Africa Media Review for September 27, 2021

Thousands of Tunisians Rally against President Saied’s Growing Grip on Power
Saied, who on July 25 sacked prime minister Hichem Mechichi, suspended parliament and granted himself judicial powers, on Wednesday also announced “exceptional measures” that allow him to rule by decree. Protesters waving the Tunisian flag gathered Sunday outside the municipal theatre in Tunis, well before the demonstration’s scheduled 1100 GMT start, and shouted slogans in defence of the 2014 national charter. “Constitution, freedom and national dignity,” chanted the mostly male demonstrators, also demanding “national unity against populism” and calling for the “end of the Kais Saied regime.” Security forces were deployed in large numbers along Bourguiba Avenue, which runs through the heart of the capital, with armoured cars, police vans and metal barriers set up to control access to different areas. The president made his power grab on July 25 after months of political stalemate and in the midst of the Covid pandemic, which further aggravated the country’s economic and social difficulties. … Around 20 global and Tunisian human rights groups on Saturday condemned Saied’s “power grab” and labelled it “a first step towards authoritarianism.” Signatories to the statement included Amnesty International’s Tunisia section, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Tunisian Network for Transitional Justice. AFP

Attempted Coup in Sudan Mirrors Building Tension, Unsolved Horn of Africa’s Conflicts
The recent attempted coup in Sudan has exposed the delicate political ground not just in Khartoum but also the Horn of Africa. The neighbourhood is already struggling with a now humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region that threatens to suck in all countries in the region one way or other. … On September 21, officials in Khartoum said they had foiled a coup reportedly masterminded by loyalists of ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, currently serving a jail term for corruption crimes. “What happened in this coup attempt, is an extension of previous attempts against the Transitional Council,” Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said. “They tried to take advantage of the situation in different towns by closing ports and roads and tried to stop us from moving forward during this transitional period,” he added. At least 40 soldiers had been arrested by last Thursday for questioning, but the PM himself admitted that the plot was led by both military and non-military elements in government which he said had ties with al-Bashir. The incident was widely seen as an added threat to the transitional government. The PM said there will be a “total review of the transition experience.” … Since August 2019 when he took office, Mr Hamdook still faces a crisis and has an uphill task uniting, first the military units and weed out Mr Bashir loyalists; and then unite the military and civilian sides of the government. The EastAfrican

Mali Could Delay Post-Coup Elections, Interim PM Says
Mali’s progress back to democracy following the August 2020 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is being closely monitored in a region that has experienced four coups in 13 months, two of them in Mali. Under pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc, Mali’s new military leaders agreed to an 18-month transition that would culminate with presidential and legislative elections on Feb. 27, 2022. But in an interview with Radio France International and France24 on Sunday, Mali’s interim prime minister, Choguel Maiga, said that date could be postponed by “two weeks, two months, a few months.” … ECOWAS has not yet responded. Last month the bloc said it would impose sanctions, including asset freezes, on anyone holding up preparations for Mali’s elections. Reuters

Africom Commander Visits Mali
US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, US Africa Command, travelled to Bamako, Mali, on 23 September, accompanied by US Africa Command Deputy Commander for Civil-Military Engagement Ambassador Andrew Young. While in Mali, Townsend met US Ambassador to Mali Dennis Hankins, Malian transition President Assimi Goita, and Malian Minister of Defence Sadio Camara. In discussions with transition President Goita, Townsend discussed the shared sacrifices of Malian, US, and international forces in seeking to improve security and stability in Mali and the Sahel. Townsend reaffirmed that US Africa Command stands in solidarity with the armed forces and people of Mali as they counter violent extremism. Townsend, Young, and Goita also discussed the need for the transitional government to adhere to its commitment to hold credible, transparent elections and transfer power to a democratically elected government by April 2022. “Mali is at a critical juncture,” said Young. “The best way to achieve progress in Mali’s security and prosperity is to transition back to a democratic, civilian-led government that is responsive to the needs of the Malian people.” defenceWeb

Chad Plans to Double Army Size to Deal with Security Challenges
Chad’s transitional government said on Friday that it plans to drastically increase the size of its army to deal with security challenges, including threats from Islamist militants and armed rebels. Defence Minister General Daoud Yaya Brahim told parliament that the army has begun the process of increasing the total number of troops to 60,000 by the end of 2022, from 35,000 currently. “We have already started the process with the recruitment and training of soldiers and non-commissioned officers. The objective is to build elite unites capable of adapting to the asymmetric warfare our Sahel countries are facing,” Brahim said. … Brahim told parliament that the army would be seeking more funding in the next budget for defence spending. Reuters

Chad’s Military Ruler Mahamat Deby Names Transitional Parliament
Mahamat Idriss Deby, the head of Chad’s military government, has named 93 members of a new interim parliament, five months after declaring himself leader following the death of his father, longtime President Idriss Deby. … The military leader dissolved parliament and promised “free and transparent” elections in 18 months when he declared himself head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council on April 20. Members of the former opposition of his father, who himself came to power in 1990 at the head of a rebel force, were among the members. There was no representation, however, from the opposition platform Wakit Tamma, or from the civil society organisations that have denounced the coup by the younger Deby. … On May 11, the military government – headed by Mahamat Deby and made up of 14 other generals – named former Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke as interim prime minister. Pahimi Padacke was runner-up in the country’s April 11 presidential election that was won by Deby and would have handed him a sixth term in office. A little over a week later, Chad’s armed forces stunned the nation by announcing that Deby had died from wounds suffered while leading soldiers on the front line against Libya-based Chadian rebels advancing from the north towards the capital, N’Djamena. He was 68. Al Jazeera

What Does Peace Mean to South Sudanese?
This week the world observed International Day of Peace under the theme “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.’ … Since achieving independence in 2011, South Sudan has been battling chronic economic, political and humanitarian crises and is struggling to emerge from the aftermath of a five-year civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead and more than four million displaced. … Speaking to South Sudanese in South Sudan and across borders, in the backdrop of economic, political, security, and humanitarian crises, Radio Tamazuj has heard a resounding ‘we want peace’ message echoed across the population. But what does this peace mean to them? For Thon Mom, peace is the silencing of the guns, unification of forces, civil disarmament, and reintegration of former forces into society. “The war must be stopped, the conflicting forces must be unified, weapons must be collected, and the forces must be reintegrated into public life again for the citizens to enjoy permanent movement throughout the country,” he said. Sunday Rial believes peace means the presence of security and stability which allows all internally displaced people and refugees to return to their homes and rebuild their livelihoods. … For Nyadak Thon, peace should be felt by all South Sudanese, not just those who are closest to power in Juba, the capital city through the provision of services to all. Radio Tamazuj

‘Then the Killing Started’: Witnesses Accuse Tigray Fighters
The allegations from the town of Kobo are the latest against Tigray forces as they push through the neighboring Amhara region, in what they call an attempt to pressure Ethiopia’s government to end a 10-month war and lift a deadly blockade on their own home. Both Amhara and Tigrayan civilians have joined the fight, and calls by the United States and others for peace have had little effect as war spreads in one of Africa’s most powerful countries. The accounts from Kobo are the most extensive yet of one of the deadliest known killings of Amhara in the war. The estimates of deaths there range from the dozens to the hundreds; it is not clear how many were killed in all or how many were fighters as opposed to civilians, a line that is becoming increasingly blurred. The Associated Press spoke with more than a dozen witnesses who were in Kobo during the killings, along with others who have family there. They said the fighting started on Sept. 9 as a battle but quickly turned against civilians. At first, Tigray forces who had taken over the area in July fought farmers armed with rifles. But after the Tigray forces briefly lost and regained control of the town, they went door-to-door killing in retaliation, the witnesses said. AP

Somalia: Deadly Explosion Kills Several outside the Presidential Palace
A suicide car bomb attack killed at least eight people in the Somalian capital Mogadishu on Saturday. The Islamist group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack that took place close to the presidential palace. “We have confirmed that eight people most of them civilians died and seven others wounded in the car bomb blast,” district police chief Mucawiye Ahmed Mudey told reporters. The driver of the vehicle detonated the explosives when police stopped him at a checkpoint, witnesses said. The explosion was less than a kilometer away from the Villa Somalia palace. “They normally stop to check and clear vehicles before they can pass by the checkpoint. This car was stopped by the security guards and it went off while there were several other cars and people passing by the nearby road. I saw wounded and dead people being carried,” witness Mohamed Hassan told news agency AFP. … One of those killed in the attack was Hibaq Abukar, an adviser for Prime Minister Mohamed Roble on women and human rights. DW

Théoneste Bagosora, a Mastermind of Rwanda Genocide, Dies at 80
Théoneste Bagosora, a senior Rwandan military figure who was one of the masterminds of the Rwandan genocide, died on Saturday in a prison in Mali. He was 80. His death was confirmed by an official with the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague. The official did not specify the cause of death. Mr. Bagosora was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2008 and was serving a 35-year sentence, which was reduced from life in prison. He was the cabinet director for Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense during the 1994 genocide, in which ethnic Hutu extremists killed as many as 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just 100 days. In the three days after April 6, 1994, when the plane of the Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana, crashed, Mr. Bagosora was found to have “assumed the power of the highest authority” in the Ministry of Defense, besides holding significant influence on political affairs. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found that during that time he ordered the killing of some of the country’s top political figures, as well as the massacre of civilians in the capital, Kigali, and in the country’s west. The New York Times

The Nigerian Separatist Movement Being Powered from a Suburban London Home
Tucked away down a quiet, leafy street in Peckham, southeast London, is the registered address of a movement seeking to break Nigeria apart. This suburban spot is the unlikely location for Radio Biafra, a network of internet-based amateur radio stations broadcasting a separatist agenda back to listeners in Nigeria. Radio Biafra is operated by Nnamdi Kanu, a British citizen leading the calls to revive the former Republic of Biafra through an organization he founded called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The group was banned by the Nigerian government in 2017 and Kanu has been arrested several times on charges of treason and instigating violence. He was first arrested in October 2015 for treasonable felony, among other charges. He was released on bail in 2017 and fled to the UK. Before his most recent arrest in Kenya in June, Kanu’s supporters used the Peckham house for Radio Biafra broadcasts, according to Darlington Imoh, who answered the door when CNN visited in August. He describes himself as the “officer of output for the Biafran campaign.” The International Crisis Group, an organization working to prevent war, described Radio Biafra in 2015 as “an unlicensed station urging violent struggle to achieve independence for Biafra” with broadcasts that are “highly provocative messages laced with misinformation, hate speech, and anti-Nigeria derision.” CNN

Inside the Killings, Destructions by ‘IPOB Militants’ in Southeast Nigeria
[IPOB] was founded in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, who had spoken at gatherings threatening Nigerian authorities and calling for Biafra’s independence. At various times, he referred to Nigeria as a zoo, urging his loyalists to take up arms against the state. “We need guns and we need bullets. It’s either Biafra or death,” he said in a 2017 interview. … Kanu was recaptured and he has since June 29 remained in detention. In response to Kanu’s troubles, a group of pro-Biafra protesters have been leading marches in southeastern parts of Nigeria to push for his release. The group further ordered sit-at-home and asked Igbo residents to observe the curfew in all states of the region. … Since IPOB began enforcement, Monday has become an unproductive day in the Southeast. There is often a near total compliance with the order apparently because of threats of heavy consequences on violators by IPOB. In most Igbo communities, markets, schools, banks, motor parks, and even worship centres are shut down as members of the IPOB’s Eastern Security Network (ESN) move around streets. They frequently have confrontations with constitutionally established security personnel such as soldiers and police officers, often leading to fatalities. The enforcers also have a history of attacking residents who defied the order either by killing them or destroying their businesses. … Residents also believe that regular observation of the sit-at-home order is not a sacrifice for the actualisation of Biafra but a direct way of killing the region’s economy as business owners are fast considering other regions. HumAngle

Wole Soyinka: ‘This Book Is My Gift to Nigeria’
At 87, Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian icon. His plays have been performed around the world, his poems anthologised, his novels studied in schools and universities, while his nonfiction writing has been the scourge of many a Nigerian dictator. He was imprisoned for 22 months during the Nigerian civil war in the late 1960s for attempting to broker peace; his activism led him again into exile two decades later during the era of General Sani Abacha, military ruler of Nigeria, when the environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel prize in literature and became the first African laureate, but his status in Nigerian letters was secured long before then. For a generation of young Nigerian writers, his work has been transformative. It has inspired artists, too – in Lagos, many display their skill by painting famous faces, his among them. There was even a musical duo called Soyinka’s Afro. … Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, Soyinka’s first novel in nearly half a century, is published in the UK this month. It is a high-jinks state-of-the-nation novel that follows a religious leader, a politician, a media baron and a group of university friends as they scheme their way through a version of present-day Nigeria. The Guardian



Photo: Adam Jones