Africa Media Review for January 25, 2022

Surge in Militant Islamist Violence in the Sahel Dominates Africa’s Fight against Extremists
A 70-percent annual increase in violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in the Sahel propelled a new record of violent extremist violence in Africa in 2021. A near doubling in violence linked to militant Islamist groups in the Sahel in 2021 (from 1,180 to 2,005 events) highlights the rapidly escalating security threat in this region. This spike was the most significant change in any of the theaters of militant Islamist group violence in Africa and overshadowed a 30-percent average decline of violent activity in the Lake Chad Basin, northern Mozambique, and North Africa regions. Overall, militant Islamist group violence in Africa climbed 10 percent in 2021 setting a record of over 5,500 reported events linked to these groups. This continues an upward pattern seen since 2016. Nevertheless, the annual rate of increase was much less than the 43-percent increase reported in 2020. … Militant Islamist violence in Africa remains largely concentrated in five theaters, each comprising distinct locally based actors and context-specific challenges: the Sahel, Somalia, the Lake Chad Basin, Mozambique, and North Africa. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

African Union Condemns “Attempted Coup” in Burkina Faso
The African Union (AU) has condemned the “coup attempt” in Burkina Faso, calling on the national army and security forces “to ensure the physical integrity of the president” Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and his government. In a statement issued by the organization on Monday, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat “calls on the national army and security forces of the country to strictly adhere to their republican vocation, namely the defense of the internal and external security of the country. … In power since 2015, President Kaboré, re-elected in 2020 on the promise to make the fight against jihadism his priority, was increasingly challenged by a population fed up with jihadist violence and his inability to cope. The mutinies came at a time when the Sahel is increasingly destabilized by jihadists who are also striking in Niger and neighboring Mali, a country that has seen two coups in a few months. AfricaNews/AFP

France, UN Join West African States in Denouncing Burkina Faso Army Takeover
French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday condemned what he called a “military coup” in Burkina Faso, a day after soldiers said they had seized power in the West African country. Macron said that France was “clearly, as always” in agreement with the Economic Community of West African States “in condemning this military coup”. The regional organisation as well as Western powers and the United Nations have denounced the takeover and called for the release of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. Burkina Faso, where France is the former colonial power, is among five Sahel countries where French troops have been assisting local forces against jihadist insurgencies, though Macron announced plans last year to start drawing down French forces. Kaboré “was elected twice by his people in democratic votes”, Macron told journalists during a trip to central France. … The UN human rights office said it was crucial to preserve democratic space in the West African nation and ensure that the rule of law is respected. … “In the face of the security threats and tremendous humanitarian challenges facing the country, it is more important than ever to ensure that the rule of law, constitutional order, and the country’s obligations under international human rights law are fully respected,” the spokeswoman said. France24

Who is Paul-Henri Damiba, Leader of the Burkina Faso Coup?
A lieutenant colonel appointed to oversee security in Burkina Faso’s capital has emerged as the leader of a military coup that overthrew President Roch Kabore after heavy gunfights in Ouagadougou. … The 41-year-old officer had been promoted in December by Kabore to commander of Burkina Faso’s third military region in what some analysts viewed as an effort by the beleaguered president to shore up support within the army. The appointment to the strategic position followed an attack by fighters on a gendarmerie post in the northern town of Inata that killed 49 military officers and four civilians. Reports that the troops had gone without food rations for two weeks sparked anti-government protests and calls for Kabore to step down. In his new post, Damiba proceeded to reorganise the military ranks, appointing new officers to key roles with the declared intent of battling the uprising. As a contrast to Kabore, who was faulted by the army for the rising rebel violence, Damiba has sought to present himself as an expert in countering terrorism. … From 1987 to 2011, he was part of the Regiment of Presidential Security (RPS) of former president Blaise Compaore, who was overthrown in 2014 after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protest at plans to extend his rule. … In 2015, Damiba and other officers took part in an attempted coup that briefly deposed the transitional government. Al Jazeera

Sudanese Security Kills Three More Protesters
Three protesters were shot dead and at least dozens others wounded by the Sudanese security forces in the capital, Khartoum during pro-democracy protests, on Monday. The military rulers in Sudan have pledged several times to stop the use of excessive violence against protesters. Also, they formed investigation committees into the killing of protesters, they security forces continue to open fire on protesters. In separate statements , the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said that two were shot on the head and a third of the chest. Two of the three victims were killed in Khartoum while the third in Madani, of Al-Jazeera State. Also, activists said six others were wounded by bullets four in Khartoum city and two in Omdurman city. Despite the brutal crackdown on the protests, the Resistance Committees say determined to continue their anti-coup campaign of protests until the collapse of the regime. … Since early Monday morning, security forces were deployed in the streets leading to the presidential palace in Khartoum to prevent the protesters from reaching the premises of the Sovereign Council. Nevertheless, hundreds of protesters managed to reach the surrounding streets, but the security forces hunted the protesters down through the streets of the town. Sudan Tribune

Sudan’s NUP Calls for al-Burhan’s Resignation
The National Umma Party (NUP) called on the Chairman of the Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, to step down from the head of the transitional collegial presidency. The NUP’s political bureau held a meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation in the country and the continued violent repression of protesters by the security services. In a statement after the meeting, the party said their road map to end the current political stalemate aims to end the coup, restore the civilian-led democratic transition. The NUP underscored that the escalating violence by the “coup leadership,” despite the ongoing UN led-consultations on a political process to restore legitimacy, confirms that they will continue the brutal crackdown and invent new forms to commit “violent massacres”, arresting protesters and other violations. Sudan Tribune

Official Says 31 Killed in New South Sudan Communal Violence
A local official says at least 31 ethnic Dinka have been killed in clashes with suspected Murle armed youth in South Sudan’s restive Jonglei state. Bor South County Commissioner Yuot Alier told The Associated Press that more than 20 other people were wounded in Sunday evening’s attack in Baidit village and some houses were burned. The commissioner said 28 people were shot dead and three children were drowned while people tried to hide. The commissioner said the attackers left with hundreds of cattle. Two of the attackers were reported killed. The acting governor of Jonglei, Tuong Majok, condemned the attack and urged South Sudan’s national government to intervene to cease the “cowardly attacks” against civilians. AP

Ethiopia: Over 60 Oromo Organizations Call For a Credible and Inclusive National Dialogue, Neutral Convener
A total of 63 worldwide Oromo Civic, Professional, Advocacy, Human Rights, and Community organizations today released a joint statement regarding the establishment of a National Dialogue Commission (NDC) in Ethiopia and calling for careful sequencing to ensure credible and all- inclusive national dialogue facilitated by a neutral convener. The statement is the first such joint statement issued by large number of worldwide Oromo civic organizations echoing concerns in unison about the lack of proper sequencing, impartiality and transparency with Ethiopia’s planned national dialogue commission. The House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) enacted a proclamation establishing the National Dialogue Commission (NDC) on December 29 last year. The HoPR said that the NDC would embark on facilitating national dialogue to bring about lasting solutions to Ethiopia’s problems. The house also announced that the public will nominate candidates for commissioners of the NDC and their appointment shall be approved by the HoPR. The selection process is expected to come to an end on 23 January. However, the 63 worldwide Oromo civic organizations issued a consensus statement recommending the careful sequencing of steps to be taken before commencement of an inclusive dialogue in Ethiopia. The statement outlines important steps to be taken before the commencement of an all-inclusive. Addis Standard

Mali Demands Denmark ‘Immediately’ Withdraw its Special Forces
Mali’s military government on Monday called on Denmark to “immediately” withdraw its roughly 100 recently arrived special forces troops deployed in the troubled Sahel country. The junta, which came to power in a coup in August 2020, said in a statement on state TV and published on social media that “this deployment was undertaken without consent”. “The government of Mali notes with astonishment, the deployment on its territory of a contingent of Danish special forces within the Takuba force,” the government said in a statement. … The contingent of around 90 Danish soldiers arrived in Mali to join European special forces supporting the country’s anti-jihadist operations earlier this month, Denmark’s military said at the time. The force, whose deployment was announced in April 2021, is stationed in Menaka in eastern Mali. Its mandate was due to run until early 2023. Denmark has previously sent troops to participate in military interventions in Mali, some with the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping force and others with the French-led Operation Barkhane. … Other contributors are the Netherlands, Estonia, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Italy and Hungary. European countries have raised concern over the deployment of mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group on Malian soil and Mali’s delayed return to civilian rule after the coup. France24

Afcon Overshadows Human Rights Abuses in Cameroon
The Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) underway in Cameroon has overshadowed human rights abuses in the central African country where more than a thousand people from the Anglophone speaking parts of the country are in detention. Just before the tournament that brought together the continent’s best football talents, a group of nearly 50 people were sentenced by military courts on 27 December 2021 for “insurrection, rebellion and endangering state security”. The most prominent of the group is Olivier Bibou Nissan, the spokesperson for Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC), MRC president Maurice Kamto, and Alain Fogué, the MRC’s first vice-president. Fogué was sentenced to seven years and Kamto to 18 months in prison. Rights activists see the AFCON tournament as an opportunity for the world to see what they say is a “forsaken crisis”. … “[F]requent attacks on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, coupled with the widespread use of torture and trials of civilians by military courts, reveal the extent to which the Cameroonian authorities are normalising the repression of critical voices. Their relentless repression must end,” said Fabien Offner, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher. News24

Tunisia: President Saïed Takes His New Constitution Campaign Online
Ahead of a referendum on a new constitution in July, new voting laws and parliamentary elections in December, President Kaïs Saïed has launched an online two-month consultation process, after governing by decree since last July (AC Vol 62 No 17, Playing the waiting game). The state of emergency has been extended until next month. Saïed sees the initiative as a form of direct democracy which he is pushing as alternative to the country’s log-jammed parliamentary system. As he hasn’t consulted most of the opposition parties and civil society groups, it’s unlikely to dampen growing local and international criticism of his rule. On 14 January, the 11th anniversary of the ousting of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, opposition activists, including Attaya and the Islamist Ennahda party, took to the streets in Tunis to demonstrate against Saiëd’s rule. … Saiëd says that consultation will provide a road map towards a new political structure ahead of the referendum (AC Vol 63 No 1, Rough seas for despot and demos). But its terms of reference have been dictated by the government. No political parties or civil society groups have helped draw up the policy agenda. It is also unclear what safeguards there are to ensure that the data is not misused. … IWatch, the local partner of the international anti-corruption lobby Transparency International’s local partner, argues that the questions on the digital platform will ‘direct the will of the people in advance and limit their right to self–determination’. Africa Confidential

Ugandan Novelist Kakwenza Released on Bail on Medical Grounds
A court in Kampala has Tuesday released Ugandan award-winning novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija on bail after nearly a month under detention, according to his lawyer Eron Kiiza. … Mr Rukirabashaija had asked to be released on bail on grounds that he had been tortured during detention and needed medical attention from a facility of his choice. His lawyers Eron Kiiza and Samuel Wanda had submitted a letter from prison authorities, indicating that he was remanded with complaints of healing wounds and scars. Mr Rukirabashaija was arrested on December 28, 2021, from his home in Kisaasi, by a joint security team from police and the Special Forces, following tweets he posted that were seen as an attack on the first son, Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba. He told family that he was being detained by the Special Forces in Entebbe. … On January 4, 2022, a court in Makindye, presided over by Magistrate Irene Nambatya, issued an order directing the government to release Kakwenza unconditionally. But the government ignored the order. … He was arrested in April 2020 and held for seven days and tortured, then detained again in September of that year. The East African

Nigeria: Youths Raze Council Chairman’s House, Other Houses over Killing by Ebubeagu
Youths protesting the torture and killing of a man by the operatives of the Ebubeagu security outfit have razed a house belonging to the chairman of a local council in Ebonyi State, Nigeria’s South-east. About six other houses belonging to various individuals have also been set ablaze. The youths in Akaeze community, Ivo Local Government Area of the state, protested on Sunday over the death of a suspected criminal, Anyim Akpoke, after he was allegedly tortured by Ebubeagu operatives in the area. The protest was said to have degenerated when one of the protesters was shot dead, leading to the burning down of houses. … Ebubeagu was set up by the Ebonyi State Government to complement the job of the police and other security agencies in checking the rising crime rates in the state. … The chairman said the Ebubeagu operatives involved in the torture and killing had been arrested and detained by the police, and that the youths ought not to have resorted to the destruction of properties. Premium Times

Malawi’s President Dissolves Cabinet over Corruption Allegations
Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera has dissolved the country’s entire cabinet amid charges of corruption against several ministers, he announced in an address to the nation. Late on Monday, President Chakwera said that he had decided to allow the three ministers and other public officers accused of corruption to face their charges. “I have dissolved my entire cabinet effective immediately, and all the functions of cabinet revert to my office until I announce a reconfigured cabinet in two days,” Chakwera said in a national address. … Chakwera, who is also the head of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the country’s oldest and the biggest in the governing Tonse Alliance, said he would look to reinstate a new cabinet in the next 48 hours. He had been facing increasing rebellion from within the coalition with many of its members accusing his party of corruption, nepotism and pushing the country to the brink of an economic crisis. The president’s decision came close on the heels of the arrest of three former officials of the former governing party Democratic Progressive Party, which included the former finance minister and central bank governor, touted to be his prime challengers for the election scheduled in 2025. Al Jazeera

South African Corruption Probe Flags COVID Contracts Worth $137 Million
South African investigators have flagged COVID-19 contracts worth around 2.1 billion rand ($137.12 million) for possible corruption and fraud, a report into corruption linked to the pandemic showed on Tuesday. President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the investigation into his government’s coronavirus spending in 2020 following a spate of scandals that caused public outrage. Anger over corruption was one reason why the governing African National Congress last year recorded its worst-ever election result, with its share of the vote dropping below 50% in municipal polls. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which led the investigation, had said previously that it had uncovered instances where personal protective equipment was overpriced, procurement rules flouted and services not delivered despite money being paid. Reuters

Burundi: Human Rights Watch Urge Investigation into Gitega Central Prison Fire
Burundian authorities have not conducted a “transparent, credible and impartial” investigation into the fire at the central prison in Gitega on December 7, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday, estimating that “several hundred prisoners” may have been killed or injured. But according to an official report given by Burundian Vice President Prosper Bazombanza, 38 of the 1,500 inmates died and 69 others were injured in the fire, which broke out around 4:00 a.m. in the dilapidated and overcrowded prison in Burundi’s political capital. “More than a month after the tragedy (…), the government has failed to provide a full and truthful account of what happened and has not treated the family members of the deceased with dignity,” said Lewis Mudge, the NGO’s director for Central Africa, in a statement. … One prisoner interviewed by phone by HRW said that while many of his fellow prisoners had survived in his block, “in other blocks, they did not wake up in time and many died.” “The guards arrived at 06:00, but by then it was too late. Between 04:00 and 06:00 in the morning, there were only the prisoners and the fire.” AfricaNews

Zimbabwe’s Main Opposition Leader Changes Party Name
Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader announced Monday his party will drop its storied but contested name, sidestepping factional squabbles and a legal dispute. Nelson Chamisa, who narrowly lost elections in 2018 to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced he had registered a new party called Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). “We are having citizens coming together. It’s a citizens’ affair. It’s a citizens’ indaba (meeting). It’s a citizens’ decision,” Chamisa told a news conference. “It’s a citizens’ way to say we want change for Zimbabwe. So farmers for change, we want to see what you are doing. Teachers for change, we want to see what you are doing.” The decision drops the name of the Movement for Democratic Change, which was formed out of the union movement in 1999 to challenge the ruling ZANU-PF’s stranglehold on power. The MDC quickly emerged as the most potent opposition party that Zimbabwe had ever seen, inspiring labour groups around the region to take similar steps into politics. But in recent years, the party has splintered into a variety of groupings all claiming the MDC name, symbols and colours. The bickering has led to court battles and invited confusion among voters. The CCC adopted the colour bright yellow, instead of MDC’s red. AFP

Guinea, Vanuatu Have UN Vote Restored after Paying Dues
Guinea and Vanuatu had their ability to vote at the United Nations restored on Monday, having been denied the right at the beginning of the month over their failure to pay their dues to the world body, a UN spokeswoman said. “The General Assembly took note that Guinea, Iran and Vanuatu have made the payments necessary to reduce their arrears below the amounts specified in Article 19 of the Charter,” U.N. spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said. “This means that they can resume voting in the General Assembly,” she said. Under Article 19, any country can have their voting rights in the General Assembly suspended if their payment arrears are equal to or greater than the contribution due for the past two full years. … For their part, Guinea had to pay at least $40,000 and Vanuatu at least $194 to recover their right to vote. Kubiak later added three other countries that lost their U.N. voting rights in early January had also recovered them after paying the minimum arrears required last week. Those countries were Sudan, which had to pay about $300,000, Antigua and Barbuda, which owed some $37,000 and Congo-Brazzaville, with around $73,000 in arrears, said the spokeswoman. VOA