Africa Media Review for February 8, 2022

Sudanese March against Military Rule, Fear Return of Bashir-Era Officials
Thousands of Sudanese marched against military rule on Monday in Khartoum and other cities, a Reuters reporter said, with some voicing concern about the return to government of members of the ousted regime of ex-president Omar al-Bashir. In the capital, security forces firing repeated rounds of tear gas blocked protesters trying to reach the presidential palace, stopping them more than a kilometer away from the building, a Reuters witness said. … Protesters were more numerous than in recent weeks in Khartoum and several other cities. Huge crowds have regularly taken to the streets demanding a return to civilian rule since a coup on Oct. 25 ended a power-sharing arrangement that began in 2019. The protests have continued despite a crackdown that has killed at least 79 and injured more than 2,000, according to medics aligned with the protest movement. … Led by neighborhood resistance committees, protesters have demanded the military exit politics completely and accused the military of working with members of the Bashir’s regime. … A Sudanese journalists’ union said three BBC journalists were arrested while covering the protest, and warned of continued targeting of journalists, citing an assault on reporters for Al Jazeera earlier in the week. Reuters

Tunisian Police Close Offices of Top Judicial Watchdog, Lock Staff Out
Tunisian police on Monday blocked access to the country’s top judicial watchdog in a move its chief slammed as “illegal,” two days after President Kais Saied dissolved the body. … Security forces blocked all roads to the Supreme Judicial Council (CSM) headquarters in Tunis. “We don’t know who issued these orders, but we know that they have no legal basis,” CSM president Youssef Bouzakher told AFP. Saied dissolved the body on Sunday, months after sacking the government and seizing wide-reaching powers in Tunisia, often lauded as the only democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab revolts. Washington said Monday it was “deeply concerned” by the decision to dissolve the watchdog. “An independent judiciary is a core element of an effective and transparent democracy,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “It is essential that the government of Tunisia holds its commitments to respect the independence of the judiciary, as stipulated in the constitution.” AFP

Libya’s Parliament to Appoint New PM, Increasing Tensions
Libya’s parliament said Monday it will name a new prime minister this week to head the transitional government, a move that will likely lead to parallel administrations in the already chaotic nation. Two candidates — former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga and Minister-Counsellor Khalid al-Baibas — have submitted their bids to replace Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. They appeared in a parliamentary session Monday in the eastern city of Tobruk to present their plans. Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said a vote to name one of them as prime minister will take place Thursday, following consultations with the High Council of State, an advisory body based in the capital of Tripoli. … Dbeibah has repeatedly said he and his government will remain in power until “real elections” take place. He has accused Saleh, the speaker, of fueling the division in the country. The prime minister, who hails from the powerful western city of Misrata, also urged the crafting of a new constitution before heading to elections. … The move also increases concerns that the country could once again slide into armed conflict. Western governments have urged that the current government remain in place until the vote is held to avoid chaos and confusion. AP

UN Experts: ‘UAE-Funded Mercenaries in Libya Bankroll Darfur Armed Movements’
Sudanese mercenaries in Libya, funded by the United Arab Emirates, represented the main source of income for most of the armed movements in Darfur during 2021, according to the annual report by the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan to the Security Council that was published on Friday. … The report confirms that the activities of Sudanese mercenaries funded by the UAE in Libya and also confirms the continued violation of the arms embargo last year “by transferring weapons and other types of military equipment to Darfur.” It adds that the five main movements (the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi, the Sudan Liberation Forces Assembly, the Sudan Liberation Army-Transitional Council, the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid Nur and the Sudanese Revolutionary Awakening Council) received payments and logistical support. According to the report, several sources within these movements said that the issue of funds and support was discussed and agreed upon in meetings between their military leaders and representatives of the UAE in Libya. According to experts, the payments were provided by the United Arab Emirates and transferred to the movements through Haftar’s forces, which took a share of them. Radio Dabanga

Deadly Clashes Erupt at Peace-Keeping Facilities in Sudan’s Darfur
Clashes between military forces and armed groups at the facilities of a former international peace-keeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region left an unknown number of people dead and injured on Saturday, a military statement said. Witnesses told Reuters they had heard heavy gunfire on Saturday around the perimeter of the headquarters of the former African Union-United Nations peace-keeping mission UNAMID in El Fasher, North Darfur, but said the number of casualties was unclear. There has been a surge in violence and displacement in Darfur since 2020 that analysts have linked to factions jostling for power around a peace deal signed with some former rebel groups that year, and UNAMID’s ceasing operations at the start of 2021. Sudan’s military leaders said on Wednesday the groups that signed the deal would have to leave cities in Darfur following looting and attacks that led the U.N.’s World Food Programme to temporarily suspend its operations in the region. Reuters

Masked Gunmen Attack Radio Station in Guinea-Bissau
Violence returned to Guinea-Bissau on Monday as gunmen attacked a private radio station in the capital, Bissau, critical of the government. According to a radio manager, masked men with guns fired shots and destroyed radio equipment. Some employees were also a target of violence. … Last week, president Umaro Sissoco Embaló survived an attempted coup that claimed at least 11 lives. Speaking to the press, the government spokesman accused drug lords and mercenary rebels from Casamance of being behind the violence. AfricaNews

Cocaine Trafficking Believed to Be behind Guinea-Bissau ‘Coup Attempt’
After a rash of coups over the last two years in West Africa and the Sahel, bearing many similarities to each other – including the effects of Islamist violent extremism – a “very strange coup attempt” took place last week in Guinea-Bissau. It was a very different kind of would-be putsch, very likely linked to the country’s deep involvement in drug trafficking. Guinea-Bissau, a tiny country on the Atlantic Ocean, sandwiched between Senegal to the north and Guinea to the south, is widely dubbed a “narco-state” because for two decades it’s been a conduit for cocaine from Latin America into Europe. On February 1, armed men attacked the presidential palace with heavy gunfire for about five hours, trying to kill or at least topple President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam, who were in the building. Eventually, loyal troops managed to fight them off. It remains unclear who the attackers were or what motivated them. Embalo held a press conference where he said that 11 people had died in the alleged coup attempt. Although vague on the identity of those behind the incident, the president indicated its possible links to the cocaine trade: “Some individuals involved in this cowardly and barbaric act were already being investigated for drug trafficking.” Daily Maverick

South Africa Jails Twins for Terrorism over US Embassy Plot
A South African court convicted and jailed twin brothers for terrorism on Monday over plans to attack the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and join the Islamic State group, local media reported. Tony-Lee Thulsie and Brandon-Lee Thulsie, both 28, were arrested in South Africa in July 2016 and have been held in custody since. The South African brothers pleaded guilty earlier Monday as part of a plea bargain with the prosecution, according to local media. Hours later, the Johannesburg high court gave Tony-Lee an 11-year jail term, while Brandon-Lee was sentenced to eight years. Both pleaded guilty to planning to travel to Syria to join IS, media reports said. Tony-Lee also admitted to planning a terrorist attack in South Africa, they added. Prosecutors said attacks also had been planned against U.S., British, Russian or French diplomats in Pretoria, as well as Jewish institutions. AFP

US, EU Raise Alarm over Alleged Torture by Ugandan Forces
The European Union and the United States are raising alarm over torture allegedly perpetrated by Uganda’s security forces, with a prominent writer and government critic saying that he is a recent victim. The EU Delegation to Uganda in a statement Monday expressed concern over “a situation that for more than a year has seen a significant increase of reports of torture, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, harassment as well as attacks against human rights defenders, members of the opposition and environmental rights activists.” That statement followed a strong declaration Friday from the U.S. that cited “recurring credible accounts” of forced disappearances and torture by the security forces which “reflect poorly” on the government of President Yoweri Museveni, who has held power since 1986. Fresh criticism of Museveni’s human rights record comes amid torture allegations by local writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who charges that he was tortured for weeks while in detention before a magistrate ordered him freed late last month. AP

Africa Embraces Huawei Tech despite Security Concerns
Shunned in the West due to privacy and security issues, Huawei is a front-runner in Africa. But the Chinese giant’s technology and data collection methods might appeal more to authoritarian regimes. … Hidden from the end-user are so-called ‘middleboxes’: these distribution stations forward information and are capable of filtering and manipulating information. Valentin Weber, a cybersecurity expert from the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), and colleague Vasilis Vesveris analyzed data streams around Huawei’s middleboxes. They found that in 17 countries, the device blocked certain websites. Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, Burundi, and South Africa were affected. … Huawei components are attractive in this context, says Arthur Gwagwa: “Authoritarian African governments see the benefit of customized censorship mechanisms in the Huawei infrastructure. They can use the vulnerability of the Chinese equipment for surveillance and other malicious purposes for them to hold on to political power.” … In 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that Huawei employees were directly involved in obtaining messages from the smartphone of Ugandan opposition leader and presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine. DW



Photo: Adam Jones