Africa Media Review for February 23, 2022

The African Union at 20: Much Accomplished, More Challenges Ahead
Africa marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the African Union (AU) in 2022. Much has been achieved. African countries have an institutional platform to engage other global agencies, financial institutions, and external actors. Progress has also been made toward operationalizing the African Standby Force. The doctrine, command and control, force allocations, deployment scenarios, and logistics plans are in place and regularly exercised up to the brigade level. This was a long-held dream of the founders of the AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The challenges ahead are enormous, however. Contrary to the vision articulated in its Constitutive Act, the AU’s legislative, judicial, and technical organs remain weak, especially relative to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which comprises the leaders of its 55 member states. … For many Africans, the viable pathway for the AU is the judicious implementation of the letter and spirit of its founding documents and additional protocols, particularly those relating to bodies designed to facilitate citizen inputs. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Mali Crisis Mediator Urges Short Transition Less than 5 Years
West Africa’s mediator in the Mali crisis, Goodluck Jonathan, on Tuesday said it was imperative for the country to return to democratic rule as soon as possible. He made the comments a day after Mali’s army-dominated legislature approved a plan allowing the military that seized power in August 2020 to stay in office for another five years, despite regional sanctions. … Jonathan also questioned the legitimacy of Mali’s parliament, the National Transitional Council, that was hit by ECOWAS sanctions last November. “The parliament of Mali is a part of a government of Mali that is an aberration, they are not elected members,” he said. “We have to stop it at the shortest possible time.” Jonathan, who is a former president of Nigeria, was speaking after an ECOWAS workshop in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos. He chaired a two-day meeting of the “Council of the Wise” that works on “preventive diplomacy” and “conflict prevention” in West Africa. AfricaNews with AFP

Kenyan U.N. Ambassador Compares Ukraine’s Plight to Colonial Legacy in Africa
Russia’s move to recognize breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as “republics” drew a sharp rebuke from Kenyan U.N. Ambassador Martin Kimani, who used a speech at the U.N. Security Council to recount the perils of clinging to vestiges of empire. Kimani said Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected diplomacy in favor of military force, which has put the international norm of multilateralism “on its deathbed.” He warned Russia to respect its border with Ukraine, using Africa’s colonial past to highlight the dangers of stoking the “embers of dead empires.” “Rather than form nations that looked ever backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known,” Kimani said. … “We chose to follow the rules of the Organisation of African Unity and the United Nations charter, not because our borders satisfied us, but because we wanted something greater, forged in peace.” NPR

US and France Attack Actions of Russian Mercenaries in CAR
The U.S. and France criticized mercenaries in the Central African Republic from the Russian security company Wagner, accusing them on Tuesday of executing civilians, attacking U.N. peacekeepers and targeting predominantly Muslim communities in their military operations. The exchange came at a U.N. Security Council meeting during which outgoing U.N. special representative Mankeur Ndiaye said that “the Central African people are still awaiting the dividends of peace.” … U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that Central African Republic security forces and Wagner contractors — “referred to as `other security personnel’” in Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ latest report to the Security Council — “perpetrated over 40% of all violations documented” between October and February. Both Thomas-Greenfield and French Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere singled out an attack in Aigbando on Jan. 16-17. She said credible sources reported that Wagner forces in the town “massacred more than 30 unarmed civilians.” He said more than a dozen civilians were executed by Wagner’s mercenaries who then laid mines around the village to prevent the U.N. peacekeeping force from investigating. … “This is not an isolated incident,” De Riviere said. “This violence is systematic, it is deliberate, it is part of a method of provoking terror to control certain territories and make money from them.” AP

Suisse Secrets: Bank Financed Zimbabwean Fraudster in Deal That Saved Mugabe
In 2008, Zimbabwe was at a turning point. Then president Robert Mugabe faced electoral defeat by pro-democracy challengers for the first time in two decades. Suddenly, his cash-starved regime received a surprise $100-million, which it allegedly funnelled into a violent campaign that enforced the status quo, and kept Zimbabwe on the road to an economic disaster from which it is yet to recover. Now, leaked data from Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has shed new light on the role the bank played in the deal that saved Mugabe from potential defeat, and blocked an opportunity for political and economic reform. The $100 million came from the sale of platinum mining rights that Mugabe’s government had quickly appropriated, then given to a company owned by Muller Conrad “Billy” Rautenbach, a longtime friend of the regime. Mugabe’s regime used the proceeds of the deal to pay for the president’s campaign of violence, according to multiple reports. … The $100-million arrived within weeks of Mugabe losing the first round of elections to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. … Within days of the money arriving, a three-month campaign of terror had started. Soldiers and armed gangs unleashed Operation Makavhoterapapi? (‘Where did you put your vote?’), in which more than 100 people were killed and more than 1 000 attacked. Tsvangirai was forced to flee the country… With the opposition decimated by violence, Mugabe went uncontested into the next round. Mail & Guardian

Nigerian Activists Push Buhari to Sign Election Reform Bill
A coalition of Nigerian activists demonstrated Tuesday in the capital city Abuja, demanding President Mohammadu Buhari sign a bill that aims to improve transparency, inclusion, and planning for national elections. … The activists are demanding President Mohammadu Buhari sign into law a bill that would promote the early release of funds for elections, the inclusion of marginalized groups in voting, and would authorize the electronic transmission of election results. … The president’s office released a statement late Monday denying claims of foot-dragging in Buhari signing the bill. The president’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said the president had only received the bill from the Senate on January 31 and had until March 1 to sign it. … Activists say the president already has declined to sign the bill five times and are hoping he will sign it this time round. VOA

18 Civilians Feared Killed Near Niger’s Border with Mali
Eighteen civilians have been killed in two suspected jihadist attacks in the west of Niger near the Sahel nation’s border with Mali, the government said Tuesday. The attack happened on Sunday when unidentified “armed bandits” on motorbikes attacked a truck traveling between villages in the Tillaberi region, which lies in a flashpoint zone where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali converge, it said. The interior ministry, in a statement, said “the provisional toll of the attack is 18 people killed, eight injured” with five of those injured admitted to hospital in serious condition. The truck was then set on fire, the ministry said, adding that a search was underway to find the attackers. A local resident confirmed the death toll saying that 14 were killed in the attack on the truck. … Armed groups carried out numerous attacks on civilians in the region in 2021, including a November 2 massacre of at least 69 members of a self-defense militia. In October 2021, motorcycle-riding assailants killed ten people in a mosque near Tizigorou during evening prayers. Last Wednesday an improvised explosive device killed five Nigerien soldiers in the southwest of the Sahel country, according to the defense ministry. The Defense Post with AFP

South Africa Sending Fresh Troops to Mozambique to Fight Islamist Insurgents
South Africa is sending fresh troops and armored vehicles to Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province as part of efforts to fight Islamic State-connected insurgents. The deployment is part of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) military intervention, which started in July last year. More than 3,000 SADC and Rwandan troops have been sent to Mozambique to fight against Islamic State-connected insurgents. The conflict has claimed more than three thousand lives and displaced 800,000 people. … The joint force is known as the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique or SAMIM. Willem Els, security analyst and counter terrorism trainer from the Institute of Security Studies, says to this point South Africa has mainly sent special forces to Mozambique. He says that will change with the latest deployment. “They now are sending in some mechanized infantry, they are sending in some para-bats. They are sending in some of your path finder troops as well as well as some of the special forces so it is a more balanced sort of contingent that is moving in to go and stabilize the situation even further,” he said. VOA

China Names Special Envoy for Horn of Africa
China has named a special envoy for the Horn of Africa, reflecting the growing interest by the world powers in one of Africa’s strategic, but lately troubled, regions. Wang Wenbin, China’s Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Tuesday that Beijing had named Xue Bing, a former ambassador to Papua New Guinea, as the special envoy for the Horn of Africa affairs. Xue is a veteran diplomat with work experience in Africa, the Americas, and Oceania, said Wang at a daily press briefing, whose transcript was shared with African media outlets. “As a common friend to countries in the Horn of Africa, China has always been committed to promoting peace, stability and development in the region,” Mr Wang said. “The Special Envoy will establish work relationship with colleagues from relevant parties as soon as possible and maintain close communication and coordination on advancing the implementation of the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa.” The announcement followed the pledge by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The EastAfrican

Exercise Cutlass Express 2022 Concludes
Maritime partners from 60 nations and international organizations concluded Exercise Cutlass Express on 17 February. More than 9 000 personnel and nearly 50 ships operating across two regions participated in the International Maritime Exercise (IMX)/Cutlass Express (CE) 2022. The event was also the largest unmanned exercise in the world, involving more than 80 unmanned systems from 10 nations, the United States Navy (USN) said. “IMX/CE 2022 provided a unique opportunity to navies from across the globe, maritime organizations and communities to demonstrate global resolve to preserve the rules-based international order,” said Pakistan Navy Commodore Vaqar Muhammad, deputy commander of the exercise. Training evolutions during the combined exercise spanned across the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and North Indian Ocean. Participating naval forces divided into four geographical combined task forces led by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya, and Oman. … Cutlass Express 2022 commenced with an opening ceremony on 6 February. The exercise, sponsored by US Africa Command and led by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US Sixth Fleet (NAVEUR-NAVAF/C6F), assesses and improves combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promotes national and regional security in East Africa, and increases interoperability between the US, African nations, and international partners, the organisers said.  defenceWeb

‘We Need Help’: Another Cyclone Batters Madagascar
Cyclone Emnati crashed into the southeastern coast of Madagascar in the early hours of Wednesday, ripping roofs off houses and raising fears of flooding and food shortages in a region still recovering from the destruction inflicted by another tropical storm just weeks ago. More than 30,000 people were moved to safe accommodation before Emnati arrived and Madagascar’s National Office for Risk and Disaster Management estimates more than 250,000 people could be impacted by the latest cyclone. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from Emnati as authorities waited for the worst to pass, but local officials and witnesses reported extensive damage to houses and other buildings in at least one southeastern city. Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa renowned for its wildlife and unspoiled natural treasures, has now been hit by four major tropical storms in the last month, killing nearly 200 people already and compounding issues of food insecurity. A drought in the south of the country left around 400,000 at risk of starvation last year, according to the U.N. World Food Program. AP

Kenya to Use Solar Panels to Boost Crops by ‘Harvesting the Sun Twice’
Solar panels are not a new way of providing cheap power across much of the African continent, where there is rarely a shortage of sunshine. But growing crops underneath the panels is, and the process has had such promising trials in Kenya that it will be deployed this week in open-field farms. Known as agrivoltaics, the technique harvests solar energy twice: where panels have traditionally been used to harness the sun’s rays to generate energy, they are also utilised to provide shade for growing crops, helping to retain moisture in the soil and boosting growth. An initial year-long research collaboration between the University of Sheffield, World Agroforestry and the Kajiado-based Latia Agripreneurship Institute has shown promising results in the semi-arid Kajiado county, a 90-minute drive from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and this week the full project will be officially launched. For example, cabbages grown under the 180, 345-watt solar panels have been a third bigger, and healthier, than those grown in control plots with the same amount of fertiliser and water. The Guardian