Africa Media Review for September 25, 2023

Gunmen Kill 14, Kidnap 60 in Attacks in Northern Nigeria
Gunmen in Nigeria killed eight people on Sunday and abducted at least 60 others in two communities of northwest Zamfara state, residents and a local traditional leader said, two days after armed men kidnapped dozens from a university in the state. Elsewhere, in the northeast of the country suspected Islamist insurgents ambushed a convoy of vehicles under military escort, killing two soldiers and four civilians, said a police source and a motorist who witnessed the attack. The attackers set fire to five vehicles and drove off with one truck, the witness said. President Bola Tinubu is yet to spell out how he will tackle widespread insecurity. His economic reforms, including the removal of a costly fuel subsidy and freeing the naira currency, have increased the cost of leaving, angering citizens. Residents said gunmen early on Sunday tried to attack a forward army base in a rural Magami community of Zamfara, but were repelled. Zamfara is one of the states worst affected by kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs known locally as bandits. Attacks in the northwest are part of widespread insecurity in Nigeria. Islamist fighters still carry out deadly attacks in the northeast, gangs and separatists attack security forces and government buildings in the southeast, and clashes involving farmers and herders continue to claim lives. Reuters

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa Has Ramped Up Efforts to Suppress Human Rights – Amnesty International
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first tenure has been characterised by a clampdown on human rights, a failure by the second dispensation to break out from the oppressive rule of Robert Mugabe. This is according to Amnesty International which released a damning and brutal assessment of Mnangagwa’s regime in upholding human rights. Khanyo Farisè, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa said the government has missed an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past, instead continuing with impunity. “The Mnangagwa administration has lost a historic opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and, instead, has ramped up efforts to suppress human rights. “The cyclical nature of violence will continue until there is genuine political will to uphold human rights and end impunity. The Zimbabwean government must make genuine efforts to deal with the past injustices to ensure that history does not repeat itself,” said Farisè. … Farisè further said that the government has perfected an art of using law to crack down on opposing voices—taking a leaf from Mugabe’s reign.“ The Mnangagwa administration has continued to misuse the law to crack down on human rights and on anybody who dares to voice a dissenting opinion. New Zimbabwe

The Death Toll from a Truck Bomb at a Checkpoint in Somalia Rises to 21
The death toll from a bombing attack at a government checkpoint in central Somalia has reached 21, authorities said Sunday. The number of wounded in Saturday’s truck bombing in Beledweyne stood at 52, said Abdifatah Mohamed Yusuf, director general of the Hirshabelle ministry of humanitarian and disaster management. He told The Associated Press that 17 of those critically wounded were airlifted to the capital, Mogadishu, for treatment. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility. East Africa’s al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab often carries out such attacks in Somalia. Beledweyne has been the staging point for the Somali government’s ongoing military offensive against the extremists, who control parts of central and southern Somalia. AP

Austin Heads to Kenya for Defense Talks
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin travels Monday to Kenya for talks with defense officials about security and counterterrorism. … Austin on Sunday praised Somali forces for making “impressive progress” in the fight against al-Shabab but cautioned that the terror group still can “export terror from ungoverned spaces.” Austin met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Djibouti Sunday as part of his first visit to the African continent as defense secretary. Earlier, Austin met with the Djiboutian president and defense minister, thanking them for hosting the United States’ primary base in Africa and for supporting Somalia in its fight against extremist groups. Somalia’s army and allied clan militias have continued to drive al-Shabab fighters out of central Somalia as part of the country’s military offensive since the president declared “total war” against the militants in August 2022. … The meeting between Austin and Mohamud came two days after a small arms fire attack on a military barracks in Kulbiyow, Somalia, left one U.S. contractor and a partner force member injured, a senior defense official told VOA. … Meanwhile, U.S. defense officials say the U.S. has not seen a withdrawal of a substantial number of Wagner Group forces following the death of its leader last month. “Wagner still has a substantial presence on the continent,” Austin told reporters Sunday in Djibouti. … Wagner forces will likely be able to sustain its presence in Africa in the near term, Austin added, but will struggle to do so in the mid- to long term without support from the Russian government. One senior official told reporters that some governments have expressed regrets to U.S. officials after allowing Wagner to operate in their countries. VOA

Border Closures by Niger’s Military Junta Cut Off Critical Aid to over 90 000 Malnourished Children
Border closures by the miltary junta in Niger have resulted in the blocking of much-needed aid for malnourished children under the age of five in crisis-hit regions—Tahoua, Maradi, and Zinder—the World Food Programme (WFP) has said. Over 9 300 tonnes of WFP cargo, including specialised foods for the treatment and prevention of malnutrition, are still blocked between the port of Lomé in Togo and the border of Benin. This cargo should be headed for Niger and Burkina Faso. According to the WFP, the sudden move affected 90 000 children in early September, but the figure could rise to 160 000 by October unless the borders are opened. … “This situation has forced WFP to suspend supplementary feeding to 90 000 moderately malnourished children in Tahoua, Maradi and Zinder, starting in early September,” the WFP said. News24

Niger Coup: Macron Says France to Withdraw Troops and Ambassador
President Emmanuel Macron has said France will withdraw its ambassador and end all military co-operation with Niger following a coup. “France has decided to withdraw its ambassador. In the next hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” Mr Macron said. He added that military co-operation was “over” and French troops would leave in “the months to come”. … There are about 1,500 French soldiers in the landlocked West African country helping to fight Islamist militants. The US also has more than 1,000 troops in Niger but these have not been asked to leave. The decision by Paris follows months of animosity and protests against the French presence in its former colony, with regular demonstrations in the capital Niamey. … Mr Macron said he still regarded ousted Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, currently held prisoner by the coup leaders, as the country’s “sole legitimate authority” and had informed him of his decision. He described the deposed president as a “hostage”. BBC

Heavy Fighting Reported in Historic Ethiopian City
Fighting has continued to be reported in Ethiopia’s restive Amhara region between government troops and local militias with the historic city of Gondar seeing heavy urban combat on Sunday. Local militias known as the Fano entered the city, one of the largest in the region, prompting intense clashes with the army. A statement published on the official Facebook page of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) confirmed the clashes adding that government security forces thwarted militia attacks killing more than 50. Fighting is also reported in multiple other places throughout the region with activists and media outlets linked to the militias claiming to have gained control of some areas and capturing dozens of soldiers. The BBC has not been able to independently confirm the claims. The outskirts of Lalibela, another city in the region which is home to the famous rock-hewn churches, saw violence last week which included heavy artilleries. Multiple drone attacks have been reported in recent weeks in several areas. BBC

Russia Woos Haftar, but Can the Derna Floods Give Libyans Another Chance?
On a moonless night shortly after two dams in the port city of Derna collapsed, killing thousands, a hulking Russian Ilyushin IL-76 military cargo aircraft landed at an airport near Benghazi in eastern Libya. “Russian Defence Ministry sends logistical reinforcements, rescue & search equipment after Storm Daniel,” noted a post by a local Libyan news site days after the landing on X, formerly Twitter. … The messaging was clear and gained momentum over the next few days: the Russian defence ministry was on the ground, providing a rapid response in eastern Libya, a region controlled by strongman Khalifa Haftar, head of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). On Sunday, September 17 – a week after “Libya’s 9/11” as the Derna disaster has been dubbed – Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov himself was in town, meeting Haftar at the strongman’s Benghazi office. The Russian defence ministry’s No. 2 is fast becoming Moscow’s “Africa Man”, making several trips to the continent, particularly coup-hit former French colonies such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. … With its 1,700-kilometer Mediterranean coastline across from southern Europe, and its desert land borders providing a gateway to the Sahel and central Africa, Libya is considered vital to Russia’s interests across the two continents. The oil-rich North African nation is divided between the UN-recognised government administering western Libya and Haftar-controlled territory in the east. … Russia’s outreach in eastern Libya predates the Derna disaster and has been largely opaque and shadowy. Just two days before Yevkurov’s humanitarian trip to Benghazi, the Wall Street Journal published a report warning that Russia was seeking access for its warships in eastern Libya. … “It’s about securing a warm water port on the Mediterranean, at Europe and NATO’s southern flank, which has been a covert objective of Russia for quite a long time.” France24

Continued Fighting, Rapes, and Robberies Reported from Sudan
Battles between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continued in large parts of Khartoum state on Sunday. In the South Darfur capital Nyala, fierce fighting resumed over the weekend. In El Fasher, North Darfur, a woman was gang-raped, and houses were plundered. The road between En Nehoud and Kosti is reportedly the ‘most dangerous one’ in the country. In Khartoum, artillery shelling continued near the remains of the General Command of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Republican Palace in the city centre, and in Jabra and El Sahafa neighbourhoods in the weekend. Sources reported heavy smoke rising from central Khartoum. Others told Radio Dabanga that the Sudanese air force continued to target RSF sites in the city on Saturday and Sunday. The SAF Special Task Forces said in a statement yesterday evening that they carried out a “qualitative operation” against the RSF in Omdurman earlier that day. The SAF continued to shell targets in Khartoum North (Khartoum Bahri), in particular Halfaya, from the Wadi Sedna base in northern Omdurman. Dabanga

DRC’s Tshisekedi Declares New ‘War’ on M23 at UN Assembly
The Democratic Republic of Congo may yet be headed for another war between its armed forces – FARDC and the M23 rebel group – going by the speech of President Felix Tshisekedi at the UN General Assembly. The two sides have been on some form of ceasefire since March 2023, but sporadic violence has often ensued between the M23, and some groups allied to the FARDC. But Tshisekedi told the 78th General Assembly of the UN on Wednesday that the group has refused to surrender to dialogue. … Rwanda has often insisted that the long-term solution, including dialogue, must involve the M23. The Nairobi Process under the East African Community had initially isolated the M23 until they respect the ceasefire. In the DRC, however, stakeholders say there are signs of new war. A press release issued by civil society in North Kivu on September 20 notes that “for the past week, new waves of M23 rebels have burst into Masisi territory via neighbouring Rutshuru.” Telesphore Mithondeke, the rapporteur for civil society in North Kivu, said the “M23 men are returning from accelerated training to prepare assaults on FARDC positions.” Mithondeke claims that the rebels are redeploying with the intention of attacking the armed groups known as Wazalendo that claim self-defence. East African

Benin: Dozens Killed in Fuel Depot Blast
An explosion at what is believed to be an illegal fuel depot in southern Benin, killed at least 35 people and injured several others on Saturday, according to the government. A Justice Ministry statement shared by local radio station BIP Radio Cotonou, put the death toll at 35, with a child among the dead. It said a fire broke out at a store, adding that a preliminary investigation suggested it took place as gasoline bags were being unloaded from a vehicle. The French AFP news agency said the blast occurred at a contraband fuel depot and reported that it happened when commuters of cars, motorbikes and tricycle taxis lined up at the warehouse to stock up on fuel. … Benin is among the neighboring states of Nigeria and has a substantial fuel black market, with supplies smuggled from Africa’s most populous country. DW

Kagame Goes for 4th Term, Potentially Joining Club of ‘Power Clingers’
Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s declaration this week that he will run for a fourth term in next presidential election slated for next year was not unexpected, but it has fuelled concerns about the future of democracy in Rwanda. President Kagame, who won the last election with 98.8 percent to earn seven years in office, is eligible for another 10 years under the constitution, which will see him serve for 40 years as president if elected. … But talk is rife that he will find it difficult to shake off the tag of clinging on to power like despots in Africa. Phil Clark, professor of international politics at SOAS University of London told The EastAfrican that the Rwanda leader “has often contrasted himself with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who is destined to remain president well into his 80s.” “He will want to avoid being seen as President Museveni is today: an old man without a coherent vision for the country, still clinging on to power,” the don said. President Kagame has been in power since 2000 and is now Rwanda’s longest-serving president after his predecessor, Juvenal Habyarimana, who reigned for 21 years from 1973 until his assassination in April 1994. … “But the major questions will come from within the (ruling) Rwanda Patriotic Front. Are there frustrated senior members of the party who believe it’s their turn at the presidency? Is it time for fresh thinking at the top? President Kagame himself has spoken about the need to bring younger RPF members into the fold, to keep the party modern and agile. These internal questions will re-emerge in light of Kagame running again in 2024.” East African

Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan Resume Nile Dam Talks
Ethiopia said Saturday it had begun a second round of talks with Egypt and Sudan over a controversial mega-dam built by Addis Ababa on the Nile, long a source of tensions among the three nations. Ethiopia this month announced the completion of the fourth and final filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, prompting immediate condemnation from Cairo, which denounced the move as illegal. Egypt and Sudan fear the massive $4.2 billion dam will severely reduce the share of Nile water they receive and had repeatedly asked Addis Ababa to stop filling it until an agreement was reached. For years at loggerheads over the issue, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed agreed in July to finalize a deal within four months, resuming talks in August. … Egypt has long viewed the dam as an existential threat, as it relies on the Nile for 97% of its water needs. … The dam is central to Ethiopia’s development plans, and in February 2022 Addis Ababa announced that it had begun generating electricity for the first time. … The position of Sudan, which is currently mired in a civil war, has fluctuated in recent years. The United Nations says Egypt could “run out of water by 2025” and parts of Sudan, where the Darfur conflict was essentially a war over access to water, are increasingly vulnerable to drought due to climate change. VOA

Somaliland Rejects Talk of Unification with Somalia after Museveni Comment
The breakaway region of Somaliland said it has no plans to discuss unity with Somalia, appearing to contradict Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who said he would act as a “unification mediator” between the two governments. Somaliland’s government declared autonomy from Somalia in 1991 but has not gained widespread international recognition for independence. “Any dialogue that transpires between Somaliland and Somalia will not discuss unification, but rather how the two previously united countries can move forward separately,” Somaliland’s government said in a statement late on Sunday. Somaliland, which has remained largely peaceful for over three decades while its neighbour has been convulsed by civil war, said it “has no plans for dialogue to discuss unity with Somalia.” Some clan elders in disputed areas along Somaliland’s border with Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland state say they want to be part of Puntland rather than Somaliland. … Museveni’s statement came a day after meeting Jama Musse Jama, a special envoy for Somaliland, in which he said “Somalia and Somaliland should do away with politics of identity if they want prosperity for their country”. Al Jazeera

Ghana: 3-day Protests over Cost of Living Crisis, Leaders’ “Moral Decay” End
With placards reading Ghana deserves better, we are tired of being voting machines or people equals power, protestors rallied in Accra. The 3-day #OccupyJulorbiHouse campaign ended on Saturday (Sep. 23). Despite downpour and sun, demonstrators rallied for political change and economic reform. “We are only being Ghanaians. All we need is food, water, clothes. We want to be able to take care of our mothers and our fathers, leading member and youth activist-democracy hub, Debora Enyonam Dabor told a crowd. Protesters were bent on going to the seat of government, Golden Jubilee House, but the police barred their way. The police initially responded with force on September 21, arresting over 50 protestors, including journalists. … The protest has its roots in the “Fix the Country” movement, which emerged in 2021. AfricaNews

At UN, African Leaders Say Enough is Enough: They Must be Partnered With, Not Sidelined
If you listen to the African leaders addressing the U.N. General Assembly this year, the message is emphatic and unanimous: The continent is done being a victim of a post-World War II order. It is a global power in itself and must be partnered with — not sidelined. … “We as Africa have come to the world, not to ask for alms, charity or handouts, but to work with the rest of the global community and give every human being in this world a decent chance of security and prosperity,” Kenyan President William Ruto said. In his address, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo blamed Africa’s present-day challenges on “historical injustices” and called for reparations for the slave trade. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said the continent is poised to “regain its position as a site of human progress” despite dealing with a “legacy of exploitation and subjugation.” Nigeria’s leader, Bola Tinubu, urged his peers to see the region not as “a problem to be avoided” but as “true friends and partners.” “Africa is nothing less than the key to the world’s future,” said Tinubu, who leads a country that, by 2050, is forecast to become the third most populous in the world. … But with a young population set to double by 2050, Africa is the only rapidly growing region where its people are getting poorer and where some are celebrating the rampant takeover of their democratically elected governments by militaries. AP

African Rhino Numbers Rise for First Time in Decade despite Poaching
Nearly 23,300 rhinoceros roamed the continent at the end of last year, up 5.2 percent on 2021, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “With this good news, we can take a sigh of relief for the first time in a decade,” said Michael Knight, a wildlife ecologist who chairs the IUCN’s African Rhino Specialist Group. The IUCN combined rhino estimates from various nations to produce the continental tally and said a combination of protection and biological management initiatives had led the number of black rhinos to increase by 4.2 percent to 6,487. White rhinos were up 5.6 percent to 16,803, the first increase since 2012, IUCN said. “It is imperative to further consolidate and build upon this positive development and not drop our guard,” Knight added. Rhinos have been decimated by decades of poaching driven by demand from Asia, where horns are used in traditional medicine for their supposed therapeutic effects. RFI

Nigerian Scientist Wins $100,000 Prize for Work in Keeping Newborns Alive
Hippolite Amadi, a Nigerian and Professor of Medical Engineering and Technology, has won a $100,000 prize for emerging as the winner of the Nigerian Prize for Science 2023. Mr Amadi, a visiting professor at the Imperial College London, emerged this year’s winner of the annual award with his work on respiratory technologies for keeping Nigerian newborns alive. Announcing the winner of the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG)-sponsored annual award, the Prize’s Advisory Board, led by Barth Nnaji, a professor, said the winning work was based on the theme: “Innovation for Enhancement of Healthcare Therapy”. The winning innovations comprise a Non-invasive Neonatal Ventilator (NIV), an Oxygen Delivery Blender System, and an Oxygen Splitter System, all powered by solar energy. The NIV is considered the gold standard in the care of preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). Mr Nnaji said Mr Amadi’s work has not only significantly advanced neonatal care in Nigeria and similar countries, but it has also further improved access and lowered the cost of neonatal care by causing an observed reduction in the market prices of the competing and existing devices. Premium Times