Africa Media Review for June 30, 2023

Sierra Leone’s President Is Re-elected in the First Round … But the Results Look Fishy
On June 27th the electoral commission declared Julius Maada Bio, the incumbent, the winner with 56% of the votes. This squeaked him over the 55% threshold needed to avoid a run-off. Mr Bio was hurriedly sworn in within an hour. Mr Kamara called the outcome “a frontal attack on our fledgling democracy.” Others agree. For more than 15 years National Election Watch (new), a coalition of civil-society organisations, has produced a tally of results based on a representative sample of polling stations. In the previous three elections, its results matched the official ones. Not this time. It reckons Mr Bio scored about 50%. The electoral commission also reported a voter turnout that was well above new’s estimates. More worryingly, it reckons that in some districts there were more votes cast than there were registered voters. Foreign observers also raised concerns about transparency. Economist

What Next for Wagner’s African Empire?
… Given [Wagner’s] structure [as a loose conglomerate with a network of subsidiaries], “whatever happens to Prigozhin says very little about what happens to the Wagner Group in Africa,” argues Kimberly Marten of Columbia University’s Barnard College. He is neither the CEO of a unified Wagner firm nor a commander whose orders are obeyed by all. Though he may be a charismatic leader and adept at logistics, it would be “relatively easy” for Russia’s defence establishment to replace him, she argues. The people and entities in the Wagner network also have their own interests that they will wish to protect. Some of these are linked to Mr Prigozhin, others much less so. The bottom-up evolution of the group is often missed, argues John Lechner, author of a forthcoming book on Wagner. “And even if there were a big shift at the top of management, then you’re not going to fire everyone else.” … Wagner is far from the only tool in its African toolkit, but it has been a low-cost, high-impact instrument. … The biggest factor in deciding Wagner’s future on the continent may be its African customers-the politicians who have turned to Russia for help. … Russia’s president pitches his country not only as a strong ally for African leaders but as something of a model. Yet the very same group that his government has sent to help African leaders fight their internal enemies has itself staged an uprising in Russia. That is not exactly a good advertisement for a regime selling coup-protection to autocrats and juntas abroad. Economist

Drone Strikes Target Wagner Base in Libya: Military Source
Drone strikes of unknown origin on Thursday night targeted an air base in eastern Libya where mercenaries from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner are believed to be stationed, without causing any casualties, according to a military source. … From April 2019 to June 2020, Khalifa Haftar, the strongman of eastern Libya, used Chadian, Sudanese, Nigerian and Syrian fighters, but above all mercenaries from Wagner, in his failed attempt to seize the capital Tripoli. Since then, hundreds of Wagner members have remained active in the east, in the area of the oil terminals, and in the south of Libya after some of their troops left for Mali or Ukraine to fight alongside the Russian army. Africanews with AFP

Burkina Faso’s Military Accused of Killings, Torture in Latest Human Rights Watch Report
A slew of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, and instances of torture by Burkina Faso’s military has terrorized communities in the country’s northeast this year, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Thursday. The violence took place between February and May across the province of Séno. The report identifies at least 27 people who were either summarily executed or disappeared and then killed, most of them members of the Fulani ethnic group. … The report by the New York-based watchdog comes in the wake of an April massacre in which residents say security forces killed at least 150 civilians in Karma, a northern village near the Mali border. … “I think it’s also important to recognize that they are fighting a legitimate war,” Allegrozzi said, referring to the armed forces. As recently as Monday, 34 members of the military were killed in an ambush by suspected extremist fighters, according to a government press release. “What we are questioning is the way this fight is conducted, which is not according to human rights standards and doesn’t take into account civilian protection,” she said. AP

Calls for Sanctions against Sudan amid Genocide Warnings in Darfur
British MPs have been warned of the possibility of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and urged to put pressure on the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, which has been accused of murder and arson attacks on minority groups in the area. … Vicky Ford, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group, said the UAE and Saudi Arabia should be pressured into severing ties with the RSF because of its violence in Darfur, and with the Sudanese army for the wider conflict in Sudan. … Eric Reeves, a Sudan analyst who specialises in Darfur, said the international community made a mistake by engaging with Dagalo and the Sudanese military after the overthrow of the former president Omar al-Bashir in 2019. “Hemedti has leveraged genocidal destruction and military and political power. That he, of all people, should be legitimised by the international community is what has brought us to this terrible, terrible situation,” said Reeves. “We see clear parallels with 2003. What we’re seeing now is the same kind of genocidal destruction. We know about it mainly because the RSF puts it on social media. A great deal of what appears on social media comes from the RSF themselves – they’re proud of their work. It’s just obscene.” Guardian

Obstacles to Aid Pile Up as Sudan’s Conflict Rages On
… Some aid workers say the hurdles underscore the need for international donors to step up support for the local organisations better placed to operate in conflict hotspots, in particular the neighbourhood-based resistance committees and emergency rooms. “It is really the local grassroots responders that have been there for the people during this period,” said Sara Abbas, from the Sudan Crisis Coordination Unit at Shabaka, an organisation that amplifies diaspora and local civil society groups in the aid sector. Sudan has long been a tricky place for international aid agencies to work. Humanitarian needs have been high for many years, and government institutions are known for closely monitoring foreign NGOs, some of which were kicked out by past regimes. Operational challenges have multiplied since war erupted on 15 April between the country’s main military factions… Other administrative hurdles appear to reflect the military’s desire to take control over humanitarian relief, an objective likely shared by the RSF. Both sides see it as a lucrative resource, and a tool of war and propaganda. New Humanitarian

Ethiopia Applies to Join the BRICS Bloc of Emerging Economies
Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, has asked to join the BRICS bloc of emerging markets, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. The term BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill in 2001 to describe the rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The BRIC powers had their first summit in 2009 in Russia. South Africa joined in 2010, making it BRICS. … The Horn of Africa nation has the second-largest population in Africa, but its economy ranks only 59th in the world according to the International Monetary Fund and is less than half the size of the smallest BRICS member South Africa. … BRICS countries account for more than 40 percent of the world’s population and about 26 percent of the global economy. South Africa said on Thursday it would host the next summit in August as planned, amid speculation it could be moved to a country where Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would not face arrest over war crimes accusations. Al Jazeera

Nigeria’s 2023 Election Eroded Voters’ Trust
Nigeria’s elections early this year were marred by problems that reduced public trust in electoral processes and reforms to enhance transparency and accountability are needed, European Union observers said in a final report seen by Reuters news agency on Wednesday. President Bola Tinubu won the disputed February election, with 37 percent of the vote. The result is being challenged in court by his two main rivals, the People’s Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party. There were multiple reports of voter intimidation by supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress and results were barely uploaded on a new electronic portal introduced to improve transparency, in real-time. The EU mission said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should improve in six priority areas, including removing ambiguities in electoral law, ensuring the real-time publication of and access to election results and clamping down on electoral offenses. “Shortcomings in law and electoral administration hindered the conduct of well-run and inclusive elections and damaged trust in INEC,” said the report. Reuters

Rising Seas Have Flooded This Lagos Town Three Times. It May Not Survive a Fourth
Located 15 minutes off Lekki-Epe, the major Lagos expressway, Alpha Beach in the community of Okun Alfa was, until recently, a popular destination for many Lagos residents – one of the cheaper and more accessible beaches for people in Nigeria’s booming capital looking to get away. Today, however, many of the businesses catering for tourists and beachgoers have been literally washed away, as Okun Alfa has seen shoreline erosion and ocean surges destroy everything from buildings to roads to electricity poles. Three times in the past 15 years flood waters have destroyed many of the community’s structures. Each time the community rebuilds. Many now call this the city’s “fourth incarnation” – and they expect a fourth flood, too. The municipality’s low-lying elevation – it is just 15 metres above sea level on average – makes it particularly vulnerable, and residents say they aren’t sure how much longer Okun Alfa itself will exist. Guardian

‘A War on Nature’: Rangers Build Mountain Out of Wildlife Traps Found in Uganda Park
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve removed about 47 tonnes of snares and bear traps,” says Michael Keigwin, the founder of Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF), a charity that works with the country’s wildlife authorities. Speaking from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, Keigwin is referring to a set of photographs showing a 12-tonne pile of tangled snares and metal traps. The images, showing Ugandan government rangers posing with the traps, illustrate an African success story and a world of pain, say those who helped create it. The pile, nicknamed “snare mountain”, was collected over 12 months as part of continuing conservation efforts at Uganda’s Murchison Falls national park. At the bottom are so-called bear traps, used by poachers to catch elephants, hippos and lions. At the top are wire snares used for smaller animals. … As well as funding trap collection, Global Conservation is providing Keigwin’s UCF team with close to $1m (£800,000) for park management, ranger and anti-poaching equipment, community development and “ecoguard” training. Ecoguards live in the surrounding communities and their jobs include snare collection and alerting rangers to wildlife that wander out of the park’s protected zone and need to be returned. Guardian