Africa Media Review for January 18, 2022

Seven Dead in Crackdown on Anti-coup Rallies in Sudan –Medics
Protest organisers in Sudan’s capital Khartoum announced two days of strikes and civil disobedience after security forces used gunfire and teargas on Monday to disperse demonstrations against a coup and medics said seven people had been killed. The toll marked one of the bloodiest days since pro-democracy groups began a campaign of anti-military protests following the Oct. 25 coup, and threatened to deepen the gulf between military leaders and a large protest movement. Security forces fired volleys of tear gas as they blocked thousands of protesters from advancing on Khartoum’s presidential palace, and several injured civilians could be seen bleeding heavily in the street, a Reuters witness said. They also used live ammunition and stun grenades, said the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a group of medics aligned with the protest movement that reported the seven deaths. … “The military prepared a massacre for us today, and all we’ve done is ask for civilian rule and democracy,” said Mohamed Babaker, a 19-year-old student. … Huge crowds have regularly taken to the streets demanding civilian rule since the coup ended a military-civilian power-sharing arrangement agreed to after Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir fell during an uprising in 2019. Reuters

Sudan Pro-democracy Faction Agrees to UN-brokered Talks
A prominent Sudanese pro-democracy group has conditionally accepted the UN’s offer to broker an end to political deadlock following the October military coup. Jaafar Hassan, a spokesperson for the Central Council for the Forces of Freedom and Change (CCFFC), said in a press statement on Sunday that the council decided to accept the invitation of the United Nations mission (UNITAMS) to support dialogue between the parties to the Sudanese crisis.… Protesters have been holding regular marches against the military since it overthrew the civilian-led government of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok last October. They want the military to be kept out of the transitional governing coalition. … The CCFFC’s decision to take part in the UN-brokered talks comes amid intensifying regional and international efforts to resolve the crisis. Al Jazeera

Sudanese Newspaper Ceases Publication Because of Press Curbs
The Sudanese newspaper El Hadatha announced on Saturday that it will cease publication because of the increasing suppression of the media. The US Embassy in Khartoum has denounced the closure of the Al Jazeera Live channel by the Ministry of Information on Saturday. Journalists say that the withdrawal of the channel’s license is unlawful. Editor-in-chief Shamseldin Dawelbeit said in an interview with Radio Dabanga on Sunday that the management of the daily newspaper suspended publication since the military coup d’état on October 25, in protest against the take-over of power by army leader and Sovereignty Council head Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan. The management of El Hadatha has been monitoring developments in the situation before making a final decision, the editor-in-chief said. “The coup put an end to the press and media freedoms brought about by the glorious December Revolution.” He referred to “attacks by heavily armed military formations on offices of newspapers and other media institutions, continuous assaults on journalists and correspondents, confiscating their properties, detaining and intimidating them, and the withdrawal of licenses. … On Saturday, the Sudanese Ministry of Information and Culture withdrew the license of the Al Jazeera Live channel. In response, the US embassy in Khartoum tweeted that the “revocation of Al Jazeera license is a step backwards for freedom of the press, a cornerstone of the democratic transition”. Dabanga

Mali Ex-president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita Dies Aged 76
Mali’s former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who led the West African country from 2013 until he was ousted in a coup in 2020, died at the age of 76 in the capital Bamako on Sunday, his family said. “President IBK died this morning at 0900 GMT in his home” in Bamako, a family member told AFP using the ex-leader’s initials, with several other family members confirming his passing. The cause of Keita’s death was not given. However, reports indicate that the deposed leader had been sick for several years and had been allowed to leave the country for treatment abroad in the last few years since his ouster, including at least two stays in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Keita was elected President in 2013 and re-elected in 2018. He was two years into his second five-year term when he was toppled by soldiers led by Col. Assimi Goita in 2020. In the weeks before the coup, he had been struggling with protests fuelled by his handling of a jihadist insurgency and failure to turn around Mali’s floundering economy. AFP

Somali Government Spokesperson Wounded in Suicide Bomb Attack
Somalia’s government spokesperson was wounded on Sunday in an explosion at a road junction set off by a suicide bomber in the capital Mogadishu, police and the national news agency said. The al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, in comments on its Andalus radio station, claimed responsibility for the attack on Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, who was rushed to hospital and reported to be in stable condition. … Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble, in whose office Moalimuu works, called the bombing an “odious terrorist attack” in a statement on Twitter. Nasra Bashir Ali, state media special correspondent in Roble’s office, tweeted that the bomber targeted Moalimuu as he was passing in his vehicle, and that his injuries were not life-threatening. Al Shabaab frequently carries out gun and bomb attacks on Somali security and government targets, but also on civilians. Reuters

UN Decries Ethiopia Air Strikes; Says Dozens Killed This Month
The UN human rights office expressed alarm at “multiple, deeply disturbing reports” of air strikes in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, saying at least 108 civilians had been killed since the start of January. Liz Throssell, an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson, described numerous attacks including on a private minibus, an airport and a camp for displaced people. At least 59 people died in the camp strike, making it the most lethal so far. “We are alarmed by the multiple, deeply disturbing reports we continue to receive of civilian casualties and destruction of civilian objects resulting from air strikes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region,” Throssell told reporters in Geneva. “At least 108 civilians have reportedly been killed and 75 others injured since the year began as a result of air strikes allegedly carried out by the Ethiopian air force.” Al Jazeera

UN Mali Mission Temporarily Grounds All Flights Following Sanctions Restrictions
The U.N. peacekeeping mission to Mali, or MINUSMA, has temporarily suspended all flights after West African and EU states imposed sanctions that disrupted air and land transport. MINUSMA flights were abruptly grounded Sunday night in what an email to staff said was a temporary suspension. The email reviewed by VOA said “MINUSMA has to temporarily suspend all flights” and that staff would be informed “as soon as the Mission receives clearance from the government authorities” to resume flights. Several regional airlines have suspended service to Mali due to sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States that stopped air and land transport between countries in the regional bloc, known as ECOWAS, and Mali. VOA

‘We Don’t Want to Isolate Mali’, EU Envoy Says Despite Sanctions Plan
The European Union and partners do not intend to isolate Mali and its military-led government, the EU’s special envoy to the Sahel said, calling for talks despite a plan to severely sanction the country for failing to organize elections. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) hit Mali with tough sanctions earlier this month after the junta that seized power in 2020 dropped a proposed February election and said it would stay in office for another four years. The EU has said it will impose its own restrictions in line with ECOWAS, likely later in January. However, Emanuela Del Re, EU’s Special Representative to the Sahel, said the door remained open for dialogue. “The position of the European Union is to be firm on certain principles without closing doors completely,” Del Re told Reuters in an interview late on Monday. … ECOWAS has said it will gradually lift sanctions if the junta presents an acceptable time-frame to return to constitutional order. Reuters

RFI Reporter among Those Brutally Attacked by Police at Tunisian Protest
RFI journalist Mathieu Galtier was among those attacked by uniformed police at a banned protest in the Tunisian capital on Friday. More than twenty non-governmental organisations have condemned the violence, describing the behaviour of the police as “barbaric repression”. Several independent rights groups have complained about violent police behaviour at the weekend protest. Officers are accused of having acted in a “repressive” way, subjecting protestors and journalists to “barbaric” attacks. … According to Libération, Mathieu Galtier was using his telephone to film the arrest of a demonstrator when he was himself set upon by an officer in uniform. … “Then they took my phone and my press card and they left me lying there,” he said. He was helped by a fire brigade medical team. His phone and professional identification have since been returned, without the memory card on which images are stored. The doctor who examined Mathieu Galtier’s injuries confirmed multiple bruising and a 10 centimetre graze on the reporter’s forehead. Several other journalists were beaten by the police. The Tunisian National Union of Journalists says that more than 20 were either attacked or otherwise prevented from working. … The demonstrators were protesting against President Kais Saied’s July power grab. RFI

While Attacks Persist, Nigerian Authorities Say They’re Responding
Nigerian authorities say the military is responding to a series of killings and kidnappings by gunmen in the country’s northwest. In the latest attack, gunmen on motorcycles Saturday raided a village in Kebbi State, killing at least 50 people, according to locals. President Muhammadu Buhari’s senior aide Garba Shehu said on Twitter Sunday that the president has ordered the military to “respond robustly to the cases of killings and kidnappings.” He added, “The federal government is willing to strengthen support and cooperation with all the states,” and said the president believes that with the full cooperation of the citizens, Nigeria will surely overcome this problem. It is not the first time the president has issued strong worded threats against armed gangs in the country, known locally as bandits. But gangs continue to raid communities, looting for supplies and killing and kidnapping for ransom, mostly in the northwest and central regions. The latest incident occurred in Dankade village in Kebbi state over the weekend. More than 50 people were reportedly killed. VOA

DRC: More People Killed in Two Militia Attacks in Ituri
At least 15 people were killed Sunday in two separate attacks by militia groups in Ituri, a province under siege in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), local sources said on Monday. In the locality of Mabanga, in the territory of Djugu, militiamen “burned houses, looted shops and killed six people, including four women,” Ngandjole Assani, a local civil society leader, told AFP. Mr Assani accused militiamen from the armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco) of being the behind the killing: “When these Codeco militiamen entered here in Mabanga, there were no FARDC soldiers”, he said. … Codeco is an armed group structured around a religious sect in Ituri, where it claims to defend members of the Lendu tribe against the DRC army and the Hema tribe. The group is accused of being behind the violence that has been engulfing this gold-rich region since late 2017, after a 20-year lull. This violence gained momentum in 2019, with structured and well-armed community factions, including the FPIC. The provinces of Ituri and North Kivu have been under a state of siege since May, an exceptional measure giving full power to the military. AfricaNews/AFP

UN: Libya Elections Could be Held in June
Libya is likely to conduct its general elections in June after missing the December deadline to elect its first president since the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. … The country’s inability to hold its first-ever presidential election came as a surprise to many, especial international bodies that had put in measures to ensure the elections could be executed in December. Williams, who led U.N. efforts to end the latest session of violence in Libya in 2020, said elections are needed in the country to give credibility to the country’s institutions. “All the institutions are suffering a crisis of legitimacy,” she said. “I don’t see any other exit for Libya other than a peaceful political process.” After missing the initial date, Libya’s election board proposed that presidential polls should take place on January 24, but that could not be considered. AfricaNews/AFP

Uganda Plans to Amend Law, System of Government
In what seems to be a throwback to the 1980s Constitutional framework, there are plans in Uganda to amend the Constitution and adopt a parliamentary system, in which Parliament forms the electoral college that elects the president. This would be a departure from the practice by other member states of the EAC that have a presidential system, in which a president is elected through universal suffrage. The plan to amend the law, recently made public by a pro-ruling party group, also brings back a seven-year term for parliament as a quid pro quo inducement to the lawmakers to pass the amendment and give themselves a longer stay in the House. … The 1995 Constitution makers rejected the Westminster system of government for one in which the president is elected by popular vote. President Yoweri Museveni, 77, has been on the job for 36 years, and the last presidential election revealed the reality of a generational gulf, as he faced candidates several decades younger. … The president holds all the aces to easily win the majority votes of the 500-plus members of parliament, according to Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao. … On January 12, NRM Secretary General Richard Todwong, said the party prefers a situation where “we go to the people to decide”, and that there is no need to amend the Constitution and remove the people’s legitimacy in electing the president. The East African

Kenya’s Top Court Reviews Disputed Bid to Change Constitution
Kenya’s highest court began Tuesday weighing a legal bid to revive government plans to shake up the country’s political system, just months ahead of crucial elections. The Supreme Court ruling on the proposed constitutional changes, expected after three days of hearings this week, may have major consequences for the August 9 presidential and parliamentary polls. The government is seeking to overturn court rulings that had dealt a blow to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his allies by rejecting the reforms and the way they were introduced as unconstitutional. The so-called Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) aims to expand the executive and overturn the winner-takes-all electoral system blamed for frequent explosions of poll-related violence in the East African nation. But Kenyatta’s detractors see it as little more than a naked grab for power by a two-term president who cannot run a third time, with the BBI potentially allowing him to assume a new post of prime minister. AFP

Decade of Sahel Conflict Leaves 2.5 Million People Displaced
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on Friday for concerted international action to end armed conflict in Africa’s central Sahel region, which has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes in the last decade. Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, informed that internal displacement has increased tenfold since 2013, going from 217,000 to a staggering 2.1 million by late last year. The number of refugees in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger now stands at 410,000, and the majority comes from Mali, where major civil conflict erupted in 2012, leading to a failed coup and an on-going extremist insurgency. ust last year, a surge in violent attacks across the region displaced nearly 500,000 people (figures for December still pending). According to estimates from UN partners, armed groups carried out more than 800 deadly attacks in 2021. This violence uprooted some 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee into a neighbouring country. UNNews

Burundi, Rwanda Hold Meetings to Mend Relations
The appeasement between Rwanda and Burundi heads of state last week has signalled yet another step towards thawing of the two countries’ seven-year strained relations. For the first time since officially coming to power, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye sent his Minister in Charge of EAC Affairs, Youth, Culture and Sports, Ezéchiel Nibigira, to Rwanda. The deliberations were not made public, but Rwanda announced that President Paul Kagame received the delegation and held discussions that focused on strengthening bilateral relations. The two countries’ diplomatic relations turned sour in 2015 when former president Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime accused Rwanda of supporting its opponents and providing refuge to individuals behind the failed coup. The latest development, which came against the backdrop of meetings held between both countries’ political and security officials, was widely viewed as a positive move towards normalising relations. The East African

Lesotho’s Mounted Police Force Accused of Detaining, Torturing Human Rights Lawyer
Lesotho’s Mounted Police Service (LMPS) stands accused of detaining and torturing Napo Mafaesa, a human rights lawyer, after a client of his allegedly lied that he handed over an illegal firearm to the advocate for safekeeping. The client, a suspect linked to an armed robbery case, was said to have made the claim while allegedly being tortured by the LMPS. Thereafter, the LMPS went to Mafaesa’s chambers where they arrested him and detained him for three days. … The Law Society of Lesotho (LSL) in a statement said they condemned “in the strongest terms, the brutalisation of suspects and detainees in the hands of law enforcement agencies, an investigative technique which is characteristic of an authoritarian rule and has no room in the modern democratic dispensation”. … In a joint statement, TRC and SALC said investigators had “turned the LMPS into an official institution of torture”. “This incident adds to a deeply troubling trend which stands against our long-standing advocacy against police brutality, and unlawful use of force by the security sector institutions on detainees and those either called in for questioning and/ or arrested,” the statement said. News24

How Nigeria Succeeded in Clipping Twitter’s Wings
Twitter has agreed to a raft of conditions to end a seven-month ban in Nigeria, in what feels like a big win for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in its efforts to regulate the internet, some analysts say. Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country – now joins the likes of India, Indonesia and Turkey, which tightly regulate social media companies. This is something other African governments are likely to take note of, as they try to prevent the use of social media for mobilising opposition groups. Some of the conditions accepted by Twitter have raised concerns about its future operations in Nigeria. “It is definitely concerning that Twitter may have capitulated to an arrangement that would allow Nigeria to pressure it into decisions it would not otherwise make,” David Greene, director at US NGO Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), told the BBC. … Human rights groups say President Buhari’s administration has a history of abusing the rule of law and freedom of speech, with a number of journalists and activists locked up for criticising the government. Now there are concerns that there will be an increase in crackdowns on social media users and more tweets will be flagged and pulled down by Twitter. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones