Africa Media Review for March 27, 2023

In a City in Ghana, a Fight Between Ethnic Groups Is the Kind of Bitter Local Dispute Islamist Militants Often Exploit
“The threat of terrorism hanging around Ghana through the corridors of Bawku is real,” Ghanaian Defense Minister Dominic Nitiwul said in parliamentary debate last month, addressing the Mamprusi-Kusasi conflict. He said the government was sending 500 more troops to Bawku to back 400 already there trying to keep the peace. Community groups have put up posters urging people to report possible jihadi infiltrators. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris plans to visit Ghana this week and is expected to announce fresh American aid to address security issues along the country’s northern border. … Militant Islamists, most of them al Qaeda adherents, carried out 1,470 attacks last year in Burkina Faso, to Ghana’s north, a 26% jump from 2021. The violence left 3,600 people dead, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit violence-monitoring organization, as analyzed by the Pentagon’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The U.S. estimates al Qaeda’s local affiliate, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin, or JNIM, controls 40% of Burkina Faso’s territory. Militants are pivoting southward and launching attacks in Ghana’s coastal neighbors, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast. … “We can’t just assume Ghana will be able to withstand this,” said Joe Siegle, research director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “It’s very much in the crosshairs.” WSJ

US Vice President Harris to Announce $139 Million Aid for Ghana in 2024
Harris’s trip, which includes visits to Tanzania and Zambia, is the latest in a series of tours by senior U.S. government figures as Washington seeks to improve ties with the continent. Earlier this month Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ethiopia and Niger, where he announced $150 million in humanitarian aid for Africa’s Sahel region. On Monday Harris will meet Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo in Accra and announce a $100 million package to support conflict prevention and stabilization efforts in Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo. “The plan is intended to address regional threats of violent extremism and instability in Coastal West Africa,” the vice president’s office said in a statement. Washington will also deploy an adviser to Ghana from its Office of Technical Assistance to help the country improve its “debt sustainability and support a competitive, dynamic government debt market,” Harris’s office said. Ghana defaulted on most of its $29 billion external debt last year, as interest payments and inflation soared, and it still needs to negotiate a resolution with its private international bondholders and bilateral creditors. China is Ghana’s biggest bilateral creditor with about $1.9 billion of debt. Ghana’s finance ministry said last week it expected to secure financing assurances “very soon”, following meetings in China. Reuters

In Ghana, Kamala Harris ‘Excited About the Future of Africa’
Vice President Kamala Harris was greeted by schoolchildren, dancers and drummers as she arrived Sunday in Ghana for the start of a weeklong visit to Africa intended to deepen U.S. relationships amid global competition over the continent’s future. “We are looking forward to this trip as a further statement of the long and enduring very important relationship and friendship between the people of the United States and those who live on this continent,” Harris said. … “What an honor it is to be here in Ghana and on the continent of Africa,” Harris said. “I’m very excited about the future of Africa.” She said she wanted to promote economic growth and food security and welcomed the chance to ”witness firsthand the extraordinary innovation and creativity that is occurring on this continent.” Ghana is one of the continent’s most stable democracies, but Harris is arriving at a time of severe challenges for the West African nation. Its economy, among the fastest growing in the world before the COVID-19 pandemic, faces a debt crisis and soaring inflation that is driving up the cost of food and other necessities. A country of 34 million people that’s slightly smaller than Oregon, Ghana is also wary of threats from instability in the region. Burkina Faso and Mali have each endured two coups in recent years, and local offshoots of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group operate in the area known as the Sahel, which is north of Ghana. AP

Botswana’s President Discusses Good Governance, Democracy
“The oldest multiparty democracy in Africa, Botswana is admired for so many things, including its uninterrupted civilian leadership and its progressive social policies. These traditions have created one of the most stable and vibrant economies in Africa,” [said Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi] … [Wale Adebanwi, Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Africana Studies] started the conversation by asking Masisi what the single most important factor is for his nation to have had such success in the areas of good governance and management of natural resources. “The critical ingredient is peace,” Masisi replied, repeating the word three times for emphasis. “With peace, you are able to resolve whatever challenges you have. The absence of peace is a huge setback.” … Masisi says it comes down to embracing democratic ideals, and “one of the most important is that even before you get into an electoral contest, you must begin by respecting the rules, and part of the rules is that, if you are the loser, respect the loss, accept and embrace loss.” He said he also supports the idea of sanctions for those who even threaten to not respect election results or term limits. Penn Today

‘Hotel Rwanda’ Dissident Released From Prison After Two and a Half Years
More than two and a half years after he was kidnapped on a private jet and later sentenced to prison on terrorism-related charges, Paul Rusesabagina, the hotelier turned dissident whose heroism was portrayed in “Hotel Rwanda,” was released from prison late Friday night, according to the Rwandan government and to U.S. officials, who briefed reporters in Washington. … Mr. Rusesabagina’s departure from Rwanda will end an ordeal that lasted more than 900 days, during which he said he was blindfolded and tortured, held in solitary confinement and threatened with shortages of food, water and his medication. Mr. Rusesabagina’s arrest and trial drew the support of celebrities and governments abroad and put new scrutiny on Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, who has been accused of cracking down on dissent at home and targeting opponents abroad. New York Times

Burkina Faso Bans France24 Broadcasts
Burkina Faso’s military government has suspended France 24 broadcasts after the TV station aired an interview with the head of al-Qaeda’s North African wing. The news channel this month aired the interview with Yezid Mebarek, also known as Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, who claimed the title of “emir of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM) in 2020 after a French raid killed his predecessor. … In January, Burkina Faso gave France, its former coloniser, one month to withdraw its troops as it ended a military accord that allowed French forces to fight armed groups on its territory. … In March last year, neighbouring Mali also moved to suspend broadcasts by France 24 and French state-funded international RFI radio, accusing the news outlets of reporting “false allegations” that the army killed dozens of civilians. Those allegations were made by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, a United States-based human rights group. Al Jazeera

Sudanese Factions Tackle Forming Single Army in Transition Talks
Sudan’s military and civilian political leaders began talks on Sunday on a proposal to bring the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) under the army’s control as they try to finalize an agreement for a new transition leading to elections. Integrating the RSF and placing the military under civilian authority are central demands of civilian groups that helped overthrow long-time autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir four years ago and shared power with the military until an October 2021 coup. The talks this week follow a framework deal agreed in December between the military and the civilian Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance, which aims to turn the page the coup which led to mass protests and cut Sudan off from much international financial support. Sudan’s army has a long history of staging military takeovers and has amassed substantial economic holdings. It wants to see the RSF, which by some estimates has up to 100,000 fighters, integrated under its control. The two sides are expected to formally adopt the deal on April 6 and launch a new civilian government on April 11. Reuters

Refugees Trying to Reach Italy Die After Boats Sink Off Coast of Tunisia
At least 29 people from sub-Saharan Africa have died while trying to reach Italy after two boats carrying them across the Mediterranean sank off the coast of Tunisia. The deaths, which occurred early on Sunday, are the latest tragedies involving people departing from the north African country, where the authorities have launched a crackdown on undocumented people from sub-Saharan Africa. Last month, Tunisia’s president, Kais Saied, made an incendiary, racist speech in which he claimed that irregular migration from other parts of Africa was part of an international conspiracy to change Tunisia’s demographic character. Over the past four days, five boats have sunk off the southern city of Sfax, leaving 67 people missing and nine dead, amid a significant increase in vessels heading towards Italy. The Tunisian coastguard rescued 11 people further north off the coast of Mahdia on Sunday. The coastguard said it had stopped about 80 boats heading for Italy in the past four days and detained more than 3,000 people, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries. Guardian

Mauritanian Police Arrest Man Believed to Be Organiser of Jihadist Prison Escape
Police in Mauritania said on Sunday they had arrested a man believed to be the organiser of the escape of four jihadist detainees from the central prison in the capital, Nouakchott, three weeks earlier. In a statement posted on Facebook, they said a team from the General Directorate of National Security had arrested Mohamed T, known as Abou Ossama, in the city. They said he had “orchestrated the escape of four prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes” and that he would be brought to justice after an investigation, but gave no further information about the man. Five days after the four men broke out of prison on 5 March, one of them was detained alive while the other three were killed during attempts to recapture them. This included Saleck Ould Cheikh Mohamedou, who was considered particularly dangerous. He was sentenced to death in 2011 for attempted car bombings against President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and the French embassy. AfricaNews with AFP

Many Rely on Radio Broadcasts in Zimbabwe and Across Africa
More than 80% of people in Africa own a mobile phone with access to a mobile phone network, according to Afrobarometer, a leading research institute. But “fewer than half” have mobile phones with internet access. The number of those who have access to computers at home is even lower at 28% of people polled in 34 African countries in a survey on the digital divide published in December last year. “Closing the digital divide remains a critical issue for most African countries, and for the continent as a whole,” said Afrobarometer. … Many people trust information from their radio sets over other sources, said John Masuku, a veteran radio broadcaster of five decades. “There is a lot of disinformation and misinformation so people still want to check … if it is not said on radio then it is not fact. That is why radio is popular and celebrated in Africa,” he said. Broadcasts in local languages are also attract radio listeners. Zimbabwe’s state radio and a host of community stations offer broadcasts in Shona, Ndebele and 12 other local languages, he said. However, the way many in Africa listen to the radio is changing as internet penetration improves. The number of people getting news at least “a few times a week” from either social media or the internet or both has almost doubled from 24% to 43% over the past decade, according to Afrobarometer. AP

Nigeria: Disinformation Has a Human Cost in Africa’s Largest Democracy
Technology has played an incredible part in the just-concluded elections. It served as a means for young Nigerians to gather ideas, have conversations, and get live updates on the election. But with increased use of social media comes an increase in the possibility of it being used maliciously. “Ever since the EndSARS protests, social media has been recognized as a game-changer in shaping ideologies and political opinions, and a lot of bad actors were utilizing that,” said [Phillip Anjorin, a fact-checker with one of West Africa’s leading fact-checking platforms, Dubawa]. … To fill the gap in social media moderation, fact-checkers and debunkers worked in overdrive. Years of experience had prepared Nigeria’s fact-checkers for events like this. The Nigerian Fact-Checkers Coalition was fast and decisive in debunking and calling out false information. But debunking is only one part of fighting false information, according to David Ajikobi, Nigeria editor for Africa Check. “We focus a lot on debunking, which is very important, but it is still a small part of everything. Much of the false information was quick to reach offline people — but not its debunking, which was a major problem. Nigeria’s election had been complicated by fuel scarcity and a badly executed, poorly communicated cash swap that greatly complicated electoral disinformation. … older, offline Nigerians were deeply exposed to disinformation around these peripheral issues that, in the end, served the purpose of either swaying political opinion, creating panic, or disenfranchising voters. Inkstick Media