Africa Media Review for November 12, 2021

Sudanese General Tightens Grip on Power, 2 Weeks after Coup
Sudan’s top general reappointed himself as head of the army-run interim governing body on Thursday, a sign that he’s tightening his grip on the country two weeks after he led a coup against civilian leaders. The move by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan — along with other appointments he announced for the Sovereign Council — was expected to anger Sudan’s pro-democracy protest movement, sidelined in the coup. Since the Oct. 25 takeover, pro-democracy leaders have demanded the military relinquish power and refuse to be part of any administration in which a military maintains a role. Thursday’s development, announced in a bulletin by Sudan’s state television, comes amid repeated promises from the military rulers that they will hand over power to civilian authorities. Since the coup, more than 100 government officials and political leaders have been detained, along with a large number of protesters and activists. Almost all remain in custody. At least 14 anti-coup protesters have been killed due to excessive force used by the country’s security forces, according to Sudanese doctors and the United Nations. …  Sudan’s culture and information minister, Hamza Baloul … described Thursday’s announcement of the new council as “an extension of the coup” and said pro-democracy protesters are right to refuse to negotiate with military leaders. Along with rejecting internationally backed initiatives to return to a power-sharing arrangement with the military, the protest movement has also called for a nationwide strike. AP

Sudanese Judge Urges End to Post-Coup Internet Blackout
A Sudanese judge on Thursday ordered telecoms companies in Khartoum to explain why internet services are still cut more than two weeks after a military takeover and two days after a court said connections should be restored. Mobile internet services across Sudan have been cut since the military seized power on Oct. 25. The suspension has hampered efforts by pro-democracy groups to mobilize for a campaign of civil disobedience and strikes against the coup. The judicial order to restore internet services immediately was issued on Tuesday in response to a complaint by the Sudanese Consumer protection Society. The judge on Thursday repeated the order for Zain , MTN and local providers Sudatel and Canar to restore services, pending the announcement of any damages to be paid to subscribers. … The coup ended a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians that was agreed after the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir in 2019, and was meant to lead to elections in late 2023. Some senior civilians were detained and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under house arrest. Mediation aimed at securing the release of detainees and a return to power sharing has stalled as the military has moved to consolidate control. Political sources told Reuters on Thursday that there had been no progress in indirect contacts between Hamdok and the army. Reuters

Macron Hosts World Powers to Push for Stability, Ensure Elections in Libya
French President Emmanuel Macron hosts leaders and diplomats in Paris for an international conference on Friday aimed at ensuring Libya sticks to a plan to hold elections in December and turn a new page in its history. … Libya’s election targeted for December 24 was set through a UN-backed roadmap adopted last year, which also established an interim unity government to take over from rival administrations in east and west that had been warring for years. There are also fears over whether the various factions will recognise the results of the polls, which could mark a turning point for a country that has become a major departure point for migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean for Europe. Key players attending the meeting will include US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is on a visit to France aimed at improving ties, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, one of Paris’s closest allies in the Middle East. … A final communique may warn potential spoilers that they could face sanctions, diplomats said. … Despite Paris initially aiming to have the Turkish and Russian heads of state attending, both Ankara and Moscow have sent lower level representatives, perhaps demonstrating the complications with removing foreign forces. … Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group are entrenched alongside the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which was supported in the war by Moscow, along with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. France24 with AFP and Reuters

US Top Diplomat Antony Blinken to Visit Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal next week, where he will discuss ending the Covid-19 pandemic and battling climate change, his spokesman said Thursday. Blinken will meet with the president of each country to “advance US-Africa collaboration on shared global priorities,” state department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. Other topics of conversation on the agenda for the Monday to Saturday trip include revitalizing democracies, advancing peace and security, and a more inclusive global economy, Price said. Blinken travels first to Nairobi, where he will meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other government officials, and underscore US support for peaceful 2022 elections. Next, he travels to Abuja, to meet with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and deliver a speech on US-Africa policy. He will end his trip in Dakar where he will meet with Senegalese President Macky Sall and other officials. AFP

What’s Happening in Ethiopia? Here’s What the Rebel Advance toward Addis Ababa Could Mean.
The two main rebel groups fighting Ethiopia’s government made significant advances toward the capital this month, just as the current conflict there marked its one-year anniversary. … The main rebel group fighting the government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, is a guerrilla force-cum-political party that claims to represent the Tigray minority based in the country’s north. The TPLF ruled Ethiopia for three decades after unseating a brutal communist government in 1991. It established its own repressive regime and marginalized Ethiopia’s larger Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups. Resentment among those groups helped bring Abiy, who is Oromo, to power in 2018. As prime minister, he sought to move Ethiopia away from the ethnic federalism favored by the TPLF and toward a more unified national identity. But a political dispute between the TPLF and his government boiled over last year, when Abiy blamed the Tigrayans for an attack on a national military base. He responded by sending troops to Tigray and launching bombing raids near the regional capital, Mekele. … But for the Tigrayan leadership, a move to take Addis Ababa could backfire, drawing opposition both at home and abroad, she said. And even if the TPLF and allied forces capture the city and dislodge Abiy’s government, it’s unclear what type of governing structure would take its place. The Washington Post

Ethiopia Sets Out Terms of Possible Talks with Tigray Rebels
Ethiopia on Thursday outlined conditions for possible talks with rebels from the country’s war-hit Tigray region, following days of frantic diplomatic efforts by international envoys to head off another surge in fighting. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been locked in a year-long war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has pushed south in recent months and not ruled out a possible march on the capital Addis Ababa. Foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told reporters that one of the conditions for possible talks — which he stressed have not been agreed to — would be for the TPLF to withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions bordering Tigray. … “There are conditions: First, stop your attacks. Secondly, leave the areas you have entered (Amhara and Afar). Third, recognise the legitimacy of this government,” he said. “By the way, don’t misunderstand, it’s not being said a decision has been made to enter into negotiations,” he added. … TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda told AFP at the weekend that pulling out from Amhara and Afar before talks begin is “an absolute non-starter.” … Jeffrey Feltman, US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, left Ethiopia on Wednesday following several days of meetings there and in neighbouring Kenya, according to officials briefed on his movements. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, the AU’s special envoy for the region, was due to leave Thursday after a final meeting with Abiy, the officials said. AFP

‘It’ll Get Worse’: How Kidnappings Are Ruining Education for Nigeria’s Youth
Kidnapping has become endemic in northern Nigeria. Bandits … are waging their own insurgency, killing, abducting and terrorising impoverished communities. … Since the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014, abductions by armed groups have become a highly lucrative crime, with ransom demands of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Children are prize targets. The groups face minimal resistance at boarding schools and universities and have grown bolder, with some kidnappers cultivating a celebrity image, making ransom demands on radio stations and granting interviews to journalists. After each kidnapping, a network of negotiators emerges, including clerics, former militants and security forces personnel. … Peter Hawkins, head of the UN children’s agency Unicef in Nigeria, says the insecurity is causing an education crisis, setting back gains made in pupil retention, particularly among girls. “There was a girls’ school in Zamfara where 300 girls were kidnapped and the impact of that was the other parents saying, ‘we’re not taking kids to school.’ There is really a serious crisis in education that is happening today but the impact will be over the next seven to 10 years for Nigeria,” says Hawkins. The Guardian

Terrorists Send Letters Requesting Ransom after Network Shutdown in Northwest Nigeria
Terrorists in Katsina state, Northwest Nigeria, have reportedly devised a new method of collecting ransom after the state government shut down the telecommunications network to limit their operations. According to Katsina Post, a local online publication, the terrorists have resorted to kidnapping two or more people and sending one of them with a written letter requesting the payment of the ransom. Residents of Faskari, Sabuwa, and Dandume said the network shutdown initially reduced kidnappings before the terrorists discovered a new route. They went on to say that terrorists are attacking villages and towns, knowing that they will be able to operate unabated because there is no way to call the Police. They did, however, say that other measures taken by the state government, such as restricting motorcycle movement and intensifying search operations, are benefiting some communities. In September, Katsina State Government cut off mobile telecommunication networks in 13 local government areas of the state as part of efforts to discourage terrorists being chased from Zamfara and Kaduna states from relocating to the state. HumAngle

Renewed Fighting Flares in Eastern Congo
The Congolese army has reported that the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group attacked villages in North Kivu province near its eastern border with Uganda. The fighting at the beginning of the week cause some 11,000 people to flee across the border to Uganda, the UN said. M23, which has been largely inactive since capturing swaths of territory during an insurrection in 2012 and 2013, denied it was involved in the fighting. Since the M23’s defeat in 2013, there have been regional efforts to demobilize the group, but its leaders have complained about the slow pace at which a peace accord has been implemented. … The new reports of M23 fighting came less than a week after a major raid by a previously unknown armed group on the South Kivu city of Bukavu. The CPCA-A64 militia (standing for the Coalition of Congolese Patriots for the Application of Article 64) first tried to attack a military base and then the city center, according a regional military commander. Numerous armed groups have been active in South Kivu province for the past quarter of a century, but the provincial capital Bukavu has not seen such an attack in years. The army said it had brought the fighting under control, killing six militiamen and capturing 36 others. Three soldiers were killed in the fighting. DW

Mozambique Launches New Force to Fight Islamist Unrest
Mozambique on Thursday launched a special force of elite soldiers and police to combat an Islamist uprising that has threatened the country’s lucrative natural gas projects. The announcement came as President Filipe Nyusi appointed new ministers of defence and interior, signalling a further toughening of the government’s crackdown in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. The changes also aim to stem a wave of kidnappings both in Cabo Delgado and elsewhere in the southeast African country, amid reports that some police have been involved in the abductions. “Both terrorism and kidnapping are crimes that create terror,” police general commander Bernardino Rafael said in a speech to security forces. “Terrorism creates terror in Mozambicans, scares and drives away development and investment in our country,” he said. “That is why the fight against terrorism and the fight against kidnapping must be the same.” More than 3,100 mainly African forces, led by a heavy Rwandan contingent, have deployed to northern Mozambique, and the government says it has regained control over most of the region. AFP

Mozambique’s Ex-Finance Minister to Be Extradicted to US for Corruption Trial
A South African court has ordered the extradition of former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang to the United States to face charges related to a $2 billion debt scandal, overturning a decision by South Africa’s justice minister to send him to his home country. Chang has been in custody in a prison near Johannesburg in South Africa since his arrest at the city’s main airport in December 2018 on a US warrant for alleged fraud, embezzlement, money-laundering and corruption. Both the US and Mozambique requested Chang’s extradition over his alleged role in the 2013-2014 debt scandal in Mozambique, and a legal battle has been going on for years about where he should face charges. In August, South Africa’s Justice Minister Ronald Lamola decided to send Chang to Mozambique, but civil society groups challenged this decision in court arguing proper justice would only be done in the United States. On Wednesday, Judge Margaret Victor overturned Lamola’s decision, saying it was inconsistent with South Africa’s constitution and set it aside. … Chang is wanted for signing off on $2 billion worth of loans that state-backed companies took in 2013 and 2014 when he was finance minister. The monies were ostensibly for projects such as tuna-finishing, shipyard development and maritime security. However, hundreds of millions of dollars went missing, including as kickbacks, authorities say, while many of the promised benefits never materialised. RFI

COVID-19 Worsened Environment for Media in Southern Africa, Especially Print Journalism
New research finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the financial viability of media outlets in southern Africa, with print media being the worst hit. Launching the report, researcher Reginald Rumney, a journalism professor at Rhodes University in South Africa, said the media in the region had been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “This crisis, particularly the lockdowns and restrictions on movements, forced audiences online all to consume broadcast news,” Rumney said. “Newspapers and magazines were hard hit. And of course, with a decline in circulation came a huge decline in revenue and retrenchment of staff and a big a restructuring of the newspaper industry across the region. A lot of papers were forced to go online, stop printing completely. Retrenchments were dramatic.” In Zimbabwe, Alpha Media Holdings, which publishes NewsDay, the Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard, stopped printing paper copies of its newspapers for months, moving all the publications online. All of its staff received a 50% pay cut, while those not directly involved in e-paper production were put on leave. … Rumney said without a dramatic turnaround or external assistance such as donor funds, most media houses in southern Africa will not get out of the hole that the coronavirus put them in. VOA

Sierra Leone President Suspends State Auditor Pending Probe
Sierra Leone’s chief auditor Lara Taylor-Pearce, who has been widely praised for her efforts to improve government accountability, said on Thursday President Julius Maada Bio had suspended her while the attorney general investigates her office. The suspension comes weeks before her office is due to present an annual audit of the government’s handling of public finances in 2020. Taylor-Pearce told Reuters she was handed a letter addressed to the supervisory board of the state audit service (ASSL) that requested she and her deputy be immediately suspended while the attorney general sets up a tribunal to look into ASSL’s work. “I have not been told what the remit of this tribunal is or what wrongdoing we are supposed to have committed,” she said.”ASSL has always maintained the highest standards at all times and we deny any wrongdoing in the exercise of our mandate.” The office of President Julius Maada Bio did not respond to requests for comment. Taylor-Pearce has served as auditor general for 10 years, earning a reputation for efforts to improve public sector accountability. She won international praise for her real-time audit of the financing of the 2014-2016 Ebola pandemic response, which exposed significant corruption. Reuters

Community-Led Upgrade to a Nairobi Slum Could Be a Model for Africa
The people who live in Mukuru, one of the vast, sprawling “informal settlements” in Nairobi, used to dread the rains, when the slum’s mud-packed lanes would dissolve into a soggy quagmire of sewage, stagnant water and slimy rubbish. But a few years ago, things began to change. On a newly paved road Benedetta Kasendi is selling sugar cane from a cart. It gives her a clean platform, somewhere she can keep her wares tidy. Her biggest challenge now is what to do with the sugar-cane waste as she does not want to clog up Mukuru’s revamped sewers. “You can have a piece of sugar cane here. The place is clean now,” Kasendi tells Patrick Njoroge, programme officer at the Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT), a fund that raises capital for slum improvement projects. … Kasendi and Mwende are among thousands who have benefited from a community-based programme to upgrade one of Africa’s biggest informal settlements and whose success will be used to transform similar slums in Kenya and beyond. The ambitious project follows consultations with more than 40 organisations led by the Muungano Alliance, an umbrella body driving reforms in Kenya’s informal settlements, and including universities, civil societies, the private sector and Nairobi county government. The goal is to make the slum a “healthy, functional city neighbourhood.” The Guardian

South Africa Reacts to the Death of FW De Klerk
South Africa’s last segregationist president, FW de Klerk, occupied a “historic but difficult space,”Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s office said in a statement Thursday. Tutu led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) charged with uncovering the horrors of the white-minority regime. De Klerk appeared before the commission but never made a full account of the torture and killings committed by his apartheid government. … After de Klerk’s appearance at the TRC, “the Archbishop addressed the media to express disappointment that the former president had not made a more wholesome apology on behalf of the National Party to the nation for the evils of apartheid,” it said. … “At a time when not all of his colleagues saw the future trajectory of the country unfolding in the same way, he recognised the moment for change and demonstrated the will to act on it.” … De Klerk, ruled South Africa between 1989 and 1994, handed over the reins to Nelson Mandela after the first democratic elections in 1994. “De Klerk will forever be linked to Nelson Mandela in the annals of South African history. As head of state, he oversaw the release of Madiba from prison on 11 February 1990,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement. “In 1993 they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize for ushering in a negotiated settlement that led to South Africa holding its first democratic election in 1994.” “De Klerk’s legacy is a big one. It is also an uneven one, something South Africans are called to reckon with in this moment.” The EastAfrican, AFP, and Reuters

At COP26, Ugandan Vanessa Nakate’s Powerful Voice Helps Reframe Climate Activism
On Thursday, Ms. Nakate shared the stage at the COP26 climate summit with Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. With a steady voice and a slight accent, she delivered a passionate plea that drew sustained applause. “We see business leaders and investors flying into COP on private jets. We see them making fancy speeches. We hear about new pledges and promises,” she told the delegates. “I have come here to tell you that we don’t believe you.” And in a direct pitch to business leaders she added: “Show us your faithfulness, show us your trustworthiness, show us your honesty. I am here to say, prove us wrong.” Ms. Nakate has been a forceful voice throughout the summit both inside the conference centre and on the streets of Glasgow. While Ms. Thunberg was given no role at COP26, Ms. Nakate has participated in two panel discussions including one with actor Idris Elba. She’s also been at the forefront of a pair of massive protest marches through the city’s streets and she’s headlined two rallies. … For teenagers such as Anna Brown, Ms. Nakate is an inspiration. “Vanessa is an amazing person,” said Ms. Brown, 19, who belongs to Fridays for Future in Glasgow. “Everyone who hears her speak can really feel what she’s saying. And I think a lot of the time she’s very much a wake-up call for people.” The Globe and Mail



Photo: Adam Jones