Africa Media Review for June 28, 2023

Sierra Leone’s President Re-elected, Barely Avoiding a Runoff. The Main Opposition Candidate Has Rejected the Results, and Election Observers Have Raised Concerns over the Lack of Transparency during the Vote Count.
President Julius Maada Bio won re-election in the West African nation of Sierra Leone on Tuesday, a result rejected by his main opponent and questioned by some observers who cited a lack of transparency in the vote tallying. Mr. Bio took 56 percent of the vote, according to the country’s electoral commission, just clearing the threshold of 55 percent required to avoid the runoff that most analysts had predicted. Samura Kamara, the leading opposition candidate, finished second with 41 percent of the vote. Mr. Bio was quickly sworn in — just an hour after the official results were announced. … international election observers have voiced concerns about the lack of transparency during the counting process. National Election Watch, an independent monitoring body, had said earlier on Tuesday that no candidate would win 55 percent of the vote in the first round, based on the data it had collected and which it said matched provisional results released by the country’s electoral commission on Monday. … Election observers from the Carter Center noted several voting irregularities, including broken seals and open ballot boxes that should have been closed… “There’s a lot of questions left on the table,” [said Cameron R. Hume, a former U.S. ambassador and the head of the center’s observation mission]. New York Times

Failed Wagner Revolt Leaves a Question in Africa
The Russian mercenary group that briefly threatened President Vladimir Putin’s authority has for years been a ruthless force-for-hire across Africa, protecting rulers at the expense of the masses. … The Wagner Group brutalizes civilians in the Central African Republic, Mali and elsewhere to crush dissent and fend off threats to their leaders’ power. In exchange, Russia gains access to natural resources and ports through which weapons can be shipped, and receives payments that enrich the Kremlin and help it fund operations elsewhere, including the war in Ukraine. Neither Russia nor the African leaders dependent on Wagner’s fighters have any interest in ending those relationships. But many questions linger in the aftermath of Wagner’s stunning revolt, such as who will lead its thousands of fighters stationed across many African nations and whether Moscow will absorb these fighters into the Russian army. … Asked whether Wagner’s weekend mutiny could erode Russia’s positions in Africa, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a state-run TV network that security assistance to African countries would continue. He specifically mentioned the Central African Republic and Mali, and noted that Russian government officials have maintained contact with leaders there. AP

Wagner Mercenaries Have Entirely Captured Central African Republic, the Sentry Report Finds
Wagner, the Russian mercenary company which launched a brief rebellion against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government over the weekend, has captured the Central African Republic (CAR) and is conducting a campaign of terror to keep the country’s president in power so it can continue to plunder mineral resources. Over the past five years, Wagner, owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin has insidiously gained almost complete control of CAR’s entire security apparatus and is using it to eliminate opponents of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra or anyone who tries to stop Wagner itself seizing gold mines and other loot, according to a major report by The Sentry published today (Tuesday, 27 June). The report, Architects of Terror: The Wagner Group’s Blueprint for State Capture in the Central African Republic, meticulously details how Wagner operatives – masquerading as “Russian military instructors” – first set foot in the chronically chaotic former French colony in 2018 and then systematically infiltrated the various arms of the security structure – or created new ones – to prop up the shaky president. … The Sentry was told that Wagner’s motto is “leave no trace”— in other words, kill everyone, including women and children. Daily Maverick

U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in Mali Set to End on June 30
A decade-long United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali is set to end on June 30, diplomats said on Tuesday, ahead of a Security Council vote on a draft resolution – seen by Reuters – that will give the 13,000-strong operation six months to withdraw. … It would mean an abrupt halt to an operation that has been hobbled by government restrictions since Mali teamed up with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in 2021. The U.N. mission is credited with playing a vital role in protecting civilians against an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands. Some experts fear the security situation could worsen when the mission departs, leaving Mali’s under-equipped army alone with about 1,000 Wagner fighters to combat militants who control swaths of territory in the desert north and centre. Wagner’s operations have also been under question, after the group staged an aborted mutiny at home in Russia on Saturday. … The French-drafted resolution is still being discussed by the 15 council members, but diplomats said no major changes are expected before a planned vote to adopt it on Thursday. To pass, the resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France. Reuters

Burkina Troops, Allied Militiamen Killed in Attacks, Security Sources Say
Dozens of Burkinabe soldiers and allied volunteer militiamen have been killed in attacks carried out by suspected jihadists, security sources said Tuesday. One of the poorest and most troubled countries in the world, Burkina is struggling with a jihadist insurgency that swept in from neighboring Mali in 2015. Nearly a third of the country lies outside state control, according to the government, which in response to the spiraling security crisis formed the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP) — civilian volunteers who are given two weeks’ military training. They work alongside the army, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties. … “Unfortunately, we have recorded several dozen dead, soldiers and volunteers,” the source added, a report confirmed by a local VDP official. … “It was a massacre that took place in Noaka,” one resident said, adding that about 30 VDP fighters had been killed in the attack alone. AFP

UN Approves Steady Drawdown of African Force from Somalia
The UN Security Council on Tuesday renewed for six months the authorization of the African Union force in Somalia but continued its drawdown of boots on the ground in a move toward complete withdrawal. The African Union (AU) force, which has already begun a withdrawal, was given until the end of September for the departure of a further 3,000 soldiers. In April 2022, the Security Council approved the replacement of AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia), created in 2007, by ATMIS (African Transitional Mission in Somalia), also led by the AU but with a reinforced mandate to fight the Al-Shabaab Islamists. The ATMIS contingent, which had included over 19,000 soldiers and police officers, will have to be reduced to zero by the end of 2024, with a gradual transfer of its activities to Somali forces. In accordance with previous Security Council resolutions, ATMIS began withdrawing 2,000 soldiers a few days ago, a process due to be completed by the end of June. The withdrawal is “almost complete,” deputy Somali ambassador Mohamed Rabi Yusuf said on Tuesday, adding that his government would undertake the “necessary preparations in coordination with the African Union for phase two and the withdrawal of 3,000 ATMIS troops by September.” The resolution authorizing ATMIS until the end of 2023 was adopted unanimously on Tuesday, and sets a new ceiling of 14,626 uniformed personnel from October 1 to December 31. Defense Post with AFP

Too Early to Withdraw UN Peacekeepers from DR Congo, US Warns
Withdrawing UN peacekeepers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which Kinshasa has suggested take place after the December elections would be premature, the United States warned Monday. “A precipitous withdrawal of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) would likely leave a security vacuum that state authorities are unable to fill,” said Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood, adding that it would lead to more activity by armed groups. Wood’s remarks, during a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in DR Congo, came as the global body’s missions across the continent face calls from both government officials and protesters to leave. … “As we have said many times, Monusco cannot — and should not — stay in the DRC indefinitely,” Wood said. “But there is broad consensus that the DRC government will have not met the benchmarks it agreed upon as the minimum conditions for Monusco’s drawdown by the end of 2023.” In 2020, the Security Council approved a plan for a phased withdrawal in DR Congo, setting parameters for transferring the responsibilities of UN troops to Congolese forces. Late last year the council approved an extension of the mission. AFP

African Leaders Meet in Angola to Discuss East DRC Tensions
The president of the African Union considered the deterioration of the situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo) “destabilizes the country” and defended efforts to make the country “a source of happiness and not of conflict.” Azali Assoumani, who was speaking at the opening of the Quadripartite Summit of Heads of State and Government on the pacification of eastern DR Congo, taking place in Luanda, said that the prevailing situation “is a concern of the region, the continent and the rest of the world.” “The deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation in the territory of the DRC is destabilizing this country”, said Assoumani, stressing that the crisis is particularly worrying as it occurs in a territory with many undeniable economic and human riches. For the acting president of the African Union (AU), the destabilization in eastern DRC “could lead all of Africa on the same path,” thus defending the “intensification of joint and active actions to reach solutions in favor of a peaceful and prosperous Congo.” … Burundi, Zimbabwe, Gabon, DRCongo, Rwanda, Comoros, Namibia, representatives of the AU and the United Nations participated in this summit in Luanda, which seeks mechanisms for effective peace in the eastern region of DRCongo. Africanews

Sudan Violence Likely to Push Over 1 Million Refugees Out of the African Country by October, UN Says
The United Nations said Tuesday the surging violence in Sudan is likely to drive more than 1 million refugees out of the African country by October, as the 10-week conflict shows few signs of easing. Sudan descended into chaos after fighting erupted in mid-April between the military, led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. Since then, over 3,000 people have been killed, the country’s Health Ministry said, while about 2.5 million people have been displaced, according to the U.N. The violence has been most acute in the capital, Khartoum, but also in the western Darfur region, where RSF and Arab militias are reportedly targeting non-Arab tribes, local rights groups and the U.N. said. Most of those who have escaped have fled east to Chad. AP

Burhan Calls on Sudanese Youth to Join the Army
Sudan’s Chairman of the Sovereign Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has called on the country’s youth to join the army… In a speech on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, al-Burhan accused the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Commander, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, of rebelling against the state and recruiting mercenaries for personal gain. … Al-Burhan announced a one-day truce on the first day of Eid and reaffirmed the commitment of the armed forces to transfer power to a civilian government chosen by the Sudanese people. Sudan Tribune

Nigeria’s Tinubu Faces Daunting Hurdles after Reform Sprint
New Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has moved at lightning speed in his first month in office, implementing a raft of radical changes aimed at finally unleashing the full potential of Africa’s sluggish economic giant. But while his rapid headway on reforms has wowed investors, some analysts, observers and business leaders warn that bigger challenges await and question whether the 71-year-old – viewed by many as part of Nigeria’s old guard – is really the man to take them on. … Nigeria today faces record debt, unemployment is worryingly high, and power shortages have contributed to years of anaemic growth. Oil output is shrinking. And rampant insecurity has placed swathes of the countryside outside government control. Solving those problems would be hard. But the task is made harder, observers say, by the rampant corruption and entrenched patronage networks so often blamed for the country’s woes. … The military has its own entrenched patronage system, while political analysts say armed groups in the Nigeria Delta involved in industrial-scale oil theft operate with support from some politicians. And some northwestern armed gangs behind kidnapping rings started as crime-fighting vigilante groups backed by state-governments. Tinubu will be judged on how he tackles these networks, their corruption and criminality. Reuters

Zambian Police Arrest Former President’s Son and His Wife on Corruption Charges
Authorities in Zambia have arrested former President Edgar Lungu’s son and daughter-in-law on charges of money laundering and possessing property believed to be proceeds of crime worth more than $5 million. … “Police have arrested and charged Dalitso, aged 36, and Matilda Likando Milinga, aged 36, for the offense of possession of properties suspected to be proceeds of crime, contrary to Section 71 of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act of 2010. Dalitso Lungu has also been arrested and charged for the offense of money laundering. The duo has since been released from police custody and will appear in court soon,” said Hamoonga. The arrests come a week after Zambian authorities announced the seizure of some 20 properties linked to Dalitso, former President Lungu’s wife, Esther, and daughter Tasila. … The Zambian president of anti-corruption group Transparency International, Sampa Kalunga, says his organization has been following with keen interest cases that have to do with corruption — especially cases involving the Lungu family and former officials in Lungu‘s government. He adds that law enforcement needs to follow through on the cases to the end. … Current President Hakainde Hichilema has said multiple times that the fight against corruption is not aimed at political opponents but is meant to protect the country’s public funds. VOA

A New Legal Battle Is Starting against Total’s Megaproject in Uganda
The impact of Total’s oil megaproject in Uganda will once again be a matter for examination by the French courts. After their first action was dismissed, ruled inadmissible by the Paris court in March 2023, the NGOs campaigning against this project deemed “climaticidal” and detrimental to both local populations and biodiversity have decided on a different approach. On Tuesday, June 27, Friends of the Earth, Survie, three Ugandan associations and 26 farmers directly affected by the project filed an action against the major for failure to comply with the French Duty of Vigilance law, requiring due diligence in human rights and environmental responsibility within a company’s own parent and subsidiary operations, as well as its supply chain. “Total has failed in its due diligence,” explained Juliette Renaud of Friends of the Earth. “Families have been deprived of their land and crops without receiving adequate compensation. By prohibiting them from cultivating their fields, their right to food has also been violated. Many were threatened and intimidated by regimes whose authoritarian nature the company could not ignore. Total should have identified and prevented these risks, as required by the law adopted in 2017. We expect French justice to recognize these harms and order Total to compensate them.” Le Monde

The Dark World Of Jihadist Propaganda Channels On Telegram
Following the crackdown on Ansaru jihadist accounts on Facebook and WhatsApp in Feb. 2023, the group has shifted its operations to Telegram, a messaging app that has been a favoured platform for extremists due to the relative discreteness it comes with. In Jan. 2023, a group was formed and named Mahanga TV after some Ansaru members reported losing their Facebook accounts. The group was initially made public and promoted up till early February. However, it was later converted into a private channel that requires an invitation for membership. The group deliberately adopted a pseudonym that could potentially mislead analysts and counter-terrorists into associating it with a distinct online media platform that shares a similar name. … Telegram’s most significant feature is the ability to create bots: automated chat partners that perform predetermined tasks around the clock. Bots have become an important tool among extremists for their ability to efficiently spread propaganda, streamline communication, and maintain a constant online presence. Jihadists are utilising the innate capabilities of bots to their advantage, enabling them to operate 24/7 and disseminate a continuous flow of extremist material to their intended audience. HumAngle