Africa Media Review for February 3, 2022

West African Leaders Hold Summit after Wave of Coups Brings Turmoil to Region
West African leaders hold a key summit on Thursday as a series of coups buffet a region struggling with poverty and a long history of turbulence. Emergency talks in the Ghanaian capital Accra were triggered after Burkina Faso on January 24 became the third member of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to be overtaken by the military. Burkina followed Mali, where a coup in September 2020 was followed by a second in May 2021, and Guinea, where elected president Alpha Conde was ousted last September. Adding to the region’s turmoil was a gun attack on Tuesday on the president of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, stoking fears that years of efforts to steer West Africa towards stability and democracy are failing. Thursday’s one-day meeting, scheduled to start at 1000 GMT, will assess the outcome of two missions to Burkina following the coup. … ECOWAS has already slapped crippling sanctions on Mali and Guinea for dragging their feet on commitments to restore civilian rule. AFP

France to Decide Soon on Military’s Future in Mali
France’s government will decide in the coming days whether to maintain its long-running military involvement in Mali, the foreign minister said Wednesday amid growing tensions in the West African country. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pledged to keep France’s anti-terrorism operations in the broader Sahel region, but didn’t rule out withdrawing all of France’s troops from junta-led Mali. Le Drian suggested that a complete French military pull-out from the country could be part of discussions with African partners in the region. … Mali has been battling an Islamic insurgency in the north since 2012. In 2013 France intervened — at the request of Malian leaders — to stop jihadists who had seized swaths of the sprawling country. … “It’s not a Franco-Malian issue, it’s an issue between the international community and Mali,” Le Drian told lawmakers on Tuesday. He accused Malian authorities of undermining the work of French and European troops and flouting their own constitution. “Mali’s isolation is such today that it has only one partner: Mercenaries” from Russian security group Wagner, which has been accused of rights abuses in other countries, Le Drian said. AP

Protesters in Sudan Continue Their Fight against Military Rule
Ahmed Ismat has a tear gas canister wound across his cheek. Aya no longer sleeps at her home to avoid arrest. A coup in Sudan on Oct. 25 has propelled these young people and other members of the “resistance committees” onto the front line of the struggle against military rule. But as their stand-off with security forces continues, the committees are drafting a charter to try to harness their grassroots activism into a political movement with broad appeal to better achieve their goals. … The charter, expected in the next days, will outline core demands and a vision for the future, said Ismat, a spokesman for committees in the capital, Khartoum. It is also intended to help mobilise a broader coalition of support. Some hope the committees can help fill the void left by a weakened political elite that since Sudan’s independence in 1956 has repeatedly swapped places with the military but only enjoyed brief periods in power. … In the drafting of the charter, “for the first time, people who were never in politics get to share their vision for how the country should be run,” said one committee member who requested anonymity because of the security crackdown. … In a future transition, they say they would continue their efforts to rebuild local government and keep checks on democratic progress. Reuters

Khartoum, Sudan Resistance: ‘Marches of the Millions Every Monday in February’
The Khartoum Resistance Committee coordinators have announced that unified Marches of the Millions are to be organised every Monday in February, with the remaining days of the month left for “other forms of resistance,” as the campaign of civil disobedience and protests against the military coup d’état of October 25 passed 100 days. The coordination said in a statement that it will organise Marches of Millions on February 7, 14, 21, and 28, with the remaining days of the month left for other forms of resistance, according to what the coordinators of the resistance committees, and professional and demanding bodies see fit. The peaceful resistance to the military coup d’état of October 25 has completed 100 days, and that the drafting and promulgation of the Khartoum State Coordination Charter and its proposal for the unity of the anti-coup revolutionary forces will be completed within the month. Radio Dabanga

Guinea-Bissau Launches Probe into Botched Coup That Killed 11
Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday launched a major investigation into a foiled attempt to overthrow President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, who survived a gun attack in the uprising that claimed 11 lives, according to the government of the poor West African nation. Heavily armed men on Tuesday afternoon surrounded government buildings in the capital Bissau where Embalo and his prime minister were believed to be attending a cabinet meeting. Embalo, 49, later told reporters he had been unharmed during a five-hour gun battle, which he described as a plot to wipe out the government in Guinea-Bissau, one of Africa’s most unstable countries. AFP journalists reported hearing sustained gunfire, and the president said several people were killed. A military source on Wednesday told AFP that six soldiers had died, but did not specify whether they had been attacking or defending the president. AFP

Russian Mercenaries Torture Central African Republic Soldier
A soldier of the Central African Republic national army, FACA, is battling for life after he was tortured along with one of his colleagues by Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Security Group. The incident took place in Bria, a locality situated 585 km to the north of the capital Bangui. “On Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022 around 2 p.m. two soldiers of the Central African Republic army whose names were given as Veve Samba and Feiganazoui who were in their base in the Gbaragbake school were captured by Russian mercenaries and severely tortured. One of the two FACA soldiers had one tooth broken and his two arms fractured,” a civil society activist who identified himself as Roger Agbaki told HumAngle. … some FACA soldiers said exactions on their colleagues by Russian mercenaries are becoming unbearable even as government authorities have been finding it difficult to muster the courage to confront the Russian mercenaries whenever they maltreat FACA soldiers. HumAngle

At Least 60 Dead in Attack on Camp for Displaced People in Congo
The families had fled their homes and farms to escape attacks by marauding militants, taking refuge in a makeshift camp for displaced people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But a militia found them anyway as they slept in the white tents of the Plaine Savo camp in Ituri province on Tuesday night, shooting and hacking to death at least 60 people — many of them women and children. The heinous act of violence shook Africa’s second-largest nation, where a surge of attacks has left communities displaced, devastated and in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The assault was one of the biggest in almost a year to hit the country’s restive eastern region, which is beset by poor governance, weak security and rampant corruption. More than 120 armed groups operate in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, which records violence and human rights violations in eastern Congo. … Lt. Jules Ngongo, the Congolese Army spokesman in Ituri, said the Cooperative for Development of Congo militia, known locally as CODECO, was responsible for the attack. He said the army was deployed to the camp after the attack “to restore order, and we are chasing the enemy.” The New York Times

Critics Warn That Burundi Still Harshly Targets Opposition
The armed men kicked down the door during the night. Within minutes, men wearing police uniforms seized the opposition figure and left. It was the last time Chantal saw her husband. The disappearance in Burundi’s Gihanga district in November led Chantal to flee to neighboring Congo, she told The Associated Press, giving only her first name out of fear of retaliation. Her husband is one of at least 20 opposition members in Burundi who have been seized over the past year, Agathon Rwasa, leader of main opposition party CNL, told the AP. Some were tortured in the custody of intelligence officials, he said, citing survivors or representatives and family members able to speak with them in prison. “They are accused of having weapons in their houses. (The government) also pretends that they have ties with some rebel or armed groups,” Rwasa said. “How come they always pretend that CNL members are in collusion with such kind of behavior?” Such accounts have led human rights groups to warn that Burundi’s government has shown little if any improvement under President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who took office after the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2020 with talk of reforms after years of deadly political crackdowns. AP

Nigeria Eyes Standard Chartered Rail Project Loan after Chinese Hold Up
Nigeria has approached Standard Chartered Bank for funding of two rail projects, its Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi said on Wednesday, after delays from Chinese lenders. President Muhammadu Buhari has made upgrading transport networks and improving outdated power grids the pillar of his administration, with a view to boosting agriculture and other non-oil industries to cut dependence on dwindling crude revenues. But funding has been a major constraint. Its parliament last year approved several billions of dollars in project-tied loans from the Chinese and other international lenders but funds have yet to materialize. “We are actually waiting for the Chinese to give us the loan we applied for and they kept delaying us,” he told reporters in Abuja. “Will we wait for them forever? The answer is no.” Nigeria has been negotiating a mix of loans from Chinese and European lenders to fund railway projects in the country. … Nigeria’s poor transport and power networks have stymied economic growth for decades, holding back the distribution of wealth in Africa’s biggest economy where 40% of people live below the national poverty line. Amaechi said cabinet approved $187.7 million for contractors that will supervise the three or four rail projects in the works. Reuters

China Built Congo a Toll Road That Led Straight to the Ruling Family
For 250 hot and dusty miles, the two-lane highway cuts through central Africa, its path lined with the carcasses of trucks, buses, and minivans. But this modest road holds outsize value for global markets, connecting some of the continent’s richest mines to the rest of the world—most notably, China. Along this route, thousands of flatbed trucks haul sheets of copper and sacks of cobalt hydroxide, essential for electric cars and other 21st century technologies. Their drivers must pay steep tolls, as much as $900 for a round trip. And for almost a decade, records indicate, a cut of those tolls flowed to the family of one politician: Joseph Kabila, the former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The toll payments illustrate how Kabila blurred the lines between state and private business, documents reviewed by Bloomberg News suggest. By striking such deals with his regime, Chinese companies over the past 15 years came to dominate Congo’s mining industry, down to the roads the country’s minerals travel for export. Bloomberg

How the Legacy of Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak Is Improving the Health of Rural Communities
There are around 4,000 community health workers like Flomo across the west African nation’s 15 counties, providing health services to remote villages. Together they are a crucial cog in Liberia’s fragile healthcare machinery. The country’s health system is currently undergoing a bold revolution, after being pushed to the brink by brutal civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that killed 250,000 people. By 2008, there were only 51 doctors in Liberia serving a population of 3.7 million, roughly one per 70,000 people. That year the government overhauled its health system, with the aim of encouraging the use of community-based health volunteers. Then, in 2014 a deadly Ebola outbreak hit Liberia, and this served as a catalyst for the national deployment of the workers. From 2016 they began to receive proper pay and training as their role was formalised. “That was one of the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak,” says Sumo Lomax Flomo of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia. “We saw a lot of cases coming from the community who were very ill or already dead. The community was not used for surveillance. Once it was, our fight was transformed.” Telegraph

Africa Needs Capability and Technology to Provide Solutions When Crises Hit, AU Summit Hears
For Africa to address health, climate change, nutrition and cyber security challenges, the continent needs the capability and technology to provide solutions when crises hit. This was what Vera Songwe, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said in her address at the opening of the 40th African Union Ordinary Session of the Executive Council. The Cameroon-born career economist and banking executive noted that Africans need to build resilience in the face of increasing challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. “Africa is surviving the health pandemic but our economies are stretched and our societies are broken. The economic cost of managing the pandemic has been high. The debt-to-GDP has raised from 40% in 2014 to almost 70% as we speak. While in 2014, four African countries were in debt distress, now 17 countries are high risk and four are already in debt distress. It’s a testing time for our economies and people,” she said. She also pointed out that hunger was one of the continent’s biggest challenges and that one-in-five people are food insecure. News24



Photo: Adam Jones