Africa Media Review for May 2, 2022

West Africa: UN Chief Guterres Urges West African Juntas To Return to Civilian Rule
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged the military juntas in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali to hand power back to civilian rule as soon as possible. He also reminded the world to deliver on “climate emergency” promises. Speaking after meeting Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar on Sunday, Guterres said they had agreed on the need to keep talking to the de facto authorities in all three countries so as to get a swift return to “constitutional order”. All three countries, struggling with a jihadist insurgency in the Sahel region, have recently experienced military coups: Mali in August 2020 and May 2021; Guinea in September 2021; and Burkina Faso in January 2022. Sall is the current chair of the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has suspended all three countries from its membership. ECOWAS imposed heavy sanctions against Mali in January after the regime there rejected a rapid return to civilian rule. It has threatened similar sanctions against Guinea and Burkina Faso if they fail to enable a swift transition to civilian rule within a “reasonable” timeframe. However the military regimes in both countries have rejected the timetable set out by ECOWAS. RFI

Guinean Opponents Criticise Junta’s 39-Month Transition Schedule
Guinean opposition has rejected the recent 39-month transitional period before a return to civilian rule that was issued by the ruling Junta over the weekend. Abdoulaye Oumou Sow, who is the spokesperson for the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution has rejected the move citing a blatant violation of the constitution. Sow is also the former opponent of deposed Guinean President Alpha Conde further cited the illegality of the interim government in place. “Obviously, it is not out of the question to return to the street, especially since the things against which we fought for three years against Mr. Alpha Conde are the same things that are being repeated today. There is a junta in power that is not known and which is bunkered at the level of the Mohammed VI palace, and which is taking decisions in the name and on behalf of the people of Guinea while they have not benefited from any vote of the Guinean populations, they are managing this transition alone,” said Abdoulaye Oumou Sow, the spokesperson for the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC). He added, “the charter that Mamadou Doumbouya himself took the oath says it clearly: he will have to discuss with the living forces of the nation, it is at the end of this discussion only that we can have a duration of the transition, it is not a question of a long time or a short time of the transition, it is a question today of a blatant violation of the charter of the transition which is a perjury which was made by the leader of the junta.” AfricaNews with AFP

Ukraine’s Zelensky Renews Request To Address African Union
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has once again requested to address the African Union (AU), Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission Chairperson said on Friday. In a tweet, Mr Faki said he received the president’s request during a phone call from Ukraine’s foreign minister.  “I received a call from Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. He renewed a request from President Zelensky to address the African Union Heads of State,” he said. The two also talked about President Zelensky’s “wish to develop closer ties with the AU”. Mr Faki, however, did not say whether the president’s request would be accepted, but said he strongly stressed the need for a peaceful solution of the ongoing war with Russia. Earlier this month, President Zelensky called on his Senegalese counterpart and current African Union chairperson, Macky Sall, to address African leaders…Earlier this month, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa reportedly said that the conflict in Ukraine has exposed the inability of the United Nations Security Council to fulfil its mandate of maintaining international peace and security. He described the five-member UN Security Council, which includes China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States, as “outdated and unrepresentative”, adding that it disadvantaged countries with developing economies. “The conflict has exposed the failure of the UN Security Council to fulfil its mission of international peace and security,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as quoted by AFP. East African

The Ukraine War Could Hit Africa Harder Than the Pandemic
After the devastating economic effects of the covid-19 pandemic in Africa, the continent appeared to recover in 2021. Growth was 4.5%, up from the 3.7% projected by The International Monetary Fund (IMF.) But this recovery may be short-lived. According to a new IMF report released yesterday (April 28), growth in 2022 will slow to 3.8%. “With the pandemic, a few segments of society were able to insulate themselves from the [economic] effects,” Abebe Aemro Selassie, the director of the IMF’s African Department tells Quartz. He contrasts this with the war in Ukraine, whose effects—rising fuel and food prices, largely—will be experienced by everyone. These effects are already being felt across African cities—whether it’s the doubling of fuel prices in Nigeria, food inflation and fuel shortages in Kenya, or heightened food insecurity in the Horn of Africa, a region that heavily relies on Russia and Ukraine for wheat imports. The IMF report urges African governments to address the local impact of the war, balance inflation and growth, and manage exchange-rate adjustments. None of these will be straightforward. Governments must generate revenue: the two main options are increased borrowing or widening the tax base. However, Selassie has misgivings. “Taxes need to pay for government spending but governments have to use the money transparently,” he says. Quartz Africa

South Africa’s Latest Surge Is a Possible Preview of the Pandemic’s Next Chapter
Coronavirus cases are surging again in South Africa, and public health experts are monitoring the situation, eager to know what’s driving the spike, what it says about immunity from previous infections and what its implications are globally. South Africa experienced a decline in cases after hitting an Omicron-fueled, pandemic peak in December. But in the past week, cases have tripled, positivity rates are up and hospitalizations have also increased, health officials said. The surge has the country facing a possible fifth wave. The spike is linked to BA.4 And BA.5, two subvariants that are part of the Omicron family. Tulio de Oliveira, director of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform, said that BA.4 and BA.5 demonstrate how the virus is evolving differently as global immunity increases. Variants emerged “out of nowhere” in recent years, Mr. de Oliveira said. “What we are seeing now, or at least maybe the first signs, is not completely new variants emerging, but current variants are starting to create lineages of themselves,” Dr. de Oliveira said. Since its initial identification in South Africa and Botswana last November, Omicron has produced several subvariants. New York Times

UN Extends Libya Mission After US-Russia Clash
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday to extend the U.N. political mission in Libya for three months, with the United States and Britain accusing Russia of blocking a longer and more substantive mandate that would include promoting reconciliation of the country’s rival governments now claiming power. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow insisted on a three-month extension to pressure U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to urgently appoint a new special representative to head the mission, known as UNSMIL. The former U.N. special envoy, Jan Kubis, resigned on Nov. 23 after 10 months on the job. Nebenzia said in the absence of a new envoy, the U.N. mission “has been unable to provide substantial support for the political process in Libya for more than six months.” He blamed some unidentified members of the Security Council who he claimed “are not ready to accept a scenario where UNSMIL is guided by an African representative,” saying their opposition is “non-constructive” and “a manifestation of neo-colonialism.” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, who oversaw negotiations on the resolution, said after the vote that “Russia has once again isolated itself by not joining consensus with the 14 other members of the council” who supported a one-year substantive mandate. AP

Tunisia’s President Plans To Rewrite Constitution
Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed has announced plans to rewrite his country’s constitution. In a televised Eid address, Mr Saïed, who has dissolved government and parliament, said a committee would be established to redraft the existing framework and would conclude its work within days. He did not specify how the constitution would be changed, but said it would usher in what he called a New Republic. Opponents have accused him of seeking to concentrate all the levers of power in his own hands since he seized power nine months ago. BBC

In Egypt’s Big Ramadan TV Drama, the President Is the Hero
At the height of the traditional Ramadan TV season, big-budget, star-studded shows captivate millions of Egyptians every night of the holy month with high drama and low comedy. But one episode of the most politically charged show stood out. The government-produced hit series “The Choice 3” purports to truthfully chronicle the 2013 rise to power of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s authoritarian president, after a period of violent turmoil and deep national division. But it was the 25th episode, which aired on Tuesday and featured the country’s military foiling an arms-smuggling operation, that created the biggest stir. The night it aired, the real-life president broke the fourth wall: Every word of the series, Mr. el-Sisi assured Egyptians in a speech, was true. “Maybe a lot of us are wondering, what was the objective of making this series?” the president said. “The goal was that we record honestly, loyally and honorably in a time when there was no honor, no truth.” But critics say that far from portraying the honest truth, the show rewrites history by lionizing the president and demonizing his opponents. In almost a decade as president, Mr. el-Sisi has transformed Egypt from a country that tolerated some political debate and artistic license, even under the rule of strongmen, into one where fear compels silence. Imprisoning critics big and small, criminalizing protests and muzzling the press, the government has smothered nearly all political opposition. New York Times

Sudan Doctors Count at Least 200 Dead in West Darfur Attacks – Hospitals Severely Overstretched
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) has confirmed that the violence in El Geneina and Kereinik in West Darfur over the past week claimed at least 200 lives, including nine women, 24 children, and 23 seniors. Medical facilities to deal with dozens wounded in the strife are severely overstretched, the doctors say. The latest CCSD statement on Saturday corroborates earlier reports of the death toll, while it provides shocking details of those slain, and the injuries being treated. The doctors say that after El Geneina hospital in the state capital was evacuated last week, there is still a deficit in providing health services in the state, as the hospital is not yet operating at full capacity. The capacity of the hospital can also not be covered by the private hospitals in the state. This calls for concerted efforts directed towards full return to work in the hospital, the CCSD says. The most recent deaths over the weekend include three people shot dead, and one stabbed to death, bringing the grim toll to 200 since the start of the events. Dabanga

Ending Military Coup Should Be Ultimate Goal of the Intra-Sudanese Process: FFC
The solution to the political crisis in Sudan depends on ending the military coup of October 25, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) told Western envoys who met them on Thursday. Special envoys from France, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and the European Union on Thursday met with the Sudanese stakeholders including the military-led Sovereign Council, the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), the National Consensus groups and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC). The EU and Troika diplomats expressed their support for the tripartite process to end the political crisis and encouraged the Sudanese parties to speed up talks to restore the civilian-led transition. Speaking to the Sudan Tribune about meeting with the visiting delegation, FFC leading member Yasir Arman said that the discussions were characterized by frankness and understanding. The coalition stressed that any solution should reflect the aspirations of Sudanese for peace, freedom and justice, said Arman. “Solutions must be compatible with the Sudanese people’s aspirations and lead to achieving the demands of the revolution and the pro-democracy protesters after all these huge sacrifices”. “Therefore, we must take advantage of what happened on November 21, 2021” he added referring to the Burhan-Hamdok agreement which was rejected by the Sudanese people and forced the latter to resign because it established a military guardianship over the government. “A solution that does not meet the demands of the revolution will not persist and will not find support,” he stressed. Sudan Tribune

Leading Algeria Opposition Figure Arrested, Rights Groups Say
One of Algeria’s leading opposition figures, Karim Tabbou, has been arrested again, rights groups have said. Tabbou was one of the most-recognizable faces during unprecedented mass rallies, led by the Hirak pro-democracy movement, that began in February 2019. They demanded a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system in place since the North African country’s independence from France in 1962. He was detained Friday evening at his home, the rights groups said. Algeria’s Human Rights League (LADDH) said on its Facebook page: “We still don’t know the reasons for this new arrest.” On Tuesday, Tabbou published on his Facebook page an “homage” to another activist, Hakim Debbazi, whose death the Rights League announced. Debbazi had been detained in February. “Physically dead, the martyrs of the just causes are more than alive,” Tabbou wrote. He blamed authorities for the death of “modest and humble” Debbazi after a heart attack and said the activist had been “committed body and soul to the Hirak.” Voice of America

UN Calls on Mali To Reverse New Media Restrictions
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warns that Mali’s new media restrictions reflect a growing intolerance toward freedom of the press in the region. U.N. human rights officials are expressing deep dismay at Mali’s decision Wednesday to permanently suspend Radio France International and France 24 from operating there. They are urging Mali’s military authorities to reverse the ban and allow independent media to work freely in the country.The government temporarily suspended the two international broadcasters on March 16, accusing them of airing false allegations of human rights violations by the Malian army and Russian mercenaries. U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the current climate of fear in Mali is having a chilling effect on journalists and bloggers. “There is a lot of self-censorship. There is a lot of pressure,” she said. “There have been a number of journalists—local, regional, international, who have come under pressure. Licenses revoked.… Journalists are trying to avoid reporting on sensitive topics, so that they do not fall foul of the authorities.” Shamdasani said U.N. human rights monitors continue to document allegations of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in many parts of Mali. If anything, she said the prevailing situation in the country demands more, not less, scrutiny. Voice of America

Ghana’s E-Levy Adds 1.5% Tax to Electronic Payments
The 59-year-old sells hair products and accessories from her shop. Some of her business is carried out using mobile money, which is an electronic wallet service that allows registered users to store, send and receive payment using their accounts. This payment method is faster, more convenient, and more reliable than the traditional banking system, according to Ms Enninful. As a consequence, the government’s new 1.5% tax on all electronic transactions above 100 Ghanaian cedi ($13; £11) – known as the e-levy – is a source of concern for her. It comes into force on 1 May. “We have to add e-levy on top of the cost of the item, which will increase the price,” she tells the BBC. “Otherwise, we will go back to cash which sometimes doesn’t help us because we get fake notes and sometimes underpayments.” Despite her measured reaction, telling me it is good the government is trying to raise money, she is still worried about the controversial tax, like many market sellers. Ms Enninful is one of many market sellers worried about the controversial tax. The e-levy will also apply to bank transfers and remittances as well as mobile money transactions. Critics of the law say it will hit low-income workers and small businesses the hardest, as they rely heavily on mobile money transactions. Last year, the parliamentary debate on the e-levy ended with punches being thrown, such was the level of disagreement. The law was eventually passed but only after opposition MPs staged a walkout. BBC

Nigeria: Building Collapses in Lagos Killing Eight, 23 Rescued
A three-storey mainly residential building has collapsed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, killing eight people and injuring 23 others who were rescued and taken to hospitals, the emergency services said on Monday. Building collapses are common in Africa’s most populous nation, where millions live in dilapidated structures and construction standards are often flouted. The three-storey building collapsed late Sunday at Ebute-Metta area of the sprawling city of over 20 million people, Ibrahim Farinloye of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) told AFP. “The incident happened around 9.30 pm. It was a three-storey building. The ground and first floors were used as warehouse while the second and third floors were residential,” he said. “We have recovered eight dead bodies while 23 others were rescued with various degrees of injuries. They are receiving treatment in the hospitals,” he said. Farinloye said rescue efforts were still ongoing at the scene of the incident. “We have been working since last night to clear the rubble in search of more victims.” He said the investigation was underway to determine the cause of the latest collapse in the country. In January, three people, including two children, were killed and another 18 rescued when a church collapsed in southern Delta state. Building standards have been in the spotlight since a high-rise building under construction collapsed in Lagos in November last year, killing at least 45 people. Bad workmanship, low-quality materials and corruption to bypass official oversight are often blamed for Nigerian building disasters.  Since 2005, at least 152 buildings have collapsed in Lagos, according to a South African university researcher. East African

Blame Games, Fears of Isolation at Meeting To Seek Peace for DRC
The latest peace bid for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled eastern region appeared headed for a solid footing after 24 armed groups gathered in Nairobi to express their grievances, in a meeting endorsed by the UN and the African Union. But the conference between the government of President Felix Tshisekedi and the rebel groups, brokered by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, was also an arena for blame games, amid feelings of isolation by some…A dispatch from the meeting said there is a general feeling that most of the rebel groups took up arms because there is no government presence to provide basic services, including security; that the government refused to honour previous peace deals; and that, while most of those groups would want to resume normal life, the presence of foreign fighters means an external hand will continue to fuel violence. “All the armed groups called for repatriation of refugees in the DRC to their countries. Furthermore, and emphasised by most groups, is the need to repatriate Congolese returnees from other countries to participate in the development of DRC and to help deal with the insecurity issues,” said the dispatch. “Most groups identified the presence and operations of foreign forces as a threat to peace in the region, and as a reason for these groups to take up arms for self-defence. The FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), Allied Democratic Forces, Red Tabara (composed of ex-Burundian soldiers) are the major groups mentioned.” East African

Paul Rusesabagina: Hotel Rwanda Hero’s Family Files $400M US Lawsuit
In a statement, Rusesabagina’s family accused the Rwandan government and high-ranking officials of conspiring to “facilitate and execute an elaborate plot to lure” Rusesabagina from his home in San Antonio to Rwanda “where he would be tortured and illegally detained for the remainder of his life”. The statement added that the $400m sought in compensation will “grow every day that Paul Rusesabagina is held in captivity”. The complaint was filed in Washington DC, the statement said, and has been served on the government of Rwanda, which has not yet commented publicly, nor responded to the BBC’s request for comment…Rusesabagina – a hotel manager at the time – protected some 1,200 people from the violence, after they sought shelter in the building. The Hollywood film, Hotel Rwanda, was made in 2004, and featured Don Cheadle as Rusesabagina. The following year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-US President George W Bush for his efforts. But Rusesabagina’s journey from celebrated humanitarian to Rwandan state enemy happened as his criticism of the post-genocide government and President Paul Kagame gained a wider audience. In a 2018 video message, Rusesabagina called for a regime change, saying that “the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda.” He was arrested in 2020, when, according to his supporters, a private jet he believed would take him to Burundi, instead landed in the Rwandan capital Kigali. In September last year he was found guilty of backing a rebel group behind deadly attacks in 2018 and 2019 in Rwanda. At the time, the US, where Rusesabagina is a resident, said it was concerned by the conviction. BBC



Photo: Adam Jones