Africa Media Review for September 13, 2021

Regional Envoys Meet Guinea Junta, Ousted President after Coup
A delegation from West Africa’s main political and economic bloc on Friday met Guinea’s ousted president Alpha Conde and members of the junta that overthrew him, hoping to steer the country back toward a civilian-led, constitutional regime. Conde, who had been in power since 2010, has been detained by the junta, the National Rally and Development Committee (CNRD), since it staged the coup last Sunday. “We met the members of the CNRD. We also met the former head of state,” Jean-Claude Brou, the president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commission, told reporters in the capital Conakry. … He did not provide further details about the discussions. ECOWAS suspended Guinea’s membership on Wednesday, but stopped short of imposing further sanctions, saying it was waiting for the results of the mission to Conakry. The coup, the third putsch since April in West and Central Africa, has intensified fears of a slide back towards military rule in the region, which had until recently been starting to shed its “coup-belt” reputation. The African Union backed ECOWAS up on Friday by suspended Guinea from all AU activities and decision-making bodies. … They planned to press the junta to appoint a credible civilian prime minister as soon as possible to help guide Guinea back towards constitutional order, a high-ranking regional official told Reuters on Thursday. Reuters

African Union Not Doing Enough to Push for Term Limits, but Moves to Reject Coups
On October 2020, the African Union and the Economic Community for West African States, the regional bloc, deployed an election observer missions to Guinea as then-president, Alpha Condé, was running on a controversial third term. Two days after the election, opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo declared himself winner even before the official results had been announced. He was condemned by the government, the electoral commission, Economic Community for West African States (Ecowas) and African Union (AU) election observer groups. The observers had declared the election fair and transparent, and rejected Mr Diallo’s unilateral declaration. That may have granted President Condé a smooth way back into the presidency, but in hindsight, it sowed the seeds of the current military coup. President Condé served two terms after being in the opposition trenches for nearly two decades. His stab at a third term was ignored by the AU which ironically, has a long-running policy against “unconstitutional changes in government.” Recently, the AU Peace and Security Council rejected the coup and said it was deeply concerned with the situation in Guinea. … This was the fifth time that the council had condemned a coup in West Africa alone in the past 10 years. The continent has had nine coups in the past decade, although there may have been up to 18 attempts. At a meeting of Ecowas heads of state and governments last week on Wednesday to discuss Guinea, Liberian President George Weah argued that the frequency of coups was somewhat linked to the disregard for constitutional term limits. The East African

Tunisia’s President Saied Indicates He Will Amend Constitution
Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Saturday indicated he was preparing to change the country’s constitution, but said he would only do so using existing constitutional means, seven weeks after he seized powers in moves his foes called a coup. The comments represented his clearest statement yet about what he intends to do next, having sworn there was “no going back” to the situation in the North African nation before his intervention on July 25. … One of Saied’s advisers told Reuters on Thursday the president was planning to suspend the constitution and offer an amended version via a referendum, prompting opposition from political parties and the powerful UGTT labour union. Anxiety has been growing, both internally and among Western democracies that have supported Tunisia’s public finances, over Saied’s intentions since his July 25 announcement that he was sacking the prime minister and suspending parliament. The former constitutional law professor justified those moves by citing emergency measures in the constitution that his critics and many legal scholars said did not support his intervention. Though he indefinitely extended the measures after a month, he has yet to appoint a new government or make any clear declaration of his long-term intentions, as Tunisia struggles to confront a rolling economic crisis. Reuters

U.S. Urges Immediate Talks Over Ethiopia Conflict as Reported Abuse Grows
The United States is gravely concerned about fighting in parts of Ethiopia, the U.S. State Department said on Friday, urging the Ethiopian government and rebellious forces from the Tigray region to start immediate negotiations to address the conflict. “We urge the Ethiopian government and TPLF to enter at once into negotiations without preconditions toward a sustainable ceasefire,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, using an acronym for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Reports of continued human rights abuses and atrocities by parties to the conflict are deeply disturbing, including the reported attack on civilians in a village in the Amhara region this week, Price said. … The United Nations said on Friday that it had completed its joint investigation with Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission of abuses in the Tigray conflict, with a final report due Nov 1. Reuters

Somalia Vote to Go Ahead ‘As Planned,’ PM Hussein Roble Tells UN
Somalia’s long-delayed elections will proceed “as planned”, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble told visiting UN diplomats on Sunday, even as a damaging feud between him and the country’s president sparked fresh fears for the troubled Horn of Africa Nation. The very public spat between Roble and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmaajo, comes as Somalia struggles to organise polls that are months behind schedule and keep an Islamist insurgency at bay. As senior politicians made frantic efforts to defuse tensions and end the impasse, Roble told a delegation led by United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed that the vote would go ahead as planned. The increasingly bitter row has threatened to throw an already fragile electoral process into deeper peril. Farmaajo’s four-year mandate expired in February, but was extended by parliament in April, triggering deadly gun battles in the capital Mogadishu, with some rivals viewing it as a flagrant power grab. Roble cobbled together a new timetable for polls, but the process fell behind, and on Wednesday he accused Farmaajo of trying to reclaim “election and security responsibilities” from him. On Sunday, as Roble sought to reassure UN diplomats about the vote, his office released a statement saying: “We are committed to hold the elections as planned, and other existing matters will not have any effect on the elections.” AFP

Angola: Opposition Supporters Protest Electoral Law Change
Hundreds of opposition supporters gathered in the Angolan capital Luanda on Saturday to protest against changes to the electoral law that they say will undermine the transparency of next year’s general election. President Joao Lourenço introduced a bill this week to centralise the counting of votes instead of doing it at the level of each municipality and province. All opposition MPs abstained or voted against the reform, but they had little influence in a parliament largely dominated by the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The main opposition party, Unita (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), organised a march on Saturday, supported by other political movements and civil society groups, to demand “free and fair elections.” Unita proposed a series of measures to prevent alleged fraud, including biometric identification of voters and the involvement of civil society in the counting of ballots. AfricaNews

South Sudan’s Kiir, Top UN Official Discuss Peace, Security Issues
The need to expedite implementation of the security arrangements was top of the agenda at a meeting between the UN Under-Secretary-General, Jean-Pierre Lacroix and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in the capital, Juba. … The overwhelming focus of the UN official’s visit to the conflict-affected country was how to expedite reform of the security sector, required under the peace agreement. The graduation and deployment of unified forces has been repeatedly delayed and troops are struggling to survive in cantonment sites without basic support, including food and shelter. “As far as the UN is concerned, we can certainly help in trying to support the armed forces here in their efforts to make sure certain guarantees and certain benchmarks can be achieved. I’m thinking in particular of everything that has to do with managing weapons and ammunition. I know that it is seen by members of the Security Council as an important element in this,” said Lacroix. Sudan Tribune

Armed Groups Killing, Recruiting More Children in Niger, Report Says
Increasing numbers of children are being killed or targeted for recruitment by armed groups in conflicts raging at Niger’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, Amnesty International said in a report published Monday. “In Niger’s Tillaberi region, an entire generation is growing up surrounded by death and destruction,” said Matt Wells, Amnesty’s deputy director for crisis response. Armed groups have repeatedly attacked schools and reserves, and are targeting children for recruitment,” he added in a statement. … The rights group released a 57-page report documenting the impact on children of the conflict in Niger’s western Tillaberi, an area of 100,000 square kilometers (38,000 square miles) on the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso that is home to different ethnic groups such as Djerma, Fulani, Tuareg and Hausa. According to conflict tracking organization ACLED, cited by Amnesty, violence against civilians has led to 544 conflict-related deaths from January to July 23 this year, already exceeding the 397 people killed in the whole of 2020. … During the research for the report, Amnesty spoke to 16 boys who had narrowly survived ISGS attacks on their villages. … “Many children are experiencing trauma after witnessing deadly attacks on their villages. In some areas, women and girls have been barred from activities outside the home, and risk abduction or forced marriage to fighters,” the report said. Witnesses said JNIM has picked out males ages 15 to 17, and possibly younger, as recruits, offering bribes of food, money and clothes. AFP

Nigeria: Worry over Mass Abductions as Schools Resume Today
Schools resume today for the commencement of the 2021/2022 academic session across the country but it won’t be a cheery return for thousands of pupils, especially in Northern Nigeria, already traumatised by reports of incessant mass abductions. Already, stakeholders have expressed fears over the security of learners and teachers. Data released by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2018 showed that more than 600,000 children have lost access to education due to disruptions in learning occasioned by kidnapping. The report said an estimated 2,295 teachers have been killed and over 19,000 others displaced, while more than 1,400 schools have been destroyed, damaged or looted since the insurgency started in the Northeast in 2009. Save the Children International at the weekend urged the Federal and state governments to put in place mechanisms that would ensure the protection of schools and other learning environments. The organisation said from January to August 2021, more than 1,000 children have been abducted in the country for ransom, with so many of them still in the hands of their abductors. The Guardian (Nigeria)

CAR Court Accuses Ex-Warlord of Crimes Against Humanity
A special court on Friday accused the former leader of a key militia in the Central African Republic of crimes against humanity at the height of the civil war. Former captain Eugene Barret Ngaikosset, arrested nearly a week ago, was once a commander of the guard of President Francois Bozize, who was toppled in 2013 by the Seleka, a coalition of largely Muslim armed groups. He then became an important leader of the largely Christian and animist anti-Balaka militias, which Bozize founded to fight the Seleka. The two groups plunged the country into a bloody civil war, with the United Nations accusing them in 2015 of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2014 and 2015. Ngaikosset, arrested September 4 just outside the capital, Bangui, “was accused of crimes against humanity” by two judges of the Special Criminal Court (CPS), the tribunal said in a statement. Made up of Central African and international magistrates, the court has been tasked with judging serious human rights violations since 2003 in this country that has been locked in civil war since 2013. AFP

Violence Against Civilians in Eastern DRC Reaching New Heights, UN Says
The U.N. refugee agency is calling for more effective measures to protect millions of civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo subjected to killings, kidnappings and savage abuse by armed groups. Dozens of armed groups have been committing violence against civilians in eastern DRC for more than two decades, but the U.N. refugee agency says the viciousness and magnitude of the attacks have reached a level not seen before. The UNHCR and its partners have recorded more than 1,200 civilian deaths and 1,100 rapes in 2021 in the two most affected provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. The agency says ferocious attacks have driven more than one million Congolese in the eastern part of the country from their homes this year alone. UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov says most assaults have been perpetrated by the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel group with Ugandan roots operating in eastern DRC. He says the group’s attacks have been increasing in brutality and frequency since late 2020. “These reports are coming in again and again. Twenty-five-thousand human rights violations for this year, including extortion, including looting, certainly sexual violence. Horrific reports that our staff and our partners are receiving and the extreme violence against civilians. So, our call is very clear. This is a call that we are constantly making. We need more measures to protect civilians,” Cheshirkov said. Violence and abuse have displaced more than five million people inside the DRC, the second highest number of internally displaced after Syria. VOA

DR Congo President Seeks Review of Mining Contracts with China
Felix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has called for a review of mining contracts signed with China in 2008 by his predecessor, saying he wanted to get fairer deals. A statement after a cabinet meeting on Friday said Tshisekedi called for the “technical and financial details of Sino-Congolese contracts” at the next meeting. “DR Congo is sorely lacking in infrastructure and this hampers its development,” the statement said. Former President Joseph Kabila, who held power from 2001 to 2019, negotiated a highly contentious minerals-for-infrastructure contract with the Chinese in 2008 valued at $9bn. But the deal was reduced to two-thirds of that amount under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which noted the severe effect it had on the country’s finances. To date, about $2.74bn has been disbursed by the Chinese so far. During a visit to the mining town of Kolwezi in May, Tshisekedi announced his intention to renegotiate mining contracts, particularly those concluded by Kabila. “It is not normal that those with whom the country has signed exploitation contracts are getting richer while our people remain poor,” he said. “It is time for the country to readjust its contracts with the miners in order to seal win-win partnerships.” Al Jazeera

Morocco’s King Appoints Billionaire Akhannouch to Head Government after Election Win
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has named businessman Aziz Akhannouch to lead a new government after his liberal RNI party thrashed the long-ruling Islamists in parliamentary elections. The king appointed Akhannouch “head of the government and tasked him with forming a new government,” following Wednesday’s polls, a statement from the palace said on Friday. The RNI won 102 of parliament’s 395 seats, trouncing the moderate PJD Islamists, which had headed the governing coalition for a decade but took just 13 seats, according to results released by the interior ministry. … The billionaire businessman – worth $2bn according to Forbes – has led the RNI since 2016. His party is considered close to the palace and has been part of all coalition governments for the past 23 years, except during a brief period between 2012 and 2013. After his win, Akhannouch pledged to improve conditions for citizens of Morocco, where entrenched social inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic. … A recent overhaul of the elections laws meant it was the first time Morocco’s 18 million voters cast ballots in both parliamentary and local elections on the same day, an effort to boost turnout. Just over half of eligible voters participated, according to the interior minister, higher than the 43% in the 2016 legislative polls. … Despite the change of guard, policy shifts are unlikely since major decisions in Morocco still come from King Mohammed VI. AFP

In Conservative Somalia, a Rare Woman Presidential Candidate
The woman who broke barriers as the first female foreign minister and deputy prime minister in culturally conservative Somalia now aims for the country’s top office as the Horn of Africa nation moves toward a long-delayed presidential election. Parliament member Fawzia Yusuf H. Adam is well aware of the challenges in winning votes in a nation where women often remain marginalized. In an interview with The Associated Press, she described the struggle of leading a foreign ministry staff that was overwhelmingly male. “They were very reluctant to collaborate with me just because I am a female,” she said. Even as more educated women return to Somalia from the large diaspora to help rebuild the country after three decades of conflict, attitudes toward Adam’s run for office are mostly skeptical, if sympathetic. Even friends and colleagues see her chances as next to impossible because of her gender. … But the soft-spoken Adam, a widow and mother of three, said she believes her run for the presidency is worthwhile, not futile, on several levels, while the timing of the election has been pushed back once again amid political tensions from mid-October toward the end of the year. “I want to break this barrier against women, so that in the near future many others will have the courage to run and even win,” she said, adding that it’s time to fight for the rights of women. “I thought a woman may be what this country needs, the leadership of a woman, to bring peace and stability,” Adam said. … “I keep giving advice on this pandemic, particularly how badly it impacts women and the poorest of them,” she said. “We don’t have a good health system to deal with this phenomenon.” AP



Photo: Adam Jones