Africa Media Review for September 21, 2023

Niger: Bazoum Wants Regional Court to Reinstate Him as President
The deposed president of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, has decided to take his case to the West African justice system to obtain his release and the restoration of constitutional order in the country, almost two months after a coup d’état carried out by soldiers who overthrew him and are still holding him captive. “We ask (…) in view of the violation of political rights, that the State of Niger be condemned to the immediate restoration of constitutional order by handing over power to President Bazoum, who must continue to exercise it until the end of his mandate on April 2, 2026”, his Senegalese lawyer, Maître Seydou Diagne, told AFP on Wednesday. The petition filed with the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) on September 18 alleges “arbitrary arrest” and “violation of the freedom of movement” of President Mohamed Bazoum, his wife Haziza and son Salem, detained with him at the presidential palace since the coup d’état on July 26. … Maître Seydou Diagne also asserted that “General (Abdourahamane) Tiani (head of the military regime, editor’s note) is not empowered by Nigerien law to make arrests. He has been appointed by decree since 2011 to ensure the President’s security.” Africanews with AFP

Africa Can Overcome Its Challenges, Says AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns
Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the African Union’s High Representative for Silencing the Guns… [Question:] You are a pan-Africanist who has held different high-level positions and led in various capacities, can you paint a picture of how things have evolved on the continent? [Answer:] Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas: Over the last two decades the African continent has created a new narrative. Beginning from 2000, there was a lot of optimism on the continent. There was the transformation of the OAU to the AU, talk of an African renaissance and the new partnerships for development; all of this was also accompanied by increasing democratisation on the continent. Yet, despite these positive signs and developments, there were some continuing and persistent crises which some described as intractable. Over these two decades, we also witnessed persistent and deep poverty in many parts of the continent, despite the overall growth. Currently, we are seeing new crises, new security challenges on the continent such as terrorism, piracy, and the new proliferation of small arms and light weapons. … What we saw initially was a trend towards more elections where leaders were chosen from the ballot box, rather than through the barrel of the gun. The time came when practically all African leaders, certainly an overwhelming majority had, even if they were of military origin, set aside their military guards and transformed into civilian leaders, elected at national polls. This trend, however, has suffered a setback and we are now at the moment where we are talking of a democratic decline and a huge democratic deficit. … Because I remain an Afro-optimist, I see that we will continue to make progress. The current situation is absolutely unacceptable. New Africa Magazine

Congo’s President Wants the Large U.N. Peacekeeping Mission to Start Leaving the Country This Year
Congo’s president wants the world’s second largest United Nations peacekeeping force to move up its departure from the country, starting this December, saying it has failed to rein in conflicts in the country’s east. President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi in an address to the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders on Wednesday accused the 17,000-strong peacekeeping mission of being unable to confront the conflicts in eastern Congo that are “tearing apart” the central African nation. After a quarter-century of peacekeeping efforts, “it’s time for our country to take its destiny fully in hand” and become the leading security force in Congo, he said. Moving up the start of the peacekeeping mission’s “accelerated retreat” by a year, from December 2024, will help ease deadly tensions in the region, said the president, who is seeking a second term at a general election in December. … Earlier this month, a Congolese military crackdown on planned protests against the U.N. mission killed at least 43 people and severely injured more than 50 in the eastern city of Goma. Two high-ranking officers were arrested. Such protests have been common as frustrated Congolese assert that no one is protecting them from rebel attacks. A separate East African regional force is also present in eastern Congo but has seen protests as well. AP

Mali: Historic Timbuktu Endures Weeks-Long Jihadist Blockade
Increasingly fearful residents of Timbuktu are enduring acute shortages amid a weeks-long blockade of the historic Malian city by Islamist jihadis. An al-Qaeda affiliate has blocked roads and waterways into Timbuktu, a Unesco World Heritage Site and cradle of Islamic scholarship, since the middle of last month, when it declared war on Mali’s ruling military junta. … Analysts said JNIM and others are exploiting a vacuum created by the withdrawal of the UN’s Minusma peacekeeping force that deployed to northern Mali in 2013. French troops ended a nine-year mission last year. Ulf Laessing, Sahel programme director for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, said the junta that seized power in a 2021 coup “overplayed” its hand in June when it told Minusma to leave. “Minusma was widely criticised for not being effective but they were able to keep the peace because everyone saw them as neutral,” said Laessing, who is based in the capital Bamako. Now the Malian army was “overwhelmed” by Islamist attacks and the security situation was “already getting worse,” he added. … These incidents have coincided with renewed hostilities between Bamako and the Tuareg groups. The rebels put down their weapons in 2015 as part of a peace deal in exchange for a larger say in how their region was ruled. But the CMA was angered by the junta’s decision to expel the UN troops. It was also one of the many groups that objected to sweeping constitutional amendments pushed through by the junta in June. FT

Tuaregs from Northern Mali Call for the ‘Fall of the Junta’
Indeed, the ‘Cadre stratégique permanent’ (CSP or Permanent Strategic Framework), part of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), already claims to be “at war.” The CMA, an alliance of armed groups dominated by Tuaregs, has been implicated in ongoing skirmishes with the junta for over a month. However, Fahad Ag Almahmoud, a senior member in the armed group Gatia, said the armed groups were not trying to divide the country. “We are in a war that the junta in Bamako wants”, he wrote in a statement. “We will continue this war until all of Mali that has been taken hostage by the five colonels is liberated.” … Tuaregs of CSP added to RFI English: “It is too late for dialogue.” GATIA and CSP PSD member Mossa Ag Inzoma, who is close to Fahad Ag Almahmoud, said: “We now want the fall of the junta.” RFI

Counting the Cost of Africa Coups
When Gabon’s General Brice Oligui Nguema ousted his distant cousin last month, he became the eighth military leader who has taken power by force in Africa since 2020. But one aspect about the country was different: it had sold a sizeable amount of bonds on international capital markets, and had just weeks prior sealed continental Africa’s first debt-for-nature swap. The putsch not only sent Gabon’s bonds tumbling 10%, but also hit those issued by a number of other countries including neighbouring Cameroon, as jittery investors scanned for who might be next. The apparent coup trend is adding to other major concerns deterring many investors from Africa – a wave of debt crises, tense geopolitics and an extreme vulnerability to climate change. “Nearly all markets in that region are paying some price in terms of rising cost of debt,” said Sergey Dergachev, portfolio manager at Union Investment. A UNDP study dated July shows how the costs add up. It estimated Guinea’s 2008 coup and one in Mali in 2012 wiped a combined $12-$13.5 billion off the two countries’ economies over a 5-year period. This represented 76% of Guinea’s 2008 gross domestic product and almost half of Mali’s 2012 GDP, the study calculated. Reuters

Unrest and Political Allegations Shake Senegal’s Reputation for Stability in a Volatile Region
As Senegal president Macky Sall arrived in New York for this week’s UN gathering, pro- and anti-Sall protesters faced off near the country’s UN mission, in the latest sign of the political crisis gripping the west African nation. A hunger strike by the country’s opposition leader, deadly protests in advance of next February’s bitterly contested presidential election and a wave of coups in neighbouring states have created a combustible atmosphere in a country traditionally seen as one of west Africa’s most stable democracies and a western ally in an increasingly volatile region. “The political turmoil has put Senegal’s institutions and democracy to the test,” said Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at risk advisory firm SBM. “Set within the backdrop of regional democratic regression, heavy-handedness from Sall’s government could trigger the ghosts of a more uncertain past,” he said, referring to the period after independence in 1960 through to the 1990s when Senegal was effectively a one-party state. Irish Times

Millennium Challenge Corporation Awards Kenya $60 Million to Help Improve Urban Transport  
Kenyan President William Ruto has signed a $60 million dollar grant agreement with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York. The grant will help improve urban transport in Nairobi by concentrating on four projects, making the Kenya program the largest of its kind within MCC’s portfolio. Kenyan President William Ruto lauded the new agreement with the U.S. foreign aid agency MCC, at the signing in New York City Tuesday evening where he is also attending the 78th session of this year’s U.N. General Assembly. “There is a whole one million people who come in and out of Nairobi every day; that poses a very significant challenge on the transport infrastructure. Apart from the Matatu transport system, the mass bus transport system is a very important component,” he said. Threshold grants help countries to reduce constraints to faster economic growth and increase transparency and accountability in the provision of public services. Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Alice Albright says this grant — the second one to Kenya since 2003 — will be the largest and most ambitious threshold agreement that MCC has signed in its 20-year history. VOA

Libya: Flood Rescue Teams in Derna Set Back by Communications Outage
A daylong communication outage in the flood-stricken city of Derna in eastern Libya has further complicated the work of teams searching for bodies under the rubble and at sea. The country’s chief prosecutor, meanwhile, vowed to take “serious measures” to deliver justice for the victims of the floods, which killed thousands of people and devastated the coastal city more than a week ago. The outage was caused when fibre-optic cables were severed on Tuesday, Libya’s state-owned telecommunications company said. Engineers were investigating to determine whether it happened because of digging for bodies or it was sabotage, the company’s spokesperson, Mohamed al-Bdairi, told a local television station. Internet and phone service were knocked out, and residents and journalists were unable to reach those inside Derna. Authorities said communications with the city were restored on Wednesday evening. … Hundreds of angry protesters gathered outside the main mosque in Derna on Monday. … The protesters demanded an investigation into the disaster to be accelerated and called for the reconstruction of Derna to be under UN supervision. AP

Morocco Earthquake: Reconstruction Will Be Long and Complex
To help survivors, the Moroccan government has promised direct aid of 30,000 dirhams per household (around €2,735) and up to 140,000 dirhams (around €12,765) for each destroyed home. “Reconstruction will cost billions, but Morocco can afford it,” said Nabil Benabdellah, housing minister from 2012 to 2017. According to him, the reconstruction project will be funded in part by the rural development fund and the housing solidarity fund, which is fed by a tax on cement and generates around 3 billion dirhams (€27.5 million) a year. As was done during the Covid-19 crisis, a special account has also been set up to collect donations from individuals and contributions from the public and private sectors. It will be used “to fund expenditure on the emergency rehabilitation program and to support housing reconstruction efforts,” said the deputy minister in charge of the budget, Fouzi Lekjaa. The royal Al-Mada holding company, the Central Bank of Morocco and the Office Chérifien des Phosphates have each already contributed 1 billion dirhams. … Because it’s not just a question of rehousing, according to Mohammed VI, the country needs to “launch a well-thought-out, integrated and ambitious program for the reconstruction and overall upgrading of the affected regions.” Le Monde

Sudan Army Chief Headed to UN General Assembly
Sudanese army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, at war for months with paramilitaries, was headed to New York on Wednesday to address the UN General Assembly, his office said. The army chief has made a flurry of visits abroad in recent weeks after shifting base to Port Sudan late last month from army headquarters in Khartoum where he had been holed up under siege since fighting broke out with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of his former deputy, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, on April 15. Analysts have said his diplomatic offensive is a drive to burnish his legitimacy in the event of negotiations to end the fighting. Burhan has already visited Egypt, South Sudan, Qatar, Eritrea, Turkey and Uganda. … The fighting in Sudan has killed at least 7,500 people, according to the NGO Acled and the United Nations says more than five million people have fled their homes. AFP

Sudan: Darfur’s New Generation, Once Full of Promise, Now Suffers ‘Fire of War’
… Darfur, which had been edging toward relative stability, is being torn apart by a nationwide war between the Sudanese Army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. The Rapid Support Forces and its allies, predominantly Arab militias, have assumed control of large parts of Darfur, while the regular army mostly operates from garrisons in major cities, residents and observers said. As the two sides battle for supremacy, civilians have increasingly been caught in the crossfire, particularly in recent weeks. More than 40 people were killed late last month as they took cover under a bridge in Nyala, and at least 40 died in air raids in the city this month, activists and medical workers said. The discovery of mass graves, including more than a dozen last week by the United Nations, has raised fears of a resurgence of ethnically motivated attacks in Darfur — and pushed the International Criminal Court to begin a new investigation into accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region. … Eight lawyers and at least 10 human rights advocates have been killed and their offices ransacked in Darfur in recent weeks, raising fears they were being targeted for documenting human rights violations or providing legal support to victims… New York Times

Zimbabwe: Shunned Mnangagwa Plans Meetings with SADC Leaders on Sidelines of UN General Assembly
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa is planning on meeting southern African heads of state who are currently at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78) in New York. This would be the first time he has had direct conversations with some of the SADC leaders since his controversial, and disputed, election victory in August. Mnangagwa was inaugurated a week after the election results, and only three heads of state from the SADC – the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi, Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa – were in attendance. Since then, Zimbabwe has been at loggerheads with Zambia after President Hakainde Hichilema’s open criticism of the the election process. According to government spokesperson Nick Mangwana, Mnangagwa will have meetings with his closest allies, Ramaphosa and Nyusi. He will also, for the first time since starting his second term, meet SADC chair, Angolan President João Lourenço, and Nambia’s Hage Geingob. … There are reports of ongoing post-election intimidation in Zimbabwe, targeted at opposition legislators and supporters. In a statement, the US Embassy in Harare said: “We are concerned by reports of continued politically motivated violence and intimidation post-election. Every person, no matter their political affiliation, has the right to live free of fear and to be treated fairly under the law.” News24

SADC Appoints Executive Secretary to Lead Election Observer Mission to Eswatini’s ‘Tinkhundla’ Vote
SADC’s executive secretary, Elias Magosi will lead the regional bloc’s Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) to Eswatini for the Kingdom’s general elections slated for the end of this month. Magosi was assigned to the mission by Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security Co-operation. … Just like the SEOM’s previous mission to Zimbabwe, the mission will assess the conduct of the elections against the bloc’s principles and guidelines. These include, amongst others, “full participation of the citizens in the democratic and development processes, measures to prevent political violence, intimidation, and intolerance, equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media; access to information by all citizens, and acceptance of and respect for the election results by all candidates.” … There are 55 tinkhundlas in Eswatini’s four districts. Political parties or affiliates are not allowed to take part in elections. The system is largely seen as a platform for the king to cherry-pick his preferred people to make up the legislature. In December last year, representatives from Eswatini’s civil society and opposition parties gathered in South Africa to discuss and agree on a plan for forcing King Mswati III to resign and establish a democratic monarchy. … Afrobarometer in July conducted an opinion poll in Eswatini. … A full 86% of AmaSwati indicated the last absolute monarchy’s economic position was “fairly bad” or “very bad.” News24

Cameroon Sees More Attacks on Schools, Civilians After Rebel Leader Killed
Cameroon officials say separatists resumed attacks on civilians and schools after a notorious insurgent leader and four of his collaborators were killed during a raid this week. The military said the slain rebel leader, known as Bitter Kola, was behind many atrocities, including the October 2020 murder of seven students at Mother Teresa College in Kumba. Military officials reported on Tuesday that Kola was among five rebels killed in a raid on their hideout in Mofako Butu, a village near Kumba in the South West region. Chamberlin Ntou’ou Ndong, the most senior Cameroon government official in the Meme district, where Kumba is located, said Kola and his fighters had torched several dozen schools, killed an unknown number of civilians and government troops, and abducted scores of others for ransom. VOA

Nigerian State Declares Curfew after Election Tribunal Sacks Governor
Nigeria’s northern Kano state declared a 24-hour curfew on Wednesday after a tribunal overturned the election of an opposition candidate as governor and declared a member of President Bola Tinubu’s party the rightful winner. … Governors wield wide influence in Nigeria, presiding over budgets bigger than some small African countries and their support often influences who becomes president. Wednesday’s ruling by a panel of five judges had sparked fears of unrest in the largely Muslim state. The March gubernatorial vote had seen Abba Yusuf of the New Nigerian Peoples Party, a regional party, defeating ruling All Progressives Congress party candidate Nasiru Gawuna, who alleged fraud. Yusuf can appeal the tribunal decision at the Supreme Court. It is not unusual for governorship election results to be overturned in Nigeria, which has 36 states that are presided over by state governments. Reuters

South Africa to Host US Trade Forum
South Africa will host a meeting in November of nations participating in the U.S. Africa Growth and Opportunity Act despite earlier calls to exclude the country from the forum due to its ties to Russia and the docking of a sanctioned Russian vessel near Cape Town last year. AGOA is U.S. legislation that allows sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access to the U.S. market provided they meet certain conditions, including that they “must eliminate barriers to U.S. trade and investment, enact policies to reduce poverty, combat corruption, and protect human rights.” … The U.S. and South Africa announced in a joint statement that the forum will be held in Johannesburg, indicating a mending of relations following months of diplomatic tensions. “I look forward to visiting South Africa in November to discuss our shared priorities, reaffirm the Administration’s commitment to the continent, and discuss opportunities to make AGOA more transformative as we deepen our trade and investment relations with the sub-Saharan African countries,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said. AP

3 South Africa Navy Personnel Die After They Are Swept off a Submarine Deck during Supply Operation
Three South African navy personnel died and a senior officer was in critical condition after seven crew members of a submarine were swept off its deck by big waves as a helicopter attempted a “vertical transfer” of supplies, the Department of Defence said Thursday. Wednesday’s accident happened as an Air Force Lynx helicopter was attempting what’s known as a “vertrep” — or vertical replenishment — of supplies to the SAS Manthatisi submarine on the ocean surface off the coast of Cape Town, the department said. The operation was immediately called off and a rescue effort was launched. The South African National Defence Force, which comprises all of the armed forces, said a female officer with the rank of lieutenant commander was among those who died. The victims were named after their families were informed. Cape Town and other areas on South Africa’s south coast have been hit by extremely rough seas since last weekend, caused by a phenomenon known as “spring tide.” AP

Ancient Logs Offer Earliest Example of Human Woodworking
Nearly half a million years ago, humans in Africa were assembling wood into large structures, according to a study published Wednesday that describes notched and tapered logs buried under sand in Zambia. The discovery drastically pushes back the historical record of structural woodworking. Before, the oldest known examples of this craft were 9,000-year-old platforms on the edge of a British lake. Ancient wood products are extremely rare because the organic material typically degrades over thousands of years, said Annemieke Milks, an archaeologist at the University of Reading who was not involved in the new study, which appeared in the journal Nature. “It almost never preserves,” she said. It’s not clear what early humans were building in Africa. Dr. Milks said that the new discovery suggested that they used wood not just for spears or digging sticks, but also for far more ambitious creations such as platforms or walkways. New York Times