Africa Media Review for September 14, 2021

10 Years after Independence South Sudan Faces Persistent Crisis
[Infographic] The ongoing forced displacement of a third of the population and a conflict-driven food crisis threatening more than half of all South Sudanese underscores the grave human costs of the country’s destructive politics. Despite a revitalized peace agreement and an ostensible coalition government, South Sudan continues to be racked by insecurity. Persistently high levels of violence and trauma—which has caused an estimated 400,000 fatalities—continue to grip the population and underscore the unresolved nature of this conflict. The pace of violent events has remained steady, averaging 733 reported incidents annually since 2017. Violence in 2021 exceeds that of 2019 and 2020. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Deal Allowing Russian Mercenaries into Mali Is Close – Sources
A deal is close that would allow Russian mercenaries into Mali, extending Russian influence over security affairs in West Africa and triggering opposition from former colonial power France, seven diplomatic and security sources said. Paris has begun a diplomatic drive to prevent the military junta in Mali enacting the deal, which would permit Russian private military contractors, the Wagner Group, to operate in the former French colony, the sources said. A European source who tracks West Africa and a security source in the region said at least 1,000 mercenaries could be involved. Two other sources believed the number was lower, but did not provide figures. Four sources said the Wagner Group would be paid about 6 billion CFA francs ($10.8 million) a month for its services. One security source working in the region said the mercenaries would train Malian military and provide protection for senior officials. … The mercenaries’ presence would jeopardise Mali’s funding from the international partners and allied training missions that have helped rebuild Mali’s army, four security and diplomatic sources said. … More than a dozen People with ties to the Wagner Group have previously told Reuters it has carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Ukraine, Libya and Syria. Reuters

Military Junta to Open Talks Over Guinea’s Future Post-Coup
Guinea’s junta is expected to face more pressure Tuesday to set a timeframe for new elections as the military rulers open a four-day series of meetings about the West African nation’s future following the coup just over a week ago. Concerns are growing about how quickly the junta led by Col. Mamady Doumbouya will give up power to a civilian-led transitional government as called for by regional mediators and the international community. … After Mali’s August 2020 coup, ECOWAS imposed sanctions and proposed a one-year deadline for the political transition. Regional mediators later acquiesced to the junta leaders and accepted an 18-month timeframe that now appears in doubt as February 2022 approaches. … Even if a deal is struck this week in Guinea, observers say the Mali situation underscores the fragility of such agreements with military juntas. Some fear that if left unchecked, the coups in West Africa could encourage militaries elsewhere to stage takeovers of their own. Earlier this year, the military in Chad also seized power after longtime President Idriss Deby Itno was slain, putting his son Mahamat Idriss Deby in charge even though Chad’s constitution had called for power to be transferred to the National Assembly president. [Niagale Bagayoko, chair of the African Security Sector Network said,] “[t]he problems that we do have in the sub-region, not only in countries where a coup happened, is that you have both unconstitutional civilian kinds of coups [circumvention of term limits] and military coups. And it’s difficult to fight against the latter when there’s not been really any condemnation for the former.” AP

Sudan’s Military ‘Dominant’ despite Power-Sharing Deal
More than two years after Sudan’s power-sharing deal was inked, analysts say the role of civilian leaders is receding while the army remains dominant. Sudan’s military ousted and detained long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 after months of mass protests against his rule. The country’s powerful generals and key civil society factions signed a deal four months later for a civilian government and legislature to spearhead the post-Bashir transition. A “sovereign council” of military and civilian figures would constitute the ruling body. But the legislative assembly has yet to materialise, and splits have deepened within the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), the main civilian alliance which led the anti-Bashir protests. … “Foot-dragging by the military on key aspects of the transition… has stunted progress,” said Jonas Horner of the International Crisis Group. … Horner said forming the transitional legislative council “would be key to initiating oversight over the military.” “But both security forces and older political parties, concerned about a dilution of their current powers, have blocked this crucial reform.” … A military source who requested anonymity told AFP that the involvement of civilians in any military affairs remains a “highly sensitive” issue. “Recent civilian calls for security sector reforms may accordingly continue to face resistance,” the source added. Civilian leaders and former rebel factions have been pushing for reforms that include integrating paramilitaries and armed groups into the armed forces. AFP

Bachelet Says Tigray Conflict Risks Engulfing Whole Horn of Africa
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet warns the increasingly brutal conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region threatens to spill over to the whole Horn of Africa. Preliminary findings of a joint investigation by the U.N. Human Rights Office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission into alleged violations in Tigray have been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Since her last update in June, fighting has continued unabated in Tigray and has expanded into neighboring Afar and Amhara regions. U.N. rights chief Bachelet said mass detentions, killings, systematic looting, and sexual violence have displaced nearly two million people in this region and created an atmosphere of fear. She said civilian suffering is widespread and impunity is pervasive.   Bachelet said investigators have documented multiple allegations of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances. She says sexual and gender-based violence, including gang rapes, have been characterized by a pattern of extreme brutality and ethnically targeted. … Bachelet reports Tigrayan forces have perpetrated many human rights abuses since gaining control of parts of Tigray and expanding to neighboring regions. … Bachelet said accountability for human rights abuses and a national reconciliation process are the only solution to the conflict in Tigray and to achieving a sustainable peace. VOA

240 Inmates Missing after Nigeria Prison Break
Assailants attacked a prison in north-central Nigeria with explosives and gunfire at midnight, killing two security officers and leaving 240 inmates still missing on Monday, authorities said. Interior Minister Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said two other security officers remained missing after the violence at the correctional facility in Kogi state. A task force has been set up to recapture the inmates, he added. The gunmen destroyed three sides of the prison’s perimeter fence with explosives and then overcame a team of 35 security officers, officials said. The prison was holding 294 inmates, but some did not try to escape and others had returned voluntarily Monday morning. Sunday’s attack marks the second prison break this year in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Authorities do not believe the incidents are connected, though, as the April jailbreak was blamed on pro-Biafra secessionists in the southeast. Some 1,844 inmates were set free during that violent attack in Imo state. AP

Nigeria: Three Killed, Weapons Recovered as Security Operatives Raid ESN Camp
At least three members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the militant wing of the IPOB separatist group, have been killed in a gun duel with security agents. Security sources, who confirmed the incident to Premium Times, said the militants were killed at Lilu forest in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State. … The group, whose attacks had reduced significantly, suddenly resumed hostilities due to the incarceration of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu. … Dozens of security officials have also been killed in the South-east and South-south regions of Nigeria in various attacks by the ESN on security facilities. Between January and June, suspected ESN members killed dozens of security operatives and attacked at least 10 public buildings, including prisons and police stations. The police said ESN fighters killed 21 police personnel in Imo State alone. The arrest of the IPOB leader, Mr Kanu in June had thrown the separatist group into disarray, leading to a drastic reduction in violence in the south-eastern region. There were initially frequent attacks across the region since the April 6 raid on the Owerri Correctional Centre during which 1,844 inmates were set free and the building set ablaze. But following the re-arrest of Mr Kanu and a further clampdown on ESN members, many members of the group are believed to have gone into hiding while attacks on public buildings, especially police stations declined. Premium Times

Nigeria Faces Growing Cholera Outbreak, COVID Cases
Nigeria is seeing one of its worst cholera outbreaks in years, with more than 2,300 people dying from suspected cases as the West African nation struggles to deal with its impact alongside the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 69,925 suspected cholera infections had been recorded as of September 5 in 25 out of the country’s 36 states and the capital Abuja, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. At least 2,323 people have died linked to the disease so far in 2021, the centre said, and there are concerns total figures may also be an undercount given that many affected communities are in hard to reach areas. … Nigeria is still facing a third wave of the pandemic mainly driven by the delta variant, and authorities are intensifying efforts to vaccinate a population among whom less than 1% have received both doses of a COVID-19 shot. … The government data from a study supported by UNICEF found that 157 million Nigerians are off the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) sanitation target as of December 2019, with access to safely managed sanitation services nationwide at only 21%. AfricaNews with AFP

How the Water Crisis in English-Speaking Cameroon Is Hitting Students and the Poor
At a stream in the Bomaka neighbourhood of Buea, Cameroon, a woman is using sand to wash her 20-litre jerrycan before filling it with water. Emerencia Fosuh, a hairdresser, has been using the stream for the past four years as her only source of water. Locals call the tiny river “Mr Peter Water.” “I’m getting this water for bathing, and if I have to use the toilet, I will beg water from my neighbours,” she tells Africa Calling correspondent Batata Boris Karloff. The jerrycan is heavy, and it’s difficult to bring it up to her house, she adds. “I used to bathe even four times a day but now I can’t lie, I will bathe just once. I’ve been here for four years and I am so tired of this. I can’t keep going to people’s houses to ask for water because of this crisis.” Many residents in this part of Buea, the capital of the anglophone South West region, have had no running water in their homes for years. … Lack of water has also affected the effectiveness of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the prescribed guidelines against the virus is to wash hands regularly with soap and clean running water. For some residents in Buea, keeping to this is not feasible.  “If you look around the town even the buckets placed at strategic points for persons to wash their hands are no longer present. In some institution the is just a bottle of sanitizer whereas we are advised to wash our hands regularly,” says university student Konyuy. RFI

Kenya: Violence in Private Ranches Sends Worrying Signals
Renewed violence reported in the northern Kenya County of Laikipia in recent weeks is likely to intensify jitters in the region about possible widespread tension related to the country’s upcoming elections in 2022. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has deployed security forces, including the military, in the area to drive out armed herders that have occupied private ranches, killed seven people, torched houses and displaced entire villages in the past weeks. Two politicians, one of them a sitting Member of Parliament, were on Wednesday separately arrested and charged in court the next day with inciting the raids. But concerns remain that the audacious attacks targeting members of particular communities for displacement in Laikipia could embolden politicians in other multi-ethnic areas to incite election-related violence and once again test the country’s political stability. … The drought-prone Laikipia, like other areas in Kenya’s semi-arid north, has a history of conflicts involving expansive wildlife ranches, farming settlements and nomadic pastoralist communities over pasture and water. … But the escalation of invasions by herders close to elections and a pattern of attacks targeting particular ethnic communities for displacement in recent years have also raised concerns about politicians increasingly exploiting grievances over resources for voter suppression. An analyst report by the think tank Crisis Group linked similar violence in the area in the run-up to the 2017 elections to the higher stakes in local campaigns with the introduction of devolved governments in 2013. The EastAfrican

SADC Urged to Prepare for Long ‘Slog’ of Counterinsurgency in Mozambique
As Mozambique’s neighbours in Southern Africa join its four-year fight against insurgents in the Cabo Delgado region, observers are celebrating early gains while warning of the potential for a prolonged and costly engagement. Under the auspices of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Botswana, Rwanda, South Africa and others dispatched troops to bolster Mozambique’s response to the Islamic insurgency, known locally al-Shabab. … In early August, the Rwandan military announced it had driven extremist fighters out of Mocímboa da Praia, the northern port city that is key to the future development of offshore natural gas reserves. … The Rwandan Army said 70 insurgents were killed in fighting. Of those who survived, some fled across the border to Tanzania while others retreated into the forests south of Mocímboa. Rwanda’s success has allowed displaced residents to return home. … However, Rwanda’s small force size means that the territory they liberate must be handed over to Mozambican police and military who struggled to protect it before, said Darren Olivier, director of African Defence Review, a conflict research consultancy. “We should be careful to assume that these initial successes mean that the insurgency is close to being defeated. It is not,” Olivier wrote for the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes. defenceWeb

Algeria Arrests Another Journalist amid Crackdown on Press Freedom
Algerian authorities have arrested a journalist from a local French-language newspaper and searched his house, a rights group and one of his colleagues said Monday. “Mohamed Mouloudj, journalist at the Liberte daily, was arrested on Sunday and his house searched,” the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) said on Facebook. … Another Algerian journalist, Hassan Bouras, was arrested a week ago and formally placed in preventive detention on Sunday, accused of “glorifying terrorism” among other crimes, his lawyers said. Algeria is ranked 146th out of 180 countries and territories on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index. According to prisoners’ rights group CNLD, around 200 people are in jail in connection with the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement that has shaken the North African country sporadically since 2019, or over individual freedoms. Also on Monday, the police announced the arrest of 16 people suspected of belonging to the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK), which the government says is a terrorist organisation. AFP

Corrupt Oil Trader Turns On Colleagues in Massive Africa Bribe Case
When Anthony Stimler left Glencore Plc in August 2019, he had two big secrets: For a dozen years, he’d paid millions in bribes to African officials and intermediaries. And he was now helping a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the company and numerous former colleagues. Corruption isn’t exactly unheard of in the extraction and trading of commodities, especially in the developing world. But details of Stimler’s cooperation deal, obtained from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and which haven’t been reported before, offer a rare opportunity to see how it works — the scale, scope and almost routine nature of such transactions. One aspect is the role of intermediaries, often favored by governments in the region. The so-called briefcase companies act as conduits for traders’ bribes to officials, taking a cut and directing state business back to the traders. Glencore was a dominant player in Nigeria, Chad, the Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea, and says it no longer uses intermediaries as part of a revamped and cleaned-up operation. “An issue that comes up with trader corruption is agents and intermediaries in the mix,” said Alexandra Gillies, an adviser at the Natural Resource Governance Institute, which seeks to stamp out corruption in emerging market resources. “Clearly it’s the top modus operandi for how these schemes work.” … Now Glencore and some of its executives face the prospect of steep fines and prison in a far-reaching investigation of tactics in numerous countries and commodity markets. U.S. authorities pursue such cases because, though they involve events in other countries, the payoffs were made in dollars that pass through the banking system in New York. Bloomberg

British American Tobacco Negotiated Bribe for Mugabe, New Evidence Suggests
A BBC Panorama investigation has found evidence that suggests one of Britain’s biggest companies paid a bribe to the former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. Documents show British American Tobacco (BAT) was involved in negotiations to pay between $300,000 and $500,000 to Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party in 2013. The documents also reveal BAT was paying bribes in South Africa and using illegal surveillance to damage rivals. BAT says it is committed to the highest standards of corporate conduct. President Mugabe’s 37-year rule was secured through elections marred by allegations of fraud and violence. He was ousted in 2017 and died in 2019. The ruling party Zanu PF is now under new leadership. In a joint investigation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the University of Bath, Panorama obtained thousands of leaked documents. They show how BAT funded a network of almost 200 secret informants in southern Africa. Most of this work was outsourced to a South African private security company called Forensic Security Services (FSS). FSS was officially tasked with fighting the black-market cigarette trade, however former employees have told the BBC that they broke the law to sabotage BAT’s rivals. Internal documents show in one operation, FSS staff were instructed to close down three cigarette factories run by BAT’s competitors in Zimbabwe. BBC

African Countries Face Reduced Remittances in 2021
African countries are staring at a significant decline in remittances from their citizens working abroad this year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic that has seen many migrants lose jobs and others grapple with reduced incomes. This signals hardships to millions of African households that depend on their friends and relatives working abroad for a financial lifeline, with governments staring at declines in foreign exchange reserves. A new report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) projects remittances—money sent by migrants back home—to drop by 5.4 percent to $41 billion in 2021 from $44 billion last year. The report, titled “African regional review of implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”, shows that the bleak situation has been compounded by the high cost of sending money to Africa from abroad. According to the report dated August 2021, the costs associated with sending remittances to Africa are still some of the highest in the world. The report notes that a migrant sending $200 to his/her family in Africa pays an estimated nine percent of the value of the transaction, indicating that the continent is still far from achieving the three percent target set out in Sustainable Development Goal 10. The EastAfrican

How COVID Knocked Out a Boxing Gym That Took People from Poverty to the Olympics
Inside the bare, sweltering room, a dozen young men drop down and give 20 push-ups. Behind them, a coach spars with a younger boxer, fraying gloves catching the morning light. In the far corner, three lads pump rusty iron on makeshift benches by a ragged punchbag held together with tape. Outside, Naguru’s hillside slum in Kampala is waking up. Women set up stalls selling chargrilled corn and chapati-wrapped omelettes while children in school uniforms walk to classes. Motorcycle taxis weave among them along potholed backstreets to join the growing tailbacks on the highway below. Back inside the East Coast Boxing Club, the bell sounds and the sweat-drenched fighters take a rest. It is February 2020 and this brotherhood of refugees and boxers look to the club as a way out of their struggles. Far from here, or so it seems, a new disease has begun to spread, with thousands of confirmed cases growing across continents. But in Naguru, for now at least, there are more pressing concerns. Among the boxers is Jackson Muhiyi, a wiry, lightning-fast 25-year-old who fled war in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to pursue his dream of becoming a prize-fighter. His flyweight friend, Miiro Juma, was born in a Naguru shanty, overcoming privation and a brutal gang attack to represent his country at the Commonwealth Games. And 58-year-old Hassan Khalil, who founded the club with his twin brother after years in exile, is on a mission to help the community, keeping young boxers off the streets. “I just want to push the boys towards a good future,” said Khalil. VICE



Photo: Adam Jones