Africa Media Review for July 17, 2023

Russia Has Halted a Wartime Deal Allowing Ukraine to Ship Grain. It’s a Blow to Global Food Security
Russia halted a breakthrough wartime deal on Monday that allows grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices have pushed more people into poverty. … The suspension marks the end of an accord that the U.N. and Turkey brokered last summer to allow food to leave the Black Sea region after Russia’s invasion of its neighbor worsened a global food crisis. The initiative is credited with helping lower soaring prices of wheat, vegetable oil and other food commodities. Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other affordable food products that developing nations rely on. The grain deal provided assurances that ships won’t be attacked entering and leaving Ukrainian ports, while a separate agreement facilitated the movement of Russian food and fertilizer. … The Black Sea Grain Initiative has allowed three Ukrainian ports to export 32.9 million metric tons of grain and other food to the world, more than half of that to developing nations, according to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul. … High costs for grain needed for food staples in places like Egypt, Lebanon and Nigeria exacerbated economic challenges and helped push millions more people into poverty or food insecurity. AP

Wagner Fighters Arrive in Central African Republic: Russian Security Group
Several hundred “experienced” Wagner fighters have arrived in the Central African Republic to secure a referendum on 30 July, a Russian private security company said Sunday. The troubled nation, where Wagner mercenaries are already helping the government fight rebels, will vote on a constitutional change which could enable President Faustin Archange Touadera to seek a third term in office. “Another plane has arrived in Bangui with instructors to work in the Central African Republic,” said the Officers’ Union for International Security (OUIS) on Telegram. “The planned rotation continues. Several hundred experienced professionals from the Wagner company are joining the team working in CAR,” said the statement. According to the United States, OUIS is a front company for the Wagner group in CAR. It is run by Russian Alexandre Ivanov, who was placed under American sanctions in January. AFP

Armed Groups Step Up Murders, Rapes in Mali: HRW
Widespread killings, rapes and looting in northeast Mali have been reported this year forcing thousands of people to flee and seek refuge, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. A report released by the rights group on Thursday documents six attacks in the Gao region and two in Menaka between January and June. Unconfirmed reports from aid workers and witnesses suggest hundreds of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands were forced to flee. Dozens of witnesses told investigators the fighters were armed with assault rifles, sometimes rocket-propelled grenade launchers, rode motorbikes and pick-up trucks, and wore identifiable turbans. “Security has deteriorated sharply amid clashes between two armed Islamist groups as they seek to control supply routes and increase their influence,” the rights watchdog said in a report, adding that it could not confirm the total death toll since January. … HRW noted that “amid the mounting abuses”, the departure from July 1 to year’s end of United Nations peacekeepers at Bamako’s demand “makes things worse.” “The departure of UN peacekeepers means that the Malian authorities need to ramp up efforts to protect civilians and work closely with international partners to ensure that displaced people have access to aid and basic services,” said Allegrozzi. Al Jazeera

As Pandemic Raged, Global South Lacked Vaccines. Never Again, Researchers Vow.
Once it became clear that wealthy nations would help themselves to coronavirus vaccines long before poorer nations had access, researchers across Africa, Asia and South America banded together with the World Health Organization. Never again, they vowed, would they allow themselves to be at the mercy of the Western world while a deadly pathogen tore through their regions. … Called the mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub, … the initiative is distinct from the typical, competitive mode of drug development in which companies keep discoveries secret. … “Covid has put a magnifying glass upon the fissures and cracks in our world,” said Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, a group established by the African Union that aims to ensure that the continent can access vaccines against the coronavirus and other health threats. “This world is deeply, deeply unjust and inequitable.” To avoid a repeat, big pharmaceutical companies, based predominantly in the United States and Western Europe, are building outposts in African countries and have signed a pledge to set aside doses for poorer countries during future pandemics. In contrast, the smaller companies and institutes involved in the hub initiative are locally owned and operated, an assurance that the vaccines they hope to produce would serve people in those regions first. … Since the project’s start, hubs in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam have built laboratories to develop mRNA vaccines. Washington Post

Sudan Fighting Sparks Communications Blackout in Khartoum, Disease Outbreaks
“Violent clashes” shook the capital, witnesses told AFP over the phone, after residents woke up to an outage of vital internet and mobile phone connections. The source of the malfunction was not clear, though mobile and internet networks were restored by the afternoon. Throughout the day, columns of black smoke were seen rising near army headquarters in the centre of Khartoum as well as in the city’s south. Witnesses in Khartoum North said there were “clashes using all kinds of weapons”. In Omdurman, just across the Nile river, witnesses reported fighter jets and drones flying overhead. … The water-borne disease is a regular risk with Sudan’s severe annual flooding, but the WHO said Friday that “reports of a likely cholera outbreak are difficult to confirm in the absence of a functioning public health laboratory.” AFP

Ruto’s Hardline Stance in Face of Pressure to Save Kenya
Kenya’s President William Ruto has found himself between a rock and hard place as business and religious leaders push for a political truce to end the latest wave of political unrest while hawkish politicians in his ruling party demand the jailing of opposition leader Raila Odinga for his role in the anti-government protests. Widespread protests over the high cost of living and increased taxes on Wednesday left more than 10 people dead and shut down the economy in the major towns and cities. At least six people were shot dead by police last Friday during the demonstrations staged to coincide with the Saba Saba Day, informally marked every July 7 to celebrate the achievements of the pro-democracy movement that agitated for an end to the single-party rule. … “We fear that the growing sense of hopelessness will push the country into instability and possibly violence,” said the clergy in a statement signed by representatives of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches of Kenya. EastAfrican

Algeria’s Wandering Sub-Saharan Migrants Fear Deportation
Sitting in the middle of a pile of fabrics, Osman Issa’s face shined with sweat. A fan barely cooled his 8-square-meter workshop on this sweltering summer’s day. From his sewing table, a karakou – a traditional Algerian dress – over his head, Osman recalled his journey across the desert to reach Algeria 26 years ago. “I decided to leave Niger after being encouraged by my brother, who had made the crossing before me,” he said in near-perfect Algerian dialect. When he arrived in 1997, Osman, a skilled embroiderer, successfully launched a business of traditional garments. He now owns this sewing workshop in a working-class district of Algiers. While the debate on the place of sub-Saharan migrants in North African countries has been rekindled by events in Tunisia and the Algerian authorities’ push-back operations at the border, Osman said he had found his place. “In three decades, I haven’t been the victim of a racist act that made me regret coming here,” he said. Like most sub-Saharan migrants, he did not see Algeria as an opportunity to settle down but rather as a place of transit to Europe. “I tried to cross three times, but I failed.” Now married to an Algerian woman and a father of three children, he has a residence permit and no longer plans to leave for Europe or return to Niger except for family visits. Le Monde

EU Signs Off €1Bn Deal with Tunisia to Help Stem Irregular Migration
The EU has signed off on a €1bn (£860m) deal with Tunisia to help stem irregular migration… The partnership with Tunisia on migration comes just days after the country’s president, Kais Saied, revealed the “shocking” scale of people-smuggling in his country, with officials revealing it was worth about £760m in the first half of 2023 in remittances from sub-Saharan Africa. … Thousands of undocumented people have headed for the coastal city of Sfax in recent months with the goal of setting off for Europe in boats run by human traffickers, leading to an unprecedented migration crisis for Tunisia. Libyan border guards have rescued dozens of people they say had been left in the desert by Tunisian authorities without water, food or shelter, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday. Hundreds of people from sub-Saharan African countries were forcibly taken to the desert and hostile areas bordering Libya and Algeria after racial unrest in early July in Sfax, Tunisia’s second-largest city. … Details included an agreement to resume talks on an association agreement between the EU and Tunisia and to give Tunisian students access to the Erasmus exchange programme. The €1bn package contained a significant element on strengthening efforts to combat the criminal gangs involved in trafficking and people-smuggling, said Rutte. Guardian

Can Dialogue Resolve Nigeria’s ‘IPOB Problem’?
A sit-at-home order called by a group known as the Biafra Republic Government in Exile (BRGIE) in the southeastern part of Nigeria has continued into a second week. This, and previous sit-ins, have been designed in part to force Nigeria’s government to release Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), an outlawed group that agitates for the secession of the Igbo ethnic group’s homeland that covers part of southeast Nigeria. IPOB spokesman Emma Powerful distanced his organization from the sit-at-home call. … The mixed messages coming from BRGIE and IPOB have left people vulnerable to attacks, said lawyer and political analyst Barrister Eric Omari. … The expert welcomed the news that the IPOB had openly declared a non-violent stance. “Those who are connected to the IPOB are saying they are embracing a non-violent approach to their struggle,” Omari said. “I would encourage the Nigerian government to take advantage of it, especially because we have a new government headed by President Tinubu.” Considering the crippling consequences of the sit-at-home policy on businesses and the population, experts have questioned if this is a viable strategy to get Nigeria’s federal government to act. … “I believe that if President Tinubu summons the appropriate political will, he can address the agitation in the southeast part of Nigeria,” Omari said. DW

DRC: Bringing a War Criminal to Justice
The trial of Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka was the most emblematic, complex case the court in North Kivu province had ever handled, and its proceedings and final judgement in 2020 provide a compelling example of how to bring a war criminal to justice. Ahead of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Day of International Criminal Justice, which marks the adoption of its founding UN treaty, the Rome Statute, UN News took a closer look at a trial that provides an important case study for nations meting out criminal justice around the world. The case also illustrates the importance of UN peace operations’ support to national justice and security institutions. … “The fact that Sheka was tried and sentenced is proof that the rule of law exists and that you cannot remain unpunished when you have committed the gravest, most abominable crimes,” Colonel Ndaka said. “Congolese justice could do it, with will, determination, and means. It was able to do it, and it did it.” UN News

African Tech Workers Press Global Social Media Giants for Better Conditions
Mr. Okinyi and some 150 other content moderators working for tech powerhouses, including Facebook and TikTok, hope to form a union to improve their pay and working conditions. … Their decision to unionize shines a spotlight on the way tech giants use human labor in Africa where, through outsourcing, they hire hundreds of people to remove harmful content from their platforms. African content moderators hope to force tech corporations to provide adequate mental health care and fair pay for everyone who works for them – including non-traditional employees such as themselves. Since last year, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has been facing lawsuits brought by content moderators in Kenya accusing it of union busting, wrongful terminations and insufficient psychological support, among other infringements. In one case, Meta claimed it was not the moderators’ employer, and was therefore not liable. The court ruled Meta was the “true employer” and the “owner of the digital work of content moderation.” “That’s the most significant labour rights decision about content moderation I have seen from any court anywhere,” says Cori Crider, co-founder and director of Foxglove, a London-based non-profit that’s providing legal advice to the moderators. “If Facebook is held the true employer of these workers, then the days of hiding behind outsourcing to avoid responsibility for your critical safety workers are over.” CSM

Time to Revalue African Economies, African Development Bank Chief Says
… the head of the African Development Bank, or AfDB, prefers to focus on the continent’s promise: notably, how to better harness its assets — from its massive natural resource wealth to its large and young workforce — to fight climate change, invest in sustainable development and green and grow economies. “I’ve been pushing that we need to revalue our countries based on their natural capital,” the bank’s president, Akinwumi Adesina, told VOA during a recent trip to Paris. “This fundamentally for me is how we are going get a lot of capital going into Africa,” he added, “by the greening of African economies, by the proper valuation of carbon” that contributes to rising emissions but can also be stored and sequestered in areas rich in land and forests. Adesina spoke after a financing summit in the French capital that drew dozens of developing country leaders, but few from richer nations. Still, many observers note it delivered some concrete results in development and climate financing for poor countries — possibly paving the way for bigger changes. VOA