Africa Media Review for July 7, 2022

DRC, Rwanda Agree to Ease Tension and Normalise Diplomatic Relations
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda on Wednesday agreed to immediately cease hostilities between the two countries, Angolan President João Lourenço has announced. Following the Wednesday meeting in Luanda, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame also agreed to create an ad-hoc observation mechanism to help ease tensions, he added. Luanda will next Tuesday host the Rwanda-DRC bilateral joint commission meeting, President Lourenço, who is also the chairman of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), said in his capacity as mediator.  He was appointed by the African Union to mediate in the Kinshasa-Kigali crisis. “I am pleased to announce that we have had positive results, in our view, in that we have agreed on a ceasefire, among other measures that are contained in the roadmap that has just been presented,” President Lourenço added. Rwanda and DR Congo have been at loggerheads following counter accusations of each country supporting different rebel groups in eastern DRC hostile to the other nation. DR Congo and Rwanda relations deteriorated after Kinshasa accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, who have been involved in a series of clashes with the army since the end of May. Kigali denied the allegations, but in turn accused DRC of supporting FDLR rebels who are hostile to Rwanda. East African

Lack of Confidence in Sudan’s Military Reflected in Rejection of El Burhan’s Speech
The speech of Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan on Monday, in which he announced the military’s withdrawal from the current governing bodies, and gave the civilian opposition groups in the country the opportunity to form a government of technocrats, has mostly been met with scepticism and rejection. El Burhan, Chairman of the Sovereignty Council and the Commander of the Sudanese army said in a televised speech aired on Monday evening that the military would withdraw from the current national dialogue, facilitated by the AU-IGAD-UNITAMS Trilateral Mechanism. The Sovereignty Council will be dissolved after the formation of a new, independent government of civilian technocrats, that is to complete the tasks of the transitional period. Concerning the role of the military, El Burhan said that a High Council of the Armed Forces will be formed by commanders of the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to assume the supreme command of the regular forces, in agreement with the new government. El Burhan’s announcement was widely rejected by the resistance committees and other opposition groups in the country, while opinions varied within the forces that allegedly support the current authority. Radio Dabanga’s Facebook page witnessed wide discussions about the pros and cons of the new developments. It is expected that the coming days will witness rapid developments on several levels. Dabanga

UN: Record 345 Million People ‘Marching to the Brink of Starvation’
A top UN official said on Wednesday that a record 345 million people were now acutely hungry amid soaring fuel and food prices. David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Program, said a “record 345 million acutely hungry people are marching to the brink of starvation.” This represented a 24% increase from 276 million at the start of 2022. In early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the figure was 135 million. In total, between 702 million and 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021, 46 million more than the previous year’s average of 722 million. Beasley spoke at a meeting for the release of the latest report on global hunger by the World Food Program and four other UN agencies. “There’s a real danger it will climb even higher in the months ahead,” Beasley said. “Even more worrying is that when this group is broken down, a staggering 50 million people in 45 countries are just one step away from famine.” According to the UN, issues with food supplies are particularly severe in Africa and the Middle East. The UN report said the challenges to ending hunger and malnutrition are growing due to uneven recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of climate change and armed conflicts. The war in Ukraine has had severe repercussions regarding global food security after supply chains were already under pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DW

‘Fonio Just Grows Naturally’: Could Ancient Indigenous Crops Ensure Food Security for Africa?
With sweeps of his arm, Jean-Pierre Kamara showers handfuls of tiny seeds over the freshly ploughed land near his village in Senegal’s southern foothills. A team of young men ahead of him loosen more of the clay soil for sowing, while older villagers trail behind, raking the earth back over the seeds. Only breaking at midday to refuel on peanuts and palm wine, the village works methodically as a unit to grow fonio – a precious grain crucial to their diets that only takes days to germinate and can be harvested in as little as six weeks. Though laborious, growing fonio, one of Africa’s oldest cultivated grains, is simple and reliable, say Kamara’s Bedik people. With sweeps of his arm, Jean-Pierre Kamara showers handfuls of tiny seeds over the freshly ploughed land near his village in Senegal’s southern foothills. A team of young men ahead of him loosen more of the clay soil for sowing, while older villagers trail behind, raking the earth back over the seeds. Only breaking at midday to refuel on peanuts and palm wine, the village works methodically as a unit to grow fonio – a precious grain crucial to their diets that only takes days to germinate and can be harvested in as little as six weeks. Though laborious, growing fonio, one of Africa’s oldest cultivated grains, is simple and reliable, say Kamara’s Bedik people. It grows naturally, they insist, where mainstream crops such as wheat and rice are harder to cultivate. It is also well adapted to the climate, nutritious, tastes good and can be stored far longer than other grains. “If you put in front of me some fonio and also something made of maize, I’ll push aside the other because the fonio is much healthier. There are no chemicals used; it just grows naturally and then we harvest it. We don’t add anything,” says Kamara. Guardian

Africa Democracy Summit Calls on Leaders to Respect Term Limits
Botswana is hosting an international meeting aimed at strengthening democracy and adherence to constitutions in Africa. Participants are calling on African militaries and leaders to respect term limits after several recent coups and efforts to extend time in power. The three-day summit, organized by Botswana and the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), has attracted former heads of state and civil society activists from across Africa. Niger’s former president, Mahamadou Issoufou, speaking via videolink, said there is concern over the state of democracy in Africa. “We have some … results from certain countries, but democracy is regressing in certain countries, and especially through military coups,” he said. “I am happy Botswana and Niger are speaking with one voice.” Countries have to respect the two-term limit, he added. Issoufou left office after two terms in 2021 and was awarded the five-million dollar Ibrahim prize for good governance. Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, said his country, Africa’s longest-running democracy, was the ideal location for the meeting. He said Africa requires strong institutions to promote constitutionalism and to ensure democracy flourishes. “We remain resolute in the belief that we are better served by strong institutions rather than strongmen or women or anything in between,” he said. “My firm belief is that this summit represents our strong partnerships to renew and strengthen efforts to respect constitutional term limits as a pillar of democratic governance and peaceful political transitions across our continent.” Voice of America

Inflation Pushed 71M People into Poverty Since Ukraine War
A staggering 71 million more people around the world are experiencing poverty as a result of soaring food and energy prices that climbed in the weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations Development Program said in a report Thursday. The UNDP estimates that 51.6 million more people fell into poverty in the first three months after the war, living off $1.90 a day or less. This pushed the total number globally at this threshold to 9% of the world’s population. An additional 20 million people slipped to the poverty line of $3.20 a day. In low-income countries, families spend 42% of their household incomes on food but as Western nations moved to sanction Russia, the price of fuel and staple food items like wheat, sugar and cooking oil soared. Ukraine’s blocked ports and its inability to export grains to low-income countries further drove up prices, pushing tens of millions quickly into poverty. “The cost of living impact is almost without precedent in a generation… and that is why it is so serious,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said at the launch of the report. The speed at which this many people experienced poverty outpaced the economic pain felt at the peak of the pandemic. The UNDP noted that 125 million additional people experienced poverty over about 18 months during the pandemic’s lockdowns and closures, compared with more than 71 million who hit poverty in just three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. AP

Clampdown on African Firearms Trafficking
An Interpol co-ordinated police operation targeting illicit firearms in Central and West Africa saw 120 arrests and seizure of firearms, gold, drugs, fake medication, wildlife products and cash. Operation Trigger VIII over six days in June, involved saw 520 law enforcement officials targeting 35 hotspots across Burkina Faso, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  , Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. More than 20,000 checks were done against Interpol global databases, resulting in recovery of 480 firearms and 42 arrests tied to firearms offences. Additionally 14 organised crime networks were identified and dismantled. Authorities seized some 6 000 firearm parts, components, ammunition and explosives as well as EUR 110,000 in cash. Reinforced border controls and surveillance again demonstrated organised crime groups benefiting from a convergence of crimes and using the same routes for other illicit activities. An additional 78 arrests were made in connection with trafficking in illicit goods, with more than 45 tons seized, including over three of fake medication, 1.5 tons of drugs (cannabis, amphetamines and opioids) and more than 10 000 litres of contraband petrol. Forty tons of endangered shark species fins were recovered in Guinea and authorities in CAR dismantled a network suspected of supplying poachers with firearms and ammunition. The DRC reported seizure of 141 elephant tusks. With illicit gold mining suspected of financing terrorism and armed militant groups in the Sahel region, authorities launched more than 85 active investigations into links between firearms trafficking, transnational organised crime and terrorism financing. Over 26 kg of illicitly mined gold and 170 kg of explosives were seized during the operation. Souley Boubacar, Director General of Niger’s National Police, underlined “the collective security role” of Operation Trigger VIII and called for further similar operations to address regional security challenges. DefenceWeb

Beninese Insecure As Terrorism Increases
Benin’s government has been taking steps to stop incursions after several months of terrorist attacks in the northwest and northeast of the country. Despite this citizens still feel insecure. Jihadists first struck Porga in the Pendjari National Park area in December 2021, where two soldiers and an assailant lost their lives. Following this, the government set up a military base in the north of the country aimed at reinforcing the security of goods and people. But the attacks continued with the storming of the Monsey and Dassari police stations and other localities in the north, causing loss of life both among armed forces and civilians. The authorities continue to reassure the people of Benin: “The Beninese army is sufficiently equipped to ward off all the scourges that can disturb the tranquillity of the Beninese,” Alain Fortunet Nouatin, Beninese Minister of Defense said. “I will tell the people of Benin that they have nothing to fear.” General Fructueux Gbaguidi, Chief of General Staff of the Beninese Armed Forces reinforced the message: “We are going to make it so that every time someone tries to tackle Benin that they feel it deep in their spinal cord,” Gbaguidi said. But the president of a consumer association in Benin, Robin Accrombessi believes the move to counter the jihadist attacks has left the average Beninese with the impression that his freedom of movement has been restricted. “It prevents the consumer from having psychological security first because we are in constant fear.” AfricaNews

Nigeria: Flutterwave in Fresh Controversy as Kenyan Court Freezes Bank Accounts over ‘Money Laundering’
A Kenyan High Court has frozen the account of Flutterwave accusing Africa’s biggest fintech firm of money laundering. The Nigerian firm is one of seven entities suspected to have been used as conduits for money laundering in the guise of providing merchant services, according to authorities in Kenya. According to Kenya Star, the court on Wednesday froze 56 bank accounts holding 7 billion Kenyan Shillings (about $59 million). Other affected companies are Boxtrip Travel and Tours Limited, Bagtrip Travel Limited, Elivalat Fintech Limited, Adguru Technology Limited, Hupesi Solutions, and Cruz Ride Auto Limited. The newspaper reported that one Simon Ngige was also on the list of those accused. Flutterwaves’s 29 bank accounts with Guaranty Trust Bank, 17 with Equity Bank and six with Ecobank were all frozen. According to the report, Flutterwave’s account received billions of shillings and the same was deposited in different bank accounts in an attempt to conceal the nature, source or movement of the funds. “Investigations established that the bank accounts operations had suspicious activities where funds could be received from specific foreign entities which raised suspicion. The funds were then transferred to related accounts as opposed to settlement to merchants,” It said. Kenya’s Asset Recovery Agency received orders to search and inspect the accounts on April 4, an investigator with the Agency, Isaac Nakitare, said in an affidavit. According to him, as at the time of the order, Flutterwaves’ accounts at Guaranty Trust bank had a balance of Sh5.3 billion, Sh1.4 billion at Equity bank and other millions at Ecobank. Some of the funds he said were transferred into fixed deposit accounts. The agency accused Flutterwave of concealing the nature of its business by allegedly providing a payment service platform without authorisation from the Central Bank of Kenya as required by law. Premium Times Nigeria

World Bank to Give the Gambia $68M Grant to Revive Tourism Sector
The Gambia and the World Bank have signed a $68m grant to revive the ocean-facing West African country’s tourism sector. The deal was announced by representatives of both parties announced on Tuesday at a signing ceremony in The Gambia’s capital Banjul. The grant is meant to promote diversification and climate resilience of tourism and help protect the Atlantic coastline of The Gambia, a country of about 2.1 million inhabitants surrounded by Senegal, from the effects of climate change. Like many other sectors across Africa, tourism has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallouts of the war in Ukraine, World Bank managing director of operations, Axel Van Trotsenburg, said. Tourism accounts for roughly 20 percent of The Gambia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is the largest foreign exchange earner, according to the government. The pandemic caused The Gambia’s economic growth to contract by 0.2 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank. The economy has since started to recover, reaching 5.6 percent growth in 2021, largely driven by the return of beach resort-goers and remittances. Al Jazeera

Tunisia Struggles to Grow More Wheat as Ukraine War Bites
Tunisian farmer Mondher Mathali surveys a sea of swaying golden wheat and revs his combine harvester, a rumbling beast from 1976 which he fears could break down at any moment. Since the Ukraine war sent global cereal prices soaring, import-dependent Tunisia has announced a push to grow all its own durum wheat, the basis for local staples like couscous and pasta. The small North African country, like its neighbours, is desperate to prevent food shortages and social unrest but for farmers on the sun-baked plains north of Tunis, even the basics are problematic. “I’d love to buy a new combine harvester, but I could only do it with help from the government,” said Mathali. He reckons his outdated machine wastes almost a third of the crop. With spare parts hard to find, he fears a breakdown could cost him his entire harvest. But even a second-hand replacement would cost him an unimaginable sum: $150 000. “Our production and even the quality would go up by maybe 50%, even 90%” with government help, he said. “But our situation is getting worse and the state isn’t helping us.” Tunisia’s wheat production has suffered from years of drought and a decade of political instability, with 10 governments since the country’s 2011 revolution. That has exacerbated its reliance on imports. Last year, it bought almost two-thirds of its cereal from overseas, much of it from the Black Sea region. Those supply chains have been rocked first by the coronavirus pandemic and then by the war in Ukraine, which last year provided around half of Tunisia’s imports of the soft wheat used in bread. While it still plans to import soft wheat, the country is pushing for self-sufficiency in durum wheat by the 2023 harvest.  Mail & Guardian

Explainer | Why Malawi Can’t Celebrate 58 Years of Independence
In 1966, Malawi gained independence from Britain with then-president Hastings Kamuzu Banda, a historically divisive figure, being the only African leader having full diplomatic relations with apartheid South Africa. Banda was voted out of office in 1994 having run down the country to make it one of the poorest on the continent. Since Banda, there have been the late Bakili Muluzi, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, Joyce Banda, Arthur Peter Mutharika, and now Lazarus Chakwera. Only Zambia, with seven, has had more presidents than Malawi, a country seen as a model example of the transition of power in the Southern African Development Community. To mark 58 years of independence, Chakwera said “at 58 it’s a chance for us to build ourselves and subsequent generations a self-reliant and inclusively wealthy Malawi.” However, political analyst Makhumbo Munthali, who is the secretary-general of the Malawi Political Science Association, said the change of leaders had not brought much joy to Malawi…Under Chakwera, the same problems faced by previous presidents are still there, if not more. Munthali said he believed following the same trajectory, the country was headed for worse. “While the present is appalling and the future bleak, the onus is on Malawians to define their own destiny by taking proactive steps to push for a transformational socio-economic agenda. This requires strengthening social accountability mechanisms from the grassroots level in order to keep those in leadership accountable,” he added. Another political analyst, James Phiri, said the 58 years of independence have been punctuated by corruption from the ruling elite who have no intention to improve the country. “The various promises of transformational leadership that would deliver the much-needed socio-economic development in the medium and long term have been hijacked by narrow, vested political interests of the ruling elites and their business associates at the expense of public interest.” News24

South Africa Electricity Crisis: No Power for Up to Six Hours
South Africa is gripped by a winter of discontent as the country faces its biggest ever power crisis. People are experiencing rolling blackouts of up to six hours a day and are having to face a bitterly cold winter with an erratic and unreliable power supply. A typical day of what the state-run power company Eskom euphemistically calls “Stage six load shedding” consists of waking up to no power, driving to work through congested roads because the traffic lights aren’t working, being pummelled by the din of generators at the work place, and then finding power has been cut once more when you get back home. It’s enough to make George Landon, a resident of South Africa’s main city Johannesburg, want to leave the country. “I had a job interview in London. I’m booking my flight tomorrow because of the state we are in. Unfortunately I love my country, but the country needs to love us as well,” he says. Poor management and corruption at Eskom mean South Africa has been experiencing power cuts for many years but this is poised to be the worst yet. The country is fast approaching last year’s figure of 2,521 gigawatt hours of electricity cut from the grid. So far, Eskom has shed 2,276 gigawatt hours, and it’s only July. To prevent a total grid collapse, Eskom cuts power to different parts of the country at a time. Last week Eskom entered stage six for the first time since December 2019, meaning it had to cut 6,000 megawatt hours to prevent a nationwide blackout. There are eight stages of load shedding – each stage means 1,000 megawatt hours must be cut. Many residents have to go up to six hours a day without power. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones