Africa Media Review for July 5, 2023

Senegal’s President Says He Won’t Run Again. Democracy Advocates Applaud.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall said Monday that he would not seek a third term in office, surprising many in the West African nation and setting what democracy advocates say they hope is a positive precedent in the region. … Sall’s announcement comes as democratic norms in the region are already under threat, with junta governments that seized power via coups now in power in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea. In the Ivory Coast and Togo, presidents are currently serving past the two terms originally mandated by their constitutions. … Catherine Lena Kelly, an expert on Senegalese politics at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a research group that is part of the United States Defense Department, said Sall deserves credit for his decision to respect the constitution, noting that Senegal has a long history of its leaders trying to hold onto power past their term limits. “It’s an important and right step that the president made, and for which he should be given credit,” Kelly said. “And it also doesn’t mean that there aren’t other reforms that need to be made and questions about who will be allowed to run and under what circumstances, and how journalists and opposition figures will be treated.” Kelly said that big questions ahead lie ahead about the independence of the judiciary in Senegal. During Sall’s tenure, three of his political opponents were convicted of crimes. Washington Post

Pullout of UN Peacekeepers From Mali Leaves Security Void
The United Nations mission in Mali was never the leading player in the conflict against jihadists, but its looming withdrawal opens up a security vacuum in the country and wider Sahel region. The UN Security Council’s vote on Friday to end at Bamako’s request the decade-old peacekeeping operation, known as Minusma, triggers the departure of more than 13,000 troops, who although they didn’t provide offensive roles, contributed to the security of large towns in northern Mali. Once the departure takes effect, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) will only have for partners the Russian mercenary group Wagner, described by the ruling junta as “instructors.” The outlook for the land-locked nation is bleak, according to experts interviewed by AFP. “The security vacuum already exists. But this is the final blow,” said Djallil Lounnas of the Al Akhawayn University in Morocco. “It wasn’t Sabre or Barkhane,” he said, referring to missions by French forces deployed until 2022, but the blue helmets “covered part of the territory”. … “The Malian state is disintegrating. These UN troops maintained a semblance of government and order, the last islands are going to blow up with them,” Lounnas said… Defense Post with AFP

Rights Group Raise Alarm after Burundi Walkout from UN Review
Civil society groups on Tuesday decried Burundi’s decision to walk out of a review of its human rights record and voiced concerns about a perceived slide in countries’ cooperation with U.N. bodies. States’ compliance with legally-binding human rights treaties that guarantee important freedoms are reviewed regularly by the United Nations. But in a rare move, Burundi’s 15-member delegation walked out of a U.N. Human Rights Committee meeting on Monday in Geneva because of the presence of what it called “criminals” posing as civil society members. The incident follows Nicaragua’s refusal to participate in a torture review and Russia’s absence from two reviews last year, amounting to what U.N. Human Rights chief Volker Turk described in June as “a significant lack of cooperation” with the human rights system. “There’s a trend and it’s becoming a real problem. Before, states were convinced this was important, but there’s been a recent degradation in cooperation with the U.N. treaty bodies,” Patrick Mutzenberg, Director of the Centre for Civil and Political Rights, told Reuters. Reuters

‘They Just Shoot and Burn’: Civilians Targeted in Nigeria’s War on Boko Haram
At the first sound of gunfire from the approaching vehicles, Falmata* and the rest of her village scattered into the bush behind their homes – they knew what was coming. The Nigerian military had destroyed Bula Ali village three times before, she recalled. This time, the patrol arrived on a December morning in 2021 and began shooting. The uniformed soldiers then dismounted, and while some torched houses and stores of food, others rounded up livestock and loaded them onto their vehicles. According to Falmata, eight civilians died that day, including two children, aged 10 and 15, alongside their mother, Bintu. An elderly man, Ba Modu, was also killed – too frail to run, he died when his home was set on fire while he was still inside. Bula Ali is no anomaly. In the 13-year war against jihadist groups in the northeast – collectively referred to as Boko Haram – the Nigerian military routinely launches what it terms “clearance” operations against communities it describes as insurgent strongholds. Entire villages are set alight, crops and livestock destroyed, and inhabitants scattered. During a year-long investigation, The New Humanitarian and VICE News gathered satellite imagery, photographs, and videos – as well as dozens of testimonies from local and international aid workers, military experts, witnesses, and soldiers – that all support allegations of international humanitarian law (IHL) violations by the military. … HumAngle, a news outlet covering conflict and humanitarian issues in Africa, estimated that more than 200 villages had been destroyed since 2010 in the northern Lake Chad region alone. The New Humanitarian and VICE News

Their Harvests Were Growing Smaller and Smaller. Boko Haram Militants Promised Them a Brighter Future.
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. … Local residents and researchers say that climate change also fosters conflict in the Lake Chad region, as extreme hunger pushes people to begin fishing and farming in areas controlled by extremists. Washington Post

Kenya’s President Lifts 6-Year Logging Ban to Create Jobs. Environmentalists Are Concerned
Kenyan President William Ruto has lifted a six-year ban on logging over the concerns of environmentalists. The president said Sunday it was “foolish” to have mature trees rotting in forests while local industries lacked timber. “This is why we have decided to open up the forest and harvest timber so that we can create jobs for our youth,” he said. Ruto became Kenya’s president in September. In 2018, while serving as deputy president, he announced a government ban on logging to protect water catchment areas and avert a looming drought. His administration’s first budget imposed a tax on all imported timber products, a move aimed at encouraging local manufacturing. Last year, he launched a plan to plant 15 billion trees in Kenya over 10 years as a way to combat climate change. … Green Africa Foundation Executive Director John Kioli told The Associated Press that lifting the logging ban would undermine all efforts to put Kenya on a low-carbon trajectory through forest rehabilitation. While stakeholders have not yet received full details of the government’s methodology for deciding which trees are ready to harvest, Kioli said a nationwide lifting of the ban would make it difficult to monitor the move’s environmental impacts. AP

African Leaders Push for Change in Global Financial Architecture
African financial leaders have taken up the push for a re-engineering of the global financial architecture, seeking a model that works for the continent. At the 2023 General Shareholders Meeting of Africa50 and Infra for Africa Forum in Lome, Togo, on July 3, the issue took centre stage, led by African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina. “It is failing the world,” Dr Adesina said, “it is not able to mobilise the capital that the world needs to meet all of its development needs.” “It is also failing developing countries because you can see that even after Covid, Africa still needs about $250 billion to recover. We need $277 billion a year to deal with climate change, plus you still have to deal with Africa’s debt: today countries have to pay a lot in terms of repayment and service of debt.” Dr Adesina said the first thing that needs to change is for the global financial architecture to scale up its level of ambition, “because we have to attain the sustainable development goals and we must make sure that globally we are able to do that.” … Africa will need $277 billion annually through 2030 to achieve its climate financing targets and drive green growth, as per the continent’s nationally determined contributions. EastAfrican

South Sudan’s Kiir Pledges Nation’s First Election
South Sudan’s leader, Salva Kiir, on Tuesday pledged that delayed elections set for next year would go ahead as planned and that he would run for president. Kiir, a towering guerrilla commander, has been the nation’s only president since he led it to independence from Sudan in 2011. The world’s youngest nation has lurched from crisis to crisis during Kiir’s tenure and is held together by a fragile unity government of Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar. A transition period was meant to conclude with elections in February 2023, but the government has so far failed to meet key provisions of the agreement, including drafting a constitution. … The United Nations has repeatedly criticized South Sudan’s leadership for its role in stoking violence, cracking down on political freedoms and plundering public coffers. The U.N. envoy to South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, warned in March the country faced a “make or break” year in 2023, and its leaders must implement the peace agreement to hold “inclusive and credible” elections next year. AFP

Sudan War Could Undermine Regional Stability, Governors Warn
South Sudan governors have warned that the conflict in Sudan could undermine regional stability, citing its geographical significance. Speaking in separate interviews with Sudan Tribune on Monday, the governors of Lakes, Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states urged the rival factions involved in Sudan’s raging conflict to immediately cease hostilities and embrace dialogue. Clashes since April 15, 2023 between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have killed nearly 3,000 people. Another 2.2 million, according to the United Nations, have been forced from their homes inside the country with almost 645,000 fleeing across borders for safety. “War in Sudan is not in the interest of anybody, not even to the leaders of Sudan themselves. War is destructive and it affects the stability of the region. Now it has affected us here in South Sudan. Sudanese refugees have come. It seems we will have to provide a place for them, provide security and of course ensure there is something they to support themselves so that children go to schools, go to the hospital. All of these were not things that were in the plans,” Tong Akeen Ngor, the governor of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State told Sudan Tribune on Monday. Sudan Tribune

Fears for Libyan Oil Production amid Military Threats
Fears have been raised of a damaging oil shutdown in Libya with implications for global energy markets after Libya’s strongman in the east, Gen Khalifa Haftar, warned of military action unless oil revenues are divided fairly within the next two months. … Eastern politicians claim the Central Bank distributes the bulk of oil revenues to the rival UN-recognised government based in Tripoli, even though the oil is produced in fields largely based in the east of the country. … There have been rumours that the NOC [National Oil Corporation] chairman, Farhat bin Qadara, appointed a year ago after his predecessor was forced out, was prepared to quit due to the political pressure, but he appears to be willing to stay on and try to mediate between Haftar and the Tripoli-based government led by a wealthy businessman prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh. Guardian

Tunisia: Outpouring of Hatred against Sub-Saharan Africans in Sfax
The images of the night of Monday, July 3, in Sfax that widely circulated on social media bear witness to rare violence between Tunisians and sub-Saharans. Stone-throwing, individuals masked with iron bars, tear-gas cartridges and burnt-down houses: A new level of violence has been reached in the central Tunisian town, which has been gripped by major tensions since last Sunday. … Sfax, the country’s port city and major economic hub, has long welcomed workers and students from the rest of the continent in search of a future. Since the beginning of the year, it has become a major departure platform for would-be exiles heading for Europe. In 2023, over 30,000 people have already reached the Italian island of Lampedusa from its shores. This situation has heightened racism in the city. On May 28, another demonstration took place in front of the governorate headquarters to demand action from the authorities to curb the migratory phenomenon and expel sub-Saharan Africans from the country. Romdhane Ben Amor, the spokesman for the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, warned that the situation was already heading for the worst. “Certain groups are taking advantage of the absence of the state to try to drive migrants from their homes, using force and all the violence that entails,” he denounced, describing the situation as “dramatic.” Le Monde

South Africa Outraged as Deputy President’s Security Stomp on Men
A video showing armed plainclothes officers dragging a man from a car at the weekend and stomping on his head until he lay motionless has outraged South Africans and drawn more attention to the country’s problem with police brutality. The officers are part of the security team protecting South Africa Deputy President Paul Mashatile, his office said on Tuesday. Mashatile’s office said in a statement that the incident happened in Johannesburg, and added that he “abhors any unnecessary use of force, particularly against unarmed civilians.” … The police protection unit, known in South Africa as the “blue light brigade,” has a reputation for using unnecessary force. The unit is known for fast driving along highways and reacting with force if other drivers don’t immediately recognise the small blue sirens on their cars and move out of the way. … Amid an outcry, national police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said in a statement on Tuesday that the police officers have been identified “and will be subjected to internal processes.” Al Jazeera

South African Investigative Outlet Wins Key Media Freedom Case
A South African investigative journalism organization on Monday won a legal battle against a powerful businessman in a case that tested the country’s media freedom. The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism had earlier been barred from using documents acquired from a source in its reporting on controversial businessman Zunaid Moti, who claimed they were stolen. But High Court Judge Roland Sutherland on Monday set aside that order, describing it as “an abuse of the process of court.” The organization had been running an in-depth investigation into the tycoon, who was accused of unscrupulous business dealings, including with President Emmerson Mnangagwa of neighboring Zimbabwe. In a series of articles, amaBhungane exposed how Moti allegedly used his ties with Zimbabwe’s political elite to secure lucrative mining contracts. AFP

5G Connections in Africa to Increase 50-Fold by 2028
Growing adoption of 5G technology across Africa is set to drive a staggering 47-fold increase in subscriptions in the next five years, not counting North Africa, according to a recent report. According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report 2023, 5G subscriptions will grow from a relatively modest base of 3 million last December to a forecasted 140 million by 2028. However, the figures mask the full impact of 5G growth in Africa as they exclude North African statistics. … More than three times the size of the United States and with a majority rural population (52%), Africa has witnessed increased investment by domestic telecom companies, which has spearheaded the democratisation of the internet. According to Ericsson, investment is driven by “a large youthful population and a high demand for connectivity.” “This will also enable new growth opportunities for service providers, driven by advanced mobile data and value-added services like mobile banking and payments” the report read. … While these developments are promising, industry analysts caution that significant barriers remain to 5G. These include the relatively high cost of 5G-compatible devices, low levels of digital literacy, and the uneven spread of network coverage, particularly in rural and remote areas. Mail & Guardian

The Ugandan Satirist Who Scared a Dictator: Kakwenza Rukirabashaija on Torture, Exile and Activism
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija tries to keep his scars covered around his children. Even in the height of summer he never takes off his long-sleeved shirt and trousers. He is worried that evidence of the extensive, brutal torture he endured before fleeing Uganda, etched permanently into his body, would terrify them. … Rukirabashaija details his ordeal in a new book, The Savage Avenger. It is a chronicle of an abusive system and testimony to the power of the pen. He was targeted and forced into exile because his work humiliated and frightened Uganda’s president, the authoritarian Yoweri Museveni, who has led the country since 1986. Rukirabashaija’s first novel, The Greedy Barbarian, a thinly veiled broadside at Museveni, led to the author’s detention and torture. His second, Banana Republic: Where Writing is Treasonous, details the regime’s attempts to silence him. It infuriated Ugandan authorities, and he was seized again. So, like reflections in a gruesome hall of mirrors, his third and most recent book is an account of the detention and torture he suffered for writing the second book. Guardian