Africa Media Review for May 4, 2021

Chad’s Ongoing Instability, the Legacy of Idriss Déby
Idriss Déby’s death is an outcome of the ongoing instability perpetuated by his regime. The subsequent military coup d’état led by the late president’s son risks deepening political violence in this geographically strategic country. Déby died on April 20 from wounds he sustained on the frontlines of fighting against the rebel group le Front pour l’alternance et la concorde au Tchad (FACT). While widely characterized as opening the door to instability, Déby’s death in battle vividly punctuates the outcome of instability wrought under his regime. Instability in Chad has simmered for decades, disrupted by periodic explosions of violence. Corruption, political exclusion, growing disparity, and repression of dissent have long been trademarks of Déby’s rule in Chad, which not coincidentally ranks 187th out of 189 countries on UNDP’s Human Development Index. Unless these grievances are addressed, Chad’s instability can be expected to persist. This has regional repercussions given Chad’s strategic location connecting central and western Africa with Sudan and the Maghreb. Expanding Chadian insecurity has implications for the conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin, Libya, Sudan’s Darfur, the Central African Republic, and the western Sahel. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Gunmen Kill Dozens in Attack in Eastern Burkina Faso
At least 30 people were killed by gunmen in eastern Burkina Faso Monday, according to the government. The attack occurred in Kodyel village in the Komandjari province near the border with Niger, government official Labidi Ouoba told the Associated Press by phone after fleeing the attack. Jihadists surrounded the village and went house to house setting fire to them and killing people, said Ouoba. “I ran early because the terrorists usually look for authorities. We all pray that peace comes back now in our country. We are tired,″ he said. The attack comes exactly one week after two Spanish journalists and an Irish conservationist were killed and a Burkinabe soldier went missing when their anti-poaching patrol was ambushed by jihadists in the same region. That same day last week, 18 people were killed in Yattakou village in the country’s Sahel region. Another resident, Mediempo Tandamba, who fled Monday’s attack said approximately 100 Islamic extremists entered the town on motorcycles, tricycles and pick up trucks. Four of his brother’s children were killed. AP

Chad Military Council Announces Key Ministerial Posts
Chad’s transitional military council pressed ahead Monday with solidifying its hold on power after announcing a new government over the weekend that kept key ministries in the hands of allies. Mahamat Idriss Deby, 37, was put in charge of the central African country earlier this month after the military announced that his father, Idriss Deby Itno, had been killed by rebels on the battlefield after more than three decades in power. Political opponents immediately decried the army’s move as a coup d’etat, taking to the streets in protest. Security forces violently put down one demonstration in the capital last week, fatally shooting at least six protesters, according to witnesses. Hundreds of others were detained by police. … the newly named ministers of national defense and public security are both supporters of the military transitional council that took power following the longtime president’s death. The Transformers party, which has been at the forefront of the recent anti-government demonstrations, however, was not included in the new government lineup. AP

Ethiopia ‘at a Crossroads’ Amid Spiraling Ethnic Conflict
Africa’s second-most populous country, with 110 million people, faces a crisis of ethnic nationalism that some fear could tear it apart as the federal government asserts its authority in regions such as Tigray, where a military operation launched in November to capture the fugitive regional leaders has escalated into a war in which widespread atrocities are reported and thousands have been killed.As that war reaches the six-month mark on Tuesday, there is no sign of how it might be resolved for the Tigray region’s estimated 6 million people. The United Nations human rights office has said all sides are accused of committing abuses against civilians, although far more of the killings, rapes, and mass expulsions are attributed to Ethiopian forces, allied Amhara regional forces, or, especially, troops from neighboring Eritrea. … With the rising violence, some in Ethiopia wonder how the government will pull off national elections on June 5. The decision to delay voting from last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic helped to spark the Tigray conflict when the region’s leaders objected, asserted that Abiy’s mandate had ended and held a regional vote of their own. The European Union this week canceled its election observation mission, saying requirements for its independence and the import of communications equipment were not met. AP

Somalia Invites State Leaders to Crucial Election Talks
Somalia’s prime minister has invited regional leaders to a fresh round of negotiations in the hope of resolving a protracted feud over elections that sparked violence in the capital. The troubled Horn of Africa country is experiencing its worst political crisis in years, with fighting erupting in Mogadishu last week after the president extended his mandate by two years without going to elections. Opposition fighters remain in the capital even after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed backed away from the mandate extension at the weekend and agreed to hold a fresh vote. The president, better known by his nickname Farmajo, on Sunday tasked his prime minister with reaching out to rivals and overseeing the negotiations, a key opposition demand. A government spokesman said Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble had invited the leaders of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states to roundtable talks later this month. AFP

Congo to Impose Military Rule in Troubled Eastern Provinces
Congo will replace civilian authorities with military administrations in two conflict-hit provinces for a month, the government said on Monday, announcing the details of a state of siege to address worsening bloodshed in the east. A surge in attacks by armed militias and intercommunal violence along Congo’s border with Uganda have killed hundreds of people since the start of the year. Under the state of siege, which was declared last Friday, governors and provincial assemblies in North Kivu and Ituri provinces will be suspended for 30 days from Thursday, government spokesman Kasongo Mwema Yamba said in a statement read on the state broadcaster. In their place, the government will install military governors and police vice-governors with wide-ranging powers, he said. “They have powers to conduct day and night searches, to ban publications, to ban the movement of people,” Mwema said. Violence has remained endemic in eastern Congo since the official end of the civil war in 2003, but insecurity has soared in the past two years. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group active in eastern Congo since the 1990s, is believed to be responsible for much of the recent bloodshed. Reuters

Congolese President to Visit Sudan for Talks on GERD Filling
Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi will travel to Khartoum soon for talks with Sudanese officials on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), said foreign minister Mariam al-Mahdi on Monday. According to the official Agence Congolaise de Presse (ACP), al-Mahdi made the announcement of the visit after a meeting in Kinshasa with the chairperson of the African Union. … “President Tshisekedi will visit Khartoum soon to discuss all these questions with a view to finding a win-win solution, ” said the Sudanese top diplomat according to ACP. Sudan says a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the giant dam is needed to serve as a reference to resolve any future disagreement. But, Ethiopia rejects the demand saying a non-compulsory guideline is enough. Also, Sudan proposes a four-way process to reach an agreement on the GERD filling and operation saying the direct talks between the three countries have failed to produce a deal more than nine years after. Tshisekedi is in consultations with the United Nations Secretary-General and the U.S. administration, added the Sudanese minister. Sudan Tribune

US Envoy Heads to Horn of Africa
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is sending his special envoy for the Horn of Africa to the region Tuesday in a bid to de-escalate tensions. In a statement, Blinken said Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman will visit Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan through May 13. The special envoy will meet with officials from those governments, as well as the United Nations and the African Union, in addition to political stakeholders and humanitarian groups. “The special envoy’s travel underscores the administration’s commitment to lead a sustained diplomatic effort to address the interlinked political, security and humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa, and he will coordinate U.S. policy across the region to advance that goal,” Blinken said. … The United States has been pressing Ethiopia to end the conflict in its Tigray region, which has been raging for six months. U.S. officials are also calling for allied Eritrean troops to withdraw from the region. VOA

West Darfur Victims Committee Calls on Sudan Gov’t and UN to Protect Civilians
The El Geneina Victims Committee has called on the UN Security Council to send forces to protect the people in West Darfur, citing the inability of the Sudanese regular forces to protect civilians, and accusing some members of the regular forces of being involved in attacks. The committee representing the victims of violent attacks on various neighbourhoods in El Geneina and the adjacent camps for the displaced, expressed their concerns in a press conference in the West Darfur capital on Sunday. They demanded “the immediate withdrawal of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the joint Third Front Forces“ from West Darfur, accusing them of joining the attacks by Arab tribesmen on El Geneina in mid-January and again in early April attacking civilians during the El Geneina events. Radio Dabanga

Libya’s Top Diplomat Calls on Turkey to Withdraw Foreign Fighters
Libya’s top diplomat has called for the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries from the North African country as it heads towards elections later this year. Najla al-Manqoush, foreign minister of Libya’s interim government, urged Turkey on Monday to implement UN Security Council resolutions demanding the repatriation of more than 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya. “We call on [Turkey] to take steps to implement all the provisions of … the Security Council resolutions and to cooperate together to expel all foreign forces and mercenaries from the Libyan territories,” al-Manqoush said. Her remarks came at a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. He visited Tripoli along with Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and other top military and intelligence officials. The remarks were seen as a rebuke to Turkey, which has deployed troops and Syrian mercenaries to fight along with Tripoli militias since forces of eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to wrest control of the capital their attack in 2019. … Security Council diplomats have said there are more than 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese, along with Russians and Chadians. Al Jazeera

Tracking Nigeria’s Human Traffickers
Our investigation began in Benin City, capital of Edo State. Almost everyone we spoke to has at least a friend or a family member in Europe. More than three-quarters of illegal prostitutes in Italy are from this region. Due to high unemployment among the youths in Edo state, many young women see fewer prospects here. They seek for a better life in Europe instead, not fully aware of the dangers. Catholic Sister, Bibiana Emenaha, has tried for years to warn young Nigerian women before they ended up in Europe. “Many are lured with false promises,” she told us. The traffickers promise jobs such as babysitting or hair dressing, but that quickly turn out to be a lie. Once the young women are in Europe, they end up on the streets. fter long negotiations, a trafficker agreed to an interview with us. He called himself Steve and claimed he has already transported more than 100 Nigerians all the way to Libya. He wouldn’t speak about the people behind his business. He said he was simply a service provider. DW

Algeria’s Tebboune Urges Dialogue Amid Mounting Social Anger
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has urged his government to open “a dialogue” with social partners to appease mounting social anger. An unemployment rate of 15 percent, soaring prices and shortages of basic food items have all added to turmoil caused by a deep economic crisis due to the fall in oil revenues and political deadlock since the popular Hirak pro-democracy uprising two years ago. During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Tebboune ordered “a dialogue with different social partners to improve the socio-professional situation” of employees in the education and health sectors, a statement said. Meanwhile, firefighters and other civil protection personnel marched in uniform not far from the headquarters of the Algerian presidency. Firefighters took to social media to say that police broke up the demonstration with tear gas. On Thursday, Algeria released on probation Karim Tabbou, a leading opposition activist, after his arrest the previous day. Tabbou, who was handed a one-year suspended sentence last year for “undermining state security,” was charged on eight counts, including “slander,” after he allegedly heckled an official during a funeral. Tabbou and other government opponents have pledged to boycott upcoming polls. Al Jazeera

Government Critic Jailed for Six Months in Congo
The editor of a Congolese satirical weekly critical of President Denis Sassou Nguesso was convicted Monday of libel and jailed for six months, a rights group said. Raymond Malonga, 60, was also ordered to pay a fine of 30 million CFA francs (more than 45,000 euros or $54,000), according to Tresor Nzila of the Congolese Human Rights Observatory (OCDH). Family members and local journalists confirmed the ruling to AFP. Malonga, editor of Sel-Piment (Salt and Spice), was found guilty of libelling Georgette Okemba, the wife of a close aide to Sassou Nguesso, after accusing her of diverting one billion CFA francs from state coffers. Malonga was arrested in early February while receiving treatment in hospital. His online weekly, known for stories critical of the government, was suspended early this year by the High Council for Freedom of Communication — led by a former minister from Sassou Nguesso’s PCT party. Congo was ranked 118th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ global Press Freedom Index last year. AFP

East Africa: Threats to Journalists Increase, Media Practitioners Say
Journalists and media operations in the eastern African region continue to face threats from state and non-state actors as those with power seek gag the free press. Threats and general harassment, jailing and sometimes the killing of journalists have increased in the recent past, especially as governments in the region try to enforce Covid-19 protocols. Since March 2020 when the pandemic broke out, too many journalists in the region have been facing censorship, intimidation, or violence. These were the general sentiments shared by journalists, media owners and human rights organisations in the region as they marked the World Press Freedom Day on May 3. Stephen Gitagama, the Chairman of the Media Owners Association (MOA) in Kenya and CEO Nation Media Group, said that there is no debating the fact that when the business is challenged then the risks to free media grow exponentially. “At Nation Media Group, we operate directly in four countries in the region and we have seen how regulatory measures can be used to either promote or stifle independent media,” he said. The EastAfrican

Ugandan Journalists Face Physical Danger While Doing Their Jobs
In Uganda, journalists report they have come under attack while doing their jobs. Two journalists say they were beaten last week as they tried to cover a protest over power outages. Dozens more were beaten during the run-up to elections in January. On April 28, a protest broke out in the central Uganda town of Kayunga as locals demonstrated against a two-week power outage. Journalists were sent to cover the demonstration, including Amon Kayanja, who reports for a local television station. On arrival, Kayanja pulled out his small video camera and started speaking to the demonstrators. But when police and military police were deployed to halt the protest, Kayanja and Teddy Nakaliga, a female journalist, found themselves under attack. “They started beating us. We asked them why are they beating us? They were not giving us a reason. They broke my camera. The phone was destroyed. They had some sticks; they whipped us. They were chasing us away. We had nothing to do,” said Kayanja. The International Press Institute says Kayanja and Nakaliga are two of more than 100 journalists who have been beaten during the course of their work in Uganda. VOA

Clubhouse App Creates Space for Open Talk in Middle East
Faezeh Hashemi, the Iranian politician and daughter of a former president, is banned from speaking publicly in Iran. State television does not give her airtime. Conservative vigilantes have stormed her previous attempts to speak in public. Yet there she was, holding forth in a six-and-a-half-hour town hall meeting last month to an audience of more than 16,000 Iranians inside and outside of the country, calling for a secular state and for stripping absolute power from Iran’s supreme leader. “The Islamic Republic has become worse than the shah’s regime,” said Ms. Hashemi, 58. The venue: Clubhouse, the audio-only social networking app that has offered users from repressive countries across the Middle East a new forum to connect, debate, vent and listen in real-time audio chat rooms. Saudis have discussed legalizing alcohol and abortion, both taboos in Saudi Arabia. Egyptians have wondered aloud what it would take to challenge their autocratic ruler. … People on Clubhouse, said a former Iranian vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, are “practicing democracy in real time.” … Already, there are hints that Clubhouse may succumb to the same cycle [of being restricted], or be blocked altogether, as it was in China. The New York Times