Africa Media Review for February 17, 2023

Senegal Police Smash Car, Forcibly Remove Opposition Leader
Police in Senegal smashed the window of a car in which a top opposition leader was sitting and forced him from the vehicle Thursday, marking the latest unrest surrounding a likely challenger to the ruling party in elections next year…Sonko finished third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election and has called on President Macky Sall to say publicly that he won’t seek a third term. The opposition leader was in court as part of a civil lawsuit against him by Senegal’s tourism minister for defamation and public insults. The case stems from accusations that Sonko made against the minister during a news conference late last year. A judge on Thursday postponed the trial until next month. AP

Opposition Condemns Arrests in Tunisia
Tunisia’s main opposition coalition has described the string of arrests targeting critics of President Kais Saied as “repressive, violent, and legally baseless.” Report says in recent days police have detained several prominent politicians, two judges, a leading journalist, and a senior union official. On Wednesday, the US said it was “deeply concerned” by the reported arrests in recent days. “We respect the aspirations of the Tunisian people for an independent and transparent judiciary that is able to protect fundamental freedoms for all,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said. Meanwhile, eighteen months ago President Saied shut down Tunisia’s parliament and moved to rule by decree before rewriting the country’s constitution. He’s been accused of mounting a coup. BBC

African Leaders Meet to Push for Free Trade Zone
Three years ago, amid a blaze of optimism, African leaders officially launched a new continent-wide free trade area after 17 years of haggling. But as the leaders travel to Addis Ababa for the annual African Union summit this weekend, transforming the blockbuster pact into reality remains a tough ask…If fully implemented, AfCFTA would lift 50 million Africans out of extreme poverty and raise incomes by nine percent by 2035, according to the World Bank. But implementation has fallen well short of that goal, running into hurdles including disagreements over tariff reductions and border closures caused by the Covid pandemic. This year’s summit comes at a “delicate moment” for Africa, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, citing Ethiopia’s nascent peace process, conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sahel region, South Sudan and jihadist insurgencies in Somalia and Mozambique. AFP

Israeli Firm Sought to Influence Elections Across the World, Mostly in Africa
An Israeli firm sought to influence more than 30 elections around the world – with the two-thirds in Africa- for clients by hacking, sabotage and spreading disinformation, according to an undercover media investigation consortium named Forbidden Stories. The company, with no legal existence, dubbed “Team Jorge” by journalists who posed as potential clients in order to gather information on its methods and capabilities. They chose this nickname because of the pseudonym of one of its leaders, Tal Hanan, is composed of former members of Israeli security services according to the revelations of the collective Wednesday (Feb. 15). Its various sponsors have not been identified. The 50-year-old told three undercover reporters that his services, often called “black ops” in the industry, were available to intelligence agencies, political campaigns and private companies. AfricaNews with AFP

Dark Arts of Politics: How ‘Team Jorge’ and Cambridge Analytica Meddled in Nigerian Election
Cambridge Analytica and Team Jorge were, she said, working “separately but in parallel” in Nigeria for the same client. “I sent some emails to put everyone in contact with each other and sort out who was doing what as time was short.” The exchange was one of dozens of emails leaked to the Guardian and Observer that shed light on the covert coordination between Cambridge Analytica and Team Jorge in Nigeria. There is no suggestion that Jonathan knew of either Cambridge Analytica or Team Jorge’s ultimately failed attempts to get him re-elected. But the emails reveal the covert methods that were used to boost his electoral fortunes and the ways in which two teams specialising in the dark arts of political persuasion liaised with one another, with meetings in London, the Swiss resort of Davos and the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Communications appear to have occurred on encrypted Hushmail accounts, or special devices used for secure phone calls. Guardian

Buhari Extends Cash-Exchange Deadline as Shortage Worsens
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari delayed a plan to outlaw some old high-value banknotes to April 10 as the West African nation struggles with a shortage of cash. The central bank in October announced that it would redesign 200-, 500- and 1,000 naira notes in a bid to mop up excess cash and rein in inflation. That led to a severe shortage of bills and divided the ruling All Progressives Congress, with its presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu saying the policy will damage the party’s chances in presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Feb. 25. Bloomberg

Nigeria’s Military Is Broken
The military is also one of the country’s largest employers, with 223 000 personnel as of 2018, according to the World Bank. But, its influence is not necessarily matched by effectiveness.  “What the military is suffering from is corruption, policy misdirection and a lack of commensurate training for modern purposes and indiscipline,” said Confidence MacHarry, an analyst at SBM Intelligence. These problems have been starkly highlighted during the years-long prosecution of its war in the northeast, which has failed to eliminate the threat from the various militant groups operating in the area. The military campaign has been accompanied by a litany of well-documented human rights abuses in which the armed forces have been implicated, including aerial bombings of refugee camps; massacres of civilians; rape and torture as weapons of war; illegal detentions, including of minors and, most recently, an illegal mass abortion programme in which at least 10 000 pregnancies were forcibly terminated in an effort to prevent the birth of future “terrorists.” Mail & Guardian

Equatorial Guinea Vice President’s Superyacht, Properties Seized in South Africa
A South African court this week seized a superyacht and two properties of Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue. The property is expected to be auctioned to pay a South African businessman who sued him for wrongful arrest and torture after an airline deal went wrong. The vice president is also the son and presumed successor Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang, who rules the country with an iron fist…Security Expert Willem Els explains that Obiang junior, 54, has been on the wrong side of the law in several countries like the United States, France, Britain and Switzerland. Els says his lavish lifestyle catches the attention of financial intelligence units who look for signs of money laundering and proceeds from illegal activities. “What we talking about is the looting of the resources of the country. You know if you go to Equatorial Guinea it’s one of the poorest countries in Africa even though they’ve got all these resources. So that means that the wealth of the oil, the revenue that is coming into the country is not channeled and used for the benefit of the country but rather for the political elite,” he said. Voice of America

Women’s Protest in Cameroon Pushes Military to Release Detained Youths
Cameroon’s military has released about 30 youths it detained as suspected rebels after a protest by several hundred women, including mothers of those detained. The women from the Southwestern town of Ekona also accused Cameroon’s military of committing abuses in the region, which it denies. In a video posted on social media, several hundred women celebrated on the streets of Buea Wednesday after Cameroon’s military released 30 young men, most of them students. The military said the youths were detained during raids a week ago in the Southwest town of Ekona, where separatist fighters were hiding. The women protested after the military stopped family members from visiting the youths in detention and chased away those who brought them food. Voice of America

Kenyan MP Questioned over Suspected Banditry Links 
Police in Kenya have questioned a member of parliament over claims of funding bandits in the country’s northern Rift Valley region. Pokot South MP David Pkosing was arrested on Thursday evening by officers from the Serious Crimes Unit and released hours after interrogation. His lawyer says the MP will appear before detectives on Friday morning for further questioning. Mr Pkosing is the first politician to be probed by authorities over the banditry menace that has left more than 100 civilians and 16 security officers dead in the past six months. Kenya’s military will on Friday join police units in an operation against bandits and cattle rustlers in the restive northern region. “Operation maliza uhalifu” will disarm those illegally armed in the area. A voluntary disarmament exercise ended on Thursday after a three-day ultimatum issued by President William Ruto lapsed. BBC

Violence “Sharply” Increased in South Sudan at End of 2022: UN
The number of civilians affected by violence in South Sudan increased sharply at the end of 2022, compared to both the previous quarter and the same period in 2021, the United Nations revealed. According to the latest quarterly brief from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), from October to December last year, the number of civilians harmed increased by 87 percent compared to the same period in 2021…The UNMISS report stated that the violence in the last three months of 2022 was concentrated in South Sudan’s Upper Nile, Warrap and Jonglei states. About 53 percent of the civilian victims, it further revealed, came out of the conflict between Agwelek Forces and the Kitgwang group and their respective allied armed militias in South Sudan’s Greater Upper Nile region. “Many civilians were also hit by intercommunal violence in Warrap, Jonglei, and Eastern Equatoria states,” it pointed out. These conflicts were reportedly exacerbated by pre-existing communal tensions, climate shocks, food insecurity, disruption of livelihoods and the devaluation of the local currency factors which are still contributing to cattle-related violence and wider tensions between communities. Sudan Tribune

South Africa Floods Kills 13, Thousands Displaced from Their Homes
South Africa declared a national state of disaster this week as floods hit seven of its nine provinces, damaging infrastructure and destroying crops. “Four people died in Mpumalanga Province, one of the hardest hit provinces,” said Lungi Mtshali, Spokesman for the National Disaster Management Department. Local Mayor Phindile Magugula said four people remained missing in their district, where hundreds had been displaced. “We have almost 1815 families that are without shelter some of their homes have been washed away by the heavy rains,” Magugula told AFP. “More heavy downpours are expected, with rain to shift further east of the country in the coming days,” Puseletso Mofokeng from the South African Weather Services (SAWS) told AFP by phone. AFP