Africa Media Review for July 1, 2022

9 Sudanese Killed During 30th June Demonstrations for Civilian Rule
Nine Sudanese lost their lives during the anti-coup protests in Khartoum state where the security services used their rifles to disperse protesters. Hundreds of thousands of protesters went out across the country to demonstrate against the military coup of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and show their support for civilian rule. On the other hand, the security forces massively fired tear gas and live bullets on the protesters despite the lift of the state of emergency and the end of judicial immunity. As a result, nine protesters were killed by gunshots in Khartoum state. Six were killed in Omdurman, one in Bahri and two in Khartoum city. The murder of Ali Zakaria in Siteen Street of Khartoum city was the most horrible. A video released on social media shows how a soldier continued to shoot the protester until one of his colleagues stops him and run to see the dead with other security members to verify his death before leaving him on the street. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) issued several statements to update about the situation on the ground and hailed the courage and determination of the peaceful protesters. “The bravery and valour of peaceful protesters have terrorized the security forces,” said the CCSD. The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) condemned the use of excessive violence by the security forces and saluted the determination of the Sudanese people to achieve the goals of the revolution. “The June 30 demonstrations brought about a qualitative change in the balance of power in favour of the mass movement, its goals to establish full civilian power and defeat the coup regime,” read a  statement from the FFC groups. Sudan Tribune

Sudan: FFC-CC and Junta Close to an Agreement, UNITAMS Says
The UN Special Representative for Sudan and head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Volker Perthes, announced that the talks between the Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC) and the military have allowed both parties to come close to an agreement. The main dispute is limited to the military remaining its presence and influence in state institutions. In an interview with the Arabic Al Hadath Satellite TV on Wednesday, Perthes explained that the parties are roughly 80 per cent on their way towards reaching an agreement, but that the presence of the military in Sudan’s politics remains a point of contention. Perthes rejected accusations of siding with certain parties in the political process but stressed that Sudan ‘must return to the transitional constitutional rule’ with the aim of establishing a democracy. He also said that the mainstream FFC-CC is an essential component of a comprehensive solution, but that their presence in an agreement it is not sufficient and that all parties must make concessions to reach an agreement. Perthes praised the positive change in the positions of all parties regarding negotiations and said that all parties accepted participating in Trilateral Mechanism, except the Communist Party of Sudan and the mainstream Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. They reject any dialogue with the military junta. Dabanga

China Gifts Zimbabwe a Modern Parliament
China has gifted Zimbabwe with a new modern Parliament building to replace the current structure built during the colonial era as Beijing continues strengthening its influence on the southern African country. The imposing structure sits on 33,000 square metres and comprises a six-storey office complex and a four-storey building housing the National Assembly and Senate. Three bridges on each floor link the two buildings. The National Assembly can accommodate 400 people, while the Senate chamber seats 150. It also has conferencing facilities, 15 committee rooms, staff office space, and a car parking area. The office building has 600 rooms that would house Members of Parliament and employees. Built by Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) and fully funded by the Chinese government as “a gift to the people of Zimbabwe,” the new Parliament building is located in Mt Hampden, about 18 kilometres from Harare city centre, where the old chambers are. SCG completed the buildings in 42 months, 10 months behind schedule with the delays attributed to the outbreak of Covid-19. “There will be no doubt that the new Parliament building will become a landmark building in Zimbabwe and even in the whole of southern Africa,” said Cai Libo, the SCG project manager. He said the building would be handed over to the Zimbabwean government. “The project strongly supports democracy in Zimbabwe while boosting the country’s image,” he said. “This building is a landmark building in Zimbabwe,” he added. “This is a show of a solid friendship between China and Zimbabwe.” China Aid funded the construction through a grant. East African

Beijing Seeks Mediator Role in Turbulent Horn of Africa
China is offering to help “silence the guns in the Horn of Africa,” an ambitious undertaking given the multiple conflicts in the region, and an indication that Beijing may be moving away from its traditional “non-interference” stance towards more active diplomatic engagement. China’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Xue Bing, made the offer last week at a peace conference organized by Chinese officials in Addis Ababa. The Chinese government has historically avoided getting involved in foreign disputes, but some observers see the event as evidence that Beijing seeks to rival the U.S. as an international conflict mediator. Others saw it more as a pragmatic move by a major investor in the region to keep its interests safe. The conference itself did not get into specific proposals for resolving several ongoing security crises, but the Chinese envoy said Beijing wants to become more involved. “This is the first time for China to play a role in the area of security,” said Xue, who was appointed to his position earlier this year, adding that Beijing wants a more important role “not only in trade and investments but also in the area of peace and development.” China has some 400 construction and manufacturing projects worth over $4 billion in Ethiopia alone, according to the United States Institute of Peace. However, Ethiopia has been mired in vicious ethnic conflict since 2020, with the federal government in Addis Ababa fighting rebel forces in the northern Tigray region. Voice of America

Disinformation, Mudslinging Induce Voter Apathy in Kenyan Youths
Last year, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the country’s elections management body, set a target to register six million new voters for this August’s upcoming general election. With 2019 census data indicating that nearly five million young Kenyans had reached voting age since the 2017 elections, that goal seemed attainable. But as the voter registration drive came to an end in February, the commission announced that it had only managed to register 2.5 million new voters. Currently, only eight million registered voters – about a third of the total 22 million – are aged 18-35, reflecting an increasing level of apathy about governance and elections among young, potential voters. Sheila Mwiti, in her mid-20s, is one potential young voter but does not plan to cast her vote in the August election. “I consider myself politically engaged but this election is too dysfunctional for my vote to be meaningful,” the Nairobi-based insurance executive told Al Jazeera. Kenya has a high internet penetration rate of 87 percent so its young demographic is highly exposed to political content online, but increasingly too, to outright disinformation and inflammatory rhetoric on social media. A new report by researcher Odanga Madung of the Mozilla Foundation shows that TikTok, in particular, is a worrying wildcard in this year’s election, with the platform acting as a forum for fast and far-spreading political disinformation. Al Jazeera

Landmines Add to Drought Woes of Ethiopian Herders
The battles between Ethiopian government-aligned troops and Tigrayan forces may have stopped, but herders in western Afar region are left fighting for survival. The record drought in the Horn of Africa that has killed millions of livestock has been made worse by landmines left by combatants. Herder Hassen Arebti Hassen’s 4-year-old daughter was injured by a landmine, and the weapons are also killing his animals. He said landmines are everywhere, and many animals have stepped on them and died. Landmines and other explosives are so common in the area that some locals use the wood from their crates as building materials. Nine-year-old Ali Omer said his 10-year-old friend was killed by a landmine while they were herding goats together. “We were just there to take care of the goats, but my friend died,” he said. Omer said his friend was playing, throwing stones at the landmine, but then he picked it up and threw it to the ground. Omer was also injured. His father, Oumer Hadeto, said landmines make them all afraid to collect water, despite the drought. Hadeto said the community doesn’t know what to do, and he has to spend a lot of money to buy food for his family and animals. The landmines need to be removed, he added. After speaking with locals, VOA was unable to establish which side in the conflict was responsible for laying the mines. Bekele Gonfa, executive director of a nonprofit in Addis Ababa that supports landmine victims, said people in mined areas of Ethiopia, like Chifra, need help. Voice of America

UN Rep in South Sudan Urges Authorities to Prepare for Polls
The head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan urged the East African country’s transitional government Thursday to set a date for elections as time passes. Nicholas Haysom told journalists in the capital, Juba that with barely eight months remaining in the transitional period agreed by political parties, “I am urging south Sudanese leaders to do everything necessary to move the country out of transition and conduct free, fair, creditable and peaceful elections.” A 2018 peace deal that binds President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar in a unity government encourages authorities to hold elections before February 2023. The international community has long hoped a vote would usher in a democratically elected government in the world’s youngest country. A timetable for the polls must be availed in advance for the international community to support the process well, Haysom said, adding that without a date “nobody will really commit to supporting the elections and the South Sudanese will not get into the frame of mind which is necessary” for elections. The government has yet to reconstitute an electoral commission and implement key judicial reforms — and Kiir and Machar are known to have different opinions on the matter. Kiir, South Sudan’s president since independence from Sudan in 2011, says general elections will take place as planned in 2023 despite delays in implementing the roadmap. Machar insists elections cannot be free and fair unless key provisions in the 2018 deal are fully implemented. Another opposition figure, Lam Akol, has voiced skepticism about the chances of a fair vote in a country plagued by sporadic violence. But Haysom said Thursday that elections can still happen if authorities create the right circumstances. “It’s not only technical arrangements and logistical planning that’s necessary for elections to take place. What is also required is a free and open political environment,” he said. There were high hopes for peace and stability once South Sudan gained its long-fought independence from Sudan. But it slid into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Machar, a Nuer. AP

Green Energy’s Dirty Secret: Its Hunger for African Resources
In June, the European Parliament voted to effectively outlaw the sale of new cars using gasoline or diesel by 2035. If approved by the European Union, the move would revolutionize the world’s third-largest auto market after China and the United States—and hasten the global transformation of the entire automotive industry to battery technology. What the parliamentarians didn’t mention: The world cannot mine and refine the vast amounts of minerals that go into batteries—lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, palladium, and others—at anywhere close to the scale for this rapid transition to electric vehicles (EVs) to occur. The dirty secret of the green revolution is its insatiable hunger for resources from Africa and elsewhere that are produced using some of the world’s dirtiest technologies. What’s more, the accelerated shift to batteries now threatens to replicate one of the most destructive dynamics in global economic history: the systematic extraction of raw commodities from the global south in a way that made developed countries unimaginably rich while leaving a trail of environmental degradation, human rights violations, and semipermanent underdevelopment all across the developing world. Foreign Policy

Tunisia Unveils Draft Constitution That Gives President Wide-Ranging Powers
Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday published a draft constitution that will be put to a referendum on July 25 and gives broad powers to the head of state, marking a radical break with the existing parliamentary system. The text, published in the Official Gazette, confirms the expected presidentialization of the regime by stipulating that the “President of the Republic exercises executive power, assisted by a government led by a head of government” whom he appoints. This government will not be presented to Parliament for a vote of confidence. The president, according to the published draft, will also enjoy wide-ranging prerogatives: he is the supreme commander of the armed forces, defines the general policy of the state and approves laws. He can also submit legislation to parliament, “which must examine it as a matter of priority. In addition to significantly reducing the role and power of Parliament, the text also provides for the establishment of a second chamber, the “National Assembly of Regions. The draft constitution also makes no mention of Islam as the “state religion”, as Sadok Belaïd, the lawyer who headed the committee responsible for drafting the text, had already announced to AFP on June 6. This omission aims to combat Islamist-inspired parties such as Ennahdha, President Saied’s bête noire. The draft constitution guarantees “individual and public rights and freedoms” and states that men and women are “equal in rights and duties. It further stipulates that the right to “peaceful assembly and demonstration are guaranteed.” The new constitution is to replace the 2014 constitution, which had established a hybrid system that was a source of recurring conflict between the executive and legislative branches. AfricaNews with AFP

Mali’s Transition Govt Sets February 2024 for Presidential Election
The Malian government has adopted an electoral calendar for the transition three days before a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is due to consider the tough sanctions imposed on the junta in January. The date of the presidential election is set for February 2024, and that of the referendum on the new constitution for March 2023, according to official documents sent to AFP on Thursday. Legislative elections are to be held between October and November 2023, and local elections in June 2023, according to these texts validated at a government meeting on Wednesday evening. “Our authorities are further paving the way for a return to constitutional order in Mali, the scene of two coups d’état led by the same group of colonels in August 2020 and May 2021,” said government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, who is also Minister of Territorial Administration, on state television on Thursday. “The government finds this timetable (electoral and referendum) realistic,” he added. These documents were previously submitted to political and civil society actors. The publication of this timetable is part of a schedule of bitter negotiations between Bamako and ECOWAS after the sub-regional organization placed Mali under sanctions in January and imposed a strict embargo. The Malian junta had already issued a decree in early June stating that they would govern until March 2024. ECOWAS “regretted” that the authorities had not waited until the end of negotiations with it to set the deadline. AfricaNews

Congo Finally Buries Independence Hero Patrice Lumumba
The remains of Congolese independence hero and first Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba were laid to rest in Kinshasa on Thursday, the country’s independence day, 61 years after his assassination by Belgian-backed rebels. The ceremony was made possible after a gold-capped tooth, all that remained of the body, was returned to Congo by former colonial ruler Belgium earlier this month. Hundreds of people gathered alongside Lumumba’s descendants to bid a final farewell to one of the most important figures in the decolonization of Africa. A banner with the words “Many thanks, National Hero” was suspended over the crowd, which included the president of the neighboring Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Belgium’s foreign minister and several African ambassadors. In 1958, at the age of 33, Lumumba helped found the Congolese National Movement (MNC). As its leader two years later, he helped negotiate an end to Belgian colonial rule. A supporter of pan-Africanism who sought to form a government representing all regional ethnic groups, Lumumba soon found himself contending with the Katangan secessionists who were backed by Belgian forces.  He asked the US for help but was rebuffed due to his perceived communist sympathies, after which he turned to the Soviet Union. He was ousted in a coup in 1961 and killed by the Katangans. The Belgian police commissioner who oversaw the destruction of his body kept the tooth. It was seized from the man’s daughter by Belgian authorities in 2016. For many in Congo, Lumumba is a symbol of the positive developments the country could have achieved after its independence. Instead, it became mired in decades of dictatorship that drained its vast mineral riches. DW

Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu Picks New Army Chief, Ending Weeks of Speculation
Major General Jacob John Mkunda has been promoted to a General and named Tanzania’s Chief of Defence Forces, taking over General Venance Mabeyo, who has retired. Mkunda, who was appointed by President Samia Suluhu on Wednesday and sworn in on Thursday at State House, becomes Tanzania’s ninth military head. The former chief of operations and training had also previously served as the Commander of Land Forces. His appointment, announced June 29 by State House spokesperson Zuhura Yunus, ended weeks of speculation over the President’s choice of the vital position even as she eyes the 2025 election, in which she hopes to seek endorsement as Tanzania’s first elected female head of state. General Mabeyo retires on July 1, on his 66th birthday, having served as the army chief for over five years. He was appointed by late President John Magufuli on February 1, 2017. President Suluhu also named Brigadier General Salum Haji Othman, the head of research and military development, as Chief of Staff and second-in-command in the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces with the new rank of lieutenant general. General Othman, who, like President Suluhu, hails from the Zanzibar archipelago, replaced Lt-Gen Mathew Mkingule, who has now become an ambassador under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nation

Why Rwanda Doesn’t Celebrate Independence Day
Although it is Rwanda’s Independence Day and a public holiday, no national celebrations are being held to mark the occasion. Instead, the Rwandan government rolls that event together with Liberation Day — or Kwibohora, as it is known locally — three days later. Liberation Day commemorates the victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led by President Paul Kagame over the former dictatorship of Juvenal Habyarimana and the Rwandan Armed Forces in the Rwandan Civil War. The RPF victory ultimately ended the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in 100 days. As a result, more than 2 million Rwandans fled the country. According to political and social commentators, the reasons for the snub are deep and buried in the country’s history. Scovia Mutesi, an independent journalist and commentator, told DW that shunning the independence day is deliberate as it brings back memories of division that left many Rwandans in exile for over three decades. “Rwanda’s independence didn’t seem like independence,” Mutesi said, adding that it came with serious problems for one group of Rwandans. “It marked the beginning of the suffering of the Tutsis. They were killed, their property destroyed, and many of them ended up in exile.” She said Rwandans prefer celebrating Liberation Day because it preaches unity, and how laws govern all Rwandans without discrimination as opposed to Independence Day, which came with ethnic divisions. DW

With Mangrove Conservation, Kenya’s Coastal Communities Plant Seeds of Sustainable ‘Blue Growth’
Mangroves are tropical marine forests with huge potential. They protect coastlines from erosion and storm surge; and provide food and shelter for a diverse array of wildlife, and nursery habitats for commercially important fish and shellfish. They also fight climate change: the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that global mangrove forests sequester within their roots, trunks, and in the soil as much as 22.8 million tons of carbon each year. While they provide valuable services for people and the planet, mangroves are in trouble. Along with climate change impacts such as rising sea levels and temperatures, mangrove forests are being depleted because their wood is valuable and prized by coastal communities as a prime source of timber for construction, fuel, and even medicines. Rampant coastal urbanization, and unsustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices round out the long list of challenges. But all hope is not lost! Sometimes, innovative partnerships can lead to sustainable solutions. Over the past three years, UN agencies, the Kenyan Government and other key partners have joined forces to launch several community-based conservation projects. They aim to help tackle poverty and deliver climate, biodiversity and local-level benefits to communities on the Kenyan coast. UN News



Photo: Adam Jones