Africa Media Review for March 15, 2022

Topic in Focus: Russia in Africa
Russia has arguably expanded its influence in Africa in recent years more than any other external actor. These engagements extend from deepening ties in North Africa, expanding its reach in the Central African Republic and the Sahel, and rekindling Cold War ties in southern Africa. Russia’s approach is distinctive among external actors in that Moscow typically relies on irregular (and frequently extralegal) means to expand its influence—deployment of mercenaries, disinformation, election interference, support for coups, and arms for resources deals, among others. This low-cost, high influence strategy seeks to advance a very different world order than the rules-based, democratic political systems to which most Africans aspire. The outcomes from Russia’s interventions in Africa, therefore, will have far reaching implications for governance norms and security on the continent. Following are a series of Africa Center analyses of Russia’s engagements in Africa. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Rebel Attacks in Eastern Congo Kill More Than 60
Suspected Islamist militants have killed more than 60 people over five days of attacks on villages in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local residents said on Tuesday. The assailants, believed to be rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), have targeted at least five villages, and the offensive was still ongoing, the residents told Reuters. Overwhelmed by violence in its eastern regions, Congo’s government appointed military officers to run North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province in May. Uganda sent more than 1,000 troops in December to wage joint operations against the ADF. But the attacks have continued unabated as ADF fighters have lashed out at local civilians in retaliation for the military campaign. Reuters

More Than 30 People in Burkina Faso Killed in Armed Attacks
Armed militants killed at least eight people who were collecting water in a town in northern Burkina Faso on Monday morning, its mayor said, bringing the total killed in three days of violence in the restive area above 30. Monday’s attack took place in Arbinda in the province of Soum, which has suffered several deadly raids by Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State that for years have sought to gain control over a swath of arid terrain where Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger meet. Mayor Boureima Werem told Reuters that insurgents have been targeting water towers and pumps in recent weeks in an apparent new tactic. In separate incidents in northern Burkina Faso, at least 15 people, including 13 military police officers, were killed in Namentenga province on Sunday, the military police said. On Saturday, nine people were killed in an assault on an informal gold mine in the province of Oudalan, a security source said. VOA

Protesters March across Sudan as Economy Spirals
Sudanese protesters decried sliding economic conditions as they marched in cities across the country and the capital Khartoum on Monday in continued demonstrations against military rule. Since military rulers took over the government in October of last year, the Sudanese pound has lost about a third of its value, mostly over the last month. Prices for bread and petrol have risen sharply in recent weeks. The coup resulted in the already-struggling country being cut off from foreign aid, but military leaders have pushed forward with economic reforms, including last week ending government management of the exchange rate. Early on Monday, student demonstrations erupted in the cities of Atbara, Nyala and Damazin, in protest of rising prices, resistance committees said. … Monday’s demonstrations in Khartoum called attention to the continued detention of several politicians and citizens. Lawyers say the protesters who are accused of killing a police officer may have been tortured. Reuters

Sudanese Official Says Security Forces Attempted to Rape Woman during Monday Protest
A Sudanese government official said on Tuesday that security forces attempted to rape a young woman during a protest against military rule in central Khartoum a day earlier, prompting calls for renewed demonstrations. Sulaima Ishaq, who heads Sudan’s Violence Against Women Unit at the Ministry of Social Development, said the woman, who was not a protester, was on a public transport bus when forces stationed near the march route fired tear gas, causing passengers to disembark. … Police did not respond to a request for comment. Reuters

Looting and Attacks on Aid Workers Rise as Hunger Adds to Unrest in South Sudan
Looting of emergency food supplies and attacks on aid workers are rising in South Sudan, where hunger is causing unrest. A security vacuum is fuelling the violence as communities take up arms to fend for themselves amid unprecedented food shortages, aid agencies have warned. The UN has said 70% of the country’s population will struggle through the coming lean season. There is concern among aid agencies that the regularity of attacks is a symptom of the widespread unrest prompted by a lack of government services and insecurity, rather than coordinated action by organised militias. Two humanitarian workers were killed in separate incidents in February in the Abyei region and neighbouring Unity state in the north of the country, and there have been numerous attacks this year on aid convoys, warehouses and medical teams. The Guardian

Rights Watchdog Urges Release of Two South Sudanese Critics
A human rights body has called for the release of a clergyman and a university professor in South Sudan, in detention since last year for criticising government. Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a recent statement, called for dropping of charges against the two, saying the arrests were a “systematic intimidation of civil society and attempt to suppress free speech”. Last July, Abraham Chol Akech, a Juba-based leader of Cush International Ministries was arrested at his home by the police. Days before, the 69-year-old cleric had told his congregation during a Sunday service that both President Salva Kiir and his deputy Rick Machar would be unseated from office on July 9th, the independence anniversary, to make way for new leadership. Weeks later, Kuel Aguer Kuel, professor of economics at Stratford International University in South Sudan and a former governor of the North Bahr el-Ghazal State was picked up at a petrol station by the secret service. Kuel had called on the government to replace some ministers who have been in the cabinet even before the country’s independence in 2011. Sudan Tribune

Ethiopia Pledges Action after Video Shows Uniformed Men Burning Civilians Alive
Ethiopia’s government said on Saturday it would act against the perpetrators after a video appeared on social media showing armed men, some in military uniforms, burning civilians to death in the country’s west. The Ethiopia Government Communication Service said in a statement on its Facebook page that the incident occurred in the Ayisid Kebele of Metekel Zone in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, a site of frequent ethnic violence for more than a year in which hundreds of civilians have died. “A horrific and inhumane act was recently committed… In a series of horrific images circulated on social media, innocent civilians were burned to death,” the statement read. … Reuters was not able to verify the time and location where the video was filmed or the actions it showed. In the video, some of the men in the crowd are wearing Ethiopian military uniforms as well as uniforms from other regional security forces. Reuters

Zimbabwe: Report Says Zanu-PF the Most Violent Party
Zimbabwe’s electoral environment is increasingly turning violent, with the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) bearing the brunt of attacks from suspected State security agents and Zanu PF members. According to a latest Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) February report, police and Zanu PF top the list of human rights violators, mainly targeted at CCC supporters and ordinary citizens. rights violations recorded this month at 41%, and the Zimbabwe Republic Police contributes 37% of human rights violations recorded in February 2022,” the report read in part. “This month (February), ZPP recorded a significant increase in the profile and scope of the human rights violations recorded. In January, ZPP recorded a total of 55 cases of human rights violations, the majority of them were of discrimination during food aid processes. In the February report, ZPP recorded a total of 70 cases, with the majority of them being of political violence that left people injured or dead. New Zimbabwe

Kenya: Matiangi Warns NGOs against Following ‘Road to Hell’ Ahead of Polls in August
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi has cautioned Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in the country against engaging in what he has termed partisan politics ahead of the August 9 polls. Speaking Monday during the launch of the NGO Sector 2020/2021 Report on Tuesday, Matiangi urged the NGO sector to guard their institutions against being “misused to engage in destructive acts that will hurt the unity, stability and security of our county.” The Interior CS stated that the government does not want to interfere with the operations of the NGO sector but they should thread carefully for the sake of the country’s future. “Do not be dragged along into partisan activities in the name of civic education and in the name of enhancing participation of the electoral process. The road to hell is always paved with good intentions,” Matiangi said. … National Council of NGOs Chairperson Stephen Cheboi who also spoke at the event held in Nairobi said the NGO sector will be on the forefront on key issues affecting the government including those promoting good governance. He further reaffirmed the commitment of the NGOs towards supporting government in addressing various issues affecting the country. “As NGOs we will not relent to fight for good governance and leadership and also ensure that we continue serving our people,” Cheboi said. He said that NGOs will partner with other institutions including IEBC to ensure a free and fair elections. Capital FM

Former Boko Haram Militants to Be Reintegrated into Society
559 ex-Boko Haram members have graduated from a de-radicalisation programme and are expected to be reintegrated into society soon, Nigerian authorities have said. The graduation ceremony was held over the weekend at a de-radicalisation centre in the north-eastern state of Gombe. The grandaunts pledged their allegiance to the Nigerian authorities they once fought against. The military-run initiative was introduced in 2015 by the Nigerian government and became operational in 2016 as part of its counter-terrorism strategies. Members of Boko Haram who voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender to the authorities are given special training including vocational skills, religious reorientation and psychological support to de-radicalise them before being reintegrated into the society. So far, a total of 1,629 ex-Boko Haram members have completed the programme. AfricaNews

Former Central Africa Militia Head Handed Over to ICC: Court
The Chadian authorities on Monday handed over a former Central African Republic militia leader to the International Criminal Court on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Hague-based court said. Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka is suspected of crimes committed in 2013 and 2014 “in Bangui and other locations in the Central African Republic,” the ICC said in a statement. Mokom was an “anti-Balaka” group leader, vigilantes from the CAR’s Christian and animist majority. In 2019, he became the country’s minister for Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation (DDRR). The ICC has “found reasonable grounds” to suspect that Mokom, in his capacity as a “National Coordinator of Operations of the Anti-Balaka”, was responsible for crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, persecution and “enforced disappearance,” the court said in its statement. VOA

Six Men Arrested in Botswana after Robbery at SADC Offices
After a two-month investigation, Botswana police have arrested six men for allegedly robbing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) of property worth R625 000. According to the Botswana Police Service (BPS) public relations officer Dipheko Motube, the men – four Batswana and two Zimbabweans – have appeared in court. “Four Batswana nationals and two Zimbabwean male citizens appeared before Village Magistrate’s Court in Gaborone today (Monday),” Motube said in a statement. … According to the BPS, the six were arrested in Gaborone on Friday in connection with a robbery in which 18 laptops, six cellphones and a camera were stolen in January. … “At the time of arrest, the suspects were found in possession of a firearm suspected to have been used in the commission of the offense, and foreign currencies,” the Botswana police said. … The arrests came a fortnight after Botswana police killed nine people, including a South African man, in a shootout following a cash-in-transit robbery in the capital Gaborone. The men were believed to have been part of an armed gang of 11 who were in pursuit of a cash-in-transit vehicle transporting the pula equivalent of almost R1.2 million. News24

Death Toll in Mozambique from Cyclone Gombe Rises to 15
Cyclone Gombe has flooded large areas of northern and central Mozambique, killing 15 people, officials said Monday. The dead include five members of the same family in the Angoche coastal area of Nampula province, Governor Mety Gondola said. The number of injured is now at least 50, the prime minister’s office announced. Gombe is the most recent of a series of cyclones that have hit southern Africa so far this year. The cyclones have highlighted how climate change may be affecting weather patterns and risking the lives of people in vulnerable places like Mozambique. The U.N. weather agency previously warned of more “high-impact tropical cyclones” that are linked to climate change hitting the region. AP

US Ready to Help Africa Find Solution to Possible Higher Food Prices amid Russia-Ukraine War
As Russia continues its war against Ukraine and ripple effects are felt in Africa, the US is seeking to cement relations with the African Union (AU). This was the outcome of a high-level dialogue between the AU Commission and the US in Washington DC on Thursday and Friday last week, coincidentally a week after African countries voted equivocally at the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution on the invasion of Ukraine. The UN vote, according to Abhishek Mishra, an associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), “is now going to have both immediate and lasting implications for Africa’s economics and politics”. … The war is affecting Africa because “both Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of food commodities such as soya beans, wheat, barley, and sunflower oil to African countries”, Mishra said. … The Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that “the global number of undernourished people could increase by 8 to 13 million” mostly sub-Saharan Africa and other poor parts of the world because of the ongoing war. The US is home to the biggest donor community in the world and that is a muscle it could use to cover the food gap caused by the war. News24

War in Ukraine: Why Vladimir Putin Couldn’t Have Trained Fighters in Africa
A black and white image which some people falsely claim shows Russian President Vladimir Putin training liberation movements in southern Africa, has been circulating. It has been used by some to justify why African countries should support Russia in the war in Ukraine. The image was also posted on Twitter by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s son. But it doesn’t show Mr Putin in Africa, and the time when people are claiming it was taken is also incorrect. The photograph was widely shared online after it was posted in Zimbabwean blogs at the end of 2018. The posts claimed it shows Mr Putin in a Tanzanian military training camp for southern African independence movements in 1973. … However, there is no evidence either from Russian or African records of Mr Putin, who was born in 1952, having been to the continent during the 1970s. Mr Putin’s profile on the Kremlin website shows that he was studying at the Leningrad State University at the time, and graduated in 1975. … Mozambican author Renato Matusse used the photo in his 2018 book, where he says it shows Mr Machel with Soviet military advisers touring a military facility near the country’s capital Maputo in the mid-1980s. But he says it’s clear that Mr Putin is not the man in question. BBC

International Leaders Expected to Attend Former Zambian President Rupiah Banda’s State Funeral
Foreign heads of state and government are expected to attend the state funeral of the late former president of Zambia Rupiah Banda at Lusaka Showground on 17 March, a day ahead of his burial at the Presidential Burial Site, Embassy Park. Banda, Zambia’s fourth president since independence from Britain in 1964, died on Friday at the age of 85 after a two-year battle with colon cancer. He’s the second former Zambian president to die after Kenneth Kaunda in just under a year. Acting Secretary to Cabinet Patrick Kangwa said in a statement foreign heads of states had been invited to attend the state funeral. He also said the funeral programme had been discussed with Banda’s family, who gave President Hakainde Hichilema their full blessing. … Banda would be known by his speech in which he said, “Zambia is an African nation where if a president loses they go peacefully. It’s my turn to leave.” News24