Africa Media Review for March 16, 2023

Senegalese Opposition Figure Barricaded by Police on Eve of Trial
Senegalese security forces on Wednesday fired tear gas at legislators seeking to reach an opposition politician barricaded in his Dakar home amid growing political tensions, an AFP journalist saw. Security vehicles and barricades surrounded the home of Ousmane Sonko as authorities banned rallies by his supporters on the eve of a trial that could determine his eligibility to contest next year’s presidential election. A cordon of police in riot gear barred the way to Sonko’s vehicle at the end of his street outside his home in the capital, footage broadcast live on social networks showed. Security forces later fired tear gas at member of parliament Guy Marius Sagna and several other MPs who had come to support Sonko, the AFP journalist saw. Journalists attempting to interview the MPs were also fired at with tear gas. Urdu Point

Nigeria: Concerns Mount Over Governors’ Moves To Rig Saturday’s Elections by All Means
With 48 hours to the Governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections, concerns have heightened over alleged moves by governors to rig the elections by all means possible, including resorting to extra-judicial means to compromise the process. Aside allegedly recruiting thugs to help them disrupt the process to garner more votes, THISDAY findings have revealed that one of the means through which the governors intend to rig the exercise is by working with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in their respective states. In addition to this is another alleged plan to further compromise the electoral officers, thus making the falsification of results much easier than it was in the previous exercise. But if these moves were to be thwarted, observers hinted, the authorities and the people might have to observe the chemistry between the governors, their RECs and the electoral officers, closely before they close in on them. Arise News

African Foreign Students in Tunisia Fearful After Racist Violence
Thousands of sub-Saharan African students in Tunisia are still fearful after a surge of racist attacks following comments by President Kais Saied against illegal immigration, and are seeking concrete steps to protect them. The violence erupted after Saied blamed “hordes of illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa” for most crime in Tunisia and alleged there was a “criminal plot” to change the nation’s demographic make-up. At the height of the wave of attacks last month, the “feeling of fear was overwhelming,” said Christian Kwongang, president of AESAT, an association representing sub-Saharan African students in Tunisia. Amid what witnesses described as a “hunt for blacks”, Kwongang recalled that “we had parents in tears who called us, worried about their children being arrested, with some detained for up to two weeks.” Kwongang said his group documented more than 20 assaults against students, “including 10 with knives”, and over 400 arrests. For more than two weeks it advised students to stop attending classes and only venture outside in case of emergency. Punch

More Anti-Jihadist Aid Expected As Blinken Tours Niger
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting Niger on Wednesday on the second leg of his brief tour of African nations. He is expected to announce more US support for Niger’s fight against a jihadist insurgency that has forced millions of people from their homes in the Sahel. The United States has been losing influence in Africa to China and Russia. Mr Blinken is one of the many US officials who have been visiting the continent in recent months. Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum was praised by his US counterpart last year for building democracy in a country that has witnessed numerous military coups. BBC

Morocco Arrests Suspected Jihadists After Police Death
Moroccan police on Wednesday arrested three suspected members of the Islamic State group over the killing of an officer whose charred body was found this month, the authorities said. The two main suspects were detained following “security operations” in Casablanca and the Sidi Harazem region near the northern city of Fez, said the DGSN security service. A third man was arrested during another operation in Casablanca, it added in a statement. According to the initial findings of the investigation, they had recently pledged allegiance to IS and “were determined to take part in a terrorist plan” by killing a police officer, the statement said. Local media had previously reported the killing of the policeman as a crime involving suspected drug traffickers. Defense Post with AFP

UN Nuclear Watchdog Reveals 2.5 Tonnes of Uranium Missing in Libya
UN nuclear inspectors have found that approximately 2.5 tonnes of natural uranium is missing from a site in Libya that is not under government control. The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, told the organisation’s member states that inspectors on Tuesday found that 10 drums containing uranium ore concentrate “were not present as previously declared.” The IAEA would conduct further activities “to clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location”, it said, without providing further details on the site. Natural uranium cannot immediately be used for energy production or bomb fuel, as the enrichment process typically requires the metal to be converted into a gas, then later spun in centrifuges to reach the levels needed. Guardian

Zambia Says It Is Pushing To Agree Debt Restructuring Despite Delays
Zambia is working very hard with its creditors, including China, so that hopefully a debt restructuring can be agreed by the end of March or shortly afterwards, Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said on Wednesday. Zambia was the first African country to default on its sovereign debt during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but the restructuring of its external debts to creditors including China and Eurobond holders has been greatly delayed…China, Zambia’s largest bilateral creditor, was being engaged on the debt restructuring with bilateral engagements on an almost weekly basis, he added. Zambia’s external debt stood at $14.87 billion at the end of June 2022, the minister has previously said. Chinese lenders accounted for almost $6 billion of debt at the end of 2021, according to government data. In July 2022, Zambia’s government cancelled $2 billion in undisbursed loans, of which about three-quarters were Chinese. China has publicly expressed its support for Zambia in dealing with its debts, while also calling for multilateral lenders like the World Bank to offer struggling countries debt relief, something not currently done. Reuters

Zimbabwe: ZEC Admits False Start to Voter Registration Blitz; Commission Blames Power Cuts As Pressure Mounts
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has admitted that its current voter registration blitz has virtually stopped, blaming constant power outages which are affecting the charging of the Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) kits. Following a public uproar and allegations that ZEC was deliberately derailing voter registration, the election governing body said in addition to electricity load-shedding, the cloudy weather posed by Cyclone Freddy is also affecting the solar powered BVR kits. In a statement, ZEC said efforts were being made to remedy the technical difficulties at some of its registration centres…Social media has been awash with reports of potential voters spending more than 20 minutes trying to get registered, with some Twitter users alleging that ZEC was sabotaging the system. Local pressure group, Register Elect and Protect (REAP), has challenged ZEC to immediately attend to a plethora of challenges being raised by voters at its centres across the country. “We challenge the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to address the problems that have been recently discovered from multiple registration centres which include frequent electrical outages, machine failures, and a slow pace of registration by ZEC employees,” said REAP on Twitter. New Zimbabwe

SA Wants Twitter To Delete Alleged Hateful Video
The authorities in South Africa have asked Twitter to take down a video that reportedly incites violence against those who will not participate in protest marches planned for 20 March. The opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is organising nationwide marches to protest against the country’s power crisis and has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign. In a statement, the Film and Publication Board (FPB) said the video warns that any pupil wearing school uniform during the protests will be beaten up, as well as teachers and police officers. The video was posted by a person claiming to be a member of EFF, it said. “Internally, the FPB shall monitor the take-down by Twitter to ensure that no further dissemination or distribution by the public occurs,” the board said. Members of the public have been advised not to share, re-post or distribute the said video and offenders could face prosecution for disseminating or distributing prohibited content. Police have said they will be on high alert to avert any violence as the Julius Malema-led EFF party vowed to “shut down” the entire country on Monday. Mr Malema insists the protests are not illegal and has warned that anyone who attempts to stop them would “meet their maker”, News24 reported. BBC

Malawi President Assures Maximum Assistance to Cyclone Freddy Survivors
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera has assured people displaced by Cyclone Freddy that they will get the assistance they need. Chakwera made the announcement Wednesday during his first visit to evacuation camps in Blantyre since he declared a state of disaster in all the flood-hit areas this week. The president also attended a mass funeral for the storm’s victims. The record tropical cyclone has killed more than 200 people in Malawi and scores more in neighboring Mozambique. Chakwera said his government has set aside about $1.6 million to assist thousands of people affected and displaced by the cyclone in 10 districts in southern Malawi. Voice of America

Ugandan Leader’s Son Unnerves With Tweets of Ambitions
On Twitter, the Ugandan president’s son has mused about invading neighboring Kenya, praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and offered cattle for the Italian prime minister’s hand in marriage. While many of his tweets are dismissed as laughable, the ones about succeeding his father in this East African nation are a source of concern for some. Many Ugandans want decisive political change after nearly four decades of the same government, but the son of President Yoweri Museveni is already claiming victory. “I will be President of Uganda after my father,” Muhoozi Kainerugaba tweeted earlier this month. “Those fighting the truth will be very disappointed!!!” Museveni, 78 and in power for 37 years, hasn’t said when he will leave office. Kainerugaba is at the peak of his military career as a four-star general who is a linchpin of the security apparatus supporting Museveni. AP

As Climate Woes Worsen, Africa’s Economies Suffer, UN Says
From devastating cyclones and floods to an unrelenting drought, African countries are spending between 2% and 9% of their budgets to respond to extreme weather events, according to a report released by the United Nations on Wednesday. A committee of experts shared the findings at the annual U.N. conference of African ministers of finance and economic planning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “Climate change is having a devastating impact on Africa’s economies, and the situation is expected to worsen in the coming years,” Antonio Pedro, the acting executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa told The Associated Press. Climate change, alongside the war in Ukraine and a global economic slowdown have been identified as key factors that have led to Africa’s economic decline from a growth of 4.6% in 2021 to just 3.6% in 2022, the U.N. report said. AP