Africa Media Review for September 14, 2023

20,000 People Feared Dead in Libyan City Destroyed by Floods
Up to 20,000 people are now feared dead after a torrent of water ripped through eastern Libya—a devastating toll that could largely have been avoided, global officials said Thursday. As rescuers in the ruined city of Derna searched underwater and under rubble, fears grew that rotting bodies could lead to a deadly outbreak of disease in the wake of this week’s floods. A precise tally of the rising number of people killed is incredibly difficult given the level of destruction and chaotic political situation in the region, with bodies still washing up on the shore and burials being held in mass graves. A deluge of rainfall from Mediterranean storm Daniel caused two dams to collapse, sending waves more than 20 feet high sweeping through the heart of Derna, a port city in the country’s east. NBC

Libya’s Deadly Dam Collapse Was Decades in the Making
With thousands of people dead and tens of thousands more left homeless by floods as a storm burst through the dams next to the east Libyan city of Derna, FRANCE 24 looks back at the years of violence and neglect that left the city ill-prepared for the unprecedented natural disasters of the climate crisis. … A research paper published in November 2022 by Omar al-Mukhtar University hydrologist Abdelwanees A. R Ashoor warned that the dams holding back the seasonal waterway—known as a wadi—needed urgent attention, citing a number of floods that had repeatedly struck the river basin since WWII. … But Derna Deputy Mayor Ahmed Madroud told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the dams had not been properly cared for in more than two decades. “The dams have not been maintained since 2002, and they are not big,” he said. … Asma Khalifa, the co-founder of peace-building organisation the Khalifa Ihler Institute and a doctoral researcher at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies, argued that decades of government neglect and political conflict in Libya played a large part in the dams’ deterioration. … “Gaddafi was never interested in developing the country, ” she said. “In terms of infrastructure the country is weak, no matter how wealthy it is. Then you have a decade of armed conflict, where two governments are unable to govern the entire country, and have only been interested in funding and creating military groups that will keep them in power.” France24

Sudan Conflict: At Least 40 Killed in Darfur as UN Representative Volker Perthes Steps Down
[Video] The Un’s envoy to Sudan has stepped down. Volker Perthes had been working from outside of the country but had stayed on in his post despite being declared persona non grata by Khartoum in June. That followed his denuciation of possible crimes against humanity committed during the civil war that erupted in the country in April. Since then at least 7500 people have been killed in fighting between the army and the RSF paramilitary. The violence has turned the capital into a battle zone, gutted infrastructure and the health system, forced more than 5 million people from their homes and taken on a brutal ethnic dimension in Darfur. On wedensdya medics there said at least 40 people had been killed in an air raid. For more, FRANCE 24 is joined by Sudanese political analsyt activist Kholood Khair who is in New York during the UN general assembly to lobby for more international support to the victims of the conflict. France24

RSF Retreat from South Kordofan Stronghold, Military Detentions across Sudan
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have reportedly pulled out of Um Ruwaba, North Kordofan, after controlling the town for more than a month. In South Kordofan, eight detainees who had been apprehended on August 18 were killed at an intelligence detention centre in Dalami. Two other people were detained by military intelligence in Blue Nile region and El Gezira state. The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) reportedly withdrew from the town of Um Ruwaba, North Kordofan, which had been under their control since last month. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), which entered the town on Tuesday, also reportedly withdrew to Tandelti in White Nile state. Sources told Radio Dabanga that the RSF “pulled out abruptly from the town and dismantled their outpost on the main road”. This sudden departure seems to follow protests by Um Ruwaba’s residents on Monday, sparked by the killing of a civilian. The community accused the RSF of being involved in the incident. During a meeting between RSF representatives and the protestors, the RSF allegedly disassociated itself from the civilian’s death and asserted that the area was “teeming with unruly elements”. Dabanga

Renewed Violence in Northern Mali: What We Know
As separatist groups in northern Mali renew hostilities, the ruling junta—having pushed out French and United Nations forces which had been supporting the fight against jihadism and helping stabilise the country—faces yet another adversary. Here are some key points on the latest violence. Predominantly Tuareg armed groups who are demanding independence or autonomy for northern Mali attacked army positions in the town of Bourem. It was the first large-scale operation the groups have claimed since signing a peace agreement with the state in 2015. … “Much of the north of the country has come under the de facto rule of militant Islamist groups,” think tank the Africa Center for Strategic Studies said in a July report. Following back-to-back coups in 2020 and 2021, the Malian junta pushed out France’s anti-jihadist force in 2022 and the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in 2023. It is widely believed to be working with the Russian paramilitary company Wagner, despite denying that. The MINUSMA mission is due to complete its withdrawal by December 31. It had been widely criticised for failing to do enough to support the fight against jihadism. However, it was the only force capable of intervening between Tuareg independence fighters and the Malian army. Its gradual departure is thought to have contributed to the escalation of tensions in the north. AFP

Quarter of Schools Closed in Burkina Faso as Fighting Escalates after Coup
A quarter of schools are now closed in Burkina Faso after a sharp rise in fighting between militants and the government, according to a new report that warns of a looming education crisis in the region. The number of schools closed in the country rose by almost a third over the past year to 6,149, affecting close to 1 million students. Burkina Faso, described as experiencing the “world’s most neglected crisis”, has suffered years of violence, which has increased since a coup last year. The new military government launched an offensive against militant groups that has seen allegations of human rights abuses on all sides. “Having such a large number of children out of school because of insecurity risks the future of Burkina Faso’s next generation,” said Dr John Agbor, Burkina Faso country director for the UN’s children’s agency, Unicef. “Children out of school are more likely to be forced to work, to be recruited into armed groups, or to be victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, gender-based violence or early marriage.” The report, launched on Wednesday by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and UN agencies, said Burkina Faso now accounted for almost half of the 13,200 schools closed because of insecurity in central and west Africa over the past four years. The Guardian

Europe Failed to Bolster Democracy in Sahel, EU’s Top Diplomat Says
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday that 600 million euros spent training security personnel in the Sahel had “failed to bolster democracy”. His comments follow recent coups in both Niger and Gabon. At the European Parliament in Strasbourg the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told MEPs that the millions spent in military training in the Sahel had “not helped armed forces support democratically elected governments”. He told them, “When I do my sums, it shows me that over the past 10 years, we’ve spent over 600 million euros on civilian and military training missions in the Sahel.” Borrell, who serves as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, added that he did not see a “bright future” for a civilian training mission working with Niger’s interior security forces. He added that there might have been too much of an EU focus on building up militaries and not enough work done with civil societies in the region. “Should we revise our Sahel policy? Well, yes, it’s absolutely right that we should have a more strategic approach and less tactical approach,” Borrell said. RFI

US Military Resumes Drone, Manned Counterterrorism Missions in Niger
The U.S. military has resumed counterterrorism missions in Niger, flying drones and other aircraft out of air bases in the country more than a month after a coup halted those activities, the head of U.S. Air Forces for Europe and Africa said Wednesday. Since the July coup, the 1,100 U.S. forces deployed in the country have been confined inside their bases. Last week the Pentagon said some military personnel and assets had been moved from the air base near Niamey, the capital, to another in Agadez. The cities are about 920 kilometers apart. In recent weeks some of those intelligence and surveillance missions have been able to resume through U.S. negotiations with the junta, said General James Hecker, the top Air Force commander for Europe and Africa. … The U.S. has made Niger its main regional outpost for wide-ranging patrols by armed drones and other counterterror operations against Islamic extremist movements that over the years have seized territory, massacred civilians and battled foreign armies. The bases are a critical part of America’s overall counterterrorism efforts in West Africa. VOA/AP

ATMIS are Leaving Somalia: What Needs to Happen to Keep Peace
The phased withdrawal of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) began earlier this year and is scheduled to end in December 2024. The withdrawal of African Union (AU) peacekeepers poses risks for Somalia. For one, it may reduce the pressure on Al Shabaab at a crucial time during the Somali government’s latest offensive. These risks cannot be completely eliminated but there are important steps the Somali authorities and the AU must take before the mission’s exit. The withdrawal of the AU troops hands a battlefield and propaganda advantage to Al Shabaab. Beyond that, it reduces support for Somali forces trying to wage an offensive. There is also a risk that Somali forces garrisoned in former AU operating bases might be particularly vulnerable to Al Shabaab attack. … To ensure a smooth departure, the Somali authorities and AU forces must accomplish several key tasks. Somalia must reform and strengthen its internal security. The AU must coordinate with Somali forces and partner with the United Nations to handle the difficult logistics of the exiting troops. East African

Gabon’s Squandered Oil Wealth under 55 Years of Bongo Rule
The toppling of Ali Bongo Ondimba brought the curtain down on 55 years of rule by a family accused of extracting fabulous wealth from Gabon’s major oil reserves. … Gabon, one of Africa’s richest countries in terms of per-capita GDP, boasts abundant oil and other natural resources. A small fraction of the 2.3 million population live opulently while a third survives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. Once known as “central Africa’s little emirate”, experts, more than half a century of Bongo rule has left Gabon in a sorry state. In the affluent Libreville neighbourhood of Sabliere, many of the luxury villas belong to the extensive Bongo clan. The distant suburbs, however, have no running water, little electricity and insanitary open sewers. … Thierry Vircoulon, from the French Institute of International Relations, described a kind of “family autocracy” with Gabon “managed like the private property of a family”. Travel from one town to another is virtually impossible due to the poor state of the roads. There is only one private airline which operates several flights at prohibitive prices. The sole train line is often out of bounds for passengers, monopolised and regularly damaged by constant heavily loaded trains carrying manganese. … Public hospitals lack equipment and medicine and the school system is in ruins … Gabon has failed to develop a real production or manufacturing sector. It lives off imports, including fruit and vegetables, despite plentiful rainfall and fertile land. AFP

Ugandan Police Ban Bobi Wine’s Opposition Rallies
The Ugandan police announced on Wednesday that they were suspending “until further notice” a nationwide mobilisation campaign launched by the main opposition party, led by Bobi Wine, because of public order problems. The authorities had authorised this operation, launched on 2 September by the National Unity Platform (NUP), an unprecedented decision in a country ruled with an iron fist since 1986 by President Yoweri Museveni and where the opposition is tightly controlled. Bobi Wine told AFP that he intended to continue this campaign, which has given rise to rallies across the country, most recently in Arua (north-west) on Wednesday. … Bobi Wine has been arrested several times in recent years and his supporters’ rallies have been regularly dispersed, sometimes violently. During the election campaign, demonstrations against yet another arrest of Mr Wine were violently repressed by the security forces, leaving at least 54 people dead. AfricaNews/AFP

Zimbabwe: Opposition Deputy Spokesperson Arrested for iInciting Violence
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) deputy spokesperson and legislator, Gift Ostallos Siziba was arrested in Bulawayo on Wednesday, facing charges of inciting violence. Siziba was later released and will be appearing in court on Friday. In a post on X, CCC condemned the “continued persecution” of it’s members. “Our MP for Pelandaba Tshabalala, Hon @Cde_Ostallos, was arrested today on false allegations of inciting violence. Although he was later released, he has been summoned to court on Friday. The regime has intensified its crackdown against our members after a shambolic, disorganized, rigged and fraudulent election. This continued persecution must stop. #StopPersecutingCCC,” the post reads. This follows the recent arrest of CCC Sunningdale MP Maureen Kademaunga and councillor Clayd Mashozhera on attempted murder and malicious damage to property charges. The State however dropped the charges against Kademaunga after failing to secure evidence. New Zimbabwe

Niger Ends Military Deal with Benin over Fears of Ecowas Intervention
Niger’s junta has scrapped a military pact with Benin, accusing its neighbour of authorising the deployment of troops on its territory for a possible military intervention by the Ecowas regional bloc. This comes as the French foreign ministry has called for the immediate release of a French official who was arrested in Niger at the weekend. The move by the military junta in Niamey comes as the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) is still trying to negotiate with the coup leaders, but the bloc has said if diplomatic efforts fail it is ready to use force as a last resort to restore constitutional order and reverse the putsch. In a statement read on national television, the junta said Benin had “authorised the deployment of soldiers, mercenaries, and war materials” in the context of the possible Ecowas intervention. As a result the new Nigerien authorities have decided “to renounce the military cooperation agreement [with Benin],” it said. … Ecowas has not shared any details about possible deployments and just last week, Niger said talks with the bloc were continuing. RFI

Madagascar Opposition Condemns ‘Institutional Coup’ before Vote
Opposition parties in Madagascar have denounced what they say is an “institutional coup” after the prime minister, an ally of President Andry Rajoelina, was put in charge of the nation in the run-up to a presidential election. In a letter to electoral authorities received on Tuesday, 10 of 13 presidential candidates said court rulings that handed the reins of the Indian Ocean island to Christian Ntsay were dictated by Rajoelina and his entourage to favour the president in the November election. “The powers (that be)… carried out a real institutional coup with the aim of putting the Prime Minister in charge of the state during the presidential electoral period in order to manipulate the results for the benefit of their candidate,” the signatories, including two former presidents, wrote. Voters in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries on the globe despite vast natural resources, head to the polls to elect a president on November 9. AfricaNews/AFP

Congo Presidential Candidate Gets Seven Years in Jail for Insulting President
A high court in Democratic Republic of Congo has sentenced presidential candidate Jean-Marc Kabund to seven years in prison on 12 charges including spreading false rumours and insulting the head of state, his lawyer said on Wednesday. Kabund was a former vice president of parliament and a close associate of President Felix Tshisekedi who launched his own political party last year after the two fell out. He has been held in Kinshasa’s main prison since his arrest in August 2022, after he called Tshisekedi a “danger” and lambasted his government in a speech. “The court sentenced him to four months each for the first nine offences and 16 months each for the last three,” Kabund’s lawyer Kadi Diko told Reuters, adding that the most serious offences were “spreading false rumours” and “contempt for head of state and parliament”. “This is an extremely harsh decision, especially as there is no appeal,” the lawyer added. Reuters

Blackout across Nigeria as National Grid Collapses
Nigerians were on Thursday morning thrown into darkness after the national grid system collapsed. The system is operated by the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) from Osogbo, Osun State. Some of the nation’s Distribution Companies confirmed that the grid collapsed in the early hours of Thursday, as most of their feeders are out. The Enugu Electricity Distribution Company PLC (EEDC) in a statement said that “a total system collapse” occurred at 12:40 a.m. on Thursday. “This has resulted in the loss of supply currently being experienced across the network,” the company said in a statement signed by Emeka Ezeh, Head of Corporate Communications. Due to this development, the distribution company said all its interface TCN stations are out of supply, and it will be unable to provide service to customers in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States. “We are on standby awaiting detailed information of the collapse and restoration of supply from the National Control Centre (NCC), Osogbo,” it said. … The latest collapse is coming weeks after the TCN announced that the country’s power grid had maintained uninterrupted stability for over 400 consecutive days. … In recent years, the power sector has experienced many broad challenges related to electricity policy enforcement, regulatory uncertainty, gas supply, transmission system constraints, and major power sector planning shortfalls. In 2022 alone, the country’s national grid collapsed eight times. Premium Times