Africa Media Review for January 28, 2022

Burkina Faso Will Return to Constitutional Order when Conditions are Right, Military Leader Says
Burkina Faso’s new military leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba said on Thursday that the West African country return to constitutional order when conditions are right. Damiba spoke for the first time on national television since leading a mutiny that ousted President Roch Marc Kabore on Monday. “When the conditions are right, according to the deadline that our people will define in all sovereignty, I commit to a return to a normal constitutional order,” Damiba said. … The junta said on Monday after seizing power that it would propose a calendar for a return to constitutional order “within a reasonable time frame” but has not elaborated on its plans. … This latest coup in West and Central Africa comes amid an increasingly bloody Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and displaced millions across the Sahel region, eroding faith in democratic leaders to combat the problem. … The juntas in Mali and Chad agreed to 18-month transitions to democratic elections, while Guinea’s has not yet laid out a timeline. Malian authorities, however, have gone back on their original commitment and have proposed delaying elections, originally scheduled for next month, by up to four years. Reuters

ECOWAS Due to Discuss Response to Burkina Faso Coup
West African leaders are due to confer to discuss how to respond to a coup in conflict-hit Burkina Faso earlier this week, the latest in a wave of military power grabs in the region that has prompted fears of further instability. The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc had suspended and imposed sanctions on Burkina Faso’s neighbours Mali and Guinea following coups in August 2020 and September 2021, respectively. Its extraordinary virtual meeting on Friday comes hours after Burkina Faso’s new military ruler called for international support in his first address to the nation since he led the overthrow of democratically elected President Roch Kabore on Monday. … On Tuesday, ECOWAS issued a statement to say the bloc “firmly condemns” the coup, accusing the military of forcing Kabore to resign “under threat, intimidation and pressure”. Kabore, 64, remains in detention, with the United Nations leading calls for his release. Al Jazeera

Pro-Russia Sentiment Grows in Burkina Faso After Coup
Some supporters of Burkina Faso’s military coup this week were seen celebrating with Russian flags and calling for their country to switch alliances from France to Moscow. While the extent of pro-Russia sentiment in Burkina Faso is unclear, there is no doubt many are fed up with French efforts to help fight gangs and Islamist militant groups. Riding through the streets of Ouagadougou on Tuesday, two demonstrators flew a Russian flag, celebrating a military coup in the country a day earlier. They also turned out in Ouagadougou’s Place de la Nation to celebrate the military takeover. … Analysts say Mali is using Russian involvement as a bargaining chip after the West African bloc ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) sanctioned the country for refusing to hold democratic elections within the next five years. … Meanwhile, the Russian organization that trains troops in the Central African Republic has offered military support to Burkina Faso. It remains to be seen if Burkina Faso’s new de facto leader, Paul-Henri Damiba, will take up the offer. VOA

Relenting Protests Persist in Sudan as Gov’t Continue Crackdown
Hundreds of Sudanese protesters took to the streets of the capital on Thursday, marching towards the house of 23-year-old Thabit Hussein, who was killed during clashes near the presidential palace earlier this week. Hussein was one of three people killed during Monday’s protests, bringing the death toll among protesters to at least 76 since the military takeover on Oct. 25. Activists said security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protesters in several locations in the capital, including around the fortified presidential palace. Hussein’s mother, Shadia Ahmad, urged de-facto Sudanese leader Abdel-Fattah Burhan “to stop the bloodshed, to set and negotiate with the youths to see what they need exactly,” because, she added, “negotiation is the only solution for the problem.” The relentless protests have rocked the country since the military coup three months ago. Fresh crackdowns on protesters will likely complicate U.N. efforts to find a way out of the country’s crisis. The coup has upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of repression and international isolation under autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. AfricaNews/AFP

Darfur Violence Forces 15,000 to Flee Their Homes – UN
Renewed ethnic violence in the Sudanese region of Darfur has led to loss of lives and displaced more than 15,000 people over the last week, the UN says. It says a personal dispute between two men from the Masalit ethnic group and an Arab nomadic group sparked the conflict near the city of El Geneina. Armed nomads then attacked the local market, set fire to part of the village, and killed nine people including two children. The fighting also forced more than 4,000 people to flee across the border to Chad. More than two million people still live in camps as a result of the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s. Last year saw renewed violence in Darfur with frequent attacks on camps and villages by militias. BBC

US Voices Alarm as Tigray Rebels Push Ahead in Ethiopia
The United States voiced alarm Thursday January 27 after Ethiopia’s Tigray rebels announced a military operation in the neighboring Afar region, but hailed moves by the government to ease a state of emergency. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front said Tuesday it was taking “robust actions” in Afar in response to pro-government forces, a month after the rebels’ withdrawal had raised hopes of ending more than a year of war. “Reports of renewed fighting in the region are very concerning and we repeat our calls to all actors to cease all offensive operations, which also hinder that humanitarian access that we all know is so crucial,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. He welcomed a push by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government to shorten a state of emergency imposed in November as the rebels seemed poised to threaten the capital. … The United States has heavily criticized Ethiopia, a longtime ally, over human rights concerns in the war against the Tigrayan rebels, including restrictions on aid delivery. AFP

6 Dead, 30 Missing after Migrant Boat Sinks off Tunisia
At least six Africans trying to migrate to Europe died and an estimated 30 were missing in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat sank off the coast of Tunisia on Thursday, according to Tunisia’s Defense Ministry. Tunisian naval and coast guard forces retrieved the bodies, rescued 34 survivors and are searching for the people listed as missing, the ministry said in a statement. The survivors told rescuers that the boat had 70 people on it and they were headed for Italy, the ministry said. The boat had left from neighboring Libya and sank about 40 kilometers (24 miles) off the Tunisian town of Zarzis, near the Libyan border, it said. The survivors included people from Egypt, Sudan and Ivory Coast, according to Mongi Slim, head of the Tunisian Red Crescent. It’s the latest of several migrant boat sinkings in the region. The central Mediterranean route, which runs from North Africa to southern Italy, is the busiest and deadliest migration route to Europe. People travel from Libya and Tunisia in crowded boats and at the mercy of the smugglers they pay to get them across the sea. AP

Egyptian Activist Denounces President Al-Sisi’s Regime of Fear
Political activist Ramy Shaath denounced Egypt as a “banana republic of fear”. The Egyptian-Palestinian activist arrived in France on the 8th of January after more than 900 days in prison. In an interview to the French press the activist denounced the systematic persecution of critical voices under the government of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. “Then they took me to a jail where I spent two and a half years, in a 23 squared metre room, with 18 to 32 people, at times. We had this much space for sleeping. In my case I usually preferred to wait at all, to sleep, because there was no way all of us could sleep and stay in that same room”, said Ramy Shaath. The political activist described how many of his fellow inmates were ordinary citizens without any political background who were arrested in what he described as “a completely arbitrary manner”. … According to the activist’s family, Ramy Shaath was forced to give up his Egyptian nationality in order to secure his release from detention. AfricaNews

Kenya Beefs Up Security after Warnings of Possible Attacks
Police in Kenya say they have beefed up security after several European countries warned of the risk of possible attacks and urged their nationals to avoid public places. Heavily armed officers were seen on Friday patrolling the streets of the capital, Nairobi, as security was boosted outside key government offices, five-star hotels, private buildings and shopping centres. The National Police Service said in a statement it “assures the public that security in the country has been scaled up through different policing operations”. “We urge the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities,” the statement added. … Kenya has been hit by several attacks waged by the al-Shabab armed group in retaliation for sending troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union forces to beat back the fighters. Al Jazeera

Chad Junta Postpones Post-coup Forum to May
Chad’s junta announced Thursday that a national forum designed to chart the country’s future after it seized power a military takeover last year would be postponed by nearly three months. An “inclusive national dialogue” that the putschists had declared on New Year’s Eve would start on February 15 “is postponed until May 10,” the presidency said on Facebook, without giving further details. Precursor talks in Qatar with armed Chadian rebel groups, aiming at bringing them into the dialogue, are also being postponed. These were previously scheduled to start by the end of January, but will now begin on February 27, a senior official in the dialogue’s organising committee said. The armed groups have yet to agree among themselves on taking part, the official said. AfricaNews/AFP

South Sudan: Promote Public Participation in Constitution Making Process – Analysts
South Sudan should open up space and allow public participation in its constitutional-making process, political analysts said. James Okuk, the author of a report released by the German-based Friedrich Ebert Stiftung said citizens should demand for reforms from their government and that how government responds to these demands will determine whether their new social compacts lead to a durable peace. This report draws experiences from the work of scholars and constitutional experts who have been exchanging ideas about how to ensure that modern constitutions incorporate the needs and aspirations of the citizens. Okuk outlined five points to promote Inclusive public participation, stressing that only an inclusive process reflective of the breadth of South Sudanese society will make the permanent constitution a legitimate living supreme document of social contract and rule of law enhanced by best practices. … Daniel Deng, a US-based South Sudanese with a legal background, argued that lack of political will and conducive environment has made it difficult to advocate reforms aspired by the citizens in South Sudan. … According to the South Sudanese analyst, constitution makers must have the political will to carry out a genuine process of civic education and consultations, in which the views of citizens are carefully considered. Sudan Tribune

1.4m People at Risk of Displacement as Drought Worsens in Somalia
Several lives might be lost and over a million people displaced if no action is taken to avert the effects of the worsening drought in Somalia, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Mogadishu has warned. Currently, 245,000 Somalis have been displaced due to the drought, with the number projected to reach 1.4 million in 2022 as the situation worsens in several parts of the country. The drought has currently affected about 3.2 million people in Somalia, about a fifth of the population, putting them at risk of water and food insecurity, malnutrition, rising commodity prices, crop and livestock losses, and safety risks, NRC has said. “Humanitarian efforts are underway, but available resources are insufficient to meet increasing and urgent needs,” NRC said in a press statement Friday. … More than 874,000 people are currently displaced in Somalia, with drought accounting for 28 percent. With the looming crisis, drought might become the leading cause of displacement in Somalia, after conflict and insecurity which currently account for 62 percent of displacements. The East African

France Condemns Mali’s ‘Irresponsible’ Expulsion of Danish Troops
Mali’s military regime has taken an “irresponsible” decision by expelling Danish special forces sent to help fight jihadist insurgents, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday. Denmark said the country would withdraw its newly deployed contingent of 90 troops from Mali after repeated demands by the Sahel country’s military junta. “This junta is illegitimate and it is taking irresponsible actions […] It bears all the responsibility for the withdrawal of the Danish forces and is isolating itself even more from its international partners,” Le Drian told reporters in Paris. The junta, which came to power in a coup in August 2020, first asked Denmark to withdraw its troops on Monday, following a deployment it said had been undertaken without consent. The next day, Kofod told reporters that Danish forces were in Mali “on a clear basis” following an invitation and that his government was seeking to clarify the issue. … The new contingent was joining Task Force Takuba — a 900-troop French-led unit launched in March 2020. Takuba brings together special forces from European nations to advise Malian troops and assist them in combat. RFI

Rwanda to Reopen Border with Uganda This Month
Rwanda government has said it will reopen its border with Uganda this month as it seeks to ease tension between the two neighboring countries. A statement tweeted by the state-affiliated Rwanda Broadcasting Agency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation indicated that Gatuna/Katuna and other land border posts will be reopened starting January 31, 2022. … Rwanda said it remains committed to ongoing efforts to resolve pending issues between Rwanda and Uganda and believes that the reopening of the border will contribute positively to the speedy normalisation of relations between the two countries. … Rwanda abruptly closed its border with Uganda in February 2019, cutting off an important trade link. Rwanda accused Uganda of abducting its citizens and supporting rebels seeking to topple Kagame. For its part, Uganda accused Rwanda of spying as well as killing two men during an incursion into Ugandan territory in 2019 — a claim Kigali denies. … Relations between the countries also soured after an investigation last year found that Rwanda used Israeli Pegasus spying software to hack into the phones of Uganda’s prime minister and foreign minister, among others. Monitor

China Has Increased Investment in Zimbabwe, But Locals Are Losing Jobs
Trouble is brewing for the Chinese in Zimbabwe. With Beijing being one of the primary investors in the country, Chinese influence has been rapidly rising leading to discontent among the locals, many of whom continue to remain jobless. Nairobi based news organisation, the East African said in a recent report the investors have poured in more than $2.5 billion into the country. Despite this, Zimbabwe’s economic situation continues to remain grim and the unemployment rate has only gone up. … Zimbabweans have also accused the Chinese companies dealing with mining of gold, coal, diamonds besides other minerals of violation of labour rights and damaging the environment. That apart, the local people have been rampantly displaced from their native homes without being adequately rehabilitated. Anxiety and concerns have naturally risen among the displaced locals who blamed the Zimbabwean government as well. … Recently, the non governmental organisations (NGOs) in a statement asked the Chinese companies to address the issue. “A number of disputes have been reported between Chinese companies and villagers, who accuse investors of not consulting them before embarking on projects, prompting protests from NGOs,” the East African said. … Despite an increase in Chinese investments, wages have remained stagnant. New Zimbabwe

Morocco Starts Construction of Vaccine Manufacturing Plant
Morocco has launched the construction of a manufacturing plant for anti-Covid vaccines, which should start production next July and ensure the kingdom’s vaccine self-sufficiency, the Moroccan news agency MAP reported Thursday. The inauguration of the site was presided over by King Mohammed VI in Benslimane, in the region of Casablanca, the economic capital of the Cherifian kingdom. Named SENSYO Pharmatech, this plant will be dedicated to “the manufacture and syringing of vaccines (anti-Covid and other vaccines)” and will have “three industrial lines whose combined production capacity will reach 116 million units in 2024”, details MAP. The plant will eventually require an investment of about 400 to 500 million euros, says the same source. …Morocco has already started the production of more than three million doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccine each month. This monthly production should reach five million doses starting next month and more than 20 million by the end of 2022. AfricaNews



Photo: Adam Jones