Africa Media Review for September 26, 2023

Mali’s Military Government Postpones a Presidential Election Intended to Restore Civilian Rule
Mali’s military government has postponed a presidential election that was expected to return the West African nation to democracy following a 2020 coup, a government spokesperson said Monday. … It is the second time that Mali’s military government – which emerged from two coups in 2020 – has postponed the country’s presidential election. Politicians in Mali criticized the decision, which could draw economic sanctions from West Africa’s regional bloc, ECOWAS. The bloc eased sanctions on Mali in July 2022 after the government promised to hold the election. “Nothing explains the postponement of the presidential election,” Amadou Koita, president of Mali’s Yeleen-Kura Socialist Party, said. … A wave of coups in Africa’s Sahel region kicked off in Mali in August 2020, when soldiers led by Col. Assimi Goita overthrew the democratically elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. The military said it would restore civilian rule within 18 months. Seven months into the transition process, however, military leaders removed the interim president and prime minister they had appointed and swore in Goita as president of the transitional government. AP

Burkina Faso Suspends French Media Jeune Afrique
Burkina Faso’s junta-led government on Monday suspended French news outlet Jeune Afrique’s print and online operations in the country, accusing it of seeking to “discredit” the military. Since taking power in a coup in 2022, the junta has suspended multiple TV and radio stations and expelled foreign correspondents, especially from French media. … “This publication follows an earlier article by the same newspaper on the same website published on Thursday, in which Jeune Afrique alleged that ‘Discontent is growing in Burkina Faso barracks’,” the statement added. … The decision came almost a year after Captain Ibrahim Traore came to power in a coup, the landlocked country’s second in eight months. In June, Burkina Faso authorities announced the suspension of the French television channel LCI for three months, after expelling the correspondents of the French dailies Liberation and Le Monde in April. At the end of March, they had ordered the suspension of the television channel France 24. AFP

Disinformation around Niger’s Coup
On July 26, Niger’s military junta announced the coup that deposed President Mohamed Bazoum. Two days later, the disinformation had already started. … While disinformation is false, it is clearly consequential. The tangible impact of the plethora of grainy, semi-fictional video collages is more clear than ever. … Disinformation is key to influencing public opinion, and in Niger, targeted disinformation campaigns have centered on three main geopolitical axes: the French, ECOWAS and Russia. Eliud Akwei, a senior data analyst at Code for Africa, which researches disinformation and influence campaigns across Africa, explained that the disinformation the organization has been tracking around Niger feeds into “anti-French narratives, anti-ECOWAS narratives, and then the third is a coordinated amplification of certain pro-Russian narratives.” … Russia has also played a central role in driving disinformation narratives. Akwei says there have been at least two influence campaigns about the arrival of Wagner troops in Niger, with one of these two originating from a Russian media outlet. Akwei also says that Wagner’s disinformation network has been active in the post-coup Niger disinformation atmosphere, despite its own challenges. … Akwei says he and his fellow researchers discovered that many of the accounts sharing fake news around the Niger coup have been involved in similar campaigns across West Africa, such as around the coup in Burkina Faso last year. Inkstick

Why Emmanuel Macron Is Pulling French Troops out of Niger
Last year France decided to wind down Operation Barkhane and quit Mali after military leaders there staged a second military coup, and hired mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group. French forces withdrew to what then seemed to be the relative stability of neighbouring Niger, where France maintains a military base, complete with fighter jets and Reaper drones. … Niger’s junta justified its putsch in July as a response to rising insecurity. In reality political violence has surged since the coup leaders took over. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, political violence increased by 42% in the first month of rule under the junta in Niger compared with the previous month. In the first six months of 2023, when Mr Bazoum held office, by contrast, it fell by 39% compared with the previous six months. … Unlike other former colonial powers, France keeps a strong military presence on the continent, which consists of four other permanent bases, in Djibouti, Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal. This makes it a ready target to blame, and to accuse of neo-colonial occupation. … For France, a serious rethink of its Africa policy and the sustainability of its military presence on the continent is now in order. For the people of Niger, the likely consequence of this episode is that political violence will only get worse. Economist

Egypt Sets a Presidential Election for December with El-Sissi Likely to Stay in Power until 2030
Egypt will hold a presidential election over three days in December, officials announced Monday, with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi highly likely to remain in power until 2030. Waleed Hamza, the chairman of the National Election Authority, said the vote will take place on Dec. 10-12, with a runoff on Jan. 8-10 if no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote. Egyptian expatriates will vote on Dec. 1-3, and in the runoff on Jan. 5-7, he added. A handful of politicians have already announced their bids to run for the country’s highest post, but none poses a serious challenge to el-Sissi, who has been in power since 2014 and has faced criticism from the West over his country’s human rights record. … Thousands of government critics have been silenced or jailed, mainly Islamists but also many prominent secular activists, including many of those behind the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. … [El-Sissi] was first elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018 for a second four-year term. Constitutional amendments, passed in a referendum in 2019, added two years to his second term, and allowed him to run for a third, six-year term. AP

Zimbabwe Opposition Figures Detained in Crackdown after Disputed Election
Barely a week after being sworn in as an opposition MP following elections in Zimbabwe last month, Gift Siziba found himself in police custody facing several charges, including inciting violence at a football match and defacing posters of an opponent in Bulawayo. While other legislators debate in parliament, Siziba, from the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), has been in and out of court defending his innocence. Siziba is just one of a number of opposition politicians and activists who have been arrested and charged with various offences since President Emmerson Mnangagwa won a second term in the 23 August vote, a result the CCC described as a “gigantic fraud.” … Promise Mkananzi, a CCC spokesperson, is in self-imposed exile after a 2020 arrest warrant against him for “defaulting court proceedings” resurfaced. The case, which he said had been resolved, related to alleged incitement of public violence. He accused Zanu-PF of orchestrating the jailing of opposition MPs in an attempt to restore its two-thirds parliamentary majority. “The post-election crackdown is clear evidence of anger, vindictiveness and bitterness,” he said. “It is also a protracted effort to restore their parliamentary majority by hook or crook.” Mkwananzi claimed Zanu-PF was seeking a two thirds majority in part so that Mnangagwa could change the constitution to allow him to seek a third term. Guardian

Researchers Have Verified 1,329 Hunger Deaths in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region since the Cease-Fire There
Researchers say they have verified 1,329 deaths from hunger in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region since a cease-fire ended a two-year conflict there in November. A study by local health authorities and Mekele University in the regional capital found that hunger is now the main cause of death in Tigray, accounting for more than 68% of deaths investigated by the researchers. The study is based on a household census conducted by health workers from August 15-29 in nine subdistricts of Tigray and 53 camps for internally displaced people. … November’s cease-fire kindled hopes that aid would reach the region, but they were dashed by the discovery of the massive theft, with some U.S.-marked bags of grain being sold in local markets. Tigray authorities found that 7,000 metric tons of grain had been stolen. Earlier this month, the region’s leader announced that 480 officials had been arrested in connection with the corruption. AP

Boost for Terror Fight as US, Kenya Sign Pact
Kenya’s fight against the terrorist group Al Shabaab received a major boost on Monday with the signing of a cooperation agreement with the United States that will see Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers trained and provided with financial and technical assistance over the next five years. “The agreement will also see the two countries collaborate on peace and security efforts within the country and in the region, including the planned deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti,” US Secretary of Defence Lloyd James Austin III said at a press briefing in Nairobi on Monday. “The US government deeply values our partnership with Kenya in countering Al Shabaab and is grateful to Kenya for its leadership in addressing security challenges in the region and around the world. I also want to thank the minister today for Kenya’s willingness to consider leading a multinational security assistance mission in Haiti,” he said. Nation

Kenya to Build Nuclear Power Plant from 2027
Kenya targets to kick off the construction of its first nuclear power plant in 2027 as the country seeks to further diversify its energy generation amid rising demand and push for zero-carbon energy. Acting CEO of the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) Justus Wabuyabo told the Business Daily the agency has advanced plans to float international tenders for the construction of in either Kilifi or Kwale counties. The revelation follows approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2021 for Kenya to go ahead with setting up the infrastructure for the plants. … Kenya’s quest to develop a nuclear power plant stems from the projected increase in electricity demand as the country angles to be a middle-income economy by 2030. Geothermal energy accounted for the biggest share of the electricity generated as of May with a share of 45.21 percent followed by hydro (21.05 percent), wind (16.08 percent), and solar at 3.92 percent. … Kenya has over the years stepped up efforts to actualize its nuclear energy dream and has been sending dozens of students abroad to developed economies using nuclear energy, to boost their skill sets and ensure that the country does not wholly import the labour. Business Daily

South African Anti-Migrant ‘Vigilantes’ Register as Party for Next Year’s Polls
An anti-migrant vigilante organisation in South Africa has registered as a political party and plans to contest seats in next year’s general elections. Operation Dudula, whose name means “to force out” in Zulu, wants all foreign nationals who are in the country unofficially to be deported. The party, which first emerged in Johannesburg’s Soweto township after riots in 2021, claims to have widespread support, with a formal presence in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. It claims to be planning to stand candidates in 1,500 of the country’s 4,468 voting districts. Many Operation Dudula followers have faced allegations of hate speech and physical violence. They have staged protests outside embassies, turned people away outside hospitals to prevent foreign nationals from accessing state medical services, and conducted door-to-door searches of businesses in poorer areas demanding to see identity documents. Guardian

Nigerian President Orders Rescue of Kidnapped Female Students
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has ordered security forces to rescue an unspecified number of female students being held by armed kidnappers following an attack Friday at the Federal University Gusau in northwest Zamfara state. Police officials say some victims have been rescued, but the incident is the latest in an escalating wave of violence targeting schools in northern Nigeria. Tinubu’s directive to security agencies to secure the remaining female students was contained in a statement Sunday by the presidency. Tinubu condemned the kidnappings, saying there is no moral justification for such heinous acts against these innocent victims. He also promised the families that all the girls would be rescued, and the perpetrators would pay. Zamfara state police spokesperson, Yazid Abubakar, told VOA by phone Monday that security agencies are heeding the president’s order. … The incident triggered an online campaign dubbed Bring Back our FUGUS Girls. The campaign slogan is similar to a 2014 movement, Bring Back Our Girls or BBOG, which spread across the world after more than 270 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram militants in the town of Chibok in northeastern Borno state. VOA

Nigerian Rapper MohBad’s Death Exposes Murky Side of Afrobeats
The mysterious death of a young Nigerian rapper has sparked protests and vigils from Lagos to London and brought the murky side of the billion-dollar Afrobeats music industry into the spotlight. MohBad, born Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, a fast-rising star whose club hits “Peace” and “Feel Good” climbed the streaming charts in Nigeria, died at a Lagos hospital earlier this month. His sudden demise at 27 and the rush to bury him in the early hours of the following morning have led to angry speculation over foul play. Fans have taken to the streets in several Nigerian cities to demand a thorough investigation, with many saying they identified with the industrious young artist – who was also a singer and songwriter – cut down in his prime. As Nigerian musicians such as Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid and Tiwa Savage sell out arenas at home and abroad, the Afrobeats music scene has morphed over two decades from a little-known genre to a globe-spanning industry. With limited opportunities in the wider economy, Afrobeats has become a symbol of hope and means of expression for Nigerian youth – roughly 70 per cent of the nation’s 200mn citizens are under 30. FT

Despite Risks Fish Farms Are Booming in Africa
“Cage fish farming comes with enormous risks but can also be extremely profitable,” says Mr Ochieng, who is determined to continue. As its name suggests, cage aquaculture involves raising fish in a net cage. It’s become one of the fastest growing food sectors in sub-Saharan Africa, as wild fish stocks have declined and the demand for fish has risen. The number of cages grew from nine in 2006 to more than 20,000 in 2019, according to a study published in Nature Food. In East Africa, between 2017 and 2021, the industry tripled in size, according to a report by Gatsby Africa. … “Although measuring oxygen levels in cages is extremely important, most small holders don’t do it as they cannot afford the required equipment, which costs more than $1,000,” says Dave Okech, chairman of the Cage Fish Farmers Association Kenya. Another problem, according to Mr Okech, is the lack of knowledge among many of the new farmers. “As a result, some put their cages in too shallow waters, which might lead to water pollution, and can result in higher mortalities in the case of upwelling. BBC

Scientific Dynamic Duo Aims to Stop the Next Pandemic before It Starts
These two — [Christian Happi, a molecular biologist at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria and Pardis Sabeti, a computational geneticist at the Broad Institute] — are a dynamic infectious disease fighting duo. “She’s what I call my better academic half,” says Happi. Sabeti doesn’t miss a beat. “I’d also call him my ride or die,” she says. “And I just know he will always have my back.” The pair met while studying malaria 25 years ago and grew close while working together on a lassa fever project in Sierra Leone. Then came late 2013, when people began falling ill in Guinea in West Africa. It would start with a fever and could end with death, but it still took months before health authorities were sufficiently concerned to investigate and take blood samples. Even once they did, the tests were ploddingly slow. … “Every major epidemic we’ve had recently is a virus or from a family of viruses we’ve known about for some time prior and that has likely been circulating in some form for millennia,” explains Sabeti. “So if we got better at just diagnosing every case that came into the clinic, we would be prepared for every epidemic.” Sabeti and Happi considered an inspiring possibility: What if the active monitoring of viruses could happen on the ground in Africa by Africans? “We really thought, ‘OK, now it is time to empower the local health care workers, to detect these pathogens that are circulating,’ ” says Happi. In other words, to enable them to “do things by themselves.” NPR

Tigist Assefa: Marathon World Record from Middle Distance
Tigist Assefa’s performance at the Berlin Marathon on Sunday stunned the sporting world. She chopped more than two minutes off the previous world record set by Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, finishing in just 2:11:53 hours. While the 2022 Berlin Marathon winner had been among the favorites, nobody expected a performance like that. In fact, nobody even thought a time like that was possible for a woman. “I wanted to break the marathon world record, but I couldn’t imagine that it would result in a time under 2:12,” Assefa said. “I am very happy.” … In her homeland, Assefa is already being compared to Ethiopia’s greatest marathon runner, Abebe Bikila. Bikila won Ethiopia’s first Olympic gold medal – in the marathon at the 1960 Rome Summer Games. While his time of 2:15:16 hours was much slower than Tigist Assefa’s world-record, he was running barefoot through the streets of the Italian capital. DW