Africa Media Review for March 10, 2022

Strategic Implications for Africa from Russia’s Invasion in Ukraine
The invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call to the implications of Russia’s attempts to export its governance model to Africa—with sobering consequences for African sovereignty and stability. It’s commonly held that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objective for invading Ukraine is to install a puppet regime that is pliable to Moscow’s interests. If so, this would be consistent with the approach Russia has taken with its forays into Africa in recent years. Drawing from its Syria playbook, Russia has propped up proxies in Libya, Central African Republic, Mali, and Sudan. Moscow also has sights on another half dozen African leaders facing varying degrees of vulnerability. … Russia’s expanding influence portends a bleak vision for Africa. In effect, Russia is attempting to export its governance model—of an authoritarian, kleptocratic, and transactional regime—onto Africa. This is especially problematic since there are at least a handful of African leaders who are more than happy to go down this path. Never mind that this diverges wildly from the democratic aspirations held by the vast majority of African citizens. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Russian Mercenaries Have Landed in West Africa, Pushing Putin’s Goals as Kremlin is Increasingly Isolated
They wear army fatigues with no flag and carry Kalashnikov assault rifles. They guard the presidential palace and track extremists in the scrubland. Hundreds of Russian mercenaries have landed here over the last three months, according to regional and Western officials, providing a shadowy source of protection as this nation’s alliances with the West unravel. The missions are unfolding as support for Russia surges in the capital, Bamako: Protesters wave Russian flags and photos of Vladimir Putin. Signs declare: I LOVE WAGNER and THANK YOU WAGNER, referencing the Wagner Group, a Russian security organization targeted by U.S. sanctions that has been widely accused of war crimes. “We think they’re here to clean up the mess,” said Diamano Dolo, a 41-year-old souvenir merchant whose gear with Russian letters (“Мали” for Mali) sells quickly. Wagner—seen by the United States as a covert extension of the Kremlin—arrived in Mali after a 2020 coup d’etat isolated the West African country from its democratic partners. As Russia invades Ukraine, the Kremlin is pushing to amplify influence worldwide, and ostensibly private military groups like Wagner offer a deniable way to advance its goals, researchers say. Since 2016, the Russian mercenary footprint has grown from four nations to a total of 28, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Eighteen are in Africa. Washington Post

Nearly 70 Killed in South Sudan Cattle Raids
Intercommunal clashes, mostly involving cattle, have killed nearly 70 people across various parts of South Sudan in the past week, according to witnesses and officials. In the most recent attack, 14 people were killed and 13 injured during a cattle raid Monday in Duk County, according to authorities in South Sudan’s central-eastern state of Jonglei. Jonglei’s acting governor, Tuong Majok, told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus that the Pangonkei cattle camp in the Duk-Padiet district was attacked by “terrorist youth,” allegedly from the neighboring Greater Pibor Administrative Area. He said the attackers raided several cattle herds but returned the animals Monday night. On Sunday, herders suspected to be from Sudan’s Omran community raided a cattle camp in Rubkona County of Unity state, said Stephen Salaam, the state’s security adviser. At least seven people were killed and 10 other South Sudanese herders were injured, said Salaam. VOA

54 Injured as Sudan Forces Meet Mass Demos with Violence
At least 54 civilians were injured after Sudanese security forces including troops from the army, police, and paramilitary Central Reserve Forces (Abu Teira), used tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades, and automatic weapons, against peaceful demonstrations in Khartoum yesterday. Marches organised by the Khartoum Resistance Committees moved to the Republican Palace, while processions organised by women’s organisations to coincide with International Women’s Day, moved to El Sitteen Street in eastern Khartoum and the El Soug El Shaabi in western Khartoum. Demonstrations expressing solidarity with women and political detainees, demanding a return to civilian government, were also held in more than 11 other Sudanese cities and towns. The Socialist Doctors Association reported that 54 people with various injuries were admitted to El Jawda Hospital south of central Khartoum during yesterday’s marches. The Association said in a field report that among the cases are three injuries in the eyes, others have injuries in the face, abdomen, and neck as a result of excessive violence, tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades, and live ammunition. Dabanga

Bachelet: Democracy on Life Support in Sudan
A report to the U.N. Human Rights Council says October’s military coup in Sudan has dealt a heavy blow to that country’s fledgling democracy, which might be difficult to reverse. In her presentation of the report, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet deplored the stark reversal of progress toward democratic rule that had been made since former president Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April, 2019. She said October’s military coup once again has plunged Sudan into profound crisis. Since then, she said, a wide range of human rights violations have occurred with total impunity. She noted thousands of peaceful protesters have taken to the streets of Sudan to demand their rights. … “The political crisis in Sudan has caused extremely worrying setbacks in human rights. It is urgent that the Sudanese authorities take credible steps towards reinstatement of a civilian administration with democracy and rule of law at its core, and to a path towards justice, equality, dignity, and peace for the Sudanese people,” she said. VOA

Gunmen in Northwest Nigeria Kill 19 Security Personnel
Gunmen have killed 19 security personnel, including 13 soldiers, in an assault in the northwest Nigerian state of Kebbi, a security source and residents said Wednesday. The battle erupted late Tuesday in Kanya, a village in Danko-Wasagu district, just a day after dozens of members of a self-defense militia were killed in the same area. At least 57 vigilantes were killed in nearby Sakaba on Monday in an ambush by heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as bandits. Hundreds of gunmen invaded Kanya, engaging a combined military and police detachment in a three-hour gun fight, the source and residents said. “The death toll stands at 19. They include 13 soldiers, five policemen and one vigilante,” a member of the security personnel, who did not want to be identified, told AFP. … Northwest and central Nigeria have been terrorized for years by criminal gangs who raid and loot villages, steal cattle and carry out mass abductions of residents for ransom. But recently attacks have intensified even as the military attempts to drive bandits out of their camps. VOA

Congo Militiamen Kill 18 Civilians in Church Compound
Militiamen have killed 18 civilians who had sought refuge in a church compound in eastern Congo, a witness and a local human rights groups said on Wednesday. The attack took place early on Tuesday in Banyali Kilo, a district in the conflict-riven Ituri province, as the victims slept in church outbuildings. They had fled there after escaping from previous attacks, the sources said. A survivor, Augustin Kolo, was asleep with his family when he heard cries from outside. “I quickly got up and woke up my wife and my two children to flee. This is how we were saved even as 18 of our brothers and sisters were killed,” he said. “It hurts so much. We are doubly wounded since we first left our villages and then the Codeco followed us here,” he said, referring to a militia group that an army spokesperson also blamed for the attack. The spokesperson gave no death toll. Codeco is one of many armed groups active in eastern Congo, where conflict over land and resources has spurred decades of violence. Reuters

Ukraine Soldiers to Leave UN Mission in Eastern DRC
A contingent of 250 Ukrainian peacekeepers are to leave eastern DRC and return to Ukraine. The announcement was made on Tuesday by the UN. A date is yet to be announced for the departure. The withdrawal will also include equiment and helicopters. “If they are leaving to strengthen forces at home because things have heated up lately, I must say that it is not a problem at all. They can leave to find a solution at home because it’s not important to be with us in the DRC, while things are burning at home”, said a local resident, Rede Kibanda. “We will continue to pray for them for this war to end, because everything that has a beginning has an end. We don’t want this war to persist, even if at home in the DRC the war continues, but we don’t want that. With the help of God this war will end”, added Justin Maheshe, a local vendor. AfricaNews

U.N. Libya Adviser Aims for Elections Agreement this Month
A senior United Nations Libya official is seeking agreement this month on election laws and constitutional arrangements, she told Reuters on Wednesday, with rival factions locked in a dangerous stand-off. Stephanie Williams said she wanted the talks between members of the parliament and High State Council, the country’s two recognised legislative bodies, to take place before Ramadan, which is expected to start on April 1. Libya faces a political crisis after the parliament last week swore in a new government with the incumbent administration refusing to cede power amid the fallout from a failed attempt to hold national elections in December. Each rival government has support among the armed factions based in Tripoli, and the parliament-backed prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, has said he intends to take over in the capital this week, raising fears of clashes. … Williams, who was previously the acting U.N. envoy in Libya, was appointed in December as the secretary general’s Libya adviser with a mandate to lead mediation efforts. Williams said last week she would convene a joint committee with six members each from the parliament and the High State Council. Reuters

To Bring Peace to Cabo Delgado, Mozambique Needs to Fight Inequality as Well as Insurgents
A new research report into the conflict which has battered Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province for over four years, suggests that military action alone won’t bring peace to the region. The report, titled Insurgency, illicit markets and corruption: The Cabo Delgado conflict and its regional implications, recommends that, to facilitate peace and stability in the region, Mozambique’s government needs to “invest in local development” and strengthen local governance. “To create a sustainable peace in the region, the government needs to invest in local development and ensure that such investment is transparent to local communities, establish service-oriented and transparent local governance, and address the drivers of corruption,” the report reads. The document was researched and compiled Julia Stanyard, Alastair Nelson, Greg Arde and Julian Rademeyer, under the umbrella of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC). The report notes that the insurgency “was born out of deep-seated grievances over economic inequality and political exclusion”. … The authors note that a perception persists the government “will prioritise security for gas developments in Cabo Delgado, rather than sustainable development for the local population and improved governance.” News24

Cases Surge in Nigeria as 60 Ukraine Returnees Test Positive
Nigeria announced a surge in Covid-19 infections a day after registering the lowest daily figure recorded since the start of the pandemic. On Monday, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control announced only two cases had been recorded in the country. On Tuesday the health authorities recorded 118 new infections. The surge in the numbers is partly explained by the arrival last Friday of 772 evacuees from Ukraine currently at war with Russia. Of these, at least 60 tested positive for coronavirus. The death toll still stands at 3,142, while the infection toll has increased to 254,777 cases. AfricaNews

Tanzania Tightens Borders to Contain Yellow Fever
Tanzania has tightened its border control to prevent the spread of yellow fever after cases were reported in neighbouring countries. Tanzanian Health minister Ummy Ally Mwalimu said on Wednesday that besides regular demands for valid vaccination certificates from travellers entering the country, the government was also ramping up local vaccination drives among vulnerable people. “The ministry will ensure adequate availability of yellow fever vaccines in the country, oversee and stress cleanliness of the environments to check mosquitoes breeding, and continue to give civic yellow fever education to the citizens,” she said. The measures came soon after neighbouring Kenya announced the outbreak of the acute and contagious viral disease in Isiolo, some 280km north of Nairobi. But Tanzania says Uganda, South Sudan and Chad also have detected suspected cases. The East African

Mali to Investigate Disappearance of Mauritanians on its Soil
Mali said it would investigate the disappearance of several Mauritanians on its territory, which has caused a diplomatic row between the two West African countries. Mauritania summoned Mali’s ambassador on Tuesday “to protest the recent criminal acts perpetrated by regular Malian forces against our defenceless and innocent citizens in Malian territory”, according to a foreign ministry statement. The statement did not further lay out its allegations against Malian forces or say how many people were missing. In a statement late on Wednesday, Mali’s government spokesperson, Abdoulaye Maiga, said Mali would open an investigation and send a high-level delegation to Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott in the coming days. Mali is especially dependent on the goodwill of Mauritania because its borders with most of its other neighbours are closed as a result of sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in January. Mauritania is not a member of the bloc. … The United Nations has repeatedly accused Malian soldiers of summarily executing civilians and suspected militants over the course of their decade-long fight against groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State. Reuters

International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Exits Nigeria from Piracy Attack Prone Countries, Award’s 77% Success to Nigeria
Following the significant decline in piracy attacks in Nigerian waters put at 77 per cent occasioned by the Nigerian Navy’s increased counter security operations against Maritime criminality, oil theft and other attacks, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has exited Nigeria from its Piracy List. This feat was made known on Tuesday night by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo at the closing ceremony of the 2022 CNS Retreat with PSOs, FOCs and Commanders of Formations in Abuja. While vowing to “sustain the tempo of our Maritime Security Operations efforts”, the CNS said, “same will be extended to our neighbouring states to rid the entire Gulf of Guinea of acts of piracy and other criminal activities. … To the newly appointed Principal Staff Officers, FOCs and Formation Commanders, the CNS said, “Notwithstanding the immediate gains of the past year, more is needed to be done to curb festering maritime crimes in the areas of crude oil theft, piracy, illegal migration and poaching.” Vanguard

The Surprising Boon for Africa’s Exporters from the Ukraine Invasion
Africa’s commodity-exporting countries are primed to benefit from the impact of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, according to experts. Commodity prices including oil, gas, maize, and wheat—top global exports for the two countries in conflict—have begun rising on fears over the impact of sanctions slapped on Russia. … “African oil producers stand to benefit from higher oil prices as their fiscal positions are closely correlated to oil exports and the international oil price,” said Oxford Economics Africa analysts in their monthly highlights. Nigeria, with an oil production capacity of 1.36 million barrels per day will likely be the biggest beneficiary followed by Libya (1.17 million) and Angola (1.14 million,) barrels per day. … The Oxford Economics Africa analysts also suggests that Africa’s major grain producing countries like South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe stand to benefit from favorable terms of trade shocks resulting from anticipated higher prices of cereals. Quartz

South Africa Most Unequal Country in the World: Report
South Africa is the most unequal country in the world, with race playing a determining factor in a society where 10 percent of the population owns more than 80 percent of the wealth, a World Bank report said Wednesday. “South Africa… is the most unequal country in the world, ranking first among 164 countries,” the Washington-based institution said in a report called ‘Inequality in Southern Africa’. Nearly thirty years after the end of apartheid, “race remains a key driver of high inequality in South Africa, due to its impact on education and the labour market,” it said. When race is considered as a factor in income disparities, the report added, “its contribution to income inequality amounts to 41 percent, while contribution of education is reduced to 30 percent.” “The legacy of colonialism and apartheid, rooted in racial and spatial segregation, continues to reinforce inequality.” … Gender also plays an important role. In the region, women earn on average 30 percent less than men with the same level of education. The pay gap between men and women reaches 38 percent in Namibia and South Africa. The uneven distribution of agricultural land is also a factor driving inequality, especially in rural areas. AFP

Thousands of Mali’s Ancient Transcripts Go Digital
Google has partnered with Mali’s traditional leaders to digitise tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts from the city of Timbuktu. The manuscripts have been endangered by political unrest in the country’s north, which in 2013 saw Islamist rebels set fire to two libraries in Timbuktu. The digitisation project will be unveiled on Thursday and will showcase work done over the last seven years to preserve the documents. The manuscripts contain centuries of scholarly works on topics ranging from mathematics, medicine, astronomy and science. Up to 40,000 pages of the documents will be available online. The collection, known as Mali Magic, also contains online interactive tours of some of the country’s most significant historic sites using Google street view. The internet giant is not the first to attempt to digitise Mali’s vast archives—the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project began doing so in the 2000s. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones