Africa Media Review for June 6, 2022

Russian and African Leaders Meet, One Needing Allies, the Other Grain.
A meeting on Friday between the head of the African Union and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia highlighted the acute needs each one hopes the other can fill: Africa needs food, and the Kremlin needs allies. Russia’s blockade of Ukraine, ordinarily a major exporter of grain, has worsened food crises in Africa and the Middle East, and the African Union chief, President Macky Sall of Senegal, said the grain should be freed up…Joseph Siegle, the director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, an arm of the Pentagon’s National Defense University, noted that Mr. Putin has tried to portray his invasion of Ukraine as an ideological battle against the West. That message has resonated across Africa, he said. Mr. Putin has even used the looming grain shortage to cast the United States and its allies in bad light, he said. “He is twisting the narrative to suggest that the sanctions are causing the pain and price inflation for food across the globe, rather than acknowledging that the entire food crisis related to the conflict is his making,” Mr. Siegle said. New York Times

Nigeria Catholic Church Massacre: At Least 50 People Killed by Gunmen During Sunday Mass
Gunmen attacked a Catholic church in southwest Nigeria during mass on Sunday, killing at least 50 people including women and children, according to a hospital doctor and media reports. The gunmen shot at people outside and inside the church building, killing and injuring worshippers, said Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami, police spokesperson for Ondo state. She did not say how many people were killed or injured at St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo, but added that police were investigating the motive for the attack. Ondo state Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who visited the scene of the attack and injured persons in hospital, described Sunday’s incident as “a great massacre” that should not be allowed to happen again. The identity and motive of the attackers was not immediately clear…A doctor at a hospital in Owo told Reuters that at least 50 bodies had been brought into two hospitals in the town from the attack. The doctor, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press, also said there was a need for blood donations to treat the injured. President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack, calling it “heinous”, and the Vatican said Pope Francis was praying for the victims who had been “painfully stricken in a moment of celebration”. Nigeria is battling an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and armed gangs who carry out attacks and kidnappings for ransom, mostly in the northwest. In the southwest, attacks such as this are rare. Reuters

West African Leaders Put Off Sanctions on 3 Juntas
West African leaders Saturday failed to agree what action to take against military juntas in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, postponing a decision for a month, insiders at the meeting said. They decided to wait until the next ECOWAS summit July 3, a senior source in the Ghanian presidency told AFP, asking to remain anonymous. Another source said the leaders had not been able to agree, “particularly over Mali.” The summit in Ghana’s capital Accra had been billed as the forum to agree whether to ease or ramp up sanctions against the three junta-ruled nations facing jihadi insurgencies. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had met in a bid to rule whether to keep, lighten or lift retaliatory measures on Mali, imposed in January after its military regime announced plans to stay in power for another five years. Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo opened the summit, attended by the heads of state of most of the 15-member countries but without any representative from Mali, Burkina Faso or Guinea visible in the audience. Agence France-Presse

African Countries Look at Japan to Navigate Ukraine Wheat Ban
African countries needing to fill the gap created by a lack of Russian and Ukrainian food imports must look outside the typical sphere of economic aid, says UN Assistant Secretary General Ahunna Eziakonwa after a five-day mission to Japan. Eziakonwa, also the UN Development Programme (UNDP) regional director for Africa, spoke of the unique role government and private sector partners in Japan could play in support of African countries. “Reinforced multilateralism and strong partnerships, including with Japanese government entities and private sector, will be decisive in supporting African countries’ aptitude to respond to the new economic shocks caused by the war in Ukraine,” she said. Japan has played a strategic role to increase food security on the African continent, and aims to do more, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). RFI

Rwanda-DR Congo Tension Threatening Regional Integration’s Nascent Gains
As tensions mount between Kigali and Kinshasa over allegations of official support for rebel groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, there are growing concerns that an escalation could undermine recent gains in stability across the Great Lakes region and East Africa. The current diplomatic and military standoff lends credence to a warning by Xia Huang, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, who in April told the UN that the March 23 Movement (M23), the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and other armed groups were committing atrocities against civilians in eastern DRC. “Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains fragile,” Mr Xia said…While bilateral trade has been expanding, the diplomatic row dampens the prospects. According to Rwanda Institute of Statistics, in the last quarter of 2021, DRC accounted for 96 percent of Rwanda’s total re-exports, covering food and live animals ($39.87 million), and mineral fuels and lubricants ($33.55 million). East African

No Doubt Rwanda Is Backing Rebels – DR Congo Leader
Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has said “there’s no doubt” that Rwanda supported M23 rebels in clashes in the east of his country that have displaced tens of thousands. Rwanda has consistently denied accusations of backing the rebels. On Monday, there was renewed fighting between the Congolese army and the rebels in Rutshuru area. An M23 spokesperson said the army started bombarding their positions in Jomba area early in the morning. Mr Tshisekedi’s claims on Rwanda’s meddling were his first in recent times as tensions continue to rise between the eastern Africa neighbours. The president spoke on Sunday after visiting neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville where he met his counterpart Denis Sassou Nguesso. He emphasised that although he wanted peace with Rwanda, DR Congo’s neighbours “should not mistake our desire for peace with weakness.” “I hope that Rwanda has learned this lesson because today, it’s clear. There is no doubt Rwanda has supported the M23 to come and attack the DRC,” he said. A Rwanda government spokesperson has told the BBC that this “is an internal crisis that Rwanda is not involved in.” Last Monday, M23 rebels retreated from areas it had captured in the Congolese province of North Kivu. But on Friday it warned that the army was planning renewed attacks against its positions. BBC

Trial of Chadian Opposition Leaders Arrested over Anti-France Protest Opens
In Chad, the trial of six opposition leaders set to start Monday in the capital will finally take place 300 km north of N’Djamena. The public prosecutor of the N’Djamena court of first instance chose the city of Moussoro, citing security concerns. The association of lawyers called the procedure illegal and announced no lawyer would attend. Two of the six Wakit Tama coalition members to be tried are lawyers. The arrested leaders started a hunger strike on May 23 denouncing what they called an arbitrary detention and their transfert in a high-security prison. Their first appearance in court follows nation-wide protests the opposition coalition organized on May 14. The demonstrators protested against the military transitional government and France’s backing of the authorities. During the marches in Chad’s capital, petrol station from French company Total were attacked and French flags burnt. The opposition figures were arrested for disturbing public order and on charges of vandalism. The Union of Trade Unions of Chad demanded the release of the opposition figures. AfricaNews with AFP

North, South Poll Intrigues Threaten Nigeria Cohesion
With Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan effectively harangued out of the 2023 presidential race, 75-year-old Atiku Abubakar, two-time vice president and now a frontrunner, will run against any of the 23 candidates vying to be flag bearer for the All Progressives Congress (APC). The subtle withdrawal of Jonathan has placed Abubakar, the influential and billionaire candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), comfortably ahead. Abubakar will know this June 8, who APC will pick after many postponements of the party primaries which have sent the ruling party into disarray, following President Muhammadu Buhari’s plea to party leaders to allow him decide his successor. There was an uproar in and outside the party, with suspicions that Buhari would have picked a northerner just like the PDP, giving voters no option but to vote but to return leadership the north after Buhari’s eight years which end on May 29, 2023. East African

Trilateral Mechanism Decries Death of Protester at Sudan Capital Sit-In
The AU-IGAD-UNITAMS Trilateral Mechanism has condemned the killing of a protester during Friday’s rallies commemorating the third anniversary of the violent dispersal of the General Command sit-in in 2019. The statement comes after the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors reported the death of a 20-year-old demonstrator in Khartoum, who was participating in the commemorations of what has become known as the 2019 June 3 Massacre. “The Trilateral Mechanism recalls the need for a conducive environment for a political process in Sudan which, among other elements, consists of respect of the right to peaceful assembly. “The Trilateral Mechanism has previously welcomed the lifting of the State of Emergency and encouraged authorities to continue taking further steps that ensure the protection of the rights to peaceful assembly and expression.” In its statement, the Mechanism also reiterates that use of excessive force is not a solution and calls on authorities to cease using it against protesters and ensure accountability for all violations committed since the 25 October coup. Dabanga

FFC Decide to Boycott Intra-Sudanese Dialogue Meeting
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) decided to not take part in an inclusive meeting organized by the trilateral mechanism this week to express their refusal to the involvement of political groups supporting the military component. In a meeting held on Sunday, the FFC Central Council approved its vision for the political process to end the coup regime and establish a new civil democratic path. After the meeting, a senior FFC official disclosed to the Sudan Tribune that the Trilateral Mechanism facilitating the political dialogue has called for a meeting on ways to end the political crisis at Rotana Hotel in Khartoum on Wednesday, June 8. “The invitation for the meeting has been also extended to the military component and other forces that were allied to the former regime and now supporting the coup leaders” “Therefore, the Forces for Freedom and Change unanimously decided not to participate in this meeting, because the parties to the crisis are the supporters and opponents of the coup and no one else,” he stressed. The FFC’s position paper endorsed on Sunday provides that the parties to the current crisis are the forces supporting the coup – referring to the military and their allied armed groups – and the anti-coup forces: the FFC, the Resistance Committees and the armed groups opposed to the coup including the non-signatories, in addition to the forces that signed the Declaration of Freedom and Change and left the coalition latter. Sudan Tribune

Ethiopia’s Mass Arrests Show Rift with Former Amhara Allies
Once a key ally of Ethiopia’s federal government in its deadly war in the country’s northern Tigray region, the neighboring Amhara region is now experiencing government-led mass arrests and disappearances of activists, journalists and other perceived critics. More than 4,500 people have been arrested in the Amhara region as of May 23, according to officials, but some activists say the real figure could be much higher. They accuse Ethiopia’s government of targeting ethnic Amhara people it considers a threat to its authority as it tries to move on from the Tigray crisis. The arrests are the latest sign that the federal government of Ethiopia — Africa’s second-most populous country with 115 million people — is struggling to centralize its authority among scores of ethnic groups. The Amhara are the second-largest ethnic group and, along with Tigrayans, the source of many of the country’s leaders — and critics, especially after frustration grew during the war when Tigray forces invaded the Amhara region and attacked civilians. AP

Exclusive: The Ethiopian Border Town Left in Ruins as a Ceasefire Takes Hold
There’s almost no one left in Abala, a once-bustling town on the border of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray and Afar regions. Its streets are empty, given over to stray dogs and troops of baboons that scavenge undisturbed among the abandoned houses. Last week, The New Humanitarian became the first international media outlet to visit Abala since rebels from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) withdrew from the town and other territories in the Afar region in late April. Since March, a fragile ceasefire has been in place between the federal government and its war allies, who for 19 months have been battling the TPLF.  The TPLF entered Afar in late December, taking control of several districts, including Abala, in what they described as an attempt to secure an aid corridor to Tigray, where 5.2 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 450,000 malnourished children. Nearly all the homes and shops in Abala – which had a pre-war population of several thousand – have been gutted by looting, their doors hanging open, and the walls daubed with both pro-Afar and pro-TPLF graffiti. One house bore the words “Tigray has won” while the word “Afar” was scrawled on several others in white letters. New Humanitarian

UN Extends Searches on High Seas off Libya for Illegal Arms
The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Friday extending the authorization for countries and regional organizations to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected of violating the U.N. arms embargo on the troubled north African nation. The vote on the French-sponsored resolution was 14-0, with Russia abstaining. The brief resolution extends the authorization for inspections for a year. The monitoring effort has been carried out since March 2020 by a European Union mission called Operation Irini, the Greek word for “peace.” The EU said at the start that it would have as “its core task the implementation of the U.N. arms embargo through the use of aerial, satellite and maritime assets.” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Friday that when Irini started Russia hoped the inspections would contribute to reducing illegal arms trafficking “and therefore promote the long-awaited political settlement of Libya’s protracted conflict.” AP

Huge Europe-Morocco Migration Begins After COVID Hiatus
Morocco on Sunday begins welcoming an influx of its citizens living in Europe after the pandemic led to a halt in what has been called one of the world’s biggest cross-continental migrations. The last such effort in the summer of 2019 saw 3.3 million people and more than three quarters of a million vehicles cross the Gibraltar Strait. The North African kingdom is just 14 kilometers from the coast of Spain, which has announced it will also put in place special measures for Moroccans from June 15 for two months. Spain’s government has called the seasonal migration “one of the biggest flows of people across continents in such a small time.” Resuming large-scale cross-strait travel comes not only after an easing of the pandemic threat but also following a mending of diplomatic ties between the two countries. The year-long diplomatic dispute had extended border closures originally put in place because of Covid-19, but maritime traffic resumed in April. Agence France-Presse



Photo: Adam Jones