Africa Media Review for July 25, 2023

US Sanctions Mali’s Defence Minister, Officials over Wagner Ties
The United States has imposed sanctions against Mali’s defence minister and two military officials, accusing the trio of helping to facilitate the Russian mercenary group Wagner’s rise in the West African nation. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday that the sanctions targeted Malian Defence Minister Colonel Sadio Camara, Air Force Chief of Staff Colonel Alou Boi Diarra and Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant Colonel Adama Bagayoko. Blinken accused the trio of working to “facilitate and expand Wagner’s presence in Mali since December 2021”, adding that civilian fatalities had surged by 278 percent since the Russian mercenaries deployed to the country. “Many of those deaths were the result of operations conducted by the Malian Armed Forces alongside members of the Wagner Group,” Blinken said. … “These officials have made their people vulnerable to the Wagner Group’s destabilizing activities and human rights abuses while paving the way for the exploitation of their country’s sovereign resources to the benefit of the Wagner Group’s operations in Ukraine,” [US Treasury Department official Brian] Nelson said. … Malian officials increasingly turned to Wagner following a military-led coup in May 2021, which saw military officer Assimi Goita seize power. Al Jazeera

Mali’s Army and Suspected Russia-Linked Mercenaries Committed ‘New Atrocities,’ Rights Group Says
Mali’s army together with suspected mercenaries from the shadowy Russian group Wagner have committed summary executions, lootings, forced disappearances and other abuses, a leading human rights group reported Monday. Human Rights Watch said the atrocities happened in Mali’s central region and that several dozen civilians were summarily executed or forcibly disappeared since December 2022. The human rights group interviewed 40 people by phone, including witnesses, and reviewed a video “showing evidence of abuses by Malian soldiers and associated foreign fighters.” HRW said in its report that much of the abuse took place during military operations in response to the presence of extremist groups in the Mopti and Segou regions, and all except one involved foreign, non-French speaking armed men whom witnesses described as “white,” “Russians” or “Wagner.” AP

Sudan: Army Threatens to Destroy Vehicles on Khartoum-Bara Road
The Sudanese army issued a warning on Monday, stating that it will consider vehicles traveling on the Khartoum-Bara highway as military targets, mere hours after the decision was made to close it. The army has been struggling to halt the flow of supplies from Darfur and Kordofan to the capital, Khartoum, for the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Despite their efforts, the rebellious group has managed to move its fighters into Khartoum. According to a statement extended to Sudan Tribune by the military spokesman’s office, the army “will deal with all types of vehicles on the Khartoum-Bara road as military targets.” The decision to close the Khartoum-Bara road for vehicle traffic was a direct response to the use of RSF elements of the route to transport stolen goods and reinforcements. Sudan Tribune

Sudanese General Warns Kenya against Sending Peacekeepers
A Sudanese general rejected in threatening language a Kenyan-led proposal that East African peacekeepers help end a more than 100-day war in Sudan in a video released on Monday, drawing sharp criticism from Kenyan authorities. The Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces it is fighting have received multiple international mediation offers, but none have succeeded in ending or even significantly pausing the fighting that broke out on April 15. Earlier this month, IGAD, an East African regional bloc of which Kenya is a member, proposed an initiative that would include the deployment of peacekeepers in the capital Khartoum. The Sudanese army has repeatedly rejected the Kenyan-led initiative, accusing the regional power of supporting the RSF. It has said it would consider any foreign peacekeepers as enemy forces. Reuters

Peace Talks for Sudan’s Western Region of Darfur Held in Lomé
After more than 100 days of violence and destruction can Sudanese warring powers choose peace? A top envoy to Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on Monday (Jul. 24) said it was “time for peace”. Youssef Ezzat made his remarks in Togo where he was attending talks aimed at preventing Sudan’s Darfur region from sliding deeper into war. “We’re all looking for peace. The Sudanese people are looking for peace,” he conceded. “Sudanese people are suffering from war for decades in regions like Darfur, in Blue Nile, in South Sudan and East Sudan and now in the capital in Khartoum, so this is the time to end the war and to start a new future for Sudanese people, peace, development, justice and equality. That’s what we are looking for and I think it’s time for peace in Sudan.” … The representatives in Togo’s capital discussed ways of reopening Darfur’s El-Geneina airport under RSF control, to bring in humanitarian aid. The Togo talks came after rights campaigners in Darfur blamed the RSF and allied Arab militias for reported atrocities in their stronghold there, including rape, looting and the mass killings of ethnic minorities. AfricaNews/Agencies

A Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 25 at a Training Academy in Somalia’s Capital, an Army Officer Says
A suicide bomber on Monday targeted a military training academy in Somalia, killing 25 soldiers in the capital of Mogadishu, a senior army officer said. Al-Qaida’s affiliate in East Africa, the Somalia-based al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack. The officer said more than 40 others were wounded in the bombing at the Jalle Siyad military academy, said the officer. He only his first name, Abdullahi, because he was not authorized to speak publicly. There was no immediate statement from Somali authorities. Al-Shabab controls parts of rural Somalia and often targets high-profile areas of the capital. Somali authorities launched a new offensive against al-Shabab last year to try to recapture extremist-held territory and dismantle the taxation and broader financial network that funds the fighters. AP

Nigeria’s Army Increases Troop Numbers to Tackle Violence in Plateau State
A local official in Plateau State in Nigeria’s restive north has said that at least 80,000 people have been displaced in the past three months by intercommunal violence. Attacks have been mounting since May. The army has reinforced security to end the clashes. “There are an estimated of 80,000 internally displaced persons, within 11 various camps in the local government area,” said Markus Artu, an official in Mangu district. Mangu district, in Plateau State, has been one of the epicentres of the recent violence with villages ransacked and farmland destroyed. Since May, the region in central Nigeria has seen 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. … Camps situated at a primary school in Mangu shelter about 18,000 of the displaced, according to one of the camp coordinators Yamput Daniel. … The regional commander of Plateau’s Operation Safe Haven campaign has relocated its headquarters temporarily to Mangu and deployed an extra 300 troops to the district with armoured vehicles. RFI

Nigerian Officials Say 103 Bodies from 2020 #EndSars Protests Will Be Buried. Activists Allege a Cover-Up
More than 100 people who died in Nigeria in 2020 during protests against police brutality will soon be buried, authorities said, prompting allegations by activists on Monday of a cover-up and calls for a new investigation. At least 103 bodies were gathered from across the state after the protests and other clashes related to it, the top official at Lagos State’s ministry of health, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye, said in a statement after local media reported a leaked memo about the planned burial. Ogboye said the fatalities occurred during violence in many parts of the state and not at a protest site at the Lekki toll gate, where soldiers allegedly shot protesters. The new information about the deaths shows authorities in the West African nation are still covering up the true casualty toll from the protest and are still protecting security personnel who killed protesters, Amnesty International’s Nigeria office said as it demanded a new probe into the killings. Nigerian officials had said 51 civilians and 18 security personnel were killed during the unrest in Lagos and other parts of the country. “Men associated with the government directly or indirectly … and sponsored thugs attacked and injured, and in some cases killed protesters. You can see the government shifting the goal post every now and then, which shows a lack of honesty,” the group’s Nigeria director, Isa Sanusi, told The Associated Press. AP

At Least 17 Bodies Have Been Recovered after a Migrant Boat Capsized off Senegal’s Capital City
At least 17 people were found dead after a boat capsized in Senegal’s capital, local officials said Monday. The bodies were discovered by the navy early in the morning and are believed to be migrants because of the type of boat they were in, said Ndeye Top Gueye, the deputy mayor of the Ouakam neighborhood of Dakar where the bodies were found. “Because of the size and shape, we know that it’s a pirogue (a long wooden boat),” she said. While this is the first time bodies have washed up in the neighborhood, migrant deaths at sea are becoming more common in Senegal, she said. “It’s not the first time, it’s the umpteenth time. The government needs to take countermeasures.” It was unclear where the people were coming from, what nationalities they were or where they were going. But the Atlantic migration route is one of the deadliest in the world, with nearly 800 people dying or going missing in the first half of 2023, according to Walking Borders a Spanish aid group. AP

Libya Recovers Five Bodies of Sub-Saharan Migrants near Border with Tunisia
Five bodies of sub-Saharan migrants have been recovered in a desolate area near the border between Libya and Tunisia, Libya’s interior ministry said in a statement on Monday. The ministry said the bodies were found during patrols near the border areas with Tunisia between Dahra and Tawilat Al-Rutba. Dozens of sub-Saharan Africans are stranded near the Libyan border and say that the Tunisian authorities removed them to this border area from the city of Sfax earlier this month. The Tunisian government then moved them to shelters in two towns, but rights groups said that dozens are still stuck there in very difficult conditions, left thirsty and hungry in an unprecedented heatwave. Tunisian president Kais Saied in February denounced undocumented sub-Saharan African immigration to his country, saying in comments criticized by rights groups that it was aimed at changing Tunisia’s demographic make-up. Reuters

Zimbabwe Gears Up for Crucial August 23 General Election
Campaigns are in full swing in Zimbabwe as political parties gear up for a general election next month. Incumbent president, Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), is hoping to secure a second term in office. His biggest rival in the presidential election is Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party. The two were the frontrunners in the last presidential race in 2018 too. This time around though, they will have to contend with a once exiled former ZANU-PF minister, Savior Kasukuwere, too. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has approved 11 presidential candidates in total , with each having had to pay $20,000 (€18,000) to appear on the ballot. … Voters in the southern African country will head to the polls against a backdrop of an alleged intensifying crackdown on the opposition. Several members of the opposition have been arrested and dozens of opposition campaign events have been blocked. The CCC has also complained that it has been given too little exposure on national television in the runup to the vote. One voter in Harare told DW she is worried about the violence on the political scene in the runup to the vote. [Alexandar] Rusero, the politics professor at Africa University in Zimbabwe told DW he is doubtful that the 2023 elections will bring about meaningful change. “Unfortunately, we are not yet at a stage where there is a relationship between what voters want and what they vote for, otherwise we wouldn’t have ZANU-PF in power for the past 43 years,” he said. DW

‘Timid’ Aid Response Hurts Congolese Displaced by M23 Conflict
Feza Wineza left her displacement camp in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo one morning in April, seeking food for her young son who did not have enough to eat. When she returned three days later, she said her child had died of hunger. “He was a good child; he was very humble,” Wineza told The New Humanitarian from Kalinga camp, which is perched on slopes surrounding the town of Masisi, in the restive province of North Kivu. Wineza is one of around a million people in North Kivu that have been displaced amid a rebellion by the Rwanda-backed M23 armed group, which claims it is fighting to protect local Tutsis and because the government broke a past peace agreement. Aid agencies say insecurity and insufficient funding from donors means they are failing people displaced by the conflict, whose humanitarian impact is among the worst of the various ongoing insurgencies in eastern DRC. Humanitarian relief is particularly sparse for displaced people scattered across North Kivu’s rural territories of Masisi and Rutshuru, where the M23 – thought defeated after its last rebellion a decade ago – has seized ground since last year. But conditions are also dire for those who have sought safety in camps on the outskirts of Goma, the sprawling capital of North Kivu, and a hub for international aid agencies and a UN peacekeeping mission. New Humanitarian

Maritime Dispute: Somalia Rejects Mediation ‘Offer’
Somalia says it will not accept mediation over a maritime dispute with Kenya, which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided in October 2021. Somalia’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali Mohamed Omar told a committee of MPs that Somalia was not in any talks with Kenya to resolve the dispute. The issue had been raised on Saturday by a member of the parliamentary committee who sought clarification from State the Federal Government following reports that Kenya’s President William Ruto had asked the Djiboutian counterpart Omar Ismael Guelleh to help broker the deal. The minister, instead, says Somalia will abide by the Court’s ruling which mostly re-demarcated the sea border between the two countries. “Regarding the remarks made by Ruto, the maritime dispute was settled by the ICJ and there is no turning point on that. The court verdict favoured Somalia’s sovereignty,” Omar stated. … In October 2021, the Court agreed with most of [Somalia’s] claims and dropped others. The ICJ decisions are binding to the parties and have no option for appeal. However, the two countries will need to actually re-demarcate the boundaries as decided by the Court. East African

Ghana Minister Arrested after $1m Cash Scandal
Ghana’s former Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources Cecilia Dapaah has been arrested by the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) after the reported theft of $1m (£780,000) cash from her house. According to the OSP, the former minister was placed under house arrest on Sunday 22 July on “suspected corruption and corruption related offenses”. Many Ghanaians and anti-corruption campaigners have questioned how a public servant could have so much money stashed in their home amid an economic crisis in Ghana. “Ms Dapaah is being questioned by authorised Officers of the OSP,” the statement read. Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo accepted her resignation on Saturday following a public outcry. BBC

Botswana Spy Agency ‘Regrets’ Arrest of Reporters, Vows to Improve Relations with Media
The Botswana Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) said it detained the editor and a journalist from Mmegi newspaper because of “reasonable suspicion”, but it regrets the development. This was after the Botswana Editors Forum (BEF) and the Botswana chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) engaged the spy organisation over the arrest of editor Ryder Gabathuse and senior reporter Innocent Selatlhwa a few hours before the paper’s Thursday deadline. “The directorate carried out the said investigation on reasonable suspicion that the persons in question had conducted themselves in contravention of the Intelligence and Security Services Act (2008),” the DIS said. The two journalists were released without any charges laid in the early hours of Friday from an undisclosed location, but their phones and laptops were confiscated by the DIS. … The DIS’s response came after the Botswana Editors Forum (BEF) and the Botswana chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) engaged the spy organisation over the arrest. In a joint statement, MISA and BEF said: “The [DIS] conceded that the manner in which the two Mmegi journalists, Gabathuse and Selatlhwa, were recently arrested was regrettable.” The DIS said it was open to engagement with the media because this is “in the best interest of democracy and national security”. News24

Uganda: Govt Suspends Timber Exports as per Presidential Directive on Deforestation
The government of Uganda through Ministry of Trade, National Forestry Authority, Customs, Police and sister security agencies have started enforcing the presidential directive of the ban on destructive production of charcoal and timber in the country. This has also led to the immediate suspension of timber exports from Uganda to the outside market. This ban was announced on Monday during a security press briefing, during which police revealed that they have begun enforcing the ban in collaboration with sister security forces and forestry authorities, including local governments. … According to police, all timber traders, transporters, middlemen and locals who often work in complex situations to ensure that they aid the illegal transportation of timber to stand warned that it is now illegal to export timber out of the country. … This ban comes high on heels amidst reports of increased deforestation in Uganda. Forests are cut down for agriculture, urbanisation and logging for charcoal and other business. Experts say that if the government does not intervene to slow the rate of deforestation, the country’s National Environment Management Authority expects to lose all of its forests in less than 25 years. Almost all of the forests outside of protected areas have been cleared, according to studies. Nile Post

Wildfires Kill 25 in Algeria as Heatwave Sweeps North Africa
Twenty-five people including 10 soldiers were killed in forest fires in Algeria on Monday, in the mountainous regions of Bejaia and Bouira, Algerian authorities said, as a heatwave spreads across north Africa and southern Europe. Some 7,500 firefighters were battling to bring the flames under control, authorities said. The interior ministry said that it is continuing its firefighting operations in the Boumerdes, Bouira, Tizi Ouzou, Jijel, Bejaia and Skikda regions. About 1,500 people have been evacuated so far. A major heatwave is sweeping across North Africa, with temperatures of 49 Celsius (120 Fahrenheit) recorded in some cities in neighboring Tunisia. In Tunisia, wildfires swept through the border town of Melloula. Witnesses told Reuters that fires that had begun in mountainous areas had reached some people’s homes in the town and forced hundreds of families to flee. VOA/Reuters