Africa Media Review for July 26, 2022

Strengthening Sahelian Counterinsurgency Strategy
Militant Islamist violence in the Sahel is accelerating faster than in any other region in Africa. After nearly a decade of conflict, violent events in the Sahel (specifically Burkina Faso, Mali, and western Niger) are surging—with a 140-percent increase since 2020 and no signs of abatement. Militant Islamist group violence against civilians in the Sahel represents 60 percent of all such violence in Africa and is projected to increase by more than 40 percent in 2022. This uninterrupted escalation of violence has displaced more than 2.5 million people and is on pace to kill more than 8,000 individuals in 2022. Government control over the vast rugged territory has diminished over the years, revealing an inability to sustain pressure on militant Islamist groups and to provide security for communities. Sahelian security forces have suffered heavy losses in the conflict. Militants have successfully targeted security and defense forces in their attacks throughout Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Superior mobility and intelligence capabilities have allowed the militant groups to overrun static military bases, resulting in hundreds of casualties among armed forces. Military coups in Mali and Burkina Faso, moreover, have diverted precious attention and resources from the fight, allowing militants to gain momentum and expand. In 2021, a record 73 administrative districts witnessed violent events associated with militant Islamist groups, up from 35 districts in 2017. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Al Qaeda Affiliate Claims Attack on Mali’s Main Military Base
Islamist militants struck Mali’s main military base, just outside the capital Bamako, on Friday in a complex attack involving car bombs, but the armed forces said they had repelled the assault and had the situation under control. Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have repeatedly raided bases across Mali during a decade-long insurgency concentrated in the north and centre but never so close to Bamako in the south. Heavy gunfire rang out for about an hour early on Friday at the Kati camp, about 15 km (10 miles) northwest of Bamako. A convoy carrying the leader of Mali’s junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, later sped away from his house in Kati in the direction of Bamako, a Reuters reporter said. The military said in a statement that the assault involved two car bombs and was carried out by the Katiba Macina, a branch of al Qaeda’s local affiliate that is most active in central Mali. Reuters

Islamic State Groups Use South Africa to Channel Funds, UN Says
Islamic State affiliates are getting financial backing from supporters in South Africa, according to a United Nations Security Council report. The document, published this week, said Ugandans and Kenyans generate wealth in countries including South Africa and launder the proceeds to a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo that’s sworn allegiance to Islamic State. The Allied Democratic Forces, as the group is known, also receives funding from Ugandan business owners, it said. Bloomberg

Zimbabwe Goes for the Gold — Coin, That Is — to Fight High Inflation
With inflation soaring in Zimbabwe and the country’s currency in free fall as people abandon it for the U.S. dollar, the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa is fighting back with a novel strategy: gold coins. Starting Monday, Zimbabwe is selling one-ounce, 22-carat gold coins bearing an image of Victoria Falls, its world-famous natural wonder. Each has a serial number, comes with a certificate and will be sold at a price “based on the prevailing international price of gold and the cost of production,” the central bank said in its announcement on July 4. The coins will be tradable both in Zimbabwe and overseas, the bank said, and can be exchanged for cash. The goal is to reduce the quantity of Zimbabwe dollars in circulation to eventually restore that currency’s value. Washington Post

South Africa Officially Requests the Extradition of Two Gupta Brothers
South Africa officially requested the extradition of two Gupta brothers currently in the United Arab Emirates on charges of money laundering and fraud. “The matter relating to the Gupta brothers, the United Arab Emirates, Mr Atul Kumar Gupta and Mr Rajesh Kumar Gupta, commonly known as the Gupta brothers, are accused persons in two criminal matters.”, said Ronald Lamola, South African Justice Minister. The brothers were arrested in Dubai in June 2022 on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice launched by Pretoria. They are accused of having looted Africa’s most industrialised country with the complicity of former president Jacob Zuma. The pair disappeared from the radar in 2018 after a commission was created to investigate on corruption in the country. The Guptas are notably accused of having influenced for a decade the appointments of heads of public companies, and ministers and diverted contracts worth several billion. “We are ensuring that all the cases have the necessary resources, we’ve had good support from the department of justice, we are working very, very well, the ID (Investigative Directorate, ed) is working extremely well now with relevant stakeholders.”, explained Shamila Batohi, Director of National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa who also warned the extradition could take several months. AfricaNews

South Africa: Russia’s RT Channel Eyes African Expansion with SA Headquarters
Russia’s RT channel has embarked on expansion plans in Africa, starting to set up headquarters on the continent in South Africa where the Kremlin-funded TV channel is carried and supported by China. Paula Slier, the South African TV reporter who previously worked for SABC News and who was posted in Jerusalem, Israel, as RT’s correspondent for that region, is now overseeing the set-up of RT’s African headquarters in South Africa and will be managing the bureau. On Monday an RT spokesperson told News24; “We are indeed currently focused on developing our English-language Africa hub in South Africa, headed up by Paula Slier – a South Africa native, RT’s longtime correspondent and formerly head of RT’s Jerusalem bureau”.  “We will be releasing more updates about the particulars of this operation at the appropriate time,” RT said.  According to an insider, the RT South African newsroom is currently being set up although it’s still unclear how many South African staff, camera operators and reporters RT plans to hire as it takes a page from the playbook of what other global TV news channels like CNN International, Al Jazeera, BBC World News and China’s pro-Beijing CGTN have done in Africa.  The African expansion of Russia’s state-backed TV channel comes amid Russia’s unprovoked invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine and widespread global condemnation of the pro-Russia and anti-Ukraine misinformation and propaganda on the channel over the past few months. News24

Russia’s Lavrov in Republic of Congo as Moscow Courts Africa
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has visited the Republic of the Congo, the second leg of an African tour aimed at strengthening Moscow’s ties with a continent that has refused to join Western condemnation and sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. African countries, which have a tangled legacy of relations with the West and the former Soviet Union, have largely avoided taking sides over the war in Ukraine. Many import Russian grain and increasingly energy, too, but they also buy Ukrainian grain and benefit from Western aid flows and trade ties. Africa is also being courted by the West this week, with French President Emmanuel Macron due to visit Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau and US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer on his way to Egypt and Ethiopia. Lavrov has already visited Egypt and will head from Congo to Uganda, then Ethiopia, where African Union (AU) diplomats said he had invited ambassadors from several member states to a private meeting on Wednesday, dismaying Western donors. An invitation letter from the Russian ambassador to Ethiopia and the AU, sent to a number of African ambassadors and seen by Reuters news agency, said the goal of the meeting was to deepen cooperation between Russia and African states. Al Jazeera

DRC: Kinshasa Hosts Central African Economic Bloc Leaders
Security issues were at the centre of Monday’s summit of heads of state and government of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The conflict between the DRC and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebellion, of which Kinshasa accuses Rwanda of being a partisan, was also on the agenda. According to DR Congo President ,Felix Tshisekedi; “The rise in tensions between my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo and one of its neighbouring countries, Rwanda, is a situation that I personally deplore and that I hope will normalise with the goodwill and determination of all.” Khassim Diagne a UN representative, who has been widely critized in a recent protest against MONUSCO for its ability to stop conflicts in DRC, was also present at the summit and shared his bid on the security situation in the region. “To meet its challenges, we need an institutionally strong and operational ECCAS with adequate resources,” he said. The region’s leaders also spoke out against the arms embargo imposed on the Central African Republic. The heads of state agreed to “adhere to the Luanda (Angola) roadmap pertaining to the cessation of hostilities by the M23 rebel group and its immediate withdrawal from occupied positions” on Congolese territory, according to the final communiqué. The regional organisation was created in 1983 and comprises 11 countries. AfricaNews

US Senator Favours Ending Aid to Rwanda over Human Rights Abuses
The chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said he would place a hold on US security assistance to Rwanda in Congress over concerns about the Rwandan government’s human rights record and role in the conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Senator Robert Menendez called for a comprehensive review of American policy towards Rwanda. Menendez said he would begin by placing a hold on several million dollars in support for Rwandan peacekeepers participating in UN missions, according to the letter, which was leaked to the media and which his office confirmed was authentic. A hold is a Senate procedure that prevents a motion from reaching the floor for a vote. Menendez said he feared that US support for the Rwandan military, while it is deployed to DRC and reportedly backing rebels, would send “a troubling signal that the U.S. tacitly approves of such actions”. The M23 rebel group began a major offensive in DRC’s eastern borderlands with Rwanda at the end of March. Kinshasa has accused Kigali of backing M23, which the latter denies. Al Jazeera

South Sudan: President Kiir, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Holds Bilateral Talks
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and the Acting Sudanese Foreign Affairs minister, Ali al-Sadiq on Monday met and discussed ways fostering the existing bilateral ties between the two nations. Kiir, the state-owned television (SSBC) reported, also briefed al-Sadiq about progress made in the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement. South Sudan’s Foreign Affairs minister, Mayiik Ayii Deng told reporters that briefed the Sudanese delegation on the peace deal, citing the political parties’ consultative meetings on the post-transitional period roadmap.  He said Sudan, one of the guarantors of the peace agreement, would be the first country to be briefed once the proposed roadmap is agreed upon. Al-Sadiq arrived in Juba on Monday, having led a delegation from the Ministry of Defense, General Intelligence Service, Rapid Support Forces and the Director in-charge of South Sudan in Sudan’s Foreign Affairs ministry. The visit, SUNA reported, was to reactivate Sudan’s role as the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Authority of Development (IGAD) to follow up on the implementation of the September 2018 revitalized peace agreement. Sudan Tribune

Ugandans Protest Rising Prices as Police Warn of Trouble
Ugandans protesting the rapidly rising cost of living barricaded streets in the eastern city of Jinja, a major center on the busy highway to the country’s border with Kenya. Police tried to remove molten tires from the middle of the road, according to photos published by the local Daily Monitor newspaper. The street protests come a day after authorities in the East African country warned of an alleged plot by some “within the country and abroad” to encourage people to stay indoors for three days to protest inflation that has reduced the purchasing value of the Uganda shilling. “After the (three) days, they claim their alleged protests will transition into open street demonstrations and mass uprisings, to purposely cause change in government. These are illegitimate and unconstitutional means that we do strongly condemn,” police said in a statement. A liter of petrol (gasoline) in the capital, Kampala, is now selling at a record price of over $1.70, or about $6.90 per gallon, and sometimes even higher in other parts of the country. AP

Tunisians Back New Constitution, but with Low Turnout
A new Tunisian constitution that the opposition warns may dismantle the country’s democracy by greatly expanding presidential powers is set to take effect after a referendum on Monday that appeared to pass easily but with low turnout. President Kais Saied ousted the parliament last year and moved to rule by decree, saying the country needed saving from years of paralysis as he rewrote the democratic constitution introduced after Tunisia’s 2011 ‘Arab spring’ revolution. Opposition parties boycotted the referendum, accusing Saied of a coup and saying the new constitution he published less than a month ago augurs a slide back towards autocracy. The new constitution gives the president power over both the government and judiciary while removing checks on his authority and weakening the parliament. Tunisia meanwhile faces a looming economic crisis and is seeking an International Monetary Fund (IMF) rescue package – issues that have preoccupied ordinary people far more over the past year than the political crisis. There was no minimum level of participation for the measure to pass and the electoral commission put preliminary turnout at only 27.5%. Reuters

UN: Libya Is ‘Highly Volatile’ and Elections Are Needed Soon
Libya is mired in a constitutional and political stalemate that has sparked increasing clashes, a dire economic situation and demonstrations across the country by frustrated citizens, a senior U.N. official said Monday. Assistant Secretary-General Martha Pobee told the U.N. Security Council the overall situation in Libya remains “highly volatile,” with a tense security situation, “deeply disturbing” shows of force and sporadic violence by militias engaged in political maneuvering. She also cited a dispute over leadership of the National Oil Corporation and serious human rights concerns, including the reported arrest by armed groups of dozens of protesters who took part in July 1 demonstrations decrying deteriorating living conditions and demanding progress on elections. Oil-rich Libya has been wracked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country was split by rival administrations, one in the east backed by military commander Khalifa Hifter and a U.N.-supported administration in the capital of Tripoli in the west. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers. AP

RSF Assault Civilians in Sudan’s North Kordofan
At least six people were wounded in an attack by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)​ on the market of Abu Hajjar and some of the other neighbourhoods of the town in North Kordofan on Saturday. A listener told Radio Dabanga that he witnessed about five armed men, some of them wearing uniforms of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)*, assault a number of people with sticks at the market on Saturday afternoon. They explained that the assailants then went to Karango El Wehda neighbourhood where they beat people, which resulted in the injury of at least six people. The witness said that this was the second incident in which RSF paramilitaries assaulted the people of Abu Hajjar in a short amount of time. Residents of Karango El Wehda submitted a memorandum to the executive director of Abu Hajjar locality on Sunday to call for an end to the attacks of RSF members on their people. The director had promised them to put an end to the assaults. Dabanga

Photos: Anti-MONUSCO Protests in DR Congo’s Goma Turn Violent=
[Photos] At least five people have been killed and some 50 wounded on the second day of protests against a United Nations peacekeeping force in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a government spokesman. Protesters on Monday attacked a warehouse of the MONUSCO force and looted offices, demanding that the mission leave for failing to protect civilians in a region plagued by decades of militia violence. They also blocked roads in Goma with rocks and pebbles, ransacked offices and carted off some materials and set fire to a gate of the mission’s compound.Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya on Tuesday announced the deaths and said further information would be provided later in the day on the human and logistical toll of the protests. There was no immediate comment by MONUSCO. The protest was called by a faction of the youth wing of President Felix Tshisekedi’s UDPS ruling party, which said in a statement it was demanding the immediate withdrawal of the UN peacekeepers over what it described as their ineffectiveness. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara
Over the last decade, Zamfara State, in north western Nigeria, has been engulfed by violence. Gangs of young men ride into villages on motorbikes, armed with Kalshnikovs and machetes, to burn, rape, steal, and kill. They appear on the roads without warning, shooting drivers and dragging terrified passengers from their cars to be ransomed or shot. Even children are not safe: hundreds of kids have been abducted from boarding schools across the state and held captive—again, for ransom—at bandit hideouts deep in the forests. Thousands of people have been killed in this conflict across the north west, and close to a million more are now displaced from their homes. But despite the scale of the suffering, the crisis remains poorly understood—in part because it is so dangerous for journalists to travel in rural areas. Massacres and mass abductions make headlines, but the lack of on-the-ground reporting has left basic questions unanswered: Who are these bandits? What do they want? How and why did this violence take hold? In an attempt to find answers, BBC Africa Eye has spent more than two years tracking down and speaking to some of the most notorious bandit warlords in Zamfara. At huge personal risk, a young Nigerian journalist and law student, Yusuf Anka, visited bandit leaders in remote encampments across the state—including one of the men who, in February 2021, abducted nearly 300 girls from a high school in Jangebe. Premium Times Nigeria



Photo: Adam Jones