Africa Media Review for February 27, 2024

Senegal’s Macky Sall Proposes Amnesty Bill to Calm Election-Linked Turmoil
Senegal’s President Macky Sall has proposed a general amnesty bill for political protesters arrested since 2021, as he holds talks to end fresh turmoil over delayed elections…He announced the amnesty bill at the start of what he called a “national dialogue” on Monday, suggesting it could reunite the country…According to some rights groups, over 1,000 people have been arrested since 2021 during the power struggle between opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and the state. Sonko and his party’s substitute candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, are both in prison. Authorities have released hundreds of detainees in the past 10 days…The idea of an amnesty has proved divisive among both government and opposition supporters. Some critics suggest it would excuse violent crimes committed by demonstrators, while the opposition camp fears it will be used to exonerate government and security officials for the deaths of protesters. AFP

Senegal Seeks Consensus on Date for Delayed Presidential Election
Senegal’s President Macky Sall on Monday urged participants in a national dialogue to reach a consensus on a date to hold a delayed presidential election, failing which he will ask the Constitutional Council to find his replacement when his mandate ends on April 2…Senegal’s Constitutional Council, the highest election authority…ruled that Sall’s decision to postpone the election, and a subsequent 10-month postponement voted by parliament, were unconstitutional. The electoral crisis has led to violent protests and warnings of authoritarian overreach in one of coup-hit West Africa’s more stable democracies. Sall has declared that his mandate will end on April 2 as stipulated by the constitution so as to assuage fears he wanted to extend his rule in the country. However, the process to elect a new president was unlikely to be concluded by that date. “If we reach a consensus, I will set the date for the election,” Sall said late on Monday while concluding the first of two days of the national dialogue…”Otherwise, I will ask the Constitutional Council to find my replacement on April 2,” Sall warned. Reuters

Ecowas Fails to Persuade Niger Junta to Release Former Leader
The release of Niger’s detained former president was not a precondition for the regional bloc to lift sanctions imposed on the country after last year’s coup, according to a senior west African diplomat who attended the talks…Ecowas applied tough sanctions on Niger after Bazoum was deposed in a putsch led by the head of his presidential guard, General Omar Tchiani, who now serves as the president of the ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland junta. An Ecowas spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the details of the sanctions deal but the diplomat said talks with the junta on a binding agreement to release Bazoum were ongoing. The sanctions were lifted after a meeting of Ecowas heads of state in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in a deal brokered by Togo. Many regional analysts expected any sanctions relief to be dependent on Bazoum being granted his freedom. The former president has been under house arrest since the coup. His son was released last month and is living in Lomé, Togo’s capital…The diplomat said negotiations were ongoing to free Bazoum and he could be released next month, although a binding agreement is yet to be reached. Financial Times

Benin Offers 2,000 Troops to Haiti Force, US Ambassador Says
Benin has offered 2,000 troops to support a planned Kenyan-led international force to help Haitian national police fight armed gangs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a press conference on Monday. The United Nations authorized the mission in October, a year after Haiti’s unelected government requested it…Thomas-Greenfield, speaking in Guyana where she traveled to lead the U.S. delegation to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit there, said she had learned just before starting the trip that Benin had offered the troops to support the force. She said some Caribbean countries that had pledged support had called for more Francophone nations to join the effort…Kenya, which has pledged to lead the mission, offered 1,000 police officers, but a local court later barred the move as unconstitutional. President William Ruto has, however, said the plan will go ahead and meetings have since continued. Reuters

Burkina Faso Mosque Attack: Dozens Killed during Prayers
Dozens of people have been shot dead at a mosque on the same day that a church was attacked, say the authorities in Burkina Faso. It was during early-morning prayers on Sunday that the gunmen surrounded the mosque in Natiaboani town. “The victims were all Muslims, most of them men,” a local resident told the AFP news agency. More than a third of Burkina Faso is currently under the control of insurgents. Reports say the attackers were Islamist fighters who also targeted soldiers and a self-defence militia stationed locally that same day. Local media describe a huge invasion by hundreds of machine gun-wielding insurgents on motorbikes…Natiaboani is in Burkina Faso’s troubled eastern region where multiple armed groups operate. That same day, at least 15 worshippers were killed in an attack on a Catholic church during Sunday mass in Essakane in the north-east…Attacks on religious figures are not uncommon in Burkina Faso. BBC

Two Killed in Guinea Unrest Linked to Nationwide Strike
Two people were killed during clashes with police in the suburbs of Guinea’s capital Conakry on Monday, their families and medical sources said, amid a national strike that has paralysed the city and disrupted some mining operations. The strike has emptied the main thoroughfares, closed banks and shuttered markets, but it also led to pockets of unrest in some residential areas on Monday. Groups of young men took to the streets to show their frustration with living conditions in the junta-led West African country…It was not immediately clear if there would be further unrest on Tuesday, but the strike, which includes the public, private and informal sectors, is set to continue. The demands of an umbrella group for multiple workers’ unions include the lowering of food prices, the lifting of internet restrictions, and the application of a wage deal reached with the government in November. Reuters

Burundi Rebel Group Kills Nine in Overnight Attack – Government
Gunmen from the Red Tabara rebel group killed nine people and injured others in an overnight attack in western Burundi near the border with Democratic Republic of Congo, a government spokesperson told reporters on Monday. Red Tabara has been fighting Burundi’s government from bases in Congo since 2015. In a post on social media platform X, Red Tabara said it had attacked two Burundian military positions on Sunday night, also seizing weapons and ammunition…Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye in late December accused Rwanda of hosting and training Red Tabara after a separate attack in which the government said at least 20 people had been killed. Burundi later closed its border with Rwanda, which rejected Ndayishimiye’s allegations. Reuters

In Ethiopia, a Secret Committee Orders Killings and Arrests to Crush Rebels
A secretive committee of senior officials in Ethiopia’s largest and most populous region, Oromiya, has ordered extra-judicial killings and illegal detentions to crush an insurgency there, a Reuters investigation has found. Reuters interviewed more than 30 federal and local officials, judges, lawyers and victims of abuses by authorities. The agency also reviewed documents drafted by local political and judicial authorities. These interviews and documents for the first time shed light on the workings of the Koree Nageenyaa – Security Committee in the Oromo language – which began operating in the months after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. The committee’s existence has not been previously reported. Five current and former government officials told Reuters that the committee is at the heart of Abiy’s efforts to end a years-old insurgency by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which wants self-determination for the Oromo people and greater language and cultural rights…Reuters presented its findings to the head of the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Daniel Bekele. In an interview, Bekele confirmed the existence of the Koree Nageenyaa. He said its aim was to address growing security challenges in Oromiya, but it “overreached its purpose by interfering in the justice system with widespread human rights violations.” Reuters

US Names Tom Perriello New Special Envoy to Sudan in Push to End War
The United States is tapping former diplomat and congressman Tom Perriello as Washington’s special envoy for Sudan…Mr Perriello will help coordinate US diplomacy and efforts with partners across Africa and the Middle East to end the war, humanitarian crisis and atrocities, a dispatch said on Monday…Before the appointment, Perriello had been a special envoy in the Great Lakes region of Africa, appointed by US former president Barack Obama in 2015. He also served as a member of the US House of Representatives from 2009 – 2011…Mr Perriello has also played many diplomatic roles and worked with international justice efforts in Kosovo, Darfur and Afghanistan…Washington also said its ambassador to Sudan, John Godfrey, had completed his tenure in Khartoum. Mr Godfrey was the first US ambassador to Khartoum in 25 years, a glimmer of hope after the ouster of former dictator Omar al-Bashir. “Former ambassador Daniel Rubinstein will serve as Chargé d’Affaires and interim for Sudan as the Director of the Office of Sudan Affairs and will work closely with Special Envoy Perriello, as will the Sudan team in the Bureau of African Affairs,” the statement said. The East African

Nigerian Cops Trace Kingpins to South Africa after Cocaine, Pistols and ‘Military Items’ Smuggled from Durban
The discovery in Nigeria of cocaine and cannabis in shipping containers from Durban has led to police there starting to unravel a syndicate that also smuggled pistols, ammunition and military-style items. On Sunday, 25 February 2024, Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) spokesperson Femi Babafemi [said]… “Investigations have also revealed three kingpins [are] believed to be based in South Africa and connected with the importation of the containers”…According to a January NDLEA press release, the containers from South Africa had been transporting household goods from Durban. However, illegal items, including a strong strain of synthetic cannabis, known as Colorado, were also discovered when the containers were searched on 18 and 19 January…The Port of Durban has previously cropped up many times in terms of trafficking. Daily Maverick has reported extensively on how international crooks seem to favour it when smuggling items via South Africa. Daily Maverick

Top Nigeria Customs Officers Enmeshed in Multi-billion Naira Corruption Scandal
At least 40 [Nigerian Customs Service] personnel, most of them in the service’s highest hierarchy, have been indicted in a robust EFCC investigation into the proceeds of bribes paid to customs officials by smugglers importing and exporting contraband goods through the Nigerian borders. At least seven of these officials were detained by the EFCC for days late last year – with some of them spending the festive period in detention – when proceeds of bribes allegedly from smugglers totalling over N12 billion were traced to them…But for unknown reasons, all seven of them were not prosecuted and have been allowed back to their duty posts as if nothing happened…As the Nigerian government grapples with revenue challenges, customs officials rake in billions for themselves while sabotaging the government’s policies they were meant to protect. Premium Times

Oscar Nomination Gives Bobi Wine New Hope of Toppling Uganda’s Regime
When the Ugandan musician turned politician Bobi Wine ran for president, his 2020 campaign was thwarted by violent crackdowns by Yoweri Museveni’s regime. Since the election, Bobi Wine – whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu – and his wife, Barbie, say that, from phone tapping to abductions of his supporters, things have been “pretty much the same” in many ways. With one key difference: the release of the feature documentary Bobi Wine: The People’s President. Shot over five years, the film is a profile of Wine’s rise in politics and his run for the presidency, during which he endures military detention, torture and the loss of people close to him. The film was nominated for a Bafta and is up for best documentary feature at the Oscars…Wine says: “This film has given us another lease of life, because now we know that – as much as it’s brutal – the regime knows that the world is watching.” The documentary has caused the government to show “a little bit of restraint”, he believes. Barbie adds that the international acclaim is “giving people courage” to get involved with opposition politics because they “know that they’re not suffering in darkness”. The Guardian