Africa Media Review for May 5, 2022

Election Influencers for Hire: Kenya’s Disinformation Factories
In a nondescript office north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, social media influencer Ian James Mwai constantly glances at his two mobile phones, wary of missing an opportunity to promote the political party he works for. The 23-year-old is in the vanguard of the growing ranks of influencers feverishly punching keyboards and hoping to tilt the outcome of the country’s high-stakes elections, which are less than 100 days away. The rising dominance of platforms like Twitter and Facebook has opened up a new front in Kenyan politics, with candidates desperate to draw the attention of the country’s 12 million social media users…Demographics are a key factor behind the drive: Kenya’s population is estimated to be 50 million, more than half of them under 35. Six million youngsters will also become eligible to vote this year as they come of age. It has spawned a new industry – packed with online personalities who parrot politicians’ views, create false narratives, deflect criticism and promote viral conspiracies. And they offer clients something invaluable: plausible deniability. “There are so many teams and personnel out there and you cannot control what they put online,” said Mwai. “My team is ethical,” the social media strategist hastily adds, referring to the 70 influencers under his wing. Charging a minimum of 50 000 Kenyan shillings ($430) per day for a trending hashtag on Twitter, their services are in hot demand. AFP

Somalia: AU, UN Condemn Shabaab Attack As Militants Claim They Killed a ‘Huge’ Number
The United Nations and African Union have condemned the Tuesday Shabaab assault on peacekeepers in Somalia, even as the militant group claimed to have killed more people than officially communicated. Militants on Tuesday attacked an AU base housing Burundi peacekeepers near Eel Baraf, a village about 160 kilometres northeast of the capital Mogadishu. The Burundian government on Wednesday said 10 soldiers under the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) were killed in the raid on their camp, but the militants suggest that the number of peacekeepers killed is much higher than the Burundi government is reporting. The EastAfrican could not independently verify the number of people killed in the attack. Burundi officially said 10 soldiers were killed and dozens injured, adding that its troops also killed at least 29 Shabaab fighters. Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye condemned the attack, on his Twitter page. East African

Sudan: ‘We Are Lucky Today’: West Darfur Braces for More Outbreaks of Fighting
Many towns and villages in Sudan to the north and east of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, are no-go areas. The violence that erupted here last week and left 200 people dead has subsided but the tension is palpable. The area around Jebel Moon, 70km from El Geneina, is surrounded and sealed off by encamped Arab militias tied to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, AKA Hemedti, the second most powerful man in Sudan. These armed groups are accused of carrying out last week’s massacre at Kreinik and the atrocities in Darfur over the past two years. People living in the villages here are unable to leave for medical treatment, shopping or to visit family without a military convoy, something which is sporadic, local people say. Hawa Adam, 40, a mother of nine, has been sick and was due to see a gynaecologist in El Geneina, as the clinic in her area has no doctors. She had to wait 21 days to find a seat in a car included in the convoy. When she reached the city, she was stuck after last week’s fighting, worried about her nine children at home…Observers predict more violence and conflict for West Darfur. A recent report by the US Institute of Peace pointed to the lack of controls on Arab militias, including the Janjaweed, who were largely incorporated into the RSF, and said they were motivated by an Arab supremacist agenda in addition to their pursuit of good pasture and water. Guardian

Report: ‘Sudanese Pound Decreased 20 Times in Five Years’
The economic situation has continued to deteriorate in Sudan during 2022. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan revealed the continued deterioration of the economic situation. Reports indicate that the value of the local currency has decreased 20 times (2,000 per cent) during the past five years. In its latest report, OCHA states that the suspension of economic support provided by the international community (following the October 25 military coup in 2021) led to the suspension of more than $7.2 billion, and indicated that the decline in foreign exchange reserves, limited economic activity, and continued political instability led to the depreciation of the Sudanese Pound (SDG). Dabanga

African Union Calls for Confidence-Building Measures in Sudan
The Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union on Wednesday called on the Sudanese military authorities to create an environment conducive to dialogue in the country ahead of an intra-Sudanese process. The UNITAMS, African Union and IGAD plan to launch a political process in mid-May to restore the constitutional order in Sudan after a coup d’etat that paused political and economic reforms carried out by a transitional government formed in 2019. In a statement dealing with the unconstitutional change of government in Sudan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, and Mali, the PSC welcomed the efforts by the tripartite mechanism to hold an inter-Sudanese dialogue to restore the constitutional order in the country and expressed its commitment to support the process. The 15-member body “calls on all stakeholders to place the supreme interest of Sudan above all else and commit to creating a conducive environment for the political transition process,” reads the statement. The Council further urged to end violence, respect the right of peaceful assembly and end arbitrary arrests. Also, they called to release all political detainees to demonstrate goodwill in support of the intra-Sudanese consultations and transparent political transition; The PSC, last October, suspended Sudan’s membership in the regional organisation as a result of a coup d’etat. Sudan Tribune

Guinea Issues Charges Against Deposed Leader Alpha Conde
Guinea’s attorney general has ordered legal proceedings against former President Alpha Conde and 26 of his former officials for alleged crimes, including acts of violence while in office. The charges against 84-year-old Conde and his allies range from complicity in murder and assault to destruction of property, according to a document signed by the attorney general. Other alleged crimes include detention, torture, kidnapping, disappearances, rape and other sexual abuse and looting. Among the former officials to be prosecuted are a former president of the constitutional court, ex-speakers of parliament, a former prime minister and many former ministers, legislators and heads of the security services. Public prosecutor Alphonse Charles Wright told the AFP news agency the order to launch legal proceedings followed a complaint filed by the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), an umbrella group that had spearheaded protests against the former president. Anger against Conde, who in 2010 had become the first democratically elected president in the history of the country, mounted after he altered the constitution to run for a third term in October 2020. His main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo and other opposition candidates alleged irregularities in the official results, which saw him winning with 59.5 percent of the vote. Repeated protests resulted in dozens of deaths, including at least 17 in skirmishes between protesters and police after the vote. Al Jazeera

Germany To End EU Training Mission in Mali
Germany will end its participation in the European Union training mission in Mali but is ready to continue with a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country under certain conditions, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Wednesday. France and allies fighting Islamist militants in Mali earlier this year said they would pull out troops after almost a decade. The exit raised questions about the futures of the 14,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) and the European Union’s EUTM and EUCAP missions. MESEBERG, Germany, May 4 (Reuters) – Germany will end its participation in the European Union training mission in Mali but is ready to continue with a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country under certain conditions, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Wednesday. France and allies fighting Islamist militants in Mali earlier this year said they would pull out troops after almost a decade. The exit raised questions about the futures of the 14,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) and the European Union’s EUTM and EUCAP missions. Under the current transitional Malian government, there was a danger that Germany-trained Malian soldiers could fight together with Russian troops and “commit cruel violations of human rights”, Lambrecht said after a cabinet meeting in Meseberg, a city north of Berlin. “We cannot support such a system any longer,” the defence minister said. “That’s why we will stop our (participation in the) EUTM training mission.” Reuters

France Says Mali’s Decision To Quit Defence Accords Won’t Affect Withdrawal Plans
Paris “considers that this decision is unjustified and absolutely contests any violation of the bilateral legal framework”, the spokesman told reporters. After several weeks of threats, Bamako said Monday it would quit the 2014 accords because of “flagrant violations” of its sovereignty by French troops. The former colonial power has begun removing soldiers belonging to its Barkhane force from Mali following two coups in the country and rising tensions with the military-controlled government. “France will continue the withdrawal in good order of its military presence in Mali, in line with the commitments it has made to its partners,” the spokesman said. The heated exchanges between the two capitals came as diplomats said the UN Security Council had held a closed-door session on Mali on Tuesday at Russia’s request. Mali had complained to the global body about alleged violations of its airspace by French forces. The French-Malian defence accords were signed in 2014 after Paris intervened to stop a jihadist offensive. France 24

Presence of Russian Mercenaries in Mali Risks Bloody Backlash, Say Experts
Western officials told the Guardian earlier this year that the Wagner mercenary group was the “thin end of the wedge” and a “Trojan horse” for a Russian effort to extend its influence covertly in resource-rich and unstable parts of Africa. In Mali, the group is filling a vacuum left by departing French troops who led international efforts to counter a decade-long insurgency. That effort, which included one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions in the world, failed, and the violence has spilled across the volatile Sahel region, displacing tens of millions and destabilising fragile countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso. “Wagner is one of the means Russia is using to spread influence and advance economic and other interests in Africa,” said Jared Thompson, a research associate with the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. “Wagner arrived in Mali at the same time as Malian officials went to Russia and as Moscow was selling arms to Bamako [the capital of Mali]. This certainly suggests Wagner’s deployment is part of a broader effort.” Guardian

Jihadists Kill Seven Villagers in Northeast Nigeria
Jihadists attacked a village in northeast Nigeria, killing seven people and looting supplies, shortly after UN chief Antonio Guterres arrived in the troubled region for a visit, local sources said on Wednesday. Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), arriving on motorbikes and in trucks fitted with machine guns, stormed Kautikeri village near the town of Chibok at around 16:30 on Tuesday, they said. They opened fire on residents and then looted and torched shops, one said. “We recovered seven bodies from the attack, which the terrorists launched from nearby Sambisa forest,” local resident Samson Bulus told AFP. “One of the victims was shot and burnt in his car as he tried to flee,” he said. There was no immediate confirmation of the attack by the Nigerian military, but Ayuba Alamson, a community leader from Chibok, confirmed the toll. The village had yet to count those who had fled the attack, so it was unclear if any had been kidnapped, said Alamson. News24

Cameroon and Russia Sign Defence Agreement
On 21 April, an agreement concluded nine days earlier in Moscow between the Cameroonian Defence Minister Joseph Beti Assomo and his Russian counterpart Sergei Choigou was released. The content of the 13-page document is quite vague, mentioning the exchange of information in the field of international defence and security policy, military education, military hydrography and medicine. This new episode of Russia’s diplomatic offensive in Africa, in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions, follows the refusal from many African countries, Cameroon included, to condemn Moscow at the UN General Assembly. The treaty, which has an initial duration of five years with an option to renew it for another five years, also comes seven years after an agreement signed on 15 April 2015. The latter was furthering the supply of Russian weapons, including artillery, missiles, and armoured trucks, as well as the training of Cameroonian military officers. Interestingly enough, this first agreement came not so long after the first Russian offensive in Ukraine, in a similar context of general Western condemnation against Moscow. DefenceWeb

South Africa’s President Confronted by Daunting Challenges
Shouted down by angry mineworkers, defied within his party over his anti-corruption drive, derided as ineffective by the opposition — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa faces daunting political challenges. Ramaphosa, 69, has responded with a calm demeanor and a serious, dogged determination that may see him prevail, say some analysts. Characteristic of Ramaphosa’s measured leadership style is his diplomatic response to the strikers who forced him to abandon a speech to mark the Workers Day public holiday on May 1. Ramaphosa has said their anger is justified. “While the main grievance appeared to be about wage negotiations at nearby mines, the workers’ actions demonstrated a broader level of discontent,” Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly letter to the nation. “It reflects a weakening of trust in their union and federation as well as political leadership, including public institutions.” He said the workers “wanted their union leaders and government to appreciate their concerns and understand the challenges they face.” Political economist Miyelani Mkhabela said he was not surprised that Ramaphosa received a hostile reception from workers as many of their conditions had worsened since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago. AP

Where in Sub-Saharan Africa Are Media Outlets Curtailed?
Mancho Bibixy was pulled from his hideout in Bamenda, Cameroon, in the dead of night on January 17, 2017. In the years since the elite commandos of the Cameroon army dragged the Abakwa FM anchor away, his fiancee and son have said they lost all hope of seeing him regain his freedom. Mancho Bibixy is now five years into a 17-year sentence at Kondengui Central Prison in Yaounde. His work at the most popular radio station broadcasting from the heart of the country’s crisis-torn English-speaking regions is what landed him in prison. Abakwa FM takes a hard political line and gets tough on social issues. Mancho Bibixy was convicted of crimes against the state and spreading false information. In 2019, the authorities slapped two more years on to his original 15-year sentence after he complained about poor prison conditions. DW

Kenya Trains Domestic Workers in Middle East About Rights
Kenyan authorities are training domestic workers who accept jobs in the Middle East about their rights after years of reported abuses there, including beatings, rapes and deaths. It’s been a year since Bernard Njenga learned his wife, Esther Thuku, had died in Saudi Arabia, where she had been a domestic worker for three years. Saudi authorities reported that his wife had committed suicide at her employer’s home, Njenga said, but he believes the mother of four was murdered. Njenga said his wife’s body did not have any marks that would show that she had hanged herself. It appeared the body had been buried because it was very dirty and looked like she had been stabbed on the left side, he added. Kenyan authorities say that since November, at least 23 domestic workers have died while working in the Middle East. Most of those deaths occurred in Saudi Arabia, according to labor officials. Saudi authorities have reported that all 23 of those deaths resulted from cardiac arrest. In April of 2020, rights advocacy group Amnesty International reported that Kenyans who have jobs as domestic workers in the Middle East often complain of lack of payment, forced labor, physical abuse, rape and dangerous working conditions. Voice of America

UN: Record Number of People Without Enough To Eat in 2021
The United Nations said Wednesday that the number of people without enough to eat on a daily basis reached all-time high last year and is poised to hit “appalling” new levels as the Ukraine war affects global food production. Almost 193 million people in 53 countries suffered acute food insecurity in 2021 due to what the U.N. said was a “toxic triple combination” of conflict, weather extremes and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The U.N. said the total number of people without adequate food every day increased by 40 million last year, confirming a “worrisome trend” of annual increases over several years. The figures appeared in the Global Report on Food Crisis, which is produced jointly by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program and the European Union. Countries experiencing protracted conflicts, including Afghanistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, had the most food-insecure populations, according to the report. The report forecasts that Somalia will face one of the world’s worst food crises in 2022 due to prolonged drought, increasing food prices and persistent violence. The various factors could lead 6 million Somalis into acute food crisis, the U.N. said. AP

‘Yo! Get Up and Vote!’ Rapper Tells Kenyans – But Many Don’t Care
A lollipop dangling from his mouth and two silver chains from his neck, Valentine Ndalo threw his hands in the air and swung his dreadlocks as Octopizzo, one of Kenya’s hottest artists, rapped about the celebrity high life. The concert in the western Kenyan city of Eldoret was part of Octopizzo’s “Umechukua” campaign, aimed at convincing young people to vote in August elections that will choose a successor to outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta and thousands of local and national representatives. Ndalo, a 26-year-old performing artist, isn’t interested in the poll. “I voted during the last elections but since then, it has been very disappointing because they [the politicians] never kept their promises.” East Africa’s economic powerhouse has been one of the region’s most vibrant democracies. But voters are disillusioned after years of broken promises, corruption scandals, and allegations of vote rigging. Reuters