Africa Media Review for June 3, 2021

Calls Grow for Ethiopia to Declare Ceasefire in Tigray to Allow Aid
Pressure is mounting on Ethiopia to declare a ceasefire in the northern province of Tigray to allow humanitarian organisations to reach millions of people who face famine. The war in Tigray has disrupted harvests and led to huge problems for the delivery of aid to communities, particularly in rural areas. More than 2 million people are thought to have been displaced by the conflict. The UK has called for “a cessation of hostilities by all conflict parties and unfettered humanitarian access so that aid can flow and famine can be averted.” The US embassy in Addis Ababa tweeted on Wednesday: “We agree with the UK that the humanitarian situation in #Tigray is rapidly deteriorating. A break in the fighting NOW, coupled with unfettered humanitarian access, will immediately help avert the risk of famine.” The UN said earlier this week that more than 90% of people in Tigray needed emergency food aid, as appealed for $203m to scale up its response. … “A total of 5.2 million people, equivalent to 91% of Tigray’s population, need emergency food assistance due to the conflict,” the WFP spokesperson, Tomson Phiri, said in Geneva. The Guardian

US Offers $7 Million for AQIM Leader Abu Ubaydah Yusuf Al-Anabi
The US State Department posted a $7 million reward Wednesday for information leading to the location or identification of Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The department said Anabi was declared the emir of the northern Africa region branch of Al-Qaeda in November 2020 and his predecessor, Abdelmalek Droukdel, was killed five months earlier. It said Anabi is an Algerian citizen also known as Yazid Mubarak. He has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri as AQIM’s leader, according to the State Department. Previously he was on AQIM’s Council of Notables, its Shura Council, and also has acted as the AQIM media chief. In 2015 the State Department listed him as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The Defense Post with AFP

Mali: Military Must ‘Scrupulously’ Respect Human Rights and Free Civilian Leaders
Alioune Tine, independent expert for human rights in Mali, said that contrary to news reports, President Bah N’Daw and former Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were not freed by the military on 27 May, but instead moved to house arrest. The development follows Mali’s second coup in less than a year. The ousted President and Prime Minister were initially held on Monday 24 May at Kati military camp near the capital, Bamako, with five other top civilian and military officials. Only two of the five officials have been released to date, Mr. Tine said, before endorsing the call of West African bloc ECOWAS for new presidential elections in February 2022. Last Friday, Mali’s constitutional court declared Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the military coup in August, to be the new interim president. “I call upon Malian transitional authorities to immediately end the house arrest of these two men and to release three senior military officials from arbitrary detention,” he said. “I call upon all Malian transitional authorities to scrupulously respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to restore the rule of law.” UN News

Mali Coup: How the West African Country Fell from Grace
The African Union’s suspension of Mali this week provided official, if belated, recognition that a democracy once heralded as a shining example in West Africa is on the ropes. Strongman Colonel Assimi Goïta, who led the junta that seized power in a coup in August and then staged a second coup in May, last week made himself head of the transitional government, thus removing even the veneer of civilian control. Goïta’s ascent caps a turbulent nine years for Mali. Since jihadis captured the north in 2012, the country has been the subject of relentless violence, despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops. “Mali’s democracy has been broken for months, and the recent events don’t suggest it’s on the path to recovery,” said Ornella Moderan, the Bamako-based head of the Sahel programme at the Institute for Security Studies. The second “coup . . . revealed the absolute power of the August 2020 junta, which has run the country despite the facade of a civilian transition.” FT

How These Mali Coup Plotters Staged a False Flag Pro-Russia March
It looked like an impromptu—if bizarre—protest by desperate citizens demanding some stability at home but The Daily Beast can reveal that a pro-Russian demonstration held in Mali last week was a false flag operation staged by a group of serial coup plotters within the military. Members of a military junta that detained the president and prime minister last week—less than a year after ousting the previous government—were behind Friday’s protest in Bamako, which also professed support for the coup. The Daily Beast identified at least six people in the crowd of supposed civilians as close associates of the military. Two people who participated in the protest admitted that some of the demonstrators had met the previous day at a military base in Kati, 10 miles northwest of Bamako, to plan the event. The Kati military barracks is the home of the insurrectionists, and where both of Mali’s last two presidents were detained after being removed from office. … Military officers detained Mali’s transitional President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane last week before stripping them of their powers and taking control of the government. The junta is seeking closer relations with the Kremlin as it bids to shore up power in the midst of international condemnation. The Daily Beast

Sudan General: Military to Review Navy Base Deal with Russia
A top Sudanese military official said the government will review an agreement with Russia to establish a navy base in the African country. The remarks about the deal, which dates back to the government of now-deposed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and has not been ratified by the Sudanese parliament, indicate that Khartoum is seeking some changes to the agreement. Sudan’s Chief of General Staff, Gen. Mohammed Othman al-Hussein told Blue Nile television station late on Tuesday that negotiations are underway with Russian officials “to achieve Sudan’s interests.” News about the deal surfaced last December on the official portal of the Russian government. The deal allows Russia to set up a naval base with up to 300 Russian troops, and also to simultaneously keep up to four navy ships, including nuclear-powered ones, in Port Sudan on the Red Sea. In exchange, Russia is to provide Sudan with weapons and military equipment. The agreement is to last for 25 years, with automatic extensions for 10-year periods if neither side objects to it. AP

Sudan, SPLM-N Al-Hilu May Sign Framework Agreement This Weekend
The transitional government in Sudan and the SPLM-N al Hilu may sign a framework agreement by the end of the week said the peace mediation on Wednesday. The two parties have been discussing a framework agreement in Juba since 27 May. On Wednesday, the SPLM-N handed over its response to the remarks made by the government on the draft it had filled on 27. “The two parties may sign the framework agreement on June 6,” said Dhieu Matouk, the rapporteur of the mediation after a meeting between the two sides. Matouk further said that after the signing, the talks would be paused for a week to give time to the negotiating delegation for further consultations. … Besides the separation of the state and religion, the draft agreement made by the SPLM-N al-Hilu deals with the reform of judicial authority and deals with the Darfur conflict. Also, it proposes to shift the weekend to Wednesday. Sudan Tribune

Nigerian Army Repels ISWAP Attack on Damboa, Kills 50 – Official
The Nigerian Army successfully repelled a terrorist attack on Damboa, a Borno community, killing over 50 attackers in the process, an official has said. Army spokesperson Mohammed Yerima said the terrorists came in an armoured personnel carrier and 12 gun trucks “all mounted with Anti Aircraft Guns, as well as Locally Fabricated Armoured-plated Vehicles loaded with explosives and motorcycles.” He said the terrorists, members of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), were defeated so much that they had to abort their suicide mission. The latest feat comes barely a week after at least seven soldiers of the Nigerian Army were killed by an improvised explosive device planted by Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State. It also comes about a week after the appointment of a new Chief of Army Staff, Farouk Yahaya, a major general. Premium Times

Nigerian Police Hunt for 200 Kidnapped Children
Nigerian authorities said on Tuesday that about 200 children had been seized in the latest school kidnapping in its violent north but they ruled out securing their freedom by paying a ransom. Police were trying to track the route the kidnappers had taken with the children, who were seized in a raid on an Islamic school in north-central Niger state on Sunday, a local government official told Reuters. A warplane was also flying over the area to try to spot them, the official said. Gunmen on motorbikes attacked the town of Tegina on Sunday afternoon. One person was shot dead during the attack and a second person was seriously injured. Local authorities put the number of kidnapped students at about 200. Deputy governor Ahmed Mohammed Ketso told reporters the state government was pursuing the kidnappers and efforts were being made to identify them. Reuters

Twitter Deletes Nigerian President’s ‘Abusive’ Biafra Tweet
Twitter has deleted a tweet by Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari in which he threatened to punish pro-Biafra groups blamed for escalating attacks on government and security authorities. The social media firm said Buhari’s tweet violated its “abusive behaviour” policy, leading to a 12-hour suspension of his account. The tweet promised a response to waves of attacks blamed on the Eastern Security Network (ESN), an armed group which emerged from the main pro-Biafran secessionist movement, the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob). In recent months, attacks targeting police stations, government buildings and electoral offices in south-east Nigeria, as well as the killing of a number of government and civil service officials, have been blamed on the ESN. Buhari referenced his role as a brigade major during the bitter 1967 Biafra war, when an attempted secession for an independent state sparked one of the darkest chapters in Nigerian history. Nigeria’s military was widely accused of potential war crimes and abuses, and millions of people died from hunger and malnourishment after a government-backed blockade was imposed by the army. The Guardian

Libya: A Military Drone with a Mind of Its Own Was Used in Combat, U.N. Says
Military-grade autonomous drones can fly themselves to a specific location, pick their own targets and kill without the assistance of a remote human operator. Such weapons are known to be in development, but until recently there were no reported cases of autonomous drones killing fighters on the battlefield. Now, a United Nations report about a March 2020 skirmish in the military conflict in Libya says such a drone, known as a lethal autonomous weapons system — or LAWS — has made its wartime debut. But the report does not say explicitly that the LAWS killed anyone. “If anyone was killed in an autonomous attack, it would likely represent an historic first known case of artificial intelligence-based autonomous weapons being used to kill,” Zachary Kallenborn wrote in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The assault came during fighting between the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord and forces aligned with Gen. Khalifa Haftar, according to the report by the U.N. Panel of Experts on Libya. “Logistics convoys and retreating [Haftar-affiliated forces] were subsequently hunted down and remotely engaged by the unmanned combat aerial vehicles or the lethal autonomous weapons systems such as the STM Kargu-2 … and other loitering munitions,” the panel wrote. NPR

Iran and CAR Lose Voting Rights in UN General Assembly
Iran and the Central African Republic are in arrears on paying their dues to the United Nations’ operating budget and will lose their voting rights in the 193-member General Assembly, the U.N. chief said in a letter circulated Wednesday. In the letter to General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said three other African countries — Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia — are also in arrears. But he said the assembly passed a resolution saying they can still vote in the current session which ends in September. The U.N. Charter states that members whose arrears equal or exceed the amount of their contributions for the preceding two full years lose their voting rights. But it also gives the General Assembly the authority to decide “that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member,” and in that case a country can continue to vote. AP

Somali Journalists Launch ‘Disinformation Lab’ to Combat Spread of Fake News
The Federation of Somali Journalists has launched a campaign to combat the spread of false information, fake news, hate speech and propaganda. The federation says Somalia is already seeing a huge spike in social media misinformation campaigns ahead of elections expected before the end of July. The country’s chronic internal conflict and political instability has made Somalia a fertile ground for the spread of misinformation. The growing number of young Somalis who connect and share news on social media platforms has become a prime target for this tide of fake news. … To curb the growing challenge for media workers in the country, the Federation of Somali Journalists has launched what it calls a Disinformation Lab to combat the spread of lies, myths and distortions ahead of upcoming elections. The lead researcher and director of the lab, Mohamed Abdimalik, says they will give journalists the necessary skills and knowledge to detect fake news during polls. “The lab’s researchers will support journalists with digital tools, training and other resources to detect, analyze and flag false election-related news in real-time fashion,” Abdimalik said. “In a fragile environment where trust is so low, safeguarding the election process from fake news is as crucial as saving the country from descending into civil war again.” VOA

After Eruption, Residents in Congo Struggle to Find Food and Shelter
The volcano is quieter now. Smoke and ash billow from the cone of Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, instead of the molten lava that streamed from its flanks on May 22, killing dozens of people and destroying 5,000 homes in nearby Goma. The tremors and aftershocks that terrorized the city, collapsing buildings and triggering a mass evacuation, have largely stopped too. Scientists who dare to once again approach the steaming volcano say the danger appears to have passed — for now. “I’m not ruling out the possibility of another eruption,” Dario Tedesco, a volcanologist who has studied Congo’s volcanoes since 1995, told journalists on a visit to the crater of an adjacent, smaller volcano, on Sunday. “But statistically there is very little chance this will happen.” The Congolese government, though, says the area is still on “red alert” and has warned residents to remain vigilant. And for many residents of Goma, homeless and haunted by hunger, the crisis is only getting worse. The New York Times

Exercise Phoenix Express Concludes in Tunisia
The sixteenth iteration of the multinational maritime exercise Phoenix Express came to an end in Tunisia on 28 May. US Naval Forces Europe and Africa (NAVAF) Director of maritime partnership programme, Rear Admiral Jeffrey S Spivey joined Tunisian Minister of Defence Brahim Bertegi, Rear Admiral Kevin Jones from US Africa Command (AFRICOM), and US Ambassador to Tunisia, Donald Blome, in marking the successful completion of the exercise in a ceremony in Tunis. “These exercises are necessary steps that build trust in one another and demonstrate our unified commitment to overcome the challenges that threaten the freedom and security of the world’s oceans,” said Spivey. “It is for that reason that I am so excited to see Phoenix Express grow to include the participation of every single nation in north Africa, several coast guards, and the addition of the European Union coast guard functionary agencies.” The exercise hosted maritime forces from Europe, North Africa, and the United States. defenceWeb