Africa Media Review for July 7, 2023

20 ‘Militants’ Killed in Suspected Al-Shabaab Attack in Kenya: Police
Kenya’s national police force said on Thursday that 20 “militants” had been killed and eight officers injured in a suspected Al-Shabaab attack near the country’s border with Somalia. A special unit of police officers came under “heavy” fire in an ambush on Wednesday while patrolling in Mandera, a county in northern Kenya that shares an extensive frontier with Somalia. The exchange “left 20 militants fatally injured” and eight officers injured, the national police service said in a statement on its official Twitter account. “Police also recovered assorted weapons from the scene of crime,” it added, alongside photographs of a heavy machine gun and rocket launchers. On Wednesday, the Kenyan government announced it was delaying the planned reopening of its long-closed border with Somalia after several deadly attacks on its soil blamed on the Al-Qaeda linked jihadists. … Kenya has suffered retaliatory attacks by Al-Shabaab since sending troops over the border into Somalia in 2011 to crush the jihadists who have been fighting to overthrow the foreign-backed government in Mogadishu since 2007. News24/AFP

South Sudan “Not Ready” for “Free, Fair” Presidential Election, UN Mission Head Says
The head of the U.N. mission in South Sudan said the country is “not yet ready” to hold its first presidential election in the coming year. Nicholas Haysom, head of UNMISS, during a meeting of The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, said he shared “frank views” expressed by some government officials, political parties, and civil society that the country was “at this point not ready” for “free, fair and credible elections.” The mission head cited the lack of a reconstituted electoral body and a political parties council as reasons for skepticism. The presidential election is viewed as a culmination of the peace agreement signed nearly five years ago to pull the world’s youngest nation out of fighting that killed some 400,000 people. Haysom said “a conducive political and security environment is non-negotiable” for a free election. … President Salva Kiir and his rival turned Vice President Riek Machar were at loggerheads in recent days over the sacking of the defense and interior ministers. The peace agreement signed in 2018 stated that Kiir was to appoint the interior minister while Machar was to appoint the defense minister. But the president has unilaterally fired both ministers. AP

Sudan: Sexual Violence against Women Spikes
Sudan’s Gender-Based Violence Unit has documented nearly 90 cases of sexual assault and rape of women and girls since fighting erupted in April between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces. Sulima Ishaq Sharif, a prominent human rights defender in the Horn of Africa nation, told DW there’s a much larger number of cases going unreported. “We know that so many atrocities have been committed in the civilian population, but we don’t have all of the numbers,” said Sharif. Victims of sexual violence are struggling to access services, such as medical care for any injuries, emergency contraception or medication that can stop HIV infection. … The majority of sexual assaults are taking place in Khartoum, which is largely controlled by the RSF. Troops continue to loot and occupy people’s homes, at times raping women and girls in front of their husbands, fathers or siblings. … “My mum and the other women in the neighborhood decided not to allow us to go out for whatever reason,” [Amira Saleh] told DW. “We were afraid that if we go out and are seen by those Rapid Support Forces, we can easily be exposed to a rape or being assaulted sexually.” “The RSF is using sexual assault deliberately,” she said. DW

Darfur Leaders Converge on N’Djamena for Talks with Chadian Leader
Leaders of the armed groups in Darfur, signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement, arrived in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, on Thursday for talks with Chadian President on ways to stop the fighting in Sudan. Chad is hosting tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict in Darfur, while hundreds of fighters from Chad’s Arab tribes are participating alongside the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan’s ongoing war. Sudan’s western neighbour is the country most affected by the ongoing conflict, particularly since Chadian authorities intercepted dozens of vehicles carrying smuggled weapons seized from Sudanese army warehouses. … In a related development, a delegation from the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) is scheduled to travel to Addis Ababa on Friday after a meeting with the Ugandan leader on Wednesday. The FFC leaders, including the secretary-general of the National Umma Party who joined them in Kampala, will hold meetings with Ethiopian and African Union officials to support regional and international efforts to end the war and initiate a political process to resolve the ongoing crisis. The leaders of pro-democracy political and civil forces recently left the country due to severe criticism from military leaders, who accuse them of supporting the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). … Following their visit to Addis Ababa, the delegation will fly to Kenya, the head of the IGAD mechanism to end the Sudanese conflict. Sudan Tribune

Nigeria’s Electoral Body Begins Review of Elections Amid Court Challenges
Nigeria’s Electoral Commission this week began its monthlong review of the presidential and local elections held in February and March of 2023. The voting was marred by violence and technical glitches, and was considered among the most controversial in the country’s recent history. Mahmood Yakubu, chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), met with state electoral officials Tuesday in the capital. While praising INEC’s successful deployment of the voter accreditation system, Yakubu said INEC will evaluate its operations and the effectiveness of technologies used in the process. Yakubu said the exercise will be carried out without bias and that INEC will make its findings public. … The review is beginning a week after the European Union observer mission published its final report on the elections, prompting some debate. The EU said elections did not ensure the well-run, transparent, and inclusive democratic process that the INEC had promised. It also said public confidence and trust in the INEC were severely damaged during the presidential poll and were not restored in state-level elections. In addition, the report cited security issues, noting the political atmosphere was exceptionally tense prior to the election. VOA

Senegal Opposition Leader Hints at Election Disruption if He Can’t Run
Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has no plans to make peace with President Macky Sall and suggested he may try to disrupt next year’s elections if he is not allowed to run, he said in an interview with France 24 television on Thursday. “There will be no elections in this country if President Macky Sall wishes to counter my candidacy,” Sonko said from his home in the capital Dakar, where he has been under effective house arrest since he was sentenced to two years in jail in June on charges stemming from an alleged rape. Sonko denies wrongdoing and says the charges are meant to stop him from running in a presidential election scheduled for February. Reuters has not been able to identify his deadline to file an appeal, but it is expected this month. He has to turn himself into authorities first and it is unclear what he plans to do. Reuters

At Least 951 Died Trying to Reach Spain by Sea So Far This Year
At least 951 people, including 49 children, have died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2023, according to a monitoring group. In a report released on Thursday, Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) said the people lost at sea hailed from 14 countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo,Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, The Gambia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria and The Gambia. On average, five people lost their lives every day in the first half of this year along four different routes: the Canary Islands route, the Alboran Sea route, the Algerian route and the Strait of Gibraltar route. The group, which compiled its findings from official sources, refugee communities and rescue organisations on the ground, said 19 boats went missing with all the people on board between January and June. The access route to Spain via the Canary Islands accounted for the highest number of recorded deaths, with up to 778 people losing their lives in 28 incidents. Al Jazeera

Rights Group Urges Tunisia to Halt Collective Expulsions of African Migrants
Tunisia should halt collective expulsions of sub-Saharan African migrants and urgently enable access to humanitarian services for those the government sent to a dangerous area of the Tunisia-Libya border, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday. Tunisia has removed hundreds of the migrants to a desolate area along the border, a Tunisian rights group and a lawmaker said on Wednesday, with witnesses reporting dozens more put on outbound trains following days of violence. Disturbances between migrants and residents went on for a week in the port of Sfax, and one Tunisian was killed. Residents complained of disorderly behaviour by migrants and migrants complained of racist harassment. Thousands of undocumented migrants have flocked to Sfax in recent months with the goal of setting off for Europe in boats run by human traffickers, amounting to an unprecedented migration crisis for Tunisia. “Not only is it unconscionable to abuse people and abandon them in the desert, but collective expulsions violate international law,” said Lauren Seibert, refugee and migrant rights researcher at HRW. Reuters

After Mutiny, Kremlin Looks to Unwind Holdings Tied to Wagner Mercenary Boss
With Moscow still rattled by the Wagner mercenary group’s failed rebellion, the Kremlin has begun the difficult task of dismantling and taking control of Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s sprawling empire, which included not only the shadowy army-for-hire but also a propaganda media wing and internet troll factories infamous for interfering in elections in the United States. Prigozhin, the St. Petersburg mogul known as “Putin’s chef” because he made billions from government catering contracts to feed soldiers and kindergartners across Russia, has dropped out of sight since agreeing last Saturday to halt his mutiny and go to Belarus. … Russia has sought to reassure leaders who relied on Wagner for security that the firm will continue to operate, but it is not clear that will be possible while also cutting off Prigozhin from the stream of public funds that have financed and enriched him for decades. … “Prigozhin is not only the Wagner Group, he represents a structure that is trying to work on the ideological front, on the political front, and so on,” said Denis Korotkov, a Russian investigative journalist who first uncovered the Wagner Group. “All this works in a tight ecosystem with other sides of his business.” Prigozhin ran the Patriot media group, a network of sites and blogs that amplified his messaging across online platforms and thrived on the Telegram app. This allowed Prigozhin and Wagner to boost their public image, despite being blacklisted on state TV, and to slam regular military leaders for mismanaging the war. Washington Post

South Africa’s ‘Vladimir Putin Problem’ Now a Headache to Brics Bloc
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will soon announce what will be done about the legally problematic August visit to South Africa of Russian President Vladimir Putin for a summit … President Ramaphosa apparently raised the dilemma he is now in with Putin during his recent African Peace Mission in Russia and Ukraine. The issue, say diplomatic sources here, came up during Ramaphosa’s apparently unsuccessful visit to St Petersburg, leading an African delegation attempting to forge an unlikely peace between the Ukrainians — who are unequivocal in wanting “all Russians gone”, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky put it — and the Russians, who seem intent on pursuing their war with their West-leaning neighbour. The Putin-Ramaphosa meeting seems to have been a thorny affair, with Putin not letting the South African leader off the hook with regards to his attending the Brics summit “as usual”, though the generally held view among the informed is that Putin was highly unlikely to have come, even before the failed June 23 insurrection of Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. Far from appearing the best of friends, Putin scowled through what amounted to a dressing-down from Ramaphosa over Russia’s violation of international sovereignty rights in Ukraine and grumpily defended his invasion on the grounds that the West had supported the ousting of the pro-Kremlin leadership in Ukraine in 2014. … Ramaphosa’s subsequent remarks in St Petersburg, where he met Putin, may have ensured that the Russian leader, who was clearly angered, would not come – but the failed ‘Wagner coup’ has virtually ensured that outcome, due to insecurity on the Russian home front. Nation

Albinism Community in Malawi Demands an End to Attacks
The Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi, or APAM, is appealing for urgent intervention to stop continued attacks on people with albinism in the country. This comes after unidentified people in June tampered with a grave in Blantyre, a city in southern Malawi, exhumed a body and removed its arms and legs. The incident has raised existing fears within the community, advocates say. Young Mahamba, president of APAM, said the incident is the seventh this year alone. “We also had three tampering with graves and another two attacks on the 9th of last month [June 9],” Mahamba told VOA. “And also, in Phalombe [a district in the southern region of Malawi], there was the tampering of graves. This one was discovered on 20th March without limbs as [was] this one.” Since 2014, more than 170 albinos have been killed or attacked in Malawi because of false beliefs that concoctions mixed with their body parts bring luck and wealth, according to official data. … “If you ask each and every person with albinism here in Malawi, they will tell you that this issue hasn’t stopped, and we don’t have peace. So, there is no time [to] relax, to hold the breaks in terms of our security,” Mahamba said. Peter Kalaya, national spokesperson for Malawi Police Service, said police are not able to make progress because of the false beliefs by some that there is a viable demand for body parts. VOA

Nigeria Confirms Outbreak of Deadly Diphtheria
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has confirmed 798 cases of diphtheria in Nigeria since December 2022, resulting in one death. In a recent statement, the NCDC disclosed that 654 of the confirmed cases were among individuals who were not vaccinated. The outbreak has been reported in multiple states, with Kano recording the highest number of cases at 782. Children aged 2-14 years account for the majority of cases, and the case fatality rate stands at 10%. The NCDC emphasizes the importance of vaccination in preventing diphtheria and highlights the need to improve historical vaccination coverage, as less than half of children under 15 are fully protected from the disease. AfricaNews

Zimbabwe Presidential Advisor Kuda Tagwirei Unmoved by Money Laundering Claims
Zimbabwean presidential advisor and businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei is unmoved by an investigation unit’s exposé that he allegedly used fronts and fake invoices to buy nickel and gold mines with a combined value of R431 million in 2019. Two US investigation units, The Sentry and Open Secrets, released a report titled “Fronts, Fakes, and Façades: How South African and Mauritian Enablers Helped Move Millions from Zimbabwe to Britain”. In response to inquiries by News24, Tagwirei said: “I know that you already know that I don’t comment on such distractions.” In 2020, the US imposed sanctions on Tagwirei who they referred to as “a notoriously corrupt Zimbabwean businessman”. The sanctions were for “materially assisting senior Zimbabwean government officials involved in public corruption”. Tagwirei stands accused of using his relationships with the highest political office to gain state contracts and receive favoured access to hard currency. According to The Sentry and Open Secrets, he moved suspicious funds from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) using fronts, false invoices, and offshore financial façades. News24

How Internationally Connected Cameroon Elites Plundered $656 Million
A list of 67 suspicious transactions scheduled for investigation by Cameroon’s tax agency shows a total equivalent of $656 million in undeclared payments from state coffers to questionable business entities and individuals. The list, obtained by the Arizona Project team in Cameroon … covers the period 2017 to 2021 and contains the names of beneficiaries with foreign connections, some real and some possibly fake. However, the tax investigations, initiated by former tax agency Director-General Mopa Fatoing, seem to have been snuffed out. No results have been forthcoming and Mr Fatoing was recently removed from his post by Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya. This is another finding of the Arizona Project … investigation into the murder of journalist Martinez Zogo, which was conducted by Cameroonian and West African journalists in ZAM’s partner Network of African Investigative Reporters and Editors (NAIRE), together with the ZAM platform itself and international partners in Italy, Nigeria, Togo, and Equatorial Guinea (see credit box). There are no indications whatsoever that any one of the individuals named on the list -except for Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, who is now jailed on charges in connection with the case- have anything to do with the murder of Martinez Zogo. But the journalist’s gruesome killing created a climate of terror and silence in which any and all corruption investigations in Cameroon, including the tax agency’s list of 67 cases, came to a standstill. Premium Times

Niger, China Discuss Uranium Mine and Other Deals
The West African nation of Niger and China have been discussing deals that include an industrial park, an oil pipeline and a uranium mine. The Chinese ambassador to Niger, Jiang Feng, said China would build an industrial park that would impact industries including agro-food, manufacturing, mining and real estate, according to a tweet from Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum’s official account. It said the deal is a result of a China-Niger Investment Forum held in April. … Days before comments on these deals, a delegation from the National Uranium Company of China, or CNUC, discussed the resumption of exploration and mining of uranium in Niger’s northern regions nine years after the project was abandoned because of poor sales of the commodity in international markets. VOA

‘Never Just the Heat’: Signals of Climate Distress on the Rise
As a warming Earth simmered into worrisome new territory this week, scientists said the unofficial records being set for average planetary temperature were a clear sign of how pollutants released by humans are warming their environment. But the heat is also just one way the planet is telling us something is gravely wrong, they said. “Heat sets the pace of our climate in so many ways … it’s never just the heat,” Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at Brown University, told The Associated Press news agency. Dying coral reefs, more intense nor’easters and the wildfire smoke that has choked much of North America this year are among the many other signals of climate distress. “The increasing heating of our planet caused by fossil fuel use is not unexpected, but it is dangerous for us humans and for the ecosystems we depend on. We need to stop it, fast,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Some other recent “firsts” and events … indicate climate change has entered uncharted territory. Al Jazeera

UN to Roll Out 18 Million Malaria Vaccines across 12 African Countries by 2025
Speaking on Wednesday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing: “Malaria remains one of Africa’s deadliest diseases, killing nearly half a million children under the age of five every year.” In 2021, 96 percent of the world’s malaria deaths occurred in Africa. The Mosquirix vaccine, developed by British pharmaceutical giant GSK, has already been administered to more than 1.7 million children in three African countries – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – as part of a pilot programme. … The first vaccines are expected to arrive in the last quarter of 2023, and be deployed in early 2024. Tedros said a second malaria vaccine – the R21/Matrix-M developed by Oxford University and produced by the Serum Institute in India – “is under review for pre-qualification” by the WHO. RFI