Africa Media Review for January 21, 2022

Mining Truck Explosion Kills 17 and Wounds Dozens in Ghana
A motorcycle crashed into a truck carrying mining explosives in western Ghana, igniting a huge explosion that leveled dozens of buildings and killed 17 people. Video from the scene showed a crater in the earth and people rushing to collect survivors, who local officials say have filled the nearby hospital. At least 59 people were reported injured. “The whole place, the whole community, is gone,” Isaac Dsamani, municipal chief executive of the rural area, told a news crew. … Ghana, one of the continent’s top producers of gold, is home to several major excavation sites. Companies based in the United States, Australia, South Africa and Canada, all run gold mines in the nation. The truck that exploded was on its way to a mine owned by Canadian firm Kinross, a spokesperson confirmed to reporters. … Ghana has endured deadly blasts over the years. In 2015, 150 people died when a leak at a gas station triggered an explosion that set ablaze a row of businesses in the capital, Accra. Advocates across the region have called for safer ways to transport flammable materials, as well as awareness campaigns on what to do when trucks hauling dangerous substances get into accidents. Washington Post

US Won’t Resume Sudan Aid without Civilian Government
The US Embassy in Khartoum said on Thursday that Washington would not resume its paused economic assistance to Sudan until violence there comes to an end and a civilian-led government is restored. As part of broader international punitive measures, the US halted $700 million (€623 million) in emergency assistance since the military coup in October. … The US officials “strongly condemned the use of disproportionate force against protesters, especially the use of live ammunition and sexual violence and the practice of arbitrary detention,” the US Embassy in Khartoum said in Thursday’s statement. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets again on Thursday to protest the killings of protesters, the AFP news agency reported. … In a public statement published Wednesday, 55 Sudanese judges strongly condemned the violence against protesters. DW

Sudan’s Generals, U.S. Diplomats Agree on Need for Inclusive Dialogue
Sudan’s military rulers Thursday said they agreed with the visiting U.S undersecretary for Africa on the need to hold an inclusive roundtable and form a civilian-led government to complete the transition tasks. The Head of the Sovereign Council and Commander in Chief of the Sudanese army Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee and Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield. The two sides agreed that “The Sudanese parties have to participate in a comprehensive roundtable dialogue including all the political and social forces, except the National Congress Party, to reach a national consensus ending the current crisis”. The statement issued after the meeting further said that they agreed also on the need to form a transitional government led by a civilian prime minister. … For its part, the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa released a statement saying the Sudanese military “offered their commitment to inclusive national dialogue, the political transition, the establishment of a civilian-led government based upon consensus.” … Further they “made clear that the United States will consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for failure to move forward on these goals”. Finally, they urged the lifting of the state of emergency, pointing this step should serve as a confidence-building measure. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Military Chief Appoints Ministers amid Protests
Sudan’s military chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has appointed 15 ministers to a new government. The move comes almost three months after he seized power in a military coup which derailed a planned transition to elections. Since the coup there have been frequent large protests that have seen more than 70 protesters killed by security forces. Correspondents say the naming of a new government is unlikely to appease the protesters who want the military to quit the political scene entirely. Earlier, dozens of judges in Sudan called for a criminal investigation into the violent suppression of the protests, accusing military leaders of carrying out heinous violations against defenceless protesters. The United States has reiterated that it will not resume economic assistance to Sudan unless there is an end to violence and a civilian-led government is restored. BBC

Sudanese Judges, U.S. Denounce Protest Crackdowns
Sudanese head of judiciary and judges condemned violence against anti-military protesters in a rare public statement on Thursday, while the United States said it would consider unspecified steps against those holding up efforts to resolve Sudan’s political crisis. At least 72 civilians have died and more than 2,000 have been injured as security forces have cracked down on frequent demonstrations since a military takeover on Oct. 25, according to medics aligned with the protest movement. … A statement from 55 Sudanese judges to the judiciary chief said military leaders had “violated [international] agreements and covenants since the October 25 coup, as they have carried out the most heinous violations against defenceless protesters.” … Separately, more than 100 prosecutors announced they would stop work from Thursday to call for security forces to cease violations and lift a state of emergency. They said prosecutors had been unable to carry out their legal duty to accompany police to protests and determine the acceptable use of force. It is unusual for Sudan’s judges and prosecutors to make public statements about the conduct of the security forces. Reuters

UN Chief: Mali Military Should Hold Elections in Short Time
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that Mali’s military government needs to hold delayed elections in “a relatively short amount of time”—not in 2026 as President Assimi Goita recently announced. The U.N. chief said in an interview with The Associated Press that he has spoken to president Goita, three presidents from the 15-nation West African regional group ECOWAS, the prime minister of Algeria, and the leader of the African Union about “how to make sure that in Mali, there is an acceptable calendar for the transition for a civilian government.” The junta, which initially agreed to hold elections in late February, said earlier this month it was delaying the election until 2026 because of deepening insecurity across the country, which would give Goita four more years in power. ECOWAS imposed tougher economic sanctions on Mali in response, saying the transitional government had failed to make progress toward holding a presidential election as promised. AP

Mali ‘Denied’ German Military Plane Access to Airspace
The military junta in Mali has refused to let a German military transport plane fly over its territory. Germany, which has soldiers based in Mali, is now seeking an explanation. The German Defense Ministry said on Thursday that an A400M Airbus carrying about 80 Bundeswehr soldiers “was denied overflight rights over Mali.” The refusal appears to be the latest sign of tensions between Mali’s military junta and international peacekeepers. The German Defense Ministry said on Thursday that an A400M Airbus carrying about 80 Bundeswehr soldiers “was denied overflight rights over Mali.” The refusal appears to be the latest sign of tensions between Mali’s military junta and international peacekeepers. … The German Foreign Ministry said several MINUSMA flights had been barred since last Thursday. The UN on Tuesday also said Mali had started to block many flights of its peacekeeping forces there. The UN mission said later on Thursday that flights over Mali had once again been allowed after talks with the ruling junta. DW

US Pressures Zimbabwe to Implement Electoral Reforms
The United States is piling pressure on Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to implement electoral reforms as the southern African country prepares for crucial by-elections in March. Zimbabwe will hold 133 by-elections to fill vacant National Assembly and local government seats after President Mnangagwa early this month lifted a two-year suspension of polls due to Covid-19. In 2023, Zimbabwe will hold general elections where the 79-year-old leader will be seeking a second full term. The US embassy in Harare says the post Robert Mugabe administration has failed to live up to its promises to create an environment that is conducive for “free, fair and credible elections.” … “Many continue to question (the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC),” the embassy said on Twitter. … “To ensure ZEC independence, Zimbabwe electoral reform would allow the ZEC chairperson to freely meet and consult political parties contesting elections and prohibit interference from outside entities such as the ministries of Justice, Home Affairs, and the Cabinet.” The US said there was also a need for security forces to stay away from Zimbabwe’s electoral processes. The East African

Burkina Faso Authorities Ban Planned Ouagadougou Protests
Authorities in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, have banned an anti-government protest planned for Saturday, two months after another rally turned violent. The demonstration, called by a civil society movement called Sauvons le Burkina (Save Burkina), was prohibited for “security reasons”, Christian Charles Rouamba, municipal secretary, said in a letter on Thursday. The same group had staged another banned protest in late November 2021 against the failure of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s government to stop attacks by armed groups affiliated with ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Hundreds of demonstrators defied the ban to take to Ouagadougou’s streets on November 27 and about a dozen people were injured in clashes with security forces. … Burkina Faso’s government has come under sustained pressure over failures to stem the bloodshed of the brutal six-year conflict which has killed some 2,000 people, forced 1.4 million from their homes and spawned an immense humanitarian crisis. Al Jazeera

Somalia Resumes Parliamentary Elections Following Deal
Somalia’s federal states have announced partial programmes to resume delayed parliamentary elections meant to fill up the House of the People, the country’s Lower House. Galmudug State, which had begun its polls then suspended them, announced that it would elect 21 more legislators in the coming days, according to a programme issued by the local State Electoral Implementation Team (SEIT). Galmudug SEIT, just like the various other electoral bodies in the five other federal states, have been writing to the national body, the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT), to indicate how they are adopting the new calendar where the stakeholders agreed to hold all parliamentary elections by February 25. The deal was agreed on earlier this month by the National Consultative Council (NCC) meeting on January 9, urging all electoral committees to start accelerating the elections of the members of the House of the People. The Council is chaired by Prime Minister Hussein Roble. … The federal electoral teams embarked on the task of reorganising their structures to gain the confidence of election hopefuls. The East African

Rioters Attack State Media Journalists in Angola, Accuse Them of Being ‘Sell-outs’
Six journalists from Angola’s state media were attacked by rioters as they were about to cover a taxi drivers’ strike in the capital of Luanda on 10 January. The journalists attacked included TV Zimbo reporter Telmo Gama and his cameraman Justino Campos, and TV Palanca reporters Anselmo Nhati and Orlando Luís, cameramen António Luamba and Daniel Lutaka. TV Zimbo and TV Palanca are both state-controlled, with the latter, alongside Rádio Global and Agência de Produção de Programas de Aúdio e Visual, taken over by the state last August. One of the journalists quoted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said they were called sell-outs before rioters charged at them. … CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator, Angela Quintal, said: “As shown by the recent attack on the TV Zimbo and TV Palanca news crews, reporters appear to be scapegoats for some citizens’ perceived anger toward the state.” General elections are scheduled in Angola for August to elect a president and national assembly. Incumbent João Lourenço was eligible for one more term. CPJ feared as elections approached, journalists were increasingly in danger. News24

West Africa: Extreme Poverty Rises Nearly 3 Percent Due to COVID-19
Extreme poverty in West Africa rose by nearly three per cent in 2020, another fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a UN-backed report launched on Thursday that looks at the socio-impact of the crisis has revealed. The proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day jumped from 2.3 per cent last year to 2.9 per cent in 2021, while the debt burden of countries increased amid slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal space and weak resource mobilization. More than 25 million across the region are struggling to meet their basic food needs. The study was published by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in partnership with the West Africa Sub-Regional Office for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The report highlights the effects of measures aimed at preventing coronavirus spread, such as border closures, movement restrictions and disruption of supply chains. … The deteriorating economic situation has adversely affected food security and nutrition in West Africa. More than 25 million people are unable to meet their basic food needs, a nearly 35 per cent increase compared to 2020. People have been forced to sell their assets and livelihoods in order to get enough to eat. UN News

NSO Ghana Op Exposed: Never-before-seen Pegasus Spyware Footage, Workers’ Passports
The Ghanaian government purchased NSO’s Pegasus spyware in a shady deal that led to a probe by the West African country’s main intelligence agency, an Israeli investigative TV show revealed Wednesday. Although the Israeli cyberoffense firm initially denied the deal, it later admitted it had taken place but said the surveillance system was never operational. The report by “Hamakor,” which airs in full on Thursday, reveals key details about NSO, shedding light on how its now-notorious Pegasus spyware is marketed. It also includes footage of NSO employees in Ghana and their testimonies about how they trained local officials to use the cellphone surveillance system – which was purportedly bought by the country’s telecommunications authority, but was actually purchased by the government for political snooping ahead of a 2017 election. … NSO’s past in Ghana is only partially known. A report from 2019 said the group sold its Pegasus system to the Ghanaian government sometime around 2016. … The TV report revealed that the investigation by Ghana’s Bureau of National Investigations discovered it was purchased by the security council to spy on the government’s political rivals a few months ahead of the country’s 2017 election. Ha Aretz

UN Applauds Nigeria for Piracy Conviction
The United Nations (UN) has commended Nigeria for being the first country in Africa to successfully secure conviction for piracy, a statement by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), has said. Spokesperson of the NSA, Zakari Usman, made this known on Thursday in a statement sent to Premium Times. … He said Nigeria’s leadership role and commitment towards curbing maritime crimes could be attributed to the successful collaboration between Nigeria and UNODC. … Nigeria’s Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019 (POMO Act) aims to “prevent and suppress piracy, armed robbery and any other unlawful act against a ship, aircraft and any other maritime craft, including fixed and floating platforms.” It also gives effect to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 (UNCLOS) and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988 (SUA). As of December, 2021, Nigeria was the only country in Africa to pass the anti-piracy law. Premium Times

Peril and Promise: Poisonous Gas from ‘Killer Lake’ Powers Rwanda
The engineers aboard the floating power station on Lake Kivu could only watch nervously as the volcano in the distance erupted violently, sending tremors rumbling through the water beneath them. It was not the lava shooting from Mount Nyiragongo last May that spooked them, but the enormous concentrations of potentially explosive gases within Kivu, one of Africa’s great Rift lakes lying between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. … Thousands of years of volcanic activity has caused a massive accumulation of methane and carbon dioxide to dissolve in the depths of Kivu — enough to prove monumentally destructive in the rare event they were released. If triggered, a so-called limnic eruption would cause “a huge explosion of gas from deep waters to the surface” resulting in large waves and a poisonous gas cloud that would put the lives of millions at risk, said Darchambeau, environmental manager at KivuWatt. … The lake, however, poses both peril and promise. KivuWatt, which says this is the only project of its kind anywhere in the world, saw an opportunity to tap these abundant gases for energy generation. … The company says it hopes that removing methane could over time reduce pressure within the lake, possibly lowering the risk of a limnic eruption. AFP