Africa Media Review for September 1, 2023

Zimbabwe Opposition Calls for Protests – a Day after Mnangagwa Threatens Jail for ‘Chaos’ Spreaders
Zimbabwe’s Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) called on Friday for nationwide protests and a re-run of elections that it said fraudulently handed President Emmerson Mnangagwa a second term in office. Posters promoting the protest have called on supporters to pray daily, between 21:00 and 22:00, and to stay away from work. Zimbabweans were also urged to “join street protests near you”. The appeal from the CCC came a day after Mnangagwa said the vote was valid and warned there would be a crackdown on anyone spreading chaos. … The electoral commission said late on Saturday Mnangagwa had secured roughly 53% of the vote, leaving CCC leader Nelson Chamisa in second place on 44%. Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party was named winner of the parliamentary election but fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. Analysts have questioned the credibility of the elections, which were marred by arrests of vote monitors. Zanu-PF has said there were no irregularities and Mnangagwa has urged anyone with complaints to go to the courts. … The CCC wants other African countries to intervene and mediate in its dispute with the ruling party, but analysts say its chances of overturning the election results via the courts are slim given the judicial system is viewed as being controlled by ZANU-PF. News24

Gabon Opposition Calls for Pressure on Junta to Hand Power to Civilians
Gabon’s main opposition group, Alternance 2023, urged the international community on Friday to encourage the junta that overthrew President Ali Bongo this week to hand power back to civilians. Military officers seized power in a coup on Wednesday minutes after an announcement that Bongo had secured a third term in an election, ending his family’s nearly 60-year hold on power. … The opposition, which says it is the rightful winner of Saturday’s election, has raised objections. “We were happy that Ali Bongo was overthrown but … we hope that the international community will stand up in favour of the Republic and the democratic order in Gabon by asking the military to give back the power to the civilians,” Alexandra Pangha, spokesperson for Alternance 2023 leader Albert Ondo Ossa, told the BBC. She said that the junta’s plan to inaugurate Nguema as head of state on Monday was “absurd”. … Alternance 2023 has said it wants a full vote count from Tuesday’s election, which it said would show Ondo Ossa had won. Gabon’s election commission said after the election that Bongo had been re-elected with 64% of the vote, while Ondo Ossa secured almost 31%. Ballot counting was done without independent observers amid an internet blackout. Reuters

Let Journalists Do Their Job in Gabon, Says Committee to Protect Journalists
Minutes after the Gabonese Elections Centre (GEC) ruled that President Ali Bongo had won a third term in a disputed poll, senior officers went on national television to announce the coup.In a video posted from his home on 30 August, Bongo begged for help and urged the public to “make noise” about the putsch. Borrowing from the traditional playbook, Gabon’s internet was later shut down. There are concerns that journalists are not being allowed do their jobs in a tense, but important time. In a statement, Angela Quintal, the Africa programme coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said “unhindered access to information was particularly needed at this moment of political tension”. She called on the military to ensure the safety of journalists. … It’s relatively worrying because, according to Reporters Without Borders, there was no culture of a free and independent press under Bongo. Self-censorship was encouraged by the regime’s influence, which permeated all spheres of life. News24

Niger Junta Bans UN Agencies and Global NGOs from ‘Military Zones’
Niger’s Interior Ministry has announced it’s stopping UN agencies and international NGOs from working in military “operation zones” as the country experiences a security crisis following a military coup. A statement broadcast on national radio did not specify which regions in Niger were affected. Niger has been experiences terrorist attacks in some of its border areas. In recent years, a new centre of insecurity has emerged in the extreme southwest of Niger, a region known as the “three borders” (Niger-Mali-Burkina Faso) where terrorist groups often carry out deadly attacks targeting both military and civilian population. Attacks have been staged by armed groups who have controlled the southern region of Libya since the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, as well as terrorist groups based in northern Mali. … The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has imposed sanctions on Niger after troops ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup on 26 July and the bloc threatened military intervention as a last resort if talks fail to restore civilian rule.“ … The military authorities in Niger must restore constitutional order immediately by liberating and reinstating President Mohamed Bazoum,” it said. RFI

EU Ministers Back Sanctions against Niger Coup Leaders
The European Union’s foreign ministers agreed on Thursday to take steps against military leaders who seized power in Niger in late July. The decision came during talks in the Spanish city of Toledo, which were also attended by the foreign minister of the ousted Niger civilian government. The talks also included Omar Alieu Touray, the president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commission. Foreign ministers from the EU’s 27 member states expressed deep concern and alarm over the mounting number of military coups on the African continent — with military leaders most recently seizing power in Gabon this week. The EU’s foreign ministers agreed to start drafting sanctions against coup leaders in Niger — saying they would mirror measures levied by the West African regional body ECOWAS. The bloc’s sanctions, however, would contain certain exemptions for humanitarian reasons. DW

Coups Only Make Crises Worse: Guterres
Highlighting the “succession of military coups” unfolding across Africa, UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday emphasized the need for durable democratic governance and the rule of law. Wednesday’s military takeover in Gabon came on the heels of Niger last month, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Chad, Guinea, Sudan and Mali in the years prior to that. Overall, all recent coups except Myanmar, in 2021, have taken place on African soil. The announcement of the takeover in Gabon came shortly after election results were announced saying incumbent president Ali Bongo had been re-elected, amid reports of irregularities at the polls. “Many countries face deep-seated governance challenges. But military governments are not the solution,” Mr. Guterres stressed, speaking at a press encounter at UN Headquarters, in New York. “They aggravate problems. They cannot resolve a crisis; they can only make it worse.” The UN chief called on all countries to urgently establish credible democratic institutions and rule of law. UN News

Major Donor, Peace Promoter Norway Pulling out of Mali, Russia Going Nowhere
Norway resolved on Thursday to recall its envoy from Mali as the security situation there continues to deteriorate, a decision which could also affect its presence in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad. The Norwegian embassy in Bamako was the country’s focal point for the Sahel region, which of late has become a hotspot for coups. Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt said the major reason behind removing the envoy was the adoption of the resolution terminating the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). MINUSMA’s withdrawal is set to be completed by the end of the year. … “This [withdrawal of UN peacekeepers] will have consequences for the security of Norwegian and other diplomatic missions and international organisations in Mali. “The Norwegian government has therefore decided to close the embassy in Bamako by the end of 2023,” said Huitfeldt. Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group has what is thought to number 1 000 soldiers in Mali, and this week, after the death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, said it would continue to provide “comprehensive assistance” to Mali. News24

US Announces Visa Ban on Sierra Leone Officials over ‘Vote Rigging’
The United States government has imposed visa restrictions on officials it says are responsible for undermining democracy in Sierra Leone. The move follows the disputed June 2023 General Election, which Western observers say lacked transparency. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that the US will impose visa restrictions on officials who were allegedly involved in the manipulation and rigging of the electoral process, as well as those involved in alleged acts of intimidating voters, election observers and civil society activities. “Under this policy, the United States will pursue visa restrictions for those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Sierra Leone, including through the manipulation or rigging of the electoral process; intimidation of voters, election observers, or civil society organisations through threats or acts of physical violence; or the abuse or violation of related human rights in Sierra Leone,” Mr Blinken said in a statement. … The APC, whose candidate Dr Samura Kamara got 41.16 percent of votes, has refused to participate in governance, boycotting parliament and other lower-level governance structures. It demanded a re-run of the election. The opposition party also refused to seek redress in the courts, citing their lack of independence. It called on western governments to impose sanctions on the president and his top officials it holds responsible for allegedly rigging the polls. East African

New Army–SPLM-N Clashes Reported in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains
A number of army soldiers and rebel fighters were killed in an attack by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North under the leadership of Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu) on Dalami in South Kordofan on Wednesday. Radio Dabanga source Abdelrahim Kunda reported that a SPLM-N El Hilu unit stationed about seven kilometres east of Dalami carried out an attack on Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) positions in the town on Wednesday morning. In the ensuring battle, an unknown number of army soldiers and rebel combatants were killed and wounded, the source said. SAF spokesperson Brig Nabil Abdallah stated on social media that the army unit in Dalami managed to repel the attack. Fighting between the SAF and SPLM-N El Hilu resumed in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan, last Friday, when SAF soldiers launched a counterattack on the movement’s military positions east of Kadugli Airport and in the mountains behind Hajar El Mek. Dabanga

4.8 people displaced by conflict in Sudan, says UNOCHA
About 4.8 million people have been displaced inside and outside Sudan due to the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the United Nations said. An estimated 1 million people, according to the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA), have crossed into neighbouring countries while at least 2 million children have been forced from their homes since the conflict in Sudan erupted in mid-April. There are also concerns that as the conflict between SAF and the paramilitary RSF continues, civilian displacement and humanitarian needs will steadily increase. OCHA, in its latest bulletin, also noted that the 2023 Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is only 26.4 per cent, with $676.9 million received as of 31 August. … Up to 20.3 million people across Sudan are acutely food insecure and need food and livelihood assistance during July and September, according to the latest update from Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) on Sudan. Sudan Tribune

DRC: Clash between Armed Forces and Protesters in Congo Kills at Least 48
The conflict opposed Congolese soldiers to members of a religious sect protesting Western organizations operating in the country, a local official said on August 31. It all started on Wednesday, August 30, when Congolese soldiers stopped a religious sect from holding a demonstration against United Nations peacekeepers in the city of Goma. That evening, some 10 people were initially reported killed after the troops entered a radio station and a place of worship, according to local sources. But an internal army document consulted by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Thursday, and verified by security officials, gave a toll of 48 people killed in the incident – in addition to a killed policeman – and 75 people wounded. The document also said soldiers seized a number of bladed weapons and arrested 168 people, including the leader of the Christian-animist sect, which is named Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith towards the Nations. Congolese pro-democracy activist group LUCHA also stated on Thursday that the number of people killed was “close to 50.” … The Democratic Republic of Congo’s east has been ravaged by militia violence for three decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s. The UN peacekeeping mission in the region is one of the largest and costliest in the world, with an annual budget of about $1 billion. But the UN comes in for sharp criticism in the central African nation, where many people perceive the peacekeepers as failing to prevent conflict. Le Monde

Experts Warn of Shrinking Civic Space as BRICS Expands Membership
Some analysts warn that the choice of countries selected for induction into the BRICS bloc suggests the grouping as a whole may be headed on a path toward decreased tolerance for public dissent and debate. The five-nation developing bloc, which comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, announced on August 24 the admission of six countries into its fold: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Their membership is expected to become effective in January 2024. Of the six states, four — Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Iran — have a history of heavily clamping down on dissenting voices. Their inclusion draws them closer to Russia and China, both known as authoritarian regimes that allow little engagement by independent civil society groups. … “Argentina is there because of its neighbor Brazil. Russia and China also want to bring in Iran. And Egypt is there primarily because of the centrality of the hydrocarbon sector to many of the BRICS countries. And, for South Africa, it likely wanted Ethiopia because of its centrality for African diplomacy,” he said. The African Union is headquartered in Addis Ababa. “We do see a group of countries that certainly have a democracy problem, and this is strengthening non-democratic trends in the BRICS, and a human rights problem,” Melvin said. VOA

US Charity Helps Maasai Herders Recover From Deadly Drought
[Video] A record drought in the Horn of Africa has killed vast numbers of cows, goats and sheep, imperiling the livelihoods of pastoralists like the Maasai in Kenya. Now, a U.S charity called Water is Life Kenya is giving herders new animals and cash. Juma Majanga reports from Enkong’u Narok village. VOA

Akon: Success Allows Me to Explore my African Roots
RnB star Akon has been in the music business for almost 20 years. And the Senagalese-American singer says he’s finally able to start making music for himself. Born in the USA, Akon spent his childhood moving between New Jersey and the African country. He learned to play several western and African instruments, but when he started to pursue a musical career in the early 2000s, he says producers were only interested in one side of his heritage. “One of the biggest things that I had to actually distance myself from at the time when I did come out, was the fact that I was African,” he tells BBC Newsbeat. “That wasn’t really something that they could market or promote in that kind of arena that I was actually playing in.” … But he says enough have worked out to get him to a position where he no longer relies on others to back him. … He says the financial freedom means he can “add more culture” to his songs, and says the tracks on his new Afro Freaks EP are a “huge evolution” from Lonely and Locked Up. … Akon’s new EP draws heavily from Afrobeats – a genre that’s become a global phenomenon thanks to artists like Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy. He says he’s been trying to boost the style of music, which mixes African and Western influences, for years, and even signed Wizkid to his own label in 2008. But Akon recalls a time when Afrobeats would be dismissed by US industry bosses. … He puts the rise of Afrobeats down to the younger generation “being more inquisitive about the new music surrounding them”. BBC