Africa Media Review for March 13, 2023

New Tunisian Parliament Begins Its First Session
Tunisia’s new parliament sat for the first time on Monday but the opposition coalition said it would not recognise its legitimacy after an election with a turnout of just 11%. President Kais Saied shut down the previous elected parliament in July 2021, ruling by decree in a move that opposition parties have called a coup. Independent journalists were not allowed to attend the opening session of parliament for the first time since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution. Officials told reporters only state TV and radio and the state news agency were allowed to cover the event…The National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, in a statement on Monday it would not recognise the parliament. Saleh Mbarki, who chaired the opening session, said: “Our duties as people’s representatives is to work in partnership with the executive authority for the unity of the state.” The National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, in a statement on Monday it would not recognise the parliament. Reuters

Sudan’s Political, Military Leaders Discuss Appointment of Civilian Prime Minister
A spokesman for the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) revealed on Sunday that discussions are taking place between civilian and military parties to the framework agreement to end the political process and appoint a prime minister as soon as possible. On December 5, 2022, the pro-democracy civil forces and the military leaders signed a framework agreement providing to form a civilian government ending the coup d’état of October 2021…Sudanese diplomatic sources told Sudan Tribune several days ago that the UAE President warned the head of the military-led Sovereign Council against further delay in the political process and informed him that this would expose him to international sanctions. Al-Burhan met with Mohamed bin Zayed on February 15. Arman told reporters that there are some candidates proposed for the post of prime minister, stressing the parties reached a consensus on the criteria for selecting the head of the civilian government. Sudan Tribune

Vice President Kamala Harris To Visit Africa Later This Month
Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Africa later this month, her office announced Monday, becoming the most senior Biden administration official to visit the continent. Her trip comes as the administration seeks to bolster its relationships with African countries, as competitors like Russia and China have made inroads in the region. Harris is scheduled to visit Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia in a historic trip, her first visit to the continent since becoming vice president. And it will be the first time a Black US vice president visits the region, amplifying Harris’ historic role and high-profile trip. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff will join her on the trip. In a statement, Harris’ press secretary Kirsten Allen said the vice president’s trip will “strengthen the United States’ partnerships throughout Africa and advance our shared effort on security and economic prosperity.” CNN

Watchdog ‘Clears’ South Africa’s Ramaphosa in Cover-Up Scandal
South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog has cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing in a preliminary report into a cover-up scandal that has tarnished his reputation, according to local media reports. The Public Protector said it has notified implicated parties of the preliminary findings of its probe over the theft of large amounts of cash from Ramaphosa’s luxury Phala Phala farm – something the president is accused of having attempted to conceal…“As stated before, we reiterate that the president did not participate in any wrongdoing, nor did he violate the oath of his office,” Magwenya said according to South African news outlet News24. “Instead, the president was a victim of a crime that he duly reported to the relevant authorities.” The scandal, which erupted in June, involved about $500,000 in cash that Ramaphosa acknowledged were stolen from beneath sofa cushions at his ranch. Al Jazeera

Hospital Deaths in South Africa Blamed on Strike
South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla has said the death of at least four patients can be “attributed directly” to an ongoing nationwide strike action by health workers. He has warned that this number may grow, as his team continues to assess clinical reports and visit affected health centres. Strike action by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) from last week saw the shutdown of some hospitals, with workers being violently barred from entering and patients in need of care being turned away. The army has now been deployed to key hospital entrance points to stop the intimidation of workers and to ensure hospitals can remain operational. Nehawu has, however, refuted claims that patient deaths can be blamed on their strike action. The union’s general-secretary, Zola Sephetha, told local TV station eNCA that the strike “has never killed anyone, and the government is accountable for whatever happens at the hospitals.” Public service workers – including medical personnel – have vowed to intensify their strike as it enters its second week. They have rejected the government’s 4.7% wage hike offer, demanding 10% instead. BBC

Namibia: Nandi-Ndaitwah Declines Geingob’s PM Job Offer
Deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah declined an offer by president Hage Geingob to be appointed as Namibia’s prime minister. Sources said Nandi-Ndaitwah also requested that Geingob remove the international relations portfolio from her list of duties. Geingob subsequently decided to retain his current top three, including vice president Nangolo Mbumba, prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, and Nandi-Ndaitwah, who remains fourth in terms of state power…There are several theories floating around the corridors of power on why she turned down the prime minister’s job. One of the reasons, sources said, was because Nandi-Ndaitwah preferred the vice president position which is more powerful in terms of political preparation for State House, if Swapo wins the national elections. The other reason being speculated on is that she wanted a less busy position to devote more time to campaigning for the presidential elections. The Namibian

Kagame Looking at ‘Resolving’ Detention of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Rusesabagina
Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Monday said there were discussions about “resolving” the fate of Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed as a hero in the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda” and is serving a 25-year sentence in Rwanda on terrorism charges. Rusesabagina was sentenced in September 2021 over his ties to an organization opposed to Kagame’s rule. He denied all the charges and refused to take part in the trial that he and his supporters called a political sham. Washington has designated him as “wrongly detained”, partly because of what it called the lack of fair trial guarantees. Rusesabagina has U.S. permanent residency rights. Kagame has said his country would not be bullied over Rusesabagina, but on Monday appeared to suggest that there was room for compromise. Reuters

Kiir, Machar Put S. Sudan on Edge As Political Rows Escalate
South Sudan was on Friday night waiting for a spinning coin to settle from a meeting between President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar, part of efforts to ease tensions stemming from the controversial sacking of some government officials…President Kiir and Dr Machar met at the presidential palace in Juba after the SPLM-IO kicked off a storm over the sacking of Defence Minister Angelina Teny, who is also Machar’s wife, on March 4…This development caused such bad blood that Juba watchers worried about a possible slip into civil war. Some Ugandan media reported that President Kiir had earlier in the week reached out to President Yoweri Museveni for military help in case things in Juba spun out of control. The EastAfrican could not independently verify reports that special forces of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces had been put on standby as Museveni watched the developments in Juba. Sources say Museveni is fatigued by the continual wrangling in Juba and slow progress to peace. Ms Teny, the most recent cause of the row between the two principals, held the Defence docket as part of the 2018 peace deal, which allocated the portfolio to the SPLM-IO and Interior to Kiir’s side. East African

Has the French Government Forgotten Mali Hostage Olivier Dubois?
French journalist Olivier Dubois was taken hostage in Mali nearly two years ago. His family and support group regularly contact the French authorities and try to raise public awareness, but as time passes, they fear negotiations for his release have stagnated. Dubois was kidnapped in Gao, in northern Mali, on 8 April 2021 by JNIM, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims, linked to al-Qaeda. He had been trying to interview a local al-Qaeda commander. Working as a freelance journalist in Mali since 2015, Dubois announced his abduction in a video posted on social media on 5 May, 2021. Since then proof he is still alive has dwindled, with his last contact in March last year.  The French and Malian governments have assured the family that everything is being done to get Dubois released. But information is scarce partly due to confidentiality for security reasons. But concerns are rising that diplomatic efforts have fallen by the wayside. RFI

Gabon Ferry Death Toll Rises to Six; 31 Still Missing
The death toll from the sinking of a ferry last week in Gabon has risen to six, according to officials, as rescue teams continue to search for 31 people still missing. The privately owned Esther Miracle vessel was carrying 161 passengers from the capital, Libreville, to Port-Gentil, an oil port town further south, when it capsized in calm waters on March 9 close to the coastal village of Nyonie. The government said on Monday that three more bodies were discovered on Sunday, doubling the death toll to six. “We have not stopped the search operations, we have continued them since the first day. As we speak, a boat is at the area with diving teams which are locating the shipwreck,” Prime Minister Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze told state broadcaster Gabon 1ere on Sunday. Al Jazeera

Italy Estimates 680K Migrants Might Cross Sea From Libya
Intelligence reports indicate nearly 700,000 migrants are in Libya awaiting an opportunity to set out by sea toward Italy, a lawmaker from Premier Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party said Sunday, but a U.N. migration official called the number not credible. Tommaso Foti, the lower parliamentary house whip for the Brothers of Italy Party, told television channel Tgcom24 the Italian secret services estimated that 685,000 migrants in Libya, many of them in detention camps, were eager to sail across the central Mediterranean Sea in smugglers’ boats…Meloni is hoping a European Union meeting later this month yields concrete solidarity from fellow leaders of EU nations in managing the large numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers who come to countries on the Mediterranean’s rim, including Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Spain as well as Italy. “Europe can’t look the other way,″ Foti said. While the intelligence services assessment sparked alarming headlines in Italy, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration cautioned that the figure appeared to be confusing the high end of the estimated number of migrants in Libya with those who were actually seeking to head from there to Europe. AP

Tunisia Solvency at Risk As President’s Hate Speech Sparks Rage
Tunisia’s bond market is showing growing concern about default after President Kais Saied’s remarks about Black migrants sparked mob violence and led to worry that an urgent International Monetary Fund bailout could be delayed. The North African nation’s bonds have slid deeper into distressed territory and are the biggest losers in emerging markets this month, after Argentina and Bolivia. The cost to insure its debt against default has also risen among the most worldwide, to 1,250 basis points on Friday. Bloomberg

US Has an Enduring Commitment to Africa – Africom Chief
United States Marine Corps General Michael Langley, head of the US military’s Africa Command, has affirmed the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa and this can be seen in recent interactions with defence chiefs from African countries, as well as defence engagements. Speaking at the beginning of March, Langley, who started his tenure in August 2022, said, “African nations are shaping our present, and they will shape our future.” He added, “in Africa, we are facing enduring challenges, such as countering the spread of violent extremist organizations. Other challenges have become more urgent, such as improving our collective maritime capacity to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.” DefenceWeb