Africa Media Review for July 15 2022

On the Street and Online: Social Media Becomes Key to Protest in Kenya
When 1,700 Kenyans took to the streets of Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa last week, they had one main demand of the government: to bring down the skyrocketing cost of living. Commemorating Saba Saba Day (“seven seven” in Swahili, when protesters on 7 July 1990 called for democracy under President Daniel arap Moi), the demonstrators brandished placards that read #nofoodnoelections and #lowerfoodprices. Crucially, they also took to social media with their demands. “There is an escalation in how online space is being used,” says Sungu Oyoo, a community organiser with grassroots political movement, Kongamano la Mapinduzi (which roughly translates as conference of the revolution). “We are realising that we may not always get coverage in traditional media or may face media blackouts,” he says. “So many activists are using social media like an independent media outlet – where they can push the conversations and reach more people.” Oyoo says online activism is even more powerful in the hands of disenfranchised communities. “On social media, we are all starting from the same point.” Online social justice movements are gathering momentum in Kenya’s informal settlements. In Mukuru, one of Africa’s biggest slums, residents meet for bimonthly meetings, known as barazas, which have become a vital space for political debate among young people as the country’s elections on 9 August approach. In this election, they are using social media to press presidential candidates on two big-ticket issues affecting their daily lives: the rising cost of living and the country’s soaring debt. Guardian

ECOWAS Court Declares Nigeria’s Twitter Ban Unlawful
The Economic Community of West African States’ court has declared as “illegal” the seven-month suspension of Twitter by Nigerian authourities last year. The decision follows a complaint by citizens and human rights organisations in Nigeria against the state, filed in July 2021, a month after the ban on the US social network began in Africa’s most populous country. After the suspension, Twitter was reauthorised in January 2022 after negotiations between Abuja and the social network. According to the Court of Justice of ECOWAS, this suspension was “illegal and incompatible” with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, writes the institution in this court report sent to AFP. t considers that with this suspension, Nigeria violated the rights of citizens and NGOs – at the origin of the complaint – to “enjoy their freedom of expression and access to information and the media”. Furthermore, it orders the Nigerian state to ensure that this illegal ban on Twitter is not repeated in the future. AfricaNews with AFP

Chad Sets August for National Dialogue Including Armed Groups
The Chadian government has said it will hold a national dialogue starting from August 20, a precursor to elections promised by interim president Mahamat Idriss Deby who ascended to power following his father’s death last year. Deby, 38, declared himself head of a Transitional Military Council (TMC) in April 2021 after his father, Chad’s longtime ruler Idriss Deby, was killed while visiting troops fighting an armed uprising in the north. Initially, the council had said it would oversee an 18-month transition to democratic rule, but it has shown little sign of organising elections as that deadline nears. Deby has presented the national dialogue as the first step towards planning a vote. It would, in theory, include armed groups but the conditions for their participation have not yet been agreed upon. Pressure has started to grow from opposition groups within Chad, an ally of France and other Western countries in the fight against armed groups in Africa’s Sahel region, and bilateral partners to advance the transition process. Al Jazeera

The W.H.O. Warns Against ‘Apathy’ in Efforts to Contain COVID in Africa.
With coronavirus case counts climbing and vaccination efforts lagging in some African nations, regional officials of the World Health Organization issued a warning on Thursday against lax enforcement of public health measures to curb the pandemic on the continent. Precautions like mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing have declined drastically in many countries as people become inured to the pandemic and government officials push for a return to normal life, Dr. Pamela Mitula, an epidemiologist and vaccine specialist with the W.H.O.’s regional office for Africa, said at a news conference. And many countries have eased Covid-19 policies in recent months, including fully reopening schools and universities, dropping mask mandates, permitting large election rallies and suspending test requirements for travelers arriving from abroad. “On this apathy, what we would say is that countries should really be encouraged and reminded that the pandemic is far from over,” Dr. Mitula said. “They need to be vigilant.” New York Times

Pritzker Prize Winning Architect Francis Kéré on What the West Still Gets Wrong About Africa
How does the world see Africa in 2022? At the Triennale Milano’s new exhibition, the continent is curiously framed as an “unknown” alongside mysteries of the deep space and the origin of life. Over the next five months, the century-old Italian cultural institution is showcasing the work of 400 artists, designers, and architects from 40 countries, in the hopes of becoming a kind of agora for creative thinkers around the world. “This plurality of points of view will allow us to expand our gaze to encompass what we do not yet know,” explained Stefano Boeri, Triennale Milano’s president. The African perspective is represented via national pavilions for Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. Representing a culture as a curiosity in an international exhibition is a tricky curatorial task. In the wrong hands, the show could deepen problematic expressions of Africanism—that queasy mix of “ignorance and appreciation” that’s akin to 19th century Orientalism, as sociologist Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya suggests. Quartz Africa

UN Urged to Move Cop27 from Egypt over ‘LGBTQ+ Torture’
A White House adviser and his partner have called on the United Nations to move a key climate change summit from Egypt due to the country’s treatment of LGBTQ people, citing fears that they and other activists would be targeted by security forces if they attend the talks. The couple, Jerome Foster and Elijah Mckenzie-Jackson, have written to Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to condemn the choice of Egypt as host of the Cop27 talks due to its “LGBTQ+ torture, woman slaughter and civil rights suppression” and that the decision “places our life in danger in the process of advocating for the life of our planet.” Thousands of delegates from countries around the world, including various heads of state, are set to head to the coastal resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in November for the Cop27 climate conference. The talks are seen as crucial amid rising concerns about food security and governments’ failure to adequately slash planet-heating emissions. Guardian

Sudan Opposition Criticises Appointment of Ambassadors by Military
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) yesterday condemned the appointment by the head of the Sovereignty Council, Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces, and leader of the military junta, Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, of five retired army and police officers as ambassadors at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this week. In a statement on Thursday, the mainstream Forces for Freedom and Change, the FFC-Central Council, said that El Burhan’s decree issued on Monday “reflects the contradictions in the repeated statements of the coup leader since his speech on July 4.” In his speech to the Sudanese last week, El Burhan announced the military’s withdrawal from the current governing bodies, and gave the civilian opposition groups in the country the opportunity to form a government of technocrats during the transitional period that should lead to general elections. The contents of El Burhan’s speech triggered a myriad of condemnations from the various opposition groups in the country. The FFC said in its statement that the military’s decision to appoint generals as ambassadors “reveal the real intentions of the junta, namely to dominate all aspects of life and to militarise civil functions, including foreign relations. Dabanga

Ivory Coast President Meets with Ex-Leaders to Foster National Unity
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara met with his predecessors on Thursday in a rare meeting of adversaries in an effort to ease the national socio-political climate ahead of elections in 2025. The meeting between Ouattara and his longtime rivals Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bedie is the first of the three leaders in person since the end of the 2011 post-election crisis that killed at least 3,000 people. It took place at the Presidential Palace in Abidjan behind closed doors. “The meeting was a reunion meeting to renew contact and exchange in truth their views,” according to a statement read by Gbagbo who served as the leaders’ spokesman at the end of the meeting. “The President of the Republic and his two predecessors have expressed their desire to make this first meeting a starter for the easing of the national socio-political climate in Ivory Coast.” The former presidents expressed their gratitude to Ouattara for the meeting. Ouattara said he’d like this type of meeting to occur regularly. “I think it will be a very good thing for the nation to hear and listen to my predecessors about their knowledge of the country, their experiences and obviously the political weight they represent,” he said. Government spokesman Amadou Coulibaly said the meeting is part of the recommendations for political dialogue between the government, the political opposition and civil society. AfricaNews

Mali Suspends All New Rotations of UN Peacekeeping Forces
The Malian foreign ministry has told the United Nations mission in Mali to suspend all flights scheduled to rotate peacekeeping forces days after the West African nation detained 49 soldiers from Ivory Coast who it said had arrived in the country without permission. “For reasons related to the national security context, the government of Mali has decided to suspend, as of today, all rotations of the military and police contingent of [the UN Mission to Mali], including those already scheduled or announced,” the foreign ministry said on Thursday in a letter to the UN mission and seen by The Associated Press. The ministry said it hoped to meet with UN representatives to find “an optimal plan making it possible to facilitate the coordination and regulation of the rotation of contingents operating within [the UN mission].” Spokesman for the UN mission Olivier Salgado acknowledged the letter and said his organisation is ready for immediate discussions with Malian authorities. Al Jazeera

Exploiting a Crisis: How Benin Became the New Frontline for Jihadists
In Benin’s mountainous Atakora Department in the country’s northwest, the towns of Tanguieta and Porga are divided by three checkpoints. Today, this 60-kilometer (37 miles) stretch of road is frequently patrolled by armored vehicles: Between December 2021 and July 2022, Beninese security forces were attacked here four times by extremists. The attackers likely belonged to the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, or JNIM, now widely considered to be the most powerful militant jihadist group in the Sahel region. Ambushes and attacks with improvised explosives have led to several military casualties. But locals, too, are growing increasingly afraid as the security situation continues to unravel. “We have experienced moments of great fear,” says Igor Kassah, the only Catholic priest in Porga who arrived here in September last year. Because of the security situation, he is only allowed to hold mass on Sundays, with all other religious activities forbidden for the time being. Still, he’s determined to remain in Porga. “We see armored vehicles everywhere. We are not used to it. Usually, we see this situation in countries at war. We see it on television, not here,” he added. DW

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta Hosts Guinea Bissau, Somalia Presidents
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is hosting two visiting presidents on diverse agenda. As he received the Guinea Bissau leader Umaro Sissoco Embaló at State House on Friday, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), his first official visit to Kenya since he was elected in May. According to the State House, President Embaló, the current chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), will hold “bilateral talks” on several issues with his host President Kenyatta, whose chairmanship of the East African Community (EAC) bloc ends in July… Meanwhile, President Mohamud’s visit will also tackle several issues between the two countries. During his first term in the presidency, Mr Mohamud sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice in 2014. That case was determined last year, largely in favour of Somalia. Kenya had said it would not obey the verdict. East African

US Senate Confirms Meg Whitman as Ambassador to Kenya
The US Senate on Thursday approved Margaret (Meg) Cushing Whitman to be Washington’s new ambassador to Kenya, ending more than a year wait for a substantive head of mission to one of its key allies. The decision by the Senate means the Congress has confirmed Ms Whitman, a former tech chief executive and one of the richest Americans to become President Joe Biden’s envoy to Nairobi. She was nominated last year in December to replace Kyle McCarter, a son of evangelicals who became known for his controversial tweets railing against government officials for corruption. Ms Whitman is a former Hewlett Packard (HP) CEO and president. “Margaret C. Whitman (Meg), a business executive and former candidate for Governor of California, is a Member of the Board of Procter & Gamble and General Motors, and National Board Chair at Teach for America,” the White House said in a dispatch on December 9, 2021. She will report to Kenya at a time of transition politics: President Uhuru Kenyatta will be retiring once a substantive President is elected on August 9 this year. But Ms Whitman will also be pushing for an overhaul of trade negotiations began by former President Donald Trump. East African

Development Bank Agrees to Help Zimbabwe Clear $13.5 Billion Debt
The African Development Bank (AfDB) agreed this week to help Zimbabwe clear its $13.5 billion debt during a visit by the Abidjan-based lender’s president. The AfDB has also started releasing loans from a $1.5 billion fund to help Africa avert a looming food crisis fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Zimbabwe is one of 38 countries set to benefit from the bank’s fund, which is known as the African Emergency Food Production Facility. African Development Bank, or AfDB, President Akinwumi Adesina said during his visit that Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa had sought his assistance for Zimbabwe to clear its external debt, which started accumulating after the late Robert Mugabe’s administration defaulted. “I believe that Zimbabweans, ordinary Zimbabweans, have suffered long enough. You have a country, a beautiful country in which you now have 40 percent of the population that is living in extreme poverty. And they do not have the resources to get out of that. So, we have to create a new hope, a new pathway so that tomorrow can be a better day than yesterday. Zimbabwe has a significant amount of debt areas that it needs to clear. But you cannot run up the hill if you are carrying a backpack of sand. So, Zimbabwe cannot run up a hill for its economic recovery and growth and prosperity if it’s carrying a backpack of sand,” he said. AfDB and Zimbabwe are looking for ways Harare can get access to international financial money while the debt is being settled over a long period. Voice of America

Meta’s AI Can Now Translate More African Languages, Helping Create a More Inclusive Internet
This is the question Meta started answering this month when it published a research paper (pdf) that details plans to improve the accuracy with which AI algorithms decode African languages. The plan, expected to look into 55 of Africa’s marginalized languages and improve how AI machines translate them on Facebook, Instagram, and Wikipedia, could boost technological inclusion in the creation and adoption of tech solutions for Africa. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg published on his Facebook profile that his company will be using a supercomputer to lead the translations through advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities. “We also work with professional translators to do human evaluation too, meaning people who speak the languages natively evaluate what the AI produced. The reality is that a handful of languages dominate the web, so only a fraction of the world can access content and contribute to the web in their own language. We want to change this,” he explains. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones