Africa Media Review for July 31, 2023

Regional Heads Threaten Niger Coup Leaders with Military Intervention
West African leaders led by Nigeria have threatened to take military action against the new junta in Niger if it does not restore the democratic government toppled in last week’s coup within seven days. A statement following an emergency meeting of the heads of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States in Abuja, capital of regional heavyweight Nigeria, said: “In the event the authorities’ demands are not met within one week we will take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Such measures may include the use of force.” … Bola Tinubu, who became chair of Ecowas last month and president of Nigeria in May, has taken a stronger line than his predecessors on the bloc’s democratic commitment. “There’s no more time for us to send a warning signal, it’s time for action,” he told the Abuja summit. In 2017, in what was a high-water mark for democracy in west Africa, Ecowas persuaded then president Yahya Jammeh of Gambia to accept the results of an election or face an invasion by Ecowas forces. Since then, partly in the absence of strong Nigerian leadership, Ecowas has watched helplessly as governments in Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso – all Ecowas members – have fallen to military coups. Tinubu said the Niger crisis would make or break Ecowas’s democratic credentials. He urged it to take “strong, forceful and resolute” action in resolving what he called a “hostage situation” in which Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum had been imprisoned and his government overthrown. … A close observer in Niger, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal, said the military government had banned protests but had encouraged its supporters to mass outside the French embassy. FT

First Image of Niger’s Ousted President Appears Online
The first image of Niger’s ousted president has been published online after an attempted coup, showing the leader smiling broadly and appearing to be in good health during a meeting with the president of neighbouring Chad. Mahamat Idriss Déby, the president of Chad, travelled to Niger as a diplomatic envoy to speak to the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum – who is believed to be being held at the presidential residence – and the coup leaders. Soldiers say they have removed the president from office but an intense power struggle is continuing. Neighbouring countries and international partners have refused to recognise the new leadership and demanded that Bazoum be reinstated. Bazoum has not been harmed and has continued to talk by phone to foreign governments. Guardian

Putin Rejects Ramaphosa’s Appeal to Reinstate Black Sea Grain Initiative
Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected the plea of President Cyril Ramaphosa and other African leaders to restore the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the deal under which Russia lifted its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to enable Ukrainian grain to be shipped to world markets. Ramaphosa surprised some of his critics at the Russia-Africa Summit on Friday by telling Putin that the Africans had not come to St Petersburg to seek food “donations” but to ask him to reinstate the grain deal which he pulled out of on 17 July. … Putin’s response was … tantamount to a dismissal of the appeal from the African leaders. The year-old Black Sea Grain Initiative supplied about 32.8 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain to the world, easing food prices and food insecurity, including in Africa. … Ramaphosa and his team also appeared to get no direct satisfaction in their appeal to Putin for negotiations to end the war in Ukraine peacefully and for the principles of the UN Charter to be respected. Ramaphosa was implicitly referring to the fundamental UN principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, which Russia has manifestly violated in invading Ukraine. Daily Maverick

Central African Republic Votes on New Constitution as President Eyes Third Term
In 2020 Touadera won a second five-year term, after a vote interrupted by several incursions by armed rebel groups. He also had to overcome allegations of fraud. His rivals now charge that he wants to remain “president for life” – under the increasingly visible protection of private Russian mercenary group Wagner, which first deployed to the CAR in 2018. The country of 5.5 million people is one of the world’s poorest. Some 1.9 million people were called on to cast their ballots at polls which closed at 5:00 pm (1800 GMT), an hour later than initially planned after some delays in opening stations. Provisional results are not expected for eight days, while the constitutional court is scheduled to publish the definitive outcome on August 27, according to the national electoral authority. … “We know that the ‘yes’ camp is going to win – but we shall put the emphasis on participation,” national assembly vice-president and presidential majority spokesman Evariste Ngamana told AFP. The main opposition parties, civil groups and armed rebels have all called on voters to boycott the exercise. … “I’m observing this vote, and it hurts me to see the district chiefs, the observers… and the electoral agents only indicating ‘yes’ ballots to voters,” said Joseph Bendounga, a well-known opponent to the reforms. … “It’s a vote being pushed by the Russians and organised with their help – the president of the constitutional court and of the national electoral body have been invited to Russia and doubtless have received instructions,” a diplomatic source told AFP. AFP

Sudan Conflict Brings New Atrocities to Darfur as Militias Kill, Rape, Burn Homes in Rampages
Amna al-Nour narrowly escaped death twice. The first was when militias torched her family’s home in Sudan’s Darfur region. The second was two months later when paramilitary fighters stopped her and others trying to escape as they tried to reach the border with neighboring Chad. “They massacred us like sheep,” the 32-year-old teacher said of the attack in late April on her home city Geneina. “They want to uproot us all.” Al-Nour and her three children now live in a school-turned-refugee housing inside Chad, among more than 260,000 Sudanese, mostly women and children, who have fled what survivors and rights groups say is a new explosion of atrocities in the large western region of Sudan. Two decades ago, Darfur became synonymous with genocide and war crimes, particularly by the notorious Janjaweed Arab militias against populations that identify as Central or East African. Fears are mounting that that legacy is returning with reports of widespread killings, rapes and destruction of villages in Darfur amid a nationwide power struggle between Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces. AP

Senegal’s Ousmane Sonko Charged with Fomenting Insurrection
Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has been charged with plotting an insurrection and other new offences, according to the country’s public prosecutor. The announcement on Saturday comes weeks after Sonko, 49, was convicted on a separate charge of immoral behaviour and sentenced to two years in prison in a move that sparked deadly riots across the country. The new charges follow the detention of Sonko – who has been serving his sentence at home – for questioning at a police court in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, on Friday. He remains in custody. Abdou Karim Diop, Senegal’s public prosecutor, told reporters the new charges stem from comments Sonko made and rallies he held as well as other episodes since 2021, including an incident at his home before his arrest on Friday. … Sonko has portrayed President Macky Sall as a would-be dictator, while the incumbent leader’s supporters say the opposition politician has sown instability. Sall in early July eased tensions in the West African nation by announcing he would not seek a controversial third mandate following months of ambiguity and speculation about his intentions. Al Jazeera

Kenya Government and Opposition Agree to Talks after Protests
Kenya’s government and opposition have agreed to form a joint committee which aims to resolve their differences, senior politicians from both sides said, after a series of opposition protests over the cost of living and tax increases. Opposition coalition Azimio la Umoja (Declaration of Unity) and the government coalition led by President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) issued separate statements on Saturday confirming the talks. Opposition leader Raila Odinga had called for a number of protests earlier this month, causing widespread disruption and in some cases violent confrontations with police in which more than two dozen people were killed and many others injured. Al Jazeera

Kenya Cyber-Attack: Why Is eCitizen Down?
Kenya’s government has been fighting off a huge cyber-attack that has affected services on a key government online platform for almost a week. … The government has confirmed that there was a cyber-attack on the eCitizen portal, used by the public to access over 5,000 government services. … A group calling itself Anonymous Sudan has claimed responsibility. It portrays itself as a group of Sudanese cyber-warriors and has sworn to attack anyone who tries to interfere in the internal affairs of Sudan, but it is believed to have links to Russia. The group outwardly supports Russia and has become an affiliate of the pro-Russian hacking group Killnet. … It says it attacked the country because “Kenya has been attempting to meddle in Sudanese affairs and released statements doubting the sovereignty of our government.” … [Nathaniel Allen, a cyber-security expert from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies] said that “Kenya is probably as well prepared as any government in Africa to respond to such an attack. It has a well developed cyber-security and computer-security emerging response infrastructure. It ranks 51st out of 182 countries on the UN ITU’s Cybersecurity Commitment Index.” However, he pointed out that the country was badly affected in so many different ways shows “the dangers of becoming dependent on digital technology for critical economic functions without taking cybersecurity seriously.” BBC

Opposition Suffers Another Setback Ahead of Zimbabwe Elections
Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has accused the ruling party, ZANU-PF of orchestrating unconstitutional tactics to undermine free and fair elections, which is set to take place on August 23, 2023. This comes after Bulawayo High Court Judge Justice Bongani Ndlovu ordered that 12 CCC and other opposition members be struck off the ballot after they failed to tender their nomination papers on time on June 21. Earlier, the High Court of Zimbabwe prohibited exiled former Cabinet member Saviour Kasukuwere from running in the nation’s presidential elections. The action is in response to a complaint that a member of the ruling party made against the former Zanu-PF political commissar. Concerns have been raised about the impartiality of the electoral commission. Political analysts raised the alarm after changes at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), warning that if not managed correctly, it could have an impact on the standard of this year’s polls. AllAfrica

Family of World’s Longest-Jailed Journalist Still Battling to Free Him from Eritrean Prison
It was an ordinary Sunday morning in 2001 when two large men, wearing similar suits, arrived at the entrance of a home in Eritrea. A young girl named Betlehem opened the door. The two men asked to see her father. Her father, Dawit Isaak, politely invited the men to join the family for breakfast. Betlehem, who was seven at the time, remembers vividly what happened after the meal: “They said, ‘We have to go.’ And they took my father.” More than two decades later, Mr. Isaak remains in prison in Eritrea. Nobody has seen him for many years. He has never been granted a trial. He is believed to be one of the world’s longest-imprisoned journalists – and a symbol of the crushed freedoms under Africa’s most repressive regime. Globe & Mail

Senegalese Rappers Push for Social and Political Change
Pape Aly Guéye — also known as “Paco Pat Ghetto” — remembers when he first heard a hip-hop song on the radio, back in the 1980s. “Yeah, absolutely. It was ‘Sama Yaye,’ one of the first raps ever recorded in Senegal, by Mbacke Dioum [Backé Chium],” said the 47-year-old rapper. At that time, hip-hop was starting to boom in poor and working class areas, including Guediawaye, the suburban city where Paco Pat Ghetto grew up. … He said hip-hop captivated him, because he could tell serious stories in a fun way, and everyone around him seemed to like it. Paco Pat Ghetto and some of his friends started a hip-hop group. They called it Pat Ghetto, and they wrote about the violence and insecurity all around them. The group later became a pioneer of a hip-hop movement in the capital, Dakar, that demanded social and political change. “Hip-hop over here is always talking about politics, economy and social change. This is what hip-hop is all about mostly, in Senegal,” Paco said. The World