Africa Media Review for May 18, 2022

The ‘Spider-Man’ of Sudan: Masked Activist Becomes Symbol of Resistance
Violence and arrests will not deter Sudan’s young activists from resisting the military who “stole our revolution”, says one man who faces down the teargas and bullets in a blue and red superhero costume. Featured in a new Guardian documentary, “the ‘Spider-Man’ of Sudan”, who cannot be named for his safety, has become a symbol of protests that began in October. Dressed in his increasingly frayed suit and mask he and other demonstrators confront teargas canisters, water cannon and often live bullets. During the protests his childhood friend was killed by security forces, who have also been accused of sexually assaulting women and hunting down activists. It was as a homage to his friend that he picked up the suit, less as a disguise than as a symbol of both his loss and the account they heard as children, of the spider who protects the Prophet Muhammed and his companion by spinning a web across the mouth of a cave they are hiding in, meaning their enemies pass by without looking in. “Spidey” was among hundreds of thousands of people whose protests in 2019 led to the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir and the creation of a transitional government, which was itself ousted in a military coup in October 2021. Guardian

COP15: Ivory Coast Hosts Desertification Talks
The 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is taking place under the motto “Land. Life. Legacy: From Scarcity to Prosperity.” A dozen of heads of state and almost 6,000 delegates are meeting through May 20 in Ivory Coast’s capital, Abidjan, to find ways to avert wide-scale disaster. Halfway through the conference, which has produced much reflection but, so far, little additional funding, experts and activists voiced concerns that COP15 might not lead to the bold steps needed. The Chadian environmentalist and Indigenous rights advocate Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim told DW that she has seen progress in the promise of involving local communities in all projects implemented. “This is a positive aspect,” she said. But she added a cautious note: “We will see in two years, before the next COP, what will happen and if the promises will have concrete implementation.” DW

Africities Summit Takes Off in Western Kenya
Delegates from Africa have been arriving at the lakeside city of Kisumu in western Kenya, for the Africities Summit – a continental conference on urban areas. The Summit, expected to be launched by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, is scheduled to run from May 17 to 21 under the theme: The contribution of Africa’s intermediary cities to the implementation of Vision 2030 of the United Nations and Agenda 2063 of the African Union. This is the first time that the Africities Summit is being held in an intermediary city. Both the Vision 2030 and the Agenda 2063 seek to enhance the continent’s prosperity through better planning, provision of services and elimination of extreme poverty. And as the population in urban centres grows, officials have said the theme is suitable in establishing proper systems that will help larger cities remain well planned. East African

Africa Needs a Billion COVID Vaccines, but Supply Is Slowing Down
Has Africa taken its foot off the pedal in the race to secure enough Covid-19 vaccines for all?  Data collected by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) shows an alarming drop-off in shipments arriving across the continent since the start of 2022, yet the only factory that produces vaccine shots locally is in danger of closing down.  There are other plants capable of producing Covid-19 vaccines currently in the works on the continent and, as Benjamin Kagina writes at The Conversation, this is encouraging and marks a turnaround for thinking about local production.   The challenge for Aspen’s plant — and any other that opens — is twofold. According to a statement released by Gavi, the vaccine alliance that coordinates the Covax programme through which most vaccines in Africa are procured, demand for Covid-19 vaccines has dropped off to the point where it is not placing any large orders. Gavi’s head, Dr Seth Berkley, tweeted that although Aspen’s plant is important, we “have to tackle reduced demand. We won’t be safe anywhere until we’re safe everywhere.” Mail & Guardian

US Seeks to Pass Law to Monitor Russia’s Activities in Africa
The United States is seeking to pass a law to counter Russia in Africa by tracking its military operations, investments, oligarchs and suspected illicit financial flows. This was partly because more than half of the African countries chose to be neutral on United Nations resolutions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This signalled America’s somewhat challenged influence on the continent. Through the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, the US wishes to “hold to account African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding (Russia’s) malign influence and activities”. On 27 April, the US Senate put the bill to a vote, with 415 in favour and nine against. It has not yet been signed into law. The bill, sponsored by Republican Gregory Weldon Meeks, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, will require the State Department to send Congress, every year, a report on US measures to counter Russian machinations in Africa. News24

Libya’s Bashagha Says Will Base His Rival Gov’t in Sirte
Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by Libya’s east-based parliament in February, will base his government in Sirte from Wednesday, he said, after his attempts to take over the capital Tripoli triggered clashes. Libya has had two governments since March. United Nations-recognised administration of Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh based in Tripoli has refused to cede power to Bashagha, saying his appointment by the Tobruk-based parliament is illegitimate. Bashagha had briefly attempted to take over Tripoli on Tuesday morning before being forced out hours after his arrival, triggering fighting between opposing militias. Bashagha entered Tripoli overnight after two months of deadlock between Libya’s rival administrations, but withdrew hours later as fighting rocked the capital “to preserve the security and safety of citizens”, his office said. The sound of heavy weapons and automatic gunfire was heard across the capital on Tuesday morning, schools were cancelled, and the normally heavy rush hour traffic was sparse. Fighting was reported in the al-Mansoura and Souq al-Thulatha areas of central Tripoli. Al Jazeera

Sudan: Armed Robbery, Security Tensions in North, South, and Central Darfur
Security forces in North Darfur have killed one suspect, wounded another, and arrested a third, after the armed robbery of passengers in two vehicles heading for Tawila market on Saturday. At least three civilians were also injured in the clashes. On Sunday, after an emergency meeting, the State Security Committee said that the events took place against the background of a robbery on the El Fasher-Tawila Road. The Acting State Police Director, Brigadier Abdelrahman El Mahdi, said that a police contingent moved to pursue the alleged perpetrators and clashed with them. One of the gunmen was killed and a second was wounded by a gunshot wound, and a third gunman was arrested. He explained that after the robbery, the perpetrators returned again to the locality and clashed with the security forces. Callers told Radio Dabanga that at least three civilians were also were injured during the clashes. Brig El Mahdi announced the formation of a new joint force consisting of 19 vehicles to secure the Tawila area and its environs. Dabanga

Colonel Close to Mali Junta Linked to Coup Attempt, Sources Say
A colonel reputed to be close to Mali’s ruling junta has been arrested following what the authorities describe as an attempted coup, two sources said Tuesday. The junta late Monday announced that last week it had thwarted a would-be putsch led by army officers and “supported by a Western state.” The mysterious episode marks the latest bout of turbulence in the West African country, which has experienced two coups in less than two years. An official at the defense ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP: “Colonel (Amadou) Keita is among the arrested jihadists.” Keita is not well-known publicly but is reputed to have been among army officers who seized power in August 2020, later strengthening their grip in a second coup in May the following year. He is one of the 120 members of the National Transition Council (CNT) — a legislature appointed by the junta to pass laws pending a declared return to civilian rule. Agence France-Presse

Burkina Faso Rescuers Find No Survivors in Flooded Mine Chamber
Rescue workers have found no survivors in a rescue chamber deep inside a flooded zinc mine in Burkina Faso, the government has said, all but extinguishing hope that eight missing miners could still be alive after a month. The Perkoa mine, owned by Canadian firm Trevali Mining Corp and located about 120km (75 miles) west of the capital Ouagadougou, was abruptly submerged on April 16 after torrential rain fell unexpectedly during the country’s dry season. There had been some hope during a month-long search and rescue operation that the missing men might have reached the rescue chamber, which is stocked with food and water and located approximately 570 metres (1,870 feet) below ground. “The rescue teams have opened the refuge chamber, unfortunately, it is empty,” the government’s information service said on Tuesday in a statement posted on social media. “Everything suggests that the miners were unable to reach the refuge chamber at the moment when the flood happened and searches are ongoing,” the statement said. Al Jazeera

Nigerian Govt Accuses Facebook of Refusing to Act Against IPOB
The Nigerian government has asked Facebook and other social media platforms to stop allowing the pro-Biafra separatist group (IPOB) on their platforms. The government said members of the group use these platforms to incite violence and instigate ethnic hatred in the country. Speaking Tuesday at a meeting with a team from Facebook in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said since IPOB had been proscribed and classified as a terrorist organisation by the government, Facebook has no justification for yielding its platform to the organisation. In 2017, the Nigerian government declared the group a “terrorist organisation” and later backed the decision with a court ruling. “I have called this meeting to enable us to discuss the increasing use of Facebook by separatists and anarchists, especially those of them based outside the country, to instigate violence and ethnic hatred in Nigeria,” Mr Mohammed said. “For whatever reason, they seem to have now chosen Facebook as their platform of choice. And their tools include disinformation, incendiary statements, and hate speech. They use Facebook broadcasts to reach their followers, who are in the thousands. They tag those opposed to their violent ways as ‘saboteurs’ who must be attacked, maimed, and killed. “They use both English and their local language as it suits them,” he said. He argued that the actions of the members of the proscribed group on social media have real-life implications. Premium Times

DRC Opposes Move to Withdraw Uganda’s Forces from the Rebel Hit Regions
The Kinshasa government said Tuesday evening that it was “premature” to withdraw Ugandan troops present in the DRC to fight the ADF rebel group, stressing that such a decision, mentioned by Ugandan military officers during the day, was up to the heads of the two states. In a tweet, the head of the Ugandan army, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, said that the operation launched jointly with the Congolese army at the end of November to fight the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels was to last six months and would therefore end on May 31, unless otherwise instructed. However, in a second message on Twitter, he then clarified that the operation “will continue even for another six months if both Presidents Museveni and Tshisekedi decide to extend it. Ugandan Defense Minister Vincent Ssempijja confirmed to AFP that “the bilateral agreement with the DRC” on this operation “ends on May 31.” “The reasons that motivated the military operations between the Congolese army and the Ugandan army were dictated by a common threat, that of the ADF, which we must fight as we fight terrorists everywhere, in a joint manner and in synergy,” recalled the Congolese Minister of Communication and Government Spokesman, Patrick Muyaya, during a briefing on the situation in Ituri. AfricaNews

‘UN Must Renew South Sudan Arms Embargo’-Amnesty International
The United Nations Security Council must renew its arms embargo on the territory of South Sudan amid the state’s failure to ensure accountability for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) and to protect survivors, witnesses, and judicial actors, Amnesty International said Wednesday in a new report. The report, “If you don’t cooperate, I’ll gun you down”: conflict-related sexual violence and impunity in South Sudan, reveals how CRSV is ongoing in the country, and how guns can be used to facilitate sexual violence. It also reveals how two sections of an action plan that was drafted to address CRSV in the country, adopted by the government in January 2021, are yet to be fully implemented. On 28 May 2021, the UN Security Council renewed its arms embargo on the territory of South Sudan, which it first imposed in 2018, and identified the implementation of the 2021 action plan as one of five benchmarks against which renewal of the arms embargo would be reviewed in May 2022. “Amnesty International has documented over a dozen cases of conflict-related sexual violence from recent years, including women who were raped at gunpoint. The UN Security Council must therefore renew its arms embargo on the territory of South Sudan,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa. “Our new report highlights the urgent need for thorough, independent, and impartial investigations into these crimes. The perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence must face justice; widespread impunity for these offenses must come to an end,” he added. Radio Tamazuj

Four Nigerian Ministers Drop Election Bid to Remain in Cabinet
Four members of Nigeria’s cabinet, including the junior petroleum minister, said on Tuesday that they will not run in next year’s elections as planned after President Muhammadu Buhari gave them a Monday deadline to resign from their posts. The information minister said last Friday ten cabinet members had resigned in order to stand in ruling party primaries which decide who from the All Progressives Congress will run for the presidency, state governorship and senate. But junior petroleum minister Timipre Sylva and the ministers of justice, labour and women’s affairs, said on Tuesday they had decided to stay in their jobs to help the president deliver his policies. The country’s central bank governor Godwin Emefiele is seeking a court order to bar the electoral commission and nation’s attorney general from preventing him from running for president without resigning his post. The matter will be heard on May 23. Reuters

Top Kenyan Presidential Candidate Picks Female Running Mate
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga on Monday chose a former justice minister as his running mate in elections set for August, making her the first-ever female candidate on a major presidential ticket in the East African country. Martha Karua, an attorney and seasoned politician, has a reputation for speaking her mind and could prove a popular choice among voters excited to see a woman among the country’s top leaders. Karua, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2013, is nicknamed “the iron lady” for her reputation as a tough competitor and has railed against official corruption. “I believe in my heart of hearts that if we can erode the power of corruption in our midst, we can finally cross the Rubicon to the promised land,” she said in a speech Monday. Odinga’s announcement came the day after his rival, Deputy President William Ruto, picked lawmaker Rigathi Gachagua as his running mate. Both running mates are ethnic Kikuyus — underscoring the importance of that voting bloc that encompasses a wide and ballot-rich part of central Kenya. Washington Post

Somalis in Mogadishu Optimistic About New Leadership
Somalia has elected a new president after a prolonged election impasse that nearly pushed the country into conflict. Somali parliamentarians elected former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to replace Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, commonly known as Farmaajo. Mohamud has assumed office and faces daunting tasks as he pledges to steer the country toward peace and reconciliation. Somalia’s 2022 presidential elections attracted 39 candidates. After three rounds of voting by 328 MPs and senators, former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud emerged victorious in the final round with 214 votes, more than enough to defeat incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, commonly known as Farmaajo. Mohamud returns to power after serving as president from 2012 to 2017.‘Thank you all,” he said. “And peace of Allah be upon you all.” In Mogadishu, residents celebrated with the anticipation of a better future. The new administration has its priorities, with corruption being a key challenge, according to Abdurahman Nur Mohamed, known as Dinari, who was once the Somalian ambassador to South Sudan. The new president must fight corruption, be responsible, be trustworthy, and serve as an example of virtue for the government, said Dinari. The new leader also must ensure the country is free of corruption, he said. Voice of America

Zimbabwe Unfreezes Bank Lending Only Days After Policy Change
Zimbabwe has lifted its ban on bank lending, the central bank has announced, more than a week after the government froze loans in a move it said was meant to stop speculation against a rapidly devaluing local currency. The government said at the time it had started investigating unnamed speculators for taking out Zimbabwe dollar bank loans to buy foreign currency on the black market, driving the local currency’s value lower. “The Bank wishes to advise the public that the temporary suspension of lending services by banks has been lifted with immediate effect,” the central bank said in a statement on Tuesday. It added that only organisations being investigated for abusing loan facilities would not be allowed to borrow from banks. Business groups had warned that the lending freeze would hurt commerce and worsen Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. Last week, South Africa’s Tongaat Hulett suspended prepayments to sugar cane farmers, saying it relied on bank loans to fund the payments. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones