Africa Media Review for March 4, 2022

How Putin Prepared for Sanctions with Tonnes of African Gold
Russia has smuggled hundreds of tonnes of illicit gold from Sudan over the last few years as part of wider efforts to build “fortress Russia” and ward against the possibility of increased Ukraine-related sanctions. The Kremlin has more than quadrupled the amount of gold held in Russia’s central bank since 2010, creating a “war chest” through a mix of foreign imports and vast domestic gold reserves as the third largest producer of the precious metal in the world. … [An executive of one of the largest Sudanese gold companies] adds that Russia is allowed to [smuggle gold] because of its connections with Sudan’s warlord turned paramilitary leader, Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Daglo, who emerged from a military takeover last year as the country’s de facto vice president. Hemedti travelled to Moscow last week as Russian troops were pouring over the border into Ukraine… Experts say that the Wagner Group, a private military company run by Kremlin-linked oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, is training Hemedti’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – a large paramilitary organisation that sits alongside Sudan’s regular army. … “Minimising the effect of sanctions through gold is something that has informed Russia’s approach in Africa, because we are seeing very similar things in Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic. They are going after countries that have plenty of natural resources to help them up their reserves,” [Sim Tack, cofounder of Force Analysis, a Belgium-based consultancy that specialises in conflict.] said. Telegraph

In Sign of Russian Influence, Many African Leaders Decline to Criticize Putin
Shortly before becoming South Africa’s first democratic president in 1994, Nelson Mandela unveiled the pillars of a new foreign policy that would promote democracy, justice, and international law. “Human rights will be the light that guides our foreign affairs,” he declared. … Yet in a United Nations vote this week, to the surprise of many observers, South Africa was one of 26 African countries that were unwilling to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was a sign of Moscow’s continuing political influence in many parts of the developing world – even after its brutal military campaign in Ukraine. … About half of African countries joined the vote against Russia’s aggression, but 17 abstained, eight declined to participate in the vote, and one (Eritrea) voted with Russia. Many of these countries, such as South Africa, have an avowed loyalty to the UN Charter, human rights, and national sovereignty. But many African countries also have close links to Russia and China. Their economic and military interests have often trumped their human-rights rhetoric, allowing them to ignore abuses by their Moscow and Beijing allies. … A bigger factor [in South Africa] is Mr. Putin’s intense effort to court the ANC and to seek business deals with the ANC government. He had a warm relationship with former president Jacob Zuma… The ANC itself has issued a statement on Ukraine that repeated some of Mr. Putin’s propaganda points about the reasons for his military offensive. The Globe and Mail

Uganda: Museveni Son Backs Russia Assault on Ukraine
President Yoweri Museveni’s son has openly voiced support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. … He becomes the second senior military officer in Africa to publicly voice support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine alongside Sudan’s Gen Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo. … The 47-year old, is not only considered one of the most powerful people in Uganda but has increasingly been mentioned as a possible heir to his father who’s ruled the land-locked country for three and a half decades. … His support comes months after Uganda’s military expressed disappointment with U.S. sanctions against its military intelligence chief Major General Abel Kandiho for alleged human rights abuses. Ugandan rights activists welcomed the sanctions — for torture and sexual abuse under Kandiho — but say more needs to be done. … The U.S. Treasury Department says that as commander of the Ugandan Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), Kandiho and other CMI officers, targeted individuals due to their nationality, political views, or criticism of the Ugandan government. Nairobi News

‘Help Us, We’re Stranded’: International Students Say They’re Trapped in Northeast Ukraine
Hundreds of international students trapped in the Ukrainian city of Sumy by Russia’s invasion have appealed to the world: “Help us, we are stranded.” Vivian Udenze, 21, a Nigerian medical student at Sumy State University told CNN: “This is the 8th day since the crisis began. A lot of places have been evacuated. There are more than 600 of us who are foreigners and students.” She said most of the group are medical students, and they are from Nigeria, Morocco, Tanzania, Congo and India, among other countries. Sumy lies in the northeast of Ukraine, only around 30 miles from the border with Russia. As fierce battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces rage across the country, Udenze told CNN via phone that she woke up to two loud explosions around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, and heard gunshots on Thursday. “I am so scared and time is running out. “We don’t want the Russians to enter the city and meet us here. We need a humanitarian corridor so we can get out,” she said. CNN

Tanzania Drops Terrorism Case against Opposition Leader Mbowe
A Tanzanian court on Friday ordered the release of opposition leader Freeman Mbowe and three other defendants after the prosecution dropped terrorism charges against them. “Because the (prosecution) has submitted an intention to drop the case and the defence side has accepted it, the case is now removed from the court and I order the suspects to be released unconditionally,” said judge Joachim Tiganga. “They should be released from jail immediately.” Mbowe, chairperson of the Chadema party, was arrested in July along with a number of other senior party officials just hours before they were to hold a public forum to demand constitutional reforms in the East African country. He and three others were charged with terrorism financing and conspiracy. His supporters had branded the case as a politically motivated move to crush dissent, and Mbowe has accused police of torturing him during his nearly seven months in custody. AFP

Sweden Announces Early Pullout of Troops from U.N. Mali Mission
Sweden will pull its force of about 220 soldiers out of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali in June 2023, a year earlier than planned, its military said on Thursday. Itgave no reason for the decision but has previously said that the presence of Russian military contractors in the West African state, condemned by European countries, was making the presence of Swedish forces untenable. “In recent times, conditions have changed in the country, but until our last soldier is home, we continue to conduct operations just as usual,” the Swedish Armed Forces said in a statement. A spokesperson for the mission known as MINUSMA said that Sweden plays a crucial role in its operations, but as a sovereign nation it is free to make its own peacekeeping decisions. … Mali is ruled by a military junta that staged successive coups in 2020 and 2021 and has reneged on a promise to hold early elections, fraying its alliances with Western nations. … About 800 private contractors belonging to Russia’s Wagner Group are currently deployed in Mali, the Swedish military’s statement said, higher than the 300-400 that a French official estimated in January. Reuters

Friends of Sudan Issue Statement on UNITAMS Report
The Friends of Sudan called on the relevant Sudanese stakeholders yesterday, to engage in the next phase of the political process to resolve the ongoing political crisis in Sudan. The statement follows the report from the UN Integrated Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) on Monday, where UNITAMS outlined their goals to restore the path of transition towards civil and democratic transition. … Dr Annette Weber, the European Union’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, arrived in Khartoum today on a planned regional visit to meet with various Sudanese leaders, including those from the military, to discuss a solution to the ongoing crisis in Sudan. Weber told press before her arrival that the European Union supports stability in Sudan, which is key to the security of Horn of Africa. … The EU envoy’s goal is to help Sudanese actors achieve success in their democratic transition, leading to free and fair elections and a Sudanese-led consensus. Weber supports and encourages all the Sudanese stakeholders “to choose dialogue over disagreement in order to bring back the transitional period to the democratic and peaceful track, as well as the values declared in the revolution of freedom, peace and justice.” Radio Dabanga

South Sudan Prepares to Resume Talks with Holdout Rebel Groups
Preparations for the Sant’Egidio mediated talks are set to resume in Rome, Italy, the latest attempt to ensure no group remains out before the country goes into elections. The talks will review the “Declaration of Principles” including the federal nature of government and the division of powers; national identity and respect for ethnic, cultural, and linguistic differences; the creation of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) and the National Constitution Review Commission (NCRC) and the creation of an oversight mechanism on economic governance. The parties are also expected to touch previous documents on the reform of the civil and public sector, including restructuring the security sector, the internal borders between the different regions of the country, the respect of territories and rights of indigenous communities, and the active participation of the international community in all the phases. … The holdout groups participating in the Rome process are two factions of the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), including Thomas Cirilo NAS leader and his allied groups and from the other side an SPLM faction led by Pagan Amum and the SSUF leader Paul Malong. The latest round of negotiations will also attempt to tackle the thorny political issue of expanding a transitional government of national unity. ST

South Sudan Opposition Lawmakers Complain About Intimidation
Many members of the opposition in South Sudan’s parliament say the atmosphere in the house is stifling. Juol Nhomngek Daniel, a National Legislative Assembly member, said the National Security Service’s presence at the parliament has created an atmosphere of fear among those not aligned with the government in Juba. “There is high level of intimidation and high level of restrictions of freedom of speech in the Assembly [because] members of [the] National Security are deployed everywhere in the Assembly,” he said. On February 22, Daniel and other Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition MPs called a news conference on Assembly grounds, which security personnel disrupted. They confiscated recorders and detained eight journalists working for various media houses in South Sudan, including VOA. … The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement condemning the arrest of eight journalists. VOA

Pope Francis Plans to Visit Congo and South Sudan in July
Pope Francis is planning to visit Congo and South Sudan in July, fulfilling a wish to minister to the faithful in the African countries that have sizeable Catholic populations and long histories of conflict. The Archbishop of Canterbury will join him for the South Sudan leg in the latest ecumenical effort to solidify peace in the young country, officials said Thursday. Francis is scheduled to visit the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, and the eastern city of Goma on July 2-5, and plans to be in Juba, South Sudan, from July 5-7, the Vatican said. The trip would be one of Francis’ longest in years and his third to sub-Saharan Africa. … One Juba resident, Garang Deng, said the pope’s visit should renew the political will of South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who is Catholic, and his longtime rival Riek Machar. The pope’s visit will bring new energy to the search for peace, the Rev. Samuel Abe with the Catholic archdiocese of Juba told The Associated Press on Thursday. … The Catholic Church has always played a role in Congo, especially in the establishment of democracy and advocacy for human rights. The church deployed some 40,000 electoral observers in the 2019 election that brought Felix Tshisekedi to the presidency. AP

Cameroon Says Rebel Bomb Kills Officials
Anglophone separatists in Cameroon have claimed responsibility for an attack Wednesday that killed seven people, including a senior official and a mayor. Cameroon’s military says the officials were on a tour to raise support against the rebels when a homemade bomb hit their car. The government said the explosive device hit the officials’ car in Bekora village in the Ekondo Titi district of Cameroon’s English-speaking South-West region. The government says six officials, including Timothee Aboloa, highest government official in Ekondo Titi, Nanji Kenneth, mayor of Ekondo Titi and Ebeku William, the Ekondo Titi president of Cameroon’s ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement party, died on the spot. Cameroon’s military said after the device exploded, separatist fighters hiding in a nearby bush started shooting. … Fighters have vowed to attack any worker sent by the central government in Yaounde to the English-speaking western regions. The separatists say they will continue attacking government offices and staff until the central government withdraws its troops from the troubled Anglophone regions. The United Nations says the conflict has left more than 3,500 people dead and 750,000 displaced. VOA

Nigeria: Inside Nigeria’s Wildlife Crimes and How Culprits Escape Justice
Our analysis of wildlife crimes data, supported by numerous interviews, finds evidence of systematic failure by Nigerian law enforcement and the judicial system to hold wildlife poachers and traffickers accountable. After a poacher died following a clash with rangers at Nigeria’s Yankari Game Reserve, officials went with police to the nearby communities in Bauchi State, in the country’s restive northeast, to calm tensions. The relatives of the deceased had vowed retaliation. In May 2013, about a month after the encounter, poachers ambushed a patrol team and shot a ranger dead. Weeks later, another ranger, left by colleagues to watch their motorbikes, was brutally hacked to death. Officials managed to arrest one of the killers, but they had a different concern: Even if all the assailants were caught, they were unlikely to face justice. … “The lack of prosecutions is negatively affecting (the) morale of rangers who take great risks making arrests” … At sea and air ports in Lagos and Port Harcourt, and at land borders in Adamawa and Katsina, traffickers of wildlife also escaped justice. … Mrs Morenikeji at the University of Ibadan said Nigeria must do more to tackle wildlife crimes and ensure the real culprits are caught and punished. “There are real men, real dealers at the top of the chain; nothing is being done to those people. They have not been found out or brought to book,” she said. Premium Times

Zimbabwe: U.S. Extends Sanctions on Zimbabwe by Another Year
The US has extended sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by one year and accused the county’s leaders of economic mismanagement and undermining democratic processes or institutions. … “The actions and policies of certain members of the Zimbabwe government and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions…”  Biden said, adding Harare had pursued “actions and policies that have contributed to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe, to politically motivated violence and intimidation, and to political and economic instability in the southern African region.” About two weeks ago, US Embassy Charge D’Affairs Thomas Hastings warned Washington was closely monitoring the ongoing by-election campaigns that have recently turned extremely violent. New Zimbabwe

Egypt’s President Sisi Wants to Reshape its Cities
The rich will get luxury homes and quick commutes. The poor fear displacement… Egypt’s general-turned-president, who seized power in a coup in 2013, spends a fair bit of time on construction sites, poring over blueprints and chatting with men in hard hats. On February 28th he boarded a plane for a bird’s-eye view of the vast new capital rising in the eastern desert (see map). The $58bn project is still a construction site. After years of delays, though, the government hopes to start moving civil servants this month. … If all goes to plan, the government hopes to reshape the country’s urban fabric. But it is doing so in a way that bespeaks a military man’s understanding of cities: not as messy, organic places where people live but as orderly and functional spaces populated by like-minded, and mostly prosperous, groups. … Pouring so much concrete helps Mr Sisi cement his image as a man who gets things done. Billboards on new highways extol his “eight years of achievements”. But it also helps cement his control. Many of his new cities are billed as “smart”, a reference not only to services but to surveillance. An estimated 6,000 cameras, for example, will monitor the streets of the new capital. One activist likens it to the fictional capital from “The Hunger Games.” The Economist

UN Deputy Secretary General Celebrates Wangari Maathai Day
United Nations deputy secretary-general Amina J. Mohammed has marked the Wangari Mathai Day with a message on the need to care for the environment. Wangari Maathai Day, also known as Africa Environment Day, is celebrated in honour of the late Nobel Laureate’s legacy in nature conservancy. In a statement on Thursday over the day, Amina called for the protection of the environment as a way of preserving the future generation. “We have to trust and empower the next generation of environmental protection warriors. The world can learn so much from this group of students in Nairobi who are working to beat plastic pollution in their communities,” Amina tweeted. … Wangari Maathai day is celebrated annually on March 3, to honour and pay tribute to the late Wangari Maathai’s life and work towards environmental conservation and sustainable development in Africa. The African Union adopted this decision in January 2012. Star