Africa Media Review for November 5, 2021

Dozens Killed in Jihadist Attack in Western Niger
At least 69 people, including a local mayor, have been killed in an attack in Niger’s volatile “tri-border” zone with Burkina Faso and Mali, the interior ministry said on Thursday. The assault took place on Tuesday at Adab-Dab, a village about 55 kilometres (32 miles) from Banibangou in the western region of Tillaberi, but was only confirmed by the government on Thursday. “The mayor of the commune of Banibangou, while travelling with a delegation from the commune, was ambushed by unidentified armed bandits,” the ministry said in a statement. “The provisional toll of the attack… is 69 dead, including the mayor, and 15 survivors,” it said. A search was under way for the attackers. The government declared two days of national morning from Friday. Local sources said earlier that a motorcycle-borne defence force was attacked by “heavily armed members of the ISGS (Islamic State in the Greater Sahara,” who were also on motorbikes. Another source said the target of the attack was a local anti-jihadist defence force called the Vigilance Committees, which was headed by the mayor of Banibangou district. … The defence force had recently been set up by local people following a string of attacks on farm workers in remote fields by highly mobile jihadists, a former mayor said. The militia had set off for Adab-Dab on Tuesday to hunt for armed men who had been attacking villages and stealing cattle. AFP

U.N. Official Says Sudan Deal under Discussion, Needed in ‘Days Not Weeks’
The U.N. special envoy for Sudan said talks had yielded the outline of a potential deal on a return to power-sharing, including restoration of the ousted premier, but it had to be agreed in “days not weeks” before both sides’ positions harden. The United Nations has been coordinating efforts to find a way out of the country’s crisis following a coup by the military on Oct. 25 in which top civilian politicians were detained and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was placed under house arrest. Disclosing the “contours” of a potential deal publicly for the first time, the envoy, Volker Perthes, said these included: the return of Hamdok to office, the release of detainees, the lifting of a state of emergency, as well as adjustments to some transitional institutions and a new technocratic cabinet. In the latest sign of increasing international pressure for a reversal of the coup, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with Sudan’s General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Thursday, urging the restoration of constitutional order and the transitional process. … On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined the United States and Britain in calling for the restoration of the civilian-led government. Reuters

Report: Sudan Military to Free 4 Ministers Detained in Coup
Sudan’s top general on Thursday ordered the release of four ministers of the now-deposed government who were detained amid a widely condemned military coup last week, the country’s state-run news agency reported. Moez Hadra, a defense lawyer for the deposed officials, said the ministers have yet to be freed. The SUNA news agency said that Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan had issued the decision for Hamza Baloul, minister of information and culture, Hashim Hasabel-Rasoul, minister of communications, Ali Gedou, minister of trade and international cooperation, and Youssef Adam, minister of youth and sports to be let go. … Meanwhile, protest leaders and rights workers are warning of a widespread arrest campaign against activists and opposition leaders. … The military leaders also raided the state news television headquarters and cut off mobile and internet communications across the country. Tens of thousands of people came out to protest. Internet services were still restricted. … Hadra said the four ministers who are meant to be released are from among the 100 government officials and political leaders who were arrested during the coup. … [Sara Abdelgalil, a spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals’ Association] said the near-blackout of communications has made it difficult to know just how many have gone missing, or are being held in secret prisons that were commonly used under al-Bashir. “We don’t know the extent of what has been happening in the last 10 days,” she said. AP

International Calls for Ceasefire in Ethiopia Grow as Rebels Advance on Capital
African and Western nations called for an immediate ceasefire in Ethiopia on Thursday after Tigrayan forces from the country’s north made advances towards the capital this week. The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, arrived in Addis Ababa to press for a halt to military operations and a start to ceasefire talks. African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said he met Feltman to discuss efforts towards dialogue and political solutions to the conflict, which pits the central government against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its allies. The European Union and the East African bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) joined the chorus of bodies calling for a ceasefire. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced an IGAD meeting on Nov. 16 to discuss the war. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta urged the rival parties to lay down their arms and find a path to peace. “The fighting must stop!” he said in a statement. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had spoken to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday and offered to help create the conditions for a dialogue. Reuters

Tigray, Other Groups Form Alliance against Ethiopian Leader
Ethiopia’s Tigray forces are joining with other armed and opposition groups in an alliance against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to seek a political transition after a year of devastating war, organizers say. The signing in Washington on Friday includes the Tigray forces that have been fighting Ethiopian and allied forces, as well as the Oromo Liberation Army now fighting alongside the Tigray forces and seven other groups from around the country. The new United Front of Ethiopian Federalist Forces seeks to “establish a transitional arrangement in Ethiopia” so the prime minister can go as soon as possible, organizer Yohanees Abraha, who is with the Tigray group, told The Associated Press late Thursday. “The next step will be, of course, to start meeting and communicating with countries, diplomats and international actors in Ethiopia and abroad.” He said the new alliance is both political and military. It has had no communication with Ethiopia’s government, he added. A spokesman for the Oromo Liberation Army, Odaa Tarbii, confirmed the new alliance. AP

Burundi Rights Report Cites Torture, Abuse by State Agents
Burundi is experiencing a rise in torture and enforced disappearances in “a clear pattern” of abuses that undermines limited rights improvements under President Evariste Ndayishimiye, according to a group of independent researchers. Members of the national intelligence service as well as the police are accused of torture, killings and enforced disappearances, the Burundi Human Rights Initiative, an independent project that monitors rights abuses in the central African country, said in a new report Thursday. Perpetrators are free “to track down any suspected opponents they view as a threat and do with them as they please,” the report said. “Since mid-2021, Burundi’s approach to human rights has taken a concerning turn for the worse,” the report said. “Following a series of armed attacks and ambushes between April and September 2021, government officials accused political opponents of collaborating with armed groups and abducted or arrested dozens of them. Abuses are taking place despite the government’s “diplomatic language of peace and security,” including assurances by Ndayishimiye that the rights situation in his country was improving, the report said. AP

Tunisia Issues International Arrest Notice against Former President Marzouki
There were no detail on what charge Marzouki faced, but current President Kais Saied last month ordered an inquiry into what he said were allegations that Marzouki had conspired against state security. Saied has faced mounting criticism abroad since he assumed executive authority in July, then brushed aside most of the constitution to seize near total power in moves Marzouki and other critics have called a coup. Saied unveiled a new government in October and has promised a national “dialogue” but has yet to lay out a detailed plan to restore normal constitutional order as donors demand. Marzouki told Al Jazeera TV he was not surprised by the arrest warrant and called it “a threatening message to all Tunisians.” Marzouki, who has been based in France in recent weeks, was president from 2011 to 2014. Reuters

Researchers Say a Coordinated Misinformation Campaign on Twitter Backed Kenya’s President.
Last month, reporting on newly disclosed financial documents showed that Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and members of his family were linked to 13 offshore companies with hidden assets of more than $30 million. The findings, part of the leaked documents known as the Pandora Papers, initially generated outrage online among Kenyans. But within days, that sentiment was hijacked on Twitter by a coordinated misinformation campaign, according to a new report published by the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation. … The 1,935 accounts that they found had participated in the campaign tweeted for days only about the Pandora Papers and Mr. Kenyatta, and got certain hashtags like #phonyleaks and #offshoreaccountfacts to appear on Twitter’s dedicated sidebar for trending topics by posting the hashtag repeatedly. The researchers noted that many of the accounts they found had been part of a previous disinformation campaign tweeting pro-government propaganda from May that they had flagged to Twitter. The research underscores how online platforms based in the United States still struggle to police inauthentic behavior abroad. The New York Times

Somalia Gives African Union Envoy Seven Days to Leave Country
Somalia has asked the African Union Commission (AUC) representative in the country to leave within a week after declaring him persona non grata. In a statement on Thursday, Somalia’s foreign ministry said Simon Mulongo, the AUC’s deputy special representative in Mogadishu, was no longer welcome in the country due to his engagement “in activities [that are] incompatible with AMISOM’s (African Union Mission in Somalia) mandate and Somalia’s security strategy.” … According to the African Union, AMISOM forces first arrived in Somalia in March 2007. Since then, the AMISOM military component has aided Somali national security forces in driving out the al-Qaeda-affiliated armed group al-Shabab from most of the major cities and towns of southern Somalia. Al Jazeera

Swazi Opposition Tentatively Welcomes Ramaphosa’s National Dialogue Plans
Eswatini’s main political opposition has generally welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s meeting with King Mswati in Eswatini on Tuesday, in which they agreed on arrangements for a national dialogue to negotiate a way out of the country’s political impasse. Thulani Maseko, chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholders Forum (MSF) which represents a broad range of political parties and civil society groups, expressed appreciation that President Cyril Ramaphosa had made King Mswati realise that the format of the national dialogue would have to be negotiated. But Maseko also expressed some reservations about Ramaphosa and Mswati’s agreement. Ramaphosa intervened in the Eswatini crisis as chair of the security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He said in a statement after the meeting that he and Mswati had agreed that SADC’s Secretariat would work closely with the Eswatini government to draft the terms of reference for a national dialogue forum. These terms of reference would specify the composition and processes of the forum. Daily Maverick

Gambia’s President Declares His Bid for December Election
The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow on Thursday declared his candidacy for the December 4 presidential poll, with campaigning in the hotly contested election set to begin next week. … The December 4 election will be the first since the departure of former dictator Yahya Jammeh, and is viewed as a key test of the country’s democratic transition. … He was then repeatedly re-elected in disputed circumstances until he was defeated in December 2016 by Barrow, who was then a relative unknown. … After a six-week crisis that led to military intervention by other West African states, Jammeh was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea. Rights activists have accused him of committing a litany of crimes during his 22-year rule: from using death squads to raping a beauty queen and sponsoring witch hunts, among others. However, the former dictator has retained considerable support in The Gambia, raising questions about his continuing influence in the nation of two million people. For example, Barrow’s NPP party formed an electoral alliance with Jammeh’s APRC in September — in a move viewed as an electoral ploy in some quarters, and denounced by rights activists. Jammeh subsequently disavowed the decision — which he said was taken without his knowledge — and his supporters have formed a rival party. AfricaNews with AFP

Malian Villagers Battle Advancing Sands after Lake Dries
Since Lake Faguibine in northern Mali dried up, communities on its parched shores have had to defend their homes from encroaching sand dunes while finding new ways to scratch a living from the degraded soil. The lake – once one of the largest in West Africa – used to be fed by annual flooding from the Niger River. But it started to disappear after catastrophic droughts in the 1970s, forcing more than 200,000 people to abandon their traditional livelihoods. “All this area was covered by water,” said farmer-turned-herder Abdul Karim Ag Al Hassane, pointing to the desert horizon in a video shared by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Now he and other inhabitants of the formerly lakeside villages west of Timbuktu have to walk long distances to find water for their livestock and build barriers out of sticks in an effort to keep the dunes at bay. Reuters

East African Innovators Win Global Climate Prize at COP26
Four East African climate innovators from Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have won the prestigious 2021 Ashden Awards at the UN climate summit COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. The Ashden Awards, organised by a London-based charity that works in sustainable energy and development, honour pioneering organisations from the United Kingdom and low-income countries working to lower carbon emissions and build a fairer world. The awards were announced on Thursday, November 4, in Glasgow, where world leaders and international organisations have gathered to agree on a global plan for tackling the climate crisis. … YICE Uganda, a grassroots initiative training women, young people and refugees, in regenerative farming techniques, won the Ashden Award for Regenerative Agriculture. New Energy Nexus Uganda, which provides low-cost clean energy loans and business coaching to rural community-based organisations, won the Ashden Award for Energy Access Innovation. Mbou Mon Tour from DR Congo won the Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions with its unique community-based forest management initiative, which combines a range of community income generation schemes to protect the endangered bonobo great ape. Kenyan organisation Solar Freeze, providers of sustainable and affordable refrigeration service for food and medicine in refugee camps, won the Ashden Award for Humanitarian Energy. The EastAfrican



Photo: Adam Jones