Africa Media Review for October 28, 2021

UN Urges CAR to Cut Ties with Russia’s Wagner Group Mercenaries over Rights Abuses
UN experts Wednesday urged the Central African Republic to cut ties with Russia’s Wagner group, accusing the private security force of violent harassment, intimidation and sexual abuse. Wagner personnel working closely with the CAR army and police force have harassed peacekeepers, journalists, aid workers and minorities, they said in a joint statement. “We call on the CAR government to end all relationships with private military and security personnel, particularly the Wagner group,” they said. … Wagner personnel have been reported in the CAR and other African countries, as well as in Syria and Libya, and Mali’s junta has also contemplated a deal, according to French sources.French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called them “a company of Russian mercenaries which makes war by proxy on Russia’s account”, adding that “even if Russia denies it, nobody is fooled”, with the CAR “the most spectacular example” of the group’s actions. On Tuesday, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said “Russian mercenaries engage in human rights abuses of civilians, extract steep costs in payments and mineral concessions, and deprive local citizens of critically needed resources.” AFP

Sudan Army Sacks Six Envoys as Coup Condemnation Grows
Sudan’s ruling military has sacked six ambassadors and security forces have tightened their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, even as international pressure against this week’s coup grows. The decision, announced late on Wednesday on state media, included Sudan’s ambassadors to the US, the European Union, China, Qatar, France and the head of the country’s mission to the Swiss city of Geneva, apparently over their rejection of the military takeover. It came as demands are mounting for the army to walk back Monday’s coup that derailed Sudan’s fragile transition toward democracy following the removal of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 in a popular uprising. On Wednesday, the African Union announced its decision to suspend Sudan from the bloc’s activities until the restoration of the country’s civilian-led transitional government, while the Word Bank froze aid and the United States paused $700 million in emergency assistance. … “All security on the streets now look like the Bashir-era forces,” one protester lamented to the AFP news agency. Neighbourhood committees have announced plans for further protests, leading to what they said would be a “march of millions” on Saturday. Al Jazeera

Abuses by Sahel Security Forces against Citizens in Burkina Faso Down
Once commonplace, abuses by state security forces against civilians in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have dropped sharply in the previous year, according to rights groups. … Last year, the number of civilian fatalities caused by security forces was approaching those caused by terror groups. Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, ACLED, shows the number of civilian fatalities caused by security forces has fallen dramatically in the last year to Oct. 1, compared with the previous year. They have dropped by 77% in Burkina Faso, 74% in Mali, and 65% in Niger. Rights groups say they have also observed the change and suggest why it might have occurred. “We believe that there’s a combination of factors,” said Corrine Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “First has been reporting by human rights groups, by journalists, as well as pressure from the international community.” … But the consequences of the atrocities are not going away. “The bad news is there have not been investigations, much less, justice and accountability,” said Human Rights Watch’s Dufka. VOA

Mali Parliament VP N’Djim Arrested over ‘Subversive Remarks’
Malian authorities have arrested Issa Kaou N’Djim, a vice president of the country’s interim parliament, for making “subversive remarks” on social media, two legal sources said. N’Djim, an influential figure in the conflict-ridden Sahel state, was arrested in the capital Bamako on Tuesday, according to a court official who requested anonymity. The official added that the lawmaker was arrested over “subversive remarks,” without offering further details. N’Djim is a supporter of Mali’s army strongman Assimi Goita, but is known for his sharp criticism of Interim Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga. Kassoum Tapo, N’Djim’s lawyer, told AFP that his client’s detention is illegal because he has parliamentary immunity. N’Djim is a vice president of an interim legislature established in the aftermath of a military coup led by Goita in August 2020, which ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. … N’Djim’s arrest comes after he criticised the government for expelling an ECOWAS representative this week, for reasons that remain unclear. AfricaNews with AFP

Tunisia Shuts Down TV Station Run by Opposition Party Leader
Tunisia’s media authority on Wednesday ordered the closure of Nessma TV channel founded by defeated presidential candidate Nabil Karoui. The authority, known as HAICA, seized the channel’s broadcast equipment and said in a statement that Nessma TV was broadcasting without a licence. … In July Karoui’s former opponent, President Kais Saied, sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and granted himself judicial powers after months of political stalemate. He followed that move last month with measures that effectively allow him to rule by decree, in what opponent’s called his “coup.” HAICA also attributed the channel’s closure to “suspicions of financial and administrative corruption”, adding that the channel’s ownership by a political party leader “influenced the content of its programmes.” … In early October, Tunisian authorities seized broadcasting equipment used by another channel, Zitouna TV, which HAICA also said had been operating illegally. Zitouna TV is considered close to Ennahdha and its ally Al-Karama, both of which oppose Saied’s power grab. AFP

Amnesty Urges Urgent Relief for ‘Deep Hunger’ in South Madagascar
Amnesty International has urged Madagascar’s government and the rest of the world to step up relief efforts for the island nation’s drought-hit south. More than a million people on Madagascar’s parched southern tip are on the brink of famine and some are already dying, the global rights watchdog said in a report on Wednesday released ahead of the United Nations’ climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. It called on rich nations to provide humanitarian aid and offer financial and technical support to help Madagascar adapt to climate change. “There is deep hunger, there is lack of access to water, lack of access to health (facilities). Children are particularly badly affected,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary-general, told Al Jazeera. “We need to make people gathering in Glasgow next week that climate crisis means people dying of hunger, whether it is in Madagascar or South Sudan.” “The international community must immediately provide the people in Madagascar affected by the drought with increased humanitarian relief and additional funding for the losses and damages suffered,” she said earlier. Al Jazeera

Madagascar’s Lucrative Mining Sector ‘Crippled by Trafficking’
A dozen civil society groups have denounced a lack of transparency in Madagascar’s lucrative mining sector, which accounts for 30 percent of its exports. Rich in gold, emeralds, rubies and sapphires, Madagascar and its wealth have done little to contribute to its development or improve the living conditions of the Malagasy people. As RFI’s correspondent in the capital Antananarivo, Laetitia Bezain, reports, the gold industry – subject to large-scale trafficking – is of particular concern. “Trafficking has been on the rise for three years … it’s everywhere: in Mauritius, South Africa and Dubai,” says Clément Rabenandrasana, who runs OSCIE, a civil society organisation on extractive industries. Although the government suspended gold exports in 2020 in an effort to clean up the industry, its exploitation and commercialisation continue – with 73 kilos of the precious metal intercepted in South Africa in January alone. “Everytime there is a major case, we don’t know the ins and outs,” says Rabenandrasana, adding that the perpetrators and the real accomplices are never revealed. “We therefore ask the government to be transparent in the treatment of large-scale cases … The government needs to control this circuit, not the traffickers.” RFI

South Africa Gears Up for Hotly Contested Local Elections
Voters in South Africa will head to the polls on Monday to elect local representatives, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) facing its stiffest test since the end of apartheid. South Africa’s constitutional court in September ordered the municipal government election be held this year, rejecting a request by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) which sought a postponement fearing that the COVID-19 pandemic would make it difficult to organise a free and fair election. “The ballot will go ahead as per the court judgement notwithstanding the challenges we face in delivering this election,” Glen Mashinini, chairperson of the IEC, told Al Jazeera. The shortened campaign period of eight weeks has left political parties scrambling to convince a sceptical electorate to back them in an election that will decide who will be tasked with the delivery of basic services such as water and electricity. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: Names of Lekki Toll Gate Massacre Victims We Have So Far
At a quarter to 7 p.m. on Oct. 20, 2020, officers of the Nigerian Army started shooting at a group of Nigerians protesting police brutality at a toll gate in Lekki, Lagos State. Footage of the incident and witness accounts show that they did not stop until about half-past 8 p.m. Hours later, police officers also arrived at the scene and shot at demonstrators. Lives were lost, but no one can say exactly how many. According to Amnesty International, at least 10 people were killed. Obianuju Catherine Udeh, aka DJ Switch, who famously streamed the incident on Instagram, said they counted at least 15 people who had been gunned down. The Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) documented 20 deaths, suggesting in a publication that there were many more casualties based on reports of missing people and others who lost loved ones but were unwilling to speak out. Despite the available evidence, however, Nigerian authorities continue to insist no massacre took place. Information minister Lai Mohammed has repeatedly described it as a “massacre without bodies and blood”. “Anyone who knows anyone who was killed at Lekki toll gate should head straight to the judicial panel with conclusive evidence of such,” he challenged last November. Here, HumAngle compiles the names of people noted in earlier reports across different platforms to have either been killed or injured by security forces at the protest location that night. HumAngle



Photo: Adam Jones