Africa Media Review for June 17, 2022

Burkina Faso Massacre Highlights a Strengthening Insurgency
When Amadou Dicko heard the first shots, he knew he had to flee. The 30-year-old told his family to leave their belongings and run as insurgents descended Saturday on Seytenga, a village in northern Burkina Faso. Gunmen killed at least 79 people in the attack that followed, government officials said, making it one of the deadliest since Islamist extremists gained a foothold in the West African nation seven years ago. Dicko, whose best friend was fatally shot, described it as “total carnage.” The massacre in Seytenga underscored the increasingly perilous security situation in Burkina Faso, where military leaders ousted the president in a coup in January. At the time, officers promised to restore peace to the country, where militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have killed thousands and displaced more than 1.5 million. But violence has only intensified under military rule. Attacks by insurgents have increased by 23 percent in the five months since Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba took power, compared with the five months before the coup, said Héni Nsaibia, a senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). Fatalities — including civilians, militants and security forces — increased by 15 percent during the same time period, according to Nsaibia’s data. “The militants have an interest in showing that it doesn’t matter if there is a new regime in place,” Nsaibia said. “They want to demonstrate that the previous president failed, but things aren’t going to change just because you have a military junta.” Extremist violence was already on the rise under President Roch Marc Kaboré, rendering much of the countryside ungovernable. The death toll from insurgent attacks in Burkina Faso last year was higher than in Mali, making this landlocked nation of 21 million people the epicenter of the growing security crisis in the Sahel. Last summer, at least 138 people were killed in the northeastern village of Solhan in a massacre that was carried out mostly by child soldiers. Washington Post

Tunisia Grinds to a Halt as Unions Challenge President
Flights were canceled, public transport ground to a halt and government offices were closed in a nationwide strike by Tunisia’s main trade union confederation Thursday, which piled pressure on a president already facing a string of crises. The powerful UGTT confederation had called on up to three million public sector workers to strike, halting work at 159 state agencies and public companies to demand concessions on salaries and threatened reforms. The action appeared to be widely observed. A strike by public sector workers at Tunis airport saw dozens of flights canceled, while public utilities and post offices were closed. Around 1,000 strike supporters gathered outside UGTT headquarters in central Tunis, singing the national anthem and waving flags. In a fiery speech, UGTT chief Noureddine Taboubi said the action had been over 96 percent successful, and blamed the government for the collapse of salary negotiations. “This is a stubborn government which sows discord and spreads false information,” Taboubi told the demonstrators. “We won’t stop campaigning, no matter the cost, until our demands are met.” AfricaNews with AFP

M23 Clash: DRC Now Suspends Bilateral Trade Agreements with Rwanda
The Democratic Republic of Congo is suspending all agreements with Rwanda, which it accuses of supporting the M23 rebels, even though Kigali denies the charge. After a meeting which ended late in the night on Wednesday, June 15, Patrick Muyaya, the government spokesman, announced several resolutions by President Félix Tshisekedi and the High Council of Defence. He outlined the new position of the DRC, saying, “The High Council of Defence asks the Congolese government to suspend all agreements concluded with Rwanda.” The agreements include a commercial deal signed in June 2021 between President Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame on exploiting gold to ensure its traceability in DR Congo. The pact provided for a Congolese company, Société aurifère du Kivu et du Maniema (Sakima SA), and a Rwandan firm, Dither Ltd, to mine and refine gold in the DRC “in order to deprive the armed groups of the revenue from this sector.”… The decision by the Congolese authorities comes in addition to the ban on Rwandan national carrier RwandAir from landing on Congolese soil. East African

Tigray and Ethiopia Agree on Kenya Convening Peace Talks
Kenya goes to the polls on 9 August to elect a new president after Kenyatta completes his second and final term as per the constitution. The war in Ethiopia between the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian government forces fighting alongside Eritrean forces has resulted in 90% of the estimated population of seven million in Tigray needing humanitarian aid. In April, a mini-truce was put in place and it’s still exists to allow food aid into Tigray. However, due to logistical challenges and mistrust between the warring factions, inadequate relief aid has reached the area. The mini-truce set in motion the possibility of peace talks. On Tuesday, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced in a televised address that a committee had been set up to study pre-conditions and how the negotiations with Tigray should go ahead. In light of that, Tigray’s transitional government has since insisted that any talks that with Ethiopia must not be done in secrecy, and that the African Union and United Nations should play a central role. In a letter addressed to the AU chairperson, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Kenyatta, Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu Hassan and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, Tigray’s Debretsion Gebremichael said: “Since the outbreak of war in Ethiopia in November 2020, we have been open to good-faith peace negotiations convened by an impartial third party, consistent with the norms and principles of the African Union and the United Nations.” News24

Ugandan Army Discovers Training Facility for ADF Rebels
Uganda’s military says it has discovered bomb-making material at a training facility for a rebel group allied to ISIL (ISIS) about 60km (37 miles) west of the capital, Kampala, and that three people had been arrested. The revelation was made by army spokesman Felix Kulayigye on Thursday during a media tour of the village of Kikubajinja in Luwero district. Authorities blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia based in the dense forests in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, for a series of bombings in Kampala and elsewhere last November, which killed at least nine people. In one of the worst attacks, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a police station in the centre of Kampala. Three minutes later, two other suicide bombers detonated along a road that leads to the parliament. The training facility was found at the home of a local and a tunnel used for training had been dug in one of the rooms, Kulayigye said. Security personnel had become suspicious after reports emerged from neighbours that “nobody was allowed to enter, nobody would be seen getting out”, the army spokesman said…In November, the Ugandan army began a joint operation with the Congolese army to root out the ADF, which started as an uprising in Uganda but has been based in the DRC since the late 1990s. It pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in mid-2019. Al Jazeera

Somalia Faces Grim Humanitarian Catastrophe
In January 2022, Hirsiyow Mohamed and her three children left her drought-stricken village of Drumo in Somalia. But after 15 days of walking through the hot desert with almost no water and food, she arrived with only one child at the newly-built camp for displaced people near the town of Dollow, in the Gedo region of southern Somalia. “We were walking and walking, and my son was very thirsty and exhausted, Mohamed sadly recalled. “He asked me many times: ‘Mummy water, mummy water,’ then he started gasping, but there was nothing, no drop of water I could give him,” she told DW. Her sick 8-year-old daughter died on arrival at the camp. She had been suffering from a bad cough and was weak from the journey. Children are the most vulnerable as the drought in the Horn of Africa worsens. The UN projects that 350,000 of the 1.4 million severely malnourished children in Somalia could starve to death if nothing is done. Climate change and extreme weather events have increased natural disasters over the last 50 years, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). As a result, the international charity organization Oxfam said that more than 23 million people suffer from severe hunger in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the autonomous region of Somaliland…The drought has driven more than 500,000 people from their homes this year, according to the World Food Program (WFP). As a result, more than 6 million are now facing acute hunger. “This drought has the face of a child,” said UNICEF spokesperson Victor Chinyama. “Not only a child suffering from malnutrition, but there are also other risks, such as early marriage in the case of girls and being recruited in armed groups in the case of boys.” DW

Blind Kenyan Singer Goes to Court over Rejected Presidential Candidacy
A gospel singer who wants to be Kenya’s first disabled presidential candidate has brought a case in the country’s courts after being barred from the electoral race. Reuben Kigame, who is blind, filed against Kenya’s Electoral Commission (IEBC) last Tuesday, claiming he had been blocked from entering the 9 August election. Kigame’s campaign team claims the IEBC discriminated against him and that the commission had provided no credible explanation for his disqualification. They allege that commission officials gave Kigame the runaround when he tried to submit his paperwork and kept him waiting for hours before declaring he had missed the deadline. Kigame said he had met the requirements to stand as an independent candidate, gathering 48,000 signatures and voter IDs from across the country. “It was like I was a non-entity,” he said. “It’s really sad that I’d have to fight for inclusion like this.” Kigame said the head of the commission, Wafula Chebukati, admitted to him in a meeting on Sunday that there were no systems in place to accommodate candidates with a disability. Gitobu Imanyara, a Kenyan human rights lawyer present at the meeting, said Chebukati’s admission “was an outright acknowledgment of the commission’s breach of its obligations as a public body, for which they should be held accountable”. Imanyara said Kigame had been placed at a disadvantage and that his constitutional rights had been violated. The IEBC did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment. Guardian

France Says Its Drone Strikes Killed Dozens of Extremists in Niger
French drone strikes killed nearly 40 Islamic extremists earlier this week who were traveling on motorcycles near Niger’s border with Burkina Faso, France’s military announced Thursday. In a statement, the French military called the strikes a “new tactical success” for France’s counterterrorism efforts in Africa’s Sahel region, named Operation Barkhane. “Intelligence obtained from Nigerien units in contact with the column confirmed that the motorcycles belonged to an armed terrorist group moving between Burkina Faso and Niger,” Barkhane said in the statement. “In close coordination with Niger’s Armed Forces, the Barkhane force conducted several strikes against the column. Nearly 40 terrorists were neutralized.” Niger’s government also issued a statement, saying the jihadis were killed after an attack earlier this week killed eight security forces in southwestern Niger. After being kicked out of Mali and the presence of a military government in Burkina Faso, Niger has become France’s more reliable ally in the Sahel. AfricaNews

Atiku Names Running Mate for Nigeria Presidency
Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s main opposition presidential candidate, has picked Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate for the February 2023 election. Mr Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), announced the choice of Mr Okowa, a state governor, on Thursday. Political parties in Nigeria have until Friday to submit the names of their presidential candidates and running mates. Mr Okowa, a former senator is into a second four-year term as governor of Delta state, which is in southern Nigeria. Mr Abubakar, a Muslim from northern Nigeria was expected to pick a running mate from the Christian-majority south of the country so his choice has come as no surprise. However, many are worried about Mr Okowa’s links to James Ibori, a former governor of Delta state convicted of money laundering in the UK in 2012. Ibori is still highly influential in Delta state politics and, many believe, had a hand in the election of Mr Okowa as governor. The PDP is seeking to reclaim power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which will field Bola Tinubu as its presidential candidate. Mr Tinubu is yet to announce a running mate. BBC

Why Sudan Is Wary of Third Filling of Ethiopia Nile Dam
Sudan’s officials are expressing fear that another round of filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) without a formative agreement will hurt its safety holds on the Nile. As the date for the third filling approaches, Sudan says now is the time for the three countries — Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt — to hammer out a long-term deal on how to share waters of the Nile, including safety standards for operations of dams erected on the river. A brief by Sudan’s Ministry of Irrigation, seen by The EastAfrican, raises Khartoum’s concerns regarding the lack of safety precautions, including how the filling and release of water will affect its own smaller dam, the Roseires on the Nile. The note says there should be an “urgent exchange of information” on how the countries can deal with emergencies that could arise during operations, including the possible bursting of smaller dams once water is released. The ministry says Khartoum still believes that the negotiating process led by the African Union can reach its goals by supporting the three countries to sign “a friendly agreement,” but this should arise from a change in the mode of talks, including the succinct role of experts. East African

Paris Club Suspends Sudan Debt Relief Due to Coup
In its press release, The Paris Club explained that it continued to be very active in promoting coordinated multilateral solutions to sovereign debt problems around the world in 2021.  It had aimed to support low-income countries also through the implementation of the HIPC for which the Paris Club signed a multilateral agreement with Sudan on July 15, 2021. “However, after the removal of the Transitional Government of Sudan by the military forces, the signature of the bilateral agreements implementing this multilateral one is suspended until the situation improves and the implementation of the IMF program resumes”, the statement read. In the report, the Paris Club explained that it “has continued its actions to implement the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative […] through an agreement to restructure Sudan’s external public debt concluded on 15 July 2021”. It explained that this enhanced HIPC initiative consists of a two-phased approach: “The first phase, known as decision point, opens access to interim debt relief; final debt relief is provided at the end of the second phase, completion point”. So far, 38 countries including Sudan have reached the decision point of the Enhanced HIPC Initiative and Sudan reached it in June 2021. The report then explained that “in light of the recent events and the removal of the Transitional Government of Sudan by the military forces, Paris Club members have collectively assessed that the bilateral agreements cannot be signed until the situation improves and the implementation of the IMF program resumes”. The Paris Club said it continues to “monitor carefully the situation, in close collaboration with the IMF and the World Bank Group”. Right after the October 25 military coup d’état, the World Bank announced the suspension of all aid to Sudan and halted decisions on any new operations in the country. Dabanga

Sudanese Police Kill Another Anti-Coup Protester Bringing Death Toll to 102
A protester was killed, and dozens were wounded when the security forces fired live ammunition to disperse anti-coup protesters in two cities of the Sudanese capital on Thursday. Sudanese took to the street in Omdurman and Khartoum cities on Thursday to demonstrate against the military coup that ended a civilian-led transition in the country. on October 25, 2021. The coup leaders announced their commitment to a dialogue process and announced the lift of the state of emergency. However, the security forces continue to act as if martial law is still in force. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) stated that a protester in Omdurman died from a gunshot wound in the chest and abdomen. The independent medical group said the security forces probably used cartridge weapons. The police fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse protesters outside the parliament in Omdurman. Following what the Central Reserve Forces who are generally brought from other provinces chased the protesters inside the adjacent neighbourhoods and arrested some of them. With the new death, the death toll as a result of the 25th October coup topped 102 on Thursday. Sudan Tribune

Media Arrests ‘Reverberate’ Across Ethiopian Newsrooms
June 18 marks seven months in prison for Dessu Dulla. The Ethiopian journalist from the Oromia News Network, or ONN, is accused of anti-state activities. If convicted, he could face life in prison, or even the death penalty. It’s a sharp turn of events for Dessu, who returned from exile in Europe in 2018, drawn by what seemed at the time like a period of reform. He started work at ONN, where he hosted the weekly show “Under the Shadow of Democracy,” looking at threats in Ethiopia and its Oromia region. “I thought it would be another era and that democracy and freedom of speech may be restored,” Dessu told Reuters before his arrest last November. But “actually things are deteriorating. So many journalists have fled the country, and some are in jail.” Dessu is one of more than 20 journalists currently held in Ethiopian prisons. Most had reported on the conflicts in Ethiopia’s Tigray, Oromia and Amhara regions. Alongside arrests, Ethiopia’s media regulator in April announced it was taking legal action against 25 media outlets that it said were spreading false news and hate speech. Authorities say their actions are designed to stop the spread of disinformation or anti-state activities. But rights groups and journalists say Ethiopia is using legal avenues to silence critics or dissidents. Tsedale Lemma, who founded the newspaper Addis Standard, said the arrests of journalists, many of whom were pro-government during the war in Tigray, send a broader message to media across the country. “It’s the effect that is really reverberating across media rooms in Ethiopia,” Tsedale said, adding that it creates challenges “because you wouldn’t know what is it going to be that the government is turning against this time.” Voice of America

In Zimbabwe, Reporter’s Conviction Sparks Fears of Renewed Abuse
For the first time in more than a year, Jeffrey Moyo, reporter for The New York Times in Zimbabwe, is breathing rather easy. Last May, he was arrested and imprisoned for 21 days on accusations of obtaining fake press credentials for two New York Times journalists who entered his home country last year on a reporting trip. Since then, he has frequently shuttled between Harare, the capital where he lives, and a court in Bulawayo, the country’s second-largest city, some 500km (310 miles) south. “I am happy that I have not been cast into prison,” Moyo told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, a day after being convicted on charges of breaching the country’s immigration laws. But the prospect of ending up in jail still hovers over the 37-year-old journalist who was awarded a two-year suspended prison term, which can be imposed if he is convicted of a similar crime in the next five years. He was ordered to pay a fine of 200,000 Zimbabwe dollars (about $450). “It could have been worse,” Moyo said, while still describing the decision as “outrageous and irrational”. Zimbabwe, which is in the grips of an economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation, a rapidly devaluing local currency, 90 percent unemployment and declining manufacturing output, has a notorious history of repressive media laws and undermining press freedom. Al Jazeera

EXPLAINER: The Scandal Engulfing South Africa’s President
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa could face criminal charges and is already facing calls to step down over claims that he tried to cover up the theft of millions of dollars in U.S. currency that was hidden inside furniture at his game farm. The astonishing allegations made by the former head of South Africa’s intelligence agency also include that the suspects in the robbery two years ago were tracked down and kidnapped by Ramaphosa’s presidential protection unit, interrogated on his property, and bribed to keep quiet about the existence of the cash, and nothing was reported to the police. The accusations badly undermine Ramaphosa’s reputation as a leader dedicated to fighting corruption. He became president in 2018 on promises to clean up government and his graft-tainted ruling party, the African National Congress, which is now a far cry from the days when it was widely respected and led by Nelson Mandela. The scandal, dubbed “farmgate” by the South African press, threatens to end Ramaphosa’s presidency and destabilize Africa’s most developed economy. AP



Photo: Adam Jones