Africa Media Review for May 18, 2023

Guinea’s Junta Requisitions Army in Face of Protests, Threatens to Apply Anti-terrorism Law
The junta in Guinea commandeered the army on Wednesday in the face of fresh opposition protests, and threatened to apply anti-terrorism laws providing for up to life imprisonment against those responsible for a “crisis situation.” An AFP correspondent reported the presence of red berets and army vehicles and armour in the suburbs of the capital Conakry, where the opposition has called for two days of demonstrations on Wednesday and Thursday. … Internet monitoring service NetBlocks said on social networks that access to various platforms had been restricted. The Minister of Territorial Administration, Mory Condé, said in a statement read on national television on Tuesday evening that the opposition demonstrations are the occasion of a “real urban guerrilla war”… Guinea is ruled by a junta that took power by force in September 2021 under the leadership of Colonel Mamady Doumbouya. … The junta has arrested a number of opposition leaders and launched legal proceedings against others. It has banned all demonstrations since 2022. The opposition denounces the authoritarian and, in their view, exclusive conduct of the so-called transition period that is supposed to precede the return of civilians. Attempts at dialogue and recent mediation by religious leaders have failed. AfricaNews with AFP

Kenya’s President Ruto Tells Sudan Generals to ‘Stop the Nonsense’
Kenyan President William Ruto on Wednesday urged Sudan’s warring generals to “stop the nonsense” and called for a rethink of the African Union (AU) to better address conflicts in the continent. Around 1,000 people have been killed and nearly a million displaced in Sudan since battles between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who leads a paramilitary force erupted in April. … The United Nations has said more than $3 billion will be needed to provide urgent aid in the conflict-ravaged nation, where one person in three already relied on humanitarian assistance before the war. Hopes for a ceasefire remain dim after multiple truces were violated in the past weeks. Addressing the Pan-African Parliamentarian Summit, an AU meeting of MPs near Johannesburg, Ruto said the situation highlighted the bloc’s shortcomings. “As it is, we have no capacity to stop this nonsense in our own continent,” Ruto said, adding that the AU’s peace and security efforts relied on external funding. “We need to rethink the Peace and Security Committee,” he said, referring to the AU’s conflict resolution body. Nation

Sudan’s Warring Factions Target Doctors and Activists
Both sides fighting in Sudan are targeting doctors and activists and silencing the civilian voices seeking to document war crimes and provide services in the face of social collapse, their colleagues said Wednesday. War engulfed the African nation April 14 and shows little sign of abating after more than 1 million people fled their homes. Both the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have repeatedly pledged to respect cease-fires and humanitarian law, only to break those promises within minutes. Each side blames the other for sparking and continuing hostilities. Many Sudanese resist calling the conflict a civil war, pointing out that neither side enjoys wide public support. Instead, they describe it as a naked power struggle between the two men who jointly directed a 2021 coup against a civilian-military government. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is the head of the military and the de facto head of state, and Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo — known as Hemedti — commands the powerful RSF. In the country’s capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere, the RSF has taken up positions inside civilian homes, hospitals and even churches. Residents blame the RSF for widespread looting, several rapes and forced evictions into streets under crossfire. Washington Post

China’s Loans Pushing World’s Poorest Countries to Brink of Collapse
A dozen poor countries are facing economic instability and even collapse under the weight of hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign loans, much of them from the world’s biggest and most unforgiving government lender, China. An Associated Press analysis of a dozen countries most indebted to China — including Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Laos and Mongolia — found paying back that debt is consuming an ever-greater amount of the tax revenue needed to keep schools open, provide electricity and pay for food and fuel. And it’s draining foreign currency reserves these countries use to pay interest on those loans, leaving some with just months before that money is gone. Behind the scenes is China’s reluctance to forgive debt and its extreme secrecy about how much money it has loaned and on what terms, which has kept other major lenders from stepping in to help. On top of that is the recent discovery that borrowers have been forced to put cash in hidden escrow accounts that push China to the front of the line of creditors to be paid. Countries in AP’s analysis had as much as 50% of their foreign loans from China and most were devoting more than a third of government revenue to paying off foreign debt. … In Kenya, the government has held back paychecks to thousands of civil service workers to save cash to pay foreign loans. The president’s chief economic adviser tweeted last month, “Salaries or default? Take your pick.” AP

The Ukraine Grain Deal Is Extended 2 Months, Helping Ease the Global Food Crisis
An agreement allowing Ukrainian grain exports to ship through the Black Sea to help ease global hunger has been extended for two months just a day before its expiration — overcoming Russia’s threats to pull out of the deal. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday announced the extension of the United Nations-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is aimed at easing global hunger. … Oleksandr Kubrakov, who serves as Ukraine’s deputy prime minister and minister of development and infrastructure, said on Facebook the deal has been extended until July 18. “The world will continue to receive Ukrainian goods, thanks to the efforts of our partners, Turkey and the U.N.,” he wrote. But he said Russia must stop using food “as a weapon and for blackmail.” … The United States and the United Nations chief said they welcomed the deal’s extension. The agreement has been a rare — and tenuous — diplomatic achievement amid a conflict that has taken tens of thousands of lives, displaced millions and unmoored the global economy. NPR

“Very Difficult Winter”: South Africa Power Firm Warns of Longer Cuts
South Africa’s struggling state power utility Eskom has predicted a “very difficult winter” starting in June, warning that it may have to increase electricity cuts to an unprecedented level amid the country’s worst-ever power crisis. Many households and businesses in Africa’s most industrialised economy are already facing scheduled electricity outages – or load shedding – of more than 10 hours a day, largely due to breakdowns in Eskom’s ailing fleet of coal power stations. The gap between supply and demand is expected to increase in the coming winter months as people turn on their heaters, putting additional pressure on the grid. … Winter demand for power is expected to surge to about 33,000 megawatts but Eskom is only able to produce 26,000 megawatts. Eskom has not yet gone beyond “Stage 6” power cuts, which require 6,000 megawatts to be shed from the national grid. This winter it may move to “Stage 8”, Scheppers said, which would require up to 8,000 megawatts to be shed, translating to 16 hours of outages in a 32-hour cycle. … South Africa’s power crisis has deepened over the past year, taking a heavy toll on a number of sectors and threatening price rises. … The crippling power cuts have had a severe effect on South Africa’s economy, reducing its gross domestic product by about 5 per cent in 2022, according to Eskom. Al Jazeera

Zimbabwe’s Woes Are Leading to ‘Consequences’ for Southern Africa – Joachim Chissano
Challenges in Zimbabwe, including its economic woes, are leading to “terrible consequences” for the southern African region and something must be done soon to change it, according to former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano. Chissano, the facilitator of a high-level discussion on Zimbabwe’s bid to end its protracted standoff with its creditors and the international community, was speaking in Harare during the fifth round of talks. … Zimbabwe is the gateway into southern Africa and regions situated further north for goods and services from South Africa. Road infrastructure linking the region via Zimbabwe has played an important role. Lately, however, there have been attempts to bypass Zimbabwe, such as the opening of the Kazungula Bridge route for the movement of goods from South Africa into Botswana and further north. One of the reasons for this is that infrastructure development has been lagging behind in Zimbabwe, making it an unattractive passage. … Zimbabwe is headed for elections, which are expected to be held in August. Politics is central to the country’s prospects. Adesina stated that for the country to move forward, governance issues should be taken seriously. “The issues are not just economic or financial. They also involve governance, rule of law, human rights, freedom of speech, political level playing field, electoral reforms that will assure free and fair elections; as well as fairness, equity and justice for the commercial farmers and other businesses who were dispossessed of their lands, for which there is a clear need for restitution and compensation,” he said. News24

European Leaders Urged to Help Tunisians Resist Assault on Democracy
European powers must stand by pro-democracy Tunisians resisting a fierce onslaught designed to take the country back to the darkest days of dictatorship, a letter from more than 70 academics has urged. The letter, designed to shine a light on the Tunisian crackdown, was in part collated by Soumaya Ghannoushi, whose father, the Tunisian opposition leader, Rached Ghannouchi, was sentenced to a year in jail on Monday. The case that resulted in Ghannouchi’s sentencing is likely to be one of several charges brought against him, and his daughter called on European leaders to be less timid in their denunciation of the loss of Tunisia’s hard-won freedoms. The letter says that opposition leaders “are facing a wide campaign of arbitrary arrests, politically motivated charges, demonisation and threats. All believers in the shared values of freedom and democracy around the world must stand by them in their struggle for freedom.” Guardian

IMF Approves $3 Billion Ghana Loan after Debt Restructuring Delays
The International Monetary Fund’s executive board on Wednesday approved a $3 billion, three-year loan program for Ghana. The approval comes after months of delays due to a difficult debt restructuring program. With the approval, the West African nation would now access about $600 million immediately towards tackling its worst economic crisis in decades. But the IMF said in a statement that Ghana’s ability to securing timely debt restructuring agreements with external creditors would be essential for a successful program. The IMF said this new loan would help mobilize additional external financing from development partners and provide a framework for completing Ghana’s debt restructuring. Africa Feeds

Chad Says Troops Killed ‘Bandits’ in Operation With CAR
Chad said Wednesday that its troops had killed “bandits” in an unprecedented joint operation in neighboring Central African Republic (CAR), whose border area is gripped by ethnic unrest. “The Chadian and CAR armed forces carried out a joint operation inside CAR at the end of last week,” Chadian Defense Minister Daoud Yaya Ibrahim told AFP. The mission took place in the Paoua area near the border, he said. “Two of the bandits’ bases were destroyed, around a dozen were killed and 30 were arrested,” he said. General Ibrahim gave no details about the identity of the targeted group, other than to implicitly deny CAR media reports that they were Chadian rebels who had fled to CAR. “They are not rebels but bandits, who kill herders, steal their cattle and take them across the border,” he said. Those arrested “are all Chadians and will be answerable to a Chadian court,” he said. Chad has said that 18 villagers in the south of the country were killed on May 8 by armed men who came from the CAR. The Defense Post with AFP

‘The City Was Underwater’: Quarter of a Million Somalis Flee Flooded Homes
Floods have caused almost a quarter of a million people to flee their homes after the Shabelle River in central Somalia broke its banks and submerged the town of Beledweyne, even as the country faces its most severe drought in four decades, according to the government. Aid agencies and scientists have warned that the climate crisis is among the most significant factors accelerating humanitarian emergencies, while those affected are some of the least responsible for CO2 emissions. Somalis are dying because of a climate crisis they didn’t cause. Seasonal rains in Somalia and upstream in the Ethiopian highlands triggered flash floods that washed away homes, crops and livestock, and temporarily closed schools and hospitals in Beledweyne, the capital of Hiiraan region, local residents said. “At once the entire city was underwater. Beledweyne itself became like an ocean,” said shopkeeper Ahmed Nur, whose business was washed away. “Only the roofs of the houses could be seen. We used small boats and tractors to rescue people.” Guardian

Before Anything Else, African Cybercriminals Are after Money
… as the pandemic led to a tightening in the economy, many young Nigerians at the cusp of economic independence were pushed into cybercrime. Every expert I spoke with emphasized that the issue was much broader than just Nigeria or West Africa. As Ashraf Koheil, META director of Group-IB put it, “The economic challenges created by the pandemic made it difficult for a significant number of young, university-educated professionals to find legitimate work, leading some to join cybercriminal groups. These individuals have the capability to act as educators, passing on their digital skills with others, creating networks of cybercriminals who are able to launch wave upon wave of fraudulent attacks.” Across Africa, tough economic realities during the pandemic led to more crime, especially cybercrime. …financial gain is the biggest driver for cybercrime across the world – roughly 80% of it – but in Africa, persistent socioeconomic issues exacerbate the situation. … One challenge in combating cybercrime in Africa is that many of the actors are decentralized and have brute force in their population. These groups are often barely funded, loosely-organized, and rely largely on their impressive social engineering skills and off-the-shelf tools accessed on the dark web. All that and they have nimble adaptation. Inkstick Media

Why Somalia’s Once-Banned Boxing Thrives in the Former Warzone
“I grew up wanting to learn how to fight, so I could protect my family. This is what later drew me closer to the sport,” Najib Mohamed tells the BBC in between punches. Slimly built, with his hair spraying sweat every time he throws a punch, the 20-year-old is sparring in the ring in the centre of the gym. … Mohamed was brought up during violent and chaotic times in Mogadishu, which gave rise to his interest in boxing. Times are still hard. “In this city, negative temptations and uncertainty are a part of everyday life. When I jump in the ring, it numbs the pain and takes me away from the troubles around me.” Mohamed was just four when his father and grandfather were killed in 2007. They were shot during a violent siege of the capital when troops from neighbouring Ethiopia were trying to unseat the Islamic Courts Union, which then controlled the city. Just one traumatic story among the many carried by this fledgling group of boxers. BBC