Africa Media Review for December 28, 2021

2021, the Year Military Coups Returned to the Stage in Africa
… Guinea’s 5 September coup was neither the first nor the last power grab this year in sub-Saharan Africa. There had been four successful military takeovers across the continent, up from one last year. Most recently, Sudan’s military detained the country’s civilian leaders and seized power in October… In May, Malian soldiers had their second coup in the space of 10 months. This came weeks after General Mahamat Idriss Deby immediately seized power in Chad by suspending the constitution and dissolving the parliament following the death of his father on the battlefield. … The African Union (AU) and the regional bodies such as The Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS in West Africa suspended the countries where coups had taken place – except Chad – in a bid to force military rulers to negotiate with civilian leaders. But such moves have had limited effect. Powell [a professor at the University of Kentucky] said the lack of concrete and unified international condemnation and the growing number of international actors who have shown willingness to work with the military governments, encourage more unconstitutional power grabs by military officials who know they will not face severe consequences or regional and global isolation. … “There is hope [among supporters] that the junta which assumes power will set the foundations for a democratic reset in authoritarian states. This often does not prove to be the case,” Cummings [director of consulting firm Signal Risk] added. Al Jazeera

‘Frenzied Campaign’ against December 25 Sudan Demos – 235 Injured
The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors reports that at least 235 demonstrators were injured in the Marches of the Millions in Sudan on Saturday. Most of the injuries, 173, occurred in Khartoum, as Sudanese security forces responded to the anti-coup demonstrations with volleys of live ammunition, tear gas, and stun grenades, as protestors converged on the Republican Palace. A litany of other violations has been reported during demos across Sudan, with forces raiding hospitals and neighbourhoods, in what the Sudanese Professionals Association called “a frenzied campaign.” In a statement on Sunday, the doctors’ committee say that six of the injured sustained bullet wounds, three of them are unstable and one is in intensive care. The committee announced that 20 demonstrators were injured by tear gas canisters, including an unstable case, and a case of amputation of fingers as a result of being hit by a stun grenade. This is in addition to 32 other cases of head injury as a result of beating with batons. … In a statement, the Forces of Freedom and Change condemned the cutting off of internet and communications services. The FFC affirmed working with all the revolution’s forces, especially the United Popular Front, to meet the requirements of the current situation, and to confront and overthrow the coup. Radio Dabanga

Sudan’s GIS Gets Temporary Power to Arrest Civilians
Sudan’s head of the Sovereign Council has temporarily given the General Intelligence Service (GIS) the authority to arrest civilians during the state of emergency. The Commander in Chief of the Sudanese army Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on October 25, 2021, dissolved the transitional government and declared a state of emergency in Sudan after the coup. Under the Emergency Order published on the GIS’s Twitter page on Sunday, the agency once again has the right to arrest people, search, monitor property and objects, seize funds, etc., and prohibit or regulate the movement of people. The decree provides immunity for the agents and protection from civil lawsuits for the GIS’s officers and other public officials. … Despite its temporary character, the decision clearly breaches the constitutional declaration governing the transitional period. In line with the Constitutional Document, the agency’s role is limited to gathering and analyzing the information. The former National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) had the power to arrest civilians. It used to torture and kill political opponents. Sudan Tribune

Dubai Can’t Shake Off the Stain of Smuggled African Gold
Interviews with government officials across Africa reveal smuggling operations that span at least nine countries and involve tons of gold spirited over borders. That’s a cause for international concern because the funds from contraband minerals dealing in Africa fuel conflict, finance criminal and terrorist networks, undermine democracy and facilitate money laundering, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. … While it’s impossible to say precisely how much is lost to smugglers each year, United Nations trade data for 2020 show a discrepancy of at least $4 billion between the United Arab Emirates’ declared gold imports from Africa and what African countries say they exported to the UAE. The UN and NGOs have long questioned the apparent role of one of the Emirates — Dubai — in facilitating the trade by closing its eyes to imports from dubious sources. … African governments are adding to the pressure. Besides Sudan, authorities in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic and Niger complain that tons of gold leaks across their borders each year, and they allege most of it heads to Dubai. … The bulk of Africa’s illegally mined gold is channeled to Dubai through refineries in countries like Uganda and Rwanda, or is flown there directly in hand luggage, often with false papers… Bloomberg

Cameroon Jails 47 Opposition Activists for ‘Rebellion’
A military tribunal in Cameroon has jailed dozens of opposition supporters for terms of up to seven years for “rebellion,” their party’s deputy secretary general said Monday. The 47 defendants were arrested in September 2020 as Maurice Kamto’s Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) and several other parties planned protests against the government of Paul Biya, in power for nearly 40 years in the central African country. Police dispersed hundreds of protesters in the economic capital Douala and made more than 500 arrests across the country. Of those, 124 remain in detention, according to the MRC. The military tribunal in the capital Yaounde sentenced 47 activists, with Kamto’s spokesman Olivier Bibou Nissack and the party’s treasurer Alain Fogue getting seven-year terms, Roger Noah told AFP. The rest were given terms of between one and five years, he said. The charges included “rebellion” and “attempted insurrection”, according to MRC vice president Emmanuel Simh. In September, a group of around 50 lawyers said they would not mount a defence for around 100 detained opposition members, denouncing what they described as the arbitrary and illegal nature of their detention. AFP

Somalia’s Allies Alarmed as Political Crisis Festers
Somalia’s allies expressed alarm over the intensifying row between the country’s president and prime minister as heavily armed factions patrolled parts of Mogadishu on Tuesday, raising fears that the political crisis could erupt into violence. Soldiers loyal to the premier took up positions near the presidential palace, a day after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, announced the suspension of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, who accused him of an “attempted coup.” Relations between the pair have long been frosty, but the latest developments have sparked concerns for Somalia’s stability as the country struggles to hold long-delayed elections and fight a jihadist insurgency. … International observers and allies, including the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations, released a statement late Monday, expressing “deep concern” over the crisis. “We call on Somalia’s leaders to put the country’s interests first, to de-escalate rising political tensions, and to refrain from provocation or use of force that could undermine peace and stability,” the statement said. “International partners have repeatedly expressed growing concern over procedural irregularities and delays in the Somali electoral process.” AFP

Libyan Lawmakers Meet over Delayed Presidential Election
Libyan lawmakers met Monday to discuss the myriad challenges that forced a postponement of the long-awaited presidential election this month. The postponement was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich North African country. The vote has faced many obstacles, including controversial presidential hopefuls, disputes over laws governing the elections, occasional infighting among armed groups, and the long-running rift between the country’s east and west. The parliament, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, convened to decide on a proposal by Libya’s election commission to hold the vote on Jan. 24. Under the proposal, the presidential election would be followed by parliamentary elections a month later, on Feb. 15. Abdullah Bliheg, spokesman for the legislature, said lawmakers would discuss the election commission’s efforts to hold the vote. Lawmakers also deliberated a parliament report on the challenges that forced the vote postponement. Stephanie Williams, U.N. special adviser on Libya, implored lawmakers to “urgently address” challenges leveled by the High National Elections Commission and “to push the electoral process forward.” AP

50 Killed in DR Congo Fighting
Twelve civilians and 38 rebels have died in four days of fighting in northeast DR Congo, where the armed forces are carrying out a crackdown on militias, military and local sources said on Monday. The clashes have taken place in Ituri province, where in separate conflicts, the army is battling the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – a group with suspected links to the so-called Islamic State – and an ethnic-based militia called CODECO. On Thursday, nine civilians in the Mambembe area were “massacred” by the ADF, and three more were killed in an attack on Saturday, the area’s chief, Janvier Musoki Kinyongo, told AFP. “People have fled my area. ADF rebels are moving about the region,” he said. In another part of Ituri, soldiers killed seven ADF operatives and captured one in an offensive launched on Highway 4, about 90 kilometres south of provincial capital Bunia, army spokesman Jules Ngongo said. Separately, the army said it had carried out a “helicopter-backed operation” against CODECO in Ituri’s territory of Djugi. AFP

The Continent’s Africans of the Year: Navy Malela and Gradi Koko
The world of international high finance is shrouded in secrecy – deliberately so. If we don’t know how money flows between companies and across borders, we can’t ask too many awkward questions. But occasionally someone opens a window into this shadowy world. Invariably, this gives us a glimpse into corruption on a grand scale. Earlier this year, at great cost to themselves and their families, Congolese bankers Gradi Koko and Navy Malela opened such a window. They leaked thousands of internal bank documents – seen by The Continent – which revealed the dodgy dealings of the Kinshasa-based Afriland Bank. The bank appeared to be helping the Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler to evade US sanctions (an allegation denied by Gertler). The bank was also allegedly facilitating a money-laundering network linked to Hezbollah, and providing banking services to a company linked to North Korea’s authoritarian regime. For their efforts, Koko and Malela received death threats and were forced into exile in Europe. With the support of the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, they and their families are now in a new, strange city, trying to rebuild their lives. The cost of staying true to their principles has been to leave behind everything they knew and loved. Mail & Guardian

Senegal’s First Regional Trains Make First Journey between Darkar and Diaminiado
After five years and several false starts, the Dakar Regional Express Train was on Monday, December 27 opened to passengers. The first train took off at 14 15 for the inaugural trip between Darkar and Diaminiado. Though it had been initially announced that the 35 kilometer route would take 20 minutes, it took an hour and fifteen minutes to reach its destination. … With a frequency of 6 trains per hour and a speed of 16 km/h, the TER will initially serve 13 stations between Dakar and the new town of Diamniadio. With a total of 565 seats, tickets range between 500 and 2500 CFA francs (0.86-4.31 dollars). … The trains will transport 115,000 passengers per day aiming at reducing vehicular congestion in the city. The 1.3 billion commuter railway will link up with express buses, which will operate on reserved lanes on a toll highway that has been in operation for a decade. AfricaNews

From Criminal to ‘Teacher’: The Ex-Gangster Tackling Crime in Nairobi
At the entrance of Kibagare, a slum in Nairobi’s outskirts, boots of dead gangsters dangle from electricity wires that hover over ramshackle homes of wood and iron sheets. With little state protection from crime, angry local people will often take the law into their own hands and beat an offender who is caught in the act, sometimes to death. Throughout a decade of crime and drug abuse, Peter Wainaina, 32, narrowly escaped death on several occasions, until he retired from the underworld in 2009. Since then, he has guided hundreds of criminals to do the same. “I suffered at the hands of the police,” claims Wainaina. “I was tortured and unlawfully detained. But I also met good police who gave me a second chance, which I am now extending to my peers.” Wainaina’s initiative comes amid growing public distrust of the police, with allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and corruption. Slums Network Reform (SNR) uses his experience and networks in the world of crime to bridge the gap between a disgruntled population and a police force often accused of brutality. The Guardian

Desmond Tutu’s Laugh Was Contagious. His Fight for Freedom Was Deadly Serious
Desmond Tutu will always be remembered as the South African Anglican cleric who won the Nobel Peace Prize, helped bring down apartheid and served as the moral beacon of a troubled nation for decades. The towering figure has died at age 90. Yet Tutu’s most extraordinary and unique feature was his infectious, cackling laugh, usually triggered by one of his own jokes. He almost always launched his sermons with an amusing tale and, the more fraught the moment, the more likely he was to tap into his endless reservoir of stories to ease the tension. If his joke fell flat, he would just keep laughing until everyone joined him. … One of his trademarks was to hold interfaith services at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, a city that has a range of Christian denominations, as well as many Muslims and Jews. … “He pulled everybody into that cathedral. He never wanted it to be just Christian. He didn’t see religion as divisive. In Cape Town, there’s a large community of Muslims and Jews, many Christian denominations. He brought them all together,” said Sahm Venter, a former reporter who worked with me at The Associated Press at the time and later became a senior researcher at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. In many conflicts, religious figures incite their followers to extreme actions. In contrast, Tutu always invoked his moral authority to turn down the flame and calm a rowdy crowd. NPR



Photo: Adam Jones