Africa Media Review for October 24, 2023

US Formally Concludes that a Military Coup Has taken Place in Gabon
The United States has suspended most financial assistance to the central African country of Gabon in response to August’s military takeover. “The United States has concluded that a military coup d’état has taken place in Gabon,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement released Monday. Miller said the aid had been temporarily paused since Sept. 26. Miller said all “humanitarian, health, and education assistance” to Gabon will continue. A group of army officers led by General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, chief of the Republican Guard, placed President Ali Bongo under house arrest on Aug, 30 and seized power. General Nguema was designated president of a committee aimed at eventually returning power to a civilian government. The mutinous soldiers announced the coup on national television just moments after the nation’s election commission declared that Bongo had won a third term in general elections held just days before…Judd Devermont, a special assistant to U.S. President Joe Biden, met with Nguema and military-appointed Prime Minister Raymond Ndong Sima last week in the capital, Libreville, to discuss a path forward on restoring democracy in Gabon. Gabon state TV reported that Nguema reiterated after the meeting he will return power to civilian rule at the end of the transition, but he did not announce a timeframe. VOA

European Union Begins Steps to Sanction Niger Junta
The European Union (EU) has initiated measures to impose sanctions on members of Niger’s military junta, marking a significant development three months after they seized power in a coup. On Monday, the EU Council revealed that it had taken steps to enact a framework that would empower it to impose sanctions on “individuals and entities found responsible for actions that pose a threat to the peace, stability, and security of Niger.” The council explicitly stated that these sanctions will target individuals who undermine Niger’s constitutional order, democracy, or rule of law. Additionally, those who engage in human rights violations or abuses will also face sanctions. The range of sanctions will encompass travel bans, asset freezes, and restrictions on providing funds to those who are sanctioned. EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell emphasized the EU’s support for the efforts of the West African bloc, Ecowas, and sent a clear message that military coups come at a cost: “With today’s decision, the EU strengthens its support to Ecowas’ efforts and sends a clear message: military coups bear costs.” However, it’s important to note that the EU has left room for humanitarian exemptions to asset freeze measures. The European Union’s decision comes in the wake of sanctions already imposed on Niger by Ecowas and the suspension of aid by the United States government. Africanews with agencies

Shelling, Air Strikes Persist in Sudan Capital
Battles and shelling continued in the vicinity of the General Command of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) in Khartoum with artillery and armoured vehicles on Sunday, with warplanes reportedly flying overhead and striking various targets in the capital. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that the vicinity of the radio and television building witnessed the hitherto fiercest battles of its kind at dawn on Sunday, while clashes between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) moved towards the popular market in Omdurman and the Doha area. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry said that work on the Manara water station in Omdurman was temporarily suspended to measure the impact of toxins on water, after it was bombed by the Rapid Support. The Foreign Ministry added that the Manara water station is one of the main stations in the Omdurman area, especially Karary Governorate, and its suspension exposes the entire province to the risk of a water shortage. Intense confrontations continued over the past weeks between the SAF and the paramilitary RSF in the Sudan capital Khartoum, and its sister cities Omdurman and Khartoum North. Radio Dabanga

Renewed Tribal Conflict in South Darfur Leaves 13 Dead
Security tensions in the western Sudanese state of South Darfur escalated on Monday as renewed conflicts between the Salamat and Habbaniya tribes erupted in multiple areas of the state, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 13 lives. This latest bout of violence flared up at the outset of the week, in the wake of a prior outbreak in August that had seen more than 500 fatalities and the destruction of over 20 villages. The Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have traded allegations regarding their involvement in exacerbating the tensions between these two pastoral groups, a feud that first ignited in August of this year. In June, the Beni Halba Arab tribe, along with other tribes in South Darfur state, declared their support for the RSF in their conflict against the Sudanese army. The Salamat tribe, however, did not align itself with this stance, despite some of its members participating in the fighting alongside the paramilitary forces. This division has created a significant rift within the local communities of South Darfur…These clashes have given rise to complex humanitarian conditions and a substantial displacement of villagers…[Journalist Al-Fatih Bahloul] noted that this dispute between the two tribes is a recurring issue, characterized by mutual accusations of livestock theft and attacks on commercial convoys and vehicles en route to traditional gold mining sites. Sudan Tribune

UN Aircraft Takes Fire as Peacekeepers Withdraw from Mali under Junta Orders
On Saturday, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) concluded the rapid departure of troops and civilians from its base in Tessalit, in unrest-ridden northern Mali. However, the mission is concerned about the safety of a land convoy traveling to Gao, which is located some 550km from the base. This was revealed by the UN in a note to journalists earlier on Monday. “The departure from Tessalit marks the first camp closure of MINUSMA in the Kidal region of northern Mali, amid a deteriorating security situation endangering the lives of hundreds of uniformed and civilian personnel,” read the statement…”A MINUSMA aircraft was hit by small arms fire while landing at Tessalit on Thursday, but fortunately there were no injuries to the crew or major damage to the aircraft,” the UN said…It added that some of its equipment had been destroyed during the rushed departures, meaning that the machinery the body intended to redeploy to other crisis hotspots on the continent had been rendered useless…The UN also argued that losses might have been avoided if the 200 trucks, which have been unable to move away from Gao since 24 September, had been allowed to leave for the Kidal region as part of the mission’s overall withdrawal strategy in order to gather and remove equipment from the three MINUSMA sites.. News 24

France Completes Withdrawal of Troops from Northern Base in Niger as Part of Planned Departure
France has completed the withdrawal of troops from a northern base in Niger as part of a planned departure from the West African country in the wake of July’s military coup. Nearly 200 troops, 28 trucks and two dozen armored vehicles left the Ouallam military base, which has been handed to Niger, a junta spokesman, Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane, said Sunday. France’s withdrawal is expected to be complete by the end of the year…The announcement comes weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will end its military presence in Niger and pull its ambassador out of the country as a result of the coup that removed President Mohamed Bazoum…Niger had been seen as the last country in the Sahel, the vast expanse below the Sahara Desert, that Western nations could partner with to beat back a growing jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Analysts warn that France’s withdrawal will leave a security vacuum that extremists could exploit. In the month after the junta seized power, violence primarily linked to the extremists soared by more than 40%, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. AP

Rwanda Sends Humanitarian Aid to Gaza
Rwanda has sent humanitarian aid to Gaza, displaying solidarity with Palestinian civilians hurt in the war between Israeli and the militant group Hamas. A Rwandair Cargo plane carrying 16 tons of medicine, food, and water, touched down in Jordan en route to Gaza on a Friday. The assistance is expected to reach Gaza through Egypt due to an Israeli blockade preventing direct aid deliveries directly from Jordan…The death toll in Gaza has risen to 4,137 following an Israeli rocket bombardment on Gaza, according to the Gaza health ministry, while the UN says that the humanitarian situation has reached “catastrophic levels”…When Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza Strip, attacked Israel on October 7 and killed 1,400 people, including children and women, Rwanda condemned the attack and sent condolences to Israel. On Friday, Rwanda’s State Minister for Regional Cooperation James Kabarebe met with Israeli Ambassador Einat Weiss to discuss “further strengthening of cooperation between the two countries.” The East African

Nigeria Opposition Asks Supreme Court to Overturn President Tinubu’s Victory
Nigeria’s two main opposition leaders on Monday asked the Supreme Court to quash last month’s tribunal ruling upholding President Bola Tinubu’s February election victory, in a last bid to reverse results of a vote widely accepted by the international community…Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who came second and third respectively in the vote, took their election fight to the highest court, which reserved ruling to a date yet to be announced. On Sept. 6 the presidential tribunal rejected petitions by Atiku and Obi to cancel the election result over alleged irregularities. Lawyers for Atiku and Obi told the court that the tribunal erred when it declared that it was not mandatory for the electoral agency to electronically transmit results from polling stations even though it had promised to do this. They also argued that Tinubu did not score 25% of the vote in the federal capital Abuja, which meant he did not meet the legal threshold to be declared winner. Under Nigeria’s electoral law, a presidential candidate is deemed to have won if they get no less than a quarter of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of all the 36 states and Abuja. The provision has been interpreted differently by the opposition and Tinubu’s lawyers…Tinubu argued that the 25% refers to the states and Abuja combined. The Supreme Court, which has the final say in presidential election petitions, has 60 days to pass judgment from the day of the presidential tribunal ruling. Reuters

A Court in Kenya Has Extended Orders barring the Deployment of Police to Haiti for 2 More Weeks
A court in Kenya has extended orders blocking the deployment of Kenyan police to Haiti to lead a U.N Security Council-approved mission to combat gang violence in the Caribbean nation. The High Court on Tuesday said that it would rule on the case on Nov. 9. Former presidential candidate, Ekuru Aukot, filed a petition on Oct. 9 against the deployment of Kenyan forces, arguing that the law allowing the president to do so conflicted with articles of the constitution. Aukot’s petition also faulted President William Ruto for agreeing to lead the international peacekeeping mission while Kenya struggles with security issues arising from militant attacks and most recently ethnic clashes. The U.N. Security Council resolution, drafted by the United States and Ecuador, authorizes the force to deploy for one year, with a review after nine months. Kenya’s national assembly has yet to schedule a debate on the motion to deploy the contingent, which is expected to be made up of about 1,000 police officers. The non-U.N. mission would be funded by voluntary contributions, with the U.S. pledging up to $200 million. AP

Ethiopia’s Quest for Sea Access Rattles Port Custodians Eritrea
The Ethiopian government is trying to stem a potential diplomatic falling-out with Eritrea, with whom it only restored relations three years ago, after its leader hinted at seeking access to the sea for his country’s economic and geopolitical needs. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in a speech in parliament last Sunday, spoke of seeking access to the sea, which he argued was central to the country’s ambitions and said it needed to be addressed “to prevent future generations from resorting to conflict. This can be achieved through discussions on investment options, shares and leases. However, dismissing it entirely as a topic of conversation is a mistake,” he said, according to the Ethiopian News Agency…Eritrea responded to the speech with a cryptic statement: “Discourses — both actual and presumed — on water, access to the sea, and related topics floated in the recent times are numerous and excessive indeed. The affair has perplexed all concerned observers”…Ethiopia and Eritrea were once one country until 1993 when Asmara seceded. Before then, access to the sea was mostly via Massawa and Assab on the Red Sea coast. The two countries did not enjoy good relations until 2019, and Addis was forced to deal with Djibouti for access to the sea. It imports nearly 90 percent of goods via the Djibouti port. But Abiy did admit the cost is higher in Djibouti. According to him, Ethiopia’s future strategic interests lie in the access to the sea, which could also enable it to build its navy and secure trade routes. The East African

DP World in Tanzania: The UAE Firm Taking Over Africa’s Ports
A multimillion-dollar deal signed between Emirati maritime giant DP World and Tanzania on Sunday looks set to further entrench the dominance of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Africa’s freight industry. Reports of the $250m (£205m) deal first emerged in July, sparking criticism by the opposition that it “violated Tanzania’s constitution and endangers national sovereignty.” The high court in Tanzania’s south-western town of Mbeya dismissed the petition, paving the way for DP World to manage two-thirds of the Dar es Salaam port for the next 30 years…Chronic inefficiency, corruption allegations and competition in freight management by neighbouring Kenya are some of the underlying reasons why Tanzania President Samia Suluhu signed off on the agreement…The UAE is the fourth-largest investor in Africa, after China, Europe and the US. In the last decade, it has invested nearly $60bn in infrastructure and energy sectors across the continent. DP World – established in 1999 and owned by Emirati ruling families – has increased those inroads with port operations in Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal and Somalia. In 2021, DP World pledged to invest $1bn in Africa over the next several years. These investments have at times sparked tensions, tested geopolitical relations and – more crucially – intensified competition for infrastructural development in Africa. Like China, Turkey and Russia, the UAE is increasingly becoming a political and economic counterweight to the West in Africa. Abu Dhabi’s diplomatic presence has been boosted by humanitarian support and defence cooperation, particularly in the Horn of Africa.  BBC

‘I Am Here to Make Films for the World’ Says Nigerian Director of Global Hit “The Black Book”
Nigerian action thriller “The Black Book” has taken the streaming world by storm, spending three weeks among Nextflix’s top 10 English-language titles globally, peaking at No. 3 in the second week. It garnered 5.6 million views just 48 hours after its Sept. 22 release and by its second week was featured among the top 10 titles in 69 countries, according to Netflix. Director Editi Effiong said the movie walked on the way paved by its predecessors. “’The Black Book’ is standing on the shoulders of those many generations of filmmakers. This is the next step. It’s not different, it’s not anything spectacular. It’s just a natural progression of the industry”…Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, has been a global phenomenon since the 1990s when it rose to fame with such films as “Living in Bondage,” a thriller with Kunle Afolayan’s Aníkúlápó released in 2022 and peaking at No. 1 on Netflix’s global chart. It is the world’s second-largest film industry after India based on number of productions, with an average of 2,000 movies released annually. Nollywood’s latest blockbuster, “The Black Book,” tells the story of a bereaved deacon who seeks to take justice into his own hands and fights a corrupt police gang after his son is framed for a kidnapping…The $1 million movie was financed with the support of a team of experts and founders in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem. Africanews and AP