Africa Media Review for February 23, 2023

Intervening to Undermine Democracy in Africa: Russia’s Playbook for Influence
Drawing from tactics first developed by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov in the late 1990s, Russia would become what Ramani terms “a crisis proof partner of authoritarian regimes.” Whenever an African authoritarian government would face United Nations sanctions, allegations of fraudulent elections, or criticism for human rights abuses, Russia would cast itself as the beleaguered regime’s defender on the global stage. Russia could then gain outsized influence with the indebted regime at minimal financial cost. This elite cooption model was thus the perfectly suited asymmetric tool for Russia. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Why South Africa Is Drifting into the Sino-Russian Orbit
South Africa’s navy, like much of the country, is dilapidated. Its fleet spends less than half the time on the seas than it did a decade ago. It has few working ships, a result of budget cuts by the ruling African National Congress (ANC). So it makes sense that the country would welcome better fleets that might teach it a thing or two. But the hosting of Russian and Chinese navies for exercises from February 17-27th is not just a chance for sailors to salute each other. Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the operations underline how the ANC government, despite its claims to be neutral over the war, is drifting into the Sino-Russian orbit, partly by choice. The West’s resulting frustrations with South Africa highlight that mid-ranking countries claiming to be non-aligned today are often engaged in a tricky balancing act. Economist

South Africa’s Eskom CEO Quits with Immediate Effect
The outgoing CEO of South Africa’s beleaguered state-owned power utility, who was due to leave the company next month, has left with immediate effect, Eskom said on Wednesday, amid a worsening energy crisis. Andre de Ruyter, who took over as CEO in 2020, resigned in December but was due to vacate office at the end of March to give Eskom time to find a successor…The shock announcement came just hours after De Ruyter gave an interview with local eNCA television, where he expressed doubts about the political will in government to end endemic graft at the power utility. De Ruyter has said he suffered an attempted poisoning attempt in December, shortly after he tendered his resignation. He told local media that he drank coffee laced with cyanide. A police investigation is ongoing. AFP

Presidential Candidates Sign Peace Pact Days Before Nigeria Polls
The 18 presidential candidates of Nigeria’s general election have signed a second peace accord in the capital, Abuja, in a bid to prevent unrest surrounding the February 25 polls. The pact is to ensure “the conduct of free, fair, credible, transparent and verifiable elections cognisant of the need to maintain a peaceful environment before, during and after the 2023 general elections” and “to place national interest above personal and partisan concerns.”…An earlier agreement had been signed in September 2022, which former military head of state and retired general Abdusalam Abubakar said had been violated numerous times. The Tuesday evening signing, organised by the National Peace Committee and the Kukah Leadership Centre, an Abuja-based think tank, was in the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari and other African and international leaders and diplomats. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Cash Crunch Causes Chaos and Suffering Before Crucial Election
A decision by Nigeria’s government to replace its currency with newly designed bills within just four months — with a deadline of Feb. 10 — has thrown Africa’s largest democracy into chaos as it heads toward a presidential election scheduled for this Saturday, Feb. 25. Most Nigerians turned in their old currency, called the naira, as they were told to do in October by the Central Bank of Nigeria. But when they tried to withdraw the new notes, from banks or even informal money brokers, they were stunned to find that few were available. The cash crisis is now an enormous and unpredictable factor in an election that was already Nigeria’s most wide-open race in years. The presidential candidates for the two major parties, which have alternated power for over two decades and failed to address widespread poverty and insecurity, are now facing a surprise, third-party challenger. New York Times

How Ghana and Gambia Are Planning to Bolster Their Digital Economies
As legacy economies continue to fall out of favor the world over, Ghana and Gambia are ramping up efforts to build tech-based economies. In a time when most economies run by oil, manufacturing, and agriculture are shifting to digital economies, the two countries with a combined population of 35 million don’t want to be sidelined…Africa faces funding shortfalls in tech infrastructure, challenges in implementing data protection policies, and slow adoption of frontier tech skills, but hopes that partnerships supporting its digital economy agenda could unlock financing. Quartz Africa

Equatorial Guinea Rejects EU Parliament Resolution
Equatorial Guinea Vice-President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue has dismissed a resolution by the European Parliament which holds Equatoguinean authorities responsible for the death of opposition leader Julio Obama Mefuman. “The government of Equatorial Guinea, vehemently rejects and dismisses the unfounded accusations made by the European Parliament regarding the alleged human rights violations in our country, through its unfortunate resolution,” said Obiang Mangue, in a post on his Twitter account. In a series of posts, Obiang Mangue, who is also the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, accused the European Parliament of resorting to a “colonial and paternalistic discourse” and of disparaging Equatoguinean institutions and its representatives. Mr Mefuman, a Spanish national and member of the opposition Movement for the Liberation of the Third Republic of Equatorial Guinea (MLGE3R), was accused by the authorities of plotting to overthrow the government. BBC

Tunisian President Accused of Racism Towards Migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa
Rights groups have accused Tunisian President Kais Saied of racism and hate speech after he vowed to crack down on migration from sub-Saharan Africa, which he said was an organised scheme aimed at changing Tunisia’s demographic make-up…The statements sparked outcry, with many people accusing the president of racism, and invoking right-wing conspiracy theories. “It is a racist approach just like the campaigns in Europe,” said Ramadan Ben Amor, spokesperson for the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES). “The presidential campaign aims to create an imaginary enemy for Tunisians to distract them from their basic problems. Tunisia is dealing with a deepening economic crisis, with growing debt and surging inflation and shortages of essential goods. Saied, who has seized almost total power since shutting down parliament in July 2021, has blamed the shortages on unidentified “speculators.” RFI

Sudan: Over 418,000 People Were Newly Displaced in 2022
Over 418,000 people were newly displaced across Sudan in 2022 due to conflict and natural disasters like flooding and fires, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. Most of the displacement, according to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), was registered in Blue Nile, West Darfur and South Darfur states of Sudan. Most of the new displacement, estimated at about 314,000 people, was reportedly caused by conflict, with 21 incidences reported across Sudan. Sudan Tribune

Islamist Rebel Attacks Trigger Rising Mental Health Concerns in DR Congo
Interviewees said recent measures taken to combat the ADF – from a joint Uganda-DRC military intervention to the introduction of martial law – have failed to improve security for civilians. Instead, the militants have expanded geographically, carrying out massacres, abductions, and bombings in urban areas that have struck targets including a government building, a cinema, and a church in recent months. Those affected by the long-running violence – which centres on North Kivu and Ituri provinces – raised warnings of a rising mental health toll. Yet local health workers said there is an absence of support for those needing psychosocial services. New Humanitarian

Calls Grow for Ethiopia’s Somali Region to End Media Suspensions
Calls are growing for Ethiopia to revoke an order that suspended 15 foreign media outlets and a regional journalists’ association from operating in the country’s eastern Somali Regional State. The state’s media regulator issued indefinite suspensions to the news outlets, which include the BBC Somali service, on January 28. The regulator’s order said the media organizations did not have the necessary licensing for foreign media, and it blocked the news outlets and their representatives from working in the state, according to rights groups. Voice of America

Somaliland Clashes Kill at Least 96 in Two Weeks: Hospital
“We have 96 dead and 560 wounded,” Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, director of the main hospital in the contested town of Las Anod, told AFP by telephone. Garaad Jama Garaad Ali, a senior clan chief, had said on Wednesday that 150 people had been killed and 500 wounded. Somaliland, which has claimed independence from Somalia since 1991, but has never been recognized internationally, is often seen as a beacon of stability in a chaotic region. Political tensions, however, have surged in recent months, leading to deadly violence between government forces and militias loyal to Somalia. The latest fighting broke out on February 6 in Las Anod, which straddles a key trade route and is claimed by both Somaliland and neighboring Puntland, a semi-autonomous state of northeastern Somalia. Defense Post with AFP

Kenya Tourism Officials Say Earnings Jumped 83% Last Year
Kenya’s tourism ministry says earnings jumped 83% last year as the sector recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism revenue is expected to more than double over the next four years. A new report from Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism says earnings from the tourism sector increased to more than $2.1 billion last year. That’s a gigantic leap from the $1.16 billion earned in 2021, when the pandemic was holding down international travel. Voice of America

Kenya: Why I Wanted an Out in AU Special Envoy Job – Raila Speaks
Azimio leader Raila Odinga has explained why he wanted out of the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa. In a statement on Thursday, Raila said he expressed his desire to be allowed time to attend to other matters that need his attention. He asked to be relieved about three weeks ago…The former Prime Minister went on to state that many challenges still remain in the push to improve the continent’s infrastructure. Raila said they include inaction by the continents leadership and vested interests outside of the continent that are only too keen to keep Africa in its present condition. Star