Africa Media Review for July 8, 2022

Clashes in DRC as Rebels Dash Ceasefire Hopes
Fresh clashes between Congolese Revolutionary Army (M23) rebels and soldiers erupted in eastern DR Congo on Thursday, officials said, as the militia declared that it was not bound by a ceasefire agreement. M23 spokesman Willy Ngoma told AFP that the deal brokered between the Congolese and Rwandan presidents in Angola on Wednesday was irrelevant…Talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s leader Felix Tshisekedi and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame in Angola on Wednesday initially raised the prospect of a ceasefire between the M23 and the Congolese government. Violence between the mostly Congolese Tutsi rebels and the DRC’s army has flared in recent weeks. The DRC has repeatedly accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the M23, a charge the small central African country has always denied. The M23’s announcement on Thursday that it is not bound by the ceasefire, came after clashes between its fighters and Congolese troops broke out in Rutshuru territory in Congo’s eastern North Kivu province in the morning. A Congolese army commander accused the rebels of attacking military positions in the area in violation of the ceasefire. However, the M23 denied the claim and accused the army of starting hostilities. The M23 or March 23 Movement, first leapt to prominence when it briefly captured the eastern Congolese city of Goma in 2012 before it was driven out in a joint UN-Congolese offensive. AFP

Tunisians Protest Against Draft Constitution Referendum
A protest against the upcoming July 25 referendum on President Kais Saied’s new constitution has taken place in Tunis.  Some 200 supporters of Tunisia’s secular Free Destourian Party gathered outside the electoral commission’s headquarters bearing signs reading “we don’t trust your results” and “stop this illegal process.” In July last year, Saied sacked the government and froze the parliament dominated by Tunisia’s Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party. He later extended his powers in what critics see as a coup against democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings. The constitution, the centrepiece of Saied’s drive to remake the Tunisian political system, sparked instant criticism for the nearly unlimited power it gives the president. “The draft that has been presented has been made to measure for Saied, Ennahdha party spokesman Imed Khemeri said. “This document did not come from the people or from a national dialogue.” The legal expert who headed a committee to draw up the new charter said the final text published by Saied had “nothing to do with the text we drafted and submitted to the president.” The expert, Sadeq Belaid, added that it risked paving the way for a “dictatorial regime”, more than a decade after Tunisia’s pro-democracy revolt sparked copycat uprisings across the region. On Tuesday, Saied defended the proposed constitution in an open letter. He said “this draft was built on what the Tunisian people have expressed from the start of the revolution up until the correction of its path” last July, and that those who worried about it creating a new autocracy hadn’t read it properly. AfricaNews with AFP

Tunisian Judge Freezes Bank Accounts of Former PM, Parliament Speaker
A Tunisian judge has ordered a freeze on the financial assets of the former speaker of the country’s dissolved parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, former prime minister Hamadi Jebali and several other people, an official told Reuters on Tuesday. He added that the list of people included Ghannouchi’s son Moadh Ghannouchi and son-in-law Rafik Abdessalem, who was a former foreign minister. “There is an order from the anti-terrorism judge to freeze the bank accounts of those people, the Financial Analysis Committee asked the banks to implement the judicial decision,” said an official on the financial analysis committee, which is headed by central bank governor. No further details about the case were known and Rached and Moadh Ghannouchi and Jebali could not immediately be reached for comment. In May, a Tunisian judge issued a travel ban against several people including Ghannouchi, the head of the Islamist Ennahda Party and former speaker of dissolved parliament. Ghannouchi, 81, is a fierce critic of President Kais Saied who seized executive powers last year, sacked the government, dissolved the parliament and started ruling by decree, moves critics describe as a coup. Saied’s efforts have stoked fears of a return to autocracy in Tunisia, where the first uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring began in 2011 and heralded a series of democratic reforms. Reuters

Sudan Releases Islamist Military Officers Accused of Leading Failed Coup in 2019
A military court of appeal in Khartoum on Thursday ordered the release of Islamist officers accused of the first coup attempt three months after the fall of the Bashir regime led by former Chief of Staff Hashim Abdel Muttalib. Abdel Muttalib and a number of military officers were arrested on July 11, 2019, after a coup attempt to restore the Bashir regime. The official news agency SUNA released a video of the first statement for the former Chief of Staff. Further, they leaked a video of his interrogation where the senior general declared he is an Islamist. and asserted that several Islamist leaders sought to dissuade him from carrying out the coup. “The court of military appeals accepted the appeal filed by the defence team and reduced their sentence to the time they served in prison,” stated Abdallah Hamid one of the lawyers defending the military officers. Also, “the court decided to dismiss them from the army,” Hamid added. The military court issued varying sentences ranging from five to nine years against the Islamist officers. Concerning the coup leader General Abdel Muttalib, the court decided to reduce his sentence and he had to remain in jail for two years and a half. However, al-Burhan in his capacity as the head of the Sovereignty Council decided to pardon Abdel Muttalib and release him with the other officers, according to the Monti-Carro website. He was appointed by the Transitional Military Council in Sudan as Chief of Staff of the Sudanese army in April 2019 after the al-Bashir’s collapse. During the ousted regime, Abdel Muttalib held the position of Deputy Chief of Joint Staff in the Sudanese army. Sudan Tribune

Africa’s Great Green Wall: Researchers Push New Advances Despite Conflict, Funding Challenges
African and European researchers are meeting in France to give fresh impetus to Africa’s ambitious Great Green Wall project, intended to fight climate change and support communities across the Sahel region. Much of the area is plagued by conflict and hunger, but scientists are looking at new ways to move ahead. It’s been slow-going building Africa’s so-called Great Green Wall of trees and bushes intended to stretch nearly 8,000 kilometers from Mauritania in the west to tiny Djibouti in the east. Fifteen years into the project set to be complete in 2030, only a fraction of the reforestation has been realized. Eight of the 11 countries involved are grappling with unrest. Funding hasn’t matched the development challenge. Still, environment professor Aliou Guissé points to tangible successes. In the Sahel area of his native Senegal, reforested areas are gaining ground. He said they’re home to larger and more diverse populations of animals, birds and insects than areas where trees haven’t been planted. Scientists are finding health and other benefits of local plants like desert date palms, which are valued by communities, might be commercialized and generate revenue. Guissé is co-director of the Tessekere Observatory in northern Senegal, which seeks a holistic approach to Green Wall development spanning areas like health, agriculture, the economy — and of course, the environment. He and other experts meeting this week in the western French city of Poitiers want to widen their collaboration, currently happening in Burkina Faso and Senegal, to include researchers from other Sahel countries like Niger, Chad and possibly Mali. Despite unrest in those countries, they say progress — like building baseline data — can happen. The Tessekere Observatory’s other co-director, French anthropologist Gilles Boëtsch, said another goal is building partnerships between researchers and government agencies managing Green Wall development. The group is diving into new areas, like exploring the impact of animal-to-human-transmitted diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19. Voice of America

Burkina Faso: Ex-President Blaise Compaoré in His Country After 8 Years of Exile
Former Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore returned to Ouagadougou on Thursday after eight years in exile. Compaore, 71, flew in from Ivory Coast, where he has been living, for a summit of ex-presidents with the country’s new strongman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who was sworn in as president earlier this year following a coup. Compaore’s plane landed at the military base in the Burkinabe capital, while dozens of his supporters awaited his arrival at Ouagadougou main international airport. It is the first time the ex-president has set foot on home soil since he was forced into exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast in October 2014, after violent popular riots broke out against his plans to remain in power after serving as president for 27 years. Compaore had seized power in a coup in 1987, on the same day that Burkina’s revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara — his former comrade-in-arms — was gunned down by a hit squad. His return home on Thursday is not a permanent one. He has been invited to stay for a few days by Damiba, the leader of a coup in Burkina Faso in January. AfricaNews with AFP

Extremists Claim Responsibility for Nigerian Prison Attack
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a prison in Nigeria’s capital which freed nearly 900 inmates including 60 of its members. Nigerian security forces on Thursday continued to search for at least 400 escaped prisoners who are still at large. While Nigeria has suffered multiple jailbreaks in recent years, the attack on Tuesday night was the first in the nation’s capital within that period — a development that analysts say points to a “failure of intelligence.” The Islamic State West Africa Province said in a statement that the attack on the Kuje prison was carried out in 50 minutes by three groups: One attacked the prison’s gate, another stormed the prison and the third blocked the road leading to the facility. The group said the attack is part of the Islamic State group’s campaign to free its members from prisons. Authorities said the extremist rebels were “very determined” and launched the daring attack on the Kuje prison with “very high-grade explosives.” They killed one prison guard and freed 879 inmates including 64 of their members whom authorities believe they had “specifically” come to rescue. AP

‘Children Were Hunted by Armed Men’: Malians Seek Safety in Mauritania
Thousands have exchanged fighting between government forces, jihadists and mercenaries linked to Russia, for the meagre security of border camps. Leaving the village had become dangerous. Children sent on chores around Timbuktu, to collect firewood or lead animals to pasture, “were being hunted down by armed men.” “When they attack a child who goes to look for wood…we women were afraid the men will come [into town] to attack us,” says a woman from M’bera refugee camp, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals. Three months ago, she joined a wave of people leaving Mali after a rise in violence in the country’s long-running war against jihadist groups aligned with al-Qaida and Islamic State. The woman isn’t sure which armed group turned up in her village, but the men who appeared at the market were threatening. Afraid of both staying and leaving, the woman and her family took the first car they could out of the country. At least 8,000 people and 800,000 head of livestock have arrived in M’bera camp, in the south-east of Mauritania, since December. About 7,000 new arrivals were registered in March and April alone – three times more than during the same period last year. More Malians live in villages outside the camp. The camp has been taking in refugees since fighting broke out between the government and armed groups in 2012. It was home to more than 75,000 people in 2013. While that number declined to a low of 41,000 in 2016, the population has steadily been increasing since 2018 and now stands at more than 78,000. Guardian

‘No Sign of Rain’: Citizens Despair as Drought Devastates Somalia
Faduma Hassan Mohamed has never witnessed a time like this. When rains failed to fall as in previous years, she thought the river near her village of Buulo Warbo in Somalia’s southern Kuntunwarey district would not run dry. First, the skies above became cloudless, she said, then the air hot and dry. Then the fertile soil below her feet that used to provide for her family turned into dark brown dust. Then the river dried up. “We were farmers. We tended the land. We had a river and we used to water our crops with its water. We grew crops like maize and beans. Now, we [have] lost all of that,” the mother-of-six told Al Jazeera. “There was no sign of rain in the sky and no water in the river. I can’t even remember the last time we harvested anything from the farm,” Faduma, who does not know her age, added. Buulo Warbo, more than 140km (87 miles) southeast of the capital, Mogadishu, is in the Lower Shabelle region, one of the country’s breadbasket areas. The region used to produce food for Mogadishu. But after four failed rainy seasons, its people are on the move, trekking by foot towards the seaside capital. Some have died on the way. Others, like Faduma, survived and sought refuge in a new IDP camp in the Dayniile area on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Two of her children are with her but the rest are with their grandmother. The Horn of Africa country is experiencing its worst drought in four decades, according to the government and United Nations, with nearly a quarter of a million people facing starvation. Most Somalis are pastoralists, relying on their livestock for food. But according to the UN, about three million livestock animals have perished due to the continuing drought and more than 805,000 people have been displaced. Nearly 7.1 million Somalis, almost half of the country’s population, face acute levels of food insecurity. Al Jazeera

Ethiopian PM Vows to Defeat Insurgents Blamed for Killings
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has vowed to defeat the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an insurgent group he is blaming for two massacres in the past three weeks. Addressing parliament Thursday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed condemned two recent massacres targeting members of the Amhara ethnic group as “inhumane acts of violence” carried out by “evil forces.” The most recent massacre took place Monday in the West Wellega zone of Ethiopia’s Oromia region, resulting in an unknown number of deaths. Those killings followed a separate incident last month in which armed men killed 338 Amhara villagers, according to official government figures. Ethiopia’s government blames the Oromo Liberation Army — or the OLA — for the killings. The insurgent group claims to be fighting for greater autonomy for the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, but it has been accused of a spate of bloody human rights abuses. Speaking to lawmakers on Thursday, Abiy pledged to eliminate the OLA. He also made a rare admission of losses on the government side, saying that police officers and soldiers have been dying on a “daily” basis battling the insurgent group. He added that woreda, or district officials, also have been assassinated. Abiy’s address came a day after Ethiopia’s parliament held a moment of silence for victims of the massacres and set up a committee to investigate. Phone service to the area is down, making it difficult to verify the number of people killed in Monday’s violence, which has fueled rising discontent among ethnic Amhara. Voice of America

The Zimbabwean Political Figure Fighting for Her Country’s Future
Inside a cramped cell at Zimbabwe’s infamous Chikurubi prison in January last year, a group of women took turns to speak. Among them was Fadzayi Mahere, one of the country’s most prominent young opposition leaders. Sitting on the cold, urine-stained concrete floor, she listened while her fellow inmates – many wearing the ill-fitting yellow tunics of convicted criminals – shared the reasons for their incarceration. One by one, they listed violent assaults, armed robberies, and murders. Then it was Mahere’s turn. “I tweeted,” she said, to the laughter of her cellmates. The spokesperson for the country’s leading opposition party, then known as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, Mahere spent seven nights in pre-trial detention before being released on bail. She was told that she stood accused of communicating falsehoods relating to several of her posts on social media, but only received an official charge sheet nearly 15 months later. It was not Mahere’s first time in detention, but it was the longest, and the most difficult. Held in a series of overcrowded, poorly ventilated and squalid cells – where mosquitos thrived and fleas clung to bloodstained blankets – she also contracted COVID during her incarceration. “There’s a culture of stripping you of your dignity,” says Mahere, 36, explaining how prisoners in Chikurubi are forced to kneel before wardens when speaking to them and are prohibited from wearing a bra, or using a spoon when eating porridge. “You’ve got all these women lapping porridge out of their fingers,” she adds as we speak more than a year after her imprisonment, her impeccable attire and perfectly manicured nails a stark contrast to the experience she describes. Al Jazeera

South Africa Plunged into Darkness During Load Shedding Power Crisis
It has become a fact of life in South Africa, as predictable as the rising sun. Every day, it seems, the power goes off. Sometimes it only happens once a day, for two hours. Other days, rolling blackouts can last eight hours or more, crippling economic activity and disrupting life in this nation of 60 million people, which is still struggling to get back on its feet because of the pandemic. Blackout warnings frequently pop up on cellphones, and people try to plan their days and nights around the power outages in their area. The wealthy minority here have backup power systems at home to keep the lights on, and the WiFi and refrigerator running, but no one is immune. Traffic signals don’t work, causing jams at major intersections. Gas stations and stores can’t handle electronic transactions, and cash machines can’t function. For the poor majority in this deeply unequal society, it is an ever-worsening nightmare. Already coping with high unemployment and soaring inflation, families in townships and informal settlements struggle to prepare meals at night, while children do their homework in the dark. “We are all struggling,” said Xolelwa Maha, a community leader in the PJS informal settlement of Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township. “When I go home there is no electricity and I can’t cook until it comes back on. Sometimes that is too late and the children have gone to bed without a proper meal for days.” South Africa has used load shedding, or rolling blackouts, to conserve electricity since 2008, but the current outages are the worst anyone can remember. In April alone, 1,054 gigawatt-hours of power got cut nationwide, compared to 2,521 gigawatt-hours cut for all of 2021, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. Washington Post

Africa’s Next Big Thing Will Be Its Tech Startups, Says Prolific Investor
Akintoye Akindele is a man on a mission to build a new Africa and he is not afraid to fail to get there. Changing the continent’s narrative will entail solving old problems while also harnessing the power of new technologies, says Akindele, a serial entrepreneur and investor from Nigeria. Speaking ahead of receiving the African Business Leader of the Year Award 2022 at the UK’s House of Lords on Monday, Akindele told CNN the next big thing out of the continent will be the tech industry. With more exposure and through encouraging creativity by giving innovators permission to fail, Africa can take its tech sector global, repeating the success of its Afrobeats music industry, Akindele argues. Afrobeats has had a meteoric rise with songs by African artists topping charts and becoming a fixture at parties and nightclubs globally. At the recently held BET (Black Entertainment Television) Awards 2022, in Los Angeles, the Nigerian duo of Wizkid and Tems fended off tough competition from more established US stars such as Kendrick Lamar, Doja Cat and Drake to win the Best Collaboration Award. Africa’s tech landscape is also increasingly attracting attention — and funding. Between 2015 and 2021, total annual funding flowing into African tech startups has grown by 1,000 per cent according to the African Tech Startups Funding Report 2021. CNN

Farmers in a Small Corner of Western Kenya Show How Africa Can Feed Itself
At least four million Kenyans face drought-induced hunger. A drought emergency has been declared, and between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of reservoirs and dams have dried up in Turkana, in the northwest of the country. The disruption from the Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent the prices of imported wheat grains soaring. Maize prices have also reached record highs. This led to a recent decision by the government to import maize from outside of the East African Community for the first time since 2017. Yet, Kenya has not lost the food fight, thanks to its farmers, new innovations from the private and non-government sectors, sustainable management systems that are being exported to other East African nations, and agricultural interventions that are bearing fruit. The journey to these highs is critical, though not always glamorous. Farmers and their families are the worker bees who feed nations. Their individual stories rarely get told. East Africa has seen the rise of creative urban farmers, more so since Covid-19 struck, when they discovered that they could grow vegetables in their backyards to feed their families. If they choose to sell any surplus, they will set their prices and sell to who they want, preferably their friends, neighbours or at organic markets. For rural farmers, who are the majority and in their millions, they have fewer choices. They sell their surplus at markets and to buyers at extremely fluctuating, and many times low prices, that they do not set. East African



Photo: Adam Jones