Africa Media Review for June 12, 2024

Mali: Social Media Influencer’s Disappearance Sparks Deep Concern
Barely a month ago, a close advisor to the prime minister and web activist, Amara Bathily, suffered a similar fate. The worrying disappearance of Yeri Bocoum, vice-president of the Association of Social Media Professionals and WebActors in Bamako, raises many questions. He was last seen on Friday 7 June while covering a march organised by the Synergy of action for Mali collective, a platform of opponents protesting against the high cost of living and power cuts. Although unauthorised, the demonstration did not attract large crowds, and the more daring participants were dispersed by an impressive security force. Later, Yeri Bocoum was abducted outside his home by unknown assailants, according to his relatives. The incident comes against the backdrop of increasing kidnappings in Bamako, where the safety of internet journalists and media workers is a real concern. … Victims who have been released often choose to remain silent about their experiences, further fuelling the climate of fear and insecurity. APA

Nigeria: Democracy Day
Nigeria, a nation once notorious for military rule, is marking 25 years of democracy, at a time when several of its West African neighbours have had coups in recent years. … The period of military rule in the 1980s and 1990s was “marked by economic collapse, political repression and systematic human rights violations”, according to New York-based campaign group Human Rights Watch. … There are also some, such as development studies professor Fidelis Allen, who have questioned whether the absence of military rule can be equated with true democracy. Nigerians have voted at regular intervals since 1999 but there are still questions over whether those in office are truly accountable to the electorate in terms of how public money is spent, and if they are honest and open about their decision making. Prof Soremekun believes that more work needs to be done to strengthen democracy. “It is good in itself; but it must also deliver dividends to the Nigerian people,” he said. And for those, like Mr Adekunle, who still remember military rule, there is no choice. “Democracy is sweet, it offers people freedom. There’s nothing good with military governance.” BBC

‘We Need to Be One’: South Africans on Future with Coalition Government
As South Africa’s biggest political parties remain locked in coalition talks the country’s voters have mixed views about what could await them, from hope that politicians will work across ideological divides to bring positive change, to pessimism that any cooperation will rapidly fall apart. The African National Congress party lost its parliamentary majority in the 29 May elections for the first time since it came to power in 1994 at the end of apartheid. Amid high unemployment and degrading public services and infrastructure, it secured just 40.2% of the vote and now needs to reach a deal with at least one of the largest opposition parties by Friday, when parliament has to elect the country’s president. The current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, proposed a government of national unity last week, invoking the 1994-1996 period, when the ANC, the former liberation movement, governed with partners including the National party, which ruled South Africa during apartheid, and the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom party. Guardian

SA Will Attend Ukraine’s Peace Summit This Weekend, but Not Ramaphosa
South Africa will attend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace summit in Switzerland this weekend but only at the level of officials. President Cyril Ramaphosa was invited but will not attend because of “pressing domestic matters that are well known,” his spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said, referring to the ANC’s negotiations to form a coalition or some other government arrangement, having failed to win a majority in the 29 May elections. He confirmed that Ramaphosa’s national security adviser, Sydney Mufumadi, and director-general of international relations, Zane Dangor, would represent South Africa at the summit… Ukraine’s special envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Maksym Subkh, said in Pretoria on Monday that 92 countries from around the world had confirmed participation in the peace summit and that Ukraine hoped the number would surpass 100 before the meeting began on 15 June. … Moscow is trying hard to discourage non-Western countries from attending. China has said it will not attend. … Norway’s ambassador to SA, Gjermund Saether, dismissed suggestions that Russia had attacked Ukraine to stop Nato’s eastward expansion. “From our point of view, Russia’s problem is not Nato. It’s that democracy is spreading towards them. So Ukraine makes their own independent choices and has their own independent foreign policy. That’s the problem for Russia.” Daily Maverick

Malawi Announces State Funeral and 21 Days of Mourning for Vice President Killed in a Plane Crash
The Malawi government said Wednesday that Vice President Saulos Chilima will be honored with a state funeral after he died in a plane crash along with eight other people. President Lazarus Chakwera had already announced 21 days of national mourning on Tuesday, when the wreckage of the small military plane carrying Chilima and a former first lady was discovered in a mountainous area in the country’s north. Flags will fly at half-staff across the southern African nation during the period of mourning. … The plane was carrying Chilima and members of his staff on a short flight from the capital, Lilongwe, to the northern city of Mzuzu to attend a funeral of a former government minister when it went missing Monday morning. The president said the that air traffic controllers had told the plane not to land in Mzuzu because of bad weather and poor visibility and to return to Lilongwe. Air traffic controllers then lost contact with the plane and it disappeared from radar. AP

US Intelligence Assesses Houthis in Yemen in Talks to Provide Weapons to Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Officials Say
US intelligence has learned of discussions between Houthis in Yemen to provide weapons to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, in what three American officials described to CNN as a worrying development that threatens to further destabilize an already violent region. Officials are now searching for evidence that Houthi weapons have been delivered to Somalia, and are trying to work out whether Iran, which provides some military and financial support to the Houthis, is involved in the agreement. … It’s not a natural alliance for the two groups, which are divided by sectarianismand are not known to have had a relationship in the past. The Houthis are Zaydi Shiites, and al-Shabaab traditionally has been deeply ideologically opposed to Shiism. … The intelligence raises the alarming possibility that a marriage of convenience could make things worse both in Somalia and in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, where the Houthis have launched regular attacks on commercial shipping and US military assets since the war in Gaza began. CNN

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

Parts of Sudan Are in Famine, Extent Unclear, Top US Diplomat Says
Parts of Sudan are in famine, a top U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday, adding that the extent of extreme hunger remained unclear nearly 14 months into a war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). “I think we know we are in famine,” Tom Perriello, the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, told Reuters in an interview. “I think the question is how much famine, how much of the country, and for how long.” … In an assessment in March, the IPC said nearly five million people in Sudan were one step away from famine. Reuters has reported on how the war has driven some people to eat soil and leaves to survive. The IPC is expected to issue an update on Sudan in the coming weeks. Perriello said the main obstacle to declaring famine was a lack of data due to the impact of the conflict, adding that Sudan was a case of “man-made” famine and that both warring parties were responsible. Reuters

Riots Erupt in Drought-Stricken Central Algeria over Months of Water Shortages
Violent riots erupted in a drought-stricken Algerian desert city last weekend after months of water shortages left taps running dry and forced residents to queue to access water for their households. In Tiaret — a central Algerian city of less than 200,000 located 155 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of Algiers — protestors wearing balaclavas set tires aflame and set up make-shift barricades blocking roads to protest their water being rationed, according to pictures and videos circulating on social media. The unrest followed demands from President Abdelmajid Tebboune to rectify the suffering. At a council of ministers meeting last week, he implored his cabinet to implement “emergency measures” in Tiaret. Several government ministers were later sent to “ask for an apology from the population” and to promise that access to drinking water would be restored. The rioting comes as Tebboune is expected to vie for a second term as president of the oil-rich nation — Africa’s largest by area. Northern Africa has been among the world’s worst-hit regions by climate change. A multi-year drought has drained critical reservoirs and reduced the amount of rainfall that has historically replenished them. … News about the tensions has spread on social media but garnered little news coverage in Algeria, where many papers and television stations rely on advertising revenue from the state. AP

Is China Partly Responsible for the Destruction of Africa’s Miombo Woodlands?
The Miombo woodlands cover several countries in the Congo Basin and southern Africa. The woodlands are comprised of tropical and subtropical grasslands that contribute to the sequestration of between 0.5 tons and 0.9 tons of carbon per hectare per year, making them a crucial part of offsetting human carbon emissions. Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, DR Congo, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, DR Congo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, which house the Miombo woodlands, benefit enormously from the forest because it effectively fights against global warming and erosion phenomena and can help limit climatic disasters in the region. … Despite the woodlands’ important role in society, foreign investors, specifically Chinese trade groups, are participating in illegal deforestation for mining, logging, and trade purposes. Many logging companies have complicated relationships with China in the Miombo Forest and the Congo Basin. Three-quarters of the timber from the Miombo is exported to China. Global Voices

Mauritania: They Had Never Seen the Ocean. Then Climate Change Made Them Fishermen.
Gazing out over the harbor in Port of Tanit, Mauritania, Sidna Ali Ould Ahmed remembers the first time he went fishing 13 years ago. “That night, I thought I would die,” he says. He was in a large wooden canoe called a pirogue. As the team began to pull up its fishing nets, the pirogue pitched sharply. Mr. Ahmed’s stomach did the same. Mr. Ahmed didn’t know what seasickness was – or that it probably wouldn’t kill him – because until that point he had spent his entire life hundreds of miles from the ocean, herding livestock deep in the country’s desert interior. … He describes his journey from the land to the sea as “impossible.” But a deadly combination of the climate crisis and escalating political tensions on the edge of the Sahara has forced the same previously unthinkable shift onto some 30,000 other herders in Mauritania. They now form the backbone of the country’s burgeoning fisheries sector. With climate change expected to displace more than a billion people around the world by 2050, the experience of Mauritania’s new fishermen offers clues to protecting and supporting those obliged to adapt to radically new ways of life. CSM

Migrants Turn to Mauritania As New EU Transit Route
More than 12, 000 migrants from Africa disembarked on the Spanish archipelago between January and March this year, according to reports. That number represents a stark increase from around 2,000 who arrived in the Canary Islands about the same time last year. Over 80% of the boats that carried the migrants departed from Mauritania or “transited through its waters”. Migrants from the Central Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea are said to be increasingly picking Mauritania’s northwestern city of Nouadhibou to embark on their risky journey, “making it a migratory crossroads and transit city.” To help combat the problem, the EU in April granted U.S.$226 million in aid to Mauritania, part of which will be used against illegal immigration to Europe. AllAfrica

Facebook, TikTok Mop Off Accounts Glorifying Wanted Nigerian Terrorist
Facebook and TikTok have done a massive clean-up of impostor accounts whitewashing Bello Turji, a terrorist group leader in North West Nigeria who found an appeal on the internet sometime in 2021 after masterminding some of the deadliest attacks against civilians in the region. In January, a HumAngle digital investigation revealed that fake accounts from different social networks were opened in Bello Turji’s name for malicious reasons, including clout chasing and sharp practices by influencers gathering followers for merchandise. The impostor accounts helped the terrorist leader to enjoy some acceptance and patronage on social media. The imposters preyed on the vulnerability of many internet users to spread terror, demonstrating the terrorist’s kidnap-for-ransom escapades and celebrating his cruelty. During mass kidnap cases in the northwestern region, the ghost accounts amplified the terrorist’s demands from the government, indirectly spreading his campaign of violence and creating panic for unsuspecting individuals. HumAngle