Africa Media Review for July 27, 2023

Army Backs Coup as Niger President Vows to Protect Democratic Gains
Niger’s military leadership has thrown its weight behind a coup against the president, Mohamed Bazoum, even as Bazoum vowed to protect his country’s “hard-won” democratic gains. Declaring its support for the coup instigated the previous day by soldiers of the presidential guard, the military command said its priority was to avoid destabilising the country. … With reports suggesting Bazoum was being held by the coup plotters, who had earlier announced the suspension of state institutions and the closure of Niger’s borders, Bazoum posted on Twitter: “The hard-won gains will be safeguarded, and all Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it.” The foreign minister, Hassoumi Massoudou, issued a rallying cry on Twitter for “all democrats and patriots” to thwart the coup. Massoudou said the “legal and legitimate power” was the one exercised by the elected president, emphasising that while there had been “coup bid … the whole of the army was not involved.” “We ask all the fractious soldiers to return to their ranks,” he said. “Everything can be achieved through dialogue but the institutions of the republic must function.” … In May, Bazoum complained that his government had been the target of a disinformation campaign by Russia’s Wagner group, which has been a destabilising influence elsewhere in the region. It was unclear how much of Niger the coup plotters controlled. In a late-night address on national television on Wednesday, soldiers announced that Bazoum had been removed from power and all institutions of the republic suspended, in the seventh coup in west and central Africa since 2020. … The presidential guard, which first moved against Bazoum, is headed by Gen Omar Tchiani, but the televised statement was read by a member of the air force, Col Amadou Abdramane. Guardian

Attempted Coup: ECOWAS Sends Envoy to Niger
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has dispatched the President of Benin, Patrice Talon, to Niger to mediate the governance crisis in that country. The Chairman of ECOWAS and Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, disclosed this to journalists after he met behind closed doors with Mr Talon at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. … Also speaking, Mr Talon said the situation in Niger was a serious one and action must be taken immediately to salvage it. He expressed optimism that the quick intervention of ECOWAS would yield the desired result. … “I believe that all means will be used if necessary to restore constitutional order in Niger, but the ideal would be for everything to happen in peace and harmony.” … The situation in Niger has been condemned by both the African Union and ECOWAS. … “It should be quite clear to all players in the Republic of Niger that the leadership of the ECOWAS Region and all lovers of democracy around the world will not tolerate any situation that incapacitates the democratically-elected government of the country. “The ECOWAS leadership will not accept any action that impedes the smooth functioning of legitimate authority in Niger or any part of West Africa,” the Nigerian leader wrote in a statement. Premium Times

Putin Courts Africa at Summit, but Many African Leaders Stay Away
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with African leaders in St. Petersburg on Thursday in a piece of diplomatic theater designed to portray Russia as a great power with many global friends, despite its destabilizing war in Ukraine. But only 16 African heads of state will attend — fewer than half of the 43 who came to the first Russia-Africa summit in 2019, according to presidential aide Yury Ushakov, a striking disappointment for the Kremlin despite a flurry of diplomatic efforts in Africa and a sign of dismay in African nations about a war that has raised food and fuel prices, hurting vulnerable populations. … The timing of the meeting is awkward. Just last week, Russia renewed its Black Sea blockade on exports of Ukrainian grain amid a food security emergency and drought in the Horn of Africa. … Moscow, which has lately worked to roll back democracy in Africa, appeals to authoritarian leaders. A Prigozhin influence group, the Africa Back Office, contracts out services to spread disinformation, manipulate elections, discredit democracy, undermine opposition forces and attack Russia’s Western rivals. … Through Prigozhin’s network, Russia has supported coup leaders in Mali and Sudan, disseminated disinformation against democratic groups and opposition movements, manipulated elections, helped leaders evade term limits and endorsed fraudulent election results, according to the U.S. Congress-funded Africa Center for Strategic Studies. According to the center, Russia is “actively undermining democracy” in 23 African countries, 11 of them in conflict, even though most ordinary Africans favor democracy, according to polling in 2021 by independent polling group Afrobarometer, based in Accra, Ghana. Washington Post

Ukraine’s Top Diplomat in Liberia on Third Wartime Tour of Africa
Ukraine’s top diplomat visited Liberia on Wednesday on a third wartime tour of Africa as Russia prepares to host a summit with leaders from the continent this week after the demise of the Black Sea grain deal. The Liberia trip by Dmytro Kuleba, the first such visit in the history of Ukrainian diplomacy, according to the foreign ministry, comes amid a concerted push by Kyiv to challenge Russian influence in Africa… Foreign Minister Kuleba will hold talks with Liberian leaders to discuss “ensuring the export of Ukrainian grain to Africa” as well as the vision for peace in Ukraine set out by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the ministry said. “Against the backdrop of Russia’s food blackmail, Ukraine is maximizing its consolidation of support from African countries to continue exporting Ukrainian grain to the Black Sea,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said this week. Russia, like Ukraine a major grain exporter, last week pulled out of the year-old grain deal that had allowed Ukraine to safely export grain via the Black Sea during the war, driving up food prices. Russian air strikes have since hit grain infrastructure in the export region of Odesa, including along the Danube River, a vital alternative export corridor. Reuters

Amid Chinese Foreign Ministry Shake-Up, Wang on Africa Tour
This week as Beijing suddenly announced that China’s foreign minister Qin Gang had been removed after just seven months in the job, his predecessor and now replacement, seasoned diplomat Wang Yi, was on a tour of some of Africa’s key economies. Wang participated in BRICS summit-related meetings in South Africa, infrastructure talks in Kenya, and pledges on debt relief in Ethiopia, meetings that analysts said illustrate China’s way of showing its commitment to the continent. “Talk about hitting the ground running: news broke when Wang Yi was on tour as the director of the foreign affairs commission of the party’s central committee,” Lauren Johnston, senior China-Africa researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs said of the revelation that Qin — who hadn’t been seen for a month — had been removed. “His tour, now as foreign minister, includes South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Turkey — all big players in the Global South,” she told VOA. Paul Nantulya, research associate for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, told VOA that Wang’s trip to the region comes as China seeks to re-engage more with Africa in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However he noted: “It is rather unusual to have two high-level multicountry visits within a space of six months, because remember Qin Gang was in Africa at the beginning of the year for the inaugural Chinese foreign affairs visit.” VOA

Suspected ISWAP Militants Kill 25 in Nigeria’s Borno State, Residents Say
Islamist militants killed at least 25 people and wounded others in attacks on two villages in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state, a hotbed for insurgency, a police source and two residents said on Wednesday. The militants killed 18 herders grazing their livestock in one village and seven other people in another village, both in Kukawa district of the state that borders neighbouring Chad on Tuesday, the police source said. Habibu Ardo, a herder in the area, said “ISWAP fighters (riding) on more than 15 motorcycles attacked our people while grazing in Kukawa and beheaded 18 of them without firing a single bullet on them in order to avoid the attention of security forces.” Bakura Mustapha, a local vigilante who helped bury the dead, said “about 18 of the corpses were recovered in the bush and they have been buried today according to Islamic rites.” Reuters

Nigeria’s Suspended Central Bank Governor Appears in Court More than a Month after His Arrest
Nigeria’s suspended Central Bank governor appeared in court on Tuesday in the economic hub of Lagos on charges of illegal possession of a firearm and live ammunition. Godwin Emefiele was suspended in early June by Nigeria’s new President Bola Tinubu and subsequently detained by Nigeria’s secret police. He was brought to the court in Lagos, carrying a Bible, and pleaded not guilty to the charges. The presiding judge, Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court in Lagos, then granted him bail despite objections from the attorney general’s office. The case was adjourned until November and the start of Emefiele’s trial. … The secret police had filed two counts of illegal possession of a firearm and live ammunition against Emefiele. The charge was a far lesser offense than the alleged terrorism financing and economic crimes which the agency had accused him of last year. Both those charges carry long prison terms. AP

Morocco in Major Anti-’Terrorist’ Operation
Moroccan investigators questioned around 50 people Wednesday across the kingdom in a major operation targeting suspected jihadist supporters, local media reported, citing security sources. Among them, 21 were arrested on suspicion of having pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda, the reports said, adding anti-terrorist special forces were involved. Officers seized knives, publications defending “terrorism,” and instructions for making explosives, they added. The North African country has been largely spared acts of violence by jihadist groups, but its security services often report crackdowns and foiled attack plans. Last week police in Morocco and Spain said two people, including an IS supporter, had been arrested in a joint operation by both countries’ security services targeting “terrorists.” Defense Post with AFP

Gabon Launches Tender for Africa’s First Debt-for-Nature Swap
Gabon launched what is set to be Africa’s first debt-for-nature swap on Tuesday, with a plan to buy up at least $450 million of its government debt and switch it to an eco-friendly blue bond. Gabon’s beaches and coastal waters host the world’s largest population of leatherback turtles, with estimates putting it at nearly a third of the global population of the endangered species. At their simplest, debt-for-nature swaps see a country’s debt bought up by a bank or specialist investor and replaced with cheaper ones, usually with the help of a multilateral development bank “credit guarantee” or “risk insurance.” The savings are intended to be used to fund conservation. … The deal has long been anticipated. Industry sources told Reuters this year that the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) would provide political risk insurance as it has in similar recent deals in Ecuador and Belize. Ecuador pulled off a record $1.1 billion debt-for-nature swap in May, freeing up $18 million annually for the next 20 years for conservation of the Galapagos Islands. A handful of other African countries are also working on debt-for-nature deals, bankers have said, along with Sri Lanka and a clutch of Caribbean and Indian Ocean islands. The African Development Bank and European Investment Bank are interested in providing credit guarantees. Multi-country deals could also be on the horizon in the fast-developing asset class. Reuters