Africa Media Review for May 16, 2022

Considerations for a Prospective New Chinese Naval Base in Africa
Speculation is rife that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will open its second naval base in Africa on the Atlantic coast. The base would be part of China’s drive to become a global military force capable of projecting power far from its shores.  Commonly rumored locations include Equatorial Guinea, Angola, and Namibia. Executives of overseas Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have pushed for a more expeditionary PLA in Africa. Africa alone hosts over 10,000 Chinese firms, one million Chinese immigrants, and approximately 260,000 Chinese workers, mostly working on the One Belt One Road (known internationally as the Belt and Road Initiative)—China’s strategy to link global economic corridors to China. China’s future military basing scenarios raise numerous questions. Africa has strong reservations against foreign basing, as evidenced by a 2016 African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council decision warning countries to be “circumspect” about permitting more bases. An increased PLA presence could prompt others to follow suit and accelerate transforming Africa into a turf for external competition. India’s efforts to construct security facilities on Agaléga Island in Mauritius, for example, are believed to be in response to China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud Elected President of Somali for Second Time
Somalia handed Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the presidency for a second time following Sunday’s long-overdue election in the troubled Horn of Africa nation, which is confronting an Islamist insurgency and the threat of famine. After a marathon poll involving 36 candidates that was broadcast live on state TV, parliamentary officials counted 214 votes in favour of former president Mohamud, far more than the number required to defeat the incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo. Celebratory gunfire erupted in the capital Mogadishu, with many hoping that the vote will draw a line under a political crisis that has lasted well over a year, after Farmajo’s term ended in February 2021 without an election. Mohamud, who was previously president from 2012-2017, was sworn in shortly after the vote were counted and struck a conciliatory tone as he addressed the country. “It is indeed commendable that the president is here standing by my side, we must move forward and never backwards, we have to heal any grievances,” he said, referring to Farmajo, who hailed the successful completion of the long-awaited poll. France 24

Mali Withdraws From the Regional Anti-Jihadist Force G5 Sahel
The country’s departure from the G5 Sahel security force deepens its isolation after its neighbours hit it with sanctions in January over perceived foot-dragging in restoring civilian rule. Mali’s diplomatic relations with western allies, including former colonial power France, have also deteriorated, especially over its recent rapprochement with Russia. Earlier this month, UN chief Antonio Guterres said political instability and human rights violations in Mali and Burkina Faso were undermining the Sahel’s anti-jihadist operations, and called for returning power to civilians as soon as possible. But Mali’s junta claims it is a victim of politicking. “The government of Mali is deciding to withdraw from all the organs and bodies of the G5 Sahel, including the joint force” fighting the jihadists, Bamako announced in a statement. “The opposition of some G5 Sahel member states to Mali’s presidency is linked to manoeuvres by a state outside the region aiming desperately to isolate Mali,” it added, without naming that country. The G5 Sahel, which also includes Mauritania, Chad, Burkina and Niger, launched in 2014, with an anti-jihadist force added in 2017. The group’s heads of states were supposed to assemble in Bamako in February to see Mali assume the G5 presidency, but nearly four months later, this meeting “has still not taken place”, the junta said. Mali is struggling under sanctions imposed by other West African countries over the military’s decision to retain power following multiple coups. AfricaNews

South Africa in New Surge of COVID from Versions of Omicron
South Africa is experiencing a surge of new COVID-19 cases driven by two omicron sub-variants, according to health experts. For about three weeks the country has seen increasing numbers of new cases and somewhat higher hospitalizations, but not increases in severe cases and deaths, said Professor Marta Nunes, a researcher at Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Analytics at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. “We’re still very early in this increase period, so I don’t want to really call it a wave,” Nunes said. “We are seeing a slight, a small increase in hospitalizations and really very few deaths.” South Africa’s new cases have gone from an average of 300 per day in early April to about 8,000 per day this week. Nunes says the actual number of new cases is probably much higher because the symptoms are mild and many who get sick are not getting tested. South Africa’s new surge is from two variations of omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, which appear to be very much like the original strain of omicron that was first identified in South Africa and Botswana late last year and swept around the globe. AP

Thousands in Tunisia Protest Against President, Demand Democratic Return
Thousands of Tunisians protested on Sunday against President Kais Saied, demanding a return to the normal democratic order and rejecting his replacement of the independent electoral commission with one he named himself. “The people want democracy” and “Saied has led the country to starvation” were two slogans chanted by the protesters at the main rally in central Tunis, the biggest against him in months, a week after a far smaller demonstration in his support. “It has become clear that the street supports a return to the democratic path,” said Samira Chaouachi, the deputy leader of the dissolved parliament who like Saied’s other opponents accuses him of a coup. Underscoring the broad opposition among political parties to Saied, who appears to retain some popularity among ordinary people, hundreds of supporters of Tunisia’s former autocratic leader held their own separate protest against him. Saied has entrenched his one-man rule since seizing executive power last summer, dismissing parliament, moving to rule by decree and saying he will replace the democratic constitution through a referendum. Saied denies a coup, saying his intervention was legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of political paralysis and economic stagnation at the hands of a corrupt, self-serving elite who had taken control of government. Reuters

Chadians Take to the Streets in Anti-French Protests
Chadian police fired tear gas and used water canon to disperse hundreds of protesters who took to the streets of the capital and other towns in an anti-French protest that saw the destruction of some French-linked businesses. The protest was called by Chadian civil society coalition Wakit Tamma to denounce France’s backing of the Transitional Military Council that seized power following the battlefield death of President Idriss Deby in April 2021, a spokesman said. Deby’s son Mahamat Idriss is leading the military transition which is yet to timetable a return to constitutional rule. “We are demonstrating against France for its support for the transitional military council,” said Mahmoud Moussa, a high school teacher in the Chadian capital who joined the protest. A spokesman for the transitional government could not be reached for comment. Protesters vandalised several petrol stations in N’djamena operated by French oil major TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA). Some torched French flags, while a Russian flag was hoisted on a mast in central N’djamena, according to a Reuters reporter. As France’s influence wanes in its former colonies, recent protests in countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have seen calls for increased military ties with Russia instead of France. Chad is seen as a strong ally of the west in the fight against Islamist militants in the region. Several Western countries, including France, maintain troops at bases in the country. Reuters

AU-IGAD-UN Trilateral Mechanism Holds ‘Indirect Talks’ With Sudan Opposition and Women’s Groups
The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), African Union, and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) trilateral mechanism, has held meetings with several Sudanese stakeholders, including the Women’s Rights Support Group, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), the forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change, and the Resistance Committees in Khartoum state. An official statement issued by the UNITAMS spokesperson on Sunday evening says that the AU-IGAD-UN trilateral mechanism has held several meetings part of indirect round of Sudanese-Sudanese talks, facilitated by the mechanism, which was launched on Thursday, May 12. On Saturday 14 May, the mechanism met with the Women’s Rights Support Group. The mechanism also held a positive and fruitful meeting this morning with the movements of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the parties to the Juba Peace Agreement, to explore stakeholders’ views on transitional institutions, the statement says. On Sunday, the trilateral mechanism met with delegations from independent Resistance Committees and Resistance Coordination Committees in Khartoum state “in recognition of the central role the play in the Sudanese political arena”. The mechanism discussed committee members’ views on the political process in Sudan. Later on Sunday, the mechanism met the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change. Dabanga

Ethiopian Security Forces Kill ‘A Large Number’ of Oromo Rebels: Minister
Security forces in Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state have killed a large number of Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel members, the Government Communication Service announced. In a statement on Saturday, the Minister of State Communications, Legesse Tulu, said an anti-insurgency operation is underway to eliminate the OLA, which the government declared a terrorist group. Many “members of the militant group have been killed in the operation,” he said, without revealing the exact number of casualties. The minister said the military campaign is being carried out in the western and eastern parts of Welega, western and eastern Guji, north, east and west of Shoa, as well as in Borona zone bordering Kenya. An Oromo opposition official, who spoke to The EastAfrican, confirmed that there is an ongoing military operation in parts of Oromia region. “The Ethiopian army is carrying out drone strikes to conduct targeted killings in many areas,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “However, several innocent civilians are also victims of the ongoing warfare.” A few days ago, an Oromo opposition political party, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), said in a statement that a “secret war” was taking place in the Oromia region and many civilians had been killed as a result. East African

Persistent Drought in Ethiopia Result of Climate Change, Experts Say
Drought is not new to the Horn of Africa, but experts say the record one killing crops and cattle across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia has underscored the increasing frequency of drought due to climate change. In Ethiopia, the U.N.’s World Food Program is not just feeding those affected but also working to help drought-proof communities for the longer term. Hawo Abdi Wole has lived through many droughts in her 70 years of life. But until now, she said she had never seen four consecutive rainy seasons fail. Wole said she has seen a big difference. In early years, she said, people used to see more rains and animals produced more milk. There is a big, big difference now. The World Food Program is helping her village not only survive the crisis but rebuild for the long term. The group is digging meter-wide, semi-circular holes in the barren soil to capture runoff water when rains return so that grass can grow more effectively and people feed their surviving livestock. Forward-looking interventions are desperately needed. Scientists say climate change is the culprit for these more frequent, severe conditions. “The climate in this region is driven by what is happening in the neighboring ocean,” said Abubakr Salih Babiker, who is with World Meteorological Organization in Ethiopia. “There are studies that indicated that this is the world’s fastest warming part of the tropical ocean system. So, it is warming rapidly during the past 100 years. And this warming, as I said…it was… it is associated with the dryness of the March-June season.” It also results in flooding when the rain does return. These events aren’t just examples of climate change, but inequality, said Habtamu Adam, a climate policy expert in Addis Ababa. Voice of America

Rwanda President Suggests UK Extradite Genocide Suspects After Asylum Deal
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, has suggested the UK extradite suspects wanted in the east African country for alleged roles in the 1994 genocide, after a controversial deal with the Home Office to process asylum seekers there. Speaking less than two weeks after the deal was announced, Kagame told an audience of diplomats in Kigali that included the British high commissioner he hoped “that when the UK is sending us these migrants, they should send us some people they have accommodated for over 15 years who committed crimes [in Rwanda].” “We sent case files [to the UK] and … investigated. These are clear case files. Instead of being accommodated there in that beautiful place of [the] UK, they should be in jail, either in the UK or here,” Kagame said. The presence in the UK of five men alleged to have played an active and important role in the killing of more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and some moderate Hutus over three months in Rwanda in 1994 has been an irritant in relations with Kigali for many years. British judges have blocked extradition on the grounds the suspects would not receive a fair trial in Rwanda. Officials in Kigali have called for a trial in the UK instead. All five, aged between 61 and 69, came to the UK in the immediate aftermath of the genocide where they applied for asylum. They deny the allegations against them. Guardian

Nigeria: Curfew Declared in Sokoto After Student Killing Protests
The governor of Nigeria’s Sokoto state has declared an immediate 24-hour curfew to quell protests demanding the release of suspects in the killing of school student Deborah Samuel. Samuel was beaten and burned by fellow students on Thursday for alleged blasphemous statements about the Prophet Muhammad in a Whatsapp group. Protests have erupted following the police arrest of two students and a search for other suspects who appeared in footage of the gruesome murder of Samuel, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, which circulated on social media. The governor said in a statement on Saturday that the curfew applies to the state capital, Sokoto city. “Everyone should, please, in the interest of peace go back home,” Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said. Earlier in the day, hundreds of people demonstrated in the city over the arrest of the students following the murder, residents said. Al Jazeera

African Union Chief Wants Pan-African Credit Ratings Agency
Senegal President Macky Sall called Sunday for the creation of a pan-African credit ratings agency, saying that the “very arbitrary” nature of the system of assessment by international organizations made it more expensive for African countries to borrow on global debt markets. Sall, who is currently head of the African Union, told private radio RFM that there was a need — “given the injustices, the sometimes very arbitrary ratings” by international agencies — “to have a pan-African” body. His comments came on the eve of the Dakar Economic Conference 2022, organized by African economists. “In 2020, when all economies were suffering fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, 18 of the 32 African economies rated by at least one of the big agencies saw their ratings downgraded,” he said. That meant that 56% of African countries saw their credit ratings downgraded, compared with 31% of countries globally over the same period, Sall argued. “Studies show that at least 20% of the ratings criteria for African countries are based on more subjective factors, cultural or linguistic ones for example, which bear no relation to the parameters used for measuring economic stability,” he said. Voice of America

These Are the African Countries That Censor the Internet the Most
While Africa’s future depends on embracing technologyespecially in the provision of fast, reliable, affordable internet connectivitymany African governments are quick to shut down the internet when it serves them well. In the past four years, citizens in close to half of African countries have experienced an internet blackout. In all instances, the shutdowns have happened during conflicts or during elections as incumbent governments block online access to political information. This has had a noxious effect on the general African economy which still sits at the bottom of the global digital economy. Internet dusk has meant thousands of hours lost by businesses that operate online via e-commerce and social commerce, and that has translated to the loss of billions of dollars. In 2019, internet and social media shutdowns cost the continent over $2 billion. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones