Africa Media Review for January 31, 2022

African Union Suspends Burkina Faso after Coup
The African Union said on Monday it had suspended Burkina Faso in response to the January 24 coup that ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. The bloc’s 15-member Peace and Security Council said on Twitter it had voted “to suspend the participation of #BurkinaFaso in all AU activities until the effective restoration of constitutional order in the country”. Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, had already condemned the coup the day it happened and before it was clear who was taking charge. The West African bloc ECOWAS suspended Burkina Faso on Friday and sent a delegation to meet with the ruling junta on Saturday. The coup is the latest bout of turmoil to strike Burkina Faso, a landlocked state that has suffered chronic instability since gaining independence from France in 1960. A jihadist insurgency that spread over Mali’s border has killed more than 2 000 people and forced 1.5 million to flee their homes since 2015. Mali and Guinea, also in West Africa, have also seen coups in the past 18 months that have prompted AU suspensions. Sudan is also suspended following a coup there on October. News24

One Protester Dies as Security Forces Confront Crowds in Khartoum – Medics
One protester was killed as security forces confronted thousands of people protesting against military rule in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Sunday, medics linked to the demonstrations said. The 27-year-old, Mohamed Yousef Ismail, was hit in the chest, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said. There was no immediate statement from the military rulers who have been trying to contain a series of protests across Sudan since they took power on Oct. 25. Security forces fired tear gas to try to disperse the crowds who were marching in defiance of a ban on demonstrations, a Reuters reporter said. Protesters got within about 2 km (1 mile) of the presidential palace on the banks of the Blue Nile before security forces blocked their way in the early afternoon and started chasing protesters back and forth. “We go out to demonstrate so that our children can live under a civil, democratic state in the future. We won’t allow our children’s future to be confiscated,” protester Mohamed Abdelrahman, a 51-year-old government employee, said. Reuters

Sudan Arrests Two SPLM-N Agar Members on Charge of Funding Protesters
Sudanese security authorities on Sunday arrested two members of the SPLM-North led by Malik Agar accusing them of financing the activities of Resistance Committees, the spearhead of anti-coup protests. In a statement extended to the Sudan Tribune, Yasir Arman, SPLM-N Deputy Head said the security service called for the immediate release of two of the Movement’s members in Khartoum Engineer Hussam al-Din al-Merfabi and Dr Mohamed Abdel -Rahman Nuqd Allah who have been arrested at 7:30 p.m. They are charged with funding and leading the activities of Resistance Committees through the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), “These accusations are untrue,” Arman said. “The SPLM does not fund the Resistance Committees, which are revolutionary, civil self-funded groups and independent in their activities,” he further stressed. Sudan Tribune

At Least 10 Killed in Kenya When Vehicle Runs over Explosive
A local official in northeastern Kenya says at least 10 people are dead after their vehicle ran over an explosive device on a highway Monday morning. North Eastern regional commander George Seda said the blast occurred outside Mandera town. It was not clear how many people were in the vehicle. Witnesses said the toll could rise because others had serious injuries. Police suspect the explosive device was placed by al-Shabab extremists operating in the area after crossing from nearby Somalia. The extremists are often blamed for such attacks in the border region, targeting both security forces and civilians. A police report on Monday’s blast said the attackers fled toward the border. AP

ECOWAS and UN Representatives Meet in Burkina Faso
A delegation of ECOWAS ministers arrives this Monday in Burkina Faso precisely one week after a military coup that ousted president Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. The meeting follows a virtual summit last Friday focussing on the security situation in the country. The ECOWAS delegation is led by Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, minister of foreign affairs of Ghana. The meeting with the military authorities will also include the head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel region. The visit will last only a few hours before the ministers head to Accra where an ECOWAS summit is scheduled to take place on Thursday. Last week, ECOWAS leaders suspended Burkina Faso from the regional organisation. AfricaNews

France Says Nearly 60 ‘Terrorists’ Killed Ahead of Burkina Coup
Nearly 60 “terrorists” were killed in Burkina Faso by local forces alongside French troops on the eve of the 24 January coup in the poor Sahel country, France’s military said on Sunday. The military successes came just ahead of the putsch that ousted president Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who had come under heavy criticism for failing to contain the jihadist insurgency in the country, where violence has worsened since 2015, especially in the north and east. The French military said in a statement: On four occasions between January 16 and January 23, 2022, groups of terrorists were located, identified and neutralised by Burkinabe forces and by (foreign) units… in total nearly 60 terrorists were taken out. Air strikes by the French Barkhane force “guided by Burkinabe units” also destroyed around 20 motorcycles and several pickup trucks with weapons, the statement said. “We continue the fight against the terrorists in coordination with the partners, the Burkinabe armed forces, who led these operations (with a) very positive” outcome, it said. AFP

France Will Leave Mali if Price of Staying Too High, Defence Minister Says
European states combating Islamist militants in Mali will try to find a way to keep their mission going, but there are limits to the price that France is prepared to pay to remain there, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Saturday. Relations between Mali’s military junta and its international partners are close to breaking down after it failed to organise an election following two military coups. On Wednesday, the junta told France to stop interfering in the affairs of its former colony and to keep its “colonial reflexes” to itself. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday that the situation had become untenable, as the European allies agreed to draw up plans within two weeks on how to adapt their campaign, which covers Mali and the wider Sahel region, to changing circumstances. “The conditions of our intervention, whether military, economic or political, have become harder and harder to manage,” Parly said. “In short, we are not prepared to pay an unlimited price to remain in Mali.” Reuters

Europeans Set Two-Week Deadline for Reviewing Mali Situation
European allies agreed on Friday to draw up plans within two weeks for how to continue their fight against Islamist militants in Mali, Denmark’s defense minister said, after France said the situation with the Malian junta had become untenable. Tensions have escalated between Mali and its international partners since the junta failed to organize an election following two military coups. It has also deployed Russian private military contractors, which some European countries have said is incompatible with their mission. “There was a clear perception that this is not about Denmark. It’s about a Malian military junta which wants to stay in power. They have no interest in a democratic election, which is what we have demanded,” Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen told Reuters. Speaking after a virtual meeting of the 15 countries involved in the European special forces Takuba task mission, she said the parties had agreed to come up with a plan within 14 days to decide on what the “future counterterrorism mission should look like in the Sahel region.” VOA

French FM Accuses Russian Mercenaries of ‘Despoiling’ Mali
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has accused Russian private military contractor Wagner Group of plundering Mali’s resources amid heightened tensions between Paris and the country’s military government in recent weeks, including over the fate of European forces deployed in the region to fight armed groups. The US army last week estimated hundreds of Wagner personnel were in the Sahel state, but the country’s ruling army has denied this. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply since Mali’s army led by Colonel Assimi Goita staged a coup in August 2020. Former colonial power France has thousands of troops deployed in the Sahel state, which has been struggling to contain a rebellion that first emerged in 2012. The Wagner mercenaries are “former Russian soldiers, armed by Russia and accompanied by Russian logistics”, Le Drian said. “They are already at the moment helping themselves to the country’s resources in exchange for protecting the junta. They are despoiling Mali,” he told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper in remarks published on Sunday. Al Jazeera

Some Progress in Ethiopia Diplomacy – Tigray Leader
The leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia, which has been at war with government forces for over a year, says shuttle diplomacy has led to some progress. In a rare interview Debretsion Gebremichael told the BBC that indirect talks with the government had been taking place. The war has led to the displacement of millions of people and the UN says nearly 40% of people in Tigray are suffering from an extreme lack of food. Mr Debretsion suggested that the shuttle diplomacy was having an impact and said there had been signs of improvement after indirect talks with the Ethiopian government. The TPLF chairman told the BBC he wanted a peaceful resolution but added that if necessary they would fight on to protect the rights of the Tigrayans. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has shown signs that he may be considering an alternative to military action. BBC

Tunisia Arrests Woman Suspected of Planning Attack
Tunisia’s interior ministry said Friday it had foiled a “terrorist” attack, with the arrest of a woman returning from Syria who was planning a suicide bombing at a tourist resort. The 22-year-old Tunisian was arrested at Tunis airport on 10 January, the ministry said in a statement. She had travelled to Turkey in 2020, then last year reached Syria, where unspecified extremist groups trained her for a suicide bombing, it said. Tunisian authorities have also arrested another “terrorist” who was planning to provide her with an explosive belt, it added. He was also “involved in planning and preparation of terrorist operations in late 2021 targeting important state officials”. After Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, the North African country saw a wave of jihadist attacks that killed dozens of security personnel and foreign tourists. AFP

Thousands Displaced in Congo’s East amid Rebel, Army Clashes
Thousands of people in Congo have been displaced after they fled ongoing clashes between the Congolese army and rebel fighters this week. On Tuesday, a fresh attack carried out by the March 23 Movement, or M23, targeted a Congolese army position in the territory of Rutshuru, just north of the city of Goma in eastern Congo. While authorities confirmed the attack, they did not provide details about it. Residents told The Associated Press that they saw gunfights and dead bodies. Since the beginning of this week, inhabitants from six villages in the country’s east have fled the violence. At least 2,000 people are now living in improvised shelters, in churches, schools or with host families. On Friday, the AP interviewed several eyewitnesses who fled to Kibumba and found shelter in a local church. AP

DRC: 51 People Sentenced to Death over 2017 Murder of Two UN Experts
A military court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has sentenced 51 people to death, several in absentia, in a mass trial over the 2017 murder of two UN experts in a troubled central region. Capital punishment is frequently pronounced in murder cases in the DRC but is routinely commuted to life imprisonment since the country declared a moratorium on executions in 2003. Dozens of people have been on trial for more than four years over a killing that shook diplomats and the aid community, although key questions about the episode remain unanswered. Michael Sharp, an American, and Zaida Catalán, a Swedish-Chilean, disappeared as they probed violence in the Kasai region after being hired to do so by the United Nations. They were investigating mass graves linked to a bloody conflict that had flared between the government and a local group. Their bodies were found in a village on 28 March 2017, 16 days after they went missing. Catalán had been beheaded. The Guardian

Banditry amidst Poverty: How Life Has Become Miserable for Residents of North-west Nigeria
Even before kidnapping by bandits became rampant in his community, life was harsh for Saidu Dabo. The rural Katsina resident became popular early this month after a video recording of him removing his roofing sheets to sell for money he needed to rescue his son from kidnappers went viral. Mr Dabo, a devout Muslim, however, said he believes God is always right and accepts what happened to him in good faith. But he still cursed his fate. Mr Dabo was reclining against the cracked mud wall of his house in Faskari as he spoke with Premium Times. He could not understand why a poor farmer struggling to feed his family is no longer being allowed to concentrate on that struggle. Premium Times

Southern African Editors’ Forum Call for Sanctions as Botswana Mulls Legislating Freedom of Speech
The Southern African Editors’ Forum (SAEF) has said it is “deeply alarmed” by the fast-tracking of Botswana’s proposed Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill. The bill will give Botswana powers to intercept communication and force disclosures, in what SAEF calls the, “… thwarting and suppression of free expression”, among the public and media. If passed into law, its main aims will be the interception of communication and forced disclosure of information to state intelligence and law enforcement agencies. SAEF joins the Botswana Editors’ Forum (BEF) and the African Editors’ Forum in calling on President Mokgweetsi Masisi to withdraw the Bill before Parliament and allow for wider public consultations. The SAEF has called on the United Nations Human and People’s Rights Commission, through the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, as well as the African Union to sanction Botswana. The African Editors’ Forum (TAEF) said draconian legislation will have chilling effects on the media in the country. News24

Liberia Prisons: Where Inmates are Short of Food, Space and Uniforms
When the food ran out for inmates at Liberia’s main prison earlier this month it exposed the terrible conditions that have long existed in the country’s jails. The lack of supplies affected all of the country’s 15 prisons, forcing two to stop taking any new inmates. It was only after at least two days that a local philanthropist and a charity stepped in to make up for the shortfall, but the wider problems – overcrowding and a lack of funding – have not gone away. At Monrovia Central Prison, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,400 people are crammed into a space that was initially built for less than 400. The outside of the prison has been given a facelift and the shining light grey walls could mislead passers-by into thinking that things are equally bright inside. The food crisis gave a group of convicts, who briefly met journalists during a ceremony to open a new visitors’ hut, a rare opportunity to vent their frustration. BBC

Liberia’s Former Defence Chief Samukai to Be Jailed for Embezzlement
The Supreme Court of Liberia handed down two-year prison sentences to former defence chief Brownie Samukai along with deputies Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor after they failed to return one million euros worth of stolen money from a government pension account. Samukai, who was in court as the ruling was being read on Thursday, fled the building before he was taken to jail. Accroding to Marvin Sackor, Liberian Deputy Inspector General for Operations: “We are working with our counterparts, the National Security Agency, to get a clear understanding about the whereabouts of Samukai.” The funds were stolen from the Armed Forces of Liberia pension account during the mandate of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, when Samukai headed the defense ministry. The three men were ordered by the court to pay a total of €500,000 within six months, but failed to do so. … Brownie Samukai, a staunch critic of incumbent President George Weah and a stalwart of the former ruling Unity Party, was elected during the 2020 midterm Senate election but was barred from taking his seat after he was found guilty of raiding the Army coffers. RFI

Zimbabwe Dollar’s Second Death Seen as Only a Matter of Time
When Zimbabwean businessman Nigel Chanakira asked 100 chief executive officers at a seminar in Harare on January 27 if they were willing to use the local currency, only one raised his hand. That reluctance is a stark demonstration of the government’s failure to win confidence in the Zimbabwe dollar, the reintroduction of which Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has staked the stagnating economy’s recovery on. For the second time in two decades, Zimbabweans are abandoning their local currency. At restaurants, a simple request for “the rate” sees one’s bill halved if it’s met in hard currency, and supermarkets openly offer discounts for goods purchased in U.S. dollars. The government paid public workers their Christmas bonuses in dollars, and the revenue service collects a third of its income in greenbacks. “We can’t deny the reality,” Chanakira, the founder and former CEO of now-closed bank Kingdom Financial Holdings, said in an interview. “When you get the Zimbabwe dollar you spend it quickly. No one wants to save in that currency.” Bloomberg

26 African YouTube Creators Join #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund
YouTube has revealed the names of African creators who have been selected to join a global cohort of 135 from around the world, in its flagship #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund initiative. The fund focuses on investing in black creators from around the world who are telling fresh and authentic stories. While the group of creators from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa comes from varied professional, social and academic backgrounds, one common thread connects them all: the desire to make a difference in their communities and Africa through relatable and insightful content. … As part of the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund Class of 2022, each of the 26 African YouTubers selected will receive seed funding alongside dedicated support to help them develop their channels. They will also take part in bespoke and hands-on training, workshops and networking programmes. This Day



Photo: Adam Jones