Africa Media Review for July 25, 2022

Tunisians Vote on Constitution That Could Threaten Their Democracy
Tunisians voted Monday in a referendum on a new constitution that would greatly expand the powers of a president who, over the past year, has pushed aside the other branches of government to rule alone. If approved, the referendum will enshrine steps taken by President Kais Saied starting exactly a year ago to center power in his own hands, weakening Parliament and other checks on the president while giving the head of state the ultimate authority to form a government, appoint judges and propose laws. Such changes, opponents say, would signal the end of the democratic system Tunisia built after casting off dictatorship a decade ago, when antigovernment protests in a small Tunisian town kindled uprisings across the Middle East. The new constitution would return Tunisia to a presidential system much like the one it had under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the authoritarian ruler who was deposed during the country’s Arab Spring revolt in 2011. Mr. Saied has said that the changes are needed to cleanse the country of corruption and end the paralysis of its political system. New York Times

Congo to Auction Land to Oil Companies: ‘Our Priority Is Not to Save the Planet’
The Democratic Republic of Congo, home to one of the largest old-growth rainforests on earth, is auctioning off vast amounts of land in a push to become “the new destination for oil investments,” part of a global shift as the world retreats on fighting climate change in a scramble for fossil fuels. The oil and gas blocks, which will be auctioned in late July, extend into Virunga National Park, the world’s most important gorilla sanctuary, as well as tropical peatlands that store vast amounts of carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere and from contributing to global warming. “If oil exploitation takes place in these areas, we must expect a global climate catastrophe, and we will all just have to watch helplessly,” said Irene Wabiwa, who oversees the Congo Basin forest campaign for Greenpeace in Kinshasa. Congo’s about-face in allowing new oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas comes eight months after its president, Félix Tshisekedi, stood alongside world leaders at the global climate summit in Glasgow and endorsed a 10-year agreement to protect its rainforest, part of the vast Congo Basin, which is second in size only to the Amazon. New York Times

Explainer: What’s Behind the Rising Conflict in Eastern DRC?
If unchecked, the unrest “risks reigniting interstate conflict in the Great Lakes region,” as the Africa Center for Strategic Studies warned in a late June report on the worsening security situation. M23 is among more than 100 armed groups operating in the eastern DRC, an unsettled region where conflict has raged for decades but is escalating, especially in recent months. Nearly 8,000 people have died violently since 2017, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, which monitors conflict and human rights violations. More than 5.5 million people have been displaced — 700,000 just this year, according to the United Nations…Congo’s government says it wants M23 out of the DRC before peace talks resume. Paul Nantulya, an Africa Center research associate who contributed to its analysis, predicted it would “take time to resolve the long-running tensions between Rwanda and the DRC.” In written observations shared with VOA by email, he called for “a verifiable and enforceable conflict reduction initiative between Congo and its neighbors — starting with Rwanda” and “an inclusive democratization process in Congo.” Voice of America

Russia’s Moves in Africa Problematic for U.S. Interests, General Agrees
U.S. senators evaluating President Biden’s nominees for two influential military assignments said Thursday that Russia’s spreading influence in volatile parts of Africa is jeopardizing American interests and implored both to prioritize the burgeoning policy dilemma, if they are confirmed. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee appealed to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael E. Langley, Biden’s nominee to lead U.S. Africa Command, to detail how he would endeavor to counter Russia’s activities on the continent. He affirmed that they were problematic and would become a priority pending the full Senate’s approval of his promotion… Lawmakers expressed acute concern about Moscow’s use of the mercenary outfit Wagner Group to raise Russia’s profile on the continent, highlighting the group’s activities in Mali, where back-to-back military coups have destabilized the region and, they argued, given Russia a foothold in West Africa. Washington Post

Russia Tells Famine-Fearing Africa It’s Not to Blame for Food Shortage
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia likes to cast himself as the leader of a global movement rising up against domination by the United States and its allies. On Sunday, his top diplomat brought that message directly to Africa, hoping to turn the hunger and social strife across the continent to Russia’s advantage. He is likely to find a receptive audience. Even before setting out on his four-country tour, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov made clear he would use the trip to blame the West for the grain shortages tied to the war in Ukraine that are raising fears of famine in African countries and to paint Russia as the continent’s faithful ally. Ahead of the trip, Russia acquiesced to an agreement that allows Ukraine to resume exporting critically needed grain that has been blocked in Black Sea ports by the fighting, a sign of Mr. Putin’s apparent concern for public opinion across the developing world. The global food crisis is expected to figure prominently in Mr. Lavrov’s trip to Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. But while the grain shortages were set off by the Russian invasion, the foreign minister suggested that Moscow was not the problem. New York Times

Macron in Cameroon on His First Visit to Africa After Re-Election
Cameroon Emmanuel Macron on his first trip to Africa since his re-election last April. The visit also includes Benin and Guinea-Bissau. The visit comes at a time when France is undertaking to “renovate” its military partnerships on the continent to maintain its strategic competition in the face of increasing influence by Turkey, China and Russia.  “Obviously it is very good news for Africa, Central Africa and Cameroon when we see the current socio-political context with the hostility of France in Mali, the war in Ukraine, it is a very good thing. France is coming to Cameroon to warm up its relations and strengthen its support when we know the strategic role that Cameroon plays in Central Africa. It is a very good visit now”, said Cameroonian banker Ndzomo Essomba Henri.  Food crisis and security top the agenda with the effects of the war in Ukraine in the supply of grain being a major concern; many also want human rights to feature prominently in the discussions between Macron and the Cameroonian president, Paul Biya. AfricaNews

WHO Triggers Highest Alert on Monkeypox
The World Health Organisation on Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak, which has affected nearly 16,000 people in 72 countries, to be a global health emergency — the highest alarm it can sound. “I have decided that the global #monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference. He said a committee of experts who met on Thursday was unable to reach a consensus, so it fell on him to decide whether to trigger the highest alert possible. “WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high,” he added. Monkeypox has affected over 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on July 20. A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. AFP

ECOWAS Chairman Praises “Progress” in Burkina Faso
The president of Guinea-Bissau and current chairman of ECOWAS, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, visited Ouagadougou on Sunday to discuss the timeframe for the transition to civilian rule in the country.  At the end of January, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who was accused of having been unable to curb the jihadist violence, and made the restoration of security his “priority”. “The major aspects and axes that we believe are important for the transitional government to focus on are the security challenge, humanitarian issues, the return to constitutional order and the mobilization of resources and the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation mechanism including the ECOWAS mediator, the African Union and the UN representatives in Ouagadougou”, said Umaro Sissoco Embalo. During the visit, the recently-appointed chairman of ECOWAS praised the progress made in the security situation. “We also congratulate the government on the progress we have seen on the ground, and I think that all of us must mobilize alongside our brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso. As you know, Burkina Faso is a founding member of ECOWAS, so despite this situation, we must stand with them, and we call for a mobilization behind the transitional government”, he said.  Since 2015, like its neighbours Niger and Mali, Burkina Faso has been caught up in a spiral of violence attributed to armed jihadist movements. AfricaNews

Nigeria: Muslim-Muslim Ticket: Fashola Endorses Tinubu, Says Religion Should Have No Place in Public Space
Nigeria’s Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has declared his support for his former principal’s choice of presidential running mate ahead of the 2023 polls. Mr Fashola, in an interview aired on Channels Television on Sunday, endorsed the choice of Kashim Shettima as running mate to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu. Messrs Tinubu and Shettima are Muslims, and their candidacy has been criticised by many Nigerians and groups, including the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Of all the 18 parties set to take part in the 2023 presidential election, the ruling APC is the only party with a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket. Mr Tinubu, the former Lagos governor, however, defended his choice, saying Mr Shettima, a former Borno governor, was chosen based on his competence. Speaking on Sunday, Mr Fashola said religion should be put aside for competence when Nigerians elect their next set of leaders in 2023. He argued that people leading the debate against Mr Tinubu’s candidacy should face the real political and socio-economic issues and avoid religious sentiments. Premium Times Nigeria

Nigeria and Shipping Industry Launch Strategy to Eliminate Gulf of Guinea Piracy Threat
The Government of Nigeria and shipping stakeholders have launched a strategy to end piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG). Despite a 60% decline in piracy-related attacks, following increased counter-piracy efforts, all reported crew kidnappings in 2021 were reported in the Gulf of Guinea, the International Chamber of Shipping, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Maritime Administration & Safety Agency, BIMCO, Intertanko, OCIMF and Intercargo said in a joint statement earlier this month. The strategy establishes a mechanism to periodically assess the effectiveness of country-piracy initiatives and commitments in the GoG. Targeted at all stakeholders operating in the region, it will identify areas of improvement and reinforcement in order to eliminate piracy. The plan is split into two mutually supportive sections: actions which can be overseen by the Nigerian Industry Working Group (NIWG), and actions which require engagement with other regional and international partners. The strategic ambition of the coalition is to eliminate piracy in the GoG, to secure trade routes, reassure traversing crews, and support local communities. DefenceWeb

Hemetti Voices Support for Military Withdrawal from Sudan’s Transition
The Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council and the Commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) announced his support for the withdrawal of the military component from the transitional government announced the head of the military-led body and the Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on July 4. Mohamed Hamdan Daglo aka “Hemetti”, on June 18, travelled to Darfur to end the intercommunal in the region between the Arab and the other groups in the region. At the time, he said he would remain there for at least 3 months until the pacification of the region as his RSF members are accused of feeding the violence. However, on July 22, he issued a statement from Khartoum to announce his support for al-Burhan decision to render power to civilians and the formation of a high military council for security and defence affairs. Sudan Tribune

Sudan Opposition Calls for Broad Front Against Junta ‘To Prevent Civil War’
Several opposition groups have expressed their fear that the clashes witnessed in Blue Nile state last week may be a prelude to more civil wars in the country. They called on fellow activists in the country to join ranks “to send the military back to the barracks” and restore the Rule of Law. The South Kordofan Security Committee is taking measures “to prevent tribal fighting” in the region. On Wednesday, opposition groups participated in a workshop about the political future of the country. In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), members of resistance committees, professional associations, and civil society, women and youth organisations called for “the overthrow of the October 2021 coup in order to end the current state of insecurity in Sudan”. The pointed to the intercommunal clashes in Blue Nile state last week which left tens of thousands of people displaced, and the continuing violence in Darfur and South Kordofan, and called on “all civil forces in Sudan to join ranks in a broad front, and move quickly against the preludes of civil war and more fighting in the country. “There is no way out except by overthrowing the coup and combat the culture of non-impunity which has led to the crimes that are taking place now,” the statement said. According to the groups, Sudan is in “a state of being a non-state”. This “allowed the creation of tribal fronts that create problems and conflicts among them, which provides the putschists with an opportunity to create justifications for the continuation of their military rule, and preserve their interests.” Dabanga

South Africa: Ex-President Mbeki Rebukes Ramaphosa, Predicts SA’s ‘Arab Spring’
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has delivered a rare scathing critique to current President Cyril Ramaphosa at the memorial service of Jessie Duarte, an African National Congress (ANC) stalwart who died on July 17. “There is no national plan to address the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, it doesn’t exist,” Mbeki said at the service on Thursday night. “To serve the people requires that we address these issues.” He accused Ramaphosa of failing to deliver on his promises to address socioeconomic conditions and curb government corruption in South Africa, predicting that these would cause spontaneous civil unrest triggered by a single event and might “spark our own version of the Arab Spring”, he said. “A street hawker was abused by the police, and that enraged the country; that’s how that massive uprising happened in Tunisia, the problems were brewing beneath the surface and it needed a little spark,” Mbeki explained. “One of these days it’s going to happen to us, you can’t have so many people unemployed and poor, one day it is going to trigger an uprising,” he said. According to a World Bank report, about 30.3 million South African citizens are living in poverty, while 13.8 million people are facing food insecurity that has been worsened by rising food prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Al Jazeera

Mozambique Peacebuilding Efforts Extend to GBV
Efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to restore some semblance of normal life in northern Mozambique include assisting people displaced by conflict even as attacks continue in Cabo Delgado. The northern province of the east African country has been in the crosshairs of Al-Sunna Wa-Jama’ah (ASWJ) since 2017 opposed initially only by Mozambique’s armed forces (Forças Armadas de Defesa de Moçambique), better known by the acronym FADM. A SADC force, deployed as SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique) has been on the ground for over a year with a thousand-strong contingent of Rwandan military also taking the fight to the Islamists. Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia are SADC countries currently contributing troops and materiel to the regional bloc mission. That violence is ongoing comes from conflict observatory Cabo Ligado (Connected cape) by way of weekly and monthly reports…A communique from the Botswana headquartered regional bloc has it internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mozambique are being empowered with skills and knowledge to prevent and combat gender-based violence (GBV), prevention and elimination of traditional harmful practices and national policies and laws on GBV, among others. DefenceWeb



Photo: Adam Jones