Africa Media Review for September 20, 2023

Military Coups Are Wrong, Tinubu Tells UN Assembly
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday called on world leaders to affirm democratic governance as the best guarantor of the sovereign will and well-being of the people, saying military coups are wrong. Mr Tinubu said this in his inaugural statement to the 78th session of the General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Tinubu, who delivered his address to the world leaders at 8p.m. local time, spoke on behalf of Nigeria and Africa. “Military coups are wrong, as is any tilted civilian political arrangement that perpetuates injustice. The wave crossing parts of Africa does not demonstrate favour towards coups. … “As Chairman of ECOWAS, I seek to help re-establish democratic governance in a manner that addresses the political and economic challenges confronting [Niger], including the violent extremists who seek to foment instability in our region. “I extend a hand of friendship to all who genuinely support this mission,” he said. … “To the rest of the world, I say walk with us as true friends and partners. Africa is not a problem to be avoided nor is it to be pitied. Africa is nothing less than the key to the world’s future.” NAN

Crisis and Bailout: The Tortuous Cycle Stalking Nations in Debt
After defaulting on billions of dollars owed to foreign lenders in December, the administration of President Nana Akufo-Addo had no choice but to agree to a $3 billion loan from the lender of last resort, the International Monetary Fund. It was the 17th time Ghana has been compelled to turn to the Fund since it gained independence in 1957. This latest crisis was partly prompted by the havoc of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and higher food and fuel prices. But the tortuous cycle of crisis and bailout has plagued dozens of poor and middle-income countries throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia for decades. These pitiless loops will be discussed at the latest United Nations General Assembly, which begins on Tuesday. … The effects of devastating climate change loom over the problem. Within the next decade, a United Nations analysis estimates, trillions of dollars in new financing will be needed to mitigate the impact on developing countries. … As for foreign lenders, there are thousands of private, semipublic and governmental creditors, including China, which have different objectives, loan arrangements and regulatory controls. … So governments turn to international capital markets, where investors are foraging the world for high returns. Both political leaders and investors often look for short-term wins, whether in the next election or earnings call, said Martin Guzman, the former finance minister of Argentina who handled his country’s debt restructuring in 2020. This free flow of capital around the globe has resulted in a flood of financial crises. New York Times

Haftar’s Sons Rise in Libya’s East, Bringing ‘Corruption, Death, Destruction’
Wearing camouflage fatigues and his customary scowl, Saddam Haftar pours over a map of Libya in an airy chamber identified as the “Libyan Emergency Room” in a post on X, formerly Twitter. At his side are three Russian officials, part of a Russian defence ministry team that arrived in eastern Libya days after dams collapsed in Derna, unleashing a disaster of biblical proportions. The youngest son of Khalifa Haftar, Saddam is often cited as the “possible successor” to the 79-year-old strongman who has controlled eastern Libya for nearly a decade. As the head of Tareq Ben Zayed (TBZ) brigade in his father’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), the youngest Haftar is better known for seizing money from Libya’s Central Bank vaults, according to the UN, and “inflicting a catalogue of horrors” in eastern Libya, according to Amnesty International. At 32, the Haftar scion has no experience in relief administration or management. But last week, he was appointed head of the Disaster Response Committee to handle a humanitarian crisis of shocking proportions. As millions of dollars of humanitarian aid pours into eastern Libya, the international community will be forced to coordinate relief operations under a strongman’s son with a documented record of embezzlement and human rights violations. LNA-controlled parts of Libya have long been an “informational blackhole”, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), with foreign journalists denied access while local reporters are unable to criticise the Haftars or their cronies. “In the country’s east, reporters are under Haftar’s power, and no media can criticise the military,” notes RSF. AFP

East Libya Strongman Keeps Tight Control Over Aid After Floods
Days after a torrential downpour collapsed two aging dams and unleashed a rushing wall of water that swept parts of the Libyan city of Derna and thousands of its people into the sea, the military strongman who rules the area came for a quick visit. … The disaster that struck Derna on Sept. 11 has drawn renewed international attention to Mr. Hifter and his so-called Libyan National Army, a military coalition that controls the eastern half of the divided North African nation with an iron fist. More than a week after the disaster, as rescue efforts shift to the long and costly work of caring for the displaced and helping the city recover, Mr. Hifter’s tight hold over eastern Libya has made it clear that he will be the overall arbiter of the aid operation in the oil-rich country. He oversees what is effectively a military dictatorship that competes for power with an internationally recognized government in the western half of Libya that is based in Tripoli, the capital. He has enriched and empowered himself and his sons while failing to provide basic services or maintain critical infrastructure, like the dams that burst last week, analysts and diplomats say. Human rights groups have accused his forces of grave abuses and potential war crimes. His overarching goal appears to be to rule all of Libya, so much so that as United Nations-sponsored peace talks were set to begin in 2019, he launched a military assault on Tripoli with backing from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group. New York Times

What Wagner’s Post-Prigozhin Future Looks like on the Ground in the Central African Republic
On his final trip to the Central African Republic (CAR) last month, the former Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin visited la Maison Russe, or the Russian House, a cultural center near the Russian embassy in the capital, where he posed for selfies with his lieutenants and locals. The institute, and its diverse activities, are stark examples of how the mercenary group has become a stand-in for the Russian state in the country, and a symbol of the challenges ahead for President Vladimir Putin as he tries to pull back control. Since Prigozhin’s attempted coup in June and subsequent death in a plane crash outside Moscow just two months later, Russia has been engaged in a high-stakes scramble to centralize his empire on the African continent, which includes thousands of fighters, a vast array of business holdings and multiple soft power initiatives such as this one. As the Kremlin tries to get its arms around Wagner’s sprawling commercial network, what’s next for the group remains unclear. But signs of what the future may hold in the CAR, one of the organization’s first client states and its laboratory on the continent, are beginning to emerge in Bangui. Here Russia appears to be consolidating Wagner’s operations while continuing to exert its influence. The message that Moscow wants to project seems to be: it’s business as usual. CNN

Top EU Diplomat Voices Solidarity with ‘Hostage’ French Envoy in Niger
After sacking the elected government in late July, the military said it was expelling Ambassador Sylvain Itte, but the former colonial power does not recognize the authority of the putschists. President Emmanuel Macron said last week that the ambassador was “literally being held hostage” in the embassy, living off military rations after the military cut off deliveries of supplies. “We expressed our solidarity with France over the situation of its ambassador on the ground,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters after the bloc’s foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. He also renewed the bloc’s “full solidarity” with Mohamed Bazoum, the elected president who has been detained by the military, praising his “courage and determination.” Borrell said that the Europeans also agreed on the need to “reassess” their strategy in the Sahel, where France in particular has led years of efforts aimed at defeating jihadists. “We need a new approach as we are facing a much more complex environment,” he said. AFP

Zimbabwe Election Aftermath Sees Human Rights Defenders and Opposition Supporters under Siege
Critics say the ongoing post-election retribution is reminiscent of the reign of Mnangagwa’s former leader, the late president, Robert Mugabe, who after failing to gain the majority vote in the 2008 presidential election resorted to violence targeting supporters of the opposition leader Morgan Tavangirai‘s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Tsvangirai had allegedly outpolled Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF). Mugabe then turned to state security agents, the military and veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation who unleashed untold violence against opposition supporters. An estimated 500 opposition supporters are said to have been killed, forcing the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to broker a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. … Coltart senior, who is due to be installed as the CCC mayor in Bulawayo after winning the local government elections in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, said the international community has a duty to protect innocent people and to speak out against this abuse. “Certain regional leaders, particularly South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, who back the Zanu-PF regime, are in danger of being held responsible for these serious abuses of human rights taking place under their noses,” he said. Global Voices

EU Yanks Funding for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission after Zimbabwe’s Dodgy Polls
The European Union on Tuesday announced it will pull out of a funding arrangement with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), after Zimbabwe’s disputed 23 August general elections, that saw the return of Emmerson Mnangagwa for a second presidential term while the ruling Zanu-PF fell slightly short of a two-thirds majority. In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the EU said: “Preliminary statements from multiple EOMs [election observer missions], including the EU EOM, have raised concerns about the ZEC’s management of the electoral process, particularly regarding its independence and transparency.” … Senior Zanu-PF officials have been attacking Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema, the only SADC leader to openly speak about irregularities with Zimbabwe’s polls. News24

South Africa Taken to Task for Not Committing to SADC Emergency Ops Centre
South Africa has been taken to task for being tardy in committing the country to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre (SHOC) in Mozambique. Jacques Smalle, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, maintains Minister Thembi Kadimeng is “dragging her feet” and urgently needs to sign the agreement ensuring South Africa is part of the centre. He made the comment following Botswana committing itself – as the tenth SADC state to do so – earlier this month. The Democratic Alliance public representative maintains all 16 SADC member countries have to commit to the SHOC, launched in 2021 by Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi. Sited in Mozambique’s Nacala province, the SHOC has been tasked with co-ordinating regional disaster risk preparedness, response, and early recovery efforts to support Member States affected by disasters. It plays a crucial role in managing the supply of equipment and supplies needed by SADC responders during humanitarian deployments. defenceWeb

11 Somali Soldiers Killed as AU Forces Start Second Round of Troop Drawdown
Eleven Somali government soldiers were killed and three others injured in a roadside explosion Monday in the southwestern Gedo region, officials said, as the African Union peacekeeping force began a second round of troop withdrawals. The explosion targeted a convoy of military vehicles between the towns of Luuq and Doolow, deputy governor of security and policy for the region, Osman Nuh Haji, told VOA Somali. … Meanwhile, Somali government officials and parliamentarians arrived in the town of Amaara in the central Galmudug state on Tuesday, hours after federal troops supported by local fighters seized it from al-Shabab. Before Amaara, troops captured a series of nearby towns and villages, including Ba’adweyne, Qay’ad, Shabelow and Qodqod. Government troops and local forces recently resumed seizing territories from al-Shabab, after a pause triggered by an August 26 attack in the village of Cowsweyne that killed dozens of government troops. The ongoing military offensive comes as the African Union Transmission Mission, or ATMIS, in Somalia announced the start of the second round of a planned troop withdrawal. VOA

MONUSCO: Malawian FIB Commander Bids Brigade Farewell
The outgoing commander of the lone United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission with an offensively mandated component, Malawian general Enoch Ntonya, leaves his post with pride in the soldiers serving in the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). “Contrary to what some people think we do a lot every day and even outside the Beni region, for peace to return to eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo),” he said in a farewell message to the brigade. “We have achieved a great deal. Our troops don’t sleep. Day and night they are always in the field. As I speak, our troops have been operating in Ituri province for three or four weeks. They are there to track down armed groups. The population is unaware of this unless they are told. And yet, in our profession, not everything can be told, so as not to aid the enemy”… “Give us the support we want and we’ll defend you better. I believe if we continue working closely together: communities, chiefs, authorities, FARDC, MONUSCO everything will be easy because information is power. Give us the right information, not the wrong information, so we can plan operations to neutralise armed groups,” a MONUSCO statement quotes him saying. defenceWeb

Rwanda’s President Says He’ll Run for a Fourth Term
President Paul Kagame made the announcement in an interview with the French-language publication Jeune Afrique published Tuesday. The 65-year-old Kagame has been president since 200… He is one of a number of African leaders who have prolonged their rule by pursuing changes to term limits. … Kagame could stay in power until 2034 if he wins a five-year term next year and then another. He was re-elected as chair of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party earlier this year for another five-year term. Rwanda is “not free,” according to the U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House, whose latest report notes that the ruling party has been in power without interruption since 1994, “banning and repressing any opposition group that could mount a serious challenge to its leadership.” … human rights groups and other critics have long alleged that the government harshly targets opponents, including with extrajudicial killings even far outside the country’s borders. … The other candidate who has declared to run for president is lawmaker Frank Habineza with the Green Democratic party, who received 0.45% of votes in 2017. Habineza told The Associated Press his party was not surprised by Kagame’s announcement, and he said they will continue to fight for democracy. “As we speak now, there is a high level of poverty and people have no food and youth have no jobs. This is what bothers Rwandans,” he said. AP

Kenya’s President Meets Ukraine’s Zelenskyy
Kenya’s President William Ruto on Tuesday met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, US. Dr Ruto pledged to support Ukraine during the war crisis following its invasion by Russia. “You have demonstrated a lot of resilience and we know it’s been difficult for the people of Ukraine, they’re strong and that you have our support,” said Ruto. “As I told you my brother, we believe in a world order based on rules,” he added. President Zelenskyy on his part thanked Kenya for supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. He extended an invitation to Dr Ruto to visit Ukraine. … They further discussed steps to a possible establishment of grain hubs in Kenya. Mr Zelenskyy informed Dr Ruto about an alternative route for the export of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea, as well as progress on creating other export routes. … In his speech at the UNGA, the Ukrainian president warned Russia against “weaponising essentials like food and energy” not only against Ukraine, but against the rest of the world. “The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our lives, our resources into a weapon against you, against the international rules-based order,” Zelensky told the assembled leaders. EastAfrican

Morocco’s Earthquake Crumbled Much of This Adobe Village Nestled in the Mountain
One of the villages hardest hit by Morocco’s recent earthquake was also one of its most iconic. Nestled below a cliff in the Atlas Mountains, Imi N’Tala was renowned among tourists and trekkers who ventured to the remote region for its natural beauty and a dose of Berber culture. But Imi N’Tala is no more. Part of the cliff was sheared off onto the village, and its adobe houses are a pile of rubble after the 6.8 magnitude earthquake shook the area on Sept. 8, causing mass death in mountain villages like this one close to the epicenter. The official death toll from the disaster in Morocco has climbed to nearly 3,000 people. The few residents of Imi N’Tala who survived the quake now stay in white tents set up by the authorities on the hillside below their former homes. And the destruction — and aftershocks — have made rescue and recovery efforts difficult. NPR

The Great Blue Wall to Rescue Africa’s Sea Life
Rising sea levels, high ocean temperatures, cyclones, floods, and increased seawater salination have caused the continent loss of lives and livelihoods, hunger, malnutrition, loss of property, and human displacement every year, especially hitting the continent’s coastal communities. In recognising the urgent need for action to counter these effects of climate change, the Great Blue Wall (GBW), an initiative that has been at the forefront of fostering Africa’s blue economy, climate adaptation and resilience, was born at COP 26 in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Western Indian Ocean (WIO) states comprise the Eastern African coastal nations of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, as well as the island states of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and the overseas French territories of Mayotte and Reunion. These nations, in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched the GBW as a network of marine and coastal conserved areas to benefit biodiversity and local livelihoods and empower communities to become stewards of the ocean. … Since the launch of the GBW, two seascapes have been officially designated: the Tanga Pemba Seascape in Tanzania, an IUCN Category VI Marine Protected Area, and the Quirimbas Seascape in Mozambique. “The GBW’s ambition is to protect two million square kilometres of marine areas, restore two million hectares of critical coastal and marine ecosystems, and thus help sequester 100m tons of carbon dioxide and create 1 million blue jobs by 2030,” says the ECA’s Nassim Oulmane. New African Magazine