Africa Media Review for June 30, 2022

Rwanda and the DRC at Risk of War as New M23 Rebellion Emerges: An Explainer
The current crisis erupted in November 2021, when the largely defunct March 23 Movement (M23) militant group carried out lightning strikes on military positions of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in the villages of Chanzu and Runyonyi in North Kivu Province, just west of the Ugandan and Rwandan borders. This occurred the same month that Ugandan forces were deployed to the province to pursue the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group that also operates in North Kivu and Ituri. In October and November 2021, Uganda had been a target of suicide bomb attacks that President Yoweri Museveni blamed on the ADF. By March 2022, M23 had seized key parts of Rutshuru territory, bordering Uganda and Rwanda. In May, they overran the Rumangabo military base, FARDC’s largest military installation in North Kivu. They then pushed south toward the provincial capital, Goma, and across Rwanda’s border city of Gisenyi. In June, another M23 prong operating farther north overran the border city of Bunagana, forcing Congolese soldiers to flee to Uganda. All this has come as a surprise given the 10-year lull in M23 activities. Between March and November 2013, M23 suffered numerous defeats at the hands of the Congolese military, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), and the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) consisting of Tanzanian, Malawian, and South African troops. That March, one cohort of hundreds of fighters fled to Rwanda. Its leader, John Bosco Ntaganda, a.k.a. “The Terminator,” handed himself over to the U.S. Embassy which transferred him to the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Resistance Builds in Tunisia as Populist Leader Seeks More Power
On July 25, one year exactly after he moved to seize near-total power in what was once the poster child for democratization in the Middle East, Saied will hold a referendum seeking to formalize his remaking of the country’s political institutions. The draft of the new constitution is expected to be unveiled Wednesday. The draft is expected to propose a system based on a strong president who would appoint the prime minister, according to Reuters. Saied has advocated a form of “democracy from below” that gives more power to the president and local government while weakening parliament and political parties. Critics say such a system would create conditions ripe for authoritarianism. Saied’s announcement on July 25 last year that he was suspending parliament and firing the prime minister was met at the time with cheers on the streets and support from those who had become disillusioned with the country’s young democracy. Many accused lawmakers in the North African country of failing to deliver on the economic and social improvements the people had demanded when they took to the streets in December 2010, toppling the dictatorship in early 2011 and setting off revolts across the region that became known as the Arab Spring. Washington Post

UN Maintains Peacekeepers in Mali as Russia and China Abstain
The U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to maintain the U.N. peacekeeping mission in turmoil-wracked Mali, while condemning the West African nation’s military rulers for using mercenaries that commit human rights and humanitarian violations. The council also expressed “grave concern” at the deteriorating political and security situation in the West African nation. Russia and China abstained on the French-drafted resolution that extends the mandate of the mission until June 30, 2023, with its current ceiling of 13,289 military personnel and 1,920 international police. Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the president. The power vacuum that resulted ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013. But insurgents remain active and extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali since 2015, stoking animosity and violence between ethnic groups in the region. Mali´s current ruling junta, which seized power in August 2020, has grown closer to Russia as Moscow has looked to build alliances and gain sway in Africa. The junta has hired mercenaries from Russia´s Wagner Group, which has been accused by the European Union and human rights groups of violating human rights and international humanitarian law. The Kremlin denies any connection to the company, but Western analysts call it a tool of Russian President Vladimir Putin. AfricaNews with AP and AFP

Mali Vows to Defy UN Call for Peacekeepers to Investigate Abuses
Mali says it will defy a United Nations Security Council call for it to allow freedom of movement for peacekeepers to investigate human rights abuses. The council extended a nine-year-old UN peacekeeping operation – known as MINUSMA – for another 12 months on Wednesday with 13 votes in favour, while Russia and China objected to the rights mandate of the mission and abstained. Mali’s military took power in a 2020 coup and has cut ties with former colonial power France as a Russian private military contractor, Wagner Group, has stepped in to help with a decade-long battle against armed groups. MINUSMA says it has documented 320 rights violations by Mali’s military between January and March. Refugees at the M’bera refugee camp in nearby Mauritania have told Al Jazeera that Malian soldiers have stepped up abuses in recent months, along with white soldiers believed to be Russians. “Mali is not in a position to guarantee the freedom of movement for MINUSMA’s inquiries without prior agreement of the government,” Mali’s UN ambassador Issa Konfourou told the council. “Mali does not intend to comply with these provisions despite them being adopted by the Security Council.” Al Jazeera

Togolese Remain Vigilant over Security Threat Despite State of Emergency
The security threat has been growing in Togo since the deadly attack on Togolese soldiers in mid-May, claimed by the JNIM, a Mali-based alliance of Al-Qaeda linked jihadists. With a state of security emergency in place since June and for the entire north of the country, inhabitants of the town of Dapaong, have remained in a state of panic. “The arrival of the military was noticed around mid-May, just after the jihadists struck in the north. They arrived. And since then we have noticed the presence of the military all over the city. You can see them everywhere And there are patrols every night…” Emmanuel Batie, a supermarket and Restaurant Manager in Dapaong told our correspondent. The inhabitants of the town of Dapaong, who are also seeing an influx of displaced people from Burkina Faso fleeing the violence, now also face the fear of attacks in Togo “We are too afraid with the situation. We see clients, we are afraid to take them, because at that moment we don’t know who is who. We are too afraid. In the morning like this we can go out … before when there was security … before, we can go out, we can work at least 5,000 to 6,000. But today, with the insecurity, it’s really not good!” says Kanfitine Naniga, a representative of the motorbike taxi association in Dapaong. The measure is scheduled to last “three months” in accordance with the constitution, but can be extended with the authorization of the National Assembly. Akodah Ayewouadan, is the Minister of Communication, and spokesperson for the Government of Togo. “The state of emergency will allow the administration, the defence and security forces, to have a little more flexibility in their activities, to carry out identity checks a little more frequently, to carry out home checks, to prohibit certain activities. And, as we know, the state of security emergency will lead to a weakening of individual and collective freedoms.” AfricaNews

Ghana Police Fire Tear Gas to Disperse Protest over Living Costs
Ghana police fired tear gas and arrested more than two dozen protesters in the capital Accra on Tuesday after a demonstration over soaring living costs turned violent. The West African nation, reeling from a pandemic-spurred economic slump and hammered by the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine, has seen inflation surge to more than 27 percent this month – the highest level in almost two decades. President Nana Akufo-Addo is under increasing pressure to address the higher cost of food and fuel. Clad in red and black, hundreds of protesters gathered in Accra, chanting songs and holding placards that read “We’re suffering Akufo-Addo” and “The high cost of living will kill us”. “We can’t afford three meals a day. Transport fares and food prices are too high,” protester Baba Musah, who repairs mobile phones for a living, told AFP. “We are suffering.” Trader Rita Okyere also took aim at Akufo-Addo, demanding “change”… The protest started peacefully at Kwame Nkrumah Circle, but a stand-off with authorities resulted in a clash when protesters pelted police with objects. Security officers retaliated by firing tear gas, according to AFP journalists at the scene. Police said in a statement that 12 officers were injured, police vehicles were damaged, and that they had “no option but to use tear gas and water cannons to subdue the rioting and restore order”. They later confirmed that 29 protesters had been arrested “for their participation in violent attacks on the police”. The protest was organised by pressure group Arise Ghana, and joined by politicians such as prominent opposition MP Sam George. News 24

Nigeria Records Staggering Upsurge in Mass Killings, Violations Against Kids in Conflict
One week after the 2022 Global Peace Index ranked Nigeria 143 among 163 independent nations, according to the level of peacefulness, ActionAid Nigeria has raised concern over the mass killings across the country, revealing that such incidents have increased by 116 per cent between 2019 and 2021. Nigeria had, last week, moved three places up on the global peace log from the 146th position it was ranked last year. However, quoting from research conducted by Global Rights, the Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, said at least 14,641 people have died from mass atrocities perpetrated across all geo-political zones in Nigeria between January 2019 and December 2021. She lamented that the trend is increasing daily, as in 2019, 3,183 fatalities were recorded, in 2020, the figure rose to 4,556 and in 2021, about 6,895 deaths were recorded, representing a 116 per cent increase over the last three years. Obi, while speaking yesterday in Abuja at a workshop on Community of Practice (CoP) on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) in the country, stressed the need to strengthen private sector collaboration to curb the menace in the country. Represented by the body’s Director of Resource Mobilisation and Innovation, Andrew Mamedu, she lamented that in the last few years, violence has become fatally routine and a daily affair in the country, such that its intensity, scale and frequency have become endemic, and rapidly acquiring a pandemic nature. This is coming as a new report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) also revealed that more than 42,000 children were recruited and used in conflicts in the West and Central African region between 2005 and 2020. Guardian Nigeria

US, EU Call to Not Use Violence Against Sudanese Protesters as Congressmen Call for Sanction
U.S. and EU diplomats urged to refrain from violence against the pro-democracy protests planned on Thursday as Congressmen renewed calls for targeted sanctions on the coup leaders. Pro-democracy forces plan to hold a protest on Thursday to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the popular rallies that forced the military leaders to hand over power to civilians in August 2019, before a coup that toppled the transitional government. The Resistance Committees organise neighbourhood protests reminding Sudanese to take to the street on June 30, while the security services arrested activists in a bid to abort the successful demonstration. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Molly Phee spoke on Wednesday with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and urged not to use violence to disperse the protests supporting the restoration of a civilian government. Phee said that she also spoke with the leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition and Sudanese Revolutionary Forces. “Spoilers must not be allowed to use June 30 protests to undermine progress on restoring the transition,” she added. For their part, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden ambassadors and the EU Delegation in Khartoum released a statement calling upon the Sudanese authorities to “guarantee freedom of expression.” Sudan Tribune

Africa’s Desperate Hunger: Ukraine War Pushes Somalia Toward Famine
On the second day fleeing drought and hunger, 5-year-old Amina Abdi could no longer walk. She hadn’t eaten in a week. Her tiny body was skeletal; her skin was flaking from severe malnutrition. She collapsed on the orange desert sand and lay motionless in the heat. Her mother shook her body. She searched for a heartbeat. “She was soon not moving anymore,” recalled Hodan Mohamed Sirad, her voice fading into silence. Amina is just one among hundreds of children who have died of hunger in recent weeks, casualties of the worst drought in four decades and a confluence of crises that again have put Somalia on the brink of famine. There are the familiar culprits: a dearth of rainfall made worse by climate change; conflict; disease; the coronavirus pandemic; and even locust infestations. But unlike previous hunger calamities, this one is exacerbated by a conflict 3,000 miles away. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is fueling starvation in Somalia and other nations, abetting death, sickness, the disintegration of families and the loss of livelihoods far from the war’s front lines. Before the invasion, Ukraine and Russia were among the world’s top producers and exporters of grains, cooking oil and fertilizers, and together provided nearly all of Somalia’s wheat. The disruption of crude oil from Russia has led to soaring costs for fuel, transportation and food production. Food prices, already at record levels here because of drought and the pandemic, have climbed ever higher as Russia continues to block Ukraine’s primary export route through the Black Sea. Washington Post

Portugal Picks Kenya as the Anchor for Investments in Africa
Portugal President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa intends to reposition Kenya as the anchor for his country’s growing investments on the African continent. In a media address after a bilateral meeting with a Kenyan delegation led by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Lisbon on Tuesday, De Sousa said Nairobi is best suited as the entry point for Portuguese commercial interests in Africa. He said Kenya’s stellar profile on the International stage, including its membership of the UN Security Council, leadership of the East African Community, and the role it plays at the African Union, makes Nairobi a perfect commercial partner for the southern European nation. “We see Kenya as an intermediary in major international issues. Kenya has been the co-host of this major conference, the UN Oceans Conference. This demonstrates that this is a young country with a future. A country that looks far ahead into the future,” President de Sousa said. The Portuguese leader also spoke about Kenya’s credentials as a guarantor of peace and stability on the African continent, describing the country as a mediator and arbiter whose “role in regional and world peace cannot be overlooked”. He said Kenya and Portugal are enjoying a growing friendship fueled largely by their shared history of being platforms for contact between different civilisations and cultures. Star

How Al-Shabaab Uses Facebook to Spread Extremism in East Africa
Al-Shabaab and the Islamic State are using Facebook to spread their hateful ideologies, grow audiences and broadcast their messaging in East Africa, with Kenya as their focus. This is according to a new report shared with the Nation by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). According to ISD, there is a highly-coordinated online propaganda machine that relies on thousands-strong networks of Somali, Swahili and Arabic language Facebook profiles and pages to seed its content on the platform, some of which may have been hacked from unsuspecting users. The research, carried out between 2020 and 2022, reveals that entities affiliated with the two groups are posing as “independent news outlets” on the platform. However, these digital assets are instead allegedly being used to share terrorist propaganda under the guise of “objective” news to influence audiences in Kenya and the wider East African region. Mr Moustafa Ayad, the author of the report, told the Nation: “The al-Shabaab and Islamic State support networks on Facebook have shown significant resilience. They have become very adept at seeding propaganda across different social media platforms.” Nation

Why a Rwandan Sports Reporter Fled His Home
Covering sports in Rwanda, which is hosting the Commonwealth heads of state gathering this week, is normally considered one of the safest beats for journalists, but for Prudence Nsengumukiza the constant fear of displeasing someone in power became too much. After finishing a one-month journalism residency with the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium last year, the 33-year-old stayed on as an asylum seeker in the former colonial power. It was not a decision he took lightly – as he is now afraid he will be hunted down by agents of President Paul Kagame’s government, which has been known to target critics abroad. When we speak, he does not want to reveal too much about his location. “You know how security services from Kigali work. They have people everywhere. I can tell you where I am now and the same day they can get to me,” he laughs nervously. He now works for a diaspora-run website critical of the government, one of about a dozen websites blocked in Rwanda. A local site linked to the government has since accused him of “cowardice” and “making a living by tarnishing the country that gave you milk”, warning “it is also a betrayal and nobody betrays Rwanda and gets lucky”. The sports presenter had worked at a pro-government media firm, one of whose shareholders, staff believe, is the military. BBC

Citizens Expect ‘Bloodshed’ Ahead of Zim’s 2023 Elections
Ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections next year, a new report has found that an increasing number of citizens have lost faith in the electoral process, citing among other things the violent nature of the country’s politics as a major drawback. The State of Peace report, compiled by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), is based on interviews with community peace builders across four of the country’s 10 provinces. It raises concerns about the continued use of violence as a political tool. The report comes at a time when election campaign season is already in full swing, as seen in recent public speeches by the country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has vowed that opposition political parties will never rule Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa said at a rally last week: “When we defeated whites after a protracted war of independence, they left behind their remnants who want to foment violence and chaos in the country. We will deal with them.  “Zanu-PF is the only party which has a history and a legacy for this country. We will not allow zvimbwasungata (sellouts) to rule this country.” The report found there was consensus across all the communities that were interviewed that elections “presented a nightmare rather than an opportunity”. “Many community members are expecting bloodshed ahead of the 2023 election. They attribute the violence to [the] violent nature of the ruling party. In addition to the violence, communities have no confidence in the electoral system’s capacity to deliver democracy,” the report stated. Mail & Guardian

Eswatini: Security Tight on Protest Anniversary
Police and troops were deployed across Eswatini’s major cities for Wednesday’s anniversary of bloody pro-democracy protests. Security forces patrolled the capital, Mbabane, and the city of Manzini, 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. Helicopters were also reported flying constantly overhead. Eswatini — formerly known as Swaziland — is one of the last remaining absolute monarchies in the world. According to the constitution, King Mswati III is not bound to any law. And he takes great advantage of it.  Anger against the king had been building for years in the country. Activists accused the king of running a repressive government and evading calls for reforms. The king had also been accused of using public coffers to fund a lavish lifestyle off the backs of 1.5 million citizens, most of them subsistence farmers. Demonstrations first erupted in May following the death of a 25-year-old law student, reportedly at the hands of police. The UN human rights office pointed to reports of “disproportionate and unnecessary use of force, harassment and intimidation” by security forces sent in to quell escalating protests. Protests against Eswatini’s monarchy system broke out on June 29, 2021, led by young people, particularly high school and university students, in response to the country’s lack of development and opportunities. Security forces hit back violently, firing gunshots and tear gas to disperse the protesters, witnesses said. DW

South Africa: High Court Finds Protest Fee Unconstitutional
A City of Johannesburg policy that requires people to pay for policing services during a protest, demonstration, assembly or gathering has been found unconstitutional. The City’s tariffs determination policy imposes a fee of R170 to R15 000 to hold gatherings, assemblies, demonstrations, pickets and to present petitions. The convener is responsible for payment.  But following an application to strike the policy, judge Margaret Victor of the high court in Johannesburg found it to be unconstitutional on the basis that it violates the right to protest. The matter came before Victor because of a protest in Johannesburg on 23 October 2020 organised by Right2Know, a movement that advocates for freedom of expression and access to information. The protest took place as planned and was peaceful. But before the protest, during what is known as a section four meeting – a final meeting between the allocated Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officer and the convenor to iron out the details of the protest, route, destination and number of people expected to attend – the convenor was directed to pay a levy. This created an impression that exercising the right to protest was conditional on payment of the levy. The City insisted that the payment was not a condition but a way for the JMPD to facilitate the protest. New Frame

South Africa: Ramaphosa Warns G7 Leaders of New Aim for Patent Waiver on COVID Therapeutics and Diagnostics
After winning what he called a success on Covid vaccines, President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned the leaders of the G7 rich countries that he will remain on their case to support another “TRIPS waiver” – to suspend the intellectual property rights of international pharmaceutical companies over their Covid therapeutics and diagnostics so that developing countries could manufacture these without the authorisation of the patent holders. Ramaphosa said South Africa, India and other countries were “celebrating the success of achieving a TRIPS waiver” on 17 June 2022 when the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to suspend  patent rights of the pharma companies for their Covid vaccines. This waiver has received mixed reviews, with some health rights activists dismissing it as a “very bad deal”, while others in the South African pharma industry welcomed it as “balanced” but also warned that many bridges still had to be crossed before it could be practically implemented in Africa. Ramaphosa reminded G7 leaders at their just-completed summit in Schloss Elmau, Germany that some of them had at first resisted the waiver of these Covid vaccine patent rights – which are governed by the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). However, “we finally got them to concede that there should be a waiver”, Ramaphosa told the government information service, GCIS. But he added that he had warned the G7 leaders at the summit that the WTO concession on vaccines should be just the foundation for further concessions on Covid-19 therapeutics and diagnostics, which the WTO will decide on in six months. Daily Maverick



Photo: Adam Jones