Africa Media Review for February 14, 2022

Diplomatic Flurry as Crunch Time on Western Military Role in Mali Nears
Western foreign ministers will hold crunch talks on their countries’ future presence fighting Islamist militants in Mali on Monday, four European sources said, with three saying regional and international leaders will also meet on Wednesday. The diplomatic flurry precedes an EU-Africa summit on Feb. 17-18 and three weeks of consultations amid a deterioration in relations between Mali and France, the main foreign military power in Mali. … France is considering withdrawing its troops from Mali, but adapting its strategy to prevent Islamist militancy spreading south may prove complex and contribute to uncertainty in the region. A French drawdown would mean the European special forces Takuba task force would also leave with diplomats saying that the political, operational and legal conditions to remain becoming increasingly difficult. Ties have worsened since the military junta went back on an agreement to organise elections in February and proposed holding power until 2025. It has also deployed Russian private military contractors, which some European countries have said is incompatible with their mission. … Three European diplomatic sources said the French presidency had called for a summit on Feb. 16 of regional and international partners engaged in the Sahel to discuss the crisis. Reuters

In Sudan, Ex-Official Detained Ahead of Anti-Coup Protests
Sudan’s military authorities have again arrested a former senior government official, his party said, as pro-democracy groups on Monday readied more protests against a military coup that plunged the country into turmoil. The Unionist Alliance party said Mohammed al-Faki Suliman, former member of the ruling Sovereign Council, was detained Sunday in the capital of Khartoum. It said security forces stopped his vehicle as he was heading from his home to the party’s headquarters. Suliman was also deputy head of a government-run agency tasked with dismantling the legacy of former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir’s regime. Also Sunday, security forces arrested two former members of the agency, according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The agency is known as The Committee to Dismantle the Regime of June 30, 1989, in reference the Islamist-backed military coup that brought al-Bashir to power. … Suliman had been detained in the coup and was released a month later as part of a deal between the military and then-Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. He was the latest of a series of former government officials and activists to be detained in recent weeks as military rulers stepped up crackdown on anti-coup groups. AP

Thousands Protest against Tunisian President’s New Powers over Judiciary
Hours after the decree was published early Sunday morning, more than 2,000 protesters gathered in central Tunis, many waving flags and chanting slogans in support of an independent judiciary. “Freedom! Freedom! The police state is finished,” some chanted. Saied’s decree came a week after he said he would dissolve the High Judicial Council (CSM), prompting a nationwide shutdown of courts by judges saying the move would infringe on judicial independence. Sunday’s ruling, establishing a new 21-member “Temporary Supreme Judicial Council” — nine of whom are appointed by the president — also gives him powers to dismiss “any judge failing to do his professional duties.” Moreover, “it is forbidden for judges of all ranks to go on strike or hold any organised collective action that could disturb or delay the normal working of the courts,” it read. Saied last July sacked the government, suspended parliament and seized a range of powers before moving to rule by decree, sparking fears for what had been seen as the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings. AFP

Tanzania: Media in Tanzania Relieved as Govt Lifts Ban on Four Newspapers
Tanzanian media have welcomed the government’s decision to lift a ban on four newspapers that was imposed by the late President John Magufuli. The government of President Samia Hassan issued new publishing licenses this week to newspapers Mwanahalisi, Mawio, Mseto, and Tanzania Daima. The latter is owned by opposition leader Freeman Mbowe, who is behind bars, facing economic charges. Speaking during a meeting with editors Thursday, Minister of Information Nape Nnauye said the papers’ licenses were restored on the orders of Hassan as part of her promise to uphold press freedom. … The administration of late President Magufuli was criticized for muzzling the press by suspending licenses and imposing heavy fines. Saed Kubenea, owner of some of the restored newspapers, said that nearly all the newspapers had finished their punishments two or three years ago and won court cases, but still had not been allowed to publish. But, he added, the government’s action this week is promising. For the moment, the government retains the power to shut down publications or broadcasters that it sees as publishing fake news or being too harsh on the president and ruling party. VOA

France Says Airstrikes Kill 40 in Burkina Linked to Benin Attacks
French troops in an anti-jihadist mission have killed 40 militants in Burkina Faso linked to deadly attacks this week in neighboring Benin whose victims included a Frenchman, the army said Saturday. The French-led Barkhane force in the Sahel region “engaged its air intelligence capacities to locate the armed group” responsible for the attacks, carrying out air strikes that killed 40 jihadists, the army’s general command said. The Frenchman was among nine people killed this week in two attacks in the W National Park, a wildlife reserve in Benin’s remote north bordering troubled Niger and Burkina Faso. One patrol was trying to flush out poachers and another hit two roadside bombs on Tuesday, killing five park rangers, one park official, one soldier and a French trainer, according to the Beninese government. Two days later, a third patrol hit an explosive, killing another park official. The toll was the deadliest in recent attacks Benin has suffered as coastal West African states face spillover from Sahel countries battling jihadists. AFP

Fleeing Drought, Hunger, Thousands Trek to Somalia’s Capital
Sitting under the hot sun, hungry women and children await food aid in a camp on the outskirts of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. They have walked for days, fleeing the drought now ravaging a large part of rural Somalia. Their growing ranks are expected to swell further in the coming months as the Horn of Africa region faces its worst drought conditions in a decade. This week the United Nations World Food Program warned that 13 million people in the region, including parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, face severe hunger in the first quarter of 2022. Immediate assistance is needed to avoid a major humanitarian crisis, the agency warned. The Horn of Africa has long been vulnerable to drought and hunger conditions often exacerbated by armed violence. Somalia’s government in November declared a state of humanitarian emergency due to the drought, with the worst affected parts including the south-central areas of Lower Jubba, Geddo and Lower Shabelle regions. … A survey in November covering 15 of Somalia’s 18 regions found the “majority of families were now going without meals on a regular basis,” it said in a statement. AP

Tigray Conflict: Surge in Ancient Ethiopian Relics for Sale
In Ethiopia, the latest victims of the year-long war in Tigray are the country’s rich artefacts. Centuries-old manuscripts and scrolls are being offered on websites for a few hundred dollars raising suspicion on the conditions of their acquisition. Experts suspect they have been plundered during the conflict. Ethiopian philologist Dr Hagos Abrha Abay even published a first comprehensive analysis of the looting revealing churches, monasteries and other significant sites were targeted during the war. The trafficking of Ethiopian cultural goods existed but since the war between the TPLF and federal authorities started, A surge in ancient artifacts for sale was observed. American corporation eBay removed from its platform a number of rare Ethiopian items with no evidence of provenance after it was contacted by the newspaper the Times. It is unclear how many objects were stolen but professors have recommended internet users upload the information to the INTERPOL Stolen Works of Art Database, if they come across Ethiopian objects adverts. AfricaNews with AFP

Nigeria: National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Declares Abba Kyari Wanted
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has declared suspended Deputy Police Commissioner, Abba Kyari, wanted, for aiding and abetting drug pushing. The NDLEA disclosed this on Monday during a press briefing at its office in Abuja. The declaration by the NDLEA comes a few months after the former police intelligence unit commander was indicted in an internet fraud case by a US court. The court also had declared Mr Kyari wanted to answer allegations of complicity in the $1.1million bribe fraud perpetrated by Ramon Abbas aka Hushpuppi. This led to his suspension by the Police Service Commission (PSC) from office as a deputy commissioner of police and head of the IRT. Mr Kyari’s suspension was based on the recommendation of Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali. The police chief recommended the suspension as a temporary measure while the forces investigate Mr Kyari’s relationship with popular fraudster, Hushpuppi. In the new revelation by the NDLEA, the agency said Mr Kyari is a member of a drug cartel that operates the Brazil-Ethiopia-Nigeria illicit drug pipeline, and needs to answer questions that crop up in an ongoing drug case in which he is the principal actor. Premium Times

Rights Group Goes to Court to Get Nigeria to Publish Agreement with Twitter
A Nigerian rights group has asked the High Court to force the government to publish an agreement with Twitter that led to the restoration of the social media company’s services last month following a six-month ban. … The Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said on Sunday it had filed a lawsuit to compel President Buhari and his information minister Lai Mohammed to publish a copy of the agreement to ensure it did not include agreements that could jeopardise freedom of expression. “Publishing the agreement would enable Nigerians to scrutinise it, seek legal remedies as appropriate, and ensure that the conditions for lifting the suspension of Twitter are not used as pretexts to suppress legitimate discourse,” a copy of the court challenge said. … Last June, SERAP and other groups went to court to fight the ban on Twitter, arguing that it was a violation of human rights. The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States is due to decide this week whether to go ahead and make a ruling on SERAP’s challenge to the Twitter ban. The government, however, wants the court to throw out the case, arguing that it had been overtaken by events. Reuters