Africa Media Review for November 15, 2021

Sudanese Rally against Army Tightening Grip on Power; 5 Dead
Sudanese security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas on Saturday to disperse protesters denouncing the military’s tightening grip on the country, killing at least five and wounding several, activists said. The violence came as thousands of pro-democracy protesters yet again took to the streets across Sudan to rally against the military’s takeover last month. The coup has drawn international criticism and massive protests in the streets of the capital of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country. … The rallies, called by the pro-democracy movement, came two days after coup leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan reappointed himself head of the Sovereign Council, Sudan’s interim governing body. Thursday’s move angered the pro-democracy alliance and frustrated the United States and other countries that have urged the generals to reverse their coup. … Saturday’s protests were called by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the so-called Resistance Committees. Both groups were primary forces behind the uprising against al-Bashir in April 2019. … Their movement has opposed the return to the power-sharing deal that established the deposed transitional government late in 2019 and demands a full handover to civilians to lead the transition to democracy. … Saturday’s deaths have brought the tally to at least 19 protesters killed due to excessive force used by the country’s security forces since the Oct. 25 coup, according to Sudanese doctors and the United Nations. AP

Al-Jazeera Says Bureau Chief Detained by Sudanese Forces
The Qatar-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera said Sunday its bureau chief in Sudan was detained by security forces, a day after mass protests against last month’s military coup. The network said on Twitter that Sudanese forces raided the home of El Musalmi El Kabbashi and detained him. The development comes after security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas Saturday to disperse protesters denouncing the military’s tightening grip on the country. The Sudan Doctors Committee said a 15-year-old protester died Sunday of gunshot wounds to his stomach and thigh, raising the death toll to six people. “Al-Jazeera condemns in the strongest terms the reprehensible actions of the military and calls on the authorities to release El Kabbashi immediately and to allow its journalists to operate unhindered, free to practice their profession without fear or intimidation,” the channel said. AP

Thousands of Tunisians Rally against Presidential Power Grab Near Suspended Parliament
Thousands of Tunisians gathered near the country’s parliament Sunday to protest a presidential power grab they have deemed a “coup.” It was the latest rally opposing President Kais Saied’s July 25 decision to sack the government, suspend parliament and seize an array of powers, citing an “imminent threat” to the country — the birthplace of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings against autocracy. More than 3,000 protesters gathered, shouting “The people want to bring down the coup d’etat” and “Kais’s project is a civil war” … Other protesters gathered near parliament, Tunisian flags in hand, and shouted their opposition to military trials for civilians. On Wednesday, Amnesty International warned that “military courts in Tunisia are increasingly targeting civilians, in some cases for publicly criticising President Kais Saied.” It said that within the past three months, at least 10 civilians have been investigated by military courts. On September 22, Saied suspended parts of the constitution and installed rule by decree, maintaining full control of the judiciary as well as powers to sack ministers and issue laws. AFP

Extremist Attack in Burkina Faso Kills at Least 20
An attack by jihadis on a gendarme post in northern Burkina Faso killed at least 19 officers and one civilian Sunday, the ministry of security said. The attack took place in Inata town in Soum province, near Burkina Faso’s border with Mali, Minister of Security Maxime Kone said on state television. … Soum province, one of the epicenters of the violence, has seen an uptick in fighting in recent weeks after months of relative calm, due to negotiations between the national security service and some jihadi groups surrounding last year’s presidential election. But since October, explosives have been found outside the main town of Djibo and there has been a resurgence of irregular jihadi checkpoints who force people to show identification and sometimes kidnap them, according to a local government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety. The latest attack was a significant blow because the gendarme detachment in Inata was the only one that stood its ground for two years while troops at surrounding bases retreated when jihadi violence escalated, said Heni Nsaibia, senior researcher at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. … According to a widely circulated internal military report from Nov. 12, the detachment in Inata had been out of supplies for two weeks and nearly starved, surviving by killing animals around the base. AP

Nigeria’s Foreign Minister: Mali, Guinea Coups ‘Really a Setback for Democracy’
Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told FRANCE 24 that recent coups in West Africa are undermining democracy and that events have reached a crucial juncture for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc. “Clearly it is a threat, it is an unfortunate precedent,” he said. Onyeama stressed that while the region was seen as a beacon of democracy on the continent, it had now receded as such. He said sanctions against Mali and Guinea were a first step, and that individual sanctions against leaders of both countries were being considered. Transitional governments in place have to respect a fixed deadline to restore democracy, he said: “Those timelines are sacrosanct as far as ECOWAS is concerned.” Nigeria’s foreign minister urged the African Union, the UN and the EU to follow suit with similar sanctions. He stressed that ECOWAS’s credibility is on the line. He said that extensions of presidential mandates had severally weakened regimes and, in a way, opened the door to military coups. “Part of the problem is this tenure elongation, these changes of the constitution that actually almost give a pretext for the coup plotters,” he said. France24

Ethiopia War: Kenyatta in Addis Ababa, AU Calls for a Ceasefire
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has arrived in Ethiopia amid growing international efforts for a cessation of hostilities in the country’s war, as African Union (AU) envoy Olusegun Obasanjo expressed hope dialogue can end the conflict but warned “such talks cannot deliver” without an immediate ceasefire. More than 12 months of fighting between federal troops and Tigrayan forces have cost thousands of lives and displaced more than two million people, with hundreds of thousands facing famine-like conditions. Obasanjo left Ethiopia on Thursday after meeting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the leadership of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group, while United States special envoy Jeffrey Feltman also visited the country last week for talks. … Meanwhile, Obasanjo said in a statement on Sunday he was “optimistic that common ground towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict can be secured.” But with fighting intensifying in recent weeks, the former Nigerian president and AU special envoy for the Horn of Africa warned that “such talks cannot deliver in an environment of escalated military hostilities.” “I, therefore, appeal to the leadership of all sides to halt their military offensives. This will allow an opportunity for dialogue to continue to progress.” Al Jazeera

Qaddafi Son to Run for President in Libya
After years underground and months of hints, the son and former heir apparent of the deposed Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi emerged from the shadows on Sunday to announce that he would run for president in Libya’s coming election. The candidacy of the colonel’s son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, who once put a reformist face on the Qaddafi regime before helping his father crack down on opposition rebels during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, came as little surprise — he had told The New York Times in May that he was interested in the job. Still, his reappearance sent a jolt through the already fragile efforts to hold the election, which international actors and Libyans hope will be the next major step in Libya’s transition from years of civil war and chaos toward peace and stability. The electoral process got a lift on Friday when global powers met in Paris with Libyan leaders to reaffirm their commitment to holding presidential and parliamentary votes on Dec. 24. But it remains to be seen what will come of the declaration, with Libya’s leaders still unable to agree on ground rules for the balloting — neither on an electoral law nor on whether the presidential and parliamentary elections will take place simultaneously nor on the date. … The [war crimes and torture] accusations against Mr. el-Qaddafi and Mr. Hifter led Libya’s military prosecutor to announce on Sunday that he had asked the nation’s elections commission to halt both their candidacies until they were cleared. The New York Times

DRC: Thousands Demand Depoliticization of the Electoral Commission
Thousands of Congoloese took to the streets of Kinshasa the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo to demand a neutral poll body after President Felix Tshisekedi installed a close friend to head the electoral commission. Tshisekedi’s move last month came despite the objection of both Catholic and Protestant religious leaders and the opposition. The opposition claims Denis Kadima, the new head of the National Independent Electoral Commission, is corrupt and has a strong affiliation wih the president. A protester Ndombasi, who spoke in French, said they would not give chance to what he calls as electoral fraud. “We have a peaceful march that was called for by the spiritual father to say no to this politicized independent national electoral commission that Mr. Tshisekedi wants to impose on us. We say NO to electoral fraud!” “The people are sovereign under Article 5 of the Constitution, and we will exercise this sovereignty until we achieve depoliticization of the electoral commission and better elections.” Marlin Ivuvu, a protester said. AfricaNews with AFP

Ugandan Children Held in Prison for Months after Crackdown on Opposition
Ugandan security services held children for months in prisons after successive crackdowns against opposition activists earlier this year, witnesses and victims have said. Adults and children described systematic physical abuse, denial of basic legal rights and appalling conditions as they waited for trial on charges they claim were fabricated. The experiences of the children, revealed to the Guardian after their release, will increase pressure on Uganda, a key western ally in east Africa, over human rights failings that have grown significantly worse since the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, started to face a significant political challenge in recent years. Since campaigning opened last year for elections, hundreds – possibly thousands – of supporters of the opposition politician, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, have been arrested and illegally detained for months in the worst repression for decades. Others, snatched off the streets by security services in a series of abductions, have disappeared into secret jails. More than 50 people were killed during protests in November. Most were shot by security forces. … The children included one who was 17 at the time of his arrest and others who were much younger. The Guardian

South Sudan, the World’s Youngest Country, Is Deep in Crisis. But Foreign Interest Is Fading.
As South Sudan marks the 10th anniversary of its independence, the world’s youngest country is at a crossroads. Violence remains so entrenched, even though the civil war technically ended in 2018, that Gatjani is among 1.6 million people who have been internally displaced, with 2.3 million more in neighboring countries. Frustrated by the lack of progress in a country where two-thirds of residents rely on humanitarian aid, the international community is reassessing the amount of help it can give South Sudan. … The aid has been essential to keeping people alive, said Luka Biong Deng Kuol, a former minister of presidential affairs in South Sudan. But he said it has also propped up a weak, largely transactional national government that has mostly failed to build institutions. Many government leaders, including Kiir and Machar, have been accused of amassing fortunes as the violence escalated, and a recent U.N report detailed the extent of continued corruption since 2018. “The problem is that the aid has become a part of perpetual suffering,” said Kuol, now academic dean at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington. The Washington Post

Nigerian Army General, Troops Killed in ISWAP Attack
A Nigerian army general and three soldiers were killed Saturday during an attack by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants in the northeast of the country, the army and sources said. ISWAP split from Boko Haram five years ago and pledged allegiance to Islamic State and has been fighting against the Nigerian armed forces. Army spokesman Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu said troops had encountered ISWAP fighters in Borno state’s Askira Uba local government area, where a fierce battle took place and several militants were killed. “Sadly, a gallant senior officer Brigadier General Dzarma Zirkusu and three soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice … as they provided reinforcement in a counter offensive against the terrorists,” Nwachukwu said in a statement. Borno state is at the center of the Islamist insurgency, which has spilled into neighboring Chad and Cameroon and has left about 300,000 people dead and millions dependent on aid, the United Nations says. … Nigeria’s army said last month it had killed the new ISWAP leader in a military operation, weeks after announcing the death of the group’s former head Abu Musab al-Barnawi. VOA

Collision Course: Nigerian Movie Explores Impact of Police Brutality
A new movie exploring the impact of rogue law enforcement officers on Nigerian society and inspired by last year’s anti-police brutality protests was premiered at one of Africa’s foremost film festivals in Lagos. Nigerians last year took to the streets to demand an end to what demonstrators said was endemic police brutality. But the ebullient protests, which had taken place in cities across the nation of some 200 million, ended at a Lagos toll gate in a hail of gunfire. The movie, Collision Course, tells the story of a law enforcement officer struggling to make ends meet and an aspiring musician whose worlds collide. The officer sets up a roadblock to demand bribes and meets the frustrated young artist, whom he mistakenly shoots dead, setting in motion a chain of events that leads to him being arrested. Movie director Bolanle Austen-Peters said the film seeks to show some of the underlying issues that forces someone to turn against the very same people he swore to defend. “I found out that every single person in the story had a back story that we all needed to understand, and at the end of this when you watch this movie you begin to understand that we are all victims, we are all brutalized by the system that we live in,” she said. Reuters

Nigerian Interfaith Women’s Group Awarded Aachen Peace Prize
“We were so happy, we are still happy and will continue to be happy,” exclaimed Daharatu Ahmed Aliyu. “And now we are international superstars!” Elizabeth Majinya Abuk added, laughing. The two women arrived in Germany from Nigeria two days before they will receive the Aachen Peace Prize on behalf of their organization, the Women’s Interfaith Council (WIC). The organization is being honored for its work in the Nigerian state of Kaduna, where Christians and Muslims stand together for peaceful coexistence. “A society that neglects women can never develop, can never advance,” said Sister Veronica Onyeanisi, who took over the general management of the WIC in 2019. “So we try to give women a voice so that they can make a positive contribution to society.” Kaduna, in the northwest of the country, is the third-largest state in Nigeria with an estimated 8.3 million inhabitants, according to data from the national statistics agency. About 60% of the population is Muslim and 40% Christian. DW

Two Ivory Smugglers Captured in International Operation, U.S. Says
A two-year international undercover operation resulted last week in the arrest of two Congolese men accused of trafficking illegal wildlife into the United States, as well as the seizure of $3.5 million worth of elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn and pangolin scales in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Justice Department and court documents. Starting in the summer of 2020, the two men, Herdade Lokua, 23, and Jospin Mujangi, 31, sent multiple packages by commercial airmail to Seattle containing 54 pounds of ivory and rhino horn priced at more than $30,000, prosecutors said in a statement on Monday. Mr. Lokua and Mr. Mujangi, both of Kinshasa, later proposed an ambitious deal to smuggle three tons of wildlife contraband from Africa to Seattle in a shipping container, the statement said. After flying to Washington State to negotiate the potential sale, they were captured by law enforcement and arrested on Nov. 3 in Edmonds, Wash. The joint operation was conducted by the Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle, the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. … The ability to move vast sums of ivory and other contraband in tons is one sign of a transnational crime organization, he added, estimating that one ton of ivory equals about 90 dead elephants. The New York Times

Africa’s ‘Great Green Wall’ Shifts Focus to Hold off Desert
The idea was striking in its ambition: African countries aimed to plant trees in a nearly 5,000-mile line spanning the entire continent, creating a natural barrier to hold back the Sahara Desert as climate change swept the sands south. The project called the Great Green Wall began in 2007 with a vision for the trees to extend like a belt across the vast Sahel region, from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, by 2030. But as temperatures rose and rainfall diminished, millions of the planted trees died. … Only 4% of the Great Green Wall’s original goal has been met, and an estimated $43 billion would be needed to achieve the rest. With prospects for completing the barrier on time dim, organizers have shifted their focus from planting a wall of trees to trying a mosaic of smaller, more durable projects to stop desertification, including community-based efforts designed to improve lives and help the most vulnerable agriculture. “The project that doesn’t involve the community is doomed to failure,” says Diegane Ndiaye, who is part of a group known as SOS Sahel, which has helped with planting programs in Senegal and other countries across the Sahel, a broad geographic zone between the Sahara in the north and the more temperate African savanna to the south. AP



Photo: Adam Jones