Africa Media Review for January 12, 2022

Africa’s Complex 2022 Elections: Restoring Democratic Processes
There is little that is ordinary about the African elections slated for 2022. With multiple elections intended to restart democratic processes and resume constitutional governance, Africa’s elections in 2022 will be unlike anything the continent has seen in recent years. Libya, Somalia, Mali, Guinea, and Chad are all tentatively scheduled to hold elections that have been delayed or disrupted by coups or conflict. The parameters shaping these electoral processes have yet to be finalized and even the timing of when they will take place remains up in the air. Africa’s 2022 elections, therefore, will be dynamic and complex. Given the legitimizing authority that a credible electoral process can bring, it is the manner in which these elections are managed, more than the specific outcomes, that will be significant for shaping Africa’s governance and security environment. Following are some of the key factors to watch in each context and their implications for Africa’s democratic development and security. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

At UN Security Council, Africans Urge Support for ECOWAS Mali Sanctions
The African members of the U.N. Security Council urged their counterparts on Tuesday to support sanctions imposed this week on Mali’s coup leaders by a bloc of West African nations. “We call for the Security Council to respect and embrace the determination of the heads of state and government of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), that the proposal by the authorities to extend the transition to five years is unacceptable and that an expedited transition to constitutional rule in Mali should be undertaken without delay,” Michel Biang, Gabon’s U.N. ambassador, told the 15-nation council on behalf of his government, Ghana, and Kenya. The three African states currently hold seats on the Security Council. … “The number one interest of the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) is in a peaceful and secure Mali, whose government reflects the will of its people and that is in full control of its territory,” Kenya’s U.N. envoy Martin Kimani told reporters following the meeting. VOA

France, US, Algeria Pile Pressure on Sanctions-Hit Mali
Pressure on Mali’s junta increased Tuesday as France and the United States underlined their support for the West African bloc Ecowas, which has slapped sanctions on the country over delayed elections following two coups. … The move came after Mali’s interim government last month proposed staying in power for up to five years before staging elections — despite international demands that it respect a promise to hold elections on February 27. “What is happening in Mali is a headlong rush by the… junta which, in defiance of its commitments, hopes to hijack power for years and deprive the Malian people of their democratic choices,” [French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian] added. Washington also supported the “strong actions” by Ecowas and urged the Mali regime to honour its pledge to return to democracy, said the US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “A five-year transition is not in their interest and extends the pain of the people,” she told a Security Council meeting. …offering a rare rebuke of the junta, a group of about a dozen Malian political parties said Tuesday that the military held sole responsibility for the sanctions. “These sanctions are the result of a lack of political will on the part of the authorities to respect their commitments,” the parties said. AFP

Russia and China Block UN Support for Sanctions on Mali
Russia and China blocked the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday from supporting new sanctions on Mali for its military leaders’ decision to delay next month’s elections until 2026, a blow to the restoration of democracy in the troubled West African nation. Kenya’s U.N. ambassador, Martin Kimani, said after closed-door discussions on the proposed French-drafted statement endorsing the sanctions imposed by the West African regional group ECOWAS he was “disappointed” that the council couldn’t agree on what he called a “relatively mild” press statement. … British deputy ambassador James Kariuki called Mali’s decision to delay elections “deeply disappointing,” saying “it brings into question the transitional authorities’ commitment to democracy and the rule of law, despite assurances given to members of this council during our visit to Bamako last October.” AP

Eight Burkina Soldiers Accused of Plot to ‘Destabilize Institutions’
Eight soldiers including a high-ranking commander have been detained over a “plot to destabilize” Burkina Faso’s institutions, military prosecutors and security sources said Tuesday. The military prosecutor’s office in the capital, Ouagadougou, said it had learned of an “allegation of a project to destabilize the institutions of the republic being planned by a group of soldiers.” The office learned of the plot on Saturday after “a member of the gang” denounced the plan, it said in a statement. An investigation has been launched and eight soldiers have been detained for questioning, the statement added. … Security sources told AFP that Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Zoungrana, the commander of western forces fighting jihadists in the country, was among those arrested. One of the security sources said that “suspicions of a plot to destabilize (the government) with ramifications abroad” hung over Zoungrana and several soldiers since protests in November. … Last month in a bid to defuse public anger over the jihadi violence, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore accepted the government’s resignation. Lassina Zerbo, a former U.N. official who was installed as the prime minister of the new government, has called for “cohesion” in the face of the jihadi threat. AFP

Sahel Violence Threatens West African Coastal States
Experts say infiltrating coastal countries offers vital advantages for the armed groups in Burkina Faso and Mali, such as creating new supply lines for food and equipment and unlocking new sources of income from banditry. “West African coastal countries serve as supply or transit zones, particularly for motorcycles, spare parts and fertiliser. They are also sources of finance such as the sale of stolen livestock for consumption,” researcher Matongbada said. In 2017, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo launched the Accra Initiative, agreeing to strengthen regional security cooperation in a bid to prevent spillover violence and cross-border attacks. … Nonetheless, [Marc-Andre Boisvert, a researcher on Sahelian security at FrancoPaix Research Centre] believes, the coastal states remain vulnerable as long as they continue to see armed groups only as a security problem, and not address longstanding governance or political issues. “The focus is on ‘hard security,’ while few efforts have been done to prevent or to find political solutions to what is now a regional problem,” he said. “Countries that see the attacks only as an ‘external problem’ makes it easier to simply focus on security, and ignore these issues that can be exploited by militants.” Al Jazeera

Large Explosion outside Mogadishu Airport, Deaths Reported
A large explosion was reported outside the international airport in Somalia’s capital on Wednesday and an emergency responder said there were deaths and injuries. The founder of the Aamin ambulance service, Abdulkadir Adan, tweeted that he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries” in Mogadishu. He posted a photo from the scene of a mangled vehicle. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were dead or who was targeted. The Somali National News Agency reports “unspecified casualties.” The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group that controls parts of Somalia often carries out bombings at high-profile locations in the capital. AP

Ethiopia: 19 People Killed in Latest Drone Strikes in Tigray
Nineteen people have been killed in drone strikes in Ethiopia’s Tigray, in the latest reported attacks in the war-stricken region. In the deadliest strike on Monday in the southern Tigray town of Mai Tsebri, 17 people working at a flour mill were killed, said one of the humanitarian workers, citing witness accounts. The aid worker said dozens of people were also injured and 16 donkeys killed. “A witness told me that the drones came and hovered a bit before dropping bombs. Then people panicked but after some minutes everyone heard huge shouting and they went to the scene to see that women and donkeys died.” In another strike on Tuesday, two people were killed and dozens injured in Hiwane, south of Tigray’s capital Mekelle, according to an official and a doctor from the city’s main hospital. The attacks came after dozens of people were reported to have been killed and many more injured in a drone strike on Friday on a camp in north-western Tigray for people displaced by Ethiopia’s brutal 14-month conflict. … It was not possible to independently verify the reports because access to Tigray is restricted and it remains under a communications blackout. The Guardian

Southern African Leaders Hail Mozambique Security Mission
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday said there had been “significant progress” in tackling a militant insurgency in northern Mozambique after a multinational force deployed there last year. Ramaphosa, who chairs the defence and security section of the Southern African Development (SADC) bloc, gave the update at a summit called to assess developments in the region. SADC members and Rwanda stepped in six months ago to assist the beleaguered Mozambican army, bringing in more than 3,000 troops. “Since the deployment… significant progress has been made,” said Ramaphosa in opening remarks at the two-day talks in the Malawian capital. “The security situation in Cabo Delgado is improving, which has allowed for some internally-displaced persons to return to their homes and resume their normal lives,” he said. Operating alongside Mozambican troops, regional forces have helped to create “safe passage” for bringing humanitarian aid into jihadist-hit areas, he said. The SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) was initially deployed in July, but its mandate was extended indefinitely in October. AfricaNews with AFP

Why Zimbabwe’s Simple Plaque with a Not-So-Simple History Keeps Getting Destroyed and Rebuilt
Two hours after sunset last Tuesday, the quiet darkness outside the Zimbabwean village of Maphisa was shattered by the crack of a loud explosion. The villagers soon understood what had happened. State security agents had demolished, yet again, a memorial plaque for the hundreds of innocent people who were tortured and executed by Zimbabwean soldiers at the nearby Bhalagwe prison camp in the early 1980s. In a country whose authoritarian rulers still seek to control historical memory, even a simple plaque can be seen as subversive. And so plaques have triggered their own war: an unending saga of destruction, replacement and destruction again. Over the past four years, volunteers have tried five times to place a memorial at Bhalagwe, near mine shafts where the bodies of the prisoners were dumped. Each time, the security forces have chased them away or demolished the plaque. The Globe and Mail

Freelance Reporter for The New York Times Is Put on Trial in Zimbabwe
A freelance reporter working for The New York Times in Zimbabwe is scheduled to be tried on Wednesday on accusations that he helped two other journalists for the news organization illegally enter the country last year, a charge that even the government acknowledged at one point to be practically baseless. The case against the reporter, Jeffrey Moyo, 37, has attracted both domestic and international attention, as evidence of increased harassment and intimidation of the media in Zimbabwe, the landlocked southern African country of 14 million. … The Times, press-freedom advocacy groups and Mr. Moyo’s lawyers have said Mr. Moyo has been wrongly accused and that he should not face trial. At the bail appeal hearing in June that secured his release from Bulawayo’s overcrowded prison, the government conceded that its case was on “shaky ground,” court papers show. The New York Times

UN Expresses Dismay Over Human Rights Situation in Tunisia
The U.N. human rights office says it is seriously concerned about what it sees as a deteriorating human rights situation in Tunisia and is calling on the government to protect and respect the rights and freedoms of its people. One of the latest gross violations occurred on December 31. On that day, two men, one a member of parliament and former justice minister, and the second man, a former interior ministry official, were snatched from their homes by men in plain clothes. They subsequently were bundled into cars and driven away without any explanation to unknown destinations. U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell says the lawmaker, Noureddine Bhiri, subsequently was put under house arrest. Since he has a heart condition, he has been transferred to a hospital, where he remains under guard. The second man taken away, identified in media reports as Fathi Baldi, is now under house arrest. VOA

Egypt Human Rights Group Closes Down Due to Government Persecution
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), an award-winning Egyptian organization, announced this week that it would be closing its doors forever because of government persecution. “Given the increasing disregard for the rule of law in Egypt, growing violations of human rights…and an increase in police harassment, whether under a legal or judicial pretext or through explicit persecution, starting today we will be suspending our operations and activities,” ANHRI posted in a statement on its website on Monday. The Egyptian government has jailed thousands of activists and closed down international and local civil society groups in a targeted effort to stifle all dissent. ANHRI Executive Director Gamal Eid said in a statement that Egyptian laws have now made their work illegal, and that employees had been arrested, intimidated and physically assaulted by security forces. … The group was founded by a team of lawyers and activists in 2004 as a repository for documents on human rights violations against citizens, journalists and political prisoners. RFI

Internet Blimps Are Coming to Zanzibar. But Can a UK Company Succeed Where Google Failed?
The Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar and Pemba are about to become a test site for a mobile internet network its creators hope will not just revolutionize lives there, but possibly across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. Only around 20% of Tanzanians use the internet, according to the World Bank. That’s low, even for sub-Saharan Africa where usage is affected by limited internet coverage and compounded by high data costs and low digital literacy. However, change could soon be written in the sky. UK company World Mobile is launching a hybrid network using aerostats — blimp-like tethered balloons that it says will provide near-blanket coverage across the islands. Two solar-powered, helium-filled balloons will float 300 meters (984 feet) above land and have a broadcast range of around 70 kilometers (44 miles) apiece, using 3G and 4G frequencies to deliver their signal. The balloons can survive winds of up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) and stay airborne for up to 14 days before descending for refilling. In the few hours of downtime, other aerostats will be airborne, ensuring users are never without service, says the company. CNN