Africa Media Review for March 29, 2023

Conscription of Critics Sparks Concern in Burkina Faso
A debate has been sparked in Burkina Faso after three civil society leaders were forcibly conscripted into so-called volunteer regiments to fight jihadist militias in the country. It all started when junta leader, President Ibrahim Traoré, visited Kaya – a city about 100km (62 miles) north-east of the capital, Ouagadougou a few days after a water plant that supplied the area came under attack. The president announced that a local civil society activist – who had been upset about the attack and had criticised the lack of security in the region – was being conscripted to join the armed “volunteers”. In Ouagadougou several days later, two other civil society figures called a press conference where they criticised the lack of progress in the fight against the jihadists and called for the dissolution of the government. They too were conscripted. BBC

Amnesty International: Rights Landscape in West Africa Darkens
West Africa’s Sahel region saw mounting violence and a rollback in free expression last year, rights group Amnesty International says in its latest annual report, released Tuesday. Amnesty International says that for Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger — 2022 was an especially grim year. The countries saw an uptick in civilian killings compared to 2021, as they battle an ongoing jihadi insurgency in the region. “We are talking about 9,000 civilians killed due to the conflict — and increase of 54% compared to 2021,” said Ousmane Diallo, Sahel researcher for Amnesty’s Dakar office. He says governments in these three countries are increasingly disregarding human rights. One big thing that’s changed in the region over 2022: reports of the growing presence in some places of the Wagner Group, a private Russian mercenary company. Mali and Burkina Faso have also seen coup d’états over the past two years. VOA

Iswap Leader Executes Deputy after Nigeria Army Kills 41 Militants
Furious over a Nigerian military raid that killed 41 fighters on March 19, Islamic State West African Province (Iswap) commander has executed his deputy for failing to stop the attack. Deputy Iswap commander Abu Darda was on Monday executed by his boss Abu Muhammed, in the presence of other fighters in Kajeri Dogumba village in Mafa Local Government Area (LGA) of Northeast Borno State. Abu Muhammed said he was mostly hurt because the Nigerian forces killed scores of his fighters, burnt foodstuffs and some newly acquired furniture meant for his wedding. He was also enraged by the attack that led to the seizure of their only three gun trucks. Mr Zagazola Makama, a counter-insurgency expert and security analyst covering insurgency in the Lake Chad region of northeast Borno state, said that the Iswap commander had also accused his deputy of leading failed attacks of March 19 in Mafa, which resulted in the killing of scores of the terrorists and capturing of two of their gun trucks. East African

Civil Society Groups Protest in Nigeria Over Election Outcome
Nigerian civil society organizations have been holding daily protests to pressure the Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, and Nigerian authorities to review the February and March elections. The presidential, gubernatorial and parliamentary polls were marred by violent attacks leading to deaths, injuries, voter suppression and intimidation. On Monday, police said more than 700 people had been arrested for disrupting elections and will be prosecuted according to law. As music filled the air, protesters in civil society group Free Nigeria Movement held up placards and marched in the streets of the capital on Tuesday. Daily demonstrations began last week to call for accountability in the electoral system. Nigerians went to the polls in February and March to elect a new president, state governors and lawmakers. Observers say the elections were characterized by widespread violence, voter suppression and intimidation, and technical problems. Protesters say INEC was too quick to declare winners, despite the obvious challenges. They also say the commission failed to honor its promise to electronically transmit results during the presidential polls. VOA

Al-Shabab Has Lost Third of its Territory, US Ambassador Says
The U.S. ambassador to Somalia said the Somali government’s military operations against al-Shabab have cost the militants one third of their territory. “Somali-led offensives have restored Somalia’s sovereignty to 1/3 of the territory formerly misruled by al-Shabaab,” Larry André told VOA Somali in an email. “Ending al-Shabab’s oppression is one step further toward Somalia’s full revival.” Since January, the United States donated weapons to the Somali national forces to support operations against al-Shabab. The U.S. also trains an elite Somali army unit known as Danab, which means “lightning” and has been leading the offensive against al-Shabab. The Somali government this week reported that the military operations have inflicted heavy losses on the militant group during the past six months. VOA

UNICEF Sounds Alarm over Fast-Spreading Cholera Outbreaks in Africa
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is calling for emergency funding to broaden efforts to reach millions living across 11 eastern and southern African countries which have been hit hard by fast-spreading cholera outbreaks. “The cholera outbreak in eastern and southern Africa isn’t just an outbreak; it’s an emergency for children,” the agency said. Calling for $171 million in funds to support 28 million people suffering in the region, UNICEF said tailored responses are already reaching many impacted, but more must urgently be done. The agency said the worst cholera outbreaks to hit the region in years, are now unfolding in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. UN Info

Pirates Board Danish-Owned Ship in Dreaded Gulf of Guinea
Pirates attacked and boarded a Danish-owned ship in the Gulf of Guinea on Saturday and all communications channels with the vessel are down, a spokesperson for shipping company Monjasa said. All 16 crew members sought refuge in a safe room on board the Monjasa Reformer vessel, a spokesperson for the shipping company said on Tuesday. The Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker, which was sitting idle, was attacked about 140 nautical miles west of the Republic of the Congo’s Port Pointe Noire. The vessel is operated by Dubai-based Montec Ship Management, which is owned by Monjasa. Montec reported the incident to a maritime cooperation centre operated by the British and French navies to maintain safety in the Gulf of Guinea. According to Monjasa, the operator is working with all relevant maritime authorities in the region, including several navies. The Gulf of Guinea, described by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as one of the world’s most dangerous shipping routes, covers 11,000 square kilometres (4,247sq miles) and stretches from Angola to Senegal. Al Jazeera

Non-Signatories Warn against Instability in Sudan if New Government Formed Without Them
The deputy head of the Democratic Bloc, Gibril Ibrahim, announced on Tuesday that they had warned the commander in chief of the Sudanese army against instability in Sudan if they formed a government without them. On Monday, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met with the leaders of the Democratic Bloc in a bid to convince them to join the final political agreement, which is expected to be signed on the first of April. In a meeting with journalists in Khartoum on Wednesday, Ibrahim disclosed that they requested al-Burhan to take the needed decisions to ensure security and stability in the country through the organization of an inclusive process to achieve national consensus. “We told him frankly that if things go this way, they will not stabilize the country and their consequences are unknown,” he said. “Therefore, it is better that he assumes his responsibility as the first official in the country and correct the course in order to avoid a disaster,” he further emphasized. The Democratic Bloc mainly gathers two former armed groups from the Darfur region (SLM-MM and JEM), eastern Sudan’s Beja tribal group, a faction of the Democratic Unionist Party led by Gaffar al-Mirghani and some other groups. Sudan Tribune

Revealed: How Attack on Kenyatta’s Farm was Planned and Executed
It was a matter of when, not if, the criminal, politically motivated raid on former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta family’s property would happen — and security organs were aware of the plot but did nothing. And when the invasion did happen on Monday amid anti-government protests led by opposition leader Raila Odinga, the target was the expansive Northlands farm on the Eastern Bypass in Kiambu County. It was looted and torched by a gang that Nation has established was mobilised by some politicians. Another attack was also staged at gas cylinder maker East Africa Spectre Limited, a company that is linked to the family of Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga, by a gang that was ferried from Dandora and Kayole estates. Plans to raid the Kenyatta property were mooted last Friday and firmed up by Sunday evening, the Nation established. Two MPs, a former governor and a popular musician from Kiambu, the home county of Mr Kenyatta, are among those who reportedly played lead roles in mobilising the gang last Friday when the plot to counter Monday’s demonstrations was hatched. The youths were recruited from Kiambu and the Kenyan capital Nairobi. East African

Putin’s Arrest Warrant Threatens His Battle for a Continent
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) war crimes arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin has numerous potential consequences, including Russia potentially losing valuable ground in the wooing of Africa. “The ICC warrant adds to the weakening of Russian influence globally and in Africa,” Jonathan Katz, the director of democracy initiatives and a senior fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Newsweek. … Thirty-three African countries were signatories to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, including South Africa. … Putin may still not take the risk of going abroad, at least not for the time being. Russian independent news outlet Meduza reported on March 21 that he had planned on traveling to Latin American and African countries in the lead-up to his 2024 presidential election campaign. Meduza’s sources said the Kremlin canceled those plans in light of the ICC warrant. Newsweek

South Africa’s Opposition Wants Ramaphosa to Arrest Putin
The leader of South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) John Steenhuisen has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to arrest Russian leader Vladimir Putin should he set foot in the country. On March 18, 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant of arrest against Putin for alleged war crimes in Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. And with South Africa being a signatory to the Rome Statute, Mr Steenhuisen says the country has a legal obligation to cooperate with the ICC and help put President Putin behind bars when he lands in South Africa. “I think that any responsible president would advise Putin, given the ICC arrest warrant, that he should perhaps not come,” said Mr Steenhuisen. “But if he does come, I think South Africa is obliged — if it’s for the rule of law and (if you) govern according to the constitutional principles — you would be obliged to execute that arrest warrant. “If he is here, we have a legal obligation. The principle of the rule of law means equality before the law, and South Africa is obliged to execute that. We have not left the ICC. We’ve remained signatories. Putin must be arrested,” he added. The Nation

South Africa Linked to Australian Cybercrime after Crackdown on Stolen Identities and Money Laundering
Suspected members of a cybercrime syndicate with a base in Australia allegedly worked with associates who sourced and altered identity documents from South Africa for them to use. Those in Australia are accused of using the documents, some belonging to Australians in South Africa, to open fraudulent bank accounts in their country. The suspects are also believed to have laundered about AU$1.1 million (nearly R14-million) to other bank accounts in South Africa. This country has previously been flagged as a global cybercrime hotspot — in 2021 an Interpol report said that South Africa had the third-highest number of cybercrime victims in the world. Last week, on Friday 24 March, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) announced the arrests of four suspects, whose names were not released, and some details associated with the cybercrime crackdown case. … While it was not immediately clear which organised crime group the syndicate was linked to, Australia and South African were previously flagged in terms of Black Axe. Daily Maverick has before reported how some authorities view Black Axe, also known as the Neo Black Movement of Africa, as a cult — and how it appears to have a stronghold in South Africa. Suspected Black Axe members have been accused of being online scamsters, also using business email compromise scams. In October last year, Interpol announced that a cybercrime investigation, codenamed Operation Jackal, involving 14 countries including South Africa and Australia, was targeting Black Axe and related West-African crime groups. Daily Maverick

In Drought-Hit Somalia, Mobile Maternity Clinics Follow IDPs
Striving to balance between safety and health, Somalia’s internally displaced people (IDPs), now facing the worst drought in history, have often abandoned visits to far-flung health centres. This week, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) launched mobile maternity clinics, targeting up to 375,000 people in Somalia’s regions hardest hit by drought. The aim is to follow women who need maternity services and to improve safe deliveries. A statement from the UNFPA Somalia, the UN sexual and reproductive health (SRH) agency, said the five clinics are equipped with maternity ward instruments suitable to serve the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 expectant women displaced by the drought. In Somalia, under normal circumstances, preventable maternal deaths are among the worst in the region, owing to the country’s long-term destruction of health facilities from civil war, and now under constant threats of terror gangs. UNFPA estimates that more than 800 women die every day from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth, with at least two thirds of them in “humanitarian and fragile contexts.” The agency says those who survive live with serious or long-lasting consequences that are also “entirely preventable”. East African

Tunisia Cuts Off Water Supply at Night amid Severe Drought
Tunisian authorities have started cutting off drinking water at night in areas of the capital and other cities, residents said, in what appears to be a bid to reduce consumption amid a severe drought. Cutting off water without prior announcement, in areas of the capital Tunis, Hammamet, Sousse, Monastir and Sfax, threatens to fuel social tension in a country whose people suffer from poor public services, high inflation and a weak economy. Officials of the water distribution company contacted by Reuters declined to comment. Tunisia is suffering a serious drought, prompting officials to say the ministry may begin to cut off water supply at night over the summer to reduce consumption due to the scarcity of reserves in the country. The continued lack of rain, however, appears to have prompted authorities to start doing so early in some places. Yassin Mami, a lawmaker in the new parliament, said officials from the national water company informed him that the reason for the frequent interruption of water supply in Hammamet city, was “because the country is threatened by water scarcity”. News24/Reuters

Kamala Harris Exhorts Africans to Innovate, Empower Women
US Vice President Kamala Harris challenged Africans to step up innovation and the empowerment of women in order to play their full part in the future of the world, as she delivered a speech to thousands of young Ghanaians on Tuesday in Accra. Her visit to Ghana, the first stop on an African tour that will also take her to Tanzania and Zambia, is part of a charm offensive by Washington as it seeks to counter-balance the growing influence of China and Russia on the continent. Standing in front of Black Star Gate, a monument built on the site where Ghana declared independence from Britain in 1957, Harris started by noting that by the middle of the century, one in four people in the world will be African. “That of course means what happens on this continent impacts the entire world,” she said. … “We must invest in the African ingenuity and creativity which will unlock incredible economic growth and opportunities, not only for the people of the 54 countries that make up this diverse continent, but for the American people and people around the world,” she said. Turning to the theme of women’s empowerment, Harris underlined deep gender disparities in Africa, saying the United States would work alongside African partners to close those gaps. East African/Reuters

Angélique Kidjo Becomes the Third Artist from Africa to be Awarded Prestigious Music Prize
Five-time Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo has been announced as one of three 2023 Polar Music Prize recipients, putting the Benin-born singer-songwriter in rare company. Founded in 1989 by ABBA manager Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, the Sweden-based Polar Music Prize has been awarded since 1992 and is considered to be among the most prestigious honors in the music industry. Past winners include Paul McCartney (1992), Elton John (1995), Stevie Wonder (1999), Björk (2010), and Sting (2017). “Having a beautiful voice is one thing,” Kidjo told CNN’s African Voices in a 2018 interview. “You always have to think about what you want to do with that voice.” She will join only two previous recipients from the African continent: South Africa’s Miriam Makeba in 2002, and Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour in 2013. Honored alongside Kidjo this year will be Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records in the UK, and Arvo Pärt of Estonia, the world’s most performed living composer, according to a Polar Music Prize press release. CNN