Africa Media Review for March 15, 2023

The Persistence of Cults of Personality in African Governance
When long-serving, neo-patrimonial leaders in Burkina Faso, Gambia, Zimbabwe, and Sudan were forced to step down because of popular and youthful protests in recent years, the era of “presidents for life” in Africa seemed to be ending. Yet, for every such leader who has been forced from power, new ones emerge on the scene. In many cases, African leaders who retain power indefinitely are characterized by pervasive cults of personality, demonstrating the enduring potency of this instrument of power. Cults of personality create an idealized and heroic image of a leader as being above and, in some cases, synonymous with the law, state, and country. Hence, the fate of the nation is tied to that of the leader who is promoted as its father or even grandfather. The nation’s wellbeing and safety depend on respect for the wisdom, patronage, and vigilance of the revered leader. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

US’ Blinken Meets Ethiopian Leaders To Repair Bilateral Ties
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met Ethiopia’s foreign minister in Addis Ababa, as both governments look to repair relations following friction over the two-year war in the Tigray region. “There is a lot to be done. Probably the most important thing is to deepen the peace that has taken hold in the north,” Blinken told reporters after the meeting on Wednesday.Blinken, who began his talks with Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen with a coffee ceremony, was also due to meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and leaders of the Tigrayan forces that battled the federal government in the war in the northern region. Al Jazeera

Advocates Call on Blinken To Demand Accountability for Atrocities in Ethiopia
Sarah Yager, Washington director at Human Rights Watch, said that Abiy is hoping to secure economic aid and a pledge of “normalized relations” from Blinken, although the country is still not at peace…But despite gains made since the peace deal, human rights advocates say there’s more work ahead. “It is not all sunshine and roses,” Yager added. “There are still abuses happening throughout, not just the Tigray region, but in other parts of the country.” Kate Hixon, Africa advocacy director at Amnesty International USA, argued that Blinken should center all his engagements with the government of Ethiopia around human rights. “There still needs to be improved access throughout the country for humanitarian actors and human rights monitors,” Hixon said. “We also still need to see more commitment on justice and accountability and would really like for Secretary Blinken to push that.” Voice of America

Protesters Back Senegal’s Opposition Leader Ahead of Trial
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Senegal’s capital Tuesday in a peaceful show of support for the country’s opposition leader who’s facing trial later this week. It was the first of several days of scheduled demonstrations backing Ousmane Sonko. The 46-year-old politician will go to court Thursday, after being charged in a civil lawsuit against him by Senegal’s tourism minister for alleged defamation and public insults. The case stems from accusations Sonko made against the minister during a news conference late last year. He had claimed the tourism minister allegedly stole $47 million from a government agency. AP

Mali Radio Host Held Over Remarks on Ex-PM’s Death
A prominent broadcaster and political activist in Mali has been detained for asserting that a former prime minister who died last year in prison was assassinated. Mohamed Youssouf Bathily – a well-known radio and television host who’s popularly known as Ras Bath – faces charges including disturbing public order. He made the remarks about the late prime minister, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, at a political meeting on Saturday. Videos of his speech have been widely shared online. There have been calls for Mali’s military government to allow an investigation into Mr Maiga’s death. He was an ally of the former president, Ibrahimm Boubacar Keita, who was overthrown three years ago. BBC

Cyclone Freddy Death Toll Passes 200 as Rescue Workers Warn More Victims Will Be Found
The death toll from Cyclone Freddy in Malawi and Mozambique has risen past 200 on Tuesday, after the record-breaking storm triggered floods and landslips. Rescue workers warned that more victims were likely as they scoured destroyed neighbourhoods for survivors even as hopes dwindled. The fierce storm hit south-eastern Africa at the weekend, in its second landfall since late February after brewing off Australia and traversing the Indian Ocean…The storm has unofficially broke the World Meteorological Organization’s benchmark as the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record, set in 1994 for a 31-day storm named John. Freddy became a named storm on 6 February, making landfall in Madagascar on 21 February and sweeping over the island before reaching Mozambique on 24 February. Guardian

Factbox: Why Is Cyclone Freddy a Record-Breaking Storm?
The month-long storm has broken at least one record and could break two more, meteorologists say. As climate change causes warmer oceans, heat energy from the water’s surface is fuelling stronger storms…Freddy holds the record for most accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), a measure based on a storm’s wind strength over its lifetime, of any storm in the southern hemisphere and possibly worldwide. Freddy has generated about as much accumulated cyclone energy as an average full North Atlantic hurricane season, according to the World Meteorological Organization. By last week it was in second place for the most accumulated cyclone energy of any storm since 1980, with the record held by Hurricane and Typhoon Ioke in 2006…Freddy may have broken the record for longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Reuters

South Sudan: Kiir Has No Right To Remove Minister Without Consultations: SPLM-IO
President Salva Kiir has no right to replace or appoint a minister from another party without consultation or being notified by the concerned party’s leader, the armed opposition (SPLM-IO) said. The group was on Tuesday reacting to a statement in which the Information minister, Michael Makuei was quoted to have said President Kiir had the right to remove the Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Angelina Teny. Makuei said that even First Vice President was appointed by the president. The Office of the First Vice President, however, insisted the resident only makes formality to appoint a nominee given to him by concerned parties. Sudan Tribune

Officials Warn Against Underestimating Al-Shabab and IS in Somalia
Somali officials are warning the federal and regional governments of Somalia not to underestimate the strength of militant groups al-Shabab and Islamic State as authorities plan new military operations against them. Despite recent successes in dislodging al-Shabab from vast countryside areas in central Somalia, the militant group hit back, setting off deadly explosions and raiding military bases and installations, killing dozens…Somali officials warn that al-Shabab’s militia strength is “intact,” and they argue recent operations did not substantially weaken the group’s strength. “I believe on one hand they have been slightly wounded, but their strength remains intact,” said two-time former Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. “They have been making tactical retreats lately, but their force cannot be underestimated.” Mohamed Abdi Tall, the governor of Bakool region, which is planning to join the second phase of the offensive, says the group is particularly entrenched in the southern Jubaland and Southwest regions. Voice of America

Morocco To Bid To Host World Cup
Morocco hopes to become the second African nation to host world football’s premier tournament, announcing its intention on Tuesday to bid for the 2030 World Cup. It will be the sixth time the country has aimed to host the competition. This time though it will mount a joint bid with Spain and Portugal, according to the BBC’s Piers Edwards at the Fifa Congress in Rwanda, where the announcement was made. Last month, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay put in a joint bid. They hope to host the tournament 100 years after the first edition was held in Uruguay. Morocco won fans across Africa and the world for its spirited performance at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, finishing fourth and becoming the best-ever ranking African side. The formal bidding process starts in June and we’ll have to wait at least another 13 months after that to find out if Morocco will get to welcome the world to its shores. The first African World Cup was held in South Africa in 2010. BBC

‘I Just Want To Return Home’: Displaced Congolese on the M23 Conflict and the Need for Peace
Some said they have set up small businesses in Bulengo to supplement distributions of humanitarian aid, while others are venturing into an insecure protected park near the camp to cut down and sell wood. “The aid is not enough because there are a lot of displaced people,” said Rosette Riziki Rutare, a tailor who lugged a sewing machine to Bulengo as she escaped M23 rebels earlier this year. “We suffer a lot here, but it is better because we at least sleep in peace.” Rutare and others in Bulengo called for humanitarian responders to improve conditions at the camp – especially water availability, sanitation facilities, and living space – which is hosting over 120,000 people and is one of several in Goma. Residents also called for Congolese authorities to restore peace in the region so that they can return home and restart their lives. Heavy fighting has continued between the Congolese army and M23 over the past few days following the breakdown of another regional ceasefire deal. The M23 – which was thought defeated after a previous rebellion in 2012 – has now captured a large swathe of territory in the east and is encircling Goma. The group is backed by neighbouring Rwanda and claims to represent the interests of Congolese Tutsis. New Humanitarian