Africa Media Review for June 20, 2023

Mali Faces Spectre of Anarchy after [Junta Demands] UN’s Departure
The U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, has been hobbled by restrictions on its air and ground operations since Mali’s ruling junta joined forces with Russian military contractor Wagner Group in 2021. That has limited its effectiveness against an Islamist insurgency that took root a decade ago and has since spread across West Africa. Despite the restrictions, MINUSMA’s 13,000-strong force has held the line in northern cities including Gao and Timbuktu that are surrounded by militants. It patrols camps for displaced people, which come under frequent attack, and provides medical evacuations for Mali’s under-equipped army. It is unclear how quickly U.N. troops could leave following Mali’s request on Friday. But, if and when they do, Bamako will be alone with about 1,000 Wagner soldiers to battle the militants linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda, who have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers and control large swathes of Mali’s desert north and centre. … Attacks on civilians surged in the year after Wagner arrived. At least 750 were killed during joint operations carried out by Wagner and Mali’s military during that period, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a U.S.-based research group. Sixty civilians died in military operations in the year before Wagner came. Reuters

Mali’s Military Junta Holds Referendum on New Constitution
The election observer group MODELE said that participation at midday had only been about 21% of eligible voters. The mission also cited dozens of polling stations that were closed due to security problems, disenfranchising people. The referendum also did not include Mali’s entire northern Kidal region. … Imam Mahmoud Dicko, an opponent of the military junta, invited his supporters to a large hall in Bamako on Friday to ask them to vote against the draft constitution. “In our country today, can we speak of justice, democracy, human rights, the rule of law? What kind of democracy are we talking about? Where is it? What rule of law is there in a country where justice is used by the military to repress people? That’s the reality of this country today,” said Dicko, a one-time junta supporter who led the movement calling for the departure of democratically elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita before he was ousted in 2020. … Goita and his junta promised a swift return to democracy after overthrowing the president in August 2020, capitalizing on Malians’ growing frustration with the government’s inability to stop Islamic extremist violence. Nine months later, though, the army colonel consolidated power through a second coup that sidelined transitional leaders. … Mali’s government is now promising to hold elections in February 2024. AP

Documents Reveal Wagner’s Lies in the Central African Republic
Ambushes, accidents, drinking bouts. Everything is reported in detail. Since 2017, the Russian mercenaries belonging to the Wagner Group have been careful to record every one of their actions in the Central African Republic. These accounts, spreadsheets and other reports tell the behind-the-scenes story of Russia’s presence in the country, far from Moscow’s official discourse. Le Monde, in partnership with Dossier Center and CAPA Presse, obtained and authenticated these documents, which come from a larger data leak known as the “WagnerLeaks.” Between 2017 and 2021, Russian mercenaries, officially deployed as “instructors” to Central African security forces, steadily expanded their military presence, in total violation of the embargo imposed on the Central African Republic since 2013 by the UN. Corroborated by various sources, these accounts written by the mercenaries themselves also reveal how Wagner looted and sometimes tortured the local population. Le Monde

Ugandan Border Town Buries Victims of Rebel Massacre That Left 42 Dead, Mostly Students
A bereaved Ugandan border town on Sunday began burying the victims of a brutal attack on a school by suspected extremist rebels that left 42 people dead, most of them students, as security forces stepped up patrols along the frontier with volatile eastern Congo. … Some students were burned beyond recognition; others were shot or hacked to death after militants armed with guns and machetes attacked Lhubiriha Secondary School, co-ed and privately owned, which is located about 2 kilometers (just over a mile) from the Congo border. Ugandan authorities believe at least six students were abducted, taken as porters back inside Congo. … The attack is blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, which rarely claims responsibility for attacks. … The ADF has been accused of launching many attacks in recent years targeting civilians in remote parts of eastern Congo, including one in March in which 19 people were killed. AP

DRC Opposition Candidate Threatens to Boycott December Vote
Martin Fayulu, the leading opposition candidate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, says his party would not participate in upcoming elections if the voter list is not redone and audited, claiming fraud. Fayulu, leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, came in second to President Felix Tshisekedi in the last election in 2018. His party said he won, and he unsuccessfully challenged the results in court. Millions of Congolese will go to the polls for legislative and presidential elections on December 20. Tshisekedi is expected to seek a second term. … Congo’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), hired five international experts in May to review its electoral list, and they declared it reliable. But the United States, the European Union and other Western powers said in a joint statement that the audit had not “fostered the public perception of independent and transparent oversight” and was a missed opportunity to build confidence. The lead-up to the polls has been tense already with several opposition candidates complaining of delays and issues with the electoral process that they say disadvantage them. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s Tinubu Removes Security Chiefs in Major Reshuffle
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has made sweeping changes to the defence forces, forcing out the security chiefs and the head of police less than a month after taking office. Tinubu, who was sworn into office on May 29, has named new commanders of the defence forces, army, navy and air force with immediate effect, the secretary to the government of the federation said in a statement on Monday. … The Nigerian president has made security one of his key priorities and promised reforms to the sector, including the recruitment of more soldiers and police officers while paying and equipping them better. On his first day in office, Tinubu said: “We shall invest more in our security personnel, and this means more than an increase in number. We shall provide, better training, equipment, pay, and firepower.” It is not unusual for a new Nigerian president to send security chiefs into early retirement upon taking office, as Tinubu did on Monday. Nigeria’s military is stretched, with long-running fighting against rebel groups as well as banditry and kidnappings for ransom that have spread insecurity to most parts of the country. … Analysts have said the security threats facing Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy are mainly due to limited resources, which leave Nigerian security forces often outgunned and outnumbered in violent hotspots. Al Jazeera

How Rural Violence Spoils Nigeria’s Harvest
In early 2023, the United Nations warned that 25 million Nigerians are at high risk of food insecurity, with some analysts calling this a conservative estimate. The nation’s battle to feed its citizens presents a significant challenge for new President Bola Tinubu. He has promised to assist farmers in “feeding their families and the nation,” not just because widespread hunger is a problem for the new administration, but also because its causes lie in a larger crisis threatening Nigeria: insecurity. “Small-scale farmers in Nigeria produce almost 90% of the food that people consume in the country,” said Adeoye Akinola, a Johannesburg-based specialist on monitoring violence affecting rural communities across Africa. He added that over 70% of Nigerians are involved in some form of agriculture. Nigeria’s agricultural sector contributes over 22% of the country’s gross domestic product, dwarfing the oil sector, which ranges from about 6 to 9%. Yet on the plains of northern Maiduguri, farmers are fighting the pressure of growing enough food to feed Africa’s most populous country while under constant fear of being attacked. DW

UN Chief Guterres Warns of Conflicts Escalating from Sudan
“The scale and speed of Sudan’s descent into death and destruction is unprecedented,” Guterres told the aid conference in Geneva. The secretary-general added: “Without strong international support, Sudan could quickly become a locus of lawlessness, radiating insecurity across the region.” Organisers of the international donors’ conference for Sudan said they also wanted to find ways to encourage a more efficient ceasefire between the warring factions. “The situation in Darfur and Khartoum is catastrophic,” Guterres added. “Fighting is raging with people attacked in their homes and on the street.” Guterres concluded that the only way to end the crisis was through a return to peace and the restoration of civilian rule via the transition to democracy. The pledging event was co-organised by the UN’s humanitarian and refugee agencies, alongside Egypt, Germany, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, plus the African Union and the European Union. RFI

Sudan: War between Khartoum Rivals Takes On an Ethnic Dimension in Darfur
The fighting that broke out in Khartoum on April 15 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) led by General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Al-Bourhane and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, aka “Hemetti,” soon spilled over into Darfur, where the latter comes from. According to doctors and human rights activists, the death toll from the clashes in Geneina now stands at over 1,200, with several thousand injured. After losing control of the city’s strategic points, the airport and a military base, the SAF withdrew on April 24 to their headquarters seven kilometers from the center. … The 2003 Darfur war led to the displacement of almost half the Masalit of West Darfur to Chad. “From the 2000s onwards, Omar Al-Bashir installed a peace of victors there, giving power to Arab fiefdoms created from scratch by the Islamist regime,” explained Jérôme Tubiana, a researcher who is one of the region’s leading specialists, “after his fall in 2019 and the Juba agreements signed in 2020 between the government and rebel groups, these community leaders felt their gains threatened and helped plunge the region back into violence.” “The local players pay little attention to the conflict at the national level. They are exploiting the conflict that broke out in Khartoum to wage their own war, or rather to continue the war they had already started.” Le Monde

African Peace Mission Flounders in Bid for Russian and Ukrainian Support
For 26 hours last week, a South African airplane sat stranded on the tarmac of a Warsaw airport, filled with 120 bodyguards and 12 crates of weapons that were intended to protect President Cyril Ramaphosa during an African peace mission to Ukraine and Russia. … The stranded plane was just the most visible sign of the challenges to a peace mission that had always faced an uphill struggle. The African leaders had a rare diplomatic opportunity – they are one of the few delegations that managed to meet the presidents of both Ukraine and Russia within a 24-hour period… Russia fired a dozen missiles at Kyiv, and the African leaders were hustled into a hotel basement for safety. When the missiles were knocked down by Ukrainian air defence systems, Mr. Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, heaped scorn on the incident, telling South African media that the “so-called” explosions were merely an “amusing” bit of disinformation. His comments infuriated many Ukrainians, who pointed to the debris from the downed missiles that had injured four people in Kyiv and damaged many homes. … When the African leaders arrived in St. Petersburg for the Russian leg of their mission, Mr. Putin interrupted their opening statements and rejected their support for Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. Globe and Mail

Senegal: Media Freedom Threatened by Government Crackdown
Walf TV has been left in limbo in recent weeks since it was suspended for thirty days on June 1. The private channel is a fierce critic of the Senegalese government which has blamed them for “broadcasting violent images involving minors, accompanied by subversive and hateful comments that undermine the stability of the state” during the recent riots. “Every time there is tension in this country, the political authorities blame Walfadjri,” says Moustapha Diop, director of Walf TV and Radio. “Because when there are violent demonstrations in Senegal, we’re doing local news, we’re doing general news. … Senegal fell 31 places in the latest Reporters Without Borders ranking due to the prosecution of journalists Pape Alé Niang and Pape Ndiaye and the general deterioration in press freedoms. Africanews

43 Al Shabaab Militants Killed in Somalia Airstrike
Somalia’s government says 43 Al Shabaab militants, including two senior commanders, were killed by Somali National Army forces during a weekend airstrike about 14 kilometres from the Jamame District in the Lower Juba region. “The airstrike successfully eliminated key Al Shabaab leaders Aden Abdirahman Aden and Idris Abdirahim Nur, who was of Kenyan national origin, and a total of 43 Al Shabaab fighters,” the Somali National News Agency (Sonna) reported on Monday. Sonna said the attack, carried out by “Somalia’s international partners”, happened on Friday as the militants and their commanders gathered to plan attacks against government soldiers at the Barsanguni military base, which is home to the Somali National Army and local forces. … The news comes as Somalia’s Council of Ministers nominated Brigadier General Ibrahim Sheikh Muhyadin Addow as the new commander of the Somali National Army. A spokesman for the Somali Defence Ministry said the appointment follows a proposal to remove General Odawa Yusuf, who has held the position since March 2019. VOA

South African Taps Run Dry after Power Shortages
The peace of a normally tranquil suburban road near South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, is being shattered by the sound of drilling. These are not prospectors looking for a new source of the country’s mineral wealth, but workers digging for an arguably more precious resource: water. Private boreholes – like this one being excavated in Garsfontein – are springing up across the wealthier neighbourhoods in the country’s economic heartland, where taps have been running dry. “I am tired of not knowing when we will have water and when we won’t,” the frustrated homeowner says. “Having a borehole means we won’t have to depend on the government so much, it’s what’s best for my family.” Much of the domestic water supply here depends on electricity to pump it from the source to the vast high plain on which the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria sit. South Africa’s recent electricity woes – with regular lengthy scheduled blackouts – have had a knock-on effect on the supply of water. … “We are in a state of systemic failure, the water sector is collapsing,” expert Prof Anthony Turton tells the BBC. BBC

Ending Nigeria’s Fuel Subsidy Pushes a Shift to Solar. Without a Climate Plan, Progress Is at Risk
The end of the long-running fuel subsidy last month has increased interest in solar, operators say, which could accelerate progress toward mitigating climate change in Africa’s largest economy. But experts say the government needs a clear plan to make the most of this new opportunity to advance Nigeria’s climate goals, which include eliminating fossil fuel-run generators widely used to keep the lights on in homes and businesses. Reducing fuel costs was a popular but environmentally and economically costly system. The state petroleum company, NNPC, says Nigeria spent 4.39 trillion naira ($9.7 billion) on the subsidy last year, leaving the government struggling to finance infrastructure projects, including rail systems that could help reduce emissions from vehicles. … Gas-powered generators also contribute significantly to emissions, having proliferated under the subsidy in a country where only half the population of more than 200 million have access to grid electricity. Those who do often endure blackouts. Solar adoption, on the other hand, has largely been hampered by relatively high upfront costs, with only 1.25% of Nigerian households installing those systems, according to a 2022 study conducted by Boston Consulting Group and All On. AP

UN’s World Refugee Day Celebrates Courage and Contributions of Refugees
This year’s World Refugee Day shines a light on the plight of 35.4 million refugees and asylum seekers, on their needs and legal rights for international protection. In marking the day, United Nations officials are calling for concrete steps to improve conditions for refugees and their host communities. They also are advocating for solutions that would offer refugees the opportunity to build a viable future for themselves and their families. “I am here to tell the rest of the world that we can and must do more to offer such hope, opportunities and solutions to refugees, wherever they are and whatever the context,” said Filippo Grandi, U.N. high commissioner for refugees at a World Refugee Day event in Kalobeyei, Kenya. Speaking at a ceremony held at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, the world’s largest, Grandi praised the Kenyan government for its plans “to roll out innovative and inclusive policies.” He said, “this will allow many of the half a million refugees and asylum-seekers it hosts to work and live side by side with Kenyans and encourage self-reliance, grow the economy, and reduce dependence on humanitarian aid.” VOA