Africa Media Review for September 28, 2023

Mali Parties Angry at Junta for Postponing Presidential Vote
Malian political groups expressed outrage Wednesday at the junta’s decision to postpone indefinitely the presidential election that was supposed to bring back civilian rule. The ruling junta on Monday announced a delay to a presidential election scheduled for February in the jihadi-hit West African nation. New dates for the voting “will be communicated later,” a government spokesperson had said. The reasons given for the postponement included issues linked to the adoption this year of a new constitution and a review of the electoral lists. The spokesperson also cited a dispute with French company Idemia, which the junta says is involved in the census process. The M5-RFP opposition coalition denounced the decision to delay the two rounds of voting—initially set for Feb. 4 and 18, 2024—saying the junta needs “to respect its commitments.” Since Monday, other parties have spoken out against the postponement, which is a further challenge to the West African bloc ECOWAS. VOA/AFP

Four Officers Arrested in Burkina Faso as Junta Thwarts Coup Attempt
Four officers were detained in Burkina Faso on Thursday—a day after the country’s military junta said it had thwarted an attempted coup by security and intelligence services. The four are suspected of involvement in a “conspiracy against state security”, military prosecutor Ahmed Ferdinand Sountoura said in a statement seen by the French press agency AFP. It’s been almost a year since the country’s leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore, came to power in a coup himself. On Wednesday in a statement read out on state television, the junta said “a proven coup attempt was foiled on 26 September 2023 by Burkina Faso’s intelligence and security services.” Officers and others had plotted to destabilise the country with “the dark intention of attacking the institutions of the Republic and plunging our country in chaos”, it said. … The junta came to power after two military coups last year. RFI

US Defense Secretary Completes First Tour across Africa
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin returns to the United States Thursday after wrapping up his first tour across the African continent as Pentagon chief. Austin started his tour in Djibouti, home to the primary U.S. military base on the African continent. There he met with Djiboutian leaders and Somalia’s president, whose forces, Austin said, had made more progress against the al-Shabab terror group in the past year than the previous five years combined. Austin then turned to Kenya, visiting a base in Manda Bay near the Somali border where a terrorist attack in 2020 killed three Americans. “Message here being very clear that the war on terror still remains top on the agenda of the American government,” said Vincent Kimosop, a policy analyst with Sovereign Insight. … Austin ended his trip on Africa’s western coast, becoming the first U.S. defense secretary to ever visit Angola. Officials of both nations are hopeful that Angola can dump Russia as its arms supplier and opt for American-made weapons. “Africa deserves better than outsiders trying to tighten their grip on this continent,” Austin said. “Africa deserves better than autocrats selling cheap guns, pushing mercenary forces like the Wagner Group or depriving grain from hungry people all around the world.” Austin called out African military juntas without naming Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali or Niger. It was his most forceful rhetoric since the military removed Niger’s elected president from power in July. “When generals overturn the will of the people and put their own ambitions above the rule of law, security suffers — and democracy dies,” Austin said. “Militaries exist to defend their people, not to defy them. And Africa needs militaries that serve their citizens and not the other way around.” VOA

US Announces Visa Restrictions for Those ‘Undermining Democracy’ in Liberia
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday announced visa restrictions for individuals who he said were “undermining democracy” in Liberia ahead of the country’s elections in October. Blinken in a statement released by the U.S. State Department did not specify how many people were affected or identify them. The move restricts their ability to travel to the U.S. The policy is not aimed at the Liberian people or government, Blinken said. The U.S. visa restrictions target people believed to be responsible for “undermining democracy in Liberia, including through manipulation or rigging of the electoral process; use of violence …; or engagement in any other activity designed to improperly influence the outcome of an election,” Blinken said. The U.S. last year imposed sanctions on three Liberian officials for alleged corruption and misappropriation of state assets. The people included Liberia President George Weah’s chief of staff, Nathaniel McGill. Weah fired the officials, who deny wrongdoing. … The European Union said last month it will send an observation mission to Liberia ahead of the country’s general election in October. Liberia

Liberia: Will October 10 Election be Rigged?
Joseph Boakai, the Presidential candidate of the opposition Unity Party, has voiced concerns over the possibility of vote rigging by the ruling party of President George Manneh Weah. Addressing a crowd of supporters in vote-rich Grand Bassa county, Boakai called on Liberians to seriously protect their vote and resist any electoral fraud. … While the former Vice President did not provide any evidence of any steps that would lead to vote rigging, the remarks are just one of the many he and officials of the Unity Party Alliance have made—voicing concerns over the possibility of vote rigging. … However, the Weah administration has vehemently denied the fear of potential vote rigging—describing them as baseless and politically motivated. … The Unity Party Alliance’s concern about potential election rigging, which has been loud in recent weeks, comes as it called out the National Election Commission for not releasing the final voter roll for the highly contested October 10 polls. The final voter roll, which cannot be altered “30 days prior to the elections, except by a Supreme Court order,” plays a pivotal role in ensuring the fairness of elections. It provides the public, candidates, and election monitors an opportunity to review and verify the accuracy of the voter list, thereby reducing the potential for irregularities or fraudulent practices. However, the electoral body has yet to release the vital document as elections are just 16 days away from today’s date of Sept 25. Liberan Observer

Zambian President Hichilema Convenes SADC Troika Meeting, Tables Damning Report on Disputed Zimbabwe Elections
President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, who is also the Southern African Development Community Troika chairperson, convened a virtual meeting Wednesday which discussed Zimbabwe’s disputed harmonized elections that were condemned by regional and international observers. The virtual summit, attended by Namibian President Hage Geingob, the leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo Felix Tshisikedi and Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu, also discussed the security situation in DRC. In a statement issued by Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, the leaders tabled the SADC Electoral Observation Mission report on Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections as well as other impending elections in the SADC region. Zambia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “The values and principles that underpin the promotion of democracy and good governance are also the foundation of Zambia’s foreign policy.” … According to SADC, AU and EU, the polls fell short of regional and international standards. New Zimbabwe

Clashes between Farmers and Herders in South Darfur Leave 10 Dead
Last week, an altercation between farmers from Karamjei village in Manawashi, South Darfur, and cattle herders turned deadly, leaving 10 farmers dead and seven injured. The conflict arose when the herders released their cattle on farmland. A Manawashi resident, speaking to Radio Dabanga, explained that the dispute escalated when the affected farmers collectively decided to drive the animals off their lands. In response, the armed herders attacked them, resulting in a fatal gunfight that claimed the lives of 10 farmers and injured seven others. The incident prompted 2,900 people to flee in fear of additional attacks, seeking refuge in neighbouring villages within the Manawashi administrative unit. “Their health conditions are deteriorating and require urgent assistance,” the source said. … Releasing livestock onto farms during the agricultural winter season remains a significant concern for Darfur’s farmers and villagers. This practice leads to frictions between herding and farming communities and damages large crop areas each year. This not only often results in dozens of deaths and injuries, but has the potential to turn into large-scale, even more deadly tribal conflicts. In February, the Radio Dabanga team explored the issue of early grazing in North Darfur and efforts to enhance stability in the region. Dabanga

South Sudan Leader in Russia for Talks with Putin
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The visit comes at a time when Russia and Western powers are trying to woo African support in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. Mr Kiir arrived in the Russian capital on Wednesday and was received by Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko Yurevich, according to statement from the president’s press unit. Mr Kiir’s office says the meeting with the Russian president on Thursday will discuss prospects for the development of bilateral relations in various areas, as well as regional and international issues. It adds that the visit aims at deepening diplomatic relations and explore other areas of co-operation on trade, investment opportunities and security. The two leaders will also discuss the lifting of an arms embargo and targeted sanctions imposed on individuals in South Sudan, the statement added. In May, Russia abstained in the UN Security Council vote to renew sanctions imposed on South Sudan, which include asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo. BBC

Food Prices are Rising as Countries Limit Exports—Blame Climate Change, El Nino and Russia’s War
How do you cook a meal when a staple ingredient is unaffordable? This question is playing out in households around the world as they face shortages of essential foods like rice, cooking oil and onions. … Food prices worldwide, experts say, will be determined by the interplay of three factors: how El Nino plays out and how long it lasts, whether bad weather damages crops and prompts more export restrictions, and the future of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The warring nations are both major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other food, especially to developing nations where food prices have risen and people are going hungry. … Russia’s July withdrawal from a wartime agreement that ensured ships could safely transport Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea was a blow to global food security, largely leaving only expensive and divisive routes through Europe for the war-torn country’s exports. AP

Uganda’s Anti-gay Law Causing Wave of Rights Abuses, Activists Say
The consideration and passage by Uganda’s government of one of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws have unleashed a torrent of abuse against LGBTQ people, mostly committed by private individuals, rights groups said on Thursday. The Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), which was enacted in May, prescribes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts. At least six people have been charged under it, including two accused of the capital offence of “aggravated homosexuality”. But the report, authored by a committee of the Convening for Equality (CFE) coalition, said the main perpetrators of human rights abuses against LGBTQ people this year – including torture, rape, arrest and eviction – were private individuals. It said this pointed to the way the law and the rampant homophobic rhetoric that preceeded its passage earlier in the year had radicalized the public against the LGBTQ community. For example, the report said mob-aided arrests had become increasingly common “because AHA has put LGBTIQ+ persons on the spot as persons of interest, and the public seems to be the custodians of enforcing the witch hunt.” Reuters

Nigeria: Kano Farmers Helpless as Sand Mining Destroys Farmlands
Clutching a shovel, Yunusa Umar, 30, joins a group of young men at the ever-expanding bank of Tumburawa river in Tassa, a village in Dawakin Kudu Local Government Area (LGA) of Kano State. There, they collect sand extracted from the river into waiting tipper trucks. “I earn between N5,000 and N10,000 or more daily,” he says of his daily job with a smile. … Some years ago, Mr [Rabiu] Audu, now 50, watched helplessly as sand mining expanded the river bank until it eroded his three-acre farmland in Rukku, Kura LGA of Kano State. “In a few months, they will reach my own farm. Like three to four months,” Mr [Yazidu] Labaran says. … Across three local government areas of Madobi, Kura and Dawakin Kudu LGAs, Premium Times interviewed at least a dozen farmers who lost their farms to expanding riverbanks. The activities of sand miners along the Tumburawa river that cuts through several local government areas in Kano State, have been a source of concern for farmers in the communities and environmentalists who pay attention to the development. Sand mining is a silent global environmental problem that is largely ungoverned. Annually, 50 billion tonnes of sand is mined across the world, making it the most extracted material in volume and the second most used resource after water, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Premium Times

Countries Struggle to Keep Pace with Rapid Urbanization
[Video] The number of people living in urban areas in Africa will double to more than 1 billion by 2042, according to World Bank estimates. The continent is urbanizing at a rate not seen before. By 2040, Africa will be home to nine mega cities hosting more than ten million people. Luanda, Dar es Salam, Khartoum, Johannesburg and Addis Ababa are some of the cities headed for megacity status, joining Lagos, Kinshasa and Cairo. Cities are key to driving trade, investment and GDP growth. But rapid urbanization has created capacity problems for cities, and local governments are struggling to plan, provide infrastructure, public transport and other social services. Business Africa

New Initiative Aims to Connect US to Africa
The White House says a new advisory council composed of prominent Americans of African heritage aims at “enhancing dialogue between U.S. officials and the African diaspora”—a key focus of President Joe Biden’s partnership-focused revamped Africa strategy. The initiative coincides with a steady, two-decade rise in immigration from the continent that will have a significant demographic impact in coming decades. The 12 members of the volunteer council—called the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States—were chosen from more than 100 “exceptional” applications and recommendations, said Johnnie Carson, a longtime Africa diplomat who serves as Biden’s special representative to oversee the implementation of the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Carson said it will advise the White House and State Department on how to “deepen the connections that exist between the U.S. and Africa in the business world, in the financial world, in the sporting world, in the creative world, and to stress and bring to the attention of American policymakers issues of concern to the diaspora community.” … The council members come from eight U.S. states and the capital, and have ties spanning the African continent. Some members are U.S.-born, including council leader the Rev. Silvester Beaman, a bishop at the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and decorated artist, actress, producer and author ​Viola Davis. VOA

Morocco and Trio Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda Will Host Upcoming Africa Cup of Nations
Morocco last hosted the AFCON in 1988 and was chosen in 2015 but asked for the tournament to be postponed because of the Ebola virus, although CAF later decided to strip the north African nation of the hosting rights. While Morocco were hot favourites to host the 2025 edition of the premier African sport event, the shock last-minute withdrawal of Algeria from the 2027 race on Tuesday threw it wide open. “This withdrawal can be explained by a new approach from the FAF (Algerian football federation)related to its strategy for developing football in Algeria,” it said. The Kenya-Uganda-Tanzania bid then got the nod from the CAF executive committee, taking the biennial tournament back to east Africa for the first time since Ethiopia staged the 1976 finals. … Morocco boast many world-class stadiums and have successfully hosted numerous African and world football tournaments. But Kenya and Tanzania have only one international-standard venue each and Uganda none, which forced their national team to play 2023 Cup of Nations qualifiers at neutral venues. “One of the key objectives is that the decision that was taken today (promotes) the development of infrastructure and stadiums (and) be a source of enthusiasm among young people,” said Motsepe. AfricaNews/AFP/AP