Africa Media Review for June 8, 2022

ECOWAS Unhappy with Mali’s 24-Month Transition Decision
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it regrets a decision by Mali’s interim government to delay the return to civilian rule by 24 months while negotiations between the two sides were ongoing. Mali’s military government, which first came to power in an August 2020 coup, issued a decree on Monday fixing the 24-month timetable, to be counted from March 2022. “ECOWAS regrets that while negotiations are still ongoing to reach a consensus, the Malian authorities took this decision on the transition,” the bloc said in a late Monday statement. It said an ECOWAS negotiator would continue to engage Malian authorities to reach a “mutually agreed timeline”. The 15-member regional bloc has been pushing for a shorter extension of 16 months at most. In January, ECOWAS had imposed stiff sanctions after the military rulers said they would not organise democratic elections the following month as initially planned. Heads of state from ECOWAS member countries met recently in Ghana, where they agreed not to lift sanctions against Mali unless the government proposes a shorter transition. They are expected to hold another summit before July 3. Al Jazeera

Talks to End Sudan Crisis Begin as Anti-Coup Groups Boycott
Talks aiming at ending Sudan’s ongoing political deadlock began Wednesday, the United Nations said, although the country’s main pro-democracy alliance is boycotting them over a continued police crackdown on those protesting last October’s military coup. The joint peace effort is brokered by the U.N. political mission in Sudan, the African Union, and the eight-nation east African regional group Intergovernmental Authority in Development, IGAD. The effort aims to bring the generals and an array of political and protest groups to the negotiating table. The military’s takeover has upended Sudan’s short-lived fragile democratic transition and plunged the East African nation into turmoil. Sudan had been transiting to democracy after nearly three decades of repression and international isolation under Islamist-backed strongman Omar al-Bashir. A popular uprising pushed the military to remove al-Bashir in April 2019. The U.N., AU and IGAD launched the process Wednesday with a technical meeting involving the military and civilians. It came after months of separate discussions with an array of groups including the military and the pro-democracy movement. The U.N. envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, the process would discuss a “transitional program,” including the appointment of a civilian prime minister and arrangements for drafting a permeant constitution and elections at the end of the transition. AP

Ryanair Asks Travelers to Prove South African Nationality, in Afrikaans
Before he could board a recent Ryanair flight to London, Dinesh Joseph, a 45-year-old South African leadership and management trainer, had to pass a test about South Africa to prove his nationality. The test was in Afrikaans, a language once imposed by the former white-led apartheid government and one that many South Africans do not even speak today. When Mr. Joseph asked to take the test in English, he said, a Ryanair customer service agent told him: “No, this is your language.” Mr. Joseph, who is of Indian descent and grew up in South Africa speaking English, said he thought he was the target of a prank. “What on earth is this?” he asked himself. But Ryanair now requires South African passport holders traveling to the United Kingdom to fill out what the company described in a statement as “a simple questionnaire” in Afrikaans. Those unable to complete the questionnaire are not allowed to travel and are issued a refund, the airline said in the statement… In social media postings, South Africans have accused Ryanair of racism and ignorance for failing to grasp the historical connotations of the language. During the height of the struggle against white minority rule, Afrikaans was a crucial point of tension. In its statement, the company, a low-cost airline based in Dublin, cited a “high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports” and did not respond to questions about its choice of Afrikaans or when it implemented the policy. New York Times

Dubai Arrests 2 Gupta Brothers over South African Fraud Case
Dubai police said Tuesday they arrested two brothers from the Gupta family, wanted over allegedly looting state money with former South African President Jacob Zuma. The arrest of Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who had lived for years in the sheikhdom, was the latest major extradition arrest by authorities in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai in particular has long welcomed the wealthy with little question into its luxury neighborhoods. With the UAE now heading the international policing body Interpol, the country has faced renewed questioning over its lax checks on money laundering and reluctance to extradite suspects. That has only increased as Russian money flows into the Arabian Peninsula nation amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine. Police issued a statement saying they arrested the brothers “in connection with money laundering and criminal charges in South Africa.” The Emirates in a later statement said police arrested the two Guptas on June 2. The two, as well as their brother Ajay, had been suspected of hiding out in Dubai since fleeing South Africa around the same time Zuma resigned in 2018 amid allegations he had overseen massive levels of corruption at state-owned companies. AP

South Africa’s President Says ‘I Have Never Stolen Money,’ as Missing Cash Mystery Deepens
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has hit back at allegations of improper conduct over large amounts of cash stolen from his wildlife farm in 2020. “Some are casting aspersions about me and money. I want to assure you that all this was money from proceeds from selling animals. I have never stolen money from anywhere. Be it from our taxpayers, be it from anyone. I have never done so. And will never do so,” he said while addressing members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party on Sunday. His words were greeted with applause. The allegations came in a bombshell statement released by former spy chief Arthur Fraser last week, which has riveted South Africans and exposed the rifts in the ANC. Fraser said he has opened criminal charges against Ramaphosa that, he claims, contain evidence of “photographs, bank accounts, video footage and names” related to multiple claims of wrongdoing, including kidnapping of suspects and bribery. He has not publicly released any of the evidence he claims to possess. In a publicly released statement, a police spokesperson confirmed that a case of money laundering, defeating the ends of justice and kidnapping was registered at the police station in Rosebank, Johannesburg on Wednesday afternoon. The spokesperson said due process would follow. CNN

Ethiopian Police Refuse to Release Journalists Granted Bail
Ethiopian authorities have refused to release three detained journalists, despite a court order they be given bail. Solomon Shumye, Meaza Mohammed and Temesgen Desalegn appeared Tuesday morning before the Federal First Instance Court and were granted bail of about $190 each. However, the federal police force immediately appealed the judge’s decision at the High Court. The High Court overruled the lower court’s decision, and the three journalists were returned to police custody. Their lawyer, Henok Aklilu, told VOA he was expecting that to happen but will continue to seek their release. “These things have been very much common when politically motivated cases come to court, especially journalists who are very much critical of the regime,” he said. “So, I was not surprised. You know, they give you bail in the lower court and it will be overturned by the higher court.” The three journalists are among 19 arrested last month in a crackdown aimed at reporters who have been critical of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government. The government accuses the journalists of inciting violence and disturbing the country’s peace through their work. Voice of America

UN Urges Urgent Action to Avert Famine in Somalia
The UN has warned that Somalia is heading towards a famine as the country faces its worst drought in at least four decades. Currently, close to half of the population is facing crisis-level food insecurity. The UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator for the country, Adam Abdelmoula, has said the international community must act now or more people will die. He said the country was on the brink of devastating and widespread hunger and mass starvation that could claim hundreds of thousands of lives. Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed and the UN estimates the ensuing severe drought has affected seven million people and displaced more than 800,000. At the same time, food prices are soaring in part because of the war in Ukraine – and humanitarian assistance is out of reach for many because of insecurity and conflict. Three million heads of livestock, a major source of livelihood, have died as a result of the drought. Mr Abdelmoula said the response from the international community so far had not been sufficient. The UN’s humanitarian response plan is just 18% funded. BBC

Chad Declares Food Emergency as Grain Supplies Fall
Last week, Chad declared a food emergency due to a lack of grain supplies. The landlocked African nation on Thursday urged the international community to help its population cope with rising food insecurity. Cereal prices across Africa surged because of the slump in exports from Ukraine — a consequence of the war in Ukraine and a raft of international sanctions on Russia which have disrupted supplies of fertilizer, wheat and other commodities from both Russia and Ukraine. DW spoke with one couple in Chad who are dealing with the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Cedric Toralta and Anne Non-Assoum live in the Boutalbagar neighborhood of Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. Non-Assoum — who had just returned from the market — expressed her dissatisfaction with rising food prices. ”Look what I bought: Here is meat for 1,500 CFA francs ($2.45, €2.28), rice for 1,000 and spices for 600 — that’s more than 3,000 CFA francs only for lunch for four people,” she said. She told DW that in the past, the same purchase would have cost around 2,000 CFA francs. “My husband and I spent 60,000 CFA a month on food, but now, even 90,000 is not enough!” DW

20 Killed in Fresh Attack in Eastern DR Congo
At least 20 people have been killed in a new massacre in DR Congo’s eastern province of Ituri, a respected monitor said on Monday, adding that the notorious ADF militia were suspected. Several houses were also burnt down in the attack. The attack took place overnight in the village of Bwanasura in Irumu territory, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST) said on Twitter. David Beiza, head of the Red Cross in Irumu, said volunteers from his organisation “have counted 36 bodies” at the site of the massacre. Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province are struggling with attacks by armed groups, many of them a legacy of wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east. KST said the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) — a group that the so-called Islamic State describes as its affiliate — was suspected to have been behind the killing. The heavily militarised province of Ituri is increasingly recording deadly attacks, despite joint operations between the Congolese and Ugandan armies for more than six months in the province and in North Kivu. The Congolese and Ugandan militaries launched the third phase of operations against the Ugandan ADF rebels on 1 June. East African

Nigerians with Disabilities Seek Inclusion in Electoral Process
Nigerians know when election season is nigh. Politicians eating corn in the market, dancing with children on the street, and giving out bags of rice, plastered with pictures of their faces, as souvenirs – familiar signs in the country’s politics that favour personality cults over ideology – become common… For years, voter turnout has been on a decline, from 65 percent in 2003 to 34 percent in 2019, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission. Pundits and politicians often blame voter apathy and electoral violence, ignoring what certain stakeholders in the electoral process say is a lack of inclusiveness in Africa’s largest democracy. And that has given Lois Auta, paralysed from polio since she was two years old, cause to worry – for herself and other people living with disabilities (PWDs). During the 2019 general elections, Auta ran for a federal lawmaker position in the capital Abuja, under the Accord Party. “It was filled with good and bad moments,” she told Al Jazeera. “Coming out to run showed resilience and courage, despite the factors that can stop a woman with disability.” Recent data for persons living with disabilities in Nigeria is hard to come by, but according to a 2018 report from the World Bank, one in six Nigerians are living with a disability. Yet, Auta is one of very few to run for political office or even participate in an electoral process that has historically given little attention to the needs of this significant population. Little wonder then that as of May 30, a month to the end of registration, PWDs accounted for less than 1 percent of completed registrations. Al Jazeera

In Nigeria’s Disappearing Forests, Loggers Outnumber Trees
Deep in a forest in Nigeria’s Ebute Ipare village, Egbontoluwa Marigi sized up a tall mahogany tree, methodically cut it down with his axe and machete, and as it fell with a crackling sound, he surveyed the forest for the next tree. Around him, the stumps dotting the swampy forest were a reminder of trees that once stood tall but are fast disappearing to illegal logging in Ondo state, southwest Nigeria. After felling the trees, Marigi put markers on them, a message to other loggers that he is the owner. The logs would be transported via creeks and rivers all the way to Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos. “During the time of our forefathers, we had big trees but sadly what we have now are just small trees and we don’t even allow them to mature before we cut them,” Marigi said. Cutting down trees for logging, opening up farmland or to feed energy demand for a growing population is putting pressure on Nigeria’s natural forests. Reuters

Cameroon Says Soldiers Killed Nine Villagers in “Disproportionate” Use of Force
Cameroon’s government said on Tuesday that a group of soldiers killed nine villagers, including an 18-month-old girl, in a “manifestly disproportionate” and “hasty” response to a confrontation in the Northwest region last week. The four soldiers were searching for a missing comrade in the village of Missong when they came across a group of angry villagers at night, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. “In an inappropriate reaction, unsuited to the circumstances and manifestly disproportionate to the hostile villagers’ refusal to cooperate … the soldiers, in a hasty reaction of self-protection … used their weapons,” the statement said. The victims were four men, four women and the infant, it said. A one-year-old child was lightly injured and taken to hospital. The statement was an unusual admission of blame by the army, which civilians and rights groups have accused of numerous killings and abuses during an ongoing separatist conflict. Reuters

Confronting Colonial Past: What’s at Stake in Belgian King’s Visit to DR Congo?
[Video] Imperialism is a word on a lot of lips these days. Ukrainians use it to denounce an invasion that they say recalls the days of Czarist Russia, while Vladimir Putin uses it to rally support against the US and its allies. In the spotlight over the next week is one of the darkest examples of imperialism as the King of Belgium kicks off a tour of DR Congo. France 24