Africa Media Review for September 30, 2021

Alassane Ouattara Says Hiring Wagner Is Not the Answer in Fight against Islamist Insurgents

Any decision by Mali to hire Russian private security company Wagner to help it fight Islamist insurgents would be “suicide” and “a red line” for other countries in west Africa, Alassane Ouattara, president of Ivory Coast, has said. … In an exclusive interview with the Financial Times, Ouattara, who began a controversial third term in November last year, said that, if Mali’s government went ahead with hiring Wagner, it would be left alone to fight its growing terrorist threat. “First, the French will withdraw their troops. The Germans have said the same. And I’m sure the UN will start dismantling Minusma,” he said, referring to the 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping force. “What will Mali do then? They cannot fight by themselves.” Of the Wagner group, he said: “They are militias. We know what they did in Syria, in Donbas [eastern Ukraine] and in the Central African Republic.” United Nations investigators have accused mercenaries deployed by Wagner in the Central African Republic of committing atrocities. … “[France has] done what we asked them to do,” Ouattara said of France’s intervention in Mali. … West African leaders had made it clear to Mali’s generals, he said, that they must hold an election by next February and return to barracks. “We will not budge on that,” he said. “If not, we will reinforce the sanctions.” FT

Flouting U.N. Sanctions in Africa? No One Is Watching after Russia Move

Russia is delaying the appointment of panels of independent experts to monitor violations of U.N. sanctions on South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR)and Mali, diplomats said on Wednesday, leaving their work in limbo. … The mandates for the panel of experts on South Sudan expired on July 1, for Democratic Republic of Congo on Aug. 1, CAR on Aug. 31 and Mali ends on Sept. 30. Until the council agrees to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appointments for the new mandate of these panels, the experts can’t start work and their efforts to track sanctions violations are hampered. Russia is also delaying a replacement appointment of one expert to the panel monitoring sanctions on Somalia, diplomats said. The rest of the experts on that panel are able to work until their mandate expires in mid-December. Guterres appoints panels of between four and six independent experts for each of these U.N. sanctions regimes. They monitor and report to the Security Council on violations and recommend further action. … Earlier this year, the panel of experts monitoring CAR sanctions accused Russian military instructors and CAR troops of targeting civilians with excessive force, indiscriminate killings, occupation of schools and large-scale looting. Reuters

Tunisian President Appoints Prime Minister amid Protests Over Power Grab

Tunisia’s president appointed a new prime minister on Wednesday amid growing criticism that he has embarked on one-man rule in the Arab Spring’s sole remaining democracy. The newly named head of government, Najla Bouden Romdhan, believed to be the Arab world’s first woman prime minister, is a former geology professor and current director-general at the Ministry of Higher Education. She runs a World Bank-financed program designed to support the modernization of the country’s higher education system. Her appointment came more than two months after the president, Kais Saied, suspended Parliament, fired the prime minister and seized power in what opponents called a “coup.” He went further last week, declaring that he alone would have the authority to write legislation, enact political reforms, propose constitutional amendments and suspend parts of the Constitution. … Coming only after he pushed back his self-imposed deadline indefinitely, the appointment does little to check his rapid accumulation of power. … The Constitution assigns the prime minister the responsibility for choosing a cabinet, but Mr. Saied last week gave himself that task, saying that constitutional provision would simply no longer apply. With Parliament frozen and the military and security services under his control, Mr. Saied has also arrested several political opponents and imposed travel bans and asset freezes on businesspeople and judges. The New York Times

New FAO Report Highlights Urgent Need to Restore Africa’s Degraded Landscape

The first-ever stocktake of Africa’s forests and landscapes, which was released on Wednesday finds slow progress in repairing Africa’s degraded lands and urges ramped up efforts for climate action. Launched during Africa Climate Week, and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the Review of Forest and Landscape Restoration in Africa 2021, shows, that more needs to be done to tap the continent’s opportunity to return land to sustainable production, protect biodiversity, and shield livelihoods in the battle against climate change. “Despite our efforts, every year more forest disappears, costing the continent a three per cent loss of GDP,” said Abebe Haile-Gabriel, Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa. The analysis has been published by FAO together with the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD. Up to 65 per cent of productive land is degraded, while desertification affects 45 per cent of Africa’s land area, according to the review. And while the overall trend is moving downward, net loss of forests is still increasing in Africa, with four million hectares of forest disappearing every year. Moreover, Africa’s drylands are increasingly more vulnerable to climate change and their restoration is a priority for adaptation and building resilient and sustainable food systems. UN News

Ethiopians in Three Regions Go to Polls in Delayed Election

Ethiopians in three regions where elections had been delayed have headed to the polls to vote for their representatives, with one area also voting on whether to form its own regional state. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will form the next government regardless of the results from late voting on Thursday. His party already won 410 of the 436 parliamentary seats that were contested in the June vote. Abiy is under increasing international pressure over the war in the northern region of Tigray, where elections did not take place. Conflict broke out in November 2020, pitting federal and allied regional forces against forces aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which clawed back control of Tigray after months of bloody battles in June. The United Nations says parts of Tigray are experiencing famine. Thursday’s vote takes place in the Somali region, where registration irregularities delayed voting and Harar, where registration issues and a legal dispute caused delays. The other region going to the polls is the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), where ballot and security issues delayed polls. Voters will also decide on 108 regional council seats on Thursday. Citizens in part of SNNPR are also voting in a referendum on whether to break away and form their own regional state, which would make it Ethiopia’s 11th. … Abiy is due to form his new government on October 4. Al Jazeera

Foreign Envoys Arrive in Khartoum to Defuse Sudan’s Political Crisis

Tensions that developed between Sudan’s military and civilian leaders following a thwarted coup on Tuesday last week, have led to the arrival of envoys from South Sudan, France, and the USA. The head of the UN Integrated Mission to Support the Transition in Sudan (UNITAMS) continued his meetings with the members of the Sovereignty Council. Tut Galuak, Security Advisor to the President of South Sudan and chief mediator for the 2019-2020 Sudanese peace negotiations, arrived yesterday. In a press statement at Khartoum Airport, Galuak explained that South Sudan President Salva Kiir instructed him to discuss three files, namely the recent political developments in Sudan, the follow up concerning the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, and the new negotiation round between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North under the leadership of Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu). … Volker Perthes, Head of the UN Integrated Transition Support Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) continued meeting political leaders. Following his meeting with Sovereignty Council President and Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan yesterday, he said in a press statement that he hopes that “the consensus that led to progress in the transitional track towards democracy, peace, stability and justice will not be lost.” Radio Dabanga

Four Remaining Terrorists Seized in Sudan Capital

A vehicle driver was killed by fugitive members of a terrorist cell in Khartoum on Wednesday. The four accused of affiliated with Islamic State have been arrested. The four men managed to flee when security officers raided buildings in Jabra and El Azhari in southern Khartoum on Tuesday. In the raid on a building in Jabra Block 14, two officers of the General Intelligence Service (GIS) and three non-commissioned security officers were killed. Another officer was injured. The next day, the four fugitives killed the driver of the vehicle they fled with, before they were seized. Their arrest brings the number of arrested cell members to 15, all of whom are foreigners. On Tuesday evening, the bodies of the five security officers were buried in a cemetery in Khartoum, in the presence of Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, President of the Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC) and Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), other TSC members, and a number of Ministers. Radio Dabanga

Nigeria: Bandits Kill 20, Abduct Others in Attack on ‘Impenetrable’ Sokoto Community

Bandits on Tuesday night killed at least 20 people and abducted several others in Gatawa, a village in Sabon Birni local government area of Sokoto State. The agrarian community was considered to be one of the few secure villages in the eastern part of the state where bandits have been very active. The deadly attack came barely 24 hours after another in Gangara, in the same local government area. A local resident, Bashir Gobir, said his younger sister was among those kidnapped. An anonymous source said the attack was one of the most horrendous. “They came on motorcycles as usual and started shooting sporadically. They went from house to house checking for food and other things but they also killed 20 people during the attack,” he said. Mr Gobir said he did not know how many people were killed in the attack. “The terrorists raided Gatawa yesterday night. They stole almost everything of value in the village, killed many and abducted several others. My sister, Rahila Galadima, was one of the women taken away by the bandits,” Mr Gobir said. Premium Times

Nigerian Military Battling Peak Ambush Season in Northeast

Over the past few weeks, Nigerian military convoys moving along strategic routes in Borno State have encountered multiple deadly ambushes set up by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). At least 12 soldiers and local civilian support militias were killed in an ISWAP ambush on Sept. 24 along the Marte-Dikwa Road. Days earlier on Sept. 15, insurgents targeted troops at the Gajiram axis of the Maiduguri-Monguno Road and killed 16 soldiers and two members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). On Aug. 22, troops on patrol recovered weapons after an intense clash at Ali Gambori village at Gajiram axis of the Maiduguri-Monguno Road while conducting routine patrols. While on Aug. 17, arms researcher Calibre Obscura shared media material from an ISWAP ambush on troops along Cross Kauwa-Mile 90 Road, also in Borno. In late July, a Military convoy moving in armoured and soft-skin vehicles through a road that cuts through Kareto town connecting Damasak and Gubio towns were ambushed by ISWAP fighters taking cover using buildings and vegetation. Weather conditions and accompanying environmental changes often impact the behaviour of insurgents as well as the nature of threats faced by garrison towns and the military including large-scale attacks or the use of ambushes. HumAngle

Nigerian State Shuts Down Phones, Bans Motorbikes in Bandit Crackdown

Authorities in Nigeria’s Kaduna State shut down telecoms networks and banned the use of motorcycles on Wednesday as part of a raft of measures to tackle bandit gangs that have caused havoc in the country’s northwest for months. Telecoms blackouts are already in force in neighbouring Zamfara and in parts of several other northwestern states, a tactic aimed at helping the security forces crack down on the gangs by preventing coordination. Bandits seeking ransoms and loot have been blamed by the authorities for a string of mass school abductions and deadly attacks on villages and on military targets that have disrupted everyday life for millions of citizens. … The armed gangs operate from remote camps and often travel on motorcycles in large numbers when carrying out a raid. The state government said the motorcycle ban would last for an initial three months. It also said all vehicles used for commercial transport would have to be painted yellow and black within 30 days to help security agents identify them. … The sale of petrol in jerry cans was banned in parts of the state. The new rules were in addition to measures previously taken in Kaduna, including a ban on the transport of charcoal, firewood or livestock and a shutdown of markets in affected areas. Reuters

Summary Killings, Human-Rights Abuses Surge in Eastern DRC

The United Nations has said summary killings in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) soared in August, driven by armed groups but also security forces. In a news conference in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, on Wednesday, the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO said 739 cases of breach of human rights were recorded last month, compared with 492 in July. These resulted in the deaths of at least 293 civilians, including 63 women and 24 children, according to the estimate, compiled by the UN’s Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in the DRC. Ninety-four percent of the documented cases in August occurred in the troubled North Kivu and Ituri provinces. … UNJHRO was set up in 2008 to monitor human rights abuses, especially for women, children and vulnerable people. Its chief, Abdoul Aziz Thioye, told reporters the “state of siege”, under which senior civilian posts have been taken over by military or police officers, had enabled “some improvements in the security situation” but “many challenges remain.” In particular, he expressed concern for the districts of Irumu and Djugu, which have been targeted by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group. “A new tendency” had emerged with the long-running armed group … Thioye said. When the armed forces attack the ADF, the group responds by dispersing into small units and extending into a wider area, he said. “The threat is very complex,” he said. Al Jazeera

Malawi Court Hands Lengthy Prison Term to Chinese Wildlife Trafficker

A Malawi Magistrate’s Court in the capital, Lilongwe, has sentenced a Chinese national, described by some as one of the biggest African wildlife trafficking kingpins, to 32 years in prison after convicting him on three wildlife crimes. The court, however, said the sentences will run concurrently for 14 years and then there is a plan to deport him. But the convict is looking to appeal the sentence. … Brighton Kumchedwa, Malawi’s director of the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, warned that the crackdown on members of the Lin-Zhang gang should send a message to other wildlife trafficking syndicates. … Kumchedwa says the crackdown is a result of new strategies the government put in place toward combating wildlife crimes. “From 2015 thereabout we changed completely the game of handling wildlife crimes. So, we used [our] own intelligence combined with police intelligence. We also used sniffer dogs in the process. So, it’s different strategies that have seen us going this far,” he said. VOA

‘Too Much Water’: Floods Wreak Misery in South Sudan

Barely 16 kilometres (10 miles) from the capital Juba, the devastation is apparent, with locals surrounded by water as they try to feed their children and find a safe place to sleep. “The water is too much,” a visibly distressed Sabina Nene told AFP. “The rain came and drenched us (overnight),” the 30-year-old widow said, as she attempted to dry maize (corn) to prepare porridge for her four children. … Kworjik official James Subek Pitia told AFP that at least 9 000 locals were affected by the floods there. That is a fraction of the 426 000 people reeling from the disaster across the world’s youngest country, according to the UN’s emergency response agency. Emergency workers have used canoes and boats to reach cut-off populations, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a briefing note last week, warning that more heavy rains and flooding were expected in the coming months. … In some parts of the country, conflict has complicated efforts to help those in need, with UN teams struggling to get aid to some 25 000 people in Warrap, a northwestern state plagued by ethnic violence. AFP

How Mobile Money Grew in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Last 10 Years

Two of Africa’s biggest startup stories of 2021 involve the billion-dollar valuations accorded to OPay, and Wave. Propelled by Chinese and American venture capital, each rose rapidly to own large shares of the financial services sector in Nigeria and Senegal respectively, primarily because of their sprawling mobile money operations. But Opay and Wave are just two among many companies behind sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile money push, underpinning an ecosystem that generates $13 billion a month in transaction value, the most of any region in the world. According to the GSM Association (GSMA)—an industry organization that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide—64% of the $2.1 billion transacted daily through mobile money platforms in 2020 happened in sub-Saharan Africa. But before 2011, references to mobile money on the continent were about M-Pesa, Safaricom’s pioneering service in Kenya in 2007. Orange, Airtel, and MTN followed suit with their own versions a few years later, but non-telco operators like Paga, Firstmonie, Ecobank, and Standard Bank also joined the fray, adding diverse models to the business environment. The result is that at least 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have five or more deployed mobile money services, from 5 in Kenya to 17 in Nigeria. More than half of the 310 live mobile money services in the world are in Africa. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones