Africa Media Review for June 11, 2024

Malawi Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima Killed in Plane Crash with Wife, 8 Others
Malawi’s Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima and 9 other people including his wife were killed when the plane they were travelling in crashed in the Chikangawa mountain range, the government said Tuesday. President Lazarus Chakwera declared Tuesday a national day of mourning. “Unfortunately, all on board have perished in the crash,” the Office of the President and Cabinet said in a Tuesday morning statement. The confirmation came after more than a day-long search effort in a forested area in the mountains of northern Malawi. The military plane crashed Monday morning after it took off from the country’s capital Lilongwe. Chilima, 51, and the other passengers had been headed to attend the funeral of the country’s former attorney general when their plane dropped off radar. Air traffic officials said the plane had been unable to land at Mzuzu airport, about 200 miles north of the capital, due to poor visibility, and the pilot had been advised to return to Lilongwe when the flight disappeared. … Chilima, 51, had been seen in Malawi as a possible contender for next year’s presidential election. CBS

Russia Is Sending Young Africans to Die in Its War Against Ukraine
The Kremlin has forced thousands of migrants and foreign students to fight alongside Russian troops in its war against Ukraine, adding extra manpower for its offensive in the Kharkiv region, according to assessments from European officials. Using tactics first deployed by the Wagner mercenary group, Russian officials have with increasing frequency been threatening not to extend the visas of African students and young workers unless they agree to join the military, according to officials familiar with the matter. Moscow has also been enlisting convicts from its prisons while some Africans in Russia on work visas have been detained and forced to decide between deportation or fighting, one European official said. Some of those people had been able to bribe officials to stay in the country and still avoid military service, said the official … Those troops suffer especially high casualty rates because they are increasingly deployed in risky offensive maneuvers to protect more highly trained units, the official added. … Reuters reported last year that the mercenary group Wagner had recruited several African citizens as part of a drive to enlist convicts from Russian prisons for its forces in Ukraine. The news agency traced the story of three men from Tanzania, Zambia and the Ivory Coast. There are 35,000-37,000 African students currently in Russia, according to Yevgeny Primakov head of Rossotrudnichestvo, an organization devoted to spreading knowledge about Russia abroad. Bloomberg

The Russian Drone Plant That Could Shape the War in Ukraine
In early April, cellphone footage captured a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle slowly winding toward its final destination in a new installment in the spreading drone wars — a drone itself was being used to hit a site where enemy drones were being made. The target was a high-tech college and manufacturing complex in the Russian steppes where Moscow is aiming to scale up production of the weapons it needs to gain an advantage in Ukraine. Around 20 people were injured when the drone slammed into the dormitories at the Alabuga Special Economic Zone, many of them young engineering students hired from East Africa. … The attack highlighted an important new aspect of the war in Ukraine, military experts say: the speed with which Russia can scale up production of Iranian-designed surveillance and attack drones, drawing on Chinese components, an African workforce and logistics networks that Iran honed during its own yearslong standoff with the West. WSJ

At Least 41 Dead in Latest Militant Attack in the Eastern DRC
The death toll in an attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Friday by militants and Islamist rebels has risen to at least 41, the government said on Monday. Red Cross volunteers and young people from the village of Masala in the eastern North Kivu province have been searching for bodies since the incident. Locals said armed men using guns and machetes attacked residents of the villages of Masala, Keme, and Mahini. … While the North Kivu region has been plagued by violence from M23 rebels in recent months, the army said the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) were behind these latest attacks. The group has been present in DRC for three decades and regularly carry out assaults in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri against the Congolese army and villagers. … Local civil society members said more than 80 people have been killed in multiple assaults in the area since last Tuesday. They called for more protection from the government. AfricaNews

RSF Soldiers in Khartoum Accused of Killing Mentally Disabled Individuals
Private sources have revealed to Sudan Tribune that several mentally disabled individuals have been killed in various areas of Khartoum by soldiers belonging to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), either by shooting or torture. The fate of dozens of patients in mental hospitals in Khartoum remains unknown after the outbreak of war. A member of the Khartoum Emergency Rooms, speaking to Sudan Tribune on the condition of anonymity for safety reasons, stated that RSF soldiers killed several mentally disabled people during the initial months of the war. Various committees, activists, and families have buried these individuals in different areas. Two members of Emergency Committees in Bahri confirmed that more than three mentally disabled people were shot by RSF soldiers. They stressed that the soldiers kill these individuals on sight. … In an interview with Sudan Tribune, Shimaa Musab, a psychologist with the Nidaa Al-Tanmiya (Development Call) organization, working with UNICEF, described the difficult situation of those in combat zones and their suffering from fear, anxiety, and lack of services. Psychiatrist Um Salma Youssif confirmed in an interview with Sudan Tribune that most of those arriving in different areas within the country are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other mental illnesses as a result of the war. Sudan Tribune

ICC Prosecutor Appeals for Evidence of Atrocities in Sudan after Rebels Attack Hospital in Darfur
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor appealed Tuesday for information and evidence of atrocities in Sudan, saying his ongoing investigation “seems to disclose an organized, systematic and a profound attack on human dignity.” ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan released a video statement in the aftermath of an attack Sunday by the notorious Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group that forced the closure of a main hospital in the western Darfur region. The group fired shots and looted the hospital in al-Fasher, aid group Doctors Without Borders reported. The attack came as the RSF, which has been fighting the Sudanese army for a year, intensified its offensive seeking to wrest control of the city, the military’s last stronghold in the sprawling Darfur region. Two weeks of fighting last month in and around al-Fasher has killed more than 120 people. AP

Nigeria Confronts Its Worst Economic Crisis in a Generation
Nigeria is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with skyrocketing inflation, a national currency in free-fall and millions of people struggling to buy food. Only two years ago Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria is projected to drop to fourth place this year. The pain is widespread. Unions strike to protest salaries of around $20 a month. People die in stampedes, desperate for free sacks of rice. Hospitals are overrun with women wracked by spasms from calcium deficiencies. The crisis is largely believed to be rooted in two major changes implemented by a president elected 15 months ago: the partial removal of fuel subsidies and the floating of the currency, which together have caused major price rises. A nation of entrepreneurs, Nigeria’s more than 200 million citizens are skilled at managing in tough circumstances, without the services states usually provide. They generate their own electricity and source their own water. They take up arms and defend their communities when the armed forces cannot. They negotiate with kidnappers when family members are abducted. NY Times

Women Abused in Nigerian Military Cells after Fleeing Boko Haram — Report
Dozens of women and young girls have been unlawfully detained and abused in Nigerian military detention facilities after escaping captivity by Boko Haram extremists in the country’s northeast, Amnesty International said in a new report on Monday. Some of the women were detained with their children for years because of their real or perceived association with the extremists, the report said. It cited 126 interviews, mostly with survivors, over the 14 years since the Islamic extremists launched their insurgency. The report echoes past human rights concerns about the Nigerian military, which in the past has been accused of extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests in one of the world’s longest conflicts. However, the report noted that prolonged and unlawful detentions have been less widespread in recent years. Nigeria’s army dismissed the report as “unsubstantiated” and reiterated that it has continued to improve on its human rights record and holds personnel to account. … The conditions some women found themselves in after fleeing captivity were so “horrible” that some chose to return to Boko Haram, Niki Frederiek, crisis researcher with Amnesty International, said. AfricaNews/AP

New South African Parliament to Meet Friday, No Government Yet
South Africa’s newly elected parliament will convene on Friday, the office of the chief justice said on Monday, adding to the sense of urgency for political parties to form a governing alliance after none of them won a majority of seats. The African National Congress (ANC), which has been in power since the end of apartheid 30 years ago, lost its majority in a May 29 election and is now negotiating with potential governing partners ranging from Marxists to free-marketeers. The ANC said last week that it favoured forming a broad-based government of national unity, but some of the smaller parties have rejected one another and it is unclear whether any kind of deal will have been reached by Friday and who will be included. … At the first sitting, which will take place at a convention centre in Cape Town, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo will oversee the swearing-in of the newly elected or reelected members of the National Assembly. He will then preside over the election of the chamber’s speaker, who will in turn oversee the election of the deputy speaker. Zondo will then preside over the election by lawmakers of the country’s president. Reuters

Zimbabwe: Ex-convict’s Leaked Audio Fingers Mnangagwa in Expansive, Shadowy Businesses
A leaked voice note by controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo has fingered President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his expansive and shadowy dealings that include millions paid for printing and delivery of last year’s voting material. Chivayo, who has recently been seen more frequently with Mnangagwa at public functions brags, in the audio, that the whole of Zimbabwe is in his hands. He bases this argument on Mnangagwa, promising his associates in the WhatsApp group from which the audio leaked, millions if they decide to be patient and stop fighting his attempts to capture the presidency further. Those he mentions by name include fellow businessmen Moses Mpofu and Mike Chimombe, both of whom he allegedly duped in the voting material deal last year. … “I have deals with the police, immigration and many more. Keep collecting, do not be greedy just bring new work. There is no need to be greedy, or try aiming high,” brags Chivayo. … Chivayo’s source of wealth is virtually unknown. New Zimbabwe

Lesotho: Draconian Snooping Law Resurfaces
The government has resumed its push to approve a draconian law to jail journalists found in possession of “classified” information, among other things.  The law also seeks to smuggle back criminal defamation into Lesotho’s statutes despite it having been outlawed by the Constitutional Court. It will also enable the state to snoop on the communications of private citizens. The controversial Computer Crimes and Cyber Security Bill was deliberated upon by the National Assembly’s Prime Minister’s Ministries Portfolio Cluster Committee in a string of closed meetings this week. Journalists will be subjected to harsh legal measures if certain sections in the Bill are passed as they are. They will face imprisonment of up to 17 years or fines of up to M12million or both if found guilty of being in possession of “classified” information. … The Bill is seen hampering the media from doing its work. It will make it impossible for journalists to probe and expose corruption because of its sweeping and overarching descriptions of “classified information” obtained from computers. Lesotho Times

Why Voters Fall Out of Love with Liberation Movements
Africa’s oldest liberation movement is in trouble and may be going the way of similar groups across the continent. … “It is inevitable that people will start to want change,” said researcher David Soler Crespo, who has written about the “slow death of liberation movements”. … As the successful movements transitioned from the bush to the office, they touted themselves as the only ones that could lead. They ingrained the movement into the DNA of the country, making it difficult to separate the party from the state. … Liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe remain in power but have all experienced a decline in support and vote share in general elections. … But whereas Namibia, along with South Africa, are seen as relatively open democracies, the governing parties in Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique have been accused of shutting down dissent in order to maintain their hold on power. … The longer the liberation movements have stayed in power, the more they are accused of corruption and cronyism and not governing in the interests of the people. Chris Hani, the late South African anti-apartheid hero, foresaw this when he said: “What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes Benzes and use the resources of this country to live in palaces and gather riches.”