Africa Media Review for March 24, 2023

Zambians Say Their Country Is a Functioning Democracy – Afrobarometer
Most Zambians surveyed by Afrobarometer see their country as a “full democracy.” The country has had six presidents following the fall in 1991 of founding president Kenneth Kaunda, who had ruled Zambia for 27 years. … The survey also noted that 87% of Zambians in the survey prefer democracy to any other form of government. Non-democratic alternatives such as one-party rule were also rejected by 87%, while 91% were against military rule and almost everyone surveyed (95%) was against a dictatorship. Kaunda’s reign was broken by Frederick Chiluba, effectively breaking the political dominance of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which had operated a one-party state from 1973. … A considerable number of Zambians interviewed by Afrobarometer said the country had greatly improved as a democracy. … Zambians believe their country will be a more improved democracy in the next general elections in 2026. “Nearly six in 10 (57%) believe that in five years’ time, the country will be more democratic than it is today,” the survey found. … Next week the country will be one of the hosts of the Summit for Democracy. Zambia will join the United States, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Korea. … Some of the key engagements at the summit will be new approaches and partnerships that strengthen democracy, human rights, and governance. News24

US Vice President Harris to Address China’s Influence and Debt Distress in Africa Visit
Harris will be in Ghana from March 26-29, then in Tanzania from March 29-31. Her final stop is Zambia, on March 31 and April 1. She will meet with the three countries’ presidents and plans to announce public- and private-sector investments. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Harris would discuss the best ways for the international community to address debt challenges faced by Ghana and Zambia. The White House hosted an Africa Leaders Summit in December, and President Joe Biden is expected to travel to Africa this year. Harris has a personal connection to Zambia. Her maternal grandfather worked in the country, and she visited him there as a girl. … Harris will also meet with young leaders and business representatives and discuss topics such as climate change and food insecurity. Reuters

How a ‘Gold Mafia’ Is Looting Southern Africa, Washing Dirty Cash
An investigation by Al Jazeera has revealed some of Southern Africa’s largest gold-smuggling operations, exposing how these gangs help criminals around the world launder billions of dollars while aiding governments in circumventing international sanctions. Gold Mafia, a four-part series by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) based on dozens of undercover operations spanning three continents, and thousands of documents, also shows how government officials and businesspeople are profiting off the illegal movement of gold across borders. The investigation reveals how billions of dollars’ worth of gold is smuggled every month from Zimbabwe to Dubai, allowing criminals to whitewash dirty money through a web of shell companies, fake invoices and paid-off officials. The investigation also shows how Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is systematically using gold smugglers to get around the chokehold of Western sanctions imposed on the country. The money laundering and gold-smuggling schemes involve one of Zimbabwe’s most influential diplomats, and go all the way up to the president and his circle. The smugglers include millionaires, one of whom was accused of almost bankrupting Kenya through a similar, corrupt scheme also involving gold. Al Jazeera

Gold Smuggler Tied to Kenyan Plunder Is Back — Now in Zimbabwe
A gold smuggler implicated in a scandal that robbed Kenya of 10 percent of its GDP in the 1990s has moved his smuggling operation to Zimbabwe and Dubai, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) can reveal. Kamlesh Pattni was involved in the so-called Goldenberg scam, a gold smuggling operation that robbed Kenya of $600mn and led to charges of corruption against many members of then President Daniel Arap Moi’s government. After years of prosecution, Pattni was acquitted. … Pattni, who later became a self-proclaimed pastor and sometimes goes by the name Brother Paul, is now running a similar scheme in Zimbabwe from his base of operations in Dubai. The revelation is part of Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia, a four-part series investigating some of Southern Africa’s largest gold smugglers and money launderers. Undercover Al Jazeera reporters pretending to be Chinese criminals were offered several options by Pattni to launder more than $100mn. He would do this by effectively turning the dirty money into gold that is exported from Zimbabwe to Dubai, where Pattni owns several gold-trading companies. … Pattni showed several WhatsApp conversations he allegedly had with [the country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa], adding that “he has to be informed.” Al Jazeera

UN Mission In Mali Reports Rising Number Of Deaths
The number of people killed in Mali continued to increase in 2022, a UN report said Wednesday, also linking more than a third of human rights violations to security forces. The UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, was created in 2013 to help stabilise the country as it battled jihadist insurgency. On Wednesday, the mission published its quarterly note for human rights violations between October and December 2022, showing the security situation had only worsened. … MINUSMA found that there were 694 human rights violations — more than a third of recorded incidents — that were attributable to the country’s defence and security forces, sometimes together with foreign military personnel. Mali is ruled by a junta that last year forced France to remove troops deployed there a decade ago on an anti-jihadist mission. In the absence of French troops, the junta wove closer ties with the Kremlin and brought in Russia’s Wagner group to boost government forces. … The junta in Bamako routinely claims that it is gaining the upper hand against the jihadists since it has pivoted to Russia. In January, UN rights experts called for an immediate independent probe into abuses and possible war crimes committed in Mali by government forces and Wagner. AFP

Putin’s Mercenary Prigozhin Shifts Focus After Ukraine Setbacks
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the powerful founder of mercenary group Wagner, is preparing to scale back his private army’s operations in Ukraine after Russian military chiefs succeeded in cutting key supplies of men and munitions, people familiar with the matter said. Seen as an increasing threat by the security and political establishment, Prigozhin is struggling with a manpower and ammunition shortage in Ukraine after he was barred from recruiting from prisons, his primary source of recruits, and deprived of supplies. Wagner troops so far have failed to take their main target – the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut – despite months of trying and staggering losses. Now, Prigozhin is planning to shift focus back to Africa, the people said. The shift is a sudden turn in fortunes for Prigozhin, a longtime Putin ally who catapulted himself to prominence as the tough-guy alternative to Russia’s faltering military in Ukraine. Bloomberg

Kenyan Economists Say Newly-Arrived Ukrainian Wheat Could Ease Hunger
Kenyan economists say newly-arrived wheat imports from Ukraine could help ease hunger in drought-stricken areas and bring down high food prices. Thirty thousand tons of wheat arrived in Kenya Monday under the U.N.-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative, in which Russia agreed not to block Ukrainian grain shipments. But Russian President Vladimir Putin warned this week that Moscow could end the deal within 60 days. … Ukrainian agricultural production and exports were severely disrupted by Russia’s invasion, and many African countries that rely heavily on Ukrainian grain and wheat have struggled with shortages of key goods and high food prices ever since. … Prior to the invasion, Kenya imported 2.4 million tons of wheat from Ukraine each year. VOA

Stopping the Spread of Terrorism a Focus of Flintlock ’23
The spread of extremist violence in West Africa gave this year’s Exercise Flintlock an air of urgency, as counterterrorism training took center stage. Ghana Armed Forces Colonel Richard Mensah, commander of the Joint Military Headquarters for Flintlock 2023, linked the regional situation to the exercise. “The global threat to terrorism is real, and we need to be ready now because special operations are not created during emergencies,” he said during a news briefing. “The main aim of the exercise is to build partnerships, train and get ready for any threats. We are also strengthening partnerships with our West African counterparts.” Hosted by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire from 1-15 March Exercise Flintlock brought together about 1 300 participants from 29 nations to improve military capabilities, partnerships, interoperability and communication. … Mensah and other Gulf of Guinea security professionals were determined to use Exercise Flintlock and some of its academic forums to explore non-military approaches as well. “We can’t always use kinetic means to defeat terrorist activities,” he said, “but we can involve other non-security sectors to win the hearts and minds of the local population to fight security challenges within the region.” defenceWeb and ADF

Congo President Tshisekedi Brings in Former VP Bemba in Reshuffle Ahead of Election
Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi has appointed the country’s former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was detained for over 10 years for war crimes, as the country’s defence minister in a sweeping government reshuffle. … The reshuffle, which was more extensive than observers had predicted, came ahead of an expected presidential election on Dec. 20, in which Tshisekedi is likely to seek a second term. “This a deeply political shuffle,” said Jason Stearns, Director of the Congo Research Group and Professor at Canada’s Simon Fraser University. Tshisekedi appointed Vital Kamerhe, his former chief of staff who was released from prison in Dec. 2021 following as embezzlement conviction, as economy minister. … The appointments bring political heavyweights into the government, strengthening Tshisekedi’s coalition ahead of elections, Stearns said. “Key positions are given to senior politicians who have large constituencies to please but little expertise in their new ministries. Kamerhe is not an economist. Bemba was a rebel but has little formal military training,” he said. Bemba, a former rebel leader was arrested in 2008 by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his troops in the Central African Republic between 2002 and 2003. He was acquitted and released 10 years later after his conviction was reversed on appeal. He was however accused and convicted on lesser charges of witness tampering during the trial. Reuters

Climate Change Wreaks Havoc in Southern Africa
Drought in Somalia, flooding in Nigeria, and a cyclone in Malawi have confirmed scientists’ grim climate projections about Africa’s future. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest damning report this week, noting that the world will likely miss a target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The report warned that extreme weather is “increasingly driving displacement” and that without “rapid, deep and sustained mitigation and accelerated adaptation actions, losses and damages will continue to increase, including projected adverse impacts in Africa.” The report’s release came on the same day as another United Nations survey that estimated 43,000 people died during Somalia’s worst drought in decades last year, and half of those deaths were likely children under 5. … Following the IPCC’s report, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on richer nations to try to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions “as close as possible to 2040,” rather than waiting for the 2050 deadline most have signed up for. Last year, global carbon emissions hit record levels. FP

Cyclone Freddy Increases Health Risks in Southern African Countries
The World Health Organization warns that Cyclone Freddy, which left a trail of death and destruction across southern Africa, has increased the health risks for millions of people in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar. It says widespread flooding and torrential rains have caused extensive destruction, exposing more than 1.4 million people to outbreaks of waterborne and other diseases in the three countries affected by Cyclone Freddy’s devastating punch. The WHO reports the record-breaking storm destroyed or flooded more than 300 health facilities in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique, leaving many communities without adequate access to medical services. WHO reports more than 600 people are known to have been killed and nearly 1,400 injured, with hundreds more missing. Houses, schools, roads and other infrastructure have been destroyed or damaged. VOA

A Vanishing Coast, Deserted Fields, and the Search for Solutions
When Cherif Diatta was a child, he used to play football on a beach on Diogué, an island at the mouth of the Casamance River in southern Senegal. On that same spot nearly five decades later, there are boats floating in deep water. “And it [seawater] keeps moving faster and faster,” said Diatta, 66, now the island’s chief. The consequences of the water chewing away at Diogué’s coastline are visible. Residents are retreating inland and paddy fields are replaced by mangroves. Tree corpses dot the beaches, their decaying roots choked by the advancing saline groundwater. As seawater creeps in, locals have had to abandon the island’s main cistern and relocate the primary school. “This spot where we are sitting now, it’s not sure it will be there tomorrow,” said Diatta, standing on the beach a few metres from the water. … West Africa, where Senegal lies, is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, despite producing just about two percent of global emissions. Al Jazeera

Uganda: Family Rule is a Bad Way to Run a Country
[W]hen a family controls the state, personal matters become a national concern. Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has long cultivated General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, his eldest, promoting him in the army and forgiving his tempestuous moods. And now the son thinks it is his turn at the top. The result is friction in the army, chaos in the ruling party and confusion in the country. General Kainerugaba says he is “tired of waiting” to be president. Twice in recent weeks he has tweeted, then deleted, his intention to stand at the next election, in 2026. By then, he has noted pointedly, “it will be 40 years of the old generation in charge”. Forty years, that is, since his own father marched into Kampala at the head of a rebel army. Mr Museveni, who is 78, may indeed want his son to succeed him when he dies. But he is not going anywhere yet. … Over his four decades in power, Mr Museveni’s trust has narrowed in concentric circles: first to his own region, then to his ethnic group, then to his family. Debates about the future of the nation are now reduced to whispers about palace politics. Economist