Africa Media Review for August 9, 2023

Niger’s Military Junta Digs In with Cabinet Appointments and Rejects Talks
The military junta that seized power in Niger two weeks ago has named new ministers and barred most international mediators from the country, in what analysts described as an attempt to consolidate power in the face of international pressure. The West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which previously threatened to use military force to reinstate the democratically elected government, is expected to meet again Thursday to discuss the situation. The junta refused to admit mediation teams that were meant to arrive Tuesday, sent by the United Nations, the African Union, and ECOWAS. … ECOWAS set a deadline of Sunday for Niger to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, a deadline that the junta ignored and which passed without action from the bloc. … Mutinous soldiers detained Bazoum and seized power on July 26, claiming they could do a better job at protecting the nation from jihadi violence. But most analysts and diplomats say that reason doesn’t hold weight and that the takeover was the result of a power struggle between the president and the head of his presidential guard, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who now says he runs the country. AP

Nigeria Says Not Ruling Out Force in Niger Ahead of West African Summit
Coup-hit Niger’s neighbors have not ruled out military intervention, Nigeria’s president said, ahead of a West African coalition’s crisis summit in Abuja on Thursday. Bola Tinubu, who also chairs the bloc ECOWAS, still believes diplomacy is the “best way forward” to resolve the crisis, according to his spokesman. So far efforts by ECOWAS and the United States to convince Niger’s new rulers to hand back power to the democratically elected leader have made little headway. The soldiers who took charge defied a Sunday deadline to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum or face the possible use of force and have been unswayed by negotiations, instead staging a rally at a stadium in the capital Niamey. Defense Post with AFP

Niger Ex-Rebel Launches Anti-Coup Movement in First Sign of Internal Resistance
A former rebel leader and politician in Niger has launched a movement opposing the junta that took power in a July 26 coup, a first sign of internal resistance to army rule in the strategically important Sahel country. Rhissa Ag Boula said in a statement seen on Wednesday that his new Council of Resistance for the Republic (CRR) aimed to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who has been in detention at his residence since the takeover. “Niger is the victim of a tragedy orchestrated by people charged with protecting it,” the statement said. … The CRR supports ECOWAS and any other international actors seeking to restore constitutional order in Niger, according to Ag Boula’s statement, which added that it would make itself available to the bloc for any useful purpose. A CRR member said several Nigerien political figures had joined the group but could not make their allegiance public for safety reasons. Reuters

16 Soldiers Dead in Mali Attack
Mali’s ruling junta has not spoken about the incident since reports of it began to emerge on Aug. 3. In its Amaq propaganda platform, the Islamic State said fighters affiliated with it ambushed a Malian army convoy traveling toward Niger. Dozens of soldiers were injured, and the fighting lasted about an hour, the group said. Mali has since 2012 been battling a jihadist insurgency that began in the north and spread to the center of the country and to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. The Menaka region has for months been at the forefront of a push by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. A recent Human Rights Watch report accused the group of being behind “hundreds” of deaths and forcing thousands from their homes since the start of the year. AFP

At Least Six Killed, 12 Hurt in Somalia Bus Explosion
At least six people were killed in an explosion targeting a passenger bus travelling in a region outside Somalia’s capital on Wednesday, the state news agency said. Somali News Agency, citing Mohamed Ibrahim, governor of Lower Shabelle region, said the attack happened on a road between Qoryoley and Marka districts and that another 12 people had been injured. Ibrahim said a terrorist attack had caused the explosion, the news agency said on X, formerly known as Twitter. Reuters

Ethiopian Military Pushes Back Militiamen in Two Major Amhara Towns
Ethiopia’s military has pushed local militiamen out of two major towns in the Amhara region, residents said on Wednesday, in its first major battlefield breakthroughs since fighting erupted last week. The Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) gained control on Tuesday of the centre of Gondar, Amhara’s second-biggest city, and entered the holy town of Lalibela on Wednesday after militiamen left, the residents said. … Gondar and Lalibela were among the towns where the Fano militia overran the ENDF last week in Ethiopia’s most serious security crisis since a two-year civil war in the northern Tigray region ended last November. The part-time militia draws volunteers from the local Amhara population. It was an ally of the ENDF during the Tigray war but the relationship later deteriorated over accusations the federal government was trying to weaken Amhara’s defences against neighbouring regions, which the government denies. The government of Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country and one of its biggest economies, declared a state of emergency on Friday and rushed soldiers to the frontlines. Reuters

The World Food Program Slowly Resumes Food Aid to Ethiopia after Months of Suspension and Criticism
The United Nations World Food Program is slowly resuming food aid to Ethiopia nearly five months after taking the extraordinary measure of suspending aid to millions of people after the discovery of a massive scheme to steal donated grain. WFP said it’s testing small-scale distribution in some areas but acknowledges that the government still plays a role in the process. … The pause has affected 20 million Ethiopians — 1/6 of the population — plus 800,000 refugees. … U.S. officials have said they believe the theft could be the largest-ever diversion of donated food. Aid workers have told the AP that Ethiopian officials were deeply involved. … Donors have recommended completely removing Ethiopia’s government from the aid system. But “WFP works in Ethiopia at the request of the government and works closely with the government of Ethiopia at all levels,” the U.N. agency said. AP

More than 40 Feared Dead after Boat Sinks in Mediterranean Near Lampedusa
At least 41 people are feared to have died after a boat sank in rough seas off the Italian island of Lampedusa, in the central Mediterranean, according to media reports. Four survivors who were rescued on Wednesday morning by a Maltese bulk carrier, and eventually moved to a patrol boat from the Italian coastguard, said they were on a vessel that had set off from Sfax, in Tunisia, and sank on its way to Italy’s shores. The asylum seekers said their vessel, a precarious metal boat carrying 45 passengers, including three children, had begun to take on water as soon as they reached the open sea. “Suddenly we were overwhelmed by a giant wave,” one survivor told the coastguard. … According to interior ministry figures, more than 78,000 people have landed in Italy after crossing by boat from north Africa since the start of the year – more than double the arrivals during the same period in 2022. The vast majority – 42,719 – had set off from Tunisia, which has surpassed Libya as the principal departure hub for migrants, and where the EU last month signed a €1bn (£860m) deal to help stem irregular migration. Guardian

The Months long Conflict in Sudan Has Displaced over 4 Million People, a UN Official Says
Sudan’s escalating conflict has driven more than 4 million people from their homes, including over 884,000 who have fled to neighboring countries, a U.N. official said Tuesday. The fighting has also triggered outbreaks of disease and an increase in malnutrition, according to William Spindler, a spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency. From mid-May to mid-July, the UNHCR recorded over 300 deaths from measles and malnutrition, mainly among children under 5, Spindler said, speaking to reporters in Geneva. His remarks came as clashes between the Sudanese army and its rival paramilitary force intensify in the eastern part of the capital, Khartoum, and the nearby city of Omdurman. AP

Heavy Clashes Grip Sudan Capital as War Shows No Sign of Let-Up
Sudan’s army on Tuesday intensified efforts to gain ground in the capital Khartoum in some of the heaviest fighting since the start of a conflict with a rival military faction that has caused a growing humanitarian crisis. The army has launched air strikes and heavy artillery since Monday to try to take a bridge across the Nile used by the rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to bring reinforcements and weapons from Omdurman to the other two cities that make up the wider capital, Bahri and Khartoum, residents said. The RSF, which occupied much of the capital at the outbreak of fighting in mid-April, responded forcefully, resulting in heavy clashes in residential neighborhoods and civilian casualties and displacement. Neighborhood activists in eastern Omdurman said at least nine civilians had been killed. Reuters

Sudanese Journalists Condemn Targeting of Professionals and Volunteers
The Sudanese Journalists Network (SJN) is gravely concerned about the increasing number of assaults by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) against civilians, in particular journalists, doctors, lawyers, members of resistance committees, and other activists. “These human rights violations, including detention, torture, and sometimes even killing, are systematic and deliberate.” In a press statement yesterday, the SJN recounts a number of attacks by RSF paramilitaries on journalists, including the killing of Sudan TV Photographer Esam Marajan. He was shot dead inside his home in Beit El Mal in old Omdurman last week. The SJN also reported, though without mentioning a date, that an RSF unit stormed the office of the El Madaniya newspaper in the Khartoum III neighbourhood. They broke the door locks and plundered and vandalised the office. Families and relatives of journalists have been attacked by RSF elements, their homes plundered at gunpoint, the network said, presenting the names of 21 journalists and correspondents who experienced this kind of violence. Radio Dabanga

Political Arrests, Media Restrictions a Worry in Lead Up to Senegal Elections
Senegalese authorities have experts and rights groups worried by their recent arrests, infringements on press freedom, internet shutdowns and the repression of protests. “It seems to have escalated in the past few weeks, and even more in the past few days,” said Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz, a professor of political science who specialises in African politics at Michigan State University. Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, now on hunger strike and in hospital, has been convicted of immoral behaviour and charged with fomenting insurrection, while human rights advocate and journalist Pape Alé Niang was arrested after commenting on Sonko’s detention. He was granted temporary release on bail on Tuesday. At its general assembly on 5 August, Amnesty International called on Senegal to release Alé Niang and to end attacks on press freedom. RFI

‘Now the Tyrant’s Abuse Will Continue’: Uganda’s President under Attack over Closure of UN Human Rights Office
Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has come under attack from campaigners and activists for forcing the closure of the UN human rights office in the country. The head office in the capital, Kampala, closed at the weekend. Two field offices, in Gulu and Moroto, had already ceased operating over the summer, after the government’s decision not to renew a host agreement allowing the agency to operate. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Volker Türk, announced the closures with “regret” and said the agency had worked for 18 years in Uganda for “the promotion and protection of the human rights of all Ugandans.” The move comes amid concerns over human rights violations and the recently signed anti-LGBTQ+ bill, which allows the death penalty for some homosexual acts. Türk expressed particular concern about the human rights situation in Uganda ahead of the 2026 elections in which Museveni is expected to run, given the “increasingly hostile environment” in which activists and journalists are operating. Most of the 54 non-governmental organisations whose work in Uganda was arbitrarily suspended in August 2021 also remain closed. Guardian

Zimbabwe Elections: Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to Lead AU Observer Mission
Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan is due in Zimbabwe ahead of the 23 August general elections as the head of the Joint African Union (AU) and Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) Election Observation Mission (EOM). Jonathan will be assisted by former Ugandan prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda. According to a statement from AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, the joint team will consist of “73 short-term observers (STOs) and three Core Team of electoral experts.” Jonathan will be the second former Nigerian president to lead an observer mission to Zimbabwe, after Olusegun Obasanjo led a team of 69 observers in 2013. News24

Into the Inferno — A Week in Algeria’s Fire-Ravaged Mountains
State firefighting capacity can’t keep up with the intensity of recent wildfires, leaving residents in rural mountain towns to face the blaze alone… In the early hours of July 24, residents of the remote mountainous regions of Toudja and Beni Ksila, in northern Algeria, woke in a hurry as a wall of flames approached their villages. The heatwave that had gripped the whole Mediterranean basin in July, sending temperatures into the 120s, had dried out the dense groves of wild olive trees and tall spring grasses that covered the hillsides, providing ample fuel as the wildfire raced down the steep slopes toward the sea. Villagers rushed to gather a few belongings and animals, then fled toward Oued Das, the small resort town on the coast below them. Some made it to the water’s edge before the flames engulfed them. Others were swept up in the blaze. … Global warming is contributing significantly to the conditions that cause and exacerbate these megafires. A special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that focused on how global warming was affecting different areas of our planet noted that the Mediterranean was particularly susceptible to the effect of rising temperatures. New Lines