Africa Media Review for September 29, 2022

How Russia Is Trying to Win Over the Global South
Russia’s efforts to shape narratives and influence politics in Europe and America are well-known. But Mr Putin’s propaganda machine has long targeted the developing world, too. … In Africa, Russian propaganda networks have pushed the line that Western sanctions, rather than Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea, caused food prices to spike… “Russian propaganda today has an edge in the global south,” argues Timothy Snyder of Yale University in an essay for Foreign Affairs. “In much of Africa, Russia is a known quantity, whereas Ukraine is not.” … There are good reasons to worry. Fighting online disinformation is hard at the best of times. Big tech firms, most of which are based in America and serve their English-language users first, find it even trickier in other languages, reckons Tessa Knight, who studies disinformation in Africa at the Atlantic Council, an American think-tank. Academic research on disinformation is likewise mostly skewed towards the rich world, where governments have complained most loudly about the problem. … Local cutouts can spread messages cheaply and in ways that are hard to trace. Groups linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose mercenary army, Wagner, has been used in the Central African Republic, Mozambique and Sudan, have in the past hired marketing firms and influencers to produce content. “They’ve figured out that the more local you can go the better,” says Shelby Grossman of Stanford University’s Internet Observatory. … China’s global propaganda network often pitches in to help, too. … Independent Media, a South African group part-owned by two Chinese state firms, often engages in “information laundering” designed to make sentiment appear homegrown, says Herman Wasserman at the University of Cape Town. … In South Africa there is little evidence that the governing party’s sympathy for Russia is replicated among the general population. The Economist

ANCYL Defends Sending Observers to Russia’s Sham Referendums in Ukraine
Daily Maverick understands that the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) members were invited to participate in a “referendum observation mission” organised by Russia’s Association for Free Research and International Cooperation (Afric), which is regarded … as a propaganda tool to observe, and endorse, elections which Western election observation missions dismiss as rigged — such as in Zimbabwe. Afric is widely believed to be run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. This week, for the first time, Prigozhin publicly admitted that he also runs the Wagner Group, a private military company which is becoming increasingly involved in conflicts, including in Ukraine and Africa. International Idea — the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance — this week [stated] … “These referendums violate the Constitution of Ukraine, which states that the organisation and procedure for conducting referendums ‘are determined exclusively by the laws of Ukraine’ (Art. 92). They are conducted in gross violation of established principles of international humanitarian and human rights law.” … The DA (Democratic Alliance) said the ANCYL was “lending official credibility to these sham polls” … “giving a blank cheque to other pariah nations and governments to annex whatever territory they please…” Daily Maverick

Mali’s Junta Takes Friendly Soldiers Hostage
When 49 ivorian soldiers landed at the airport in Bamako, Mali’s capital, on July 10th they did not expect trouble. For several years hundreds of Ivorians have patrolled their northern neighbour as un peacekeepers. Yet the Malian junta, in charge after coups in 2020 and 2021, arrested the soldiers and called them mercenaries with a “dark purpose”. Ivory Coast said the soldiers were fulfilling a long-standing un security contract—and demanded their release. More than two months later 46 of them are still detained. The saga marks another step in Mali’s descent. Jihadists loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda and Islamic State are ravaging the country and the broader Sahel region. The junta had promised to hold elections in February but seven months on, no votes have been cast. Constant spats with France, which once had more than 5,000 troops fighting jihadists at Mali’s request, prompted the former colonial power to withdraw completely this year. Another reason why the French left was that the junta hired Russian mercenaries from Wagner Group. Since their arrival, the mercenaries and Malian army have massacred hundred of civilians, yet failed to improve security. By mid-September more than 3,600 people had been killed this year, almost double the number for all of last year. The Economist

Ethiopia: Is There a Path to Peace in the Tigray Conflict?
A month ago, there was hope for a peaceful resolution to Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict. A truce in place since March had allowed sorely needed aid to reach the region’s beleaguered population, and both sides were indicating their willingness to negotiate. That truce now lies in tatters. On 24 August, fresh fighting erupted between forces led by the outlawed Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopia’s federal military in the Raya Kobo area of the Amhara region, south of Tigray. Since then, the fighting has spread to other fronts. … The international community has stepped up its mediation efforts during this round of fighting, with the US providing the main diplomatic muscle behind the scenes. … Eritrea is the wildcard. If it can capture major northern Tigrayan towns such as Shire and Adigrat, Ethiopia’s federal government may lose control over events. Even if the Tigray forces repel the push from Eritrea and can be persuaded to sit down for talks, there remains the daunting task of hammering out intractable political issues. These include: agreeing to Tigray’s borders; its status within Ethiopia’s federal system; and coming to a settlement over its large armed force. The New Humanitarian

Satellite Images Show Eritrea Military Buildup Near Tigray
New satellite imagery of one of the world’s most reclusive nations shows a military buildup inside Eritrea near the border with Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, backing up witness accounts of a new, large-scale offensive. Eritrea has fought alongside Ethiopia against Tigray forces. … Witnesses in Eritrea this month told The Associated Press that people including students and public servants are being rounded up across the nation and sent to fight in the new offensive. The satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies shows what Maxar described as battle tanks, self-propelled howitzers and a M-46 field gun battery in the Eritrean town of Serha, near the border, on Sept. 19. The town is across the border from the Tigray town of Zalambessa, one of the first communities overrun in the war. … The U.S. envoy to the Horn of Africa, who has been pressing the Ethiopian and Tigray sides to stop fighting and hold peace talks, told reporters last week that Washington has been tracking Eritrean troop movements across the border. “They are extremely concerning, and we condemn it,” Mike Hammer said. “All external foreign actors should respect Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and avoid fueling the conflict.” AP

National Dialogue in Chad: Proposals for a Prolonged Transition
An internal commission at Chad’s National Reconciliation Dialogue proposed Wednesday (September 28) to extend the transition to elections by two years, keep the head of the military junta as head of state and then allow him to run for president at the ballot box. … Two days before the DNIS is due to close, an internal commission proposed to hundreds of delegates on Wednesday that they adopt the following resolutions: “to renew the transition for a maximum of 24 months”, “to keep the CMT president in office (Mahamat Déby, editor’s note), who becomes the president of the transition.” Above all, the commission proposes that “every Chadian in general and the leaders of the transition, in particular, be eligible to vote and stand for election” in two years. … In the absence of a large majority of the political opposition and civil society organizations boycotting it, as well as two of the three most powerful and feared armed rebel groups, the DNIS is unlikely to reject these proposals. AfricaNews

Over a Decade After 150 Were Killed, Guinea Puts an Ex-President on Trial
The trial of Guinea’s former president and 10 others accused of responsibility for a 2009 stadium massacre and mass rape began Wednesday in the country’s capital, in what survivors and relatives of victims hope will bring long-delayed justice. Thirteen years ago, on Sept. 28, 2009, security forces stormed a stadium where tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters were demonstrating against the president at the time, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, who had seized power in a coup. More than 150 people were killed, hundreds of others were wounded and at least 109 women were raped or sexually assaulted, according to a U.N. investigation and witness accounts gathered by Human Rights Watch. … Since Colonel Doumbouya seized power in September, 2021, the Guinean authorities have cracked down on civil liberties, including banning protests, dissolving the country’s main pro-democracy coalition, and firing live ammunition at demonstrators. At least seven protesters died in clashes with security forces this summer. The government of Colonel Doumbouya has pushed for the trial, which is expected to last at least a year, and has framed it as a chance for overdue justice. … many human rights observers doubt that the trial can take place fairly — or safely — in Guinea’s current political climate. New York Times

Top Rwanda Genocide Suspect and Financier Félicien Kabuga Goes on Trial
A frail 87-year-old Rwandan accused of encouraging and bankrolling the country’s 1994 genocide goes on trial at a United Nations tribunal Thursday, nearly three decades after the 100-day massacre left 800,000 dead. Félicien Kabuga is one of the last fugitives charged over the genocide to face justice, and the start of his trial marks a key day of reckoning for Rwandans who survived the killings or whose families were murdered. Naphtal Ahishakiye, the executive secretary of a genocide survivors’ group known as Ibuka, said it’s never too late for justice to be delivered. “Even with money and protection, one cannot escape a genocide crime,” Ahishakiye said in Rwanda ahead of Thursday’s trial at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague. AP

East African Court of Justice to Rule on Whether Tanzanian Gov’t Can Kick Maasai off Their Land
The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) will on Thursday hand down a ruling in a case where Tanzania is being sued by the Maasai people over the government’s plan to relocate them from their ancestral land to create a wildlife corridor for trophy hunting and elite tourism. The ruling, which was initially set to be handed down in June, was postponed after violent clashes between the police and locals in Loliondo, which resulted in the death of a police officer. The locals are resisting the relocation, which could affect at least 70 000 indigenous Maasai residents occupying 1 500 square kilometres of Loliondo – an area bordering the Serengeti National Park. The Maasai graze their cattle there alongside wild animals. In 2018, the EACJ granted an injunction prohibiting the Tanzanian government from evicting Maasai communities. These communities hope the court will again uphold its earlier decision. If it rules in their favour, the government’s plans to lease the land to Otterlo Business Corporation, a hunting firm linked to the United Arab Emirates royal family, will suffer a setback. Sources close to the case claim that, since the June clashes, the government has been segregating the Maasai people in an attempt to frustrate them. News24

Indigenous Groups, Activists Resist Congo’s Oil Block Plan
The auctioning of oil and gas blocks in Congo has stirred resistance and concern among local Indigenous communities worried about damage to their homes and large swaths of forest, according to a report released Thursday by several environmental groups. In late July, the Congolese government put 30 oil and gas blocks in the country up for auction with 13 blocks crisscrossing through protected areas and national parks, causing uproar among environmentalists. The Congo Basin forest absorbs an extraordinary 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide — about 4% of global emissions — some of which would be released into the atmosphere if the areas are cleared for oil and gas drilling. The report comes just days before Congo’s government is set to co-host with Egypt a meeting on climate change in the capital Kinshasa. That’s ahead of the United Nations’ climate summit in November in Egypt. But concerns about the blocks extend well beyond the increase of greenhouse gas emissions, the report said. Recent hostile relations between Congo and its neighbors, especially Rwanda, could escalate, as 18 of the proposed oil blocks are in borderlands shared by Congo, Rwanda and four other nations, it warned. AP

Nigeria: Controversy Trails Air Raid Targeting “Repentant” Terrorist, Bello Turji
The Nigerian Air Force’s bombing of the country home of a notorious terrorist, Bello Turji, in Fakai, Zamfara State, may have opened a new chapter in the fight against terror and kidnapping in Nigeria’s Northwest region. At least 12 people were killed in the attack, which was carried out by the air component of Operation Hadarin Daji, the Nigerian military’s operation against terrorists, who have been nicknamed bandits by the Nigerian media, in the area. Military and local sources told Premium Times that Mr Turji left Fakai minutes before the air strike. Interestingly, the attack came barely a month after the Zamfara State government claimed Mr Turji had turned a new leaf, accepted peace, and was helping it tackle other terror gangs operating in the state. Local sources also confirmed that attacks in the areas where Mr Turji’s gang operates have reduced. Many residents of the area who spoke to this reporter said the reduction in attacks was because many communities in the general area of Shinkafi – Zurmi – Isa – Sabon Birni (Zamfara and Sokoto states) reached a truce with Mr Turji’s gang. Premium Times

Nigeria Squanders Oil Price Bonanza as Gasoline Subsidies Soar
Nigeria has failed to capitalise on an oil price boom that has helped cushion other exporters from the impact of inflation, with millions more Nigerians now facing poverty. Data from Nigeria’s state oil company NNPC shows that it did not contribute anything to state coffers in the first eight months of 2022, despite crude prices averaging $94 a barrel so far this year, a rise of 42% from last year. At the heart of Nigeria’s problem is that despite being Africa’s biggest oil and gas producer, the country depends almost entirely on imports to cover its gasoline needs. It then subsidises the cost to consumers, which has created a disparity between the price at the pump and what people pay to fill their tanks in neighbouring countries, such as Benin. This has led to widespread smuggling, which has in turn driven up the amount of costly gasoline Nigeria imports and wiped out the gains that it should have made from crude exports because it ends up buying far more than it needs. … Estimates of the amount of gasoline smuggled abroad vary, with some independent researchers putting it at around 15 million litres a day, while NNPC’s own assessment is 42 million. Reuters

Rhino Poaching Rises in Namibia as Population Falls in South Africa
The number of rhinos being poached in Namibia, home to the world’s second-biggest population of the animals, is surging with the government and environmental non-profits suspecting that international syndicates are shifting their focus from South Africa. In the 12 months to the end of August, 74 rhinos were killed illegally, compared with just 16 in the first eight months of 2021, according to government statistics. “The main concern is that South African gangs are moving here, there is quite a bit of sophistication in their ways,” Jaco Muller, the chairman of non-profit Help Our Rhinos Now, said in an interview. “They hit five properties in about two weeks.” The rhino population in neighbouring South Africa has been decimated over the past decade with gangs of poachers killing thousands of the animals to satisfy demand from East Asia where ground up rhino horns are believed to increase virility and cure diseases such as cancer. News24

Three Africans among 2022 Right Livelihood Award Winners
The Swedish-based NGO Right Livelihood on Thursday named Adan, Elman, and Kamugisha winners of the 2022 Right Livelihood Award for their courage in promoting human rights and peace. Adan and Elman are specifically awarded for promoting peace, demilitarization and human rights in Somalia in the face of terrorism and gender-based violence. Kamugisha, on the other hand, has been honored for his courageous work for climate justice and community rights violated by extractivist energy projects in Uganda. “The 2022 Right Livelihood laureates are grassroots actors dedicated to strengthening their communities,” Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director at Right Livelihood, said. Von Uexkull added that their successes demonstrate how we can build societies on the principles of justice rather than exploitation. DW



Photo: Adam Jones