Africa Media Review for February 2, 2023

A Pro-Russian Social Media Campaign Is Trying to Influence Politics in Africa
Close to a year since the invasion of Ukraine, activists aligned with Russia are pushing pro-Kremlin messages in Africa using a coordinated French-language network spanning Facebook, YouTube, Telegram and other online channels. The network, dubbed “Russosphere,” is connected to a far-right Belgian political activist who was involved in overseeing contested Russian-backed referenda in Crimea and Donbas in 2014, according to researchers at Logically, a company that tracks online misinformation and disinformation. The activist, Luc Michel, was also involved in a 2021 effort to create a breakaway “Republic of Detroit” in the U.S., which garnered little attention but could serve as a blueprint for Russian-aligned efforts to influence American politics, Logically says. It’s the latest example of how influence campaigns connected to Russia capitalize on social and political divisions – a continuation of the tactics the Kremlin used during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And it shows how social media remains a potent channel to spread pro-Russian messages, even as the big technology platforms have tried to crack down on manipulation and state-backed propaganda. NPR

Huge Crowds Turn Out for Pope’s Mass in DR Congo Capital
An estimated one million Congolese poured into Kinshasa’s N’Dolo Airport for Pope Francis’s first big mass on his latest trip to Africa…Many of the faithful in the megacity of some 15 million people began to arrive at the airport on Tuesday night to assure themselves a spot. As crowds poured into the airport under a bright sun and heavy security, 700 choir singers rehearsed in a festive atmosphere, while worshippers danced and waved flags. The 86-year-old pontiff had arrived in the DRC on Tuesday on the first leg of a six-day trip to Africa that will also include South Sudan. Huge crowds also thronged the streets for a glimpse of the popemobile as Francis drove past. Al Jazeera

What the Pope’s Visit to the DRC and South Sudan Means
Pope Francis is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in his second day in a mission that aims to bring peace in the eastern part of the country where thousands have been killed recently in an ongoing conflict. This is the first papal visit in the country since 1985, and schools were closed on Feb. 1 after the government announced it would be a public holiday to allow faithful to attend a holy mass at Ndolo airport. Over 40% of DRC’s 95.6 million population are Catholics…Like in the DRC, thousands of lives have been lost and millions displaced in recent years in South Sudan due to civil unrest, especially in Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity states, 12 years after its secession from the larger Sudan…The security situation in the DRC and South Sudan has denied them millions of dollars in foreign investment, holding the countries back from achieving economic freedom. While Pope Francis’ visit to both countries is by no means expected to be the silver bullet that will silence the guns, it is a critical step in pushing for a peaceful coexistence. But even with such peace efforts, African countries remain less secure than they were a decade ago. Quartz Africa

Wagner Mercenaries Sustain Losses in Fight for Central African Republic Gold
Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group have sustained heavy casualties in a new surge of fighting between government troops and rebels over the control of lucrative goldmines in Central African Republic (CAR). The clashes come amid increasing instability in the anarchic, resource-rich country, which in recent years has become one of Russia’s main hubs of influence in sub-Saharan Africa. The government offensive is led by some of the estimated 1,000 Wagner fighters stationed in CAR since 2018. Wagner was founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close ties to the Kremlin, and has been deployed in about a dozen African countries as part of a Russian effort to project power on the continent and extract valuable resources. Last month, the US designated Wagner as a “significant transnational criminal organisation”, in part because of its increasing role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Guardian

Chad to Open Embassy in Israel on Thursday
Chad is set to open embassy in Tel Aviv in central Israel on Thursday after the resumption of their bilateral relations in 2019. The announcement was made on Wednesday in a joint statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chadian President Mahamat Deby, who is in Israel for an official visit. “Israel and Chad established relations between our two countries with your late father [former President of Chad Idriss Deby],” Netanyahu said in the statement issued by his office. “We believe that our cooperation can help not only advance our relations and our cooperation but it is also part of Israel’s coming back to Africa and Africa coming back to Israel. We have common goals of security, prosperity and stability.” Netanyahu added. Israel and Chad established relations in the 1960s. But N’Djamena cut ties with Tel Aviv in 1972 under local and Arab pressure. Anadolu Agency

Someone Made AI Videos of ‘Americans’ Backing a Military Coup in West Africa
Bizarre AI-generated videos of people expressing support for Burkina Faso’s new military junta have appeared online, in what could be a clumsy attempt to spread pro-military propaganda. It’s unclear who created the videos, but it appears they are being shared via WhatsApp. One of the videos was shared widely on Twitter this week when it was shared by Lauren Blanchard, a specialist in African affairs at the Congressional Research Service in the US. Blanchard said that the video had been circulating on WhatsApp but did not know who had made it. VICE

Nigeria Election 2023 in Rivers State: The Oil Land with No Electricity
Most of Nigeria’s 210 million people must provide their own electricity – Africa’s largest economy is run on a variety of Chinese- and Lebanese-made generators. “Since I was born, I have never experienced stable power supply. We call ourselves the giant of Africa but we can’t fix electricity,” complains Mr Adah as he works on a buttonhole. Despite being blessed with large oil and gas reserves and hydro and solar resources, successive governments since independence in 1960 have failed to achieve a stable electricity supply. With just weeks to the next presidential election, all three front-runners – Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party – have listed fixing the power supply as a key point in their manifestoes. BBC

Nearly 14,000 Nigerians Take Shell to Court over Devastating Impact of Pollution
The case against Shell is taking place as the oil major prepares to leave the Niger delta after more than 80 years of operations which have reaped substantial profits…Lawyers argue that the scale of oil spills in the delta masks a human tragedy on an extraordinary scale, with the pollution ingested by local people causing serious health impacts and affecting mortality rates. A report by the University of St Gallen in Switzerland found that infants in the Niger delta were twice as likely to die in their first month of life if their mothers lived near an oil spill – a study which suggested there were 11,000 premature deaths a year in the Niger delta. Shell has argued for five years that it is not liable for the actions of its Nigerian subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and the claims from the people of Ogale and Bille could not be heard in a London courtroom. But the supreme court ruled last year “there is a good arguable case” that Nigerian communities could bring their claims to the high court. Guardian

Total’s Contested Oil Projects in Africa: The Case of Uganda and Tanzania
Uganda has an estimated oil reserve of 6.5 billion barrels, 1.4 billion of which could be commercially extracted. When production starts, it is estimated that it will be possible to export nearly 200,000 barrels of oil per day. To meet these targets, the project, in which Total is the majority shareholder, is divided into two parts. The first – known as Tilenga – involves pumping and processing the oil. Thirty-one extraction zones are planned for a total of 426 wells along with a processing plant. The second component – the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) – involves the construction of a buried pipeline of more than 1,440 kilometers. It will be the longest heated oil pipeline in the world. There is a problem, though. The oil extraction will take place partly in the Murchison Falls Park, a classified site under the protection of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. RFI

Regional Leaders Vow to Support Somalia’s War Against Al-Shabab
The leaders of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia met Wednesday in the Somali capital to discuss the ongoing fight against al-Shabab militants. The security summit took place amid an offensive by Somalia and its allies against the Islamist militants. Somalia in the past year has won significant victories against the group, which has also increased its counterattacks. At least four mortar shells landed near the presidential palace in Mogadishu Wednesday, ahead of a meeting of heads of state and governments from the region. There were no casualties reported in the attack, for which al-Shabab claimed responsibility. Voice of America

US Expresses Concern over Sudan Freeing Diplomat’s Killer
The U.S. said Wednesday it is “deeply concerned” by Sudan’s release of a man convicted in the 2008 killing of a U.S. diplomat and embassy employee in a drive-by shooting in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that Abdel-Raouf Abu Zaid, the Sudanese man who was found guilty of the murders, remains a “specially designated global terrorist.” He was convicted of murdering John Granville, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and his Sudanese driver, Abdel Rahman Abbas…Granville, 33, was working to implement a 2005 peace agreement between Sudan’s north and south that ended more than two decades of civil war. A vehicle intercepted his car and gunmen inside opened fire, killing Granville and the driver, who also was a USAID employee. AP

Rwandan Man Powers Entire Community with Hydroelectric Energy
Today, Habimana’s power plant supplies 221 households and 25 businesses in five villages. And at least 300 homes and businesses are waiting to receive electricity from the plant. Each family pays a minimum $45 start-up fee and then a flat rate of $1 for monthly consumption for a household and $5 for any business activity. Since the arrival of electricity in the area, new businesses have sprung up, changing many people’s lives. Jan Pierre Sindikubwabo is one of Habimana’s clients. His carpentry workshop, which he started in 2018, had been operating without electricity until May last year, when he connected to the plant.  “Before the arrival of electricity, I could not finish one door a day, which caused backlogs and delays. Now, I finish more than ten doors or windows a day. Israel’s infrastructure has been the key to opening up many activities,” said Sindikubwabo.  Mail & Guardian