Africa Media Review for June 15, 2023

Facing Crisis, Egypt’s Leader Tries New Tack: Talking to Opponents
Facing a ruinous economic crisis, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recently decided it was time to hold talks with what was left of Egypt’s political opposition, giving its members a seat at the table after nearly a decade of repression, prison and exile. But to an authoritarian leader like Mr. el-Sisi, reconciliation only goes so far. No sooner had the national dialogue started than the government began hemming the talks in, an indication that, after years of political repression and military domination of the economy, the leadership remains reluctant to turn the page. …the day after the talks launched last month, Egypt awoke to the news that security agents had arrested a dozen relatives and supporters of the only person so far to announce that he would challenge Mr. el-Sisi — who came to power in a military takeover — in the next presidential election. … Economists and analysts had long warned that Egypt’s sluggish, state-dominated economy, coupled with Mr. el-Sisi’s lavish spending on weapons and a construction boom that juiced short-term growth but ran up a staggering debt bill, was unsound. New York Times

Sudanese Fleeing to Egypt Face Challenges Despite Deep Ties and Interwoven Histories
Sudan and Egypt are neighbors with deep ties and interwoven histories, and they share a common lifeline: the Nile River. So integral is the Nile to life in these countries that Egyptians and Sudanese commonly refer to themselves as abna’ el-neel, children of the Nile. Egypt, a country of more than 100 million people, includes than 4 million Sudanese migrants. Its proximity and familiarity has made Egypt the most-sought refuge for people fleeing the fighting in Sudan that erupted in mid-April between the Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces militias. The exodus of more than 210,000 people from Sudan to Egypt in the weeks since highlights the deep ties that bind the two countries, as well as Egypt’s mixed legacy in Sudan and the challenges refugees face. Until recently, Egypt had been granting visitor visas to Sudanese at the border that could be extended. Over the past week, however, Egypt confirmed it had imposed a new measure requiring all Sudanese to obtain visas from Egyptian consulates before they can enter the country… The decision comes as Egypt faces economic headwinds. Inflation is rising, particularly for basic food items. The country is struggling to feed its poor amid an economic crisis that’s seen the local currency steadily plummet since March 2022. NPR

Ministers Gather in Uganda to Look for Solutions to East Africa’s Refugee Crisis
Calls for countries in the East and Horn of Africa to address the needs of the millions of displaced people in the region came Tuesday at the start of a four-day ministerial conference being held by the Inter-governmental authority (IGAD) in the Ugandan capital. Hilary Onek, Uganda’s Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, called on ministers to examine and address the wide range of factors that are forcing people from their homes. These factors, he said, include not only material issues but political ones. “Some governments don’t tolerate opposition. And they clamp down on them and these people run to exile. …” Onek said. … As efforts continue in different parts of the world to bring an end to the conflict in Sudan, Osman AbdulRahman, the deputy Ambassador of Sudan to Uganda, told VOA he hopes the meeting will also find solutions to contribute to peace in his country. “This humanitarian situation right now is going to threaten even the region and the entire world unless we do something right now to stop this war,” he said. “And to have peace talks between all elements in Sudan and our partners as well.” VOA

At Least 79 Die as Boat Carrying Migrants Sinks Near Greece
At least 79 people drowned in the Aegean Sea after a large boat carrying migrants sank early Wednesday, the Greek authorities said, in the deadliest such episode off the country’s coast since the height of the 2015 migration crisis. More than 100 people were rescued, but the Greek Coast Guard warned that the death toll would probably increase. The boat foundered on Wednesday about ‌50 miles southwest of Pylos, a city in southern Greece. A day earlier, Greek officials were alerted to the boat’s unusual movements, according to a statement from the Greek Coast Guard, which said that the boat’s crew had declined assistance offered by the authorities. The cause of the sinking was unclear as of Wednesday afternoon. A Greek Shipping Ministry official said that the boat was traveling to Italy from Tobruk, Libya. … Rights groups accused [Mr. Mitsotakis’] government of illegally pushing back migrants at sea and building camps with prisonlike conditions, and video verified by The New York Times showed the Greek Coast Guard in April rounding up asylum seekers, among them children, and abandoning them on a raft at sea. New York Times

South African Ties to Russia Shadow Ukraine Peace Mission
Ramaphosa had a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday, June 9 to brief Beijing about the upcoming visit by seven African leaders to Ukraine and Russia to “find a peaceful solution” to the war in Ukraine. In addition to Ramaphosa, the delegation will include the Republic of Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema and Azali Assoumani, President of Comoros and current chairperson of the African Union. These heads of state have, according to official South African statements, “agreed that they would engage with both President [Vladimir] Putin and President [Volodymyr] Zelensky on the elements for a ceasefire and a lasting peace in the region.” Ukraine’s stated position for any peace deal is that all Russian troops must withdraw from all of its territory, including the Crimean peninsula occupied by Russia since 2014. Zelensky will be the first to receive this delegation in Kyiv on June 16, followed by Putin on June 17 in St Petersburg. France24

Why Fighters from the Global South Join Russia’s Army in Ukraine
The family of Tanzanian-born Nemes Raymond Taremo first heard rumors that their beloved relative had been killed on the frontlines in faraway Ukraine in December last year. They received their last message from Taremo, 37, two months earlier — on Oct. 17 — shortly after he joined Russia’s Wagner mercenary group from a Russian prison where he was serving a sentence on drug charges. Weeks later, he would be dead, killed in fighting as Wagner waged a brutal offensive in eastern Ukraine. But it wasn’t until January that Taremo’s family finally received the formal confirmation of his death. “His body was brought back to Tanzania in February after we fought a lot for it, and even held protests at the Russian Embassy in Dar es Salaam,” Taremo’s cousin Rehema Maclean Kigobe told The Moscow Times. “When we demanded more information from the Russian ambassador, they refused to address us and said it would ruin Russia’s relations with Tanzania.” Taremo is one of likely hundreds of foreign mercenaries from the so-called Global South who have joined the Russian Armed Forces to fight in Ukraine since the Kremlin ordered tanks over the border into its pro-Western neighbor last year. For some, like Taremo, the main motivation seems to have been money — or to escape a Russian prison. Moscow Times

Mali Junta Leader Discusses Security, Economy With Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of Mali’s junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, discussed security and economic relations between their two countries, both sides reported on Wednesday. During the phone talks, “at the initiative of the Malian side”, the two leaders paid “particular attention” to trade and economic relations, including the delivery of cereals, fertilizers, and fuel from Russia to Mali, the Kremlin said in a press release. … The landlocked Sahel state has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north in 2012. It has since August 2020 been ruled by a military junta, which broke a long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against jihadism and turned to Russia for political and military assistance. AFP

Eight Kenyan Police Killed in Suspected Al-Shabaab Blast
Eight Kenyan police officers were killed when their vehicle was blown up by an improvised explosive device in a suspected attack by Somalia-based jihadist group Al-Shabaab, police said. The incident took place on Tuesday in Garissa county in eastern Kenya, a region on the border with Somalia, where Al-Shabaab has been waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile government in Mogadishu for more than 15 years. “We lost eight police officers in this attack,” North Eastern regional commissioner John Otieno said. “We suspect the work of Al-Shabaab who are now targeting security forces and passenger vehicles.” Kenya first sent troops into Somalia in 2011 to combat the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militants and is now a major contributor of troops to an African Union military operation against the group. … In one of the worst recent attacks, 54 Ugandan peacekeepers were killed when Al-Shabaab fighters stormed an African Union base in Somalia on 26 May, according to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. AFP

HRW Accuses M23 Militia of Rape, Finds Mass Graves in DR Congo
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published a damning report accusing the M23 militia of committing murder, rape and “other war crimes” in the volatile east the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent months. In the report released on Tuesday, HRW said it had so far “documented eight unlawful killings and 14 cases of rape” by M23 fighters. Last year, the United Nations accused the group of executing at least 131 people in November in retaliation for clashes between M23 and rival armed groups. The UN’s human rights office then later said that 171 civilians were executed in the last ten days of November. In April and May, after the group withdrew from Kishishe, HRW used photos, videos, testimonies and satellite images to establish the presence of 14 mass graves in the village. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: President Tinubu Suspends Anti-Corruption Chief under Investigation
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has suspended the country’s anti-corruption chief, who is under investigation for abuse of office, the government has announced. The ousting of the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdul Rasheed Bawa, is the second of a senior official ordered by Mr. Tinubu since he took office on 29 May promising economic reforms. “Mr. Bawa has been ordered to immediately transfer the management of the affairs of his office to the Commission’s Director of Operations, who will be in charge until the conclusion of the investigation”, the government announced in a statement published on Wednesday evening. This sanction was taken because of “serious accusations of abuse of power against him,” it added, without giving details. Mr. Bawa was then questioned in this context by the state security and intelligence services, the government added. Africanews with AFP

Nigeria Allows Currency to Drop Third of Value on Official Market
Nigeria’s central bank allowed the naira currency to drop as much as 36 percent on the official market on Wednesday, days after President Bola Tinubu suspended the central bank governor who oversaw much-criticised multiple exchange rates. For decades, multiple exchange rates had led to foreign currency shortages. Under suspended apex bank chief Godwin Emefiele, the situation worsened, making it difficult for investors to take out money from Africa’s biggest economy. Traders told the Reuters news agency the central bank had removed trading restrictions on the official market, which drove the naira to a record low of 750 to the dollar on the official market, down from Tuesday’s low of 477 naira to the dollar. The new rate is equivalent to the black market rate which has stood at approximately 750 to the dollar since last year. This was the first time since 2016 that the naira had recorded a big fall on the official market before the central bank introduced a managed exchange rate in 2017. Al Jazeera

Massive Strike Pits African Fishers against ‘Superprofitable’ EU Firms
The waters of west Africa and the Indian Ocean boast some of the world’s largest, healthiest populations of tropical tuna, and that makes them havens for industrial tuna fishing fleets, owned by countries vastly richer than the nations whose borders form these coastlines. In order to protect the fish populations of poorer African nations from rapacious overfishing by richer countries, EU tuna vessels are bound by agreements centred on the sustainability and “social empowerment” of third countries. Last week, however, in an unprecedented action involving 64 vessels and roughly 2,000 crew from Senegal and Ivory Coast, 80% of the EU fleet in the Gulf of Guinea and the Indian Ocean went on strike. Not only were they protesting over poor pay and working conditions in one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, they also said the agreements from the EU aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. They accused the EU fleet of unsustainable practices, and urged the EU commission to listen to NGOs and investigate. The Guardian