congolese forces in eastern Congo. Throughout the renewed fighting, hate speech, in some cases by government officials, and stigmatisation of communities linked to neighbouring countries have been growing,” HRW said. Rights groups expect Blinken to take a similar stance taken by former US president Barack Obama when he met Rwandan President Paul Kagame in 2012. Father Rigobert Minani Bihuzo of the Center of Studies for Social Action said: “Secretary Blinken should inform Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, as President Barack Obama did in 2012, that the US will not tolerate any support for M23.” “Blinken should make clear that the US will impose targeted sanctions on government officials and others found to be supporting abusive armed groups,” he said. News24

Uganda: US, Russia Jostle for Museveni’s Attention While Courting Africa
President Yoweri Museveni is in the eye of the US-Russia storm over the war in Ukraine, with top envoys from both countries making trips to Kampala within eight days of each other, and the veteran Ugandan leader looking to gain from both global powers. On the third leg of his tour of four African countries, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov flew to Uganda and met with President Museveni on July 26. And on August 3, US representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield arrived in Entebbe to “counter Russia’s misinformation” over the war in Ukraine. The Russian and US envoys’ itineraries took them to different African countries, but Uganda was the common factor. Both powers see President Museveni as key to building alliances for their geopolitical interests in Ukraine. East African

Rwanda Rejects UN Report on Support for Rebels in Congo
Rwanda’s government is rejecting a report by United Nations experts saying they have “solid evidence” that members of Rwanda’s armed forces are conducting operations in eastern Congo in support of the M23 rebel group whose deadly resurgence has led to talk of war as well as protests against the U.N. peacekeeping force. The report is a “tactic to distract from real issues,” Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said in a statement describing the report as containing “false allegations.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit both countries next week, with the deadly turbulence in mineral-rich eastern Congo leading the agenda. Rwanda accuses Congo of collaborating with another rebel group, the FDLR, and said regional security can’t be achieved until that issue is addressed. The FDLR was created by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda during the country’s 1994 genocide that killed at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Congo has denied supporting the group. AP

Somali Parliament Endorses New Cabinet amid Al-Shabab Attacks
Somali members of parliament gathered at the presidential palace in the capital, Mogadishu, Sunday and overwhelmingly endorsed new Cabinet ministers appointed by Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre last week. During the vote, several mortar explosions hit the capital. Somali parliament speaker Adan Mohamed Nur Madobe told the gathering at the palace’s highly fortified villa Hargaisa that 229 members of parliament voted in favor of the Cabinet, seven voted against it and one abstained. Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre addressed parliament after the vote and welcomed the outcome. He said, “I want to pledge another time that we will work on how to help our people who are facing droughts, to work on security and implement our program that is in front of you while we are working with unity and accountability to overcome all the challenges we are facing. I want to thank you again for your overwhelming approval.” Voice of America

Chad’s Junta, Rebel Groups Sign Pledge in Qatar Before Talks
Chad’s military government and some rebel groups signed a pledge Monday in Qatar ahead of planned national reconciliation talks, though the deal did not include the country’s main opposition group. Under the terms of the deal in Doha, those who signed have agreed to a cease-fire ahead of the Aug. 20 talks planned in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena. Chad’s junta also agreed to “not take any military or police operations against the signing groups” in neighboring countries. However, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad, the main rebel group in the country, did not sign the pledge. The shadowy group, known by its French acronym FACT, is blamed for the 2021 killing of Chad’s longtime President Idriss Deby Itno, who had ruled the country since 1990. That immediately called into question whether the deal would be enough to ensure the success of the talks as a planned 18-month transition from military rule to democracy winds down. Voice of America

Ivory Coast President Pardons Predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara has pardoned his predecessor and longtime rival, Laurent Gbagbo, as part of a reconciliation drive ahead of elections due in 2025. Ouattara made the announcement in a televised address on Saturday, a day before Ivory Coast’s independence celebrations…The president said he has also asked that Gbagbo’s bank accounts be unfrozen and that his lifetime annuity be paid. Gbagbo, president from 2000 to 2011, returned to Ivory Coast last year after being acquitted in 2019 by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague on war crime charges for his role in a civil war sparked by his refusal to concede defeat after the 2010 election. Back home, he still faced a 20-year prison sentence for a 2019 conviction linked to the robbery of funds from the Abidjan central bank during the post-election period. Al Jazeera

How Ghana Makes a Success Out of Failure
Enu, a shopper at Kaneshie market in Accra, the capital of Ghana, peers into a small bag of scrabbling crabs with disappointment. “Before, if I buy two cedis worth, it can make my stew for me,” she says. “Now, no.” As shoppers moan about inflation, traders grumble about slow sales. Many blame the government. “The finance minister, if I catch him, me, I will beat him,” declares Esther, a yam-seller with a twinkle in her eye. Fully 87% of Ghanaians think the country is going in the wrong direction, according to a survey in April by Afrobarometer, a pollster. The economy is a big reason. Annual inflation hit 30% in June, its highest for 18 years. This year the central bank has increased interest rates by 4.5 percentage points to 19% but the cedi has nonetheless fallen 28% against the dollar. Economist

Sudan Seeks to Shed Its Image of Conflict to Boost Tourism Industry
Sudan is often viewed as a place of conflict but the country also boasts unique attractions, from the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers, to ancient temples and pyramids. Now, Sudan wants to exploit the huge tourist potential. Dr. Babiker Mohammed is the country’s Ministry of tourism and says: “We have a strategic plan for 5 years in which we try to develop all our tourist destinations to a high standard with really good facilities.” The region boasts a rich history of civilizations and remains; including three times the number of pyramids in Egypt. But Dr Mohammed admits Sudan has suffered from a negative image. “We are working very hard to promote Sudan at the international fairs,” he says. “But we realised that many people know Sudan as a place of conflict, especially with the Darfur issue. But if we look carefully at Sudan, it is more than one million square miles and the tourist destinations are thousands of kilometres away from the place of conflict.” AfricaNews

Sudanese Military Continue Attempts to Forge New Coalitions: FFC
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) described an initiative launched by a Sufi religious leader, Tayeb al-Jed, as a new attempt by army leaders to establish a political coalition that would a new transitional government. Last month, the religious dignitary put forward an initiative aimed at holding an inclusive conference to agree on a political program for the rest of the transitional period to be enforced by a government of technocrats who would also prepare for general elections. However, al-Jed did not invite the FFC groups to participate in this conference, especially since he was known for calling to dissolve the Hamdok government and opposed the efforts of the transitional government to review the religious education curriculum. Sudan Tribune

UAE Believes Successful Conclusion to Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia Talks Over Renaissance Dam Is ‘Within Reach’
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) believes a ‘successful conclusion to negotiations’ between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia over the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is ‘within reach,’ according to a statement posted on the website of the Permanent Mission of the UAE to the UN on Tuesday. In its statement, the UAE described the GERD dam as a great opportunity to enhance regional integration and cooperation, welcoming all three countries to the African Union (AU) led negotiations. Since the start of its construction in 2011, the dam has been continually criticised by both Sudanese and Egyptian authorities. Sudanese authorities have long complained that recent fillings of the Blue Nile dam constitute a unilateral action in breach of legal obligations agreed upon by Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt in the 2015 Declaration of Principles. According to Egyptian media, Ethiopia began the third stage filling of the dam in July. Sudan and Egypt want a legally binding agreement from Ethiopia on the operation and filing of the dam, as well as guarantees they will receive a certain quantity of the Nile’s waters, fearing it could lessen their share of the river. The GERD dam lies 40 kilometres from Sudan’s eastern border. Sudanese authorities have asked Ethiopia for real-time data on the dam’s operations to assure the functions of its own hydroelectric Nile dams and to stop future flooding floods. Dabanga

Drought: We Know What to Do, Why Don’t We Do It?
The 20 million people struggling to survive a scorching drought in the Horn of Africa are victims not only of a climate crisis but of the failings of governments and humanitarians to heed the lessons from earlier disasters. Four consecutive seasons of failed rains have ruined people’s lives and livelihoods in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. A record-breaking fifth below average season is now in the offing, which will push needs even higher by the end of the year. It’s not that we don’t know how to manage droughts. The key lesson humanitarians learnt in the aftermath of the 2011 Somalia famine was that early warning and early action are the hallmarks of an effective response.  So why, more than a decade on, are we still so slow to act? Although the drought alarm in the Horn of Africa was rung from at least mid-2020, the response has again been too little too late, notes a recently released report by the aid agencies Save the Children and Oxfam, with support from the Jameel Observatory. New Humanitarian



Photo: Adam Jones