Africa Media Review for January 5, 2022

Deluge of Digital Repression Threatens African Security
African governments are using the pretext of security to restrict digital communications and citizens’ rights. In the process, they are inadvertently contributing to economic losses and greater instability. … Digital repression is on the rise in many parts of Africa. Over a dozen African countries have recently experienced politically motivated internet shutdowns. Roughly the same number have been identified as operators of military-grade spyware (such as Pegasus, RCS, and FinFisher), which they use to track domestic political opponents and activists with the same vigor as criminals and terrorists. Governments employ automated tools to subject social media platforms to expansive surveillance. Increasingly, leaders are taking advantage of vague elements of recently passed cybercrime laws to expand executive powers to arrest activists and debilitate the free press. African leaders frequently portray digitally repressive tactics as necessary to combat threats from terrorism, organized crime, and secessionist violence. In fact, their main impact is to undermine the fundamental freedoms that make it possible for governments to be transparent, legitimate, and accountable to citizens. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Corruption Rampant in South Africa under Former President Zuma, Inquiry Finds
Corruption became so rampant in South Africa under Jacob Zuma’s presidency that entire state institutions were effectively dismantled for the benefit of corrupt businessmen and politicians, a public inquiry has found. The amount of corruption has reached such extremes that it has become an existential threat to South African democracy, the inquiry warned, citing “alarming” evidence that the ruling party, the African National Congress, has been financed by the proceeds of crime, including illicit contracts that were awarded to ANC donors. The inquiry, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, released an 874-page report on Tuesday after nearly four years of public hearings and investigations. It is the first of three huge volumes that it plans to release by the end of next month – a culmination of a “gruelling four years” of work, Justice Zondo said on Tuesday. President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Mr. Zuma in 2018, said the inquiry’s reports will be a “defining moment” for the fight against corruption. “If we work together, we will be able to rid our country of the gross actions of corruption we have seen in the past,” he said after Justice Zondo handed the thick report to him. Mr. Ramaphosa promised to implement the inquiry’s recommendations and intensify state efforts against graft. The Globe and Mail

Excessive Force against Sudan Protesters, Journalists Continues
Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the rule of the military in the country and to demand a full civilian government, two days after Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok announced his resignation and three protesters were killed in Khartoum. At least 70 people were injured during yesterday’s Marches of the Millions. In Khartoum, the joint security forces, consisting of riot police, army soldiers, paramilitaries of the Central Reserve Police (Abu Teira) and Rapid Support Forces, and agents of the General Intelligence Service (GIS) yesterday anticipated the Marches of the Millions with a massive presence. A number of main roads and bridges were closed with barbed wire to prevent the protesters to head to the Republican Palace in central Khartoum. Again, excessive force was used to disperse the demonstrators who carried banners denouncing the military coup of October 25 under the leadership of Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, army commander and president of the Sovereignty Council, and demanding “full civilian rule and the return of the military to the barracks”. The protesters continued chanting ‘the three nos’, “No Negotiations [with the military], No Partnership, No Bargaining.” Radio Dabanga

EU, Troika Warn Sudanese Military against New PM’s Unilateral Appointment
European Union and Troika countries said the appointment of a new prime minister in Sudan should be consistent with the constitutional declaration of 2019 and not by the coup leaders alone. The coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seeks to appoint a new prime minister as names of probable prime ministers circulate in Khartoum based on leaks from the presidency or people who were approached by the military component. The EU and Troika, which only recognize the government ousted by the coup leaders on October 25, renewed calls for dialogue on how to overcome the current political crisis, select new civilian leadership, and set up a matrix for the implementation of the remaining transitional tasks. “Unilateral action to appoint a new Prime Minister and Cabinet would undermine those institutions’ credibility and risks plunging the nation into conflict,” warned the Troika and EU in a joint statement on Tuesday. … The joint statement said they would not support a prime minister unilaterally appointed by the Sudanese military and alluded to the imposition of targeted sanctions on the coup leaders. “In the absence of progress, we would look to accelerate efforts to hold those actors impeding the democratic process accountable,” said the joint statement. Sudan Tribune

Sudanese Face Economic Chaos with Return of Bashir-Era Brutality
“There’s no cabinet of ministers and no plan for the economy,” said [Kamel Karar, a Khartoum-based economist]. “The government is asking the ministry of finance to tell them how they can adjust expenditure and revenues in governmental units, but no one has an answer.” The coup has also upended imports and exports, as shipments have stopped and prices of goods and services are rising rapidly, he said. “There’s more than 700 percent monthly inflation and there is no budget now, and we’re in January,” he added.  “We are facing real economic problems. How can the majority of people live in this situation?” “The Bashir playbook is being followed almost to a ‘T’ – the repression tactics, bringing tanks, armed police and armed security officers on to the street, the media crackdown, the appointment of military Islamists to keep the security and legal positions,” said Khair. The military have even renamed the National Intelligence and Security Services as the General’s Intelligence Services, she said. … And while going back to the streets carries a social and economic cost, as well as a fear of violence, Sudanese people have continued to show strength during pre-planned large protests. … “But what we also see in those instances is more determination, more resolute participation from protesters,” Khair adds, qualifying that these efforts are more of a marathon than a sprint. RFI

Ugandan Court Orders Release of Satirical Novelist
A Kampala court on Tuesday ordered the release of an acclaimed Ugandan novelist who was detained and allegedly tortured after he posted unflattering comments about veteran President Yoweri Museveni’s son. Satirical author and outspoken government critic Kakwenza Rukirabashaija was arrested at his home in the capital last week. Rukirabashaija is accused of abusing Museveni’s son Muhoozi Kainerugaba – a powerful general who many Ugandans believe is positioning himself to take over from his 77-year-old father – by calling him “obese” and a “curmudgeon” in social media posts. Magistrate Irene Nambatya ruled that Rukirabashaija be “unconditionally” freed, saying: “Every police officer should comply with the above order.” The writer was due to appear in a separate court to answer charges of “offensive communication” but did not turn up, his lawyer Eron Kiiza told AFP. Kiiza said he had been denied access to his client and that he had been tortured while in custody. “Police are fearing to produce him in court with torture marks, that’s why they are delaying to bring him to court,” he said. A police spokesperson, Charles Twiine, said Rukirabashaija was to be charged under the Computer Misuse Act with an offence that can carry up to a year in jail. AFP

SADC Heads of State Set to Review Progress of Its Mission in Mozambique
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) will Friday hold a virtual Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government to review progress and mandate of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), the regional bloc said in a statement Tuesday. Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, who is also the Chairperson of SADC, will chair the Extraordinary Summit. Other meetings expected to take place before the Friday summit include the meeting of experts of the inter-state defence and security committee and the meeting of senior officials of the ministerial committee of the organ. The extraordinary ministerial committee of the organ, the extraordinary SADC Organ Troika Summit, the extraordinary finance committee and the extraordinary SADC council of ministers will also meet. SAMIM was deployed in July 2021, following approval by the Extraordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Maputo, as a SADC regional response to support Mozambique to combat terrorism and acts of violent extremism in some districts of Cabo Delgado Province. The EastAfrican

Nearly 100 Nigerian Hostages Rescued after Two Months of Captivity
Nearly 100 hostages, most of them women and children, have been rescued more than two months after they were abducted by armed groups in northwest Nigeria. Among the 97 freed hostages were 19 babies and more than a dozen children, Ayuba Elkana, police chief in Zamfara state, said on Tuesday. Mostly barefooted, weary and in worn-out clothes, the ex-captives trickled out of the buses that took them to Gusau, capital of Zamfara state. Women with malnourished-looking babies strapped to their backs trailed behind. Coming a few days after 21 schoolchildren were freed by security forces, the rescue brought a sigh of relief in Nigeria where armed groups have killed thousands and kidnapped many residents and travellers in exchange for ransoms. Police said the hostages were “rescued unconditionally” on Monday in joint security operations targeting the camps of armed groups that have been terrorising remote communities across the north-west and centre of Africa’s most populous country. They had been abducted from their homes and along highways in remote communities in Zamfara and neighbouring Sokoto state. AP

Nigeria’s Auditor General Flags Missing Police Firearms
Nigeria’s police could not account for thousands of firearms, including 88,078 AK-47 rifles, an audit report published by the auditor general of the federation on Tuesday showed. Missing firearms raise worries in a country fighting growing insecurity from Islamist insurgents in the northeast and armed kidnappings and banditry in the north and northwest. In his latest report published on its website and covering the period to December 2019, Auditor General Adolphus Aghughu said that a review of arms movement from police armouries in Nigeria showed several weapons were missing and unaccounted for. Police did not respond to written request for comment. “The total number of lost firearms as reported as of December 2018 stood at 178,459 pieces. Out of this number, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles,” the report said. It did not specify whether the figures were for 2018 alone or over a period up to that time. There was a risk the firearms could get into the wrong hands or used for illegal activities, said the report. Reuters

Mauritanian President Ghazouani Tests Positive for COVID-19
Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has tested positive for Covid-19 and is displaying mild symptoms, state media said on Tuesday. Ghazouani, who came to power in August 2019, was found to be infected after having a fever, it said in a statement posted on Facebook. Mauritania recorded 490 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic. The West African country has reported 862 deaths from Covid-19 among its 4.6 million people, while more than 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered, according to World Health Organisation data. Reuters

Security Fears Loom over Africa’s Football Fiesta
After overcoming fears of postponement because of the Covid pandemic, the Africa Cup of Nations now faces its next big worry: security. Host nation Cameroon will ceremonially launch the month-long tournament on Sunday when they face Burkina Faso. But the authorities are struggling with separatist gunmen in the west and jihadist raiders in the north — and some fear militants will seize the country’s turn in the sporting spotlight to launch attacks. Security forces in the west are on high alert after armed groups sent threatening messages to teams in Group F, gathering Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia. The four teams are scheduled to play in the coastal town of Limbe, and their training site is Buea, a hotspot of separatist unrest. “The threats are very serious,” Blaise Chamango, head of an NGO in Buea called Human Is Right, told AFP by phone. “On Wednesday, there was an explosion in a takeaway outlet in Limbe. That sent a very powerful message.” AFP



Photo: Adam Jones