Africa Media Review for October 3, 2023

Niger Attack: Jihadists Kill Dozen of Soldiers in Deadliest Raid since Coup
At least 29 soldiers have been killed in Niger in the deadliest attack since the army staged a coup in July. The soldiers were killed by hundreds of jihadists using “improvised explosive devices and kamikaze vehicles,” the defence ministry said. It added that “several dozen terrorists” were also killed in the counter-offensive that took place near the border with Mali. Jihadist attacks on the army have risen since the military seized power. … The recent uptick in jihadist attacks in Niger has been linked to a security vacuum after soldiers were reportedly recalled to the capital, Niamey, to guard the coup leaders. At least 17 soldiers were killed last month in another attack near the border with Burkina Faso. There have also been a surge in jihadist and rebel violence in neighbouring Mali following the departure of French troops, and a UN force winding down operations at the request of the junta. BBC

Niger Junta Dismisses Algeria’s Plan for a Six-Month Transition
Niger’s military leaders have accepted an offer from Algeria to mediate following the July 26 coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, though warned they will ultimately decide on a timeline for a return to democracy. Algerian mediators have proposed a six-month transition back to constitutional rule after the overthrow, the latest in a series in sub-Saharan Africa. The move “opens the way to the meeting of conditions which will allow for peaceful resolution in the interest of Niger and the entire region,” its foreign ministry said on Monday. The junta has said the process could take a maximum of three years, taking into consideration reforms and the result of a national dialogue. … Attacks by Islamic State quadrupled in the month after the military took power promising to take back territory from the militants, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a non-profit that monitors political violence. Bloomberg

Mali in Meltdown as Militants Advance and U.N. Withdraws
Islamist militants in Mali began a blockade of Timbuktu by cutting road access in August and then shut off river and air routes in an offensive that has put the city once again on the frontline of a jihadist insurgency. The bombing began soon after. On Sept. 21, witnesses said rockets hit a hospital, killing two children, and landed near a school where survivors of a passenger boat attack that killed more than 100 people were sheltering. Since the United Nations began winding down its peacekeeping mission in July, al Qaeda affiliated militants launched an offensive in central Mali, fighting has resumed between the army and Tuareg rebels from the north and, in the east, Islamic State-allied insurgents have continued to carry out attacks. Mali, run by a junta that has spurned the support of U.N. and French forces, is in meltdown and the violence risks adding to instability across West Africa’s Sahel, a region already reeling from military coups in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. Experts compare Mali’s situation now to its position in 2012 when another Tuareg rebellion was overtaken by jihadists who captured Timbuktu and pressed south towards the capital Bamako. “This conflict is escalating fast,” said Ulf Laessing, the Bamako-based head of the Sahel programme at the Konrad Adenauer foundation. Reuters

Rebels in Mali Say They’ve Captured Another Military Base in the North as Violence Intensifies
Tuareg rebels in Mali said Monday they captured another military base from the army in the country’s north as fighting intensifies. Attaye Ag Mohamed, spokesman for the Azawad armed movement, told The Associated Press that the rebels seized the military base in the city of Bamba between Timbuktu and Gao on Sunday, as part of a broader strategy to weaken the Malian army. Mali’s ruling junta didn’t comment on whether the base was taken but posted a statement Sunday on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, saying there was intense fighting between its forces and “terrorists” in Bamba and that details would follow. Mali’s government refers to the Taureg rebels as terrorists. The violence is the latest in a string of increasing attacks by the rebels, known as the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD). Analysts say it signals a breakdown of a 2015 peace agreement signed between the government and ethnic Tuareg rebels who once drove security forces out of northern Mali as they sought to create the state of Azawad there. AP

Niger: RSF Calls for Release of Detained Journalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Monday called on the Niger authorities to “immediately” release a Niger journalist who was arrested two days ago for an as yet unknown reason. “Since journalist Samira Sabou was arrested at her home on 30 September, her family has had no news of her. RSF calls on the Niger authorities to reveal where she is being held and to allow her lawyer to see her. She must be released without delay”, wrote RSF on X (formerly Twitter). … Niger has been ruled for more than two months by a military regime that came to power in a coup d’état that overthrew the elected president Mohamed Bazoum. AfricaNews with AFP

Sudan Conflict ‘Like Planning for the Apocalypse,’ Say Aid Workers
Humanitarian officials say the widening conflict in Sudan has left them trying to “plan for the apocalypse” as aid supply lines are disrupted and more people are displaced both internally and across the country’s borders. At least 5.4 million people have already been displaced by the fighting that broke out in April between between the Sudanese armed forces, led by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces loyal to his rival Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – known as Hemedti. As well as their armed power struggle, which is centred on the capital, Khartoum, communal violence has erupted once again in the Darfur region, where Sudanese Arab groups have targeted the Masalit people. … “In some places [in Darfur], 70% of the population have fled, mostly Masalit,” the official said. “We are seeing IPC4 levels of malnutrition [the second highest rating].” … The official also expressed fears that fighting between the SAF and RSF would spread south-east from Khartoum to Jazirah state, the country’s bread basket situated between the Blue and While Niles, and that the 1.1 million South Sudanese refugees in White Nile state might decide they have no choice but to return to their own country. Guardian

Kenya’s President Welcomes UN Security Council’s Approval to Send a Kenya-Led Mission to Haiti
Kenya’s president on Tuesday welcomed the U.N. Security Council’s resolution to send a Kenya-led multinational armed force to Haiti to help combat violent gangs and pledged that it will “not fail the people of Haiti.” President William Ruto’s remarks came hours after Monday’s vote at the United Nations, marking the first time in almost 20 years that a force would be deployed to the troubled Caribbean nation where gang violence has escalated dramatically with killings, kidnappings and rape. … The resolution, drafted by the United States and Ecuador, authorizes the force to deploy for one year, with a review after nine months. The non-U.N. mission would be funded by voluntary contributions, with the U.S. pledging up to $200 million. … Kenya offered to lead the Haiti mission, citing its history in global peacekeeping missions. AP

UN Peacekeeping Reforms Open Door for DR Congo Funding
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s regional peace bid could begin tapping into a UN peacekeeping fund as early as January next year if the UN Security Council gives the nod, boosting chances of an alternative conflict resolution for the troubled country. The move, lobbied by the East African Community, is part of reform discussions for a new format UN Peacekeeping management across the world, and targets to support more locally led initiatives. It is based on lessons learnt from the departing UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco). It will require a UN Security Council endorsement by end of December but has already been backed by the African Union Peace and Security Council, which also argues for a redirection of UN funding to needy urgent cases of conflict in Africa. … Since 2016, Security Council members have debated the idea of using UN assessed contributions to fund African-led operations on a case-by-case basis. EastAfrican

Congolese Military Court Convicts Colonel and 3 Soldiers in Connection with Killings of Protesters
A military court sentenced a Congolese military colonel to death and convicted three soldiers following the deaths of more than 50 people who were protesting the U.N. peacekeeping mission earlier this year. Col. Mike Mikombe, former commander of the Republican Guard in the eastern city of Goma, was sentenced Monday. Congo has not enforced the death penalty in more than 20 years, effectively making it a life sentence. Three other second-class soldiers from the same unit were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Two other officers were acquitted, including Col. Donat Bawili, who headed the Congolese armed forces regiment in Goma at the time. In August, Goma’s mayor had banned a protest organized by a sect known as Wazalendo. Its supporters planned to demonstrate against the regional East African Community organization and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo. The U.N. mission has faced increased pressure to withdraw from Congo after more than two decades in the conflict-burdened country. AP

DR Congo Presidency’s Rights Record Raises Questions Ahead of Vote
When Felix Tshisekedi took office as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo following a disputed election in 2018, he promised to end decades of political repression and corruption that had stifled development in the Central African country. But as he prepares for a re-election bid in December, rights groups, international allies and rivals accuse his administration of stifling dissent just as previous government’s did while he was in opposition. In recent months, soldiers gunned down anti-U.N. protesters in the eastern city of Goma, and the body of a prominent opposition lawmaker was found in his car. Police have dispersed opposition rallies with tear gas, and at least two journalists have been detained on allegations of spreading fake news. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are being “severely tested” in Congo, said Jean-Claude Katende, president of the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADHO). Reuters

Rights Groups Critical of Zimbabwe Media Laws, Journalists’ Arrests
Two rights groups – Amnesty International and the Media Institute of Southern Africa – have released reports saying Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to break with the past and isn’t keeping his promise to allow freedom of the press and access to information. The government has a different opinion. In its report, Amnesty International says President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from the late Robert Mugabe in 2017, has not fulfilled a promise to promote media freedoms in Zimbabwe. Lucia Masuka, the executive director of Amnesty International in Zimbabwe, said in the last six years, the government has been using legislation to target human rights defenders and journalists. Amnesty said laws have been misused as an instrument of oppression and that authorities have amended existing legislation or introduced new measures targeting dissenting views and groups. VOA

Egypt’s El-Sissi Says He’ll Run for Third Presidential Term
Strongman President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Monday confirmed his intention to run in December’s presidential election. He pushed his predecessor out in 2013 to take power, and changed laws to be able to run again. … Several prominent candidates in the 2018 election were kept off ballots or jailed. Four years ago, el-Sissi oversaw the adoption of amendments to Egypt’s constitution that allowed him to stand for a third term, while at the same time extending presidential terms from four to six years. If re-elected, the authoritarian leader could remain in power until 2030. Orchestrated shows of support have been rolled out on a massive scale with banners bearing el-Sissi’s likeness blanketing the capital Cairo and enthusiastic coverage of happy el-Sissi supporters being broadcast on state-aligned media. … Though el-Sissi is widely expected to win re-election against an opposition he has largely crushed over the past decade — mainly by jailing tens of thousands under the guise of cracking down on “dissent” — Egypt’s dire economic straits could make his victory somewhat less overwhelming. Inflation in Egypt has skyrocketed to nearly 40% and the country’s currency has lost half its value since March 2022. DW

Liberian Supreme Court Tells Electoral Commission to Release Voters’ Register
Liberia’s Supreme Court has summoned the National Elections Commission to release the final voter roll, just days before the election. The Liberia National Elections Commission (NEC) said it had released the voter roll officially on its website on 31 July, but various political parties and concerned citizens said they have not been able to download the document, adding to the confusion just days before the 10 October elections. Respected local media Front Page Africa reported on Monday that the voter’s roll had been released. Two opposition parties – the Unity Party and the Liberian People’s Party – filed a lawsuit to compel the National Elections Commission (NEC) to publish the document. According to NEC regulations, the voter roll must be released at least 30 days before elections. Liberians go to the polls to pick their next president and representatives on 10 October. Premium Times

Peacebuilding Office in Liberia Concludes Weeklong Elections Integrity Dialogue
The Liberia Peacebuilding Office in Liberia concluded a weeklong conference on electoral integrity last Friday. The forum brought together local and international partners, the National Elections Commission, political parties, and civil society organizations to discuss the importance of electoral integrity. The forum also featured local and international speakers who addressed various topics, including the role of the media, protection of women from electoral violence, human rights and elections, and people-centered elections, among others. Stakeholders, especially political parties at the forum, committed to a peaceful electoral process but warned that the NEC must ensure that the elections are characterized by nothing but integrity and credibility. … Madam Rodriguez also called on the National Elections Commission to provide unrestricted access to polling stations on Election Day, as well as access to the vote tallying process. According to her, the government, political parties, and the NEC play crucial roles in ensuring the success of the October elections. Front Page Africa

Nigeria: Borno Civilian Task Force Announces Sack of Founding Leader Amid Corruption Allegations
The Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, has today, Oct. 1, announced the dismissal of its founding leader, Lawan Jafar, following allegations of corruption and high-handedness. The announcement was made during a press conference led by Bashir Abbas, the former commander of Sector 2 of the CJTF and current Auditor-General of the group. “The leadership of CJTF Borno State, after a series of meetings and deliberations, has unanimously decided to suspend Jafar, who is alleged to have misappropriated 13 Hilux vehicles meant for operational purposes,” Abbas stated during the press conference. “These vehicles were provided by the Borno State Government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).” … Lawan has been celebrated as the brain behind the idea that later became CJTF when he braved up to physically confront an armed Boko Haram gunner in his neighbourhood. HumAngle

Nigeria’s Labour Unions Suspend Indefinite Strike
Nigeria’s biggest labour federations on Monday said they were suspending an indefinite strike that was set to begin on Tuesday after last minute talks with President Bola Tinubu’s government, which had warned that the action could damage the economy. Tinubu is under pressure to ease economic hardships after he scrapped a decades-old petrol subsidy and allowed the naira currency to depreciate, leading to soaring prices in Africa’s biggest economy and major oil producer. The government agreed a temporary wage increase for government workers, a three-month income subsidy for 15 million poor households and a pause in a value-added tax on diesel, among several concessions to prevent the strike. In return, unions will suspend the strike for 30 days while negotiations continue, including on a new minimum wage for all Nigerian workers. Reuters

Environmental Groups Sue TotalEnergies over ‘Devastating’ East Africa Oil Pipeline
Lawyers confirmed on Monday a report in the French daily Le Monde that Darwin Climax Coalitions, Sea Shepherd France, Wild Legal and Stop EACOP-Stop Total in Uganda filed a complaint on 22 September. Lawyers William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth, who are representing the four organisations, said in a statement “At a time when the UN is concerned about the ongoing ‘climate collapse’, TotalEnergies must no longer continue to knowingly, freely and with impunity fuel climate disruption.” “It is time for the company to be held accountable for its activities,” the statement added. In their view, the lawsuit is unprecedented, as it brings TotalEnergies before a criminal court “for acts that are similar to climate change, and which until now have only been brought before civil courts.” … Last year, TotalEnergies announced a $10 billion investment agreement with Uganda, Tanzania and the Chinese company CNOOC, including the construction of a 1,443-kilometre heated oil pipeline (EACOP) linking the Lake Albert oilfields in western Uganda to the Tanzanian coast on the Indian Ocean. The group plans to drill nearly 400 oil wells in the Murchison Falls natural park – that includes the White Nile Falls – which is Uganda’s largest national park and essential biodiversity reserve. RFI

WHO Approves Second, Affordable Vaccine in Fight against Deadly Malaria
The World Health Organization has approved a new anti-malaria vaccine, which will offer countries a cheap and more accessible option to combat one of the leading causes of child deaths in Africa. Developed by Oxford University, the R21/Matrix-M vaccine is the second such vaccine to be recommended by the WHO, it said in a statement Monday. The recommendation, based on preclinical and clinical trial data, showed that the vaccine reduced symptomatic cases by 75 percent following a three-dose series in a year, in areas with high seasonal malaria transmission. The Phase III clinical trial results are under peer review, Oxford said in a statement. At a cost of $2-4 per dose, R21 was a cost-effective intervention, the WHO said, adding that it expects the vaccine to be available by mid-2024. “As a malaria researcher, I used to dream of the day we would have a safe and effective vaccine against malaria. Now we have two,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement. Washington Post