Africa Media Review for July 26, 2023

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. … 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

Niger’s President Being Held inside Palace – Security Sources
Niger presidential guards are holding President Mohamed Bazoum inside the presidential palace in the capital, which has been blocked off by military vehicles since Wednesday morning, security sources said. The movements have the semblance of four military takeovers that have hit neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso since 2020. Ministries next to the palace have also been blocked off, and staff inside the palace have not been able to access to their offices, presidency and security sources said. The rest of Niamey appeared calm, with normal morning traffic on the road and full internet access, a Reuters reporter said. … There was also a thwarted coup attempt in Niger in March 2021, when a military unit tried to seize the presidential palace days before Bazoum was due to be sworn in. Reuters

West Africa Recorded over 1,800 Terrorist Attack in First Six Months of 2023, Regional Official Says
Omar Touray [a top ECOWAS official] told the U.N. Security Council that half a million people in the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States known as ECOWAS are refugees and nearly 6.2 million are internally displaced. … Touray, who is president of the ECOWAS Commission, singled out the following drivers of insecurity in the region: terrorism, armed rebellion, organized crime, unconstitutional changes of government, illegal maritime activities, environmental crises and fake news. … He said the region is worried about the resurgence of the military, with three countries – Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea – under military rule. “The reversal of democratic gains runs parallel to insecurity that West Africa and the Sahel have been facing for some time now,” he said, and insecurity continues to inflict pain and suffering on millions of people. … ECOWAS military chiefs of staff have held consultations to strengthen a regional standby force “in a manner that will enable it to support member states in the fight against terrorism and against threats to constitutional order,” he said. Touray said the military chiefs proposed two options, establishing a 5,000-strong brigade at an annual cost of $2.3 billion or deployment of troops on demand at an annual cost of $360 million. AP

St. Petersburg Summit: Limited Representation from Continent Is Blow to Vladimir Putin
Yuri Ushakov, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s top foreign policy adviser, said on Wednesday that 21 heads of state and government would attend the summit in St Petersburg – a drop from 43 at the first Russia-Africa summit in 2019. The limited representation is a blow for Putin, who has used Russia’s strong ties with Africa and sensitivity to his war’s effect on global agricultural markets as a wedge to rally sympathy for his stance on Ukraine. … The list [of attendees] also includes countries such as Mali and the Central African Republic that are clients of the Wagner paramilitary group, which Russia says will continue to deploy in the region despite its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed mutiny last month. … Kholood Khair, director of Confluence Advisory, a Sudanese think-tank, said leaders had different reasons to attend or stay away. Although many had concluded that Wagner was a “pernicious force” on the continent, they were conscious of Russia’s prowess as a wheat exporter. “Many may frame this as: we are going for food security reasons, not for security reasons,” she said. … Russia’s decision to pull out of the grain deal last week, after which it has bombed Ukrainian ports and grain terminals, has angered some African countries, with Kenya calling the move a “stab in the back.” FT

Russia’s Influence on Africa Exaggerated, Experts Say
“Russia is not very popular across most African populations,” says Joseph Siegle, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ research and strategic communications program director. “Recent polls show that Russia rarely generates positive ratings among more than a third of Africans.” “Russia’s ‘popularity’ is largely among the elites who may stand to benefit from Russian engagements. The vast majority of African citizens remain skeptical of (Vladimir) Putin and Russia,” he adds. While the Kremlin’s concentrated anti-West and pro-Russia disinformation campaigns have led to some shifts in these beliefs, experts highlight that they achieve modest results, mostly in dictatorships. “African regimes may benefit from Russian disinformation, electoral interference, or opaque contracts surrounding natural resource extraction,” Siegle continues, “African citizens, in contrast, see such Russian engagements as predatory and undercutting African self-determination.” Kyiv Independent

At Least 18 Die in Attack in Sudanese City of Omdurman
At least 18 people have been killed in the Sudanese city of Omdurman as the war between the national army chief and his former deputy continues. Dozens of people were also injured when the army shelled three neighbourhoods in the city, which lies next to the capital, Khartoum, residents said. After more than 100 days of war, the bombardments added to a toll of at least 3,900 killed nationwide. The war between the army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his rival Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, began on 15 April and has uprooted more than 3.3 million people from their homes. … The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday of the “catastrophic humanitarian crisis” facing Sudan, “with more than 67% of the country’s hospitals out of service.” Guardian

Sudan’s Pro-Democracy Bloc Discusses Initiatives to End War
A Sudanese pro-democracy bloc on Tuesday (Jul. 25) called for an end to the conflict in the country and rejected the presence of multiple armies in Sudan. Speaking to reporters in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, the bloc, known as the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, outlined their desire that a solution to end the conflict would lead to the creation of a “Sudanese state free from wars and the building of an armed forces that serve the Sudanese people based on principles and values.” “We are against the multiple armies,” Yasir Arman, executive office member of the bloc said. Arman also said the bloc did not object to the entry of forces from East Africa (IGAD) and the international community into the country to monitor any ceasefire and an end to the fighting. “There should be preparation for the deployment of these forces to monitor the final ceasefire as part of the process to end the war, not to occupy Sudan,” he stressed. … The conflict derailed Sudanese hopes of restoring the country’s transition to democracy, which had begun after the ouster of long time ruler Al-Bashir. A coup, led by the military and RSF, disrupted the transition in October 2021. AfricaNews with AFP

Tunisians Protest President’s Expanding Powers and Demand Release of All Jailed Political Opponents
Despite scorching heat, opposition demonstrators gathered on Tuesday on the main thoroughfare in Tunisia’s capital to denounce policies pursued by President Kaïs Saied, two years to the day after he suspended parliament in the first step of a gradual rollback of Tunisia’s democratic freedoms. Hundreds of people joined the protest by a coalition of opposition parties and independent politicians, chanting “Down with Kaïs Saied.” A reinforced security presence surrounded the crowd gathered in front of the capital’s municipal theater. The demonstrators called for the release of political prisoners on trial for an alleged plot against state security, and other political opponents jailed or facing investigations. … “In two years, he (Saied) has destroyed all the institutions and democratic gains of the revolution,” said Samira Chaouachi, vice-president of the dissolved parliament. She was referring to the 2010-2011 popular uprising that overthrew Tunisia’s autocratic ruler, unleashing the Arab Spring movements across the region and ushering in a new era of democracy for Tunisia. AP

34 Killed in Algerian Wildfires as Heat Waves Parch Mediterranean Region
Wildfires devouring swaths of Algeria’s Mediterranean coast have killed 34 people over two days, the Algerian authorities said on Tuesday, as an extreme heat wave sears North Africa, Southern Europe and the sea between them. The dead include 10 soldiers who were aiding rescue efforts across Algeria’s forested Kabylia region, the Algerian Interior Ministry said. Another 16 people died in the fires in the village of Ath Oussalah, according to Berber TV, a local broadcaster. … The fires forced more than 1,500 households to evacuate and caused at least 1,700 homes to lose power, state-run radio reported. Plumes of smoke rose from at least 16 cities east of the capital, Algiers, including Bejaia, Jijel and Tizi Ouzou. The government, which had deployed 8,000 emergency responders, said on Tuesday that it had contained 80 percent of the 97 fires, but that 13 remained out of control. … For days now, countries around the world have been trapped in a cycle of nightmarish heat waves as the effects of climate change are exacerbated by El Niño, a cyclical weather pattern that originates in the Pacific. New York Times

South Africa: BRICS National Security Advisors Discuss Matters of Global Security, Economic Cooperation
Top national security officials from South Africa, China, Russia, India and Brazil were set to advance among other things their common “BRICS agenda and cooperation on security-related matters”, Minister In Presidency responsible for State Security Agency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said. The South African official welcomed her counterparts on Tuesday (Jul. 25) for the BRICS 13th National Security Advisors Meeting in Sandton, Johannesburg. … On Monday, Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni hosted a Friends of BRICS national security advisors meeting with her BRICS Security counterparts. The Friends of BRICS countries in attendance were Belarus, Burundi, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. This comes ahead of the 15th BRICS Summit that will take place in Johannesburg in August. AfricaNews with AFP

EU Deploys First Observers in Zimbabwe as Concerns Mount Over Election Credibility
The European Union has begun deploying election observers in Zimbabwe ahead of next month’s elections as concern mounts over the credibility of the vote.“Today we are deploying the long-term observers,” Beata Martin-Rozumilowicz, the deputy chief observer for the EU mission, told reporters in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday. “They will be throughout the country in all areas, not just in Harare but all the way down to the village level to better understand how the elections are developing.” Almost half of 2,400 Zimbabweans polled by pan-African survey company Afrobarometer in April and May said they don’t expect the election results to reflect how citizens voted and most anticipate violence after the ballot. Earlier Wednesday, Amnesty International said the government had cracked down on human rights and quashed dissent over the past five years, helping entrench President Emmerson Mnangagwa’ dominance — an accusation the government dismissed. Bloomberg

President Ruto Meets Tanzanian Counterpart Samia
Kenyan President William Ruto on Wednesday met with Tanzanian counterpart Samia Suluhu Hassan… The two presidents met on the sidelines of a conference on human capital in the Tanzanian commercial capital Dar es salaam. … The two-day Summit began with a discussion on the youths’ participation in Africa’s development agenda on achieving the African Union (AU) agenda 2063 Goal. The African Heads of State are set to discuss economic strategies that would create 100 million new jobs for young people in the continent by 2025 by using Africa’s driven human resources, banking on the potential offered by the African people, mostly women and youth. … The organisers, the World Bank and the Tanzanian Ministry of Finance said that Africa’s development is people driven, relying on human workforce on transforming the continent’s economies. Key areas for Africa’s economic development for discussion are health, modern agriculture for increased productivity and development of blue economy through utilization of Africa’s Ocean resources for accelerated economic growth. EastAfrican

Armed Gang Kills 34 People in Northwest Nigeria Attack
At least 34 people, including seven soldiers, were killed in an attack by a gang of armed men in Nigeria’s northwest Zamfara state, the head of a vigilante group and residents said. The attack in the remote Dan Gulbi district of the Maru local government area of the state occurred on Monday afternoon, Ismail Magaji, the head of the local vigilante group, told Reuters. Lawali Zonai, a resident, said, “27 villagers were killed in the attack while seven military personnel were ambushed on their way to aid the community from the gruesome attack.” … Gangs of heavily armed men, locally referred to as bandits, have wreaked havoc across Nigeria’s northwest in the past three years, kidnapping thousands, killing hundreds and making it unsafe to travel by road or farm in some areas. The attacks have confounded Nigeria’s security forces that are overstretched combating a 14-year Islamist insurgency in the northeast, violent farmer-herder and sectarian clashes in the central region and rising attacks by a separatist group in the southeast. Reuters

Short-Term Pain for Long-Term Gain? Nigerians Buckle Under Painful Cuts.
A teacher in northern Nigeria walks three hours to school every day, no longer able to pay for a ride in a tuk tuk rickshaw. Bakers operate at a loss amid soaring flour prices. Workers in Lagos sleep overnight in their offices to avoid the prohibitive cost of commuting. Since President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria was sworn in less than two months ago, he has shaken up his country with economic decisions that have been welcomed by investors and international backers, but been devastating to the livelihoods of many Nigerians. Now the question is whether Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, with 220 million people, will thrive or just get sicker from the bitter medicine dispensed by its new president. Mr. Tinubu set off shock waves when he announced during his inaugural speech on May 29 that he was ending a fuel subsidy that for decades had given Nigerians some of the cheapest oil in Africa, but amounted to a quarter of the country’s import bill. Gas stations tripled their prices overnight. Transportation fares, electricity and food prices followed. The government declared a state of emergency earlier this month to deal with the soaring cost of food, and said it will begin distributing grains and fertilizer to boost production. New York Times

Nigeria: How Lagos’ Bubbly Internet Cafe Culture Went Flat
In the 2000s, it seemed as if there was an internet cafe on practically every Lagos street corner. Inside, young people spent their days looking at pictures of their favorite hip-hop artists, playing online games, tapping away on pay-to-click (PTC) websites, or chatting over Yahoo Messenger. The demand for internet access was so great that eventually cafes sold internet access in bulk. More access meant faster connectivity and increased productivity. But it also created a springboard for Nigeria’s scammer industry. By the late 2000s, spending long hours at internet cafes became associated with “yahoo yahoo,” local shorthand for Nigerian internet fraudsters who used Yahoo Messenger to swindle unsuspecting foreigners. In the mid-2000s, Nigerian telecom companies started offering mobile-browsing packages, and the purchase of internet-enabled mobile phones jumped. Suddenly, there was an alternative to the long queues, overstuffed rooms, lack of privacy, and risk of arrest that characterized cybercafes. More than half of Nigerians use the internet, but only 30% of them own a personal computer, and data can still be prohibitively expensive. That means there’s still a market for internet cafes among low-income families and those who need to print paperwork. … Even though D-TEE still gets roughly 50 customers daily, Babatunde said that business is declining — and not just because of cheap mobile data. Some of his biggest problems are an unreliable power supply and rising fuel prices. Rest of World

DR Congo Intensifies Street Security Ahead of Francophone Games
The Democratic Republic of Congo has stepped up security in the capital Kinshasa amid concerns about the safety of athletes taking part in the international “Jeux de la Francophonie” or Francophone Games starting this week, the government said. Around 4,500 additional police backed by state security agents have been deployed before the event, the games’ coordinator Isidore Kwanja said on Friday. Athletes will be personally escorted by the police and their accommodation has been fitted with surveillance cameras. The lack of security in the city is the latest setback for organisers of the 10-day Francophone Games, which had already been pushed back two years from 2021 to bring infrastructure up to international standards. Authorities have scrambled to finish tracks, sports stadiums, and accommodations in time for the July 28 start date. … Around 3,000 athletes from more than 40 countries will take part in the games, which are held every four years with the aim of promoting the French language. Al Jazeera