Africa Media Review for June 22, 2023

Tracking Russian Interference to Derail Democracy in Africa
[Infographic] There has been much attention given to democracy backsliding in Africa in recent years. Less well appreciated is the role that external authoritarian actors have played in facilitating this deterioration. Russia stands out in this regard. Among other aims, undermining democracy has been a strategic objective of Russia’s Africa policy for the past two decades. Russia’s disruption of democratic processes occurs through both official channels and irregular means. … the breadth of Russia’s efforts to undermine democracy in Africa is remarkable, having been actively deployed in 23 African countries spanning the continent. The effect of these interventions is to thwart the aspirations of the three-quarters of African citizens who want to see democracy flourish in their countries, thereby weakening African voices, sovereignty, and self-determination. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

African Leaders Visited with a Peace Plan. Putin Showed Little Interest.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin met African leaders in St. Petersburg over the weekend, he swiftly conveyed his effective dismissal of their plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, which called for military de-escalation and the return of war-affected children to their home country. … Russia’s missile attack on Kyiv at the very moment the peace mission was on the ground conveyed disrespect to the seven-nation African delegation, including four presidents. … the African delegation never expected a swift breakthrough, [William Gumede, professor at the University of Witwatersrand School of Governance in Johannesburg and head of the Democracy Works Foundation] added. But Putin’s swift rejection of key elements of their 10-point peace plan conveyed the clear message that despite his frequent claim to be “open to negotiations,” the Russian leader still expects Kyiv to capitulate to his illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory. … “The way Putin responded to them I think will actually undermine Putin’s influence in Africa going forward, not only Africa but South Africa and the ANC,” said Gumede, referring to both the missile strikes and to Putin’s conduct at the St. Petersburg meeting. “ANC members out of this got a much better picture of Putin as a dictator, not caring about anything else but his own position and stature,” he said. Washington Post

At Paris Summit, World Bank to Unveil Debt Payment Pause for Countries Hit by Disasters
The World Bank chief will announce a raft of measures on Thursday to aid countries hit by natural disasters, including a pause in debt repayments to the lender, as world leaders gather in Paris to give impetus to a new global finance agenda. Some 40 leaders, including about a dozen from Africa, China’s prime minister, and Brazil’s president, will be joined in the French capital by international organisations at the “Summit for a New Global Financial Pact.” It aims to boost crisis financing for low-income countries, reform post-war financial systems, and free up funds to tackle climate change by getting top-level consensus on how to progress a number of initiatives currently struggling in bodies like the G20, COP, IMF-World Bank, and United Nations. Leaders are set to back a push for multilateral development banks like the World Bank to put more capital at risk to boost lending, according to a draft summit statement seen by Reuters. … Africa’s debt woes are coupled with the dual challenge faced by some of the world’s poorest countries of tackling the impacts of climate change while adapting to the green transition. Reuters

Sudan No Closer to Peace as Another Breached Ceasefire Ends
Already on Tuesday evening, an immense fire had engulfed the intelligence service’s headquarters in the capital Khartoum with each side accusing the other of attacking it in violation of the 72-hour truce mediated by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Mediators had repeated a warning that if the ceasefire, which ended at dawn Wednesday, were not respected they would consider adjourning talks between the warring sides in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. … The latest truce, which coincided with an international donors’ conference in Geneva on Monday, did, however, bring a brief respite to the millions of civilians trapped by fighting in the capital and suffering shortages of medical care, electricity, water and other essentials. But an exodus of refugees – and wounded – continued from the war’s other main battleground, Darfur. … Nationwide, more than 2,000 people have been killed since battles began, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project said. More than 2.5 million people have fled their homes, of whom around 600,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, according to the latest figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The United States State Department said up to 1,100 people have been killed in the West Darfur state capital El Geneina alone. AFP

Violence Flares in Sierra Leone Ahead of Presidential Vote
Violence broke out around Sierra Leone’s main opposition party headquarters on Wednesday, killing at least one person, days before an election in which President Julius Maada Bio is seeking a second and final term. Sidi Yahya Tunis, a spokesperson for the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) said one of its supporters was killed by police. A police spokesperson declined to comment, saying there would be a news conference later. … There have been concerns of unrest in the run-up to the poll, similar to deadly anti-government protests that broke out last August. But in a Tuesday evening address to the nation, Bio had pledged to act decisively against any violence. … Around 3.4 million Sierra Leoneans are expected to vote on Saturday in the fifth presidential election since the end of a 1991-2002 civil war in which more than 50,000 were killed, hundreds maimed and hundreds of thousands displaced. The poll comes against a backdrop of frustrations over growing economic hardship in one of the world’s poorest countries. Reuters

Zimbabwe’s President, Opposition Leader, and Exiled Ex-Minister All Seek to Run in August Election
Zimbabwe’s president, the country’s main opposition leader, and a former ruling party stalwart exiled following a coup are all seeking to run in the presidential election scheduled for August. The three registered to run on Wednesday and the national electoral agency is to announce the final list of confirmed candidates. The Aug. 23 vote is expected to be another closely watched affair in a country with a history of violent and disputed elections. Along with the presidential election, Zimbabweans will also vote to decide the makeup of the 350-seat parliament and close to 2,000 local council positions on the same date. If no presidential candidate wins a clear majority in the first round, a runoff will be held on Oct. 2. President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF party is seeking what would be the 80-year-old’s final five-year term. He is expected to be closely challenged by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, whom he narrowly beat in a disputed election in 2018. … Human rights groups have accused Mnangagwa of trying to silence criticism as tensions rise due to a currency crisis, a sharp hike in food prices, a weakening public health system and a lack of formal jobs. AP

Barred Senegal Opposition Leaders Could Regain Eligibility for 2024 Election
A political commission in Senegal has proposed changing the electoral law so that two opposition figures who were struck from the voter roll could run in the February 2024 presidential election as a measure to ease conflict. Karim Wade, a former minister and son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, and Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar were handed jail sentences in 2018 and 2015 for embezzlement and corruption respectively. They were disqualified from the 2019 election despite being pardoned by President Macky Sall. The Political Commission of the National Dialogue said those who have been struck from the voter role should regain their right to vote and be eligible, according to the commission’s conclusions seen by Reuters on Wednesday. Sall in May welcomed members of various parties, religious leaders and civil society to a multi-day national dialogue aimed at reducing political tensions. Proposals will be submitted to Sall who is expected to address the nation by June 25. Opposition parties have argued that Sall’s government has used the justice department to target potential challengers to clear his path for a possible third term. Reuters

More Than 30 Feared Dead as Boat Bound for Spain’s Canary Islands Sinks
More than 30 migrants were feared dead after a small boat headed for Spain’s Canary Islands sank Wednesday, two migration-focused organizations said, as they criticized Spain and Morocco for not intervening earlier to rescue the vessel’s passengers. The groups, Walking Borders and Alarm Phone, said the boat held around 60 people. Spain’s maritime rescue service confirmed the deaths of two of the dinghy’s occupants, a child and an adult man, and said a Moroccan patrol boat had rescued 24 people. Neither Spanish nor Moroccan authorities would confirm how many people had been on board the vessel or how many might be missing. … The EU has said it and member states have been intensifying efforts to establish an “effective, humanitarian and safe” European migration policy. Morocco’s Interior ministry has not responded to a Reuters request for comment and Morocco has not made any official communication about what happened. Reuters

Jihadists Strike Military Base in Somalia as AU Force Starts Drawdown
A military base in Somalia came under attack by Al-Shabaab jihadists on Wednesday, police and witnesses said, just as the African Union announced it was beginning a drawdown of troops in the violence-wracked nation. Almost simultaneous suicide bomb blasts targeted the base in the southern city of Baardhere, which hosts both Ethiopian and Somali troops, triggering heavy gunfire, the sources said. … Earlier Wednesday, the African Union Transition Mission announced it had started to reduce troop numbers in Somalia in line with UN Resolutions “which mandate ATMIS to drawdown 2,000 soldiers by the end of June 2023.” ATMIS in April last year replaced the previous mission known as AMISOM, which had a force of about 20,000 drawn from several nations including Burundi, Kenya, and Uganda. It said it handed over a base operated by Burundian forces in Hirshabelle state in south-central Somalia to the Somali National Army. ATMIS has a more offensive remit than its predecessor, and calls for security to be assumed by Somalia’s army and police force by the end of 2024. Defense Post with AFP

Armed Factions in Somalia’s Puntland Agree Ceasefire after Clash
Armed factions in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland have agreed to a ceasefire, a local leader told Reuters news agency on Wednesday, a day after at least 26 people were killed and 30 injured in clashes over proposed changes to the region’s voting system. Regional forces and fighters loyal to the opposition fought fierce street battles in Garowe, the Puntland capital, on Tuesday as the local parliament debated constitutional changes that include the introduction of one-man-one-vote elections. A group of traditional elders said they helped negotiate a pause in the fighting on Wednesday. Local residents said the sound of gunfire had stopped, fighters had left the streets and shops reopened. “We talked to the two sides fighting in Garowe. They accepted the ceasefire and we separated the troops,” Islaan Isse, a traditional leader in Garowe, told a news conference. Opposition groups in Puntland, which lies along the country’s northeast Indian Ocean coast, accuse the region’s leader Said Abdullahi Deni of seeking to extend his term in office beyond January next year, or help tip the ballot in his favour. Reuters

Uganda Military Rescues Three of Six Students Abducted by Rebels
The Ugandan military has rescued three of the six students who were kidnapped by rebel fighters when they stormed a school in the west of the country last week and massacred 42 people, mostly young students, the army said on Wednesday. “There were six students kidnapped and three have so far been rescued,” said military spokesman Felix Kulayigye. A woman with two children who had been kidnapped outside the school was also rescued, together with her children, while two fighters were killed and two guns captured, Kulayigye said. … ADF, formerly a Ugandan rebel group, operates in the jungles of eastern DRC and has over the past two decades been blamed for killings of civilians there. The group has also sometimes carried out attacks in Uganda including bombings at a police station and near the parliament building in the Ugandan capital in 2021. Deemed a “terrorist” group by the United States, it is considered one of the deadliest of dozens of armed militias that roam mineral-rich eastern DRC, like the M23 rebels. Al Jazeera

UN Counter-Terrorism Week – Preventing Violent Extremism
Zeinabou Maata, a Muslim from Mauritania, is one of 50 women serving on the frontlines of preventing the spread of violent extremism in her country, with UN support. “Our religion is a true, honest religion that treats women with justice and fairness,” she said, leaning forward for emphasis. She knows of what she speaks. She is the daughter of Baba Ould Maata, a highly respected Mauritanian scholar. Inspired by her father, Ms. Maata has embarked on her own journey of studying the Quran and other traditional texts from a young age, graduating from Mauritania’s largest Islamic institution and studying Islamic law at the post-graduate level. … Established in 2021 with the support of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Mauritanian Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and the Association of Women Heads of Household, the Mourchidates network works to combat violent extremism in various settings, including prisons, in Mauritania. UN News