Africa Media Review for March 16, 2022

The Growing Threat of Violent Extremism in Coastal West Africa
Militant Islamist group violence in Burkina Faso, Mali, and western Niger increased by 70 percent in 2021. This continues an uninterrupted escalation and spread of violent events in the region since 2015. Initially centered in Mali, militant Islamist group activity has shifted progressively to Burkina Faso… As part of their escalation in the Sahel, these militant groups have been particularly effective at recruiting young, Muslim (often Fulani) livestock herders by playing on their grievances. These include amplifying intercommunal tensions and distrust of the government. Given the wide presence of pastoralist communities with socio-ethnic ties to the Sahel in the northern provinces of West Africa’s littoral countries, there are fears that these grievances may evolve into sympathies for violent extremist narratives. As the security response to this threat ramps up, the ability of governments in the littoral countries to avoid the mistakes of their counterparts in Mali and Burkina Faso will be critical. Heavy-handed tactics by security forces have sown distrust among and within communities and made rural inhabitants more vulnerable to exploitation and recruitment by extremist groups operating in those countries. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Russian Mercenaries Accused of Torturing Civilians in Mali
Russian mercenaries are allegedly torturing people in Mali alongside local soldiers, as France prepares to leave the west African nation in the hands of Putin’s guns for hire. Two new reports by the Le Monde newspaper and Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based rights group, contain stark accounts from civilians detailing how “white men speaking a strange language” imprisoned them in central Mali and tortured them. One herder quoted in the French daily said he was held in a military base in the administrative district of Niono, in the centre of the country, where he was hung upside down and subjected to multiple acts of torture, including mock executions. The man said that a white foreigner dressed in the same uniform as the Malian Armed Forces “forced him to drink a lot of water before he tied “electric cable around his toes” and electrocuted him several times. … The news will add to the growing international outcry around Mali’s burgeoning relationship with the Wagner group, a private military force headed by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Telegraph

‘A Scene One Cannot Imagine’: Mali Slips Further into Turmoil as French and EU Soldiers Leave
The security situation in Mali has been deteriorating since December last year, with French and its European allies withdrawing their troops after a decade of fighting armed Islamic extremists. Their departure was partly because of the arrival of Russian mercenary army, the Wagner Group, in the country resulting in what France called “multiple obstructions.” Mali’s military government reacted by expelling French ambassador to Bamako Joël Meyer at the end of January. Since then, it has been a conflict within a conflict as the military tries to hold onto power, defying civilian wishes, while Jihadists are increasing their foothold. … African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, at a high level dialogue with United States officials on Friday last week, voiced concern about military governments’ negative impact on democracy and human rights. He singled out countries in West Africa, Mali included, as leading a “fallacious” narrative that civilians have no capacity to govern. “… the justification for these coup d’états, which is fallacious, that the civilian regimes are not capable of ensuring security and, therefore, the military regime can – which is, naturally, not true,” he said. Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), says since then, … “[t]here has been a dramatic spike in the number of civilians, including suspects, killed by the Malian army and armed Islamist groups,” she said. News24

Kenyan Soldiers Killed in Suspected Al-Shabab Attack
More than 10 Kenyan soldiers have been killed by a roadside explosive in southern Somalia. Five others were seriously injured when their vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device in the Gedo region, near the Kenya-Somalia border. The names of the killed soldiers have not been revealed, but a former Kenyan presidential aspirant said on Twitter that his younger brother was among the dead. The attack has been blamed on al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group, which has carried out similar strikes against civilians and security convoys. The killed soldiers were part of the African Union Mission in Somalia – a force deployed to the country to help the federal government fight the militants. BBC

US Puts On Notice Federal States Yet to Conclude Election in Somalia
The United States [US] has put on notice states in Somalia that are yet to conclude elections following the expiry of the March 15th deadline on Tuesday, which further exposes the electoral lapses in the Horn of Africa nation. By Tuesday, only Southwest and Galmudug had concluded the parliamentary elections from their side, joining Benadir and Somaliland whose vote took place in Mogadishu. The two states managed to beat the deadline on the final day. However, Puntland is set to wrap up elections of Lower House members next Friday but some seats in HirShabelle and Jubaland remained unelected due to dispute. Garowe

Somaliland’s Leader Makes Pitch for Autonomy in Washington
The leader of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Somaliland has urged the international community to recognize his territory’s quest for independence, saying negotiations with Somalia had failed. Muse Bihi Abdi charged that in a decade of talks “Somalia has demonstrated a complete lack of interest in meaningful dialogue,” forcing Somaliland to press ahead with its quest for international recognition as an independent country. “Dialogue has failed to achieve its objectives,” he said on Monday in Washington at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation, the conservative policy think tank. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, said he believes the “U.S. and Somaliland should be strong partners.” In a region beset by violence and the threat of extremists, a relatively calm Somaliland offers the U.S. the possibility of “a truly sustainable partnership” in the Horn of Africa, Roberts said. AP

U.S. Less Effective at Countering Terrorist Threats in Afghanistan and Somalia since Troop Withdrawal, Generals Warn
U.S. troops’ exit from Afghanistan and Somalia has limited the United States’ ability to conduct counterterrorism operations against groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the American generals in charge of the Middle East and Africa told senators Tuesday. “In my view, we are marching in place at best,” Army Gen. Steven Townsend, who leads U.S. Africa Command, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee of the security picture in Somalia. “We may be backsliding.” For years, the United States has been trying to weaken the terrorist organization al-Shabab, which Townsend has called “the most lethal arm of al-Qaeda.” Those efforts were complicated in the last year, following the full exit of U.S. troops from Somalia, a departure ordered by President Donald Trump near the end of his tenure in the White House. Washington Post

Chinese Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa to Visit Kenya
Chinese Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Xue Bing is expected in Nairobi on Friday on his first trip to Kenya since taking up the post in January. A tentative programme showed Mr Xue will be in the country at the weekend and will hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta and later with Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo… His responsibilities include gathering information from stakeholders and working jointly with Horn of Africa countries to convene and deliberate on the nexus between peace, stability and development, according to China’s statement earlier in January. “The new envoy arrives in Kenya to build on existing initiatives and efforts towards finding solutions to the challenges facing the region, including conflict and displacements, and climate variances that need humanitarian assistance,” the Kenyan ministry said. The East African

UN Security Council Extends UNMISS Mandate for a Year
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Tuesday extended the stay of its peacekeeping force in South Sudan for another year while calling for political dialogue to avert a return to civil war. Resolution 2625 (2022) received 13 votes in the council, with China and Russia abstaining. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)’s mandate will now continue until March 15, 2023. The current level of deployment — with a troop ceiling at 17,000 and police ceiling at 2,101 — shall be maintained to focus on four key areas: protection of civilians; creation of conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; support for the implementation of the Revitalised Agreement and the Peace Process; and monitoring, investigating and reporting on violations of international humanitarian law, as well as abuses of human rights. Radio Tamazuj

Sudan: Recurring Attacks in Jebel Moon Leave 36 Dead and Over 150,000 Families Displaced 
The repeated attacks on villages around Jebel Moon in West Darfur during the past week has amounted to a death toll of 36 people and triggered a large number of people to be displaced in the region. A local activist, Mohamed Ali, said in an interview with Radio Dabanga, that the number of displaced families in Jebel Moon, Seleia town, and those toward the Chadian border rose to 104,000 families, in addition to the displacement of 592 families to Sirba. He explained that the displaced are living in tragic conditions, with no help from international organisations reaching them due to their inability to provide aid because of the deteriorating security conditions. Ali reported that the attacks on the villages in Jebel Moon continued on Saturday and Sunday, with large crowds of gunmen heading from Sirba and other areas to Jebel Moon on Monday. Dabanga

Gunmen Kill 11 Nigeria Security Personnel in Two Attacks
Gunmen on Tuesday killed 11 security personnel, including seven policemen and four vigilantes, in attacks in central and northwestern Nigeria, in the latest violence blamed heavily armed criminal gangs… In the first attack on Tuesday, scores of bandits stormed a police station in central Niger state’s Magama district around 1200 GMT, leading to a gunfight with policemen and local militia, Wasiu Biodun, Niger police spokesman said in a statement… In the second attack in neighbouring Kebbi state, motorcycle-riding bandits numbering around 500 invaded a tomato-processing factory in Gafara village of Ngaski district, in a bid to abduct expatriate workers, Nafiu Abubakar, Kebbi state police spokesman said. Guardian Nigeria

Shell, Eni Announce Force Majeure on Key Nigerian Oil Flows
Royal Dutch Shell and Italian energy giant Eni have both declared force majeure on key oil flows from Nigeria, threatening to disrupt supplies in a market that’s already fretting about the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Shell’s measure has been in place since March 3 and applies to its Bonny export program. Eni relates to Brass crude cargoes and follows a pipeline blast in the Bayelsa state. Force majeure is a legal step that allows companies not to meet contractual obligations for reasons that are out of their control… Meanwhile, thousands of Nigerian travelers have been left stranded at airports throughout the country because of a massive fuel shortage. Motorists have also been forced to abandon their cars or pay more to public transport operators following a hike in petrol and diesel prices. AllAfrica

Nine Ugandan Journalists Arrested for ‘Offensive’ Communication: Police
Nine Ugandan journalists, including author and activist Norman Tumuhimbise were arrested according to Ugandan police on Monday. … Those arrested include Executive Director Tumuhimbise Norman, Mukose Arnold (Programs Director), Faridah Bikobere (TV host), Jeremiah Mukiibi (Producer), Tumusiime Kato (Production), Tulyahabwe Roger (Production), Nabukeera Teddy Teangle (presenter), Lillian Luwedde (presenter) and Wabyona Jeje Jacob (intern). … The journalists make up part of a media platform called Alternative Digitalk TV, which is headed by Tumuhimbise. … “We condemn the action by the Ugandan Government to harass and arbitrary arrest journalists. This is creating an environment where the media has to operate in an intimidating atmosphere,” said Mugambi Kiai, Article 19 Eastern Africa Regional Director. RFI

HRW: Rwanda Silencing YouTubers with ‘Abusive’ Legal Framework
Opposition leaders and commentators in Rwanda are being persecuted by the authorities for “their speech and opinions,” intensifying a culture of intolerance towards dissent, a human rights group has said. In a damning report published on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said it had monitored court documents, verdicts and judges’ arguments against several Rwandans who have ended up behind bars due to the country’s “abusive legal framework.” Researchers also pointed to violations of the right to freedom of expression after analysing content posted on YouTube by several reporters now on trial, and interviewing 11 opposition members. “People are not free to express themselves on anything that might be seen as challenging the government or what it says,” Lewis Mudge, HRW’s Central Africa director, told Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera

New York Times Correspondent Must Answer to False Accreditation Charges, Zim Court Rules
A magistrate in Zimbabwe’s second largest city Bulawayo on Tuesday ruled that New York Times correspondent Jeffrey Moyo had a case to answer on charges of allegedly helping journalists to gain false accreditation. Regional Magistrate Mark Dzira said the State had enough evidence to go ahead with the trial on 28 April. Moyo, 37, had applied for discharge in a case where he faces charges of allegedly helping South Africa-based New York Times reporters Christina Goldbaum and Joao Silva to gain false accreditation. The State alleges that Moyo did this with the help of Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) official Thabang Manhika… “The decision to deny the defence’s application to dismiss the case is doubly troubling as Moyo’s co-accused was acquitted in a separate trial last week, and simply reinforces perceptions that the case is being used to intimidate the independent press in Zimbabwe,” she said. News24

How Tropical Storms Have Hurt Mozambique
Since the beginning of this year, Mozambique – along with neighbouring southern Africa countries – has been hit by five cyclones, leaving the population in dire need of large-scale humanitarian aid. The cyclones have left the Maputo government concerned, especially since in recent years Mozambique has been hit by strong storms and cyclones. This year, however, has seen more cyclones – five within a short span of two months… The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) attribute global warming and climate change as the reason for cyclones and droughts in the region. The East African

UN Sets March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia
The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution Tuesday setting March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. The resolution, adopted by consensus by the 193-member world body and cosponsored by 55 mainly Muslim countries, emphasizes the right to freedom of religion and belief and recalls a 1981 resolution calling for “the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief.” It expresses deep concern at “the overall rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence, regardless of the actors, directed against members of many religions and other communities in various parts of the world, including cases motivated by Islamophobia, antisemitism, Christianophobia and prejudices against persons of other religions or beliefs.” The resolution asks all countries, U.N. bodies, international and regional organizations, civil society, private sector and faith-based organizations “to organize and support various high-visibility events aimed at effectively increasing awareness of all levels about curbing Islamophobia,” and to observe the new International Day to Combat Islamophobia. AP

‘Happiest Man’ Kere First African to Win Pritzker Prize
Burkina Faso-born architect Diebedo Francis Kere has become the first African to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, architecture’s most prestigious honour. Kere, 56, was recognised for his “pioneering” designs that are “sustainable to the earth and its inhabitants – in lands of extreme scarcity,” Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Hyatt Foundation that sponsors the award, said in a statement on Tuesday. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones