Africa Media Review for June 27, 2024

Kenya President Ruto Declines to Sign Finance Bill into Law
Kenya’s President William Ruto on Wednesday bowed to pressure from Kenyans after several protests and has declined declined to sign the Finance Bill 2024 to law. The move follows Tuesday’s deadly protests that saw demonstrators breach Parliament premises for the first time in Kenya’s history…Dr Ruto said now he would engage young people to agree on their priority areas of concern. “I also propose that within the next 14 days, a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder engagement be held with a view to charting the way forward on matters relating to the content of the Bill as well as auxiliary issues raised in recent days on the need for austerity measures and strengthening our fight against corruption,” the President said. The President has also directed immediate operation budget cuts for the presidency and the entire Executive arm of government. He has also recommended the Judiciary, Parliament and county governments to follow suit. Nation

Behind the Deadly Unrest in Kenya, a Staggering and Painful National Debt
Kenya has the fastest growing economy in Africa and a vibrant business center. But its government is desperate to stave off default. The country’s staggering $80 billion in domestic and foreign public debt accounts for nearly three-quarters of Kenya’s entire economic output, according to a recent report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Interest payments alone are eating up 27 percent of the revenue collected…The type of debts that are causing misery in Kenya can be found across Africa. More than half the people on the continent live in countries that spend more on interest payments than they do on health or education…The global debt crisis is the relatively bland label used to describe the brutal loops of unsustainable borrowing and bailouts that have long ensnared developing nations. In Kenya’s case, its government took out vast loans after a period of economic expansion in the early 2000s to cover the costs of infrastructure projects, including roads, railways, massive dams and rural electrification…To avoid default, countries like Kenya are compelled to borrow even more money, only to find that their total debt burden grows even heavier. The New York Times

EU to Send $21m Military Support to Kenya for Internal, Foreign Threats Fight
The European Union (EU) is sending military support worth about €20million ($21.4 million) to the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in a boost against threats such as the Somali militant group Al Shabaab. It means Nairobi will draw support for the first time directly from the EU Peace Facility, a fund established in 2021 by the European Union bloc to help support security initiatives in allied countries in Africa. A dispatch from the European Council said the money will support the KDF to protect Kenyan borders and deal with internal and external threats…Drawing from the European Peace Facility means the money will finance equipment purchases and other services such as technical training. The Kenya army infantry combat units will also receive tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, non-lethal interceptors and jammers, systems to defeat improvised explosive devices, electronic warfare means, cross-country tactical military-type vehicles, and a mobile medical post, a dispatch indicated. The EastAfrican

Opposition Activists Arrested in a Crackdown in Mali Were Moved to Prisons, Families Say
Opposition politicians who were arrested in a crackdown in Mali were sent to prisons across the country this week, their families said, in a move rights groups decried as another step back for the country where the ruling junta has suspended all political activities…The junta has ruled the country with an iron fist, and earlier this year suspended all political activities. The eleven opposition politicians were arrested earlier this month during a meeting in a private residence, the Malian National Human Rights Commission, a government agency, said in a statement, denouncing what it called “arbitrary arrests” and “violations of private homes”…It’s becoming increasingly perilous to express dissatisfaction with the Malian authorities, experts said, with those who dare to speak out risking arrest…The junta is driving the country toward “a political impasse,” said Alioune Tine, the founder of the AfrikaJom Center, a research organization and U.N. expert on human rights in Mali. “The complex security crisis can be resolved by bringing Malians together, respecting political and democratic pluralism, but not by the dogmatic use of repression against all political dissent.” AP

Nigeria: 2,600 People Killed in Benue Attacks in One Year – Amnesty International
About 2,600 persons, mostly women and children, were killed following attacks on 50 Benue communities between January 2023 and February 2024, Amnesty International says. Amnesty International Programme Director Barbara Magaji disclosed this during a photo exhibition and news conference on Wednesday in Makurdi. Mrs Magaji further said 18 out of the 23 local government areas (LGAs) in the state, were constantly under security threats by armed attackers. “These attacks are significantly affecting food security and livelihoods because the affected communities are farmers, and displacement makes them unable to carry out any farming activity…She further quoted the state’s Ministry of Education and the Teaching Service Board as saying that at least 55 schools had been destroyed by armed bandits or closed down due to insecurity, leaving hundreds of children out of school. News Agency of Nigeria

Security Challenges, Internal Division, Mar Somalia’s 64th Birthday
Somalia, an impoverished nation in the horn of Africa, has begun celebrating 65 years of independence, though it comes amid a backdrop of division and a pivotal security transition…Independence Week this year comes amid regional tension between Ethiopia and Somalia over Ethiopia’s desire to set up a naval base there and a possible offer to recognize Somaliland in exchange…In February, Somalia, which has no control in Somaliland, ordered the closure of the Ethiopian consulates there and in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland…As African Transition Mission in Somalia, or ATMIS, peacekeepers continue to gradually leave Somalia by the end of 2024, Somalia still faces security challenges, with questions and concerns raised over the country’s readiness to take charge and face al-Shabab, which remains a genuine threat to the country and the region. VOA

Whack-a-mole Situation’: Algerian Officials Wrestle with Water Shortage Anger
On 8 June, anger over months of water rationing spilled over in the drought-stricken central Algerian town of Tiaret, where balaclava-wearing demonstrators barricaded roads and burned tyres. Rationing had been introduced to deal with a drought in parts of Algeria and neighbouring Morocco where the amount of rainfall that had historically replenished critical reservoirs was much reduced…News of the protests spread rapidly on social media, but garnered little mainstream coverage in Algeria, where press freedoms are severely restricted. As peak summer season approaches in Algeria, total water reserves in its 81 dams are at only a third of capacity. Algeria, the largest country in Africa, is dominated by the Sahara, which covers three-quarters of its territory. For years it has invested heavily in climate adaptation, drilling wells for farmers and spending hundreds of millions of pounds on water desalination projects…Analysts say more demonstrations could happen in the coming months in Algeria, where there is a long history of protests around local service provision failures. The Guardian

Sudan’s Warring Factions Using Starvation as Weapon, Experts Say
Human rights experts working for the United Nations have accused Sudan’s warring parties of using starvation as a war weapon, amid mounting warnings of imminent famine in the African country…In 14 months of fighting, more than 14,000 people have been killed and 33,000 others wounded or injured, according to the UN, but rights activists say the toll could be much higher…“Both the SAF [Sudanese armed forces] and the RSF are using food as a weapon and starving civilians,” the experts said. “The extent of hunger and displacement we see in Sudan today is unprecedented and never witnessed before”…The independent experts said local efforts in response to Sudan’s hunger crisis had been hampered by unprecedented violence and targeted attacks on civil society and local responders. Dozens of activists and local volunteers have been arrested, threatened and prosecuted in recent weeks, they said. The Guardian

Ghazouani Seeks Re-election in Mauritania on the Cusp of Energy and Mining Boom
Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani has promised to accelerate investments to spur an energy and mining boom as he takes on six challengers in the June 29 presidential election.
Increased investments in energy and mining could boost Mauritania’s economy and solidify the 67-year-old former army chief’s grip at the helm of the soon-to-be gas producer. Widely expected to win due to the ruling party’s dominance in the West African desert nation, Ghazouani faces an opposition field that includes anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, who came second in the 2019 election with over 18% of the vote…Despite growth prospects, Mauritania, four times the size of the United Kingdom and home to fewer than 5 million people, suffers from widespread poverty and has been dealing with an influx of tens of thousands of people from neighbouring Mali. Abeid is challenging Ghazouani on his human rights record and the marginalisation of Mauritania’s Black African population. Reuters

Two Killed in Mortar Attack on South African Army Base in Congo
South Africa’s military said on Wednesday that a mortar attack on one of its bases in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo a day earlier had killed two people and injured 20 others. South African troops are in Congo as part of a deployment by Southern African regional bloc SADC to help the government fight rebel groups…In February another mortar attack on a South African base in Congo killed two and wounded three others. At the time President Cyril Ramaphosa hit back at opposition criticism that the South African contingent in Congo was ill-equipped. Reuters

Congo’s Children: Recruited, Raped and Killed in Conflict
A Congolese teenager appealed to the U.N. Security Council Wednesday to protect children in his country, where conflict between the military and armed groups in the country’s east is exacting an appalling toll on children…Last year, the United Nations verified almost 4,000 grave violations against children in the Central African nation, where armed groups have been vying for years with the military for control over the country’s vast natural resources. More than 1,800 children were recruited by armed groups last year, according to the annual U.N. report that verifies violations against children. Sixteen armed groups operating in the country were named and shamed for a range of offenses, from abducting and forcibly recruiting children, to maiming and killing them. VOA

Kush’, ‘Khadafi’ and ‘Monkey Tail’ Drugs Pose Health Risks in Africa, UN Agency Says
The United Nations on Wednesday flagged harmful new drug concoctions, named kush, Khadafi, and Monkey Tail, as posing particular health risks across Africa because of their varying and often unknown ingredients. The drugs are believed to contain dangerous mixtures of pharmaceuticals, alcohol and solvents, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual World Drug Report…Sierra Leone in April declared a national emergency over the rising use of kush, a synthetic mixture of marijuana, tentanyl and tramadol. Ivory Coast, in response to the high use of Khadafi – a mixture of tramadol and energising alcoholic beverages – last year banned the import and export of such beverages. Monkey Tail is mostly used in Nigeria, according to the UNODC, which said it comprises homemade gin and cannabis seeds, leaves, stems and roots. UNODC said countries must boost their scientific testing capacities to help law enforcement and health agencies to mitigate the threat of emerging drugs. Reuters