Africa Media Review for January 9, 2024

Niger Tribunal Grants Ousted President’s Son Provisional Release from House Arrest
Niger’s military tribunal granted the son of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, Mohamed Bazoum Salem, provisional release from house arrest in the capital Niamey on Monday, it said in a statement. Salem, 23, has been in detention at the presidential residence with his parents since his father was toppled during a military coup in July. The coup, one of eight in West and Central Africa since 2020, was widely condemned, led to sanctions from the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), and prompted widespread calls for Bazoum’s release and a return to democratic rule. The tribunal did not provide details on the fate of Salem’s parents. The ECOWAS Court of Justice last month ruled that the family’s detention was arbitrary and ordered Bazoum’s reinstatement. The court, whose decisions cannot be appealed, has given the junta one month to say how it will execute the order, the lawyers said…The family has had no access to running water or electricity, according to Bazoum’s party and their relatives. The family’s lawyers previously said they have not been allowed to meet a magistrate or informed about any legal proceedings against them. Reuters

Congo Governor Tells Security Forces to Leave Home of Presidential Runner-Up Katumbi
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday ordered security forces to leave the home of main opposition politician Moise Katumbi, which they had surrounded in what the provincial governor called a “faux pas”. A spokesman for Katumbi, who came second in disputed presidential elections last month, said earlier on Monday that security forces had surrounded his secondary home in the southern province of Upper Katanga, where the politician is staying, and were preventing him from leaving. Provincial Governor Jacques Kyabula Katwe condemned the incident, saying it was a “faux pas” committed by some law enforcement authorities to protect the property from vandalism…Both the opposition and independent observers have criticised the way the Dec. 20-24 election was conducted and raised doubts about the transparency of the vote in which President Felix Tshisekedi won a second term. Katumbi, who came second with 18%, was among several main opposition contenders who ruled out mounting a legal challenge to the results, citing an alleged lack of independence of state institutions. He has added his voice to opposition calls for the election to be annulled, citing “massive fraud”, and in a statement on Sunday urged the international community not to recognise the provisional results announced by Congo’s election commission. Only two opposition candidates out of 18 presidential contenders filed petitions to challenge the results to the Constitutional Court, which is due to deliver its verdict by Jan. 12. Reuters

Ethiopia Holds Military Cooperation Talks with Somaliland
Ethiopia said it held talks Monday on military cooperation with Somaliland, just a week after a deal with the breakaway Somali region on sea access stoked tensions in the Horn of Africa. The discussions in Addis Ababa were held the same day Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud began a visit to neighbouring Eritrea. Somalia is seeking international support over the controversial January 1 agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland — a separatist region over which Mogadishu exercises little real authority. The central government has branded the memorandum of understanding (MoU), which gives landlocked Ethiopia access to the Red Sea via Somaliland, an act of “aggression” and a violation of its sovereignty…Meanwhile, Mohamud’s arrival in Asmara was announced by his office and the Eritrean information ministry in separate posts on X, accompanied by pictures of him being welcomed by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki…Also Monday, Djibouti said it was following “with great concern” the tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia and called for dialogue between the two nations to de-escalate the situation. Djibouti, currently head of the regional grouping IGAD, said it was pursuing efforts with member states to resolve the crisis. Just days before the Ethiopia deal, Djibouti had hosted talks that saw Somalia and Somaliland agree to resume dialogue after years of stalemate. AFP

As Police Lose the War on Crime in South Africa, Private Security Companies Step In
[In] the past year [South Africa] has seen an average of 75 killings and 400 robberies with aggravating circumstances every day, according to official statistics. While it may be Africa’s most developed country, it also has one of the highest violent crime rates in the world. Experts have warned that the South African police are losing the battle against crime — and that has led those citizens who can afford it to turn to a booming private security industry…There are more than 2.7 million registered private security officers in the country, according to the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, making South Africa’s security industry one of the largest in the world. That compares with fewer than 150,000 police officers for the country’s 62 million people. Private security companies earn a monthly fee for patrolling neighborhoods and providing armed response to their clients’ alarm systems. They also offer tracking and car recovery services, which often results in them getting involved in high-speed chases of car thieves and hijackers. Figures from PSIRA show that the number of security businesses in South Africa grew by 43% in the past decade, while the number of registered security officers has increased by 44%…But staying safe and avoiding crime is another example of the stark inequality that afflicts South Africa, as only the wealthy few can afford private security services. The majority of South Africans must still rely on an under-resourced and struggling police force. AP

Libya: Derna Flooding Disaster Could Have Been Avoided, Experts Conclude
The results of the judicial inquiry into the Derna disaster in Libya show that the dams that gave way last September were fragile. Libya’s Attorney General Al-Siddiq Al-Sour on Sunday said at least 25 experts were “unanaminous in their assesment that negligence led to the disaster”. The results published last week said that the disaster could have been avoided if the recommendations made since 2003 to maintain these dams and build a third had been applied. Massive flooding devastated much of the northeastern Libyan city on September 10 and 11, leaving 4,540 people dead, according to official figures. The torrent of water washed away neighborhoods and damaged critical sewage and water infrastructure that has yet to be repaired according to the UN which also said at the time most of the deaths could have been “avoided”. More than 30,000 people were displaced in Derna, and nearly a million people were affected by the floods acording to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM). Africanews

Kenya-Uganda Fallout over Fuel May Not Last, as They’re Joined at the Hip
The dispute between Uganda and Kenya over petroleum imports boiled over in the past week, with an angry Kampala lodging a case at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) against Nairobi for blocking its use of its pipeline to transport fuel…The two countries have bickered before on trade and even territory, but the fact that it rarely reaches the courts means the two sides always knew diplomatic channels were sufficient, he added. The EACJ itself has not been strong and its decisions have often been ignored or downplayed by governments that lose. Besides, it does not sit regularly and suffers operational and financial challenges. Uganda filed the case largely out of frustration that Nairobi was denying it an import route. Kenya’s energy regulators, however, have a court injunction in their hands, stopping the authorisation…And now Uganda accuses Kenya of going against the East African Community Treaty, which requires partners to share existing port and maritime facilities, and the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea, which gives landlocked states the right of access to maritime facilities and transit routes…Observers say that Uganda and Kenya cannot divorce. Data shows that the two countries are important trading partners. The East African

Kenya Scraps Controversial Doctor Exchange Programme with Cuba
A study in 2017 found that there were not enough chest specialists, physicians and emergency-care nurses in the country. A 2018 assessment of health facilities reported that just 12% of all doctors in the country had the standard items needed to prevent infections, such as gloves, infectious waste storage and disinfectant. Cuban doctors were billed as the answer to this malaise. The plan was for each Kenyan county to get at least two specialist Cuban doctors — including family physicians, oncologists and surgeons in plastic, orthopaedic, neuro and other specialities…The programme also proved unpopular with Kenya’s doctors’ union, partly because Cuban doctors received double the salary of their Kenyan counterparts. Then, in 2019, Dr Hamisi Ali Juma, a Kenyan doctor on the exchange programme to Cuba, was found dead in his hostel in Havana. This shone a spotlight on the poor living conditions of doctors sent to Cuba for specialist training. Kenya’s medical union and parliamentarians called for the programme to be cancelled…After six years, the exchange programme had added 100 doctors (for the price of at least 200 local ones) and sent 50 Kenyans for specialist training in Cuba — hardly denting the problem. The union of Kenyan medics has suggested that the money for the exchange programme should instead be used for scholarships at local medical schools. Mail and Guardian

‘Blood for Money’: The Patients Forced to Turn to Racketeers in Nigeria
Severe blood shortages have left patients in Nigeria scrambling to find their own private donors, a practice that is illegal, according to the country’s blood regulator, the National Blood Transfusion Commission. The unmet demand for blood, however, has spawned a black market in which people donate blood for profit and where there are few regulations to ensure the blood is free of disease and safe to use…Nigerians are often reluctant to give blood because of beliefs that donating it will make them sick or will weaken men’s libidos. The National Blood Transfusion Commission faces other challenges besides low supplies…With adequate funding, the commission could build a centralised blood collection system in which blood from donors could be screened and separated into components to avoid waste. Blood could also be stored in the right conditions and sorted so it would be ready for delivery to hospitals when needed. There would also be a system to allow hospitals all over the country to coordinate with each other to share blood supplies. Instead, the lack of such a system has forced most hospitals to source blood through a problematic practice known as “family replacement”, in which patients must find a family member to donate the same amount of blood that has been used for the patient. The people donating will typically have to answer a questionnaire about their health, sign an agreement and then donate blood. The blood type does not have to match. People who do not have a family member available to donate will need to find someone who they can pay who will pose as a family member – the hospitals do not check ID. Most hospitals impose a deadline of three to seven days and will not approve a patient for discharge until the blood has been replaced. Al Jazeera

Army Destroys 233 Illegal Refineries in Four States in 2023 – Official
The 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, destroyed 233 illegal refineries during Operation Still Waters 3 in four states in 2023. The refineries were destroyed in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta and Rivers states. General Officer Commanding (GOC) the division, Jamal Abdussalam, made the declaration on Monday in Port Harcourt on the side-line of the 2023 West African Social Activities celebration of the army. Mr Abdussalam, a major-general, said the division also arrested 1,112 suspected oil thieves during the special military exercise in the four states…“The exercise has gone a long way in curtailing criminal activities and other heinous crimes in the 6 Division’s area of responsibility. “Over the duration of the exercise, we were able to make 1,112 arrests; destroyed 233 illegal refineries, and seized 1,111,900 million litres of illegally refined petroleum products. “Troops also impounded 72 trucks and other vehicles and recovered more than 356 arms and ammunition during the period,” he said. Premium Times/ Agency Report

Malawi: Silencing Dissent through the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act 
The Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act was enacted in Malawi in 2016 to regulate electronic transactions, protect against cybercrime, and ensure the security of digital communications. While the act aims to address various aspects of cybersecurity and electronic transactions, there are concerns about its potential for stifling dissent in Southern African countries…Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, based in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, says it has, since 2019, documented over 20 cases where authorities have used retrogressive provisions of various laws to stifle freedom of expression of online users, journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders…Another problematic part of the act is Section 70, which grants broad powers to cyber inspectors, including the ability to monitor websites, investigate encryption providers, and conduct searches without prior notice under a search warrant…Malawi’s Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo has said Malawi has shown commitment to upholding freedom of expression by recently repealing sedition law and amending Section 4 of the Protected Flags and Emblems Act of 1967. The section read: “Any person who does any act or utters any words or publishes or utters any writing calculated to or liable to insult, ridicule or to show disrespect to or with reference to the President, the National Flag, the Armorial Ensigns, the Public Seal, or any protected emblem or protected likeness, shall be liable to a fine of 1000 pounds and to imprisonment for two (2) years”. In November 2022, Parliament amended the section by removing the ‘President’ from the Act. This means Flag, Emblems and some names remain protected from the so-called ‘insults’. Platform for Investigative Journalism

Putin’s Free Russian Classes Are Taking Off in Africa
Russia has recruited hundreds of young Africans to its Russian language and cultural programs across the continent over the past year as the spearhead of a wider push by the Kremlin to use education to deepen its ties with everyday citizens and governments. The courses are being offered online as well as in person at cultural hubs — called Open Education Centers — which are being launched at sites in more than half of the countries on the continent, mostly in partnership with local universities. In Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, free Russian classes were first unveiled in March last year…Hundreds of students in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Nigeria have signed up for these courses while Open Education Centers were launched last year in Egypt, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Tunisia and DR Congo. And a memorandum of understanding was signed in September to establish a center in South Africa. Russian officials have said Moscow plans to locate its centers in 28 African countries…Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to strengthen ties with African countries in trade, security and diplomacy in the face of efforts by Western countries to isolate it politically and economically over the war in Ukraine…Putin laid out plans to strengthen Russia’s relationship with the continent through language and education during a speech at last year’s Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg. He emphasized the role of the education centers and announced an increase in scholarships for Africans to study in Russia. Semafor