Africa Media Review for November 22, 2021

Sudan’s Military Reinstated the Civilian Prime Minister. But Post-coup Turmoil Could Deepen.
Sudan’s military and civilian leaders reached a deal Sunday to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was ousted in a coup last month that reignited mass protests and political uncertainty more than two years after a popular uprising forced out longtime autocrat Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Hamdok, who had spent the past month under house arrest, praised the agreement as a way to restore Sudan’s fragile democratic transition, but the country’s swelling and powerful protest movement, which seeks the removal of the military leaders behind the coup, roundly rejected the deal. The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been at the forefront of protests that have roiled the country since late 2018, called it a “treasonous agreement.” The organization said the deal fell “far from the aspirations of our people” and was “nothing more than ink on paper.” Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who had used a state of emergency to consolidate power within his office, said Hamdok would lead “an independent technocratic cabinet until elections can be held,” according to the Associated Press. The government would still remain under military oversight, the AP reported. … The Forces of Freedom and Change, a political party that was part of Hamdok’s pre-coup government, said its position remained clear: “No negotiation and no partnership and no legitimacy for the putschists.” The Washington Post

Sudanese PM’s Release Is Only Small Step in Resolving Crisis
The deal to secure the release of the detained Sudanese prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, signed by Hamdok and Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who seized power in a military coup on 25 October, leaves Sudan in a continuing crisis. While the agreement satisfies some of the immediate demands of the international community and mediators from the US and UN – not least securing the release of Hamdok and other political detainees – it leaves many of the country’s most serious issues in its political transition unresolved. At the heart of Sudan’s problems since the fall of its longtime authoritarian ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019 has been the role of the military and security forces, accountability for the crimes committed during Bashir’s rule, and the question of how to build a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement that can incorporate the demands of the country’s rebel movements. While the arrangement following the ousting of Bashir removed him from the scene, it also fudged many of those issues, leaving the military in a dominant position, not least at the head of the transitional sovereign council. A major driver of the current and extended crisis in recent weeks and months has been the post-Bashir transitional timetable, which should have seen civilians take the driving seat on the sovereign council, and led to concerns in senior military circles that their long-lasting political and economic interests would be undermined. The Guardian

Olusegun Obasanjo Meets TPLF Chiefs as Ethiopia Claims New War Victory
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday met with the leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in his second attempt to broker peace with the Ethiopian government, even as Addis Ababa declared victory over a battlefield in Amhara region. Obasanjo, the African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, has been tasked with convincing parties to accept a ceasefire and choose dialogue… Obasanjo had arrived in Addis Ababa on Friday for scheduled meetings with warring parties: the representatives of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and those of the TPLF and allied armed groups. … In Makelle, TPLF officials say the meeting was a briefing for Obasanjo to understand why the group is keen on continuing with its war against the government. … The meeting ended without a way forward, although the TPLF, for the first time, say they are willing to engage Obasanjo for his efforts towards a lasting solution. Nation

Facebook Fails to Curb the Spread of Hate Speech in Ethiopia
On 30 August, nine months into Ethiopia’s civil war, a Facebook user who goes by the name Northern Patriot Tewodros Kebede Ayo posted a clear incitement to violence on his page. … Two days later, between 1 and 2 September, more than a dozen Qimant in Aykel were dragged from their homes and butchered on the street, allegedly by members of the Fano militia, an Amhara nationalist paramilitary group that has been implicated in multiple atrocities. … There is no evidence that there is a direct causal link between these Facebook posts and the massacre in Aykel. What we do know is that Facebook employees already knew about both of these accounts, and were worried about their potential to incite violence. Months earlier, in a leaked internal document, a team at Facebook had found that these accounts were key nodes in an online disinformation network aligned to the Fano militia, codenamed Disarming Lucy. According to Facebook’s data, this network was coordinating “calls for violence and other armed conflict in Ethiopia”; and “promoting armed conflict, coordinated doxxing, recruiting and fund-raising for the militia.” The Facebook team that had discovered Disarming Lucy recommended that all the accounts associated with it be taken down. This was in March 2021. But as of today, every single one of those accounts is still active — and many are still spreading hate speech and inciting violence. Mail and Guardian

The Myth of ‘Stray Bullets’ in Uganda
In 2018, during protests in the capital, I arrived at the spot where a man had been shot to death just an hour before. Locals showed me pictures of his bloodstained body; the police would later say he was killed by a “stray bullet.” But it already looked as though nothing had happened at all. Boda boda drivers leaned on their motorcycles. Women bent over charcoal stoves. Young men gathered around Ludo boards, slapping down pieces with a familiar clack. State violence has become normalized in Uganda’s capital. Exactly a year ago, on Nov. 18, 2020, opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known as “Bobi Wine,” was arrested in the country’s eastern district of Luuka for violating COVID-19 rules while campaigning for the presidency against incumbent President Yoweri Museveni. In the ensuing unrest, with nationwide protests, police and soldiers killed at least 54 people—many of whom weren’t even protesting. Yet no security officers have been prosecuted for their actions, and no compensation has been paid. … When Museveni, then a rebel soldier, was sworn in as president 35 years ago, he said “no regime has the right to kill any citizen.” But since then, he has regularly crushed urban unrest with brutality. His security forces killed at least 40 people in the “Buganda riots” of 2009, at least nine people in the “walk-to-work” protests of 2011, and at least six people after Wine’s first arrest in 2018. FP

Tunisian Trial Shines Light on Use of Military Courts
A few days after Tunisia’s president froze parliament and took on sweeping powers in July, a dozen men in unmarked vehicles and civilian clothes barged into politician Yassine Ayari’s family home overnight and took him away in his pajamas. “These men weren’t wearing uniforms and they didn’t have a warrant,” Ayari told The Associated Press. “It was violent. My 4-year-old son still has nightmares about it.” A 40-year-old computer engineer-turned-corruption fighter, Ayari will stand trial again in a military court on Monday, accused of insulting the presidency and defaming the army. It is the latest in a series of trials that shine a light on Tunisia’s use of military courts to push through convictions against civilians. Rights groups say the practice has accelerated since President Kais Saied’s seizure of power in July, and warn that its use further threatens hard-won freedoms amid Tunisia’s democratic backsliding. The charges Ayari faces relate to Facebook posts in which he criticized Saied, calling him a “pharaoh” and his measures a “military coup.” AP

Cop27 Is in Egypt Next Year … but Will Anyone Be Allowed to Protest?
Concern is growing over plans to host a UN climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh next year, in what will be a crucial summit if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5C. Several green experts and human rights activists have told the Observer they fear the ability of civil society groups to protest at the summit will be curtailed by Egypt’s authoritarian regime, reducing the pressure that can be brought to bear on leaders and ministers from the nearly 200 countries expected to take part. … Egypt will host Cop27, in keeping with the expectation that the next location of the Cop should be in Africa. But the choice of Egypt has caused concern. Since coming to power in a military coup in 2013, Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has overseen the broadest and deepest crackdown on civil rights in Egypt’s modern history. Dissent has been outlawed: the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information estimates that 65,000 political prisoners are currently inside the country’s detention system, which has grown to at least 78 major detention centres in the past decade. Critics, from politicians to people posting comments on social media or even small groups protesting against a price rise on the Cairo metro, have been detained and imprisoned on terrorism charges. The Guardian

Libyan Interim PM Aims for Presidency, despite Rules
Libya’s interim prime minister filed a request Sunday to run for president, despite being barred from elections next month under the current rules. Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah is meant to lead the country until a winner is declared following presidential elections on Dec. 24. He is the latest high-profile candidate to emerge in the race. He submitted his application a day before the Nov. 22 deadline. It remains unclear whether the country’s electoral commission will accept his candidacy. Dbeibah is barred from running under Libya’s current election laws. He promised he would not seek office in the vote as a condition to taking on his caretaker role earlier this year. In order to be eligible, he also would have needed to have suspended himself from governmental duties at least three months before the polling date, which he did not. AP

Blinken Visits Senegal to Reaffirm Partnership
The top U.S. diplomat visited Senegal Friday and Saturday on the last leg of a five-day, multi-nation trip during which he outlined the Biden administration’s policy toward Africa, declaring that the U.S. sees African countries as equal partners. “We have to be judged on what we do and not simply on what I say and so let’s see over the coming months and coming years how we do,” Blinken said at a news conference Saturday in the Sengalese capital of Dakar. Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall said at the news conference that U.S. influence in Africa “will always be important.” She noted the U.S. “never colonized” Africa and said the Sengalese “see the United States as a country of freedom.” Earlier Saturday, Blinken met with Senegalese President Macky Sall at the presidential palace in Dakar. The two leaders also attended an event at Dakar’s Institut Pasteur, which hopes to begin producing COVID-19 vaccines with U.S. assistance next year. On Friday, Blinken summarized the Biden administration’s policy toward Africa in a speech in Abuja, Nigeria. “The United States firmly believes that it’s time to stop treating Africa as a subject of geopolitics — and start treating it as the major geopolitical player it has become,” Blinken said. VOA

Top US Diplomat Warns Russian Group Not to Interfere in Mali
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday warned a shadowy Russian company with connections to the Kremlin not to interfere in efforts aimed at restoring democracy in the West African nation of Mali. As he wrapped up a weeklong, three-nation tour of Africa that was dominated by crises across the continent, Blinken said it would be “unfortunate” if the Wagner Group became active in Mali, where there are internationally backed plans to have a democratically elected government in place by April. Mali “remains a linchpin for future stability in the Sahel and we have deep concerns about that stability and deep concerns about the extremism and terrorism that is spreading tentacles in the region,” Blinken said at news conference with Senegal’s foreign minister, Aissata Tall Sall. West Africa’s Sahel region is the vast area south of the Sahara Desert where extremist groups are fighting for control. … The Wagner Group, owned by a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been accused by Western governments and U.N. experts of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic and involvement in the conflict in Libya. … “This is ultimately about the people of Mali and their aspirations for peace, their aspirations for development and respect for human rights,” he said. AP

South Africa Virus Cases Begin to Climb as Fourth Wave Predicted
South African coronavirus cases are beginning to climb, the positivity rate of tests is increasing and an analysis of wastewater shows that the disease is once again becoming more prevalent in some areas. On Nov. 20, the number of confirmed cases over a 24-hour period rose to 887, the highest since Oct. 14, and on Nov. 21, 3.4% of tests returned a positive result, according to government data. If maintained over a seven-day period, that would be the highest proportion of people testing positive since the week ended Sept. 26. The rise in cases comes days after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that the incidence of Covid-19 was increasing in wastewater samples of some areas of Gauteng, the most populous province. South African Medical Research Council data show that excess deaths, the number of deaths over an historical average, have been rising in recent weeks. Scientists working with the government have predicted that a fourth wave of coronavirus infections could begin in December. Still, they said it will likely be less severe than previous resurgences because about a third of South African adults are fully vaccinated and between 60% and 70% of the population may have already been infected. Bloomberg

African Nations Mend and Make Do as China Tightens Belt and Road
On top of the damage wrought to both China and its creditors by COVID-19, analysts and academics attribute the slowdown to factors such as a waning appetite in Beijing for large foreign investments, a commodity price crash that has complicated African debt servicing, plus some borrowers’ reluctance to enter lending deals backed by their natural resources. … “We are not in the go-go period anymore,” Adam Tooze, a Columbia University historian, said about China’s overseas investment projects. … The continent is facing an estimated annual infrastructure investment deficit of around $100 billion, according to the African Development Bank. “The pandemic has actually made things worse. Those numbers will go up,” said Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the bank, citing the need for additional infrastructure to support health services. Hold-ups have hit some other BRI projects across the continent, such as a $3 billion Nigerian rail project and a $450 million highway in Cameroon. Reuters

Al-Shabaab Kill Somali Journalist Abdiaziz Guled Who Criticised Them on Radio
Somali militant group al-Shabaab on Saturday evening claimed responsibility for killing a veteran journalist who campaigned against the activities of the proscribed group, in the latest attack on media freedom. Abdiaziz Guled aka Afrika, the Director of state-owned Radio Mogadishu was killed in a targeted suicide bombing as he rode in a car with a colleague identified as Sharmarke Mohamed Warsame, the Director of Somali National TV, also a government media outlet. Somalia police said that a man wearing a suicide vest approached the vehicle in a busy street in Mogadishu as they left a restaurant and detonated it, killing Afrika instantly and wounding his colleague who is still fighting for his life at Mogadishu’s Madina Hospital. Born on December 12, 1979, Afrika’s radio career rose especially in the late 2000s as he took on Shabaab’s violent extremism campaign. The group took him on as enemy number one. Local press freedom lobby, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NusoJ) suggested the journalist was targeted for dedicated coverage against the group’s violent activities. He produced a popular TV and Radio programme known as GUNGAAR, a series of investigative reports on al-Shabaab. The EastAfrican

Conservation Ranger Slain in Congo’s Virunga National Park
A conservation park ranger was killed during an attack by armed men this weekend in eastern Congo’s Virunga National Park, the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation said Sunday. Chief Brigadier Etienne Mutazimiza Kanyaruchinya, 48, was killed Saturday evening when 100 heavily armed men, presumed to be former members of the M23 rebel group, attacked a patrol post near the village of Bukima in Congo’s North Kivu Province. The rest of the rangers fled unharmed, said the statement. The institute said it was the second attack in two weeks by the same group, which operates along the Rwandan and Ugandan borders and is trying to establish bases in the park. The previous attack was repelled by the Congolese military but several soldiers were killed. AP

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi Orders Mining Licences Audit
Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has demanded a ban on issuing and trading mining permits until the country’s mining registry has been audited, a measure aimed at combatting fraud within the sector. Tshisekedi told ministers he wanted to end the squandering of mining assets by unnamed political actors and officials involved in the administration of the mining register, which records mining concessions, according to minutes of the meeting seen by Reuters news agency on Saturday. “This recommended clean-up will increase the contribution of the mining sector to the state’s budget and help, as a priority, the people benefit from the mineral wealth of our country,” Tshisekedi told ministers. The move is an escalation of Tshisekedi’s continuing review of deals struck by his predecessor Joseph Kabila, which includes a $6bn “infrastructure-for-minerals” deal with Chinese investors. The DRC is the world’s top producer of cobalt and Africa’s biggest copper producer, but more than 70 percent of its roughly 100 million people live on less than $1.90 per day, according to the World Bank. Transparency activists have estimated the DRC has lost out on billions of dollars of revenue from mining deals over the past two decades. Reuters

$138M Later: The Sentry Reveals Kabila’s Brother Laundered $2.4M through Joburg Properties
The largest leak yet of financial documents in Africa reveals how at least $138m of government funds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was laundered to former president Joseph Kabila’s relatives and associates. Few South Africans would recognise the name Francis Selemani, who between 2015 and 2018 built an impressive property portfolio in the United States and South Africa, spending $6.6-million on 17 properties around Washington DC and Johannesburg, including multiple houses and townhouses in Dainfern and Sandton. At least $2.4m was used to purchase properties in Johannesburg. Selemani is the adopted brother of former Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) president Joseph Kabila and he features prominently in an investigation by a consortium of journalists and civil society groups, called Congo Hold-Up, which has revealed how Kabila’s relatives and close associates laundered at least $138-million in public funds through a maze of shell companies and trusts. The Paris-based Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa obtained 3.5 million leaked documents from BGFIBank, the largest bank in central Africa, and the consortium, including 19 media houses and five NGOs, has described the complicated trail of alleged corruption and money laundering during Kabila’s 2001 to 2019 presidency. Daily Maverick

In the Dark: Nigeria’s Maiduguri Struggles to Recover without Power
A whirring machine churns out prints at the Gaza Printing Press in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri while owner Garba Zango supervises. The copies are perfect, but his costs have lately gone through the roof. The past 10 months have been the toughest of Zango’s nearly 50-year career as his city of 800,000 struggles without power from the national grid. “Every aspect of life – everything – has changed in Maiduguri,” Zango, 66, said. “If we were getting 10 naira profit (per unit before), profits have now fallen to 2 or 3 naira.” Maiduguri is the capital of Borno state, the epicentre of Nigeria’s 12-year battle against Islamist militants who in January bombed transmission lines, cutting the city’s power and stifling efforts to rebuild its economy. … Electricity access is a problem across Nigeria due to poor infrastructure despite the oil wealth that makes it Africa’s biggest energy producer, but virtually all cities have at least intermittent grid power. Maiduguri residents told Reuters they had never gone without it for so long until now. Reuters

Nigeria: Govt Plans to Lift 35m Nigerians Out of Poverty in Five Years
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba has stated that the federal government planned to take 35 million Nigerians out of poverty through the National Development Plan (NDP) 2021- 2025. Speaking at the 2021 African Statistics Day celebration in Abuja, he said the plan also envisaged broad-based economic growth of about 5 per cent on average as well as create about 21 million full time jobs. He said the NDP would also seek to increase the federal government’s net revenue at all levels to 15 per cent of GDP by 2025. … He said the 2021 celebration was in line with an aspect of the vision of the present administration, which is devoted to raising awareness on the importance of reliable statistical production processes and usage for evidence based policy decisions. He expressed satisfaction that Nigeria had over the years taken advantage of the declaration to promote the use and production of statistics. He said, “I must commend the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) for the consistent and efficient arrangement it has been making to ensure that all African countries celebrate this important day with some common activities through the use of a general theme. In this connection, perhaps it is pertinent to mention that the choice for this year’s theme, “Modernization of National Statistical System to Support Sociocultural Development in Africa is timely in view of the important role statistics plays in the current development efforts of African Countries.” This Day

Africa’s Rising Cities
Growing at unprecedented rates, and shaped by forces both familiar and new, dozens of African cities will join the ranks of humanity’s biggest megalopolises between now and 2100. Several recent studies project that by the end of this century, Africa will be the only continent experiencing population growth. Thirteen of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa — up from just two today — as will more than a third of the world’s population. The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones