Africa Media Review for July 19 2022

‘It Shouldn’t Be Happening Again’: M23 Rebels Return to Wreak Havoc in DRC
By the end of May, 72,000 people had been displaced from their homes, according to the UN. When the M23 attacked Kibumba a few weeks ago, Semaska, now 25 and a father of two, did not hesitate. He grabbed the bare essentials for the family; told his wife, Chiza, to do the same, and they fled, carrying Chanceline, three, and Amos, two, in their arms. Finding refuge with relatives in a cramped room built with planks and a tarpaulin printed with an aid agency’s logo, the young man is haunted by old nightmares, merging the memories of his dying mother with the new fears he bears for his children…“DRC already has the largest displacement numbers in Africa, with 4.5 million Congolese displaced within their own country and 864,000 abroad as refugees. This new crisis is opening a new front for us and other agencies, with no additional resources.” For Diop’s Congolese colleagues, the psychological impact of seeing everything they worked for undone once again is a hard blow to their morale. “There is a deep feeling of frustration,” says Alexis Baruti, an associate protection officer. “We invested so much to help displaced people go home after the last conflict, and 10 years later we are back to square one. At a personal level, this has a real cost.” Guardian

Senegalese President in South Sudan to Support Peace Deal
The Senegalese President Macky Sall arrived in South Sudan capital, Juba on Monday to support the country’s peace process. Sall, also the current chairperson of the African Union (AU), was received by his South Sudan counterpart, Salva Kiir at the Juba International Airport. “I have come to support the peace process in South Sudan and to plea to you and First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar to work together to bring peace,” Sall told reporters shortly after meeting the South Sudan leader. “I have also come here as the African Union to help build peace,” he added…Edmund Yakani, a civil society activist, said the Senegalese leader’s visit could speed up implementation of the remaining issues in the peace deal. He specifically cited the security arrangements provision in the September 2018 peace deal, which is critical to the peace process in the country. Yakani, also Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), Edmund Yakani, urged Sall to push the parties to demonstrate political will in implementing the remaining peace provisions. Sudan Tribune

Explosion of Violence in South Sudan Threatens Peace Pact
An explosion of violence in South Sudan is raising fears that the country’s fragile peace agreement will unravel before elections the international community hopes can be held next year. The wave of near-daily killings across this East African country is often blamed on marauding militias whose attacks threaten the 2018 truce between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar. While the two leaders work in the same government in relative peace in the capital Juba, elsewhere South Sudan appears at war with itself: Hundreds of people have been killed since the start of the year in violence ranging from cattle raids to ethnically motivated revenge killings. The violence appeared to worsen in June after Pope Francis canceled his visit this month, citing his knee problem. The pope’s visit was meant to encourage faith in a country damaged by years of war, including a long conflict for independence from Sudan and then a civil war. At least 209 people were killed and 33 others wounded across the country in June alone, according to a violence tracker by the Juba-based civic group known by its initials as CEPO. AP

U.S. Says It Kills Two Al Shabaab Militants in Somalia Airstrike
The U.S. military said it had killed two fighters from the al Shabaab militant group in an airstrike in a remote part of Somalia’s southern Jubaland state on Sunday. The United States has been carrying out air strikes in Somalia to try to defeat al Shabaab, an al Qaeda franchise seeking to implement its interpretation of Islamic law and overthrow the country’s Western-backed central government. The strike took place near Libikus in the Lower Juba region, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement late on Monday. “The command’s initial assessment is that two al Shabaab terrorists were killed in action,” AFRICOM said. “No civilians were injured or killed given the remote nature of where this engagement occurred.” Rights activists have accused the United States of shrouding its Somalia operations in secrecy, potentially undermining accountability for incidents involving civilian deaths. Reuters

Nephew of Jailed Hotel Rwanda Dissident Hacked by NSO Spyware
The mobile phone of a Belgian citizen who is the nephew of Paul Rusesabagina, a jailed critic of the Rwandan government made famous by his portrayal in Hotel Rwanda, was hacked nearly a dozen times in 2020 using Israeli-made surveillance technology, according to forensic experts at The Citizen Lab. The findings follow earlier revelations by the Guardian and other media partners in the Pegasus Project, an investigation of Israel’s NSO Group, that Rusesabagina’s daughter, a dual American-Belgian national named Carine Kanimba, was under near-constant surveillance by a client of NSO Group from January to mid-2021, when the hacking attack was discovered by researchers at Amnesty International’s security lab. The combined findings strongly suggest that the Rwandan government, which has long been suspected of being a client of NSO, deployed a surveillance campaign against Kanimba and her cousin, Jean-Paul Nsonzerumpa, while both were engaged in discussions with senior EU and US officials about Rusesabagina’s case after the activist’s rendition, arrest, and trial in Rwanda, and his current imprisonment. Guardian

Tunisia Opposition Leader Investigated on Terrorism Charges
The leader of Tunisia’s main opposition party is due to be questioned by the country’s anti-terrorism unit on Tuesday on suspicion of money laundering and terrorist financing through an association charity. The accused, Rached Ghannouchi, was among a dozen top Ennahdha party officials whose bank accounts the north African country’s central bank froze earlier this month. Ennahdha vehemently disputes the accusations of money laundering and terrorism financing. President Kais Saied suspended parliament last year and seized broad powers in a move that he said was necessary to “save the country” from a political and economic crisis. This prompted criticism from the opposition, which accuses him of a slide toward totalitarianism. Ennahdha has said that these accusations are aimed at distracting attention from a July 25 referendum planned by Saied to change the constitution to augment presidential powers and reduce the role of the parliament and prime minister. The president’s critics say he is trying to legitimize a “coup.” Opposition figure Nejib Chebbi said he feared for Ghannouchi’s arrest after the hearing, denouncing what he called a “harassment campaign” unleashed by the government against “leading political figures.” AP

US Congress Approves Resolution Condemning Sudan Military Coup
The US Congress overwhelmingly approved a draft resolution on Thursday, condemning the October 25 military coup, and voicing support for the people of Sudan. It also demands that the military junta lift the State of Emergency and return the country to the path of democratic transition. Resolution H.Con.Res.59, introduced in November 2021, and carried on Thursday with 417 votes in favour with just seven opposed, “condemns the October 25, 2021, coup in Sudan”, and “stands with the people of Sudan in their democratic aspirations”. It also “recognises the Prime Minister and his cabinet as the constitutional leaders of Sudan’s transitional government”. The vote coincided with the controversial visit of US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia for discussions with leaders of the Gulf states, and also follows shortly the confirmation of John Godfrey as first fully ranked US Ambassador to Sudan in 25 years. The draft resolution calls on the military junta to immediately release all individuals detained in connection with the coup, and “return to constitutional rule under the transitional constitution as the starting point for negotiations with civilians toward full civilian rule.” It further demands that the junta to “lift the State of Emergency, including complete restoration of all means of communication; remove all roadblocks and checkpoints, and order the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and RSF to stand down and comply with international recognised rules of engagement ensure security forces respect the right to peaceful protest and hold those who used excessive force and committed other abuses accountable in a transparent, credible process; cease all attempts to change the civilian composition of the cabinet, Sovereign Council, and other government bodies; and transfer leadership of the Sovereign Council to a civilian member of the Sovereign Council in keeping with the transitional constitution.” Dabanga

Sudan: Clashes Between Ethnic Groups Continue in the Blue Nile
Clashes continue in the southeastern Sudanese state of Blue Nile between the Hausa and Birta ethnic groups. Witnesses said thousands of protesters of the Hausa tribe set up barricades and attacked government buildings in several cities on Monday, July 18. According to health officials, this violence broke out a week ago and more than 60 people have already died while over 150 have been injured. Authorities have deployed the army in the region, imposed a nightly curfew and banned gatherings in some towns. Local sources say the fighting is partly motivated by conflicts over land ownership but also blame the military government that took power by force last October for creating a security vacuum favouring tribal violence. AfricaNews with AFP

Ghana Declares First Outbreak of Highly Infectious Marburg Virus
Health authorities in Ghana have officially confirmed two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease similar to Ebola, after two people who later died tested positive for the virus earlier this month. Tests conducted in Ghana came back positive on July 10, but the results had to be verified by a laboratory in Senegal for the cases to be considered confirmed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “Further testing at the Institute Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal has corroborated the results,” Ghana Health Service (GHS) said in a statement on Sunday. GHS is working to reduce any risk of the virus spreading, including the isolation of all identified contacts, none of whom has developed any symptoms so far, it said. The first case was a 26-year-old male who checked into a hospital on June 26 and died on June 27. The second was a 51-year-old male who went to the hospital on June 28 and died the same day, the WHO said, adding that both men sought treatment at the same hospital. The two patients in southern Ghana’s Ashanti region had symptoms including diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting, before dying in hospital, the WHO said. Al Jazeera

Africa’s Risk of Debt Piles as Countries Fight Inflation
African governments owe three times as much debt to private creditors in the West as they do to China, a report by UK-based Debt Justice released this week shows. Using World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, Debt Justice estimates that 35 percent of the continent’s external debt is owed to banks, asset managers and oil traders in the West, with Chinese lenders accounting for around 12 percent. Of the $444 billion in debt repayments that African governments will cough up between 2022 and 2028, $156 billion or 35 percent will go to these private creditors compared with $83 billion due to China. Since the launch in November 2020 of the G20’s Common Framework, three countries – Ethiopia, Zambia and Chad –have applied for support under the programme aimed at providing debt restructuring as an answer to unsustainable debt levels. So far, none has received any debt relief. The IMF has called for the initiative to be stepped up, warning that countries could face “economic collapse” if global action on debt relief falls short. East African

Roaring Inflation, Weak Currencies to Spur Rate Hikes in Africa
African central banks are escalating their fight against blistering inflation and currency weakness, with four out of six monetary policy committees likely to raise interest rates in the next two weeks. The banks’ deliberations will probably continue to center around surging food, fertilizer and energy costs stemming from supply shortages caused by Russia’s war with Ukraine. The ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, risks posed by a slowdown in China’s economy, expectations of more aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and fears of a global recession that’s increased investor appetite for dollars and led to a sell-off of African debt will also feature in their discussions. Bloomberg

How AfCFTA Can Boost Africa’s Cultural Economy
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, ratified in 2021, is a landmark milestone for the African continent. The past two-and-a-half years have underlined the need for cohesive, interconnectivity, and unity in our ever-changing world. The pitfalls of the covid-19 pandemic, the looming climate catastrophe, and general economic strife, make collaboration more important now than ever. Expected outcomes of the agreement include greater regional economic integration and a more significant contribution by African countries to global trade. AfCFTA will cover a population of 1.3 billion people and an annual $3.4 trillion annual economic output. Fully implemented, it is estimated the agreement could boost the region’s income by $450 billion annually, and provide new opportunities including agriculture, manufacturing, and e-commerce. It is not only industries such as transport and manufacturing, though, that will stand to benefit. A pillar of Africa’s economy, as well as its identity lifeblood, lies in the unique and varied cultural sectors. With the launch of AfCFTA, the cultural economy is one sector that should be a significant focus given its potential to provide additional value to the economic growth and development of African countries. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones