Africa Media Review for September 13, 2023

Wagner and Mali’s Army Attacked by Northern Coalition
Armed groups from northern Mali on Tuesday claimed they captured the key town of Bourem, between Gao and Timbuktu, before pulling out, fuelling fears of the collapse of a peace deal between the ex-rebels and government forces. A senior army official said troops had regained control of its positions in Bourem with the help of air support. The Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP) — a coalition of armed factions that signed a peace agreement with the state in 2015 — issued a statement Tuesday saying it launched an operation at Bourem, taking “control of the camp and various advanced posts” from the army and the allied Russian paramilitary group Wagner. CSP spokesman Mohamed El Maouloud Ramadane said in the statement that “intense fighting” preceded the town’s capture. But the attackers then withdrew, the spokesman said. “Our aim is not to stay in the towns,” he explained. … An alliance of predominantly Tuareg armed groups launched a revolt in 2012 against the state but signed a peace agreement three years later. The fragile deal, known as the Algiers agreement, came under strain after the civilian government was toppled in 2020 and replaced by a junta. One of its signatories, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), on Monday said it considered itself at “war” with the ruling junta. The region — the cradle of a jihadist insurgency that has swept into three Sahel nations — has seen a resurgence of tension in recent weeks, triggered in part by the pullout of UN peacekeeping troops from Mali. News24/AFP

At Least 5,000 Dead, Thousands More Missing after Libya Storm
The eastern Libyan city of Derna on Wednesday counted its dead in the thousands, and feared a very heavy toll, after two dams broke under the pressure of torrential rains, releasing powerful floodwaters that swept away everything in their path. Given the difficult access to this town of 100,000 inhabitants, uncertainties remain over the number of victims of the disaster, which could have left several thousand people dead or missing, according to the authorities. Roads were cut off, landslides and floods prevented rescue services from reaching the population, who had to make do with rudimentary means to recover bodies buried by the dozen in mass graves, according to images broadcast on social networks. Derna and other towns are virtually cut off from the rest of the world, despite efforts by the authorities to restore cell phone and internet networks. … On Sunday night, the two dams on Wadi Derna, which hold back the waters of the wadi that runs through the city, broke. Witnesses told Libyan media they heard a “huge explosion” before powerful torrents reached the city, overflowing the riverbanks, washing bridges and entire neighborhoods with their inhabitants into the Mediterranean. AfricaNews/AFP

How Libya’s Chaos Left its People Vulnerable to Deadly Flooding
A storm that has killed thousands of people and left thousands more missing in Libya is the latest blow to a country that has been gutted by years of chaos and division. The floods are the most fatal environmental disaster in the country’s modern history. Years of war and lack of a central government have left it with crumbling infrastructure that was vulnerable to the intense rains. Libya is currently the only country yet to develop a climate strategy, according to the United Nations. The north African country has been divided between rival administrations and beset by militia conflict since NATO-backed Arab Spring uprising toppled autocratic ruler Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. … Here’s a look at why the storm was so destructive and what obstacles stand in the way of getting aid to those who need it most: Since 2014. Libya has been split between two rival governments, each backed by international patrons and numerous armed militias on the ground. In Tripoli, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah heads Libya’s internationally recognized government. In Benghazi, the rival prime minister, Ossama Hamad, heads the eastern administration, which is backed by powerful military commander Khalifa Hiftar. Both governments and the eastern commander have separately pledged to help the rescue efforts in the flood-affected areas, but they have no record of successful cooperation. Rival parliaments have for years failed to unify despite international pressure, including planned elections in 2021 that were never held. … The flooding follows a long line of problems born from the country’s lawlessness. AP

Cyclone that Devastated Libya is Latest Extreme Event with Some Hallmarks of Climate Change
The Mediterranean storm that dumped torrential rain on the Libyan coast, setting off flooding that’s believed to have killed thousands of people, is the latest extreme weather event to carry some of the hallmarks of climate change, scientists say. … Warming waters also are causing cyclones to move more slowly, which allows them to dump much more rain, said Raghu Murtugudde, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and emeritus professor at University of Maryland. What’s more, he said, human activity and climate change together “are producing compound effects of storms and land use.” Flooding in Greece was worsened by wildfires, loss of vegetation, and loose soils and the catastrophic flooding in Libya was made worse by poorly maintained infrastructure. … But the warm water that allowed Daniel to intensify and and fed the exceptional rainfall are a phenomenon being observed around the globe, said Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center. AP

Last-Ditch Hunt for Morocco Quake Survivors
Rescue teams stepped up a massive effort to bring relief to devastated Moroccan mountain villages Wednesday as the chances faded fast for finding survivors from the powerful earthquake which killed 2 900 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Vehicles packed with supplies were inching up winding mountain roads to deliver desperately needed food and tents to survivors of the nation’s deadliest quake in more than six decades. Search teams were in places still scouring the rubble for the living. Morocco is now well past the 72-hour window when rescues are considered most likely, yet survivors are in some cases found well beyond that period. Yellow government-issued tents have popped up in encampments for people left homeless in the hardest-hit areas south of Marrakesh, with many villages in the High Atlas mountains left completely destroyed. … The United Nations estimated that more than 300 000 people have been affected, one third of them children. The rebuilding effort is expected to be enormous for the North African country which was already suffering economic woes and years of drought and now fears a downturn in the crucial tourism sector. News24/AFP

AU, SADC, COMESA Described Zimbabwe’s Election as the Worst They Had Ever Witnessed—Ibbo Mandaza
Respected Political Analyst Ibbo Mandaza has revealed how regional body SADC and former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan were not impressed by how Zimbabwe conducted its elections and described them as the worst they had ever witnessed. Jonathan led the African Union (AU) and COMESA Election Observer Missions (EOMs), his fourth such undertaking since 2016 after Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. Mandaza spoke on HStv’s In Conversation with Trevor on the just-ended ‘chaotic’ polls that saw Zanu PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa declared winner. He revealed personal deliberations with observer teams, some of which he did not mention, in which they shared widely held reservations about the manner in which Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) managed the polls. Mandaza said all the observers he met told him they were embarrassed and had never witnessed the chaos that occurred on August 23. … “They all said this was the worst election they had ever seen. There is consensus about the election, it was incredible. The reputation of Zimbabwe and rigging is now legendary.” … Mandaza said follow-up conversations with foreign offices within the region painted a worse-off picture; SADC wants to nullify the election he claimed. … “This is why Emmerson pushed for the rush, in the same scenario Robert Mugabe did in 2008. It is the same script to pre-empt the SADC position. Will SADC allow that again? I don’t think so.” New Zimbabwe

Rights Groups Call for Action to Avert “Disaster” in Sudan
The international community should mobilize to address the disaster unfolding in war-torn Sudan, several human rights and humanitarian organizations warned on Wednesday. A statement, which noted that Sudan is “no longer at the precipice of mass atrocities; it has fallen over the edge,” was issued by more than 50 international human rights and humanitarian organizations. Nearly five months since fighting broke out in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, the conflict, rife with human rights abuses, has now spread to Darfur and the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. It further highlighted the rising cases of sexual violence in Sudan, saying civilians are facing widespread deliberate and indiscriminate attacks while journalists and human rights defenders are being silenced. According to human rights groups, the United Nations Security Council, which has had Sudan on the agenda for decades, has yet to pass a single substantive resolution grappling with the ongoing crisis. … “In the face of mounting atrocities in Sudan, the Security Council has neglected its responsibility to robustly respond,” said Tirana Hassan, executive director of Human Rights Watch. Sudan Tribune

Türk: Ethnically Motivated Attacks Leave Hundreds Dead in Sudan
Hundreds have died in ethnically motivated attacks by Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militia in West Darfur, according to the UN’s human rights chief. “Such developments echo a horrific past that must not be repeated,” said Volker Türk UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, marking “five months of futile suffering, death, loss and destruction.” Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Türk also warned of mounting civilian casualties, as 1500 have already lost their lives to what he called a pointless conflict. The human rights chief highlighted the increase in indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian areas, including schools, homes and hospitals. In past week alone more than 103 civilians have been killed during military operations by both parties in Khartoum and Omdurman, including many women and children. UN News

Tunisia Issues International Arrest Warrants against 12 Ex-officials
The Tunisian judiciary yesterday issued international arrest warrants against 12 people, including former Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, on charges of “forming a terrorist alliance and conspiring against the state.” The spokeswoman for the Anti-Terrorism Judicial Pole, Hanan Qaddas, said: “International subpoena [arrest] warrants were issued against 12 fugitives, all of whom were proven to be outside Tunisian territory.” Qaddas said that the arrest warrants were issued against former Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, former Director of the Presidential Office Nadia Akacha, son of Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi, Moadh Ghannouchi, and former officials Kamal Al-Qizani, Maher Zaid, Lotfi Zeytoun, Abdelkader Farahat amongst others. … Akacha was considered the “closest confidant” of President Kais Saied, until she quit the position of director of his office last year and moved to France before leaked audio recordings emerged in which she strongly criticised Saied. Since last February, Tunisia has witnessed a campaign of arrests, including politicians, media professionals, activists, judges and businessmen. MEM

Tanzania President Samia Stalls Constitutional Review, for Now
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan has signaled, once again, her reluctance to allow changes to the supreme law, until, at least after the next elections. The country is headed for civic elections in 2024, as well as later parliamentary and presidential polls in 2025. But the Tanzanian leader has faced increasing demands to change the constitution passed in 1977, with opposition groups arguing the law is too archaic for today’s use. Yet Samia, whether tactical or logically, says the country has no time to prepare for elections while amending its laws. “It will take time to write and endorse the new constitution. We are going to start with awareness and education campaigns to the people of Tanzania to make them know what the constitution is before we sit down to write a new constitution”, she said in Dar es Salaam on Monday, speaking to a gathering of political party leaders. Samia said that drafting of the new constitution was a process that needed an ample knowledge and political awareness that would equip Tanzanian people to understand their rights and needs for their daily lives. … Samia succeeded John Pombe Magufuli who died in office in March 2021. In 2025, she will be running for the first time for presidency. Under Tanzanian law, a vice president who succeeds her president before the holder of that office has run out three years of the term is deemed to have led for a full term. Tanzanian Presidents cannot lead for more than two terms of five years each. Yet, the current constitution loads immense power in the presidency and has no provision for courts to overturn the presidential election results announced by the electoral commission. East African

Congo Communities Forcibly Uprooted to Make Way for Mines Critical to EVs, Amnesty Report Says
The mining of minerals critical to electric vehicle batteries and other green technologies in Congo has led to human rights abuses, including forced evictions and physical assault, according to a new report from Amnesty International and another rights group. Congo is by far the world’s largest producer of cobalt, a mineral used to make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and other products, and it is also Africa’s top producer of copper, which is used in EVs, renewable energy systems and more. Rights groups and U.S. officials have long criticized the trade of Congo’s cobalt, copper and other minerals due to abusive labor and the risk of violence in an impoverished central African country where militants control swaths of territory. … The report released Tuesday by Amnesty International and the Congo-based Initiative for Good Governance and Human Rights, or IBGDH, details how the search for the minerals has forcibly uprooted people from their homes and farmland, often without compensation or adequate resettlement. … The report highlights the numerous human rights violations that have occurred as a result of mining activity. AP

Malawi Police Recover Ammunition in Containers Confiscated from Refugees
Police in Malawi have recovered ammunition and cash in steel containers searched during the forced relocation of refugees illegally staying outside a refugee camp. Malawi police confiscated the large containers from refugees and asylum-seekers on suspicion they contained rifles, ammunition, and counterfeiting machines for criminal activities. The Malawi government started the forced relocation of refugees to the country’s only refugee camp, Dzaleka, in May of this year. Authorities said the relocation was in line with the government’s policy that prohibits refugees from staying outside the camp. The government also said by staying outside a designated camp, the refugees were posing a threat to national security. Peter Kalaya, national spokesperson for the Malawi Police Service, told VOA on Tuesday that police have forcibly opened and searched 24 containers during the exercise, which started three weeks ago. … Police have arrested four people, Kalaya said, including a Malawian national who said he was sent to witness the opening of the container with ammunition by its owner, who was not present when police opened and searched it. “We arrested three in our first and second weeks of searching the containers, for operating businesses without licenses in Malawi because they did not have appropriate documentation allowing them to be doing business in Malawi,” Kalaya said. He added that the recovery of ammunition justifies the exercise that human rights campaigners have long condemned. VOA

Special Mosquitoes are Being Bred to Fight Dengue: How the Old Enemies are Now Becoming Allies
For decades, preventing dengue fever in Honduras has meant teaching people to fear mosquitoes and avoid their bites. Now, Hondurans are being educated about a potentially more effective way to control the disease—and it goes against everything they’ve learned. Which explains why a dozen people cheered last month as Tegucigalpa resident Hector Enriquez held a glass jar filled with mosquitoes above his head, and then freed the buzzing insects into the air. Enriquez, a 52-year-old mason, had volunteered to help publicize a plan to suppress dengue by releasing millions of special mosquitoes in the Honduran capital. The mosquitoes Enriquez unleashed in his El Manchen neighborhood—an area rife with dengue—were bred by scientists to carry bacteria called Wolbachia that interrupt transmission of the disease. When these mosquitoes reproduce, they pass the bacteria to their offspring, reducing future outbreaks. This emerging strategy for battling dengue was pioneered over the last decade by the nonprofit World Mosquito Program, and it is being tested in more than a dozen countries. With more than half the world’s population at risk of contracting dengue, the World Health Organization is paying close attention to the mosquito releases in Honduras, and elsewhere, and it is poised to promote the strategy globally. … Models estimate that around 400 million people across some 130 countries are infected each year with dengue. Mortality rates from dengue are low—an estimated 40,000 people die each year from it—but outbreaks can overwhelm health systems and force many people to miss work or school. AP