Africa Media Review for May 13, 2021

African Union Mission Urges Return to ‘Constitutional Order’ in Chad
An African Union mission recommended on Wednesday that Chad’s military share power with a civilian president, as one of three options towards restoring constitutional order following last month’s killing of president Idriss Deby. A military council led by Deby’s son Mahamat Idriss Deby seized power in April after his father was killed while visiting troops opposing a rebel insurgency. The African Union, which could suspend Chad over the military takeover, sent a fact-finding mission to develop strategies for a return to constitutional order and democratic governance. In a report, the mission recommended the AU’s security council could support the military transition as it stands, while appointing a special envoy to ensure the military keep their promise to organise elections with 18 months. Another option would be to support the current military-led transition, while pressuring the junta to share power equally with a civilian government due to the security threats Chad faces from rebels and jihadi insurgents. A final option would be to pressure the military to hand over power to a civilian president alongside a military vice president, the report said. It said a transitional charter drafted by the military was “wholly inadequate” and encouraged the drafting of a new, more inclusive national constitution, and a swift plan for fresh elections. It also recommended that rebel forces be demobilized and invited to participate in dialogue on forming any new government. Reuters

UK Foreign Secretary Calls for Cooperation on Cybersecurity
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday urged global cooperation to combat cyberattacks by “hostile state actors” and criminal gangs. Raab also pledged 22 million pounds ($31 million) in support to “vulnerable” countries in Africa and the Indo-Pacific to improve their digital defense capacity. He said Britain and the West must step up on cybersecurity or face the “multilateral vacuum” being filled by China and Russia. “We need the combination of resilient defenses but also offensive capabilities, and the global diplomatic clout which comes with being a modern cyberpower,” Raab said in a speech at a National Cyber Security Centre conference in London. He said the funding would go to national cyber response teams, awareness campaigns and an Interpol operations hub in Africa. The foreign secretary accused Moscow and Beijing of being among the “authoritarian regimes” failing to take action against cyberattacks coming from their own soil. He said elections had become a “prime target” for interference, with the aim of destabilizing democratic states. … Top diplomats from Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea had also been invited, with Raab saying gaining the trust of “like-minded” countries was “essential.” AP

Army of Fake Fans Boosts China’s Messaging on Twitter
A seven-month investigation by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute, a department at Oxford University, found that China’s rise on Twitter has been powered by an army of fake accounts that have retweeted Chinese diplomats and state media tens of thousands of times, covertly amplifying propaganda that can reach hundreds of millions of people — often without disclosing the fact that the content is government-sponsored. This type of analysis is possible because Twitter makes more of its data available to researchers than other social media platforms routinely do. … Within China’s state network on Twitter, the most referenced accounts belonged to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its spokespeople, as well as People’s Daily, CGTN, China Daily, and Xinhua, and the most active amplifiers were diplomats, AP network analysis showed. … This manufactured chorus accounted for a significant portion of all the engagement many Chinese diplomats got on Twitter. More than 60% of all retweets for the Chinese embassies in Angola and Greece from June 2020 through January 2021 came from accounts that have been suspended. … The party’s systems for shaping public opinion online go far beyond censorship. Budget documents for Chinese propaganda and cyberspace departments include references to cyber armies, teams of trained online commentators tasked with keeping conversation online aligned with the ruling party’s interests. AP

Five Villagers Killed in Niger Eid Attack
Five people were killed on Wednesday in an attack on a village in the western Tillaberi region of Niger, near the border with Mali, as the country celebrated the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a local official told AFP. “The attack took place on Wednesday morning in the village of Fantio. The death toll is five dead and two seriously injured,” the official said. The attack was carried out by “terrorists who came on motorbikes,” another local source said, without elaborating. Tillaberi is located in the flashpoint “tri-border” region between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, the site of frequent bloody attacks by jihadist groups. Soldiers from the G5 Sahel force comprising Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger had been dispatched to Fantio and would “stay in the village for a few days at the request of the governor of the region,” a source close to the Tillaberi authorities told AFP. AFP

3 Police Reservists Killed in Attacks in Kenya near Somalia
Three police reservists were killed early Wednesday after Islamic extremists attacked cell phone towers near the border with Somalia in an effort to cripple communication. Al-Qaida-linked militants from the al-Shabab group first attacked a cell phone tower located in northern Mandera County around 2 a.m., leaving two police reservists dead, according to a police report. A few hours later, jihadists killed one other police reservist while trying to blow up another cell phone tower in Wajir County with a rocket-propelled grenade, a police official said. “We repulsed them as they attempted to destroy the masts. Our forces are pursuing them,” said Rono Burnei, the regional police boss. Two other police reservists were wounded in the attack. AP

South Africa COVID Cases Climb, Though Officials Say It’s Not a Third Wave
South Africa is at risk of a third wave of coronavirus infections with new cases rising rapidly, although the country has yet to reach the “resurgence threshold,” the nation’s health department said. The number of cases detected in the seven days through May 9 rose 46% to 12,531, and the Northern Cape and Gauteng provinces were particularly hard hit, the department said in a statement late Wednesday. While deaths rose 18% in the week, the number of hospitalizations didn’t increase. “We have not yet hit the third wave, however we are at risk,” the department said. “We are on high alert.” More than 1.6 million Covid-19 cases have been detected in the country so far and almost 55,000 of those diagnosed with the disease have died. The actual toll is likely to be far higher than the official tally, with a report by the South African Medical Research Council showing the country had 158,499 excess deaths between May 3, 2020 and May 8 this year. While more data is needed to determine the underlying causes of those deaths, it’s likely that “a significant portion” could be attributed to the coronavirus, the council said in its weekly report. Bloomberg

Lawyers Challenge Tenure Extension of Zimbabwe Chief Justice
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has extended the tenure of Chief Justice Luke Malaba by five years following contentious changes to the constitution that are being challenged in court by lawyers. Malaba has faced criticism for dismissing an opposition petition which sought to annul the 2018 presidential election results over alleged rigging in favour of Mnangagwa. He had been due to retire on Saturday when he turns 70, but Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party used its majority in parliament to amend the constitution, allowing the president to extend the retirement age of senior judges to 75 years if they proved they were in good health. … However, lawyers and the opposition say the amendment that allowed Malaba to continue in office and empowered Mnangagwa to appoint judges of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts rather than go through public interviews was a violation of the country’s charter. They argue that under the constitution, changes to term limits require a referendum and that incumbents do not benefit from such changes. But the government says it only changed the retirement age and so did not breach the top law. Al Jazeera

Uganda’s Museveni Sworn in for 6th Time Amidst Opposition ‘Sham’ Claims
Museveni, who won re-election in January despite widespread reports of irregularities, took the oath of office at a ceremony in Kampala broadcast on national television and attended by several African heads of state and other foreign dignitaries. … His victory in January was overshadowed by the bloodiest pre-election crackdown in years, with opposition candidates forcibly prevented from campaigning and dozens of protesters killed by security forces.Opposition leader Bobi Wine, who came second to Museveni in the ballot but declared the vote rigged, said police and soldiers had “besieged” his home on the outskirts of Kampala and prevented him from leaving. “Dictator Museveni is swearing in well aware he stole the elections and disenfranchised Ugandans and he is scared of people opposing the sham ceremony,” the 39-year-old singer-turned-lawmaker told AFP. “Even if he has sworn in, we will continue the struggle to dislodge him from power through peaceful means and this will come soon.” Kizza Besigye, an opposition veteran who ran and lost against Museveni in four disputed and often violent presidential elections, was also placed under effective house arrest. RFI

Uganda Army to Join Congo in Offensive against Islamist Rebels -Kinshasa Gov’t
The Ugandan and Congo armies are setting up an operations centre in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo for a joint offensive against Islamist rebels who have killed hundreds of people in the last year, Congo’s government said. On Sunday a delegation from the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force (UPDF) including the commander of Uganda’s ground forces arrived in Beni in Congo’s North Kivu province to establish a coordination centre for the two armies, Kinshasa’s communications ministry said on Wednesday. On May 3 Congo introduced martial law in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the hope of addressing worsening bloodshed in a swathe of territory along its border with Uganda. The countries were enemies during Congo’s civil wars, which officially ended in 2003. Relations between the two have at times been strained since then. Reuters

Sudan’s Attorney General Urges Army to Hand Over Those Who Killed Protesters
Sudan’s attorney general on Wednesday urged the army to quickly hand over those who killed two protesters and wounded 37 others, the official news agency SUNA said on Tuesday. The victims participated in a peaceful rally on Tuesday to commemorate the bloody attack on a sit-in outside the army headquarters where over two hundreds civilians had been killed in June 2019. Al-Hebir Taj Elsir confirmed that the Public Prosecution Office had opened two lawsuits against the military involved in the killing of the two youth, Osman Ahmed Badr al-Din and Muddather al-Mukhtar Elshafie, under articles 130 and 186 of the criminal code related to premeditated murder, and crimes against humanity. Taj-Elsir added they also filled an official request to the army to hand over the officer who ordered to open fire and soldiers who shot protesters and give their weapons to the Public Prosecution. “We hope that there will be cooperation in handing over the accused and the weapons to investigate the case and the start of the trial,” he stressed. Earlier on Wednesday morning, SAF stated it has formed an investigation committee to identify the perpetrators of the shooting. “The Armed Forces confirm their full cooperation with the judicial and legal authorities to establish the truth and are fully prepared to bring to justice everyone involved in these events,” further added the statement. Sudan Tribune

Fear of Food Insecurity as Locusts Invade Angola’s Southern Provinces
Desert locust swarms have destroyed crops in major agricultural areas in southern Angola, raising fears of severe food insecurity as the country is also experiencing drought. At the weekend, the swarms invaded fields in Namibe Province, in southwestern Angola. They have also destroyed crops in Benguela, Cunene and Cuando Cubango provinces. Mr Carla Tavares, Namibe province deputy, called for assistance in finding a solution to the locust invasion. The wave of locusts plaguing the south of the country has destroyed 547 farms, said Félix Domingos, the Communication and Press Office director of the Civil Protection and Firefighting Services. Mr Domingos on Tuesday told a press conference that, “The plague put at risk cereals production which could lead to hunger in the region.” “To contain the wave of locusts, the National Air Force, with the support of the Civil Protection and Fire Service, is spraying the fields and training peasants who fight the locusts. The EastAfrican

How a Nigerian Scheme Forged in War Creates Billionaires
A smiling Onyeka Orie, 28, looks the picture of happiness in his mobile phone accessories shop at the sprawling Computer Village in Nigeria’s main city, Lagos. The shop and everything in it had been given to him by his former boss after Mr Orie worked for him without payment for several years, learning the trade. “I served my oga [boss] for eight years. My oga gave me this shop. I had been managing the shop for four years before he gave it to me. I didn’t expect it,” an excited Mr Orie says. Born to farmers in south-eastern Nigeria, he said he had little chance of breaking out of poverty because his family could not afford to give him the education he needed to get a good job in a country where unemployment is rife, even among those with a university degree. So after secondary school he joined the trail of other young Igbo men to learn a trade under the apprentice system known as “Igba Boi” – a practice where young people, mainly boys, leave their family to live with successful businessmen. At the end of an agreed period, their boss gives them capital to set up their own business. The Igbo apprenticeship system has roots in Nigeria’s post-civil-war years, says Ndubuisi Ekekwe, a Nigerian professor whose article on the apprentice scheme is set to appear in the Harvard Business Review later this month. BBC

World Bank Signs $500 Million Infrastructure Project for Congo’s Capital
The World Bank on Wednesday signed a $500 million infrastructure project with Democratic Republic of Congo to improve roads, mitigate flood risks, fight erosion and develop public spaces across the capital Kinshasa. Kinshasa is the largest French-speaking city in the world with a population of just over 17 million. Funding for the “Kin Elenda” project will include a credit and grant of $250 million each, the World Bank said. “Kin Elenda will help change the daily lives of the people of Kinshasa through the investments it will make throughout the city,” said Jean-Christophe Carret, the World Bank’s country director. Reuters

Price of Gold: DRC’s Rich Soil Bears Few Riches for Its Miners – Photo Essay
The muddy slopes surrounding the eastern Congolese gold-mining town of Kamituga hold vast wealth and crippling deprivation. In South Kivu province near the borders of Rwanda and Burundi, Kamituga has mineral resources estimated to be worth $24tn (£17tn) in untapped deposits. Yet the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has one of the lowest levels of GDP per capita in the world and people work in dangerous conditions with little hope of scratching out anything more than a meagre existence from tough and dangerous work. This longstanding disparity has only grown as the coronavirus pandemic pushed up the global gold price to its highest value ever last August ($2,048 an ounce). Meanwhile, local prices offered from buyers in Africa went down, according to the Africa Report, reflecting the imbalance in an international supply chain that exploits poor workers at the source of wealth. Hundreds of thousands of people in South Kivu, including women and children, work in the informal mining sector, mostly in gold. … Gold mining also feeds into interlocking conflicts, shrouded in various forms of illicit trading. A recent Impact report documents how registered traders and exporters provide a veneer of legality by declaring a small percentage of their gold exports while pocketing huge profits and avoiding official taxes from illicit trade. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones