Africa Media Review for July 24, 2023

Using Africa as a Stage at the Russia–Africa Summit
The 43 African heads of state who attended the first Russia–Africa Summit in 2019 had high hopes that Russia would emerge as a new source of investment and trade for the continent. Russian President Vladmir Putin promised to double Russian trade with Africa in 5 years to $40 billion. Since then, Russian trade with the continent has contracted to $14 billion and remains lopsided with Russia exporting seven times as much as it imports from Africa. Seventy percent of this trade is concentrated in just four countries—Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and South Africa. Russia, furthermore, invests very little in Africa. It accounts for 1 percent of the foreign direct investment (FDI) that goes to the continent. Mauritius is a larger source of FDI for Africa. … Despite these diminishing economic ties, Russia’s influence in Africa has rapidly expanded since the first Russia–Africa Summit. This has largely been achieved by irregular means—propping up isolated, autocratic regimes through a combination of the deployment of Wagner paramilitary forces, electoral interference, disinformation, and arms for resources deals. … The Summit has obvious benefits for Moscow. It conveys a perception of normalcy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Criminal Court war crimes arrest warrant for Putin, and the aborted insurrection led by Wagner leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Summit is a chance to show it’s business as usual—and that Russia is not a pariah but enjoys the implicit endorsement of its violations of international law by African heads of state. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Russia Comes under Global Criticism for Grain Deal Pullout, Port Attacks
Russia is facing a barrage of criticism from countries around the world — including some of its friends — for its strikes on Ukrainian ports and its decision this week to suspend participation in a U.N. deal that allowed Ukrainian grain to be exported through the Black Sea. Senior diplomats at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday excoriated Russia’s moves, which have sent grain prices soaring and which officials warned would exacerbate global food insecurity, leading some people in the world’s poorest countries to starve. “Russia is waging war on the world’s food supply,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warned the council. “Russian exporters are already benefiting while millions who cannot afford higher-priced grain suffer, especially people in the Middle East and Africa. Let’s be clear: Russia has zero, zero legitimate reason to suspend its participation in this arrangement.” Gabon’s representative lamented the apparent conclusion of a rare diplomatic success story in the Ukraine war, which had “allowed us to hope that a certain degree of calm would begin to prevail, namely in terms of food security.” … A wave of Russian attacks on Ukrainian ports and agricultural facilities along the Black Sea this week have exacerbated concerns over food security and the potential for a broadening of the conflict. … The strike injured two employees and destroyed tons of peas and barley, Odessa governor Oleh Kiper said. The wave of attacks has destroyed more than 60,000 tons of Ukrainian grain this week, Thomas-Greenfield said. Washington Post

HRW: Mali Forces and Wagner Group Commit Atrocities in Mali
Human Rights Watch said in a statement Monday that Mali’s armed forces and “apparently” the Wagner Group mercenaries “have summarily executed and forcibly disappeared several dozen civilians in Mali’s cental region since December 2022.” Mali’s forces and the Wagner Group have also “destroyed and looted civilian property and allegedly tortured detainees in an army camp,” according to HRW. The rights group said it has interviewed 40 people who know about the incidents, including “20 witnesses of abuses, three family members of victims, two community leaders, five Malian civil society activists, eight representatives of international organizations, and two Sahel political analysts. HRW said it has also “reviewed a video showing evidence of abuses by Malian soldiers and associated foreign forces.” … With the upcoming end to MINUSMA’s presence in Mali, Carine Kaneza Nantulya, HRW deputy Africa director, said, “The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should express their concerns about grave abuses by the Malian armed forces and allied apparent Wagner Group fighters and increase pressure on the Malian authorities to end these violations and hold those responsible to account.” VOA

Assimi Goïta: President Gets Sweeping Powers in New Mali Constitution
The military government in Mali has adopted a new constitution that enhances the powers of the president and the armed forces. It also creates a senate and demotes French from an official to a working language. Mali has been ruled by a junta since 2020. The opposition movement has denounced the reforms, which the electoral commission says were backed by 97% of votes cast in last month’s referendum. The official body said turnout was 38%. Critics fear these changes make it easier for generals to break their promise of handing power back to civilian leaders after a presidential election in February 2024. The new constitution means Interim President Col Assimi Goïta can now dictate government policy and has the power to dissolve parliament. A legal case to have the referendum results annulled, because the vote was not held in all parts of Mali, was rejected by the constitutional court. “Numerous irregularities” and “violations of the law” also meant the referendum result should be thrown out, according to Mali’s opposition movement – made up of political parties and civil society organisations. BBC

Africa’s Newest Problem is Ironically Old: Coups D’Etat
Africa’s ages-old tales of illegal change of power seemed to subside after a while, but new data shows an upsurge of unconstitutional changes of governments since 2020. A report published this week by UN Development Programme (UNDP) indicates that coups of the past may be feeding putsches of today as military chiefs retain enormous influence to undermine democracy. The UNDP says a majority of citizens who live in countries where there have been unconstitutional changes of government and democratic transition states have very little trust in military rulers turning themselves into civilian governors. … UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said that besides the resurgence of coups in 2020, there has also been a growing number of “constitutional coups,” in which leaders revise constitutions to change term limits by allowing for third-, fourth- and even fifth-term mandates. … The African Union has, since 2017, established a charter forbidding unconstitutional changes in government. Yet the continental bloc seems unable to stop the continual amendments of constitutions that retain leaders in spite of protests. East African

Rockets, Shells Kill 20 Sudan Civilians, Say Lawyers and Medics
At least 20 Sudanese civilians have been killed by rocket fire on residential areas of one of Darfur’s main cities and by shelling near hospitals in North Kordofan state, lawyers and medics said on Saturday. The doctors’ union said that since Friday morning shells had struck near four hospitals in the North Kordofan state capital El-Obeid, killing four civilians and wounding 45. In the South Darfur state capital Nyala, the local lawyers’ union said that rocket fire had killed 16 civilians. The Darfur region, already ravaged by brutal conflict in the early 2000s, has seen some of the worst of the violence since fighting erupted in mid-April between Sudanese rival generals vying for power. “During an exchange of rocket fire between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), 16 civilians were killed on Friday, according to a preliminary toll,” the lawyers’ union said. And at least one man was killed by a sniper, it added. News24

Doctors Without Borders Says Armed Men Beat Up Its Team Working at a Hospital in Sudan’s Capital
Armed men attacked an 18-member team of Doctors Without Borders working at a key hospital in Sudan’s war-torn capital of Khartoum, the aid group said Friday. The MSF medical team was stopped on the road on Thursday while transporting supplies to the Turkish Hospital, located in the district of South Khartoum, the aid group said. The armed men first questioned the MSF team about why it was in Sudan, then started beating some of them. “After arguing about the reasons for MSF’s presence, the armed men aggressively assaulted our team, physically beating and whipping them,” the group said on its website. … Thursday’s attack has prompted MSF to consider whether it can stay on at the Turkish Hospital, which has served as a base for the group’s aid efforts in Sudan. According to MSF, it is also one of the only two hospitals still functioning in the Sudanese capital. “The MSF is becoming seriously concerned that our presence in the Turkish Hospital will soon no longer be tenable,” MSF said, in a post on twitter. AP

Tens of Thousands Displaced by Central Nigeria Clashes
At least 80,000 people have been displaced in three months of intercommunal violence in a north central Nigerian state, a local official said, as the army reinforced security to end the clashes. Since May, Plateau State has seen a surge of attacks among mostly Muslim nomadic herders and Christian farming communities in violence the local state government says has left around 300 people dead. Nigeria’s military chief of staff, Major-General Taoreed Lagbaja visited Mangu, in Plateau State, on Saturday to mark the start of special operations to “stamp out” the crisis. The clashes are just one of the major security challenges facing new President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Nigeria, where armed forces also battle jihadis, heavily armed bandit gangs and separatist tensions. … It was unclear what triggered the most recent flareup of attacks in Plateau. Tensions between herders and farmers over land and resources often spiral into tit-for-tat village raids by armed gangs who kidnap, loot and kill. VOA/AFP

Desperate Hunt for Fuel Threatens a Once Thriving Forest Reserve in Cameroon
Adele Zaouda sweats profusely in a desperate effort to dig up the roots of a tree. The acacia tree itself has already been cut down and used for cooking. With no other trees left standing, Zaouda has resorted to digging up roots. It has become her one source of fuel. “We used to go to the forest to fetch wood. Now there are no more trees in the forest. We have to dig up the roots,” she tells RFI. The forest in question is the Zamai Forest Reserve in Cameroon’s Far North region. The reserve once spanned some seven square kilometres and teemed with several species of wildlife, including cheetahs, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions, monkeys and warthogs, among others. Now, they are all gone,” says Oumarou Souley, personal secretary for the Lamido (traditional ruler) of Zamai. “We deplore the fact that the Zamai reserve has disappeared. Refugees came here in large numbers. They felled every tree, they even dig up the roots. The reserve, with its rich wildlife, is gone,” Souley told RFI. Uprooting trees for fuel is part of a major problem in the Far North region. Home to about three million people, the fragile landscape has been degraded by unsustainable farming practices and rising temperatures linked to climate change. The situation got worse when Nigerian refugees, terrorised by Boko Haram attacks, began arriving in Cameroon in 2013. At the same time, the Islamist militant group started launching attacks in Cameroon, triggering internal displacement. RFI

Italy Hosts Conference to Address Migration across the Mediterranean
A one-day conference in Rome gathered Sunday (Jul. 23) representatives of some 20 nations, EU officials and international organisations. Italy’s Premier Giorgia Meloni convened the summit to make her country a leader in resolving issues impacting Mediterranean nations such as energy as Europe looks to Africa and the Middle East to permanently replace Russian supplies, and illegal migration. African representatives attending the event included Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed, Tunisia’s president Kaies Saied, Nigerien Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou and Egypt Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. Human rights groups see the meeting, which includes nations from both northern and sub-Saharan Africa as well as the Middle East, as creating a future roadmap, and worry it will amount to anti-migrant policies that put the onus on Africa to keep Africans out of Europe. AfricaNews/AP

Guinea-Bissau Politics: Parliament Set to Reopen after Opposition Wins Majority
[Video] Guinea-Bissau’s parliament is scheduled to reopen before the end of this month, following a historic legislative election in June. For the first time in the country’s history, the parliamentary majority will be held by a coalition of opposition parties. While this may be a positive sign for democracy, it is a risky situation in a country known for its coups d’états. FRANCE 24’s correspondents Aminatou Diallo, Mbaye Ndir and Sam Bradpiece report. France24

Rights Body Calls for Action in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region
In its annual report this month, the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission urged officials to pay closer attention to the tensions and violence in the Oromia region. The commission said there have been attacks in 13 of the 20 zones in the Oromia region, leading to an alarming number of casualties and an extremely concerning overall situation. The Ethiopian government blames a rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), for the violence. But the commission said the response of government forces has also resulted in rights abuses. Deputy Commissioner Rakeb Melese said the rights commission is emphasizing the need for peaceful negotiations. “The retaliation measures taken by government equally incurs human rights violations because civilians are affected, people are displaced, because of the retaliatory measures,” Rakeb said. … Fighting between the federal government and the OLA has caused thousands of deaths and displaced millions of people in the region over the past four years. … [A] resident said that the attacks are being carried out by militias, known as Fano, from the neighboring Amhara region. VOA

Ruto Meets with Chinese Diplomat Wang Yi ahead of BRICS Talks
China’s top diplomat Wang Yi is meeting with top officials in several countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Turkey. On Saturday Wang was in Nairobi and met with Kenyan president, William Ruto. On the 24 and 25 July Wang will be in Johannesburg for the 13th meeting of the BRICS group of fast-growing economies. South Africa is the current chair of the BRICS, a grouping of heavyweights that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China to challenge the dominant US and European-led global governance structures. BRICS aims to challenge the dominant US and European-led global governance structures. A summit of the bloc’s leaders will take place next month. Wang’s visit to Africa comes as Beijing seeks to increase its presence in Africa. AfricaNews/AFP

Rwanda Conference for and about Women Looks to Gender Equality in Africa
Women Deliver is considered one of the world’s biggest conrference on gender equality. The 2023 edition which took place this week in Rwanda, brought the international summit to Africa for the first time with many issues in focus, especially equality and encouraging women in business. … At the opening of the conference, on Monday, several heads of state and activists reiterated the need to protect the gender equality gains made to date globally. Over 6,000 feminists, activists, and leaders gathered from diverse backgrounds and fields of expertise, including leaders from the UN, with the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the humanitarian NGO Oxfam. Over 200,000 people also participated online including Michelle Obama. The Women Deliver (WD) conference takes place every three years, and was last held in Vancouver in 2019, where 8,000 people attended and 200,000 others participated online. … ‘Women Deliver’ aims to become a leading global advocate that champions gender equality, sexual and reproductive health initiatives, and rights of girls and women everywhere. RFI

Netflix Makes Good on Promise to Amplify African Voices with the Debut of Trailblazing Animation Supa Team 4
Netflix’s first original African animated series premiered on Thursday in a debut its creator said she hoped would pave the way for more productions from the continent. Set in a futuristic version of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, Supa Team 4 tells the story of four teen girls who turn undercover superheroes after being recruited by a retired secret agent to save the world. “I’m excited that the world finally gets to see the fantastic show that the incredibly talented super team, from Africa and beyond, have put together,” Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema told AFP in a statement. “We hope ‘Supa Team 4’… will lead to further investment and collaboration so we can continue to grow the industry.” Mulendema created the series after pitching it at a pan-African talent search by animation studio Triggerfish, where she became one of the winners in 2015. … “(Animation) series shaped our childhoods, and to know young Zambians get to see what they’ve never seen on TV before is amazing!!” Zambian singer Sampa the Great, who worked on the theme song, wrote on Instagram this month. … In April, the firm said it planned to expand operations in Africa and give “more African storytellers an amplified voice on the global stage”. News24