Africa Media Review for July 3, 2023

UN Ends Peacekeeping Mission in Mali, US Blames Russia’s Wagner
The United Nations Security Council on Friday unanimously voted to end a decade-long peacekeeping mission in Mali after the West African country’s military junta abruptly asked the 13,000-strong force to leave – a move the United States said was engineered by Russia’s Wagner mercenary group. The end of the operation, known as MINUSMA, follows years of tensions and government restrictions that have hobbled peacekeeping air and ground operations since Mali teamed up in 2021 with Russia’s Wagner group, which was behind an abortive armed mutiny in Russia last weekend. U.N. peacekeepers are credited with playing a vital role in protecting civilians against an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands. Some experts fear the security situation could worsen when the mission departs, leaving Mali’s underequipped army alone with about 1,000 Wagner fighters to combat militants who control swaths of territory in the desert north and center. … As the Security Council voted, the White House accused Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin of helping engineer the departure of U.N. peacekeepers from Mali, and said it has information indicating Mali’s authorities have paid more than $200 million to Wagner since late 2021. “What isn’t as widely known is that Prigozhin helped engineer that departure to further Wagner’s interests,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “We know that senior Malian officials worked directly with Prigozhin employees to inform the U.N. secretary-general that Mali had revoked consent for the MINUSMA mission.” Reuters

Mali’s Junta Partially Reshuffles Government after Draft Constitution Vote
Mali’s junta carried out a partial reshuffle of the government on Saturday, a day after announcing the end of the UN peace mission in the country and eight days after a referendum in favour of the draft new Constitution. Though strategic posts remained occupied by the same people, government was significantly reshuffled, with 16 appointments, 13 ministers and three swaps. A representative of the Coordination des mouvements de l’Azawad, the main alliance of former rebels in the north, is also leaving the government, at a time of high tension between the two parties. A new member of the military joins the government, Colonel Assa Badiallo Touré, at the Ministry of Health and Social Development. Malians approved the draft of the new Constitution with 97% of votes in favour, a plebiscite for the ruling military, although voting was hampered in many central and northern localities either by fear of jihadist attacks or by political disagreements. Critics of the draft describe it as tailor-made to keep the junta in power beyond the presidential elections scheduled for February 2024, despite initial commitments. AfricaNews

Report Accuses Burkina Faso’s Military of Killings, Torture
A slew of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, and instances of torture by Burkina Faso’s military has terrorized communities in the country’s northeast this year, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Thursday. The violence took place between February and May across the province of Séno. The report identifies at least 27 people who were either summarily executed or disappeared and then killed, most of them members of the Fulani ethnic group. Jihadi fighters linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have waged a violent insurgency in Burkina Faso for seven years. The violence has killed thousands of people and divided the country, leading to two coups last year. The report by the New York-based watchdog comes in the wake of an April massacre in which residents say security forces killed at least 150 civilians in Karma, a northern village near the Mali border. VOA/AP

Sudan Clashes Intensify with No Mediation in Sight
Clashes between Sudan’s army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) intensified on Sunday, as the war in the country’s capital and western regions entered its 12th week with no attempts in sight to bring a peaceful end to the conflict. Air and artillery strikes as well as small arms fire could be heard, particularly in the city of Omdurman, as well as in the capital Khartoum, as the conflict deepens a humanitarian crisis and threatens to draw in other regional interests. The RSF said it brought down an army warplane and a drone in Bahri, in statements to which the army did not immediately respond. “We’re terrified, every day the strikes are getting worse,” 25-year-old Nahid Salah, living in northern Omdurman, said by phone to Reuters. The RSF has dominated the capital on the ground and has been accused of looting and occupying houses, while the army has focused on air and artillery strikes. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan last week called on young men to join the fight against the RSF and on Sunday the army posted photos it said were of new recruits. Reuters

Calls for Sanctions against Sudan amid Genocide Warnings in Darfur
British MPs have been warned of the possibility of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and urged to put pressure on the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, which has been accused of murder and arson attacks on minority groups in the area. While the RSF has been fighting the Sudanese army for control of the country in the capital, Khartoum, it has been accused of waging a separate war in Darfur where the Janjaweed militias, from which the RSF was formed, were accused of genocide almost 20 years ago. “The war in Khartoum is totally different from in Darfur,” Saif Nemir, a UN employee who escaped the Janjaweed, told the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Sudan and South Sudan on Monday. “The war in Darfur is the Janjaweed attacking innocent people sitting in their own villages.” It was, he said, a continuation of the war that started in 2003. “Back in 2003, the Janjaweed were on horses and animals, and today they are on the back of pickup trucks, moving very fast, using deadly weapons. That is how they are now instigating the killing of people in Darfur.” The Guardian

NGOs Urge USA, UK, EU, and Canada to Ratchet Up Pressure to End Sudan Conflict
The humanitarian situation in Sudan is worsening by the day, and Sudan’s route to democratic rule is looking bleak. The Netherlands-based international press freedom organisation Free Press Unlimited, which facilitated Radio Dabanga operations from its inception and still provides administrative support, together with 14 other organisations, has released a statement with a call and recommendations to stop the fighting in Sudan, directed at the representatives of the USA, EU, Canada, and UK governments. The statement letter expresses concern at the deteriorating situation in Sudan and urges the USA, EU, Canada, and UK to build on the actions already taken by the USA on June 1. More measures need to be taken to create leverage in order to stop the fighting and hold those responsible for the conflict accountable. Dabanga

Nigeria: 2023 Polls – Tinubu Rejects EU Report, Says Election Credible
President Bola Tinubu has rejected the report of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM), describing it as “a product of a poorly done desk job.” He said the EU did not provide any substantial evidence viable enough to question the integrity of the 2023 election outcomes. … The EU-EOM, in its final report on the poll last Tuesday, said though the elections showed the commitment of Nigerians to democracy, it also exposed enduring systemic weaknesses and therefore signal a need for further legal and operational reforms to enhance transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability. It added that shortcomings in law and electoral administration hindered the conduct of well-run and inclusive elections and damaged trust in INEC. Premium Times

Opposition Leader Urges Senegalese to ‘Come Out en Masse’ Ahead of President’s Speech
Popular Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko called on the public to “come out en masse” on the eve of a speech in which President Macky Sall is expected to announce whether he will seek a third term. “We must come out to confront the Macky Sall regime and say that it is not up to him to choose the candidates that will face each other in the next presidential election,” Sonko said on social media. Sonko was sentenced in early June to two years in prison for “corrupting” a young woman, sparking protests that left at least 16 people dead. The conviction makes him ineligible to stand in next year’s presidential elections. Sonko has claimed that the court case was engineered to prevent him from running, a charge authorities deny. He has been blocked in by the authorities at his home—or “illegally held”, according to him—since May 28. France24

10 Years Later: Why are Egyptian Human Rights Ignored?
This week marks a decade since the coup that installed Egypt’s current government. On July 3, 2013, Egypt’s military removed the country’s first democratically-elected president from power and set up an interim government. At that time, with Egypt’s politics and economy in turmoil, a senior general in Egypt’s all-powerful military, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, told his fellow citizens that the military had ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi because he failed to create “a national consensus.” But, el-Sissi promised, the military had no interest in retaining political power and would facilitate a return to democratic civilian rule. … At the same time, el-Sissi has tightened his grip on power. Independent journalists and anti-government activists have been harassed or arrested. One formerly jailed Egyptian activist told the investigative journalism website, Coda Story, that they had seen military officers stop people on the street, check their phones and then arrest them after finding they had posted, liked or joked about the Egyptian government or military on social media. Freedom House, the US-based democracy monitor, has classified Egypt as “not free” and the country’s freedom rating with the watchdog, already meager, has slowly eroded over the past five years, going from 26 out of 100 in 2018, to 18 out of 100 this year. DW

US Lifts Some Restrictions on Ethiopia after Human Rights Improvements: White House
The United States has lifted certain restrictions on Ethiopia in light of continuing improvements on human rights, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Friday. “We are lifting some restrictions on certain kinds of assistance,” Kirby said. For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app. Kirby added that the decision to lift certain restrictions was made in light of “continuing improvements on human rights, particularly following the cessation-of-hostilities agreement signed in November.” The Ethiopian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The United States in March determined that all sides had committed war crimes during a conflict in northern Ethiopia, which killed tens of thousands of people, left hundreds of thousands facing hunger, and displaced millions. The determination came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Ethiopia, where he praised progress in implementing the peace deal in the country. The Ethiopian government and forces from its Tigray region signed a ceasefire in November, ending the conflict. Al Arabiya

EU to Deploy Election Observer Team to Zimbabwe Next Week
The European Union (EU) will be the first to send an observer team to Zimbabwe next week, ahead of the 23 August elections, which will also be observed by the United Kingdom, the United States, and their geopolitical adversaries Russia, Belarus, and China. Jobst von Kirchmann of the EU met with Zimbabwe’s acting Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Amon Murwira on Friday in Harare, and the two signed a memorandum of understanding ahead of the elections. According to Murwira, the EU and international observers should “observe, not monitor, the election process”. In response, Kirchmann told the media that the EU envoy would follow the EU code of conduct, as well as Zimbabwean law. … The EU team, like in other polls in Africa, will have 11 election experts arriving next week. They will be followed by 46 long-term observers who will arrive at the end of July and 44 short-term ones who will be in the country just before election day. So far, 51 countries have been invited, as well as 17 international civil society organisations. … Despite isolated cases of hate speech, there has been no political violence since political parties began their campaigns last week. News24

Chinese Navy’s 5-Day Nigeria Visit Marks Rare West Africa Foray
A naval fleet of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) led by the warship Nanning arrived on Sunday in Nigeria for a rare visit by the Chinese military to Africa’s Atlantic coast, where Beijing has long made efforts to grow its influence. The Chinese ambassador to Nigeria hailed the five-day visit as a milestone in ties, and the Nigerian navy expressed willingness to work with China to tackle maritime security threats and maintain stability in the Gulf of Guinea, the Chinese embassy said in a statement on Monday. The destroyer and an accompanying frigate, Sanya, along with a supply ship, Weishanhu, arrived off the port of Lagos, with the Nanning berthing for a port of call through Thursday, the Nigerian navy said in a statement. … In January, Nigeria opened a billion-dollar Chinese-built deep seaport in Lagos. State-owned China Harbour Engineering Co and the Singapore-based Tolaram group have a joint 75 percent stake in the new Lekki deep sea port, one of the region’s biggest. … Over the last three decades, China has widened its influence in almost every African nation through investment, trade and loans. Al Jazeera

Deals Down, but Hunan’s China–Africa Trade Expo Reaps US$10 Billion
A total of 120 deals worth US$10.3 billion were signed during the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, capital of the central Chinese province of Hunan – significantly lower than previous events. Some 99 cooperation projects valued at US$8.7 billion were unveiled at the four-day event that ended on Sunday, Chinese officials said. Of these, 74 were matchmaking initiatives launched by 11 African countries. According to the Hunan provincial government, 15 economic and trade cooperation agreements and projects worth US$3.48 billion were signed on the spot at the Deep Cooperation Pioneer Zone Project Negotiation Conference, an expo side event. Among them was an agreement to develop the China-Africa cashew nut industry which could yield more than US$200 million in revenue in the next three to five years. … At another expo side event – the China-Africa Infrastructure Cooperation Forum – 32 firms from China and Africa signed 19 agreements, valued at US$2.9 billion, covering transport, energy, communication, water conservancy, industry, and agriculture. The projects included construction of the Republic of the Congo’s viaduct extension and the Tanger Tech Green Energy Park in Morocco. The total fell short of initial estimates that the expo would generate US$19.1 billion worth of agreements, with their eventual value a drastic reduction on the previous two events. SCMP

South African President Cleared of Wrongdoing in Scandal over $580,000 in Cash Stolen from His Farm
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was cleared of wrongdoing Friday by a public watchdog over a scandal involving the theft of more than half a million dollars in U.S. currency that had been stashed in a sofa at his game farm. Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka, whose office holds politicans to account, said Ramaphosa did not violate the ethics code for members of South Africa’s executive over the incident, which happened in 2020 but was only revealed publicly last year. The scandal was seen as the biggest callenge to Ramaphosa’s reputation and his leadership of Africa’s most developed economy. There is still an ongoing criminal investigation into the incident. … In clearing him in her final report on the scandal, Gcaleka accepted that Ramaphosa had reported the crime to the head of his personal protection unit and the contention that he had acted improperly was “not supported.” Gcaleka also said there was no evidence that Ramaphosa was guilty of a conflict of interest regarding any income from the business operations of his Phala Phala game farm in the northern Limpopo province. AP

How Climate Change Inflames Extremist Insurgency in Africa
Alhadji Yaro was a teenager when Boko Haram militants stormed onto his island in the vast, blue-green waters of Lake Chad and made villagers an offer at gunpoint. “‘We will give you good lives,’” he recalled the fighters’ saying as they urged young men to join them. “‘You will have everything.’” Yaro felt fear mixed with curiosity. He said he had grown up during a time of relative abundance, before changes in the weather started to mean smaller and smaller harvests for his family. Then, a few months before Boko Haram showed up in 2015, a flood destroyed their crops of corn and millet, leaving Yaro’s family with nothing. Throughout the Sahel, the region that stretches across Africa below the Sahara Desert, climate change is raising temperatures, increasing droughts and making rainfall less predictable, researchers say. These changes, in turn, are helping fuel Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist movement born in the 2000s in northern Nigeria out of political grievances, and stoking its violence, according to interviews with former militants, local leaders, military officials and researchers. Climate change, they say, is reducing the economic prospects of young men in this part of Africa and making them more susceptible to recruitment by violent extremists. This dynamic reflects a broader finding by the United Nations this year that the opportunity for jobs, rather than religious ideology, is the main reason that people join extremist groups across Africa. Washington Post

Dutch King Apologizes for His Country’s Role in the Slave Trade
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands formally apologized on Saturday for his country’s role in the slave trade, a rare direct apology for a historical injustice by a sitting European monarch. Willem-Alexander, who ascended to the throne in 2013, made the apology in a speech in Amsterdam at an annual commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Netherlands’ Caribbean colonies, which was also the start of a memorial year that celebrates the 150th anniversary of the end of the practice there. “We carry the horrors of the slavery past with us,” the king said, adding that the consequences of the slave trade could still be felt in the form of racism in today’s society. … Slavery was officially abolished in 1863 in the Dutch colonies, which included Suriname and Dutch Caribbean islands like Curaçao and Aruba among others, but many enslaved people were forced to work on plantations for a decade longer to limit financial losses for the owners. That meant that for most enslaved people, slavery did not end until 1873. The Netherlands’ role in the global trade of enslaved people has long been a neglected topic of conversation, but in recent years, the Dutch government has been trying to actively acknowledge it. NY Times