Africa Media Review for October 11, 2023

The US Declares the Ousting of Niger’s President a Coup and Suspends Military Aid and Training
The United States on Tuesday formally declared the ousting of Niger’s democratically-elected president a coup d’etat, more than two months after mutinous soldiers seized power. Senior administration officials told reporters that the U.S. was taking action after exhausting all avenues to preserve constitutional order in the West African nation, including urging the military leaders to restore civilian rule within four months in compliance with the constitution. The coup designation comes with the suspension of counterterrorism assistance and military training as well as the pausing of certain foreign assistance programs worth hundreds of millions of dollars…Any resumption of suspended assistance will require action by the CNSP to usher in democratic rule in a quick and credible timeframe and the release of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum who’s been under house arrest with his wife and son since July, the administration officials said…Under U.S. law, a formal determination of a coup — the unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government — typically results in a suspension of all non-humanitarian assistance, particularly military aid and cooperation, to the country concerned.  AP

French Troops Begin Withdrawal from Niger
France has begun withdrawing its troops from Niger after being ordered out of the West African nation by the leaders of the July coup that ousted the pro-Paris president, the military said Tuesday…A French defense source said a first group of soldiers that were considered priority for evacuation for health or humanitarian reasons had already flown out of Niger on Monday. The pullout comes hot on the heels of the departure of France’s ambassador to Niamey who was also forced out by the leaders of the July coup that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum. It is the fourth time in under two years that French troops have suffered the humiliation of being forced out of a former African colony, coming after Mali, the Central African Republic and Burkina Faso. Le Monde with AFP

Chad: Police Arrest “Around Fifty” Opposition Activists
Around fifty Chadian opposition activists were arrested in N’Djamena on Sunday, as they prepared for the return of their leader, who has been in exile since a violent crackdown on a protest against the ruling junta a year ago. The leader of the Les Transformateurs party, Succès Masra, reported on social media that over 200 of his supporters were arrested while renovating their headquarters and putting up posters. Masra had announced his intention to return to Chad on September 10th to continue the fight with the people. However, on Thursday, an international arrest warrant from N’Djamena was revealed, calling for his arrest abroad for incitement to insurrectional uprising…In April 2021, after the death of President Idriss Déby Itno, a junta of fifteen generals declared his son, General Mahamat Idriss Déby, president for a transition period initially set for eighteen months. However, in October 2022, the junta extended this period by two years, citing the need for a national reconciliation dialogue that most of the opposition and powerful armed rebel groups boycotted. Africanews

WFP Resumes Food Distribution to Refugees in Ethiopia
The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has resumed distribution of food to roughly 900,000 refugees across Ethiopia after revamping safeguards and controls, following reports of large-scale theft of its donations, it said in a statement. The WFP suspended food distributions in all of Ethiopia in June, a day after the United States announced it was doing the same because of diversions of aid. More than 20 million people need food assistance in Africa’s second most populous nation after the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades and a two-year conflict in the Tigray region that has killed tens of thousands. In the last six months, around 35,000 people have fled from Sudan to Ethiopia. Ethiopia hosts a further 850,000 refugees mostly from Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea…The United Nations agency resumed distributing food aid in parts of the Tigray region in August, but at that stage it was still running test distributions in other Ethiopian regions. WFP said there had been major reforms at all refugee camps in Ethiopia, with all 24 warehouses in camps now exclusively managed by the WFP. More non-governmental organizations have been trained to manage food distributions, and new collection procedures will ensure refugees get the right entitlements. Reuters

UN Warns of Heightened Risk of Genocide and Atrocity Crimes in Ethiopia
Following reports of continued fighting between government troops and local militias in Ethiopia, [Alice Wairimu Nderitu],the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is sounding the alarm about the heightened risk of genocide and related atrocity crimes in the Tigray, Amhara, Afar and Oromi regions…[T]he report specifies that violations against Tigrayan civilians were frequently accompanied by insulting or derogatory language, often through pejorative terms including “junta,” “woyane” and “agame”, during attacks. “Perpetrators have expressed the intention to target a group on the basis of ethnicity,” noted the Special Adviser. “This includes describing Tigrayans as ‘cancer,’ indicating a desire to kill men and children, or else to destroy women’s reproductive capacities. This must raise all alarms that the risk of genocide is present and growing,” emphasized the Special Adviser. She also noted with grave concern the Commission report’s conclusion that widespread rape, multi-perpetrator-rape, and other forms of sexual violence against ethnic Amhara and Agew women and girls, in at least 11 towns and villages in had been committed. UN News

Somalia President Visits Eritrea amid Military Operations against Al-Shabaab
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud returned to Eritrea for the fourth time in one year, amid ongoing military mobilization against Al-Shabaab militants, who still control large swathes of rural central and southern Somalia, despite advancements made in the crackdown against the group. The president has been working closely with Eritrea on training and capacity building of the military, which is actively involved in the operations against the militants. The military is also working closely with the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] and the US Africa Command. According to the state media, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will be seeking to advance security and defense cooperation with Eritrea. The president will also be visiting troops training in Eritrea, who are set to be posted in the fight against Al-Shabaab…The duration of the visit has not been disclosed but it comes at a crucial time for the remobilisations against al-Shabaab president Hassan Sheikh has been conducting in central Somalia. The operation targets Al-Shabaab hideouts in the Galgaduud, Mudug, and Hiiraan regions. Isaias Afwerki, the president of Eritrea, has been supporting Somalia militarily, through training and equipment. Besides Ethiopia, Uganda has also been training Somali soldiers, who have already been involved in the fight against Al-Shabaab in recent weeks. The government of Somalia has been working closely with neighboring nations in the Al-Shabaab war, with most of the countries contributing troops on the frontline. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti had pledged to dispatch non-ATMIS troops for the second phase of operations against Al-Shabaab. Garowe Online

Congo Orders Regional Peacekeepers to Leave by December
Congo’s government spokesperson has said that the East African regional force would have to leave the country by Dec. 8 because of a “lack of satisfactory results on the ground” as agreed on during a regional meeting. Patrick Muyaya told journalists on Monday night that the East African Community, or EAC, force must leave the country “because it has not been able to resolve the problem, notably that of the M23.” The government says the M23 rebel group has, under the watch of the regional force, refused to withdraw from the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru and Nyiragongo, in violation of the Luanda agreement. Violent clashes between armed groups have intensified in the Masisi and Rutshuru territories, located in North Kivu province since Oct. 1…Congolese President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi had in September said he wanted the U.N. peacekeeping mission to move up the start of the peacekeeping mission’s “accelerated retreat” by a year for failing to rein in conflicts in the country’s east…Eastern Congo, far from the capital, has long been overrun by dozens of armed groups seeking a share of the region’s gold and other resources. AP

19 Million Children in Sudan Are out of School, Says UNICEF
An estimated 19 million children in Sudan are currently out of school as the brutal conflict approaches the six-month mark next week, the UN children agency (UNICEF) said on Monday. 6.5 million of these children, it said, lost access to school due to increased violence and insecurity in their region, with 10,400 schools closed in conflict-affected areas…According to UNICEF, before fighting erupted in April, nearly 7 million children were already out of school in a nation grappling with poverty and instability. If the war rages on, no child in Sudan will be able to go back to school in the coming months, leaving them exposed to immediate and long-term dangers, including displacement, recruitment into armed groups and sexual violence, it said. “Sudan is on the brink of becoming home to the worst education crisis in the world,” said Mandeep O’Brien, the UNICEF Country Representative in Sudan, adding, “Children have been exposed to the horrors of war for nearly half a year…Meanwhile, UNICEF and Save the Children are reportedly working with partners to ensure millions of Sudanese children can access quality education and safely go back to school soon before their academic year is compromised. The two children agencies urged authorities in Sudanese to reopen schools in safe areas, while supporting alternative learning modalities in communities where schools can no longer be open due to safety and security concerns in the country. Sudan Tribune

China Seeks to Work with Egypt on Israel-Hamas War
China is seeking to work with Egypt to help ease the Israel-Hamas war that erupted after a deadly attack by the Palestinian militant group, its Middle East envoy has said as he urged a ceasefire. Zhai Jun spoke by phone on Tuesday with Egypt’s assistant minister for the Palestinian territories, according to a readout of the conversation published by Beijing. “China is willing to maintain communication and coordination with Egypt, push both parties of the conflict to cease fire and stop violence as soon as possible,” Zhai said…Since the assault, Egypt has intensified its push for diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the spiralling violence. Egypt has historically been a key mediator between Israel and the Palestinians and was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. It has, alongside Israel, jointly blockaded the Gaza Strip since 2007. China has meanwhile positioned itself in recent months as a mediator in the Middle East, brokering a restoration of ties in March between Saudi Arabia and key Hamas backer Iran. AFP

Madagascar President Launches Re-election Bid amid Accusations of ‘Institutional Coup’
For more than a week, opposition parties have held demonstrations against what they call an “institutional coup” to keep [Andry] Rajoelina in power that have routinely been dispersed by police…The rally marked the start of the campaign period, but 11 of the 13 candidates in the running said on Monday they would abstain from campaigning until their grievances are addressed…The 11 opposition candidates have since led almost daily, unauthorised marches in the capital, which have been met with a heavy police presence and tear gas. Presidential hopeful Andry Raobelina, who was injured at a rally last week and later sought medical attention in the nearby island of Mauritius, has since filed a court appeal to have the elections postponed citing “force majeure”…Rajoelina first took power in 2009 on the back of a coup. After not running in the 2013 election due to international pressure, he was voted back into power in 2018. He has since held the reins in a country that remains among the poorest in the world despite vast natural resources. AFP

Free Speech: Is Gambia Sliding Back into Dictatorship?
The recent arrest of journalists and critics has diminished press freedom in Gambia and drawn criticism from both the public and civil society organizations…Madi Jobarteh, a human rights activist and political commentator, was arrested on October 9 after complaining that police were surveilling him. Jobarteh was also questioned about his criticism of the president on social media platforms. Opposition activists Bayo Sonko and Modou Sabally were arrested last month but are currently out on bail. Another journalist also on bail is Bakary Mankajang, who was arrested by Gambian police in connection with his reporting on police killings in Casamance. Mankajang is an independent reporter who posts on TikTok and a Facebook page called Mankajang Daily. Both his platforms have approximately 70,000 followers. His release from detention resulted from the efforts of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, a US-based independent organization that fights for the rights of journalists. In an interview with DW, the president of the Gambia Press Union, Muhammed S. Bah, said his organization is concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Gambia. “There is a looming threat against press freedom and freedom of expression because if you look at the past regime, these are some of the things that happened. So this is a concern, and it is really a serious threat to our democratic gains,” Bah said. DW

South Africa: Rising Amapiano Star Tyla Enters the Billboard Charts
On Tuesday, 21-year-old Tyla, the rising star of South Africa’s Amapiano phenomenon, made a remarkable entry into the Billboard Hot 100, the benchmark US music chart of the most listened-to tracks each week, with her now-viral hit “Water”…A singer, dancer, and performer, Tyla Laura Seethal has just a few singles to her credit, but music industry professionals are already describing her as one of the continent’s most promising talents. Signed to Epic Records (Sony), this year she opened for American RnB singer Chris Brown on his European tour. Her track “Water”, released in July, in the Amapiano vein born in the South African townships before becoming a global style, gained popularity in just a few weeks, notably on TikTok, thanks to a video of the artist dancing seen over 70 million times. The official video, which uses RnB codes, has already racked up over eleven million views on YouTube…”Let’s make our sound heard all over the world”, enjoined the artist, who is preparing her debut album, hailing “a victory for all of Africa”. Africanews with AFP