Africa Media Review for July 21, 2023

Nine Dead, 16 Wounded in Bomb Blast in Eastern DR Congo
At least nine people have been killed and 16 injured after an explosive device accidentally detonated in a field in the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, local sources told the AFP news agency on Thursday. The blast occurred on Wednesday evening in Lubwe Sud in North Kivu province’s Rutshuru territory. Justin Mwangaza, a local civil society figure, said a civilian had picked up a bomb in a field and given it to a militiaman when it subsequently exploded. Nine people were killed and 16 injured, he said. A nurse at a nearby clinic confirmed the toll, explaining that two people died on the spot and seven later succumbed to their wounds. Some of the 16 wounded people are in critical condition, the nurse said. … Armed groups have plagued much of eastern DRC for decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s. According to a count by the United Nations, there are as many as 120 groups in the region. One such group, the M23, has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu since taking up arms again in late 2021 after years of dormancy. … Independent UN experts, the DRC government and several Western nations including the United States and France accuse Rwanda of actively backing the M23, despite denials from Kigali. Al Jazeera

More People Killed in Battles in El Obeid and Sudan Capital
Fighting between Sudanese army soldiers and paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) yesterday continued in Omdurman, while the clashes in Khartoum expanded. At least 14 civilians were killed. In the North Kordofan capital of El Obeid an unknown number of people died in renewed fighting between the two warring parties. Warplanes continued to bomb RSF positions in the eastern and southern parts of Khartoum on Thursday morning. The Soba neighbourhood in the south-eastern part of the city was targeted in particular by the air force. The spokesperson for the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) said in a statement yesterday that several paramilitaries were killed and wounded in El Ushra in southern Khartoum. Four RSF combat vehicles were destroyed. According to the statement, the army continues to comb the capital’s neighbourhoods where RSF troops are concentrated. Dabanga

Sudan Warring Parties Send Mixed Signals on Peace Bid
The protagonists in the war in Sudan appear to be giving in to concerted pressure to negotiate a political settlement. However, they differ on the post-war architecture of the country, something that could drag the peace bid. Both Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the Sudanese junta, and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, his erstwhile deputy and now enemy, appear to be softening their stands, going by their public statements. But they continue to fight. East African

Sudan Politicians and Darfur Rebel Leaders to Meet in Togo
Sudanese activists, politicians, and Darfuri rebel leaders will convene a consultative meeting in Togo on Sunday and Monday to discuss an action plan to prevent the Darfur region from sliding into ‘a full-blown civil war’. A total of 25 people will attend the meeting, including Mohamed El Taayshi and Nasreldin Abdelbari who served as member of the Sovereignty Council and minister of justice respectively during the government led by Abdallah Hamdok (2019-2021). Others will present working papers during the meeting. Yousef Ezzat, advisor to the commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), announced his participation in the meeting. According to the text of the invitations, the conference aims to provide an opportunity for Darfur leaders to discuss the repercussions of the current war between the RSF and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on the country, “in order to reach a unified position to prevent the effects of the war on the cohesion of the Darfur society, and to find a radical solution to the Sudanese crisis as a whole”. Dabanga

Rough Campaign for Opposition as Zimbabwe Gears Up for Elections
As Zimbabwe gears for the polls, opposition members have been arrested, dozens of CCC events blocked and the party complains of being given little airtime on national television. Zimbabweans will vote on August 23 to elect the president, legislature, and municipal councils. On July 15, about 50 Zimbabwean opposition supporters clad in yellow T-shirts were knocking on doors and handing out election flyers in Harare. … But after residents came out to greet the campaigners and started following a car fitted with loudspeakers playing campaign jingles, the riot police arrived and told them to disperse. … For the campaigners, the intervention was one more sign of a strategy to wreck their chances of cracking the 43-year grip on power by Zimbabwe’s ruling party. … [I]n a nation dominated since independence by late Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, political commentators don’t expect the vote to be free and fair. “I’ve never seen a presidential candidate so desperate to win as Mnangagwa has been. It has to do all with the fear that if one loses state power then what’s your future. But I doubt there will be free, fair, credible elections, I doubt already it’s a two out of ten, you know,” political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said. … It will be “the facade of an election,” said Nic Cheeseman, a democracy expert at Britain’s University of Birmingham. “The ruling party has taken steps to control the vote from start to finish.” AfricaNews

Kenya’s Violent Protests ‘Sabotaging’ Economy President Ruto Says
After a day of clashes between the police and protesters, Kenya’s President reiterated his warning to the opposition coalition which called for a 3-day anti-government protests. Ruto spoke Thursday (Jul. 20) in Isiolo, eastern Kenya. He accused the opposition of sabotaging the economy with recurrent protests. “Every part of Kenya have said we cannot sabotage our economy using violence and destruction of business and destruction of property,” he told a large crowd. “Kenya is the only place we have to call home and we must protect it by all means. We must protect our democracy; we must protect the peace in our country because it is the collective responsibility of all of us as citizens.” … Kenya Private Sector Alliance said it estimated that each day of protest cost the economy an average of three billion shillings ($21.8 million). … Last week’s protests left more than six people dead and many others injured, including 53 children who went into shock after tear gas was thrown inside their school compound. AfricaNews

Raila’s Protest Call Unheeded on Final Day
A call by Azimio La Umoja leader Raila Odinga for protests to continue on day three Friday appears to have been unheeded as Kenyans went about their business in most parts of the country. In Nairobi, most shops re-opened business and the public transport system was back to normal as was the case in Nakuru, Mombasa and Kisii which were most affected since Wednesday. Police patrols were, however, visible on various streets, accompanied by National Youth Service (NYS) personnel. People go about their business in Nairobi on July 20, 2021, the third day of protests called by Azimio leader Raila Odinga. … “I am urging my supporters to go on with the protests because Friday is the grand finale,” Odinga declared Thursday, when he spoke to NTV. … Since March, 20 people have died in the demonstrations, according to figures released by the government and hospitals, and the unrest has alarmed Kenyans and the international community alike. CapitalFM

EU-Tunisia Migration Deal: Encouraging the People Smugglers?
Africans in Tunisia, who are trying to make their way to Europe via irregular migration routes, are unimpressed with the new “strategic agreement” on migration — that’s if they’ve heard of it at all. … At the moment, the EU-Tunisia agreement is only a memorandum of understanding — that is, it is still only a declaration of political intentions. Eventually the various plans in it, which address issues like economic stability in Tunisia, climate change and migration, will be realized after they have been approved by individual EU member states. Human rights activists on both sides of the Mediterranean are already critical though, complaining that it shows the direction the EU is heading in. They say it will only further restrict pathways to migration and possibilities for asylum seekers looking for refuge. The memorandum is one sided and favors the EU, says Ramadan Ben Omar, an official at the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights. Additionally it was signed in a non-democratic environment, he noted, referring to the fact that Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has been acting in an increasingly autocratic way since he took control of the country in what was described as a “constitutional coup” in July 2021. The agreement is really only about Europe trying to prevent irregular migration, Ben Omar argues. The fact that the agreement includes support for the Tunisian economy is just window dressing, he says. DW

UK Sanctions Wagner Leaders Linked to African Killings and Torture
The UK on Thursday imposed sanctions on 13 individuals and companies accused of involvement in abuses by the Russian paramilitary group Wagner in Mali, the Central African Republic, and Sudan. The charges include “executions and acts of torture in Mali and the Central African Republic, as well as threats to peace and security in Sudan”, the Foreign Office said in a statement. The people targeted by these measures, which include the freezing of assets in the UK and a ban on visiting the country, include Russians presented as Wagner’s managers in Mali, Ivan Maslov, and in the Central African Republic, Vitali Perfilev and Konstantin Pikalov. The latter is said to be the right-hand man of Wagner chief Evgeny Prigozhin, who has already been sanctioned by London. “The Wagner group commits atrocities in Ukraine and acts with impunity in countries such as Mali, the Central African Republic, and Sudan”, denounced the Secretary of State for Africa, Andrew Mitchell, quoted in the press release. “Wherever Wagner operates, it has a catastrophic effect on communities, exacerbates existing conflicts, and damages the reputation of host countries”, he added. AfricaNews/AFP

Investigation: Africa under Russian Influence
[Video] In France, pan-African influencers are gaining more and more followers on social media. Advocating a radical anti-Western ideology, some of them claim responsibility for the recent coups in Mali and Burkina Faso. Their narrative is similar to that of the Kremlin, which is trying to place its pawns on the African continent. FRANCE 24 profiles two French influencers who seem to have taken sides with Russian President Vladimir Putin. France24

Nigeria Takes Steps to Tackle ‘Rampant’ Disinformation
Fact-checkers in Nigeria have long warned that disinformation could damage the nation’s democracy. Media organizations recently trained 32 Nigerian reporters in information verification and digital cybersecurity. So-called ‘fake news’ and disinformation are rampant in the West African nation of Nigeria. Unsubstantiated reports were particularly noticeable in the lead up to Nigeria’s February 2023 election when the country’s election body, the INEC, expressed concerns that the spread of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech was a threat to the vote. Chioma Iruke of Centre for Democracy and Development, an NGO promoting the values of democracy, peace and human rights in Africa, told DW that the phenomenon affects all Nigerians. “The average Nigerian gets close to fake news at least once a day,” she said. Experts say that while the internet and social media allow Nigerians to share information in real time, political strategists and propagandists are weaponizing this at the expense of societal cohesion. Gwamkat Gwamzhi from African Prime News, a news website, told DW that political actors and unscrupulous individuals are using artificial intelligence tools to engineer misinformation and disinformation, at a high cost to an already polarized society. DW

Concern Mounts in East Africa over Halted Black Sea Grain Deal
Russia’s decision on Monday to pull out of an agreement which allowed the export of Ukrainian agricultural goods via a safe channel through the Black Sea amid the continuing war is already reverberating far from the front lines of fighting in Ukraine. For years, East African countries rattled by global climate change have relied on Ukrainian grain exports for sustenance. Now, an end to the agreement could lead to rising consumer prices, and further strain farmers and cash-strapped aid organisations already struggling to respond to challenges like conflict to drought, analysts say. “We already know or can predict to a fair degree the impact the pausing of exports from that region to the rest of the world, especially East Africa and the Horn of Africa, will have on food prices,” said Debisi Araba, a food policy strategist and former managing director at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF). “We should expect to see an inflationary pressure on the price of grain, especially on countries that are dependent on imports – where these grains are mostly staples feeding millions of people – pushing more people into vulnerability and insecurity,” he added. Al Jazeera

Ukraine War Looms Large Over Russia-Africa Summit
African leaders are to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg at the end of this month for a summit, billed as strengthening cooperation in peace, security, and development. But the second Russia-Africa Summit comes as Moscow continues to wage war against Ukraine. … International summits involve an element of political theater, analysts say, and African attendance will be a measure of success for the St. Peterburg gathering, according to Steven Gruzd, who leads the Africa-Russia project at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg. “I think there will be a lot of focus on who attends … and last time in 2019, when the world looked very different before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, there were 43 African heads of state that went to Sochi [Russia] for the 2019 summit,” Gruzd told VOA. Mvemba Dizolele, who directs the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said this will be a high-stakes discussion. “They [Russia] are under a lot of pressure with what’s happening in Ukraine and the ramifications of the conflict there in terms of commodity prices, particularly for Africans — and also what’s happening with Wagner and so on — so this an opportunity for Russia to try to assert its place on the global stage as well,” Dizolele told VOA. VOA

Cameroon English-Speaking Civilians Say Economic Activity at Standstill Following Separatist Roadblocks
In Cameroon, authorities say separatists have set up roadblocks to at least 20 western districts to protest what they call excessive brutality by government troops. The rebels accuse Cameroon’s military in the past week of killing at least 27 people and burning scores of homes. Cameroon’s military denies the allegations and blames separatists for the killings. The Northwest, one of two regions where separatists are active, produces maize, potatoes, beans, rice and other produce for Cameroon’s major cities. Cattle from the region is sold throughout the country and markets in neighboring Nigeria. But government officials say thousands of people, especially merchants, are blocked from traveling into or out of the region. VOA

Trial of Government Officials Accused of Graft Opens in Mogadishu
The trial of the first four senior government officials accused of corruption opened in Mogadishu Thursday morning as dozens of other officials are lined up for trial. Four officials appeared at Banaadir Regional Court as the mention for their cases commenced. Several other officials, some of who have reportedly fled the country have been pointed out for trial by the Attorney General. … According to the charge sheet, the four are variously accused of corruption, abuse of power and misappropriation of public funds. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud early this month urged those accused of corruption not to flee noting that they will get a fair trial. Dozens of officials have been named by the Attorney General for corruption-related accusations amid reports of run-away corruption in some government departments. Goobjoog

As Temperatures Rise, Mosquitoes Are Also on the Move. Scientists Worry That Could Mean More Malaria
As the planet warms, mosquitoes are slowly migrating upward. The temperature range where malaria-carrying mosquitoes thrive is rising in elevation. Researchers have found evidence of the phenomenon from the tropical highlands of South America to the mountainous, populous regions of eastern Africa. Scientists now worry people living in areas once inhospitable to the insects, including the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the mountains of eastern Ethiopia, could be newly exposed to the disease. “As it gets warmer at higher altitudes with climate change and all of these other environmental changes, then mosquitoes can survive higher up the mountain,” said Manisha Kulkarni, a professor and researcher studying malaria in sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Ottawa. AP

Soviet Spies in Africa: How the KGB Expanded Russian Influence During the Cold War
Russian influence in Africa has deep historical roots, from supporting an attempted coup in Ghana to spreading fake political news in Algeria and training African fighters in Crimea. FRANCE 24 looks back on four little-known Soviet operations aimed at furthering Russian interests in Africa during the Cold War. France24

Zambia Women’s Football Team Makes World Cup Debut
Zambia’s national women’s football (soccer) team will make its World Cup debut Saturday (July 22) against Japan at the games in Australia and New Zealand. The national team’s success has encouraged many young women to take up the sport. But Zambia’s football association is also investigating allegations of sexual abuse by coaches on the team that tarnished its image. There was a thunderous welcome for the Zambia national women‘s soccer team, popularly known as the Copper Queens, on arrival in New Zealand for their maiden appearance at the Women‘s World Cup. It’s a dream come true for the team as the supporters all over Zambia and beyond are in a jubilant mood to support them. Most of the players on the team come from low-income households. The Copper Queens’s success has inspired many girls to take up football in a country where the sport has been dominated by men for a long time. VOA