Africa Media Review for January 26, 2022

With Burkina Faso’s President Ousted, West Africa Faces ‘Coup Bloc’
Mali. Chad. Guinea. Sudan. Even before Burkina Faso’s army declared on Monday that it had toppled a democratically elected president, military officers across the region had grabbed power four times in the past 18 months — the highest number of coups in four decades. In West Africa — from Guinea’s seaside capital, Conakry, to the eastern edge of Burkina Faso — terrain governed by soldiers now stretches nearly 1,300 miles. That creates a potential “coup bloc,” as one analyst described it. Alliances with Western powers, particularly France, and neighboring leaders are unraveling. New partners, namely Russia, are stepping in to fill the void. And the international community is panicking over how this shift could hinder the fight against one of the world’s fastest-growing Islamist insurgencies. … However, army rule has not translated to less death in Mali. In the year before the junta rose to power, researchers counted 1,815 conflict-related fatalities in the nation. That figure did not fall in 2020 (2,854) or 2021 (1,915), according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. One report found that security forces killed more West Africans in 2020 than extremist groups did. Washington Post

Burkina Faso: A History of Destabilisation by Jihadist Insurgencies
Attacks by jihadists linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group have killed thousands and displaced an estimated 1.5 million people in Burkina Faso since 2015. Members of the army, critical of the government’s strategy for battling Islamist terrorism, detained the president and seized power on January 23. France 24 takes a look at how the security crisis unfolded. Members of the armed forces ousted the Burkinabe government on Sunday, accusing it of failure in the fight against terrorism. For months a rebellion had been brewing in the army that was supported by many civilians, with anti-government protests in several cities often banned and dispersed by anti-riot police. … Between 2015 and 2018, terrorist attacks targeted the capital Ouagadougou and other centres of power. Since 2019, attacks by mobile combat units targeted mostly rural zones in the north and east of the country, fuelling displacements en masse and intercommunal violence. Some 2,000 people were killed, among them civilians and members of the armed forces or the Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland, a civilian auxiliary group of the army created in 2020. Islamist militants now move freely across entire swaths of the country and have forced inhabitants of some regions to conform to a strict version of Islamic law. Meanwhile, the army’s continuing fight against the Islamists has depleted the country’s already meagre resources. France24

Sudanese Military’s Actions “Will Have Consequences” Says U.S. Phee
U.S. Assistant Secretary for Africa Molly Phee Monday said that the continued bloody violence against protesters and violation of human rights in Sudan would have consequences. The security authorities killed three people on Monday in a bid to end the anti-coup protests that have started on October 25. The death toll has risen to 76. In reaction to the bloody repression of protesters on Monday, Phee said the Sudanese military leaders pledged publicly to resolve the current crisis through dialogue after a meeting she and Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa David Satterfield had with them on January 20. “Yet their actions –more violence against protestors, detention of civil society activists- tell a different story and will have consequences,” Phee stressed. … In a statement on Sudan independence day, Antony Blinken U.S. Secretary of State warned that his administration would take measures against “those who block” the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a civilian-led, democratic government. He requested to stop the use of deadly force and to make a rapid progress on forming a credible cabinet, establishing a legislative assembly, forming judicial and electoral bodies, and transferring leadership of the Sovereign Council. Sudan Tribune

Sudanese Users Frustrated by Twitter amid Political Turmoil
Ever since the ouster of former president Omer Hassan al-Bashir in 2019, Sudan has managed to emerge from the cold of sanctions and status as international pariah into the fold of international community. This was evident in the U.S. decision in October 2020 to remove the East African nation from list of states that sponsor terrorism and having Sudan’s membership in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) reinstated after obtaining multilateral help to clear its arrears. Moreover, major international corporations including technological giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Oracle amended their rules to lift decades long ban on providing its services to Sudanese users. One notable name would not budge however: Twitter. The social media company has so far refused to recognize Sudan as a geographical region thus denying its users from utilizing their local mobile numbers to set up their accounts. … No reason has been provided for this longstanding situation despite intense appeals and campaigns launched by Sudanese Twitter users over the last few years. In response to one of these campaigns, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted in 2018 that they are working on setting up Sudan as a region but nothing has materialized. Sudan Tribune

Ghana: ‘Tackle Underlying Causes of Coups d’Etat’
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and governments in the region have been implored to proactively tackle the underlying causes of military takeovers in the sub-region to avert their increasing effect on security and socio-economic development. According to security analyst, Dr Adam Bonaa, and fraud and security consultant, Richard Kumadoe, the fundamental factors included youth unemployment, corruption and lack of transparency amongst leadership as well as the relative weakness of ECOWAS to deal with security issues. They were expressing their thoughts on Monday’s coup d’état in Burkina Faso and recent security issues in the sub-region, in separate interviews with the Ghanaian Times, yesterday. … According to Dr Bonaa, factors of the coups in the sub-region had existed for some time, but had been compounded by activities of Jihadist groups and the inability of the ECOWAS to help get rid of them. In all the recent coups, he said, the military had partly attributed their agitation to the inability of their democratically elected leaders to fight insurgencies like the way it should be fought. … For his part, Mr Kumadoe said strategic security management, effective governance and national leadership was crucial to curb further escalation of the disturbances and the insecurity issues surrounding member countries. Ghanaian Times

Ethiopia’s Cabinet Approves Lifting of State of Emergency
Ethiopia’s cabinet on Wednesday approved the lifting of a six-month state of emergency ahead of its expiration in light of changing security conditions in the country, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said in a statement. Ethiopia declared the state of emergency in November after forces from the northern region of Tigray said they had gained territory and were considering marching on the capital Addis Ababa. The government said last month the army was clearing the Tigrayan forces from the northern Amhara and Afar regions, dismissing Tigrayan statements that their forces were retreating voluntarily to create an “opening for peace”. “Now we have reached a stage where threats can be neutralised through regular law enforcement mechanisms,” the statement from the prime minister’s office said. The cabinet’s decision was sent to parliament for its approval. Over the weekend, the military said it was planning to enter the Tigray regional capital of Mekelle and “eliminate” the rebellious forces. Reuters

Nigeria: Bandits Kill Nine, Displace Many Residents in Zamfara
At least nine people were killed and several others displaced when bandits on Sunday night attacked communities in the Tsafe local government area of Zamfara State. Communities under Tsafe (in Zamfara) and Faskari (in Katsina State) are being terrorised by Adamu Aleru, a notorious banditry kingpin in the Tsafe forest. A resident of Tsafe town, Salisu Sabo, told Premium Times that the villages attacked Sunday night include Magazawa, Kajera, Unguwar Dan Halima, Unguwar Rogo, Unguwar Ango, Kurar Mota and Kauyen Kane all under Bilbis district. “They conducted simultaneous operations, but the deadliest was in Magazawa village where seven people were killed. The bodies were discovered in the morning of Monday. In other villages, we have not heard of any killing, but most residents of the communities have fled to Tsafe town. I saw over 50 women coming into Tsafe this morning,” he said. Premium Times

Nine Senegalese Soldiers ‘Missing’ in The Gambia
Nine Senegalese soldiers from the West African mission in Gambia have been missing since Monday and are believed to be held captive by Casamance rebels following clashes during an operation against timber trafficking, the Senegalese army announced on Tuesday. The nine soldiers “would probably be held hostage by the MFDC”, the armed rebellion that is fighting for independence in Casamance, a region in southern Senegal bordering Gambia, the army said in a statement. “Operations are continuing to find them and secure the area,” it said. The Senegalese army announced on Monday the death of two of its soldiers, , a junior officer and a senior soldier, in clashes on the same day with suspected rebels in western Gambia, a country partly landlocked by Senegal and home to rebels of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). … Casamance is the battleground of one of the oldest conflicts in Africa since independence fighters took to the streets after the repression of a march in December 1982. After claiming thousands of lives and devastating the economy, the conflict has persisted at low intensity. Senegal is working to normalise the situation and has begun relocating the displaced. AfricaNews/AFP

Suspected Islamists Kill at Least 12 in Eastern Congo Attacks on Villages
Suspected Islamist militants have killed at least 12 civilians and burned houses and motorbikes during raids on two villages in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, two local human rights groups said on Wednesday. Fighters believed to be from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militia active in eastern Congo since the 1990s, attacked the villages of Mutuheyi and Mapendo in Ituri province on Sunday night, the activists said. Since launching a joint military operation against the ADF in November, Congo and Uganda claim to have captured several of the ADF’s jungle camps, but the militia’s attacks on civilians have not stopped. Christophe Munyanderu, head of a local rights group, said the attackers came from bases in nearby North Kivu province and killed the 13 people, burned four motorbikes and torched six houses. Patrick Musubao, president of another rights group, said 12 people had been killed. He said the victims were shot or butchered with bladed weapons. He warned authorities of the presence of the ADF in the area before the attack but had no response, he said. Army spokesman Jules Ngongo Tshikudi confirmed an attack had taken place in the villages but did not give a death toll or say who was responsible. He said soldiers could do nothing to stop the attack. “The army has had no warning …” he said. No group has taken responsibility for the killings. The ADF does not have a spokesperson and does not usually comment on its operations. Reuters

EU Demands Immediate Release of Ugandan Author Kakwenza
The European Union has called for the immediate release of Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who was picked up Tuesday by suspected security operatives minutes after a Court in Kampala set him free on bail. In a statement issued Wednesday, the EU and embassies of its member states in Uganda said the arrest of the author is “a clear disrespect to the rule of law and the right of a Ugandan citizen to a fair trial.” “We express our serious concern at reports that Ugandan writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija has been taken against his will by armed men and is again being held in an unknown place of detention,” the statement says. The EU and the diplomatic missions of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway in Uganda have been critical of the regime’s human rights abuses. “Mr Rukirabashaija should be released immediately and we appeal to all parties concerned to ensure that the rule of law and due process are upheld in this and all cases in Uganda,” they said. The author was picked up Tuesday by unknown people suspected to be security operatives, moments after being freed on bail on medical grounds. The East African

Malawi President Spares Anti-corruption Unit Boss as Leaked Audio Points to Graft Tussle
Political analysts in Malawi say President Lazarus Chakwera’s shock axing of his Cabinet is a result of his clash with the director-general of the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Martha Chizuma. Leaked audio has seemingly exposed Chizuma’s frustration with her work being undermined, as well as the depth of corruption in the legal system and allegations of state capture. Government sources in Malawi told News24 a meeting between Chakwera and Chizuma took place on Monday after weeks of speculation about how Chakwera would react to reports of massive corruption implicating billionaire Malawian-British business tycoon Zuneth Sattar. Chizuma’s ACB, in partnership with British investigators, arrested Sattar two months ago after a three-year investigation into corruption that spans three presidencies. Top officials serving under former president Peter Mutharika and the current government were all said to have been implicated. … In the audio, Chizuma said the bureau had not been getting adequate support from Chakwera and that she understood she had lost support from State House over claims that she wanted to see the fall of the administration. … Chakwera dissolved his entire Cabinet on Monday and promised to appoint new members within two days. News24

Madagascar Scrambles to Respond after Storm Devastation
Tropical storm Ana has killed at least 34 people in Madagascar and three people in Mozambique, while knocking out power in Malawi, authorities in the three countries said Tuesday. The storm, which formed over the east coast of Africa’s largest island Madagascar, has brought heavy rains causing flooding and mudslides in the capital Antananarivo. The latest report from Madagascar’s disaster management agency on Tuesday showed that 34 people have died and nearly 65,000 have been left homeless since last week. Several low-lying districts of the capital remain under high alert and emergency evacuations were launched overnight. … Across the Indian Ocean, the storm made landfall on mainland Africa on Monday bringing heavy rains and strong winds in Mozambique’s central and northern districts. Mozambican officials on Tuesday said three people were killed, with at least 66 others injured. More than 3,800 people have so far been affected while a clinic and 16 school classrooms were destroyed overnight, according to the National Institute for Disaster Risk Management. AfricaNews

Nigerian Language Advocates Seek Inclusion of African Languages in Tech Devices
Voice-activated virtual assistant technologies, such as Siri and Alexa, are becoming increasingly common around the world, but in Africa, with its many languages, most people are at a digital disadvantage. To address the problem, some African researchers are creating translation tools to recognize and promote indigenous languages, such as Yoruba. Yoruba language teacher Oluwafemi Awosanya resumes a day’s classes with his students. He has been teaching the language for 10 years, but says he often struggles to migrate his class modules to an online students’ blogsite he created because there is no speech recognition technology for Yoruba. … He says despite technological advances in Africa, languages like Yoruba, one of the most commonly spoken in Nigeria, remain neglected, affecting his students. “It limits knowledge. There are things you wish you want to educate the children on, things you want to exhibit in the classes…” Awosanya said. More than 2,000 distinct languages are spoken in Africa. Researchers say two-thirds of the native speakers miss out on emerging technologies due to language limitations in the tech world. Nigerian writer and language advocate Kola Tubosun says the issue threatens Africa’s technological future. He has since been trying to promote inclusivity for his native Yoruba tongue. … Tubosun, who advocates for including African languages in technology, says the tech giants are starting to pay attention even though the gap remains very wide. VOA



Photo: Adam Jones