Africa Media Review for July 6, 2022

Sudan Anti-Coup Protests Hold Firm, as Citizens Skeptical of Army Promises
Sudanese protesters held firm on barricades on Tuesday, saying they were deeply skeptical of promises by coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan a day earlier that the army would make way for civilian rule. Defying the security forces, crowds stayed on the streets of the capital Khartoum, maintaining their months-long protests against the military power grab. “We don’t have confidence in Burhan,” said protester Muhammad Othman, perched on a barricade of bricks built across a street. “We just want him to leave once and for all.” A day after Burhan’s announcement, many protesters were awaiting a response from the main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), which was ousted from power by the October coup. The bloc has so far refused to take part in talks with military leaders, launched under international auspices in an effort to restore the transition to civilian rule. Burhan said late on Monday that the military would no longer participate in the talks facilitated by the United Nations, African Union and the regional IGAD bloc, wanting instead “to make room for political and revolutionary forces and other national factions” to form a civilian government. The announcement came eight months after the October coup ousted civilians from a transitional administration, sparking widespread international condemnation and aid cuts to the northeast African nation. AFP

Putin’s Media Blitz on Africa Food Crisis Sparks Alarm in Europe
European governments have been alarmed by a Russian disinformation campaign that seeks to deflect criticism that President Vladimir Putin’s war with Ukraine risks leaving millions of people in Africa facing famine. Russian diplomats have gone on a media offensive in recent months to push the narrative that sanctions, rather than Russian blockades, are causing shortages of grains and fertilizer in Africa. The public-relations onslaught shows how the months-long war in Ukraine is becoming a global propaganda battle as food, fuel and crop-nutrient prices surge. EU and UK officials who’ve recently met their African counterparts at meetings in New York and Rwanda expressed concern that the Russian message is gaining traction, said senior European diplomats who asked not to be identified. In response, European governments are increasing their engagement with leaders on the continent and boosting their own information campaigns to counter the Russian narrative, the diplomats said. Bloomberg

US Warns of Jihadists and Russian Forces as Africa War Games End
The United States’ top general for Africa has warned of “violent extremism” and the threat of Russian mercenaries in the Sahel region, speaking as war games wrapped up in Morocco. “We are seeing the rise of violent extremism in Western Africa, predominantly in the Sahel region,” said General Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM). The Sahel region is a vast territory stretching across the south of Africa’s Sahara Desert, incorporating countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. “We are seeing the arrival of malign actors, and specifically I am thinking of Russian mercenaries from Wagner,” Townsend told AFP in the North African nation on Thursday, at the conclusion of a four-week long “African Lion” international military exercise. “This training is not specifically oriented on those problems, but it will help all of our armed forces if we are called to combat this kind of problem in the future,” Townsend said. AFP

Authorities in Guinea Arrest Members of the Opposition
Authorities in Conakry have arrested three members of an opposition organization, including its national coordinator Fonike Mangue also known as Oumar Sylla. The arrests took place on Tuesday during a press briefing held at the headquarters of the coalition that aims for a return to constitutional order. The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution, FNDC, has recently threatened to demonstrate against the military junta led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya that replaced former president Alpha Condé. Speaking after the arrests, the coalition vowed to continue to fight for democracy. The FNDC is a sentinel of democracy, we have decided to fight for a return to constitutional order”, said Ibrahima Diallo, FNDC operations officer. Abdoulaye Oumou Sow, member of the FNDC, added “now that we see that we are no longer in a rule of law, there is no longer an open door for dialogue, we see that we are in a dictatorship, we are going to fight this fight and this fight is going to be led by the people of Guinea. And we call for the people to remain in action until Guinea becomes a virtuous democratic country.” The FNDC coalition orchestrated months of mobilisation against former president Alpha Condé deposed last September. The head of the military junta, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, has pledged to hand over power to elected civilians within three years. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rejected this deadline at a meeting in Accra on Sunday, without announcing new sanctions against Guinea, which is already suspended from the organisation’s bodies. AfricaNews

French Forces Make Niger New Home After Being Expelled by Mali
French forces in the Sahel will switch operating mode after they leave Mali, acting more “in support” of local forces rather than substituting for them, their commander says. After nearly a decade fighting militants in Mali, France is pulling its troops out of the country after falling out with its military junta. President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal in February, saying Operation Barkhane would continue elsewhere in the Sahel but in a smaller and reconfigured form. In an interview with AFP and Radio France Internationale (RFI), Barkhane commander General Laurent Michon said the force now had less than 2,000 men left in Mali. The pullout was on track for completion “by the end of summer, as the president has requested,” he said. “Around 2,500 French troops” will remain in the Sahel when the operation is over, “but this depends above all on the wishes of the African states,” said Michon. “France and the Europeans are moving towards more cooperative operations,” he said. These operations will be “determined more strictly by requests from the African countries, and will take the form of ‘in support of’ and not ‘in replacement for'” the local military, he said. Michon gave Mali as an example of the tactics of the past. “Sometimes we acted in the place” of the local armed forces in mounting operations against the jihadists, he said. Illustrating the closer cooperation, Michon said that last year a French unit on the Mali-Niger border was placed under the command of a Nigerien general in charge of the area. And in March, France set up a “partnership HQ” in the Niger capital Niamey, “with the goal of working with African officers embedded” with Barkhane, he said. As for the pullout, France has already left its bases in Gossi and Menaka in central Mali and is currently disengaging from a camp in Gao, the general said. AfricaNews with AFP

OPEC Secretary-General, Mohammad Barkindo of Nigeria, Is Dead
The outgoing Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mohammad Barkindo, is dead, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has announced. Born April 20, 1959, he passed at 63. “We lost our esteemed Dr Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo. He died at about 11pm yesterday 5th July 2022,” the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, posted on his verified Twitter handle Wednesday morning. “Certainly a great loss to his immediate family, the NNPC, our country Nigeria, the OPEC and the global energy community. Burial arrangements will be announced shortly.” The circumstances surrounding Mr Barkindo’s death remained unclear as of the time of filing this report. Just on Tuesday, he held a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari during which he announced that his six-year tenure as OPEC scribe was coming to an end. At that event, Mr Buhari thanked him for being a worthy ambassador of the country. The President even directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to mobilise the oil and gas industry to organise a befitting welcome reception in his honour when he finally returns home. In his remark during the visit, Mr Barkindo attributed his success to the tremendous guidance, charisma and international gravitas of President Buhari; support from OPEC secretariat in Vienna; and cooperation by members of the organisation. Apart from visiting Aso Rock, Mr Barkindo also on Tuesday delivered a speech at the ongoing Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference in Abuja. A former managing director of the NNPC, Mr Barkindo was appointed OPEC Secretary-General in 2016. He was the fourth Nigerian to hold that position and the 28th person in the role overall. Premium Times Nigeria

Nigerian Govt Announces Restructuring of Five Electricity Companies
The Nigerian government on Tuesday announced the restructuring of five out of the country’s 11 electricity distribution companies. The affected companies are Port Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna, Ibadan and Benin distribution companies. The privately-owned firms have struggled to provide power since the government ceded control in 2013. The government maintains 40 per cent holding in the firms, however, through the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE. Nigeria’s electricity sector has remained largely dysfunctional for decades, generating and sharing an average 4,000 megawatts to about 200 million people. The government said the five DISCOs had been unable to repay loans taken from Fidelity Bank to acquire their asset during the 2013 privatisation, and the bank has activated its right to take over the firms. This was disclosed in a statement jointly signed by the heads of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sanusi Garba, and the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), Alex Okoh. The majority equity in the firms will be sold to qualified private sector investors who will re-capitalise and effectively operate the entities, they said, according to Channels TV. The government said it has assurances that Fidelity Bank would fully take part in all current market activities aimed at enhancing the industry (e.g. National Mass Metering Program). “Today we were informed by Fidelity Bank that they have activated the call on the collateralized shares of Kano, Benin, and Kaduna (Fidelity and AFREXIM) DISCOs and that they have initiated action to take over the Boards of these DISCOs and exercise the rights on the shares,” the statement said. “Fidelity Bank’s action is a contractual and commercial intervention and is between the Core Investors in the DISCOs and the lender. BPE is involved because of the 40 percent shareholding of the Government in the DISCOs,” it added. Premium Times Nigeria

Jihadis Attack Jail in Nigeria’s Capital, 600 Inmates Escape
At least 600 inmates escaped in a jailbreak in Nigeria’s capital city, officials said Wednesday, blaming the attack on Islamic extremist rebels. About 300 have been recaptured, authorities said. The “very determined” rebels attacked the Kuje maximum prison in Abuja on Tuesday night with “very high-grade explosives,” killing one guard on duty, according to Shuaib Belgore, permanent secretary of Nigeria’s Ministry of Interior. Explosions and gunfire were heard at about 10 p.m. in the Kuje area of Abuja when the attackers arrived and forced their way into the prison through a hole created by the explosives. The Islamic extremist rebels who attacked the prison have waged an insurgency in the country’s northeast for over a decade. Their attack on the detention facility freed many of their members who are inmates, prison officials said. “We understand they are Boko Haram. They came specifically for their co-conspirators,” said Belgore. “Right now, we have retrieved about 300 out of about 600 that got out of the jail.” Nigeria’s jihadi rebels have carried out several jailbreaks in the country’s northeast in recent years, but this is the first in the capital city. Nigeria’s extremist insurgency, carried out by Boko Haram and an offshoot known as the Islamic State Central African Province, is blamed for violence that has caused the deaths of more than 35,000 people and displaced more than 2 million people, according to the U.N. The prolonged instability, hunger and lack of health services caused by the insurgency have indirectly caused the deaths of more than 300,000 additional people, says the U.N. The extremists’ violence is the most serious security challenge in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people, which also is battling violence in the northwest area by rebellious herdsmen and a separatist movement in the country’s south. AP

Rwanda: Kagame Says He Is ‘Prepared for the Worst’ If There’s No Solution to DRC Standoff
Rwandan President Paul Kagame says, if the diplomatic standoff with his Democratic Republic of Congo counterpart Felix Tshisekedi is not resolved amicably, it could “find me prepared for the worst”. Kagame was speaking live on the state-run Rwanda Broadcasting Agency on Monday, as his country combined Independence Day celebrations with Liberation Day…Relations between the two countries have had episodes of strains backdating to the 1994 Rwandan genocide which saw an influx of refugees into eastern DRC. However, relations seemed to improve after the DRC was admitted into the East African Community in April – joining Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, South Sudan, and Uganda. But again, relations deteriorated as DRC began battling M23 rebels in the east. Historically, the rebels have been linked to Rwanda by United Nations investigators. Meanwhile, Rwanda accuses DRC of working with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group led by the remnants of the 1994 genocide. Since May, there has been shelling of the countries, with each other trading accusations. In his address, Kagame said there was “no magic solution” to the current scenario. “There’s no magic solution here for me other than presenting the facts as I understand them, and the facts have been presented. It is up to the players concerned with the problem, whether they are Congolese or Rwandans, or the internationals involved, in one way or the other to stick to the facts and find the best way out of this problem based on the facts,” he said. News24

South Sudan Backs Military Stance on Civilian Rule in Sudan
South Sudan President Salva Kiir has lauded the Sudanese military leadership’s decision to return the country to civilian rule. Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Monday called on political forces to agree on a civilian transitional government without them, further stressing the need to establish a national security council. The General’s statements on Monday follow after a deadly week for Sudan’s pro-democracy movement as large-scale protests demanding an end to military rule have continued in the Khartoum area since Thursday. Kiir’s advisor on security affairs, Tutkew Gatluak Manine said the South Sudanese leader welcomed the latest political developments in Khartoum. “The developments in Sudan are encouraging and are in line with the efforts which have been exerted”, he told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday. Manime disclosed that Kiir spoke to al-Burhan and appreciated the progress made in the discussions, assuring him of his continued support towards finding a lasting solution to the situation in neighbouring Sudan. “H.E the president of the Republic of South Sudan Gen Salva Kiir Mayardit had a brotherly call and talk with his brother, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of the Sudan sovereign council to recognize and appreciate progress which has been made in the discussions and announcements by the leadership of the sovereign council,” explained Manime. He added, “These are important developments to acknowledge and to assure the support of the government and the people of South Sudan to the government and Sudanese people.” The aide said Kiir wants homegrown solutions to neighbouring Sudan’s crisis. Meanwhile, Manime is in Khartoum to deliver Kiir’s message to al-Burhan. Sudan Tribune

Ethiopian Prime Minister and Rebel Group Blame Each Other for Apparent Civilian Massacre
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and rebel group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) are blaming each other’s military forces after an unconfirmed number of civilians were killed Monday in the country’s Oromia region. The incident appears to be an ethnically targeted attack, according to a statement from the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This is the second attack against civilians in the Oromia region in under a month. The EHRC says the populations of the villages of Mender 20 and Mender 21 in Hawa Gelan in Oromia’s Kellem Wollega Zone are “primarily of Amhara ethnic origin” and that residents are hiding elsewhere despite security forces having reached the area. “The Shene group [another name for the OLA], fleeing from security forces, is threatening civilians in the western part of [Wollega]. In the Oromia region, civilians in [Kellem Wollega] were massacred. We mourn the loss of our citizens,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted Monday. “We will pursue this terrorist group to the end and eliminate it with our people,” he added. The OLA denied the accusations and blamed government militias for the apparent massacre. “Two divisions of the ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Force) along with allied forces are occupying the towns of [Kellem Wollega], including Machaara where civilians were killed en masse by the regime’s militias as security forces did nothing. The regime thinks it can just point fingers & escape accountability,” Odaa Tarbii, OLA’s spokesman tweeted Monday in response to Abiy’s statement. This attack comes less than three weeks after at least 200 civilians were reportedly killed in the Oromia region by OLA forces, according to the EHRC. The OLA denied these accusations and blamed government forces for the massacre. CNN

Ethiopia Says Sudan Agrees to Border Dispute ‘Dialogue’
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Sudan’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, met in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday to settle a border dispute that has led to violent clashes in recent weeks. “We both made a commitment for dialogue (and) peaceful resolution to outstanding issues,” Abiy tweeted after the meeting on the sidelines of a summit for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-member regional bloc for the horn of Africa and neighboring states. Burhan, who took power after a military coup last year, said the IGAD meeting gave them an opportunity “to take stock of the response” to challenges in the region, but he did not elaborate. “We are happy to convene in a very short time to discuss matters of great importance,” he said. Sudan’s ruling sovereign council said only that there had been a “closed-door meeting” between Burhan and Abiy. The longtime dispute between the two countries over the fertile border region of al-Fashqa. The region, which lies close to Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray, has long been cultivated by Ethiopian farmers but is claimed by Sudan, fueling a surge in tensions that has sometimes turned violent. Most recently, Sudan said that seven of its soldiers and a civilian were killed on June 22 after Ethiopian forces took them captive on the Sudanese side of the border and then brought them back into Ethiopia. Ahmed’s government has denied responsibilty, blaming the killings on a local militia. The two nations traded accusations again the next day, with an Ethiopian official saying Sudan’s armed forces had fired heavy artillery in the disputed area. DW

Will France Fund DRC Wildlife Park Where Alleged Batwa Atrocities Were Committed?
RFI has received testimony suggesting the government-funded French Development Agency is preparing to take over funding of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega Park from Germany. The alleged murder, rape and immolation of Batwa people living in the park was recently documented in a report by the NGO Minority Rights Group International. In an article published in April, RFI covered the reported killings and rights abuses of Batwa indigenous people in the Kahuzi-Biega Park. The accusations were based on a report by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), which alleged that guards and Congolese soldiers had carried out attacks between 2019 and 2021 in an effort to expel Batwa from their native land.  The park, a haven for endangered gorillas and one of the DRC’s biggest tourist attractions, gets most of its funding from the German government in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency, and the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. In April, following the allegations, German authorities set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the alleged killings. In its findings, published on 1 June, the commission said that no widespread atrocities had occurred on their watch. The Batwa who were killed, it said, had been used as “human shields” by armed groups during clashes between park guards, DRC army units and poachers. RFI

Algeria’s Colonial Past Still Haunts 60 Years After Independence
Algeria marks 60 years of independence from France on 5 July, but competing narratives over atrocities committed during more than a century of colonial rule still trigger bitter diplomatic tensions between Paris and Algiers. Algeria won its independence after a gruelling eight-year war that ended with the signing of the Evian Accords in March 1962.  On 5 July of that year – just days after 99.72 percent of the population voted for independence in a referendum – Algeria finally broke free from colonial rule. But memories of the 132-year occupation continue to plague its ties with France. Algerian authorities are planning to mark the anniversary with pomp and ceremony capped by a vast military parade – the first of its kind in 33 years – in Algiers. A show is also planned at the capital’s opera house that “retraces the long history of Algeria”, said the Minister for Independence Fighters, Laid Rebiga. The government has even commissioned a logo consisting of a circle of 60 stars containing military figures and equipment to mark “a glorious history and a new era.” Algeria’s war of independence left hundreds of thousands of dead. A crisis late last year underlined how spiky the issue remains six decades on. In October, Algeria recalled its ambassador from Paris and banned French military planes from its airspace, which France regularly uses to reach its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel region. That came after a bitter row over visas, followed by media reports that Macron had told descendents of Algeria’s war of independence that the North African country was ruled by a “political-military system” that had “totally re-written” its history. But the French government tried to smoothen things over. RFI

 



Photo: Adam Jones