Africa Media Review for August 9, 2022

U.S. Promotes Democracy in Africa as Rival Nations Expand Influence
On Monday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken unveiled the Biden administration’s main approach to addressing that challenge and other strategic goals in Africa: promoting democratic governance across the continent. “History shows that strong democracies tend to be more stable and less prone to conflict — and that the poor governance, exclusion and corruption inherent in weak democracies makes them more vulnerable to extremist movements and foreign interference,” Mr. Blinken said in a speech at the University of Pretoria, on the first stop of a tour of Africa that will also take him to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. It is unclear how his message will be received at a time when some African countries are turning away from democracy and settling into authoritarian rule — sometimes by military officers who carried out coups. The United States could risk alienating those African leaders who prefer the authoritarian model or see Washington’s governance push as imperial power projection. Some might call it hypocritical, citing the recent erosion of democratic practices in the United States. New York Times

IEBC: Only 30 Percent of Kenyan Voters Had Cast Ballots by Midday
The electoral commission has announced that 6,567,869 million Kenyans had turned up to vote by 12 pm on Tuesday.  Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission vice chairperson Juliana Cherera said polls were opened at 6 am in most places countrywide as well as in the diaspora. Voting in the diaspora is happening in 12 countries including Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, United Kingdom, Canada, USA, Qatar, UAE and Germany. Voting is taking place from 6 am to 5 pm at their local time. East African

Six Officials Arrested, Four Local Polls Closed as Vote Rigging Fears Ignite in Kenya
Kenya’s election commission on Monday cancelled four local polls and announced the arrest of six officials on the eve of a high-stakes presidential vote, raising alarm after a campaign dominated by rigging fears. Millions of Kenyans will vote for a new leader on Tuesday, in a tight race between Deputy President William Ruto and Raila Odinga, a veteran opposition politician now backed by the ruling party. Voters will also choose governors, senators, lawmakers, woman representatives and county officials. Despite mudslinging and fake news, campaigning has so far been largely peaceful, a relief in a country where past election-related unrest still casts a shadow. But Monday’s announcement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will do little to ease worries over rigging – presidential poll outcomes have been routinely disputed over the last two decades, and the discord often spills over into violence. IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said gubernatorial polls in the counties of Mombasa and Kakamega as well as elections for MP in the Kachiliba and Pokot South constituencies would be postponed until further notice, due to erroneous ballot papers. AFP

With New Constitution, Tunisia Begins Uncertain Chapter
“Before, Tunisia was the icon of the Arab world,” says Mohammed, lean and deeply lined at 46, who declines to give his last name. “Of course, it was a police state under Zine el Abidine Ben Ali,” he added of the country’s former autocrat, ousted in a revolution 11 years ago, “but we had work, we lived well. Now, we’re being hit in the stomach.” As current President Kais Saied solidifies his control of the tiny North African country under a newly passed constitution, he will be challenged to deliver on promises of jobs, bread and stability for citizens such as Mohammed — who today earns roughly 20 cents filling up large burlap bags with garbage for recycling. “I didn’t vote,” Mohammed said, counting among 70% of eligible Tunisians, out of opposition or apathy, who declined to participate in a July 25 referendum on Saied’s charter, which passed anyway. “I don’t trust politicians.” The vote came exactly a year after Saied seized vast powers, dismissing his government and ultimately dissolving parliament, in what his opponents call a coup. Voice of America

Sudan: More Injuries and Detentions as ‘Coup Forces Confronted Defenceless Revolutionaries’
At least 23 demonstrators were injured in Khartoum and Omdurman this weekend. Another seven were detained in Khartoum North (Bahri), including three minors. The Emergency Lawyers condemned the excessive violence with which “the coup forces confronted defenceless revolutionaries”. On Sunday, seven people were injured in protest marches in Omdurman whilst 16 protesters were wounded in Khartoum the day before. The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) reported that most of the injuries were caused as protesters were hit by stun grenades and tear gas canisters, fired by security forces, and by stones that were thrown at government forces. Two protesters were hit by rubber bullets whilst two others had respiratory problems because of excessive use of tear gas. The CCSD said that an unknown number of injured protesters were treated by field aid teams, rather than in hospitals, and are not included in the list. Dabanga

‘Complex and Coordinated Attack’ as Militants Kill 17 Soldiers in Mali
Militants killed 17 Malian soldiers and four civilians in an attack near the town of Tessit on Sunday, the Malian army said. Nine soldiers were also reported missing and vehicles and equipment were destroyed, it said in a statement released late on Monday, adding that it suspected an Islamic State affiliate…Mali is facing a worsening insurgency by Islamist armed groups, some linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, which has expanded to its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger. The army said it killed at least seven on the enemy side. Reuters

Nigerian Lawmakers Threatened to Quit West Africa’s Economic Union over Nepotism
Lawmakers who represent Nigeria at the Economic Community of West African States’s (Ecowas) parliament picked a fight with the bloc over what they described as an unfair recruitment exercise that did not include Nigerians, leaning into the grievance to question the value Nigeria actually gets from belonging to the bloc. “If you are in a system and you are not getting the right results, where you are investing your money, it pays best to walk out of the union,” Ahmed Idris Wase, the deputy speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives who is the first deputy speaker of the Ecowas parliament, said last week. Wase and his Nigerian colleagues alleged that people in charge of an ongoing recruitment exercise at the Ecowas secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, have focused on “bringing in their relatives, and their siblings against the larger interest of our community.” The jobs in question are administrative staff positions at the secretariat. Those who fill the roles run the daily operations that help the union fulfill its mandate. Quartz Africa

Chadian Military Gov’t Signs Peace Deal Without Major Rebel Group
The transitional military government of Chad has signed a peace deal with political opposition groups ahead of a national reconciliation dialogue that seeks political stability in the West African country.  The deal was signed with 42 rebel groups in Doha, the capital of Qatar in the Middle East, on Monday, August 7, 2022.  The peace accord is expected to pave the way for the presidential election promised by the military government of Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno.  He took over after the death of his father, ex-President Idriss Deby, who was killed in 2021 during fighting with rebels of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT). Although there are 47 known rebel groups in the country, only 42 attended the peace talk that led to the signing of the pact in Doha. Those that boycotted made demands as a condition for endorsement. Chad’s FACT released a statement saying it rejected the accord but stated its conditions for dialogue.  The group feared that the parties listed in the national dialogue would not be “treated equally”. Hence, they demanded the constitution of a new committee, the release of their fellow detained rebels from government prisons, and a written promise that the 38-year-old military leader, Mahamat Deby, won’t contest the presidential election as conditions for endorsing the peace pact. HumAngle

Rebels Kill 60 People in Democratic Republic of Congo over the Weekend
At least 60 people, including one soldier, were killed between Friday, Aug. 5 and Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, in clashes between the Democratic Republic of Congo army, FARDC, and armed groups, including Islamic jihadists, in various towns and villages in the eastern provinces of the country. On Saturday, 15 civilians, one FARDC soldier, and one rebel were killed during an attack by jihadists on two villages in the eastern part of the country, according to figures given by local authorities. Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) fighters killed five civilians in Bandiboli, a village in the restive Ituri province, the military governor of the province, Colonel Siro Samba, revealed. A day earlier, local officials reported that ten civilians had been killed, with one killed in Bandiboli and nine in Kandoyi village. The two villages attacked are in the Bakpulu tribal group of the Walese Vonkutu chiefdom in the Irumu territory of Ituri province. HumAngle

Arrest of Zimbabwe Journalists ‘Out of Sync’ with Press Freedom Norms
Zimbabwe has charged two journalists under its cybercrime law in a move media advocates say runs counter to global trends to support and promote press freedom. Police in Harare have charged two journalists from the national paper, News Day, under provisions of the country’s Cyber and Data Protection Act that cover “false data messages.” Editor Wisdom Mdzungairi and senior reporter Desmond Chingarande were called in for questioning last week over their coverage of a legal dispute involving local authorities and a memorial park in Harare. Both deny the charge and Chingarande said he was surprised when police called. “They allege l published a false statement on internet, but l see this as an intimidation tactic. There were allegations that they are burying people on a part of Glen Forest Memorial Park called Chikomo Chemhute, which is situated at the confluence of Mazowe River, without approval from responsible ministries,” he said. Voice of America

Blinken Draws Distinctions Between US and Russia as He Seeks to Make Case for US Partnership in Africa
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday drew firm distinctions between the United States and Russia as he sought to make the case that the US is the better partner for countries in Africa. In a speech about the Biden administration’s “strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa,” delivered in Pretoria, South Africa, the top US diplomat argued that “the United States and African nations can’t achieve any of our shared priorities — whether that’s recovering from the pandemic, creating broad-based economic opportunities, addressing the climate crisis, expanding energy access, revitalizing democracies, or strengthening the free and open international order — we can’t do any of that if we don’t work together as equal partners.” “Our strategy is rooted in the recognition that Sub-Saharan Africa is a major geopolitical force — one that shaped our past, is shaping our present, and will shape our future,” Blinken said…Blinken said his visit was not about countering Russia’s influence on the continent, telling South Africa’s “eNCA” that the US’ “focus is not on saying to friends, partners: you have to choose.” “Our focus is on providing a choice,” he said. CNN

Security Council Examines Capacity Building for Sustaining Peace in Africa
Cristina Duarte, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa, briefed ambassadors during a debate to examine capacity building for sustaining peace on the continent, and to explore the way forward.  She highlighted how African countries’ efforts to both prevent and address violence are being undermined by external factors such as competition over natural resources, which fuels conflict, to the increasing presence of global terrorist networks that are gaining footholds in some regions.  These efforts are also being thwarted by internal factors, including discrimination in the delivery of public services, corruption, and non-inclusive planning and budgeting processes. Furthermore, in areas where the State is absent, service delivery is being provided by non-State actors such as criminal and terrorist groups…“Investing in institutional infrastructure is essential in order to build the capacities to tackle the internal causes of violence. Institutions have the power to catalyze holistic solutions. Institutional capacity building should, therefore, be the cornerstone of efforts to achieve sustainable peace,” she said.  Meanwhile, technical cooperation to create policy and institutional capacity needs to be a priority in all in conflict situations. Ms. Duarte said this requires increasing cooperation and coordination among the UN’s different areas of work. At the same time, deliberations on peace and security issues must be informed by analyses on the socio-economic conditions and institutional capacity of countries. UN News

Mauritania: ‘There Are Snakes – But We Attack the Fires’: Refugees Fight Flames in the Sahara
[Photos] Boukhary leads the Brigade Anti-Feu – the Anti-Fire Brigade – a volunteer force of about 500 Malian refugees living in M’bera camp, towards the border with Mali, 11 miles (18km) from the town. When the call comes, teams of between 50 and 70 men pack themselves into the backs of pickup trucks and zoom out of the camp to deal with the blaze. Sometimes they travel up to 20 miles to put out fires. With little more than axes and tree branches, the brigade helped to put out 36 fires in and around the camp since October, during the most recent dry season, which runs until June. The fires typically come after the rains, when scrubland, full of green plant life, slowly becomes a tinderbox…An influx of thousands of refugees escaping an upsurge in violence and rising insecurity in Mali since March has reduced the number of callouts this year. The hungry livestock they brought with them ate many of the shrubs and trees that would have posed a fire risk. Between October 2020 and June 2021, the teams extinguished 58 fires. Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones