Africa Media Review for June 26, 2023

Opposition Accuses Sierra Leone’s Military of Election Weekend Assault
Senior officials from Sierra Leone’s main opposition party on Sunday accused the country’s military of shooting live ammunition and tear gas into their headquarters, raising tensions in the small West African nation a day after presidential elections. Samura Kamara, the presidential candidate of the opposition All People’s Congress, had gathered his supporters, party staff and local officials at the headquarters in Freetown, the capital, to sift through data from Saturday’s vote when the military surrounded the building and fired at the crowds gathered outside, according to Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr of Freetown, who was inside the building. … Sierra Leoneans went to the polls on Saturday to elect their next president amid a crippling economic crisis and widespread doubt that either of the two favorites — the incumbent, Julius Maada Bio, and Mr. Kamara — can heal the country’s ills. Over the past year, inflation has reached its highest level in two decades. The national currency is one of Africa’s weakest. And Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest countries, has one of West Africa’s highest youth unemployment rate. … Mr. Bio, a former military leader who participated in two coups during the country’s civil war in the 1990s, was elected president in 2018, beating Mr. Kamara in a tight race. While Mr. Bio is considered the favorite in this year’s vote, a runoff is considered likely… New York Times

After a Day of High Drama, Yevgeny Prigozhin Makes a Deal with Putin, Orders Wagner Mercenary Army U-Turn
Yevgeny Prigozhin halted his mercenary army just 200 kilometres short of Moscow, and announced that he was turning back, after a deal negotiated by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin. … The convulsions in Russia have also raised questions about Russia’s future relations with South Africa and Africa. Before news broke that Prigozhin had called off his march to Moscow, Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, national director of the SA Institute for International Affairs, had suggested that the rebellion could solve Ramaphosa’s dilemma over Putin’s problematic possible visit to South Africa in August for the BRICS summit. … Sidiropoulos said however events turned out, Putin would probably not risk leaving Moscow in the immediate aftermath of such a threat to his position. … Putin’s preoccupation with internal security now could also likely affect Russia’s relations with BRICS and South Africa more generally, she predicted. She also noted the rebellion had raised questions about whether the Russia-Africa summit, billed for the end of July in St Petersburg, would still take place. … Nathalia Dukhan, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, which will publish a major investigative report on Wagner Group activities in Africa on Tuesday, believes that Wagner’s operations in Africa could continue, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s drama. “What we’ve seen is that Prigozhin’s private army has previously proved highly resilient.” Daily Maverick

Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa: More than Mercenaries
The power struggle between President Vladimir Putin and the Wagner Group and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin could have huge implications for Africa. The Wagner troops are active in several African countries, including Mali and Burkina Faso. At first, their presence is often just a rumor. Later, it’s an open secret. Thousands of mercenaries with Russia’s Wagner Group are active in a number of African countries. In the Central African Republic, for example, 1,890 so-called “Russian instructors” are supporting government troops in the ongoing civil war, according to the Russian ambassador. In Libya, up to 1,200 Wagner mercenaries are believed to be fighting on the side of rebel leader Khalifa Hifter. In Mali, the pro-Russian, anti-Western military junta has also brought hundreds of Wagner fighters into the country. There, they have been accused of committing serious human rights violations. But the Wagner Group’s presence in Africa extends much further, experts say. DW

Sudan Paramilitary Force Reportedly Makes Gains in Khartoum as Fighting Surges
Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) says it has seized the main base of a heavily armed police unit and captured a large amount of military equipment, during heavy fighting against the army in the capital Khartoum. … The Central Reserve Police has been deployed by the army in ground fighting in recent weeks. It had previously been used as a combat force in several regions and to confront protesters demonstrating against a coup in 2021. It was sanctioned last year by the United States, accused of using excessive force against protesters. Since late on Saturday, fighting has surged in the three cities that make up the wider capital – Khartoum, Bahri and Omdurman – as the conflict between the army and the RSF entered its 11th week. … The army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has been using airstrikes and heavy artillery to try to dislodge the RSF led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, from neighbourhoods across the capital. Guardian

How a Man from Winnipeg Became the Chief Diplomat for a Warring Sudanese Militia
A Canadian who lived in Winnipeg for 14 years has emerged as the diplomatic face of a Sudanese paramilitary force that stands accused of killings, sexual assaults and other atrocities. … On social media, many Sudanese have voiced outrage that Mr. Ismaeil has been using his Canadian passport to travel across Europe and Africa to promote the RSF’s version of the war. They have described him as a propagandist for war criminals…. Mr. Ismaeil says the RSF fighters may have committed “some violations” during the conflict. But he spins elaborate theories to defend the fighters, claiming that Sudanese military intelligence put more than 10,000 mercenaries into RSF uniforms and unleashed them onto civilians… The RSF has a long history of polishing its image and portraying itself as a democratic force, despite its roots in the notorious Darfur-based militia known as the Janjaweed, which was accused of war crimes against rebels and villagers during a brutal anti-insurgency campaign on behalf of Sudan’s military in the early 2000s. … The RSF’s public-relations efforts, however, cannot conceal the growing evidence of its violent abuses. In a report this week, Human Rights Watch described a pattern of “ethnic cleansing” by the RSF and its allied Arab militias in Darfur. Globe and Mail

Sudan: ‘Fate of Dozens of Sudan Journalists Unknown’
Journalists and media personnel have continued to be targeted for attacks and violations during the first half of the second month of the war that erupted on April 15 between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In their latest report covering the period from June 1 to June 15, the Sudanese Journalists Syndicate (SJS) reports a litany of violations across the country, and laments that the fate of dozens of journalists remains unknown. Dabanga

Number of Internally Displaced People in DRC Doubles to More than 6 Million – UN
The number of internally displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has more than doubled to 6.3 million since the end of 2022, according to the United Nations (UN). Six million of those are in Mai-Ndombe, Kasai, Tshopo, Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu – six provinces faced with a devastating combination of conflict, measles and cholera. According to UN figures, more than 17 000 cholera infections and 148 deaths have been documented in North Kivu since December last year. While there are cholera cases in South Kivu too, measles has had a greater impact in that province. More than 136 000 measles cases were recorded, with more than 2 000 deaths. South Kivu accounts for 82% of the DRC’s known measles cases. News24

Suspected Militants from Somalia Kill 5 People in Kenya Border Village
Five people have been killed in a Kenyan border village, fueling concerns that such attacks are increasing after a decline. The weekend attack raises the death toll over the last month to more than 30 people — including soldiers, police reservists and civilians. In Saturday’s attack in the coastal Lamu county, four of the victims had their throats slit and one was shot at close range, according to local police. The officials said about 30 attackers also torched houses in the village and stole food. The village borders Witu Forest, where al-Shabab militants have created hideouts and held abductees. Lamu County has been attacked two other times in the last two weeks, with both incidents targeting Kenya Defense Forces running a security operation in the area and leaving four of them dead. AP

Nigeria: The Curious Case of the ‘Unknown Gunmen’ and IPOB’s Internet Propaganda
Ten years ago, the southeastern part of Nigeria was the country’s safest region. But that changed in 2021 as bubbling agitations for a breakaway state turned violent. At the centre of this crisis is an evasive group that’s come to be known as the ‘Unknown Gunmen’ — UGM for short. They have been blamed for deadly attacks on police stations, military checkpoints, and civilians. While no one would take responsibility for these acts of violence, one group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), raises far more suspicion than others. A careful look through years of social media propaganda shows why. … HumAngle collated posts on Facebook by six pages affiliated with the two IPOB factions, totalling over 200. … Whether a page’s posts support or condemn attacks by Unknown Gunmen roughly depends on which IPOB faction the administrator is loyal to — and what timeline is considered. HumAngle

Oil Spill from Shell Pipeline Fouls Farms and a River in a Long-Polluted Part of Nigeria
A new oil spill at a Shell facility in Nigeria has contaminated farmland and a river, upending livelihoods in the fishing and farming communities in part of the Niger Delta, which has long endured environmental pollution caused by the oil industry. The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, or NOSDRA, told The Associated Press that the spill came from the Trans-Niger Pipeline operated by Shell that crosses through communities in the Eleme area of Ogoniland, a region where the London-based energy giant has faced decades-long local pushback to its oil exploration. The volume of oil spilled has not been determined, but activists have published images of polluted farmland, water surfaces blighted by oil sheens and dead fish mired in sticky crude. … It is “one of the worst in the last 16 years in Ogoniland,” said Fyneface Dumnamene, an environmental activist whose nonproft monitors spills in the Delta region. It began June 11. AP

West Africa’s Economic Capitals Threatened by Rising Sea Levels
“The sea is advancing,” he repeated, “and we’re retreating, we’ve already rebuilt three times. Some years, it’s calm, but other times, the sea breaks the partitions, the waves soak the roof.” When this happens, he said, the owner has to pay about “15 million CFA francs” (€22,800) to redo the concrete and protect his business. A significant amount for this modest restaurant, which brings families together on Sundays to enjoy its specialty, grilled lobster. But it’s nothing compared to the stakes involved in the surrounding infrastructure. Just a few dozen meters away stand the huge gray tanks and tangled chimneys of Société Ivoirienne de Raffinage (SIR), one of West Africa’s leading refineries. Vridi, a key island and industrial zone for the country, is also home to a power plant, cocoa and palm oil processing plants, not to mention various logistics sites and warehouses. A few kilometers to the east, on the same flat strip of land stretching towards the ocean, lies the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny international airport. Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital is literally built on water and is made up of islands and peninsulas separated by lagoon stretches. Le Monde