Africa Media Review for September 22, 2023

Notorious Russian General, Master Spy Duo Organise in Africa after Prigozhin’s Demise
In recent weeks, Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and General Andrei Averyanov from the GRU military intelligence agency have made several trips to Africa. The two are increasingly seen as the main organisers of the post-Prigozhin era of Russian relationships with Africa following the Wagner Group chief’s demise in a fiery plane crash at the end of August. … Yevkurov, the shrewd politician, and Averyanov, the master spy, thus appear to be as different as they are complementary. However, they both have one quality in common setting them apart from the late Yevgeny Prigozhin: “They’re both reliable, loyal soldiers who are not the type of personality which could be expected to ‘go rogue’,” says Hawn. … Such diverse activities and hybrid warfare, wherein conventional tactics are blended with subversive actions, “require greater dexterity than the Russian security bureaucracy is likely capable of”, writes Joseph Siegle, Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies … in Washington, in an article published on The Conversation. … Yevkurov and Averyanov are thus an important part of the first stage of the reorganisation of Russian operations in Africa. France24

Russia Exploiting Niger Coup on Social Media
In the immediate aftermath of the Niger military coup in late July, Russia’s formal and informal responses were at odds. The Kremlin’s spokesperson called for the immediate release of detained Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum and urged a return to order. Wagner Group kingpin Yevgeny Prigozhin, however, offered to usher in a new order with his notorious mercenaries. In a voice recording posted to social media platform Telegram, he commended the Niger junta, denounced former colonial power France, and spread disinformation. “After the coup in Burkina Faso in October last year, there were Telegram accounts linked to Wagner that were openly saying ‘Niger is our next target,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies research director Joseph Siegle told the Washington Examiner newspaper. “Russia has been interested in seeing a military takeover, which maybe provides an opportunity for them to get more influence.” There are numerous examples and multiple reports that Russia is using traditional and social media channels to exploit the Niger coup. Using the Wagner Group as a proxy for its foreign policy objectives, the Kremlin continues to wage hybrid warfare in Africa and stoke instability. MwanzoTV

Mali’s Junta Struggles to Fight Growing Violence in a Northern Region as UN Peacekeepers Withdraw
Attacks in northern Mali have more than doubled since U.N. peacekeepers completed the first phase of their withdrawal last month after a decade of fighting Islamic extremists, resulting in more than 150 deaths. … After more than three years in power, Mali’s military junta is struggling to fight growing violence in a hard-hit northern region after demanding the withdrawal of around 17,000 peacekeepers. At the same time, a 2015 peace deal with ethnic Tuareg rebels appears to have collapsed, deepening the security crisis. The ongoing withdrawal of the U.N. force, in Mali since 2013, has created loopholes in the country’s overstretched security architecture, analysts said, the result of which is growing deadly attacks by both the jihadi groups and the former rebels, all eyeing new opportunities to dominate and control more regions. The frequency of the violent attacks has never been this bad since 2020 when the country recorded the first of two coups that paved the way for the current junta, according to Mahamadou Bassirou Tangara, a Malian security analyst and researcher for the Conflict Research Network West Africa. … Mali has averaged four violent attacks daily since the turn of the year, a 15% increase when compared to the same period last year, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a top database for conflicts around the world. AP

Timbuktu Siege: Two Killed in Mali Mortar Attack
Two people have been killed and five others injured after shells were fired on the historic northern Malian city of Timbuktu, the army says. The military blamed what it called “terrorists” for the shelling. Timbuktu, a UN-designated World Heritage Site, has been under siege in recent weeks by jihadists, reportedly leading to acute food shortages. … On the same day the army said it had foiled an attack on Léré town, 240km (150 miles) south-west of Timbuktu, killing five militants. On Sunday, five soldiers were killed after two military camps were raided by ethnic Tuareg rebels. An alliance of Tuareg groups that re-launched a rebellion last month said it had captured two bases from the Malian army in Sunday’s fighting. The Tuareg rebels, who want independence for northern Mali, are opposed to the army taking control of bases vacated by departing UN troops in the area. They also accuse the junta of reneging on the 2015 Algiers peace deal that ended their previous rebellion. BBC

Report: Atrocities, War Crimes Pervade Northern Ethiopia despite Peace Pact
A report presented Thursday to the U.N. Human Rights Council accuses all parties to the conflict in northern Ethiopia of widespread atrocities, many amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, despite a peace agreement signed nearly a year ago. The blistering 21-page report from the three-member International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia documents wide-ranging atrocities committed since the conflict between the government and the Tigray Liberation Front erupted November 3, 2020. In presenting the report, Mohamed Chande Othman, commission chair, warned that the failure of last year’s agreement to end the hostilities has shattered optimism that the pact “would pave the way for an end to one of the deadliest conflicts of the 21st century, one which has devastated communities across northern Ethiopia.” … “Not only has the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement failed to bring about any comprehensive peace,” said Othman, “but atrocities are ongoing, and conflict, violence and instability is now near national in dimension.” He said the commission’s investigation clearly shows the Ethiopian government and forces under its control, as well as the Eritrean forces in Ethiopia, continue to commit serious violations and atrocity crimes throughout the northern region. VOA

Zimbabwe: US Government Raises Concern over Attacks on Opposition Supporters
The United States of America (USA) government through its embassy in Harare has raised concerns over reports of continued politically motivated violence and intimidation of opposition members in the post-election period. “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,” reads a post by the embassy on X. Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) members among them MPs and councillors have had their properties torched, been abducted and tortured. Opposition spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi on Wednesday said Epworth ward 4 councillor Noel Rungano had been abducted and dumped after he was tortured. “The wife of Epworth Ward 4 councillor Noel Rungano reports that Cllr Rungano was abducted at his home by unknown assailants in the heart of the night. … “There’s a broad crackdown against the opposition, which includes the use of law enforcement and the judiciary,” human rights lawyer Douglas Coltart said. New Zimbabwe

South Africa Siding with Dictatorship, Says Opposition Leader after Ramaphosa Calls for Lifting of Zimbabwe Sanctions
South Africa is bearing the brunt of leadership ineptitude of Zimbabwe’s ruling party Zanu PF which has led to migration chaos overburdening the country’s social services. These are the sentiments of South Africa’s opposition leader Mmusi Maimane who castigated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s stance against Zimbabwe’s sanctions at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) recently. Maimane accused Ramaphosa and the ruling party African National Congress (ANC) “siding with dictatorship” “You are on the wrong side of history and are hurting both South Africans and Zimbabweans by supporting this dictator. You have chosen to stand with the oppressor. “South Africa pays the price for the dictatorship in Zimbabwe. We pay in healthcare, in housing and social services,” said Maimane. South Africa is home to an estimated 700 000 Zimbabweans with many undocumented trekking down south in search of greener pastures. New Zimbabwe

Somalia Asks UN Security Council to Delay ATMIS Troop Drawdown
Federal Government of Somalia has asked the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to delay the ongoing troops drawdown from the country, signaling the reality that such a move could leave security gaps. Under the drawdown schedule, some 3,000 African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) forces were to leave Somalia at the end of this month, in a continuing withdrawal meant to gradually last until December 2024. On September 19, the Federal Government of Somalia wrote to the UNSC to request that UN Security Council-mandated Atmis calls off the drawdown by at least three months. “The Federal Government of Somalia formally requests a technical pause in the drawdown of the 3,000 Atmis uniformed personnel by 3 months as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2687[2023]. “This request arises from our compelling need to address significant challenges revealed by the Joint Technical Assessment report, which lays out profound implications for the security transition in Somalia,” reads the letter signed by Hussein Sheikh Ali, Somalia’s National Security Advisor, and addressed to Ferit-Hoxha, President of the September President for the UN Security Council. Based on this, sources told The EastAfrican that in their assessment, the authorities in Mogadishu want to prevent an avoidable security vacuum at some of the bases that Atmis forces were vacating or closing, which included strategic government institutions and regional offices. East African

Tunisia Frees Cartoonist after His Arrest over Drawings Mocking PM
Tunisia’s public prosecutor on Friday released the cartoonist Tawfiq Omrane, after he was detained for hours over drawings mocking the prime minister, fuelling concern among free speech advocates. Omrane is well known for publishing satirical cartoons featuring President Kais Saied, who seized almost all powers two years ago after he shut down Tunisia’s elected parliament in a move that the opposition described as a coup. “They interrogated me on suspicion of insulting the prime minister. They showed a drawing that they considered offensive”, Omrane told Diwan FM Tunisian radio. Omrane pledged that he would continue his satirical drawings. “The police interrogated him (Omrane) for hours without the presence of lawyers on suspicion of insulting through social networks … over cartoons mocking the prime minister,” his lawyer, Anas Kadoussi, told Reuters. Kadoussi said the cartoonist could face one year in prison if convicted. … Many Tunisians see free speech as a principal reform won after the 2011 revolution that toppled dictatorial President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Activists, journalists and politicians have warned this freedom is under threat. Reuters

Kenyan President Reiterates His Country’s Commitment to Support Haiti
At the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Kenyan President William Ruto reiterated the country’s commitment to support Haiti with a multinational force that will fight gang-related violence. “Haiti is the ultimate test of international solidarity and collective action,” Ruto said on Thursday, adding that “the international community has failed this test so far and thus let down a people very, very badly.” In August, some nations supported Kenya’s initiative to send police to Haiti, but others expressed uncertainty. A resolution is in the works so that the U.N. Security Council could authorize the move. Ruto urged the U.N. to approve the resolution for Kenya’s mission, saying that the international body should “urgently deliver an appropriate framework to facilitate the deployment of multinational security support as part of a holistic response to Haiti’s challenges.” The two countries established diplomatic relations Wednesday. VOA

Joint Brazilian/Kenyan Jungle Warfare Training in DR Congo
Specialist Brazilian jungle warfare operators deployed in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) better prepared Kenyan soldiers for what they can encounter with an intensive, three-week long training course in the harsh surrounds of Beni. The Kenyan Ministry of Defence (MoD) has it the joint endeavour is “a ground-breaking collaboration”, marking “a milestone in international peacekeeping efforts” and showing “the dedication of both nations to enhance capabilities and contribute to the stability of the region.” The Kenyan quick reaction force (QRF), assigned to MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) was on the receiving end of the expertise residing in the Brazilian Jungle Warfare Mobile Training Team (JWMTT), also a MONUSCO component. … Brazilian Lieutenant Colonel Joao Carlos Duque, who leads his unit, echoed Mwabili’s sentiments: “The diversity of our soldiers and the expertise we gained operating in the Amazon rainforest make us a valuable partner in this venture. Together with our Kenyan colleagues, we aim to raise the bar for peacekeeping forces in jungle environments.” defenceWeb

South Sudan President, Machar Differ over Election Timeline
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar are divided on elections conduct, amid concerns over delays in the implementation of key provisions of the peace deal. Kiir expressed his frustrations on the delays in the polls at the swearing-in ceremony of newly appointed SPLM national advisors, secretaries, and deputy secretaries. … Kiir, who heads the country’s ruling party (SPLM), warned his rivals against taking up arms should they fail to win the elections scheduled for December next year. He said elections would take place, despite delays to implement key provisions in the peace agreement which ended five years of the country’s bloody civil war. The South Sudanese leader reiterated his commitment to ensure elections are held, ruling out any possibilities of extending the current transitional government. … But speaking during the National Economic Conference held in Juba last week, Machar wondered how elections would be held if key prerequisites are not met. These prerequisites, according the opposition leader, include screening, training, and deployment of the necessary unified force, return of the internally displaced persons to their home areas of origin, and return of refugees from neighboring countries to which they fled during the war in search of security and safety. … Machar said implementation of key provisions in the roadmap is behind schedule. Sudan Tribune

In Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, Locals Mourn Their Dead after Earthquake
[Video] After its devastating earthquake on September 8, Morocco accepted aid from four nations: the United Kingdom, Spain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Teams from each country were quick to arrive and set up rescue operations at the base of the Atlas Mountains, where remote villages were badly affected by the quake. However, their job has been anything but easy. FRANCE 24’s Luke Shrago, Tarek Kai and Abdallah Malkawi went on the road with them as they searched for victims and met grieving survivors. France24

Libya Flood Victims: Difficult Search for Missing Migrants
It has been just over a week since devastating floods hit eastern Libya and as yet, Aisha al-Imam has had no word from her eldest son. He was supposed to get married in two months and had gone to Libya to work in construction, to earn money to pay for the ceremony, al-Imam told DW in a tearful phone call. “The loss we have suffered is immense,” said the woman who lives in the central Egyptian province of Beni Suef. “The village cannot bear it. There is not a single household here that has not felt a loss.” … The Egyptian community in Derna, the coastal Libyan city hardest hit by last week’s flooding after two dams burst, numbered around 2,000 people, Tarek al-Kharraz, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry of the government that oversees eastern Libya, confirmed. A large percentage of them are still missing due to the floods, with further victims’ identities yet to be confirmed, he added. Egypt is not the only country impacted in this way. Prior to flooding caused by Storm Daniel, the UN’s migration agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), estimated that there were over 230,000 migrants living in eastern Libya. DW

How Kenya’s Security Spending, Spying Changed after Westgate Attack
When Kenya’s former president Uhuru Kenyatta took office in March 2013, the country’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) was a small offshoot of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) that his predecessor Mwai Kibaki had allocated a paltry Ksh30.5 million ($207,482), mostly for salaries. Then on September 21, 2013, gunmen raided the upmarket Westgate Mall in Nairobi killing at least 67 people, injuring more and prompting a days-long standoff with police. It turned out to be a terrorist attack that rattled Kenya and the entire region, prompting the state to pour billions of shillings into security agencies. The government profiled and watched its own citizens as well as those from neighbouring countries like Somalia, ushering in a new era of mass surveillance. … The government also sank billions into overall internal security systems while demand for private security, including guarding, and CCTV cameras also surged, leading to a business booming as cautious Kenyan households and corporate organisations prioritised their safety. The biggest beneficiary of security spending was the National Intelligence Services (NIS) —Kenya’s spy agency which had been criticised for failing to pick intelligence ahead of the Westgate terror attack. … The legal landscape has also changed as the government enhanced its anti-money laundering (AML) and combating financing terrorism (CFT) framework. East African

Somalia’s First All-Women Newsroom Spotlights Female Taboos
People often laugh when Fathi Mohamed Ahmed tells them she runs the first and only all-female newsroom in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places on the planet to be a reporter. But Bilan, the media house where Ahmed works as chief editor, is far from a punchline, producing a daily mix of hard news and in-depth features for local and sometimes international audiences. In its almost 18 months of operation Bilan, which means “to shine a light”, has overcome prejudice and insecurity to illuminate some of the most taboo subjects in Somalia … Although it is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), success has not come easy or risk-free for Ahmed and her team. With more than 50 journalists killed since 2010, Somalia is the most dangerous country for journalists in Africa, according to Reporters Without Borders. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Somalia last in its Global Impunity Index, which measures the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population. … Bilan has revolutionised the news agenda in Somalia, said Abdallah Al Dardari, director of the United Nations Development Programme Regional Bureau for Arab States. “With their unique voice and the growing reach of the Bilan Media brand, they’re creating a demand for change and better treatment of women and girls that can’t be ignored,” Al Dardari said. Reuters

Nigerian Journalist Wins Global Journalism Award
A Nigerian journalist, Yusuf Anka, Thursday won the Global Shining Light Award for 2023. At an event held in Gothenburg, Sweden, Mr Anka’s documentary on the BBC Africa Eye was adjudged the joint best among over 400 entries from over 80 countries. Published in 2022, the documentary was titled ‘The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara‘. The report exposed the gravity of an underreported crisis: the atrocities of bandit terrorists in northern Nigeria. Mr Anka was, however, not able to physically attend the event because he was denied an entry visa by the Swedish embassy in Nigeria, a BBC official said at the event. The Global Shining Light Award (GSLA) is organised by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) every two years to honour watchdog journalism in developing or transitioning countries, carried out under threat or in perilous conditions. … Mr Anka’s report revealed the true scale and horror of the violence that has engulfed Nigeria’s north-west. It shows how thousands were killed, a million people displaced, and hundreds of schools closed in northern Nigeria. … Mr Anka, 27, is a graduate of law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. As an undergraduate, he began reporting on the conflict in Zamfara for HumAngle and, in 2019, began working with BBC Africa Eye on a documentary film about the violence. Premium Times