Africa Media Review for January 24, 2022

Burkina Faso President Kabore Detained at Military Camp – Sources
Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore has been detained at a military camp by mutinying soldiers, four security sources and a West African diplomat said on Monday, following heavy gunfire around his residence on Sunday night in the capital Ouagadougou. His detention comes after sustained gunfire rang out from military camps in the West African country throughout Sunday, with soldiers demanding more support for their fight against Islamist militants. The government had denied that the army had seized power. Kabore’s exact whereabouts or situation were unknown on Monday morning, with conflicting reports circulating among security and diplomatic sources. … Residents of the president’s neighbourhood reported heavy gunfire overnight. … Kabore has faced waves of street protests in recent months as frustration has mounted over the frequent killing of civilians and soldiers by militants, some of whom have links to Islamic State and al Qaeda. … Protesters came out to support the mutineers on Sunday and ransacked the headquarters of Kabore’s political party. … The turmoil in Burkina Faso comes after successful military putsches over the past 18 months in Mali and Guinea, where the army removed President Alpha Conde last September. Reuters

French Soldier Killed after Attack on Mali Military Base
A French soldier has died after a rocket attack on the French army base in Gao, Mali. The French Armed Forces Ministry released a statement Sunday morning saying the attack occurred on the Gao, Mali, Operation Barkhane military base on Saturday. The statement claimed the attack was carried out by “terrorists.” Operation Barkhane, France’s counterinsugency military operation in the Sahel, has operated in Mali since 2014. It replaced Operation Serval, the French army’s operation to regain control of northern Mali, which had been taken over by Islamists in 2012. This year, after what French President Emmanuel Macron called a drawdown of the French military presence in Mali, Barkhane forces were withdrawn from northern Mali’s Tessalit, Kidal and Timbuktu military bases. The Gao base continues to serve as the center of Operation Barkhane. VOA

Head of Guinea’s Ruling Junta Appoints Members of Transitional Council
The head of Guinea’s military junta, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, named on Saturday the members of the National Transitional Council, NTC. The 81-member legislative body will decide when civilians will return to power. Civil society activist, doctor Kanso Kourouma, was appointed president of the NTC. The members of the NTC represent all the country’s socio-professional organisations as well as political parties. Colonel Doumbouya, who became transitional president on 1 October 2021 after overthrowing President Alpha Condé, has pledged to hand over power to civilians after elections, but has not yet mentioned a deadline for this transition. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) insists on the need to respect the six-month deadline for holding elections and urges the Guinean authorities to quickly submit a timetable for this. AfricaNews

Sudan Protesters: Ready to Die for Freedom
“Did I just survive a massacre?” asked a young Sudanese man when he answered my call not long after security forces had opened fire on protesters in downtown Khartoum. Known by his Twitter name Bashy, he told how one of seven people had died last Monday afternoon in the capital. “I was filming the protesters and walking when a bullet penetrated his chest; he died in front of me. That could have been me!” In his mid-twenties, and usually with a smile on his face, Bashy has been protesting on the streets for the past three months. Like many of his contemporaries, he is furious that the military seized power last October, just over two years into an agreement between the generals and a civilian coalition to share power. Life had been improving and the economic crisis easing as civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok brought Sudan in from the cold following sanctions imposed on the country during the long rule of Omar al-Bashir, accused of using the country to sponsor terrorism. … The outcry that followed forced the generals to agree to the transition – but as many suspected, the military was never happy with the arrangement, and the latest coup, they say, has proved them right. BBC

Sudanese Women’s Rights Activist Amira Osman Arrested in Raid
Armed men have arrested prominent Sudanese women’s rights campaigner Amira Osman in a night-time raid on her home in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, her sister said. Osman’s arrest comes amid, what activists say, a campaign of arrests of civil society and pro-democracy figures since a military takeover in October. The United Nations mission in Sudan said on Twitter it was outraged by Osman’s arrest, citing a “pattern of violence against women’s rights activists” that risked reducing their participation in politics. Sudanese security officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Some high-profile political figures have been released since the October 25 coup, but activists say others have remained in detention and arrests have continued. About 15 armed, masked men wearing civilian clothes abducted Osman after storming her house in Al Riyadh neighbourhood late on Saturday night, her sister Amani Osman told the Reuters news agency on Sunday. … Osman campaigned for women’s rights in Sudan under the rule of former President Omar al-Bashir, who was deposed during an uprising in 2019. She was arrested in 2013 under public order laws for refusing to wear a headscarf and was convicted and fined in 2002 for wearing trousers. Women played a prominent role in the protests that led to al-Bashir’s overthrow. A transitional government later repealed the public order law used to regulate women’s dress and behaviour, though some other restrictive laws remained. Al Jazeera

Deprived of Foreign Aid, Sudan to Expand Use of Gold Exports
Sudan will expand its use of gold exports to cover imports of essential goods as it embarks on a new 2022 budget without foreign aid during an economic downturn after a coup. Billions of dollars of much-needed foreign assistance were cut after the Oct. 25 military coup that ended a power-sharing arrangement with civilians in a transition process since the 2019 overthrow of former ruler Omar al-Bashir. New directives call for 70% of gold export proceeds to be used on “strategic goods,” which typically include fuel and wheat, and the remainder on “necessary goods,” the finance ministry said in a statement late on Sunday. Other directives aim to reduce the time and fees involved in the gold export process. One of Africa’s main gold producers, Sudan officially exported 26.4 tonnes in the first 9 months of 2021 and 25.2 throughout 2020, Central Bank data shows. But officials estimate four times more is smuggled abroad. … Civilian parties have accused military leaders of erasing economic gains and plunging the country further into crisis. Aid had totalled $839 million in 2021, SUNA said. Western nations and foreign financial institutions say aid will only return when there is a civilian-led government. Reuters

Peace in Sudan Requires Defeating Military Takeover
Yasir Arman, SPLM-N Deputy Chairman Saturday said that peace in Sudan requires defeating the coup carried out by General al-Burhan on October 25, 2021. In a talk show with Al-Jazeera Live, Arman said that the coup had plunged the country and the peace process in a big dilemma, pointing out that the peace agreement is closely linked to the democratic transition and the constitutional declaration. “Personally, I believe that we cannot reach a solution that preserves the (peace) agreement until defeating the coup and returning to democratic civilian rule,” he said. “I think it is a matter of time when all parties to peace will realize that totalitarianism and dictatorship will not lead to peace. Peace will only grow in democratic soil,” he stressed. … Several sources have confirmed to the Sudan Tribune that the two other members of the Sovereign Council are frustrated with the current situation as they do not want to be associated with the military coup that they have several times publicly condemned. Sudan Tribune

Cameroon Govt Says 16 Killed in Nightclub Fire
Cameroon’s government said Sunday that 16 people were killed in a fire caused by fireworks in a nightclub in the capital Yaounde, the tragedy occurring as the nation hosts the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament. “The initial report shows 16 dead and eight seriously injured” after the “accidental fire” broke out Saturday night, the communications ministry said in a statement. The fire engulfed the main room of Liv’s Night Club in the capital’s upmarket Bastos district, home to embassies and diplomat residences. … Cameroon is hosting the AFCON tournament despite regular violence in the country’s west, where English-speaking militants declared independence from the majority French-speaking country in 2017. Both the separatists and government forces have been accused of atrocities in the fighting, which has claimed more than 3 000 lives and forced over 700 000 to flee their homes. News24

Ethiopia Army Planning to ‘Eliminate’ Tigrayan Forces – Military Official
Ethiopia’s military is planning to enter the Tigray regional capital of Mekelle and “eliminate” rebellious forces, a top military official said late on Friday amid diplomatic efforts to end conflict in the country’s north. The Horn of Africa country has been gripped by war for more than a year, with the federal military and its allies battling forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls Tigray. This week two top US diplomats flew into Addis Ababa to push for a ceasefire, trying to build on tentative signs of a thaw in relations between warring parties, including the release of political prisoners. In an interview with state-affiliated media outlet Fana broadcast late on Friday, Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) deputy army chief, General Abebaw Tadesse said the country would not be at peace until the TPLF was eliminated. … The TPLF says Abiy wants to end the country’s ethnically-based federal government system while Abiy says the TPLF is hungry to seize the national power it once held. For months there has been an uneasy stalemate between the two sides, punctuated by sporadic fighting. TPLF forces control most of Tigray but are surrounded by hostile forces from neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara which are allied with the federal military. Reuters

Witnesses: Extremists Abduct 17 Girls in Northeast Nigeria
Islamic extremists have abducted 17 girls in northeast Nigeria, witnesses said Saturday as the West African nation’s military said it “remains resolute in decisively countering the terrorists.” Members of the Boko Haram jihadi group attacked Pemi, a village in the Chibok local government area of Borno state, on Thursday, two residents told The Associated Press. The state is where Boko Haram’s decade-long insurgency against the Nigeria government has been concentrated. In a statement late Friday, the Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for killing “many Christians” and setting fire to two churches and several houses during an attack on the Borno town of Bimi. … The militants targeted a church and Christians when they stormed Pemi on Thursday, according to local leader Hassan Chibok. AP

Nigeria: How Bandits Killed Dozens, Abducted Scores of Villagers for Refusing to Pay Levy
On January 14, a band of heavily armed men stormed Dankade town in Danko Wasagu Local Government Area of Kebbi State, killing at least 17 residents and abducting many more in a punitive expedition. The residents had refused to pay a protection levy of N25 millon imposed by the terrorists, survivors of the attack told Premium Times. For nearly three years, residents of this town had lived under the authority of terrorists operating in Akao, a small village on the state’s border with Zamfara. The bandits, largely inspired by Bello Turji, a notorious banditry kingpin, are the lords in the ungoverned axis. During the raid, the bandits shot randomly at defenceless citizens and set houses and farm stores on fire in an orgy of violence that lasted several hours. The bandits had imposed a monthly protection levy on Dankade town, which the hapless residents had been paying through their village heads, local sources told Premium Times. The bandits raise millions of naira monthly from the illegal taxes, from which they procure ammunition to sustain their reign of terror. This had been going on since 2020. Premium Times

UN Probing Alleged Killings by CAR Forces, Russia Mercenaries
The United Nations is investigating the alleged killing of dozens of people in the Central African Republic last week by CAR forces and mercenaries with the Russian private military company Wagner. More than 30 civilians were reportedly killed, some by stray bullets, in the January 16-17 operation near the town of Bria that targeted the Union for Peace rebel group, according to UN officials speaking anonymously on Friday. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN mission known as MINUSCA in the country received reports of the incident involving CAR troops and “other security personnel”. “We are currently confirming the number of casualties and displacement,” Dujarric said. MINUSCA dispatched a human rights team accompanied by security personnel to the area, and it “continues to assess the situation, ensuring necessary measures to be taken to protect civilians”, said Dujarric. A military source in the country suggested the fighting could still be ongoing. “Central African forces and the Russians are committing a massacre,” the source told AFP news agency, declining to be identified. “There have been summary executions and we are talking about 50 deaths.” Al Jazeera

Voters Flock to the Polls in Senegal’s Local Elections
Voters in Senegal went to the polls on Sunday to elect local representatives in what many see as a test for President Macky Sall and the opposition. It’s the first election in the country since last year’s deadly riots after opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, was arrested. For many, voting in local elections is about solving local issues. “It was very important for me to come and do my duty, because we are talking about the municipality, so it is up to us to choose someone who is ready to work for the municipality, someone who is ready to accompany us for the next 5 years”, said Amadou Mansour M’Baye, a local elector. Another local elector, Sada Ba, added “I am happy to have voted, because it is an act of citizenship and it is up to us to elect mayors to have a clean and well-maintained municipality”. Around a third of Senegal’s 17 million people are eligible to vote. The poll takes place five months ahead of a general election, the first since Macky Sall was re-elected in 2019. AfricaNews

Armed Conflict, Climate Change Fan Africa’s Refugee Crisis
Eastern Africa continues to be the origin of most African refugees, with the region producing more than five million displaced people in 2020, a new report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has revealed. Terrorism, armed conflict and extreme weather events such as floods, cyclones, droughts, storms and locust outbreaks have damaged livelihoods across the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, resulting in large displacements of people. The situation has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has taken a toll on millions of migrants in Eastern and Southern Africa. According to the IOM World Migration Report 2022, an increase in terrorist attacks in parts of Southern and Eastern Africa remained a significant driver of displacement. … The pandemic worsened the conditions of those living in crowded refugee camps and in remote areas far from government health facilities, with irregular migrants and asylum seekers being left out of many Covid-19 testing, treatment and mitigation plans. … Some countries, however, included migrants such as refugees and asylum seekers in their Covid-19-related health measures, including vaccinations. The East African

Ruto Cries Foul as Violence Mars his Campaigns Ahead of August Polls
Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has called on the international community to closely watch the campaigns for the country’s August General Election, citing recent violent skirmishes witnessed at his public rallies. In a protest letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party is alleging police inaction in the face the campaign violence. The letter is copied to the officials of the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). … On Thursday, President Kenyatta appeared to dismiss Dr Ruto’s complaints, urging the police to ignore alleged attempts to intimidate them while performing their duty. Political zoning, where candidates and their parties seek to lock out rivals from campaigning in their perceived support base, is a common practice in Kenyan political landscape, on and off election season. Reports of past independent investigations into election-related violence, including the Justice Waki Commission that probed the 2007/2008 bloodletting, have identified political zoning and ethnic profiling as a key trigger. The country’s major political parties and leading politicians, including the two front runners — Raila and Ruto — in this year’s race to succeed President Kenyatta, have their core support base in regions where their respective ethnic communities are demographically dominant. The East African

Zimbabwe: Another Chinese Company Tries To Evict Villagers For A Coal Mine
Yet another Chinese miner, Monalof, is embroiled in a bitter wrangle with villagers in Binga who are resisting is bid to evict them from their ancestral lands. The villagers were recently given a three months’ notice to vacate their homes and pave way for the establishment of a coal mine by Monalof. This was revealed during a consultative meeting held between the villagers and management from the Chinese company last week. But local Ward 12 councillor Matthias Mwinde said villagers can only relocate after their compensation demands have been met. … “Our biggest challenge is that the company said no one will be provided with the big fields. We have big fields and we are used to farming, and the promised 200 square metres of land is not enough.” he said. … The eviction of the Binga villagers has raised concern in other parts of the district that they may also be relocated to pave way for other mining projects. Reports of relocation reportedly bring sad memories among the Tonga people who are still angry following their forced relocation from their ancestoral lands in the 1950’s from the banks of the Zambezi River where they used to reside. New Zimbabwe

Bringing Dry Land in the Sahel Back to Life
Millions of hectares of farmland are lost to the desert each year in Africa’s Sahel region, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is showing that traditional knowledge, combined with the latest technology, can turn arid ground back into fertile soil. Those trying to grow crops in the Sahel region are often faced with poor soil, erratic rainfail and long periods of drought. However, the introduction of a state-of-the art heavy digger, the Delfino plough, is proving to be, literally, a breakthrough. As part of its Action Against Desertification (AAD) programme, the FAO has brought the Delfino to four countries in the Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal – to cut through impacted, bone-dry soil to a depth of more than half a metre. The Delfino plough is extremely efficient: one hundred farmers digging irrigation ditches by hand can cover a hectare a day, but when the Delfino is hooked to a tractor, it can cover 15 to 20 hectares in a day. … This technology, whilst impressive, is proving to be successful because it is being used in tandem with traditional farming techniques. … Respecting local knowledge and traditional skills is another key to success. Communities have long understood that half-moon dams are the best way of harvesting rainwater for the long dry season. The mighty Delfino is just making the job more efficient and less physically demanding. UN News

Africa’s Health Boss Seeks to Tempt Expat Medics to Come Back Home
During the pandemic, the UK and other rich nations have relied on African doctors and nurses to shore up their health services. Now the continent’s chief health leader is hoping to put the brain drain into reverse with a plan to persuade African expats to return. Dr John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said they were planning a programme to attract scientists, doctors and nurses back from the diaspora. “The leadership of the continent must invest in strengthening health systems,” Nkengasong said, in an interview with the Observer. “We need a very deliberate programme that facilitates Africans in the diaspora to come back to the continent and do a rotation. A Ghanaian or Nigerian in London doesn’t just wake up in the morning and think, ‘I’m going to go to Nigeria for a year.’ That person needs lodging, basic transportation. They have responsibilities, a job.” He said the Africa CDC would soon put forward a package of measures to the African Union commission to create a regional health treaty to govern the pandemic response, which would include support for expatriates. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones