Africa Media Review for May 17, 2022

Guinea Junta Bans Political Protests
The military junta ruling Guinea has banned political protests after announcing a three-year transition period before civilian rule is restored. “All demonstrations on public roads, whose nature is to jeopardize social tranquility and the correct implementation of activities in the (transition) timetable are banned for the moment until the period of electoral campaigns,” the National Rallying Committee for Development (CNRD) said in a statement late Friday. “The CNRD invites all political and social actors to contain all forms of political protest and gatherings to their headquarters,” added the committee set up by the junta and headed by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya. Failure to comply will entail legal consequences, it said. Army officers led by Colonel Doumbouya ousted elected president Alpha Conde in the impoverished former French colony in September last year. Conde, now aged 84, had drawn fierce opposition after he pushed through a new constitution in 2020 that allowed him to run for a third presidential term. Voice of America

Mali’s Military Government Says It Foiled Countercoup Attempt
Mali’s military government says its security forces thwarted an attempted coup, led by army officers and supported by an unnamed Western state, last week. The government’s announcement on Monday comes after years of turmoil in Mali, where Colonel Assimi Goita led coups in 2020 and 2021 before becoming president of the West African nation…The news release did not name the country it was accusing nor did it give many details. However, relations with former coloniser France have deteriorated significantly under Goita’s rule, prompting the French military to begin a withdrawal of its forces that had spent nine years fighting armed groups…The government news release added that security had been stepped up at checkpoints on the roads leaving the capital, Bamako, in an effort to catch accomplices. A military source speaking on condition of anonymity spoke of about 10 arrests and said others would be arrested. Al Jazeera

Guinea-Bissau President Dissolves Parliament, Calls for Early Elections
Guinea Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo dissolved Monday the country’s parliament and called for parliamentary elections by the end of the year. In an address to the nation, the president cited “persistent and unresolvable differences” with the legislative body. He called for early parliamentary elections in December. “I have decided to give the floor back to the people of Guinea so that once again this year they can freely choose at the ballot box the Parliament they wish to have for an eleventh term”, the President said. The parliament has long been dominated by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). President Embalo’s party Madem G-15, did not secure the majority of the seats during the 2019 election which fuelled tensions between the legislative and the executive branch. Corruption and embezzlement is also one of the issues raised by Embalo to explain his move: “The Tenth Legislature has turned the People’s National Assembly into a place of political guerrilla, warfare and conspiracy; many deputies have worked to weaken the institutions of the Republic instead of doing everything to strengthen them.” AfricaNews with AFP

Biden Sends US Ground Troops to Somalia
Several hundred American troops may return to Somalia after authorisation by U.S. President,  Joe Biden for their redeployment. Some U.S. officials revealed on Monday after Donald Trump ordered their withdrawal during his presidency. The order by Joe Biden is a reversal of the decision by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw nearly all 700 ground troops who had been stationed there, according to officials. Prior to Trump’s withdrawal, reports had it that the United States had about 700 troops in Somalia focused on helping local forces defeat the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency. “President Biden has approved a request from the Secretary of Defense to reestablish a persistent U.S. military presence in Somalia to enable a more effective fight against al Shabaab,” a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, as reported by the Reuters. Mr Biden has also approved a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda, three of the officials said, the New York Times reports. Somalia has been at the receiving end of several attacks by Al Qaeda-linked insurgent group al Shabaab which is seeking to collapse the government and establish its own rule in Somalia based on its strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. AfricaNews with Agencies

The Economist Stands by Deported Journalist, Questions Ethiopia’s Press Freedom Laws
The Economist has challenged Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, to live up to his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that “we are creating an Ethiopia that is second to none in its guarantee of freedoms of expression.” This was in response to the publication’s correspondent in Addis Ababa, Tom Gardner, having his press credentials withdrawn and subsequent deportation within 48 hours. In withdrawing Gardner’s press accreditation, the country’s Media Licence Registration and Accreditation Director Fantahun Asres claimed that the journalist had ignored verbal and written calls about his “mistaken approach” to reporting. The body said The Economist was free to replace Gardner. However, The Economist said in a statement on Monday that it stood by its top journalist. The publication said: The Economist rejects this characterisation of Mr Gardner and deplores his expulsion from Ethiopia. Mr Gardner is an outstanding reporter who adheres to the highest standards of journalistic ethics. “His reporting from Ethiopia, including on the conflict in the northern region of Tigray, has been professional, unbiased and often courageous,” the publication added. The publication also highlighted Ethiopia’s recent attacks on press freedom. News24

Ethiopia to Get $300M World Bank Grant for Reconstruction
Ethiopia and the World Bank have signed a pact for a grant of $300m to assist reconstruction and recovery in conflict-hit areas, the finance ministry said. Fighting that erupted in the northern region of Tigray in November 2020, and spilled over into neighbouring Afar and Amhara last year, has eased since a unilateral ceasefire was declared by the federal government in March. “The resource will be used to finance the activities designed to support … basic services,” the ministry said in a statement late on Monday. Services that stand to benefit are education, health, water supply and a special effort to support survivors of gender-based violence in conflict-hit areas, it said. Areas in Amhara, Afar, Tigray and the regions of Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz are targeted to receive the funds, it said, adding that the government would sign up with third-party organisations to execute the project in high-conflict areas. The violence in Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz, home to several ethnic groups, is separate from the war in Tigray. Al Jazeera

Spain, Morocco Reopen Land Border Crossings as Ties Improve
The land borders between Spain and Morocco at Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s North African enclave cities, have begun to reopen after being closed for just over two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and later a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. Crowds gathered at the first border to reopen — Tarajal, in Ceuta, and Beni Enzar in Melilla — to witness the reopening at midnight Monday. Crossings have been initially limited to residents of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area and their family members, and will be expanded to cross-border workers by the end of the month. Melilla regional President Eduardo de Castro told Spanish state radio RNE that traffic in the first hours had gone as planned. “Things are completely normal, there are no massive crowds,” he said, adding that he expected it will take “several months” for customs controls to be re-established. The local economies on both sides of the fences that slice off the tiny Spanish enclaves from Morocco in northwest Africa depend heavily on the crossings of goods and workers.  AP

Sudanese Leaders, French Envoy Discuss Peace in Chad
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan Head of the Sovereign Council discussed with Bruno Foucher, French Special Envoy to the Sahel the ongoing peace talks for peace in Chad, said the Sudanese presidency on Monday. Qatar is hosting peace talks between the ruling military council and some 50 rebel groups. The Doha process, launched on March 13, aims to bring the armed factions to sign a peace agreement and participate in an inclusive National Dialogue in Ndjamena to adopt a new constitution and prepare for elections… Foucher discussed with al-Burhan and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo Hemetti Sudan’s contribution to ensuring the success of the Doha process, according to the Sovereign Council. Al-Burhan reaffirmed Sudan’s keenness and support for the stability in Chad, reads a statement issued after the meeting. Also, he welcomed the Qatari mediated process. The French envoy, in addition, discussed ways to enhance security in the border area as there are growing fears that rebel groups seek to operate from the troubled Darfur region. In this respect, al-Burhan pointed out to the Sudanese-Chadian joint forces says it serves “as a model for bilateral security cooperation in the African continent.” Sudan Tribune

Dozens Killed in Suspected Jihadist Attacks in Burkina Faso
In the northern region of Sahel, around 25 people were killed in two assaults on Saturday, including 13 members of the VDP volunteers, a leader of the force told AFP. In Kompienga, near Burkina’s southeastern border with Togo and Benin, about 15 civilians were killed on Saturday when their convoy was attacked while under VDP escort, a security source in the region said. A local inhabitant said three VDP volunteers also died in this attack, and called for help for the wounded, which he said numbered nearly a dozen. In another raid overnight Saturday, assailants carried out a coordinated attack on police and gendarmes’ posts in Faramana, near the frontier with Mali, causing two wounded, a security source said. One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has been battered by jihadist raids since 2015, when insurgents began mounting cross-border attacks from Mali. More than 2,000 people have died and almost two million fled their homes. Mutinous troops, angered at mounting losses, ousted elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore in January. The new strongman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, says tackling the violence and restoring security is his top priority. After several weeks of relative calm after the coup, jihadist attacks resumed, and scores of civilians and members of the security forces have died. France 24

Inflation Rises in Nigeria amid Fuel Scarcity and Insecurity
Inflation in Africa’s most populous country soared to 16.8 percent in April, driven by fuel price increases and accelerating costs for food, including bread and cereals, newly released data from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has shown. Annual food inflation rose to 18.4 percent from 17.2 percent in March, sending the headline rate to 16.8 percent, the highest in eight months, according to the data released on Monday. The jump in fuel and food items costs is driven by global supply disruptions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, analysts say. Prices for wheat, a key ingredient in cereals and flour for pasta and bread, have jumped more than 5 percent over the weekend, and over 68 percent year-on-year, according to commodities data compiled by the Financial Times. Shortages of jet fuel have led to airline operators increasing fare prices by nearly 100 percent or in some cases suspending operations as the price of the commodity rose from 190 to 700 naira ($0.46 to $1.69) per litre in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The hike in inflation means the purchasing power of Nigerian consumers, some of whom live on a minimum wage of 18,000 naira ($43.35) per month, is being eroded, Ikemesit Effiong, analyst and head of research at Lagos-based sociopolitical risk advisory firm SBM Intelligence, told Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera

Ukraine Crisis: Can Africa Replace Russian Gas Supplies to Europe?
Russia’s suspension of deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria over their refusal to pay in roubles, the Russian currency, was a stark reminder of the threat facing the Eurozone. Russia has the largest natural gas reserves in the world and is the largest exporter, accounting for around 40% of Europe’s imports. The EU wants to cut supplies by two-thirds by the end of the year and become independent of all its fossil fuels by 2030. However, energy economist Carole Nakhle says that with the combined exports of Africa’s big players in the industry – Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria – amounting to less than half of what Russia supplies to Europe, they are “unlikely at the moment to compensate for any losses in Russian supplies”. “The good news is there will be greater interest in countries that already have the resources to replace Russian gas and Africa is in a very good position. We’re going to see more investment,” she says. However, this will take time because if various logistical issues in the continent’s major exporters. Algeria is well positioned to benefit from the EU’s shift in energy policy. The North African country is the region’s biggest natural gas exporter and currently enjoys well developed gas connectivity infrastructure with Europe. BBC

Report: Global Pandemic Increased Poverty in Africa
The global pandemic has pushed more than 55 million Africans into extreme poverty and reversed two decades of hard work in poverty reduction on the continent. The Economic Report on Africa for 2021 blamed the growing poverty on job losses, reduced income and the inability of households to manage the risks. In a 150-page report launched in Dakar, Senegal, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said the coronavirus negatively impacted the continent’s economy. Speaking Saturday at the 54th session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Hanan Morsy, deputy executive secretary of the commission, said the pandemic eliminated 20 years’ worth of achievements made in fighting poverty. “The implication for the continent, one of the most critical implications of COVID-19, has been the reversal of very hard-won gains that the continent has managed to achieve in terms of reducing poverty,” she said. “So, we’ve lost two decades of hard-won gains of reducing poverty in Africa due to the pandemic.” The economic decline caused by the lockdowns and the restrictions on people and the movement of goods has increased the number of newly poor on the continent by 55 million people and pushed 39 million others into extreme poverty. Voice of America

Burkina Faso Fashion Designers: More to Nation than Conflict
Vibrant African clothes, both traditional and contemporary, enlivened the catwalk in Burkina Faso’s fashion week. Designers say they are striving to make the West African country become known as an emerging fashion hub, to offset its reputation for its recent coup and ongoing conflict with Islamic extremists. Some of the shows were staged on a central street of Ouagadougou, the capital, where residents lined up to see models strut designs for women and men. The small West African nation hosted its third Ouaga Fashion Week — the first since the pandemic forced its delay. The colorful four-day show closed Sunday amid surging jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that’s killed thousands. When the capital was hit by frequent power cuts, models and designers used the lights of their cell phones to put on makeup and fix their hair. Some 35 designers — chosen from about 200 applicants — from West Africa and Europe, showcased their clothes in the capital, Ouagadougou. For the first time the majority of designers, about 75%, were from Burkina Faso, said Alex Zabsonre, director of the event. AP