Africa Media Review for June 15, 2022

DRC: Raft by Raft, a Rainforest Loses Its Trees
The mighty Congo River has become a highway for sprawling flotillas of logs — African teak, wenge and bomanga in colors of licorice, candy bars and carrot sticks. For months at a time, crews in the Democratic Republic of Congo live aboard these perilous rafts, piloting the timber in pursuit of a sliver of profit from the dismantling of a crucial forest. The biggest rafts are industrial-scale, serving mostly international companies that see riches in the rainforest. But puny versions also make their way downriver, tended by men and their families who work and sleep atop the floating logs… Here, some 250 giant logs with ragged, floppy bark were being strung with steel cables and readied for the river at a small beach used by an international logging company. Industrial logging in Congo is laden with corruption, according to a recent government audit. Lucrative licenses have been handed out as political favors. In fact, the past six ministers of environment, the very people in charge of protecting the forest, are accused of illegally selling off huge swaths of it, according to the audit, which reviewed Congo’s industrial logging as of 2020. Nearly all the logging, Congolese officials say, today is in some fashion illegal. “Fraud upon fraud,” said Ève Bazaiba Masudi, Congo’s environment minister, who was appointed in April 2021. A few months into the job, Ms. Bazaiba opened an investigation after saying her own signature had been forged on logging licenses. New York Times

Sudan Alarm at Return of Bashir Loyalists and the NCP
Three years after Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a popular uprising, former members of his National Congress Party (NCP) are being given influential posts by the military junta, raising fears that they are making a political comeback. A fragile transitional government was ended last year after Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan carried out a coup against his civilian partners, who had played a pivotal role in the mass protests against Bashir’s authoritarian rule. Many see the top generals – all members of a security committee appointed by Bashir in the dying days of his regime – as favouring the NCP, which imposed a strict version of Sharia (Islamic law) when in power. Hamza Balol – a senior member of the pro-democracy Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) movement, which shared power with the generals until the coup – believes the military has sabotaged the transition by protecting the NCP. He said the coup leaders had been “vigorously cooperating with the leaders of the previous regime to gain a political base”. “[The] forces behind the revolution must unite to defeat the coup,” Mr Balol told the BBC. More than 100 people have been killed since last October’s coup in regular protests demanding a return of civilian rule. BBC

ECOWAS Pushes Launch of Single Currency to 2027
Mr Jean-Claude Brou, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, has said that the community has resumed convergence to launch of the ECOWAS single currency “ECO” in 2027. Brou made this known on Tuesday while delivering reports of the ECOWAS Commission before the ECOWAS Parliament during the ongoing 2022 First Ordinary Session of the Parliament in Abuja. Brou said that the process of launching the single currency was stalled following the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, as countries needed to focus on handling the pandemic. He explained that the convergence criteria had to be thorough so that the currency once implemented will serve the citizens effectively. “We had to suspend that in 2022, 2021. We are looking at 2022 to 2026 to be able to create conditions that will enable us to stabilise the economies. “And so, 2027 we go back to the currency. The process of the performance criteria is always prioritised if we want to be in a very favourable condition to introduce a single currency. Because you can introduce the currency but what is required is that it should be of quality. In other words, it should serve the needs of the population and also should inspire confidence and trust in in the population. So that is the main objective, to ensure that the convergence criteria is been followed,” Brou said. Rep. Awaji Abiante, Member of the ECOWAS Parliament and Nigerian lawmaker representing Andoni-Opobi/Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers, said that the delay in the launch of the currency is to avoid any form of crisis. Guardian Nigeria

Rwanda ‘Not Discouraged’ by Cancellation of UK Migrant Flight
The Rwandan government said Wednesday it was “not discouraged” by the cancellation of a flight to deport migrants from the United Kingdom to Rwanda the day before because of legal challenges, and that it remained “committed” to the partnership. “We are not discouraged by these developments. Rwanda remains fully committed to working to make this partnership work,” government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told AFP. “The current situation, in which people are making dangerous journeys, cannot continue as it is causing untold suffering to so many people,” she added. “Rwanda stands ready to welcome the migrants when they arrive and to offer them safety and opportunities in our country.” A first flight was due to take off from Britain to the East African country on Tuesday night, but it was cancelled following a last-minute ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). With its plan to send asylum seekers who arrived illegally in the UK to the East African country, more than 6,000 km from London, the government claims to be curbing illegal crossings of the English Channel, which have continued to rise despite its repeated promises to control immigration since the Brexit. The policy has been called “immoral” by church leaders in England and strongly criticized by the U.N. refugee agency and rights groups. AfricaNews

Study: Facebook Fails to Catch East Africa Extremist Content
A new study has found that Facebook has failed to catch Islamic State group and al-Shabab extremist content in posts aimed at East Africa as the region remains under threat from violent attacks and Kenya prepares to vote in a closely contested national election. An Associated Press series last year, drawing on leaked documents shared by a Facebook whistleblower, showed how the platform repeatedly failed to act on sensitive content including hate speech in many places around the world. The new and unrelated two-year study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue found Facebook posts that openly supported IS or the Somalia-based al-Shabab — even ones carrying al-Shabab branding and calling for violence in languages including Swahili, Somali and Arabic — were allowed to be widely shared. The report expresses particular concern with narratives linked to the extremist groups that accuse Kenyan government officials and politicians of being enemies of Muslims, who make up a significant part of the East African nation’s population. The report notes that “xenophobia toward Somali communities in Kenya has long been rife.”  The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab has been described as the deadliest extremist group in Africa, and it has carried out high-profile attacks in recent years in Kenya far from its base in neighboring Somalia. AP

Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Says Team Formed to Negotiate with Tigray Rebels
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has, for the first time, said his government is open to negotiations with the northern Tigray rebels. Dr Abiy, responding to queries from members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said his administration has set up a committee to spearhead the talks. “Regarding the peace, a committee has been established,” he told parliament. “Negotiation needs a lot of work,” he added, saying that the team “will study how we will conduct talks.” The committee, headed by his deputy Demeke Mekonnen, has 10 to 15 days to work out on details of agendas for negotiations. Fighting erupted in Tigray in November 2020 and spilled to neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions last year. Thousands have died and many more fled their homes, triggering a humanitarian crisis. The war has since eased after Dr Abiy’s government declared a unilateral humanitarian ceasefire in March. East African

UN Cuts Food Aid to 1.7 Million Hungry People in South Sudan
At least 1.7 million hungry people in South Sudan are losing humanitarian food aid “at the worst possible time” as the United Nations World Food Program suspends the help, blaming critical funding shortages. South Sudan faces unprecedented hunger amid climate shocks, soaring food prices linked to the war in Ukraine and recovery from civil war. Over 60% of the population of more than 11 million people faces severe food insecurity, according to WFP, which said it had to halve food rations last year. Among those now losing food aid in the middle of South Sudan’s lean season are 178,000 children who will no longer receive school meals, WFP said. Food security experts have warned that 1.4 million children will be acutely malnourished during the lean season between June and August. “Humanitarian needs are far exceeding the funding we have received this year. If this continues, we will face bigger and more costly problems in the future, including increased mortality, malnutrition, stunting, and disease,” WFP acting country director Adeyinka Badejo said in a statement. AP

Uganda Increases Defence Budget on DR Congo War
In the budget speech read to Uganda’s Parliament seated at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds on Tuesday, June 14, Finance minister Matia Kasaija announced an allocation of Ush3.9 trillion ($1.02 billion) to security, saying boosting the defence budget would be “the bedrock of socio-economic transformation in the next financial year.” “Peace, security and stability, as well as rule of law, must remain key government priorities,” Mr Kasaija said. Although there has not been any severe war within Uganda apart from pockets of insecurity caused by cattle rustlers in the Karamoja region, Uganda has been allocating a sizeable amount of money every year to the sector. This time, Mr Kasaija said the money allocated was to strengthen the operations in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. However, he did not specify how much was going into the mission. “The UPDF (Uganda People’s Defence Force) will also continue with the pacification of the eastern DR Congo in line with the agreement with the Government of DR Congo,” he said. “Sustaining peace, security and stability, as well as macro-economic stability, are key foundations for economic recovery, growth and socio-economic transformation,” Mr Kasaija said. East African

Kenya, Somalia in Fresh Diplomatic Row
Kenya has expressed “regret” over the presence of a flag from Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland at a diplomatic briefing in Nairobi, which sparked a strong protest from Somalia. Hours after Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya walked out of a diplomatic meeting in Nairobi because of the presence of a Somaliland envoy, Kenya’s foreign ministry regretted the “inappropriate presence” of a Somaliland flag, but made no mention of an envoy from the region, which declared independence in 1991. “The ministry wishes to reaffirm its recognition of the sovereignty of a single federal government of Somalia and the integrity of the federal state of Somalia,” the Kenyan diplomatic statement added. “Any inconvenience or embarrassment caused by this matter is deeply regretted,” the statement said. This diplomatic faux pas comes just days after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Mogadishu for the inauguration of Somalia’s newly elected president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, marking an easing of relations between the two countries, which were stormy under the previous president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo. Somalia also agreed on Friday to lift a ban on airlifting khat from Kenya, which had been in place for over two years. Mogadishu had severed diplomatic relations with Kenya in December 2020, when Kenyatta received in Nairobi the president of the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland, which is not recognized by the international community and which Mogadishu considers an integral part of Somalia. Diplomatic relations were restored in August 2021. AfricaNews

OCHA Sudan: More than 125 Killed in Kulbus Conflict and More than 18,300 Affected by Abu Jubeiha Clashes
The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published three new reports today on the situations in Abu Jubeiha, South Kordofan, and the related clashes in Kulbus in West Darfur and Saraf Omra in North Darfur. In Kulbus, an estimated 50,000 people have been displaced due to fighting that killed more than 125 people, mostly from the Gimir tribe. In Abu Jubeiha, about 18,300 people have been affected by the conflict between Kenana and Hawazma tribes. The first report highlighted that “following fighting between 6 and 11 June in West Darfur’s Kulbus locality, an estimated 50,000 people were reportedly displaced within Kulbus locality and in neighbouring localities in West Darfur (Sirba and Jebel Moon), and Saraf Omra and El Sareif localities in North Darfur”. At least 125 people were killed, and many others were injured due to the conflict. On 6 June, clashes erupted between the Gimir and Rizeigat communities in Um Hariz village in Kulbus locality, West Darfur. The conflict erupted following a dispute over land ownership between a Gimir man, a non-Arab African tribe, and a Rizeigat man, an Arab herding tribe. The two tribes have had conflict in the past. “Both men were killed during the gunfire exchange and more people were killed when the clashes spread to a livestock waterpoint and Um Tuyur village”, OCHA writes. The Gimir community reported 101 of their people killed and 117 injured while an Amir Rizeigat stated that 25 Arabs were killed and 16 injured during the clashes.  Nine Gimir people were also abducted while traveling between Saraf Omra and Kulbus and are still missing. OCHA highlighted that 25 Gimir villages were reportedly attacked, looted, and burnt, whilst a key Amir of the Arabs has discounted reports that three Arab settlements were burnt. Dabanga

Thousands Flee as Jihadist Attacks Resume in Mozambique
At least seven people have died in a spate of jihadist-related violence in northern Mozambique, local sources said Tuesday, as the UN said 10 000 people had fled their homes. Attacks occurred in gas-rich Cabo Delgado province, where jihadists launched a bloody insurgency in 2017, sparking a regional military mission last year that had restored a sense of security. Four people were beheaded in the remote village of Natupile, terrified residents who fled the area told AFP. “People from Natupile took photos, so we know it happened,” Antonio Kalimuka told AFP by telephone. “I’ve already left with my family, but I haven’t harvested my fields yet. I’ll have to come back once it’s safe.” Suspected jihadists last Wednesday killed two workers at an Australian-owned graphite mine, Triton Mineral, the company said. “Two of our security/caretaker staff were fatally injured,” it said in a statement. The following day, southern African regional military forces staged an attack on insurgents in a forest in Macomia district north of Pemba, the provincial capital. “During the joint operation, terrorists were killed and other suffered severe injuries,” the mission said in a statement. The military forces suffered one death and six injuries, it added. The United Nations meanwhile estimated that 10 000 people had fled their homes over the last week. The total number of displaced varies from month to month, but in May was estimated at more than 730 000 by the UN refugee agency. News24

South Africa to Get $474M World Bank Loan for COVID Vaccines
The World Bank has approved a loan of 454.4 million euros ($474.4m) to help South Africa fund COVID-19 vaccine purchases, the bank and South Africa’s National Treasury have said. South Africa has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent, with more than 3.9 million confirmed cases and more than 101,000 deaths. It initially struggled to secure vaccines due to limited supplies and protracted negotiations, but it is now well-supplied with doses. “This project will retroactively finance the procurement of 47 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by the GoSA (Government of South Africa),” the statement, released on Monday said. The loan is part of government efforts to cut debt-service costs by using cheaper funding sources in its response to the pandemic, Ismail Momoniat, acting director-general of the Treasury said. As of Monday, just more than half of South Africa’s adult population of approximately 40 million people had received at least one vaccine dose. In recent months the vaccination campaign has slowed, despite efforts to boost takeup. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones