Africa Media Review for June 16, 2022

Under Military Rule, Violence Rises in Mali, Burkina Faso
Though violence has drastically increased in Burkina Faso, Mali too has seen an increase in violence in 2022 – particularly in the Menaka and Gao regions, where there have already been more civilians killed by Islamist groups in 2022 than in any previous year…Dan Eizenga is a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He says that in some way the Seytenga attack is characteristic of the violence that has plagued that region in recent years, but that the scale of civilian deaths sticks out. “I think not only are we looking at a situation where the security situation in both countries is likely to continue to deteriorate, and possibly deteriorate at a much more rapid pace, that we can expect that these juntas will continue to make the claim that because of that deterioration they need to remain in power.” Mali’s military government previously cited the country’s insecurity as a reason that elections could not be held in February of this year as originally promised. The army has launched a publicized military campaign against Islamists, the claims of which often conflict with local reports of the military killing civilians rather than Islamist extremists. Mali was sanctioned by regional bloc ECOWAS over the elections delay in January, after they announced a new plan to hold elections in 2026. ECOWAS released a statement today condemning the Seytenga attack, and will be holding a meeting on the situations in Burkina Faso and Mali on July 3. Voice of America

Public Workers Strike in Tunisia, Signaling National Crisis
A nationwide public sector strike in Tunisia is poised to paralyze land and air transportation and other vital activities Thursday with the North African nation already in the midst of a deteriorating economic crisis. Tunisia’s powerful General Labour Union (UGTT) announced the walkout, which was expected to include 159 state enterprises, on the basis of pressing social and economic demands. The union is demanding wage increases and protesting the government’s planned economic reforms. The purchasing power of Tunisian citizens has eroded since the beginning of the year amid rising prices, high unemployment and widespread poverty. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the financial squeeze. President Kais Saied’s government unveiled plans last week to cut its massive public wage bill and said it would progressively reduce energy and food subsidies starting next year. The government said it would replace subsidies with cash handouts for low-income families. In July 2021, Saied abruptly dismissed the government and took on sweeping powers. While his critics accuse him of staging a coup, Saied said he had acted in response to widespread economic and social discontent. Many are concerned Thursday’s strike could seriously impact an already fragile economy and fuel an already tense political situation. An increasingly isolated Saied has run the country alone for 10 months, ruling by decree, while key Western allies have raised concerns of democratic backsliding. A meeting between the government and the UGTT was held Tuesday but failed to yield an agreement. At a weekend UGTT meeting ahead of Thursday’s strike, hundreds of union members filled the Palace of Congress in Tunis , waving national flags and singing popular songs. The audience cheered as union president Noureddine Tabboubi took the stage, promising to oppose the government’s economic reforms. AP

East Africa to Deploy Regional Force in Congo amid Tensions
East African nations will deploy a regional force to the conflict-ridden eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo, where renewed fighting is threatening to engulf neighboring countries. Diplomatic tensions between Congo and Rwanda have ratcheted up in recent weeks, with the giant resource-rich nation accusing its tiny neighbor of backing the rebel M23 group that’s been clashing with Congolese forces near their joint border. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is chairman of the regional East African Community bloc, called for “an immediate cessation of all hostilities in eastern DRC and for all armed groups, both foreign and local, to lay down arms immediately and unconditionally and to commit to a political process,” according to a statement from his office. Commanders of respective armies will meet on June 19 to prepare for the deployment of the regional force to Congo’s Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces to “stabilize the zone and enforce peace in support of the DRC security forces and in close coordination” with the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission, he said. The force will also help local provincial authorities in a disarmament program, according to the statement. Kenyatta convened talks with presidents of Congo, Uganda and Burundi in April, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame represented at the meeting by his foreign minister. Bloomberg

Alarm as Anti-M23 Protests Turn Xenophobic in DR Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s protests against the M23 rebel group are turning xenophobic, according to the Governor of Kinshasa, the country’s capital, Mr Gentiny Ngobila. This week, protesters have been holding marches in major cities against the group accused of launching attacks in renewed violence in eastern DRC. But the protests have also raised sentiments against Rwandans and people who share ethnic descent from Rwanda.  Governor Ngobila condemned “with the utmost energy” these acts of xenophobia which he said are targeting people who have no role in the violence, on social media. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi last week accused Rwanda of supporting M23, a charge Kigali rejected and asked DRC to sort out its “internal” issues. In Goma, North Kivu Province in eastern DRC, demonstrators threatened to cross the border to protest in Rwanda. They were turned away by Congolese anti-riot police. East African

Somalia’s President Appoints Lawmaker Hamza Abdi Barre as PM
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed lawmaker Hamza Abdi Barre as the country’s prime minister on Wednesday, with the new premier facing a host of challenges including a looming famine and an Islamist insurgency. “The president wishes the new PM utmost success as he leads the government’s ambitious reform agenda and calls on Somali people to render him their unwavering support,” the presidency said on Twitter. The 48-year-old MP from the semi-autonomous state of Jubaland replaces Mohamed Hussein Roble, whose 22 months in office were marred by a rancorous dispute with Mohamud’s predecessor Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed that threatened to plunge Somalia back into violent chaos. “I am very happy that I have your confidence Mr President, and this shows that you believe I can be trusted with this huge task,” Barre told a joint news conference, promising “to work day and night” at the job. “I took this decision after recognizing Hamza’s knowledge, experience, and ability,” Mohamud told journalists. “I also ask the new prime minister to accelerate his priority tasks which include issues such as security, droughts, reconciliation… and to work on improving the country’s relationship with the rest of the world,” he added. AfricaNews with AFP

A Presidential Hopeful in Kenya Is Running on a Cannabis and Snake Venom Platform
Kenya is facing inflation, unemployment and public debt. But George Wajackoyah, one of the four presidential candidates in the Aug. 9 polls, wants to get the economy back on track by legalizing cannabis and farming snakes. His rivals—former prime minister Raila Odinga and deputy president William Ruto—promise a $60 monthly stipend for unemployed citizens and several economic reforms. Meanwhile, on Twitter, TikTok and Whatsapp, Wajackoyah, a trained lawyer, figures that since a sack of 90 kilos of raw cannabis is worth $3.4 million, Kenya needs fewer than 2,000 sacks to repay its foreign debts. Wajackoyah and his running mate Justina Wamae plan to legalize the farming of hemp, a form of cannabis with high levels of cannabidoil (CBD), so that its fibre can be used in industry and its CBD in medicines. In parallel, they want to legalize and control the use of marijuana, the form of cannabis popular as a recreational drug. To ensure that only hemp is grown in Kenya, Wamae has explained, agricultural officials will visit farms to test crops, and hemp seeds will be provided only by the government. A 2019 report by Prohibition Partners that surveyed nine African countries calculated that Africa’s legal cannabis industry will grow to $7.1 billion by 2023. Wajackoyah wants Kenya to take advantage of this growing market, estimated globally to be worth around $70 billion by 2028. “Kenyans will be so rich that they will only be working four days a week,” Wackajoyah said on Citizen TV. Quartz Africa

Senegal Opposition Vows to Hold Banned Demonstration
Senegalese authorities on Wednesday banned a planned demonstration against the government in Dakar on Friday, but the opposition announced it would override it amid growing pre-election tensions. “We maintain our demonstration. There is no legal basis for the prefect’s decision,” Khalifa Sall told reporters. An order of the prefect of Dakar invokes the “threats of public disorder” to justify the ban. It also speaks of a violation of the electoral code and its article L.61, which prohibits any “disguised” propaganda in the 30 days preceding the opening of the election campaign. This opening is scheduled for July 10 for the legislative elections of July 31. Tensions are rising after the Constitutional Council invalidated a national list of candidates from the opposition coalition Yewwi Askan Wi. This invalidation eliminates from the race the leader of the opposition Ousmane Sonko and a number of opponents of President Macky Sall. The opposition denounces a ploy by the presidency to remove its opponents. Mr. Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election and is a declared candidate for the 2024 election, and other leaders have threatened to prevent the elections from taking place if Yewwi Askan Wi does not participate. AfricaNews with AFP

Economy Heads for Collapse as Nigerians Pay N876.6b for Darkness
Stakeholders are in panic mode over the fate of the nation’s economy, stemming from a sustained energy crisis that has lasted seven years. Nigeria, according to stakeholders, now has to face worsening situation that will escalate existing high cost of living and goods. There are also indications that the energy crisis will further increase unemployment as well as borrowing as the N5.5 trillion projected revenue in the 2022 budget remains elusive over productivity challenges in the manufacturing and service sector. Already, the country is spending over 90 per cent of its earnings from the oil sector on petrol subsidy, and with the energy crisis, experts project tougher times for state governments as the country prepares for the 2023 general election. While Nigerians are to pay about N876.6 billion on electricity bills in the last lap of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, a development seen by consumer advocates as payment for darkness, manufacturers and small and medium scale entrepreneurs told The Guardian, yesterday, that more businesses are rapidly shutting down, leading to unemployment crisis. In what is the worst energy crisis for a country that has depended on fuel importation despite being the leading crude oil producers in Africa, stakeholders envisage total collapse of the economy, insisting that increasing cost of aviation fuel, diesel, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), as well as wobbling electricity supply will compound the foreign exchange challenges to cripple economic growth for businesses and standard of living for citizens. Guardian Nigeria

Nigerian Troops Find Another Kidnapped Chibok Schoolgirl
Nigerian soldiers have found one of the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram operatives eight years ago in the conflict-torn northeast, the military has said. The April 2014 attack on a girls’ boarding school in the town of Chibok and the mass kidnapping that followed sparked international outrage and a global campaign called #BringBackOurGirls. The military said on Twitter on Wednesday that troops on patrol had found the young woman, Mary Ngoshe, carrying a baby near Ngoshe village. “Troops of 26 Task Force Brigade on patrol around Ngoshe in Borno State on 14 June 2022 intercepted one Mrs Mary Ngoshe and her son,” the statement said. “She is believed to be one of the abducted girls from GGSS (Government Girls Secondary School) Chibok in 2014,” it added, releasing a picture of a young woman and a child. Of the 276 pupils aged 12 to 17 who were abducted by the group on April 14, 2014, 57 of the girls managed to escape by jumping off trucks they had been herded on. Al Jazeera

Mali: Support ‘Deep Aspiration’ for Reform, Top Envoy Urges Security Council
El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Mali, urged ambassadors to support the renewal of the mandate of the UN Mission there, MINUSMA, which he heads. Although the West African country continues to face political, security and humanitarian challenges, “they are far from being insurmountable,” he said. “If anything, the Malian people…harbor a deep aspiration for reform, transparent governance, and accountability. These aspirations and the forces driving them, including civil society, have shown great resilience and deserve the full support of the international community,” he told the Council. MINUSMA has been actively involved in efforts aimed at overcoming the deadlock over the transition to civilian rule in Mali, where the military seized power in a coup nearly two years ago.  The 18-month political transition was supposed to conclude in March of this year, prompting regional bloc ECOWAS to impose sanctions on the country. Last week, the authorities announced that the timetable would be extended to 24 months, effective from March.  “During the coming period, MINUSMA will pursue its efforts in support of a consensus exit from the crisis and, as needed, it will continue to provide support to set up a detailed electoral timetable, as well as a robust monitoring mechanism and the creation of an appropriate climate for the holding of free, regular and credible elections,” said Mr. Wane. MINUSMA has also supported preparations for a high-level meeting, first planned for last October, to finalize details on the government’s proposal to reintegrate some 26,000 combatants into the State forces, in addition to institutional reforms. UN News

South Africa Is Becoming Europe’s Alternative to Russian Coal
Starting in mid-August, European Union countries will stop importing coal from Russia, which means they’ll have to find alternative suppliers. Already, South Africa is one such supplier, and the world’s fifth largest exporter of coal. Between January and May of this year, roughly 40% more tons of coal have been exported to Europe from South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) than were exported in all of 2021, according to Reuters. Recipient countries include Spain, Poland, and Germany, which did not import any South African coal last year, as well as France, which increased its imports sevenfold year-over-year. The degree to which the EU depends on energy import varies by country (lower in Estonia, higher in Cyprus), but the average dependency rate across the bloc was 58% in 2020. Given the EU’s energy dependance on Russia in particular, the bloc’s decision to stop importing Russian coal over Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is an audacious one. Of the three countries that supplied most of the EU’s coal in 2020, Russia accounted for 54%, while the US, and Australia supplied a combined 30%. Russia makes $4.4 billion annually from coal exports to the EU. That money is now headed elsewhere. Quartz Africa

Lenders Pledge $26.1 Billion to Ivory Coast 2021–25 Plan
Multilateral and bilateral lenders on Wednesday made a series of pledges to support Ivory Coast’s 2021-25 Development Plan totalling $26.1 billion, Prime Minister Patrick Achi said. The West Africa Development Bank pledged 1 billion euros, the African Development Bank $4.3 billion, the World Bank $8.7 billion and the Islamic Development Bank $2 billion. The European Union pledged 6 billion euros, and France pledged more than 4 billion euros. Leaders of Ivory Coast, one of West Africa’s largest economies and the world’s top cocoa producer, held a consultative meeting with investors and development partners in the administrative capital Abidjan on Wednesday to raise funds for the five-year programme. “The success we’ve seen is beyond what we expected. We had expected $15 billion in pledges, we have received $26.1 billion in total,” Achi announced, adding that Ivory Coast would be waiting for the pledges to be honoured.  Reuters

Nigeria’s Falz and Teni Back Inec’s Voter Registration Drive
Thousands of Nigerians gathered at a free concert recently in the commercial hub of Lagos that was headlined by celebrities including rapper Falz and singer Teni. The only requirement for entry was a permanent voter’s card (PVC), which shows that the holder has registered to vote in next February’s general elections. “If you haven’t registered yet, come and register at the venue on the day!! It’s a critical moment for us. Tell someone to tell someone please. Prime entertainment meets civic responsibility,” Falz wrote in an Instagram post. Although the elections are eight months away, the concert, organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec), civil society group Yiaga Africa, and the European Union (EU), was just one of many drives to get more Nigerians to register to vote. Social media influencers have been encouraging their followers to register. Religious leaders have been doing the same, with a Roman Catholic priest recently going viral for announcing to his congregants that they would be denied entry to Mass if they did not show their PVCs. Popular videos have shown everyday people on buses, in their communities, and at different random venues, motivating others to register and get their PVCs. Most of these efforts are aimed at the youth, who make up more than half of Nigeria’s population of more than 200 million. Many of them will be first-time voters, as 18 is the voting age. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones