Africa Media Review for September 27, 2023

French Withdrawal from Niger a Further Risk to Stability
President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement on Sunday that France will withdraw its ambassador from Niger along with the French military contingent was met with satisfaction in the country. The military leaders of Niger expressed their approval, extolling it as a significant step towards achieving sovereignty. … While there have been several military coups in West Africa in the last couple of years, the situation in Niger carries higher stakes because of the impact not only on the country itself, but also on the Sahel region, and its broader implications for West Africa and transcontinental geopolitics. Ghanaian political analyst Mutaru Mumuni Muqthtar, executive director for the West Africa Centre for Counter Extremism (WACCE), warned that, amid the celebrations, it was crucial to consider the future of Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries. “The jubilation will be short-lived, because the country, at the moment, does not have the capacity to propel itself to prosperity, to stability, to ensure the sustained gains against the threats that it is currently dealing with,” Muqthtar told DW. … “The official disengagement of France would mean dire consequences for the region in terms of dealing with violent extremism,” he pointed out. “We estimate that within the next year we will begin to see internal dissent and frustration within the local population against the military junta in place, because they will not have enough steam to carry on and because they do not have enough financial muscle to sustain the current situation.” DW

Malians React to Election Postponement
Monday’s announcement by the ruling junta that the presidential election originally scheduled for February 2024 would be delayed to a later date has led some Malians to voice their dismay. “For us, each extension will always lead to another extension. [The postponement] is deplorable because one of the principles of the Republic is the respect of our commitments,” says Makan Souaré, a member of Yelema Party. Others remain hopeful that the junta will stay true to their word. … Earlier postponements to the junta’s schedule for handing back power to elected civilians led to regional bloc ECOWAS imposing heavy sanctions on Mali in early 2022. Bending to ECOWAS’ pressure, the junta agreed to leave power in March 2024 and announced an updated electoral calendar that set the presidential election for February 2024. As a result, sanctions were lifted in July 2022. The government has yet to announce new dates, saying they will be communicated at a later stage. AfricaNews

UN Says Cholera and Dengue Outbreaks Have Been Reported in Eastern Sudan as Conflict Grinds On
Outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever have been reported in eastern Sudan, where thousands of people are sheltering in crowded camps amid deadly fighting between the country’s military and a rival paramilitary force, the U.N. health agency said on Tuesday. According to the World Health Organization, 162 people suspected of having cholera were admitted to hospitals in Qadarif province and other areas along Sudan’s border with Ethiopia. Eighty cases have been confirmed, and 10 people have died of cholera, a bacterial infection linked to contaminated food or water, WHO said. Sudan was engulfed in chaos in mid-April, when simmering tensions between the military and the powerful paramilitary group exploded into open warfare in the capital, Khartoum, and other areas across the east African nation. … WHO said more than 500 suspected cases of dengue were reported across Sudan, most of them in urban centers in Qadarif. Dengue is caused by the dengue virus transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. The reported figure was “the tip of the iceberg” as the actual number is much higher, given that most of the patients rely on home remedies and often do not go to hospitals, WHO said. AP

Unravelling Sudan’s Militia Matrix: PRF and Other Emerging Forces
In Sudan’s intricate political and military arena, new and established actors continually surface, raising concerns over a prolonged conflict. A new group, the Sudanese Popular Resistance Factions (PRF), announced its aim to “liberate Khartoum” from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Another prominent player, El Bara Bin Malik Brigade, gained attention through its active role in battles. Over the past few weeks, a new armed group – the Sudanese Popular Resistance Factions (PRF) – rapidly gained an online following and has been publishing videos filmed near the frontline in Omdurman, as reported by Sudan War Monitor. … Notably, the group’s name echoes that of the resistance committees, which played a pivotal role in the 2018-2019 revolution that ousted President Omar El Bashir. “However, unlike those committees, this group espouses violence rather than non-violence and emerged not from the grassroots but from the shadows,” Sudan War Monitor stated. … The [El Bara Bin Malik] brigade made appearances in numerous video clips, depicting its active participation, and supporting the army in its ongoing battles against the RSF. Allegations surfaced on social media platforms, with supporters of the RSF suggesting that this brigade consists of remnants of the Al Bashir regime. … Both El Butana group and Homeland Entity, in addition to their calls for the termination of the Juba agreement, share a common stance towards the Sudanese army: they do not view themselves as adversaries of the army. Nevertheless, military analysts caution against such militias, as they often begin as supporters of the army but may eventually pursue their own agendas, potentially becoming sources of instability, as Sudan Tribune reported. Dabanga

Nigeria is ‘Disappearing’ Its People
By 2020, the International Committee of the Red Cross was handling 23,000 missing persons cases in Nigeria, its largest caseload in Africa. Nigeria alone accounts for more than half of the continent’s missing people. A report this month by HumAngle, a Nigerian nonprofit media organisation covering humanitarian issues, has concluded that many of these missing people were victims of extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests by state security forces. HumAngle created a database of nearly 3,650 missing people in the Chibok, Gwoza, Bama and Askira-Uba areas of northern Nigeria. Collaborating with Washington-based New Lines magazine, HumAngle’s investigations editor Kúnlé Adebajo tracked stories of missing people by interviewing eyewitnesses, using geolocation data, reviewing leaked documents and visiting sites. Adebajo told The Continent that at least 200 missing people “were arrested by security agents, mostly soldiers”. HumAngle also obtained figures that show the military took more than 3,320 bodies to a morgue in Borno State between 2013 and 2022. “This doesn’t include the estimated hundreds of bodies taken to mass burial/dumping sites,” Adebajo said. Mail & Guardian

Ethiopian Opposition Party Leader Chane Kebede Arrested
An Ethiopian opposition leader has been arrested in the capital Addis Ababa and his home as well as his office searched, his party said on Tuesday. Ethiopian Citizens for Justice (Ezema) president Chane Kebede, an ethnic Amhara, was arrested on Sunday while sitting at a cafe with a friend and remains behind bars, the party’s head of legal and organisational affairs Seyoum Mengesha said. “We do not know exactly why he was arrested,” Seyoum told AFP. “There are rumours it may be related to the violence in the Amhara region and the current state of emergency.” The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed imposed a six-month state of emergency in Amhara in early August after fighting erupted between federal forces and a local militia known as Fano. The measure gives the authorities sweeping powers to arrest people, impose curfews and ban public gatherings. Ethiopia’s rights body has accused federal forces of carrying out extra-judicial killings in Amhara as well as mass arbitrary detentions under the state of emergency. Seyoum said Chane’s arrest did not comply with “constitutional procedures” and that he was taken away by unknown people in a vehicle without licence plates. East African

Kenya Confident its Police Will End Haiti Gang War
Kenya says it is confident the deployment of hundreds of its police to Haiti by January will end gang warfare there. Last year Haiti’s government appealed for help because of the spiralling gang violence. Gangs have largely overpowered the police and now control more than three-quarters of the capital. Initially Kenyan officials spoke of around 1,000 officers going to Haiti to train local police and help protect key installations there. But Kenya’s Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua says it will be an intervention force to disarm what he called the “thugs and the gangs”. In a BBC interview Alfred Mutua said the Kenyan police would free Haitians who had been kidnapped and free women who were being raped. BBC

Amid Reports of Repression, International Election Observers Head to DRC ahead of December Elections
A five-person core team of experts from France, Mali, Spain and Switzerland is now in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the advance party for The Carter Center’s Election Observer Mission. The DRC is due to hold general elections on 20 December, where incumbent Felix Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), the country’s oldest and largest party, will be seeking re-election. The Carter Center said the five experts would be joined by 20 long-term observers sometime in October. Thereafter, a few weeks before the polls, “a high-level leadership delegation” would also join the mission. The Carter Center’s International Election Observation Mission director, Nicolas Teindas, said they planned to provide “an independent and impartial assessment of the electoral process”. … The official presidential campaigns in the DRC are set to start on 19 November. But well ahead of that, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented numerous cases of intimidation of opposition candidates. News24

Forced Evictions from DR Congo Mineral-rich Villages Blights Outlook
Kolwezi town in the Democratic Republic of Congo was nicknamed the cobalt capital of the world for having plenty of the mineral. The town in Lualaba Province in the south of the country is one of the reasons the DRC has nearly half the world’s cobalt reserves and accounts for 70 percent of global production. … Yet, this town’s blessings are also its curses. Its mined areas are turning inhabitants into sacrificial lambs of displacement as mining operations by multinational companies in Kolwezi push communities out of their homes. … Kinshasa granted advantages to mining investments in order to boost a sector that had fallen into ruin following the general downturn in the economy. This led to massive investment in Kolwezi. Mining majors, in search of minerals for the energy transition, are landing in Kolwezi, a town of around 215 km2 with an estimated population of between 500,000 and one million. Subsequently, companies discovered that deposits rich in cobalt and copper were hidden beneath the soil of inhabited areas. The deposits were even discovered on land where farmers had their fields. This led to the forced eviction of farmers and landowners. East African

UN Rights Expert Calls on Algeria to Pardon Convicted Protesters
The Algerian Government must pay urgent attention to the pattern of legal restrictions and prosecutions of individuals and associations in the North African country, a UN-appointed independent expert said on Tuesday. “The Government must loosen tight restrictions on assemblies and associations to bring laws and practice into conformity with the national Constitution and international human rights law”, said Clément Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to assembly, in a statement at the end of a 10-day official visit to Algeria. He was there as the country weighs ongoing reforms to bring legislation into line with the 2020 Constitution and the aspirations of what are known as the “Hirak demonstrations”, which saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets across Algeria’s major cities to protest every week for more than a year between 2019 and 2020. The Hirak (“movement” in Arabic) refers to a popular protest movement that emerged in Algeria in February 2019 in response to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announcement of his intention to seek a fifth term in office, despite declining health and two decades of rule. … Since its inception, the movement has faced various challenges, including the arrest of activists, restrictions on protests, and attempts by the Government to co-opt and control it. UN News

Nigeria’s Big Unions Call ‘Indefinite’ Strike over Fuel Prices and the Cost of Living
Nigeria’s major unions on Tuesday called for a national strike next week in protest at the government’s response to tackling the rising cost of living. Africa’s largest economy has seen living and transport costs heavily impacted after the government ended a petrol subsidy and also freed the naira, leading to a sharp devaluation of the local currency. Inflation is at 25% while fuel costs have tripled since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu ended the subsidy when he came to power in May calling the move part of necessary reforms to improve a struggling economy. The National Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said they had to call an indefinite strike from 3 October because the government failed to address their concerns in talks over how to ease the financial burden for Nigerians. … The government had urged unions to continue negotiations instead of resorting to strikes, saying this would hurt an economy grappling with double-digit inflation, foreign currency shortages and low oil production. News24

US Suspends Foreign Assistance Programs for Gabon Following Military Coup
The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended most non-humanitarian aid to Gabon after a military takeover in the country last month that was at least the second this year in an African nation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a “pause in certain foreign assistance programs” to Gabon, pending a review of the circumstances that led to the ouster of the country’s former leader President Ali Bongo Ondimba. Blinken said in a statement that the suspension would not affect US government operations in the oil-rich central African nation. The statement did not elaborate on what US-funded programs would be affected or how much money would be placed on hold. … “This interim measure is consistent with steps taken by the Economic Community of Central African States, the African Union, and other international partners, and will continue while we review the facts on the ground in Gabon,” Blinken said. “We are continuing US government operational activities in Gabon, including diplomatic and consular operations supporting US citizens.” … Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema took the oath in the presidential palace in Libreville. Oligui is a cousin of the ousted President Ali Bongo Obdimba, served as a bodyguard to his late father and is head of the Republican guard, an elite military unit. France24

In Uganda, Scramble for Land Intensifies in Fields Surrounding Kampala
On the edge of Kampala, the hard lines of the city start to blur, smudging into soft hills where the breeze rustles through banana leaves. This is the district of Wakiso, which surrounds the Ugandan capital like a cradling hand. It is an in-between place, where village becomes city, and the thud of the hoe gives way to the roar of mechanical graders. Everybody here wants land. Brokers thumb through dog-eared title deeds. Surveyors prowl with their theodolites, measuring precise angles on rolling fields. And last December, in Namayumba sub-county, a posse of heavyset men made camp in a grove of trees, signalling the start of a tussle that would leave 1,000 people in fear for their homes. There was nothing unusual about this dispute. Land conflict has become commonplace in Wakiso, a district of more than three million people. And it is a recurring theme in many African countries as cities seep into their hinterlands, washing away established boundaries and old patterns of living. In Ghana, vigilantes known as “land guards” violently enforce rival claims for land around Accra. In Ethiopia, the expansion of Addis Ababa has unearthed fraught questions of ethnicity and nationhood. In Zambia and Tanzania, survey data shows the growth of commercial farms owned by rich city-dwellers, especially in areas close to towns. … The debate about land is also entangled with questions of identity. Wakiso lies within the domain of the precolonial Buganda kingdom, but many powerful figures in the security forces come from far away in western Uganda, the home region of President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled since 1986. Opposition leader and singer Bobi Wine, who hails from Buganda, said in a recent speech, “Museveni thinks he is going to build his dynasty on the land of our ancestors in Buganda.” Al Jazeera

Elephant Conservation Helping Fight Climate Change in Africa
[Video] Conservationists in Kenya are ramping up efforts to protect elephants and increase their dwindling population. This follows a study published earlier this year that shows elephants play an important role in mitigating climate change. Juma Majanga reports from Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, home to over 2,500 elephants. VOA