Africa Media Review for September 8, 2023

Coups Surge in Africa, but Military Rulers Have Poor Record
The takeover trend, often called “coup contagion,” has swept across big swathes of the continent since 2020, hailed by many ordinary Africans who have grown frustrated by decades of inequality, powerlessness and poverty. But a closer look at Africa’s coup history suggests that the exultant crowds are likely to be deeply disappointed. Military putsches have failed to provide any quick-fix solutions to the chronic problems of their countries. In 2017, thousands of Zimbabweans thronged ecstatically in the streets when the country’s military seized power. They cheered the tanks and the soldiers, celebrating the military’s arrest of long-ruling autocratic president Robert Mugabe. But disillusionment soon set in. Zimbabwe’s economy continued to collapse, and political repression grew worse. Protests in 2018 were crushed by military bullets. Last month’s election was widely seen as rigged. Election observers from neighbouring African countries condemned the regime’s intimidation tactics. … Even the latest West African coups – in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – have brought no improvement to the brutal conflicts sparked by Islamist insurgencies that the coup leaders had promised to fix. The violence has instead continued to worsen, and the rebels have gained more territory. … Military officers who seize power are emboldened by the failures of international efforts to restore civilian rule. … “It is not just that military rulers tend to have a horrible human rights record, it is also that African economies never do well under military rulership.” Globe and Mail

Islamists Kill Dozens of Civilians and Soldiers in Two Attacks in Mali
Islamist militants staged separate attacks on a passenger ferry and a military camp in northern Mali on Thursday, the government said, killing dozens of civilians and soldiers in a region of the West African nation that is increasingly controlled by armed groups. At least 49 civilians and 15 soldiers were killed in the attacks, and the army killed about 50 assailants, the government said in a statement. The attacks were carried out by an affiliate of Al Qaeda, according to the Malian government. They came as Islamist groups have strengthened their grip on northern Mali, including by imposing a blockade on Timbuktu, a fabled site of Islamic influence in the 15th and 16th centuries that is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At least 33,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the blockade in mid-August, according to the United Nations. … Security in northern Mali has been unraveling since last year, after the country’s military rulers ousted a French military mission. In June, they abruptly ordered a United Nations peacekeeping operation of 13,000 personnel to leave the country by the end of the year. The U.N. mission vacated two military camps in the Timbuktu region last month, and insurgents imposed several blockades shortly afterward. New York Times

US Military Repositions Some Troops in Niger, Pulls Non-Essential Personnel
The Pentagon is repositioning some troops and equipment within Niger and will withdraw a small number of non-essential personnel “out of an abundance of caution,” U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday, the first major American military movement in Niger since a coup in July. … Before this movement, there were 1,100 troops in the West African country. “This consolidation represents prudent military planning to safeguard U.S. assets while continuing to address the threat of violent extremism in the region,” one of the officials said. “This does not change our overall force posture in Niger, and we continue to review all options as we assess a way forward,” the official added. “The movement of U.S. assets has been coordinated with and approved by the appropriate authorities.” … After the coup, the United States paused certain foreign assistance programs for Niger and military training has been on hold. Troops have largely been confined to the bases. … “The leaders of this attempted coup are putting Niger’s security at risk, creating a potential vacuum that terrorist groups or other malign groups may exploit,” the official said. Reuters

The G20 Meets This Weekend – and the Rest of Africa May Get to Join South Africa at the Table
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Nigerian counterpart, Bola Tinumbu, will attend this year’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in New Delhi, India, with world leaders potentially creating a seat for the African Union (AU) this weekend. South Africa is the only African country that is part of the G20. There’s a push for Nigeria and the AU to be included in the power circle. Bloomberg reported sources saying that the G20 had agreed to grant the AU permanent membership status, and would announce the decision this weekend. If that happens, it will cease to be known by the suffix 20, which represents the number of intergovernmental forums, comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU). … Lynne Muthoni Wanyeki, the executive director of Open Society-Africa, told News24 that admitting Africa to the G20 would be a step towards empowering the continent. “Africa has demanded more voice and urgency in the multilateral system for decades. This step of admitting Africa collectively to the G20 is one step towards that goal,” she said. Membership in Africa is important because around 80% of the world’s economic output, almost 75% of its exports and about 60% of its population, are accounted for by the G20 countries. News24

Ethiopian Troops Accused of Mass Killings of Civilians in Amhara Region
Ethiopian soldiers killed more than 70 civilians and looted properties in a town in Amhara, multiple witnesses have claimed. The killings took place in Majete, a rural town in north-eastern Ethiopia, after two weeks of heavy fighting between federal soldiers and the Fano, an Amhara militia. The alleged atrocities occurred after Ethiopian troops occupied the town on 3 September. Survivors who spoke to the Guardian said the victims were unarmed farmers. … Fighting between the government and the militia, who were allies in the war in Tigray that ended in November, erupted last month after the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, announced plans to dismantle regional paramilitary forces and absorb them into the national army. The Fano militia refused to surrender its weapons. The government declared a nationwide state of emergency on 4 August. Since then reports have emerged of airstrikes and civilian casualties across the Amhara region. … Last month at least 26 people were reportedly killed in a drone strike in the town of Finote Selam. Guardian

Ethiopia Arrests 3 Journalists Under New State of Emergency
Ethiopia declared a 6-month state of emergency on August 4 in response to conflict in the northern Amhara state. The country’s House of People’s Representatives approved the state of emergency on August 14. The state of emergency gives the government the power to arrest people without a court warrant, among other sweeping powers. Since then, three journalists have been arrested in Ethiopia, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ. The press freedom group said all three reporters published content on the conflict in Amhara and the state of emergency. These arrests come after Ethiopian security forces arrested eight journalists in April over their coverage related to Amhara and human rights, according to Reporters Without Borders, or RSF. In a statement Wednesday, CPJ condemned the latest arrests and called on the government to release all journalists detained in the country for their work. VOA

Sudan’s Army Chief Travels to Qatar for Talks with Emir as Fighting Rages in His Country
Sudan’s army chief traveled to Qatar on Thursday for talks with the country’s emir, making his third international trip since fighting broke out between the military and a rival paramilitary force in mid-April, media reports said. Sudan plunged into chaos almost five months ago, when long-simmering tensions between the military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, escalated into open warfare on April 15. During the visit, Burhan and the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, discussed the challenges facing conflict-stricken Sudan. The talks took place in the Qatari capital, Doha, according to a statement by the Emiri Diwan media outlet. … The visit comes amid a flurry of similar diplomatic meetings convened in Egypt and South Sudan, where Burhan held talks on Monday with South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir. Last week, the general met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in the Egyptian coastal city of el-Alamein, in Burhan’s first trip abroad since Sudan’s conflict erupted. Few details were made public about either trip. AP

Igad Quartet Proposes Unified Peace Bid on Sudan
A four-country team of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) says it wants the various peace bids on Sudan unified to pursue long-lasting stability, signalling its own failures in mediating the deadly conflict. Known as the Quartet, the countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Djibouti, say the conflict in Sudan is threatening to expand beyond the original warring lines, risking the stability of the entire Horn of Africa. And that may be partly due to multiplicity of peace bids, including their own. The Quartet met in Nairobi, on the sidelines of the Africa Climate Summit, for the second time since it was mooted controversially two months ago. Chaired by Kenyan President William Ruto, it began on a wrong footing after the junta in Sudan, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, rejected Kenya’s role, insisting on South Sudan chairmanship. It says it was invited to take part in a parallel dialogue in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia fronted by the US and the Saudi government. The Jeddah Process had also, sort of, stalled after parties failed to adhere to the ceasefire. Now, the Igad team says there is a need to consolidate those processes. EastAfrican

Gabon’s Junta Frees Deposed President on Health Grounds and Appoints a New Prime Minister
Gabon’s ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has been under house arrest since he was deposed last week, is free and can travel abroad for medical treatment, the country’s junta said as it appointed a new prime minister. Raymond Ndong Sima, an economist, was named “prime minister of the transition,” according to a statement read on state television by Col. Ulrich Manfoumbi, spokesman for the transition committee. Sima, 68, served as prime minister under the deposed president from 2012 to 2014 and is believed to have aspired to run in the elections. However, he did not become a candidate for the opposition in the Central African nation’s recent presidential election. … Concerns remain about the military takeovers and the delayed return of democracies in parts of Africa where soldiers have promised a lengthy transition. The new military leader in Gabon has also promised to return power to the people by organizing free, transparent and credible elections but gave no timeframe for the vote. AP

Separatists Kill 3 For Disobeying ‘Ghost Town’ Order In Cameroon
At least three people were killed and several others injured on Sept. 7 by separatist fighters in Muea, a village in the South West region of Cameroon, for disobeying their two-week ghost town order. The fighters had intercepted car owners around 7am and, after killing some, dumped their bodies on the highway. A few vehicles were also set ablaze. A gun battle then ensued when the country’s armed forces rushed to contain the situation. … The two-week ghost town declared by separatists from Sept. 4 to 14, is aimed at preventing schools from resuming effectively in the two English-speaking regions. Samira Daoud, Amnesty International Regional Director for West and Central Africa in a July 2023 report, called on Cameroonian authorities to investigate all allegations of human rights violations and other crimes committed in the context of the armed violence in the Anglophone regions. HumAngle

Nigeria Opposition to Appeal Verdict Upholding Tinubu Presidential Win
Nigeria’s main opposition candidates will appeal a tribunal ruling that affirmed Bola Tinubu’s victory in a disputed presidential election in February that they claim was marred by irregularities, their lawyers said. Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party and Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who came second and third respectively, had asked the court to cancel the election, alleging everything from vote fraud to failure by the electoral agency to post results electronically. They wanted Tinubu to be disqualified. But the Presidential Election Petition Court on Wednesday dismissed their petitions point-by-point in a judgment that lasted more than 11 hours. … At a press briefing in his home state of Anambra on Thursday, Obi said while he respects the views of the tribunal, he disagrees with the judgement and will immediately appeal. … An appeal at the Supreme Court should be filed within 14 days from the date of the tribunal ruling. The apex court then has 60 days to hear the case and make its ruling. Reuters

Liberia President George Weah Launches Campaign for Second Term
Liberia’s President George Weah officially launched his campaign for a second term on Thursday, in front of thousands of supporters in the capital Monrovia ahead of next month’s polls. … Supporters wore red berets bearing the logo of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party as well as blue T-shirts with pictures of Weah and running mate Jewell Taylor, ex-wife of former president Charles Taylor, who is serving a 50-year jail sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Many of those assembled were young people who have backed the party since before they were eligible to vote. Sixty-three percent of Liberians are under the age of 25, according to UN figures. … Twenty presidential candidates are competing to lead the country of about five million. Many Liberians say the rising cost of living and concerns over corruption are key issues that will affect their vote. Many are also worried about possible electoral violence in the country, which suffered back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that left more than 250,000 people dead. AFP

New Faces in Zimbabwe’s 10th Parliament as Opposition Urged to Push for Electoral Reforms
On Thursday, 209 parliamentarians from the ruling Zanu-PF party and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) were sworn into the 10th Parliament, as Zimbabwe moves on from the 23 August general election outcomes. Eighty senators were also sworn in. Zanu-PF fell slightly short of a two-thirds majority, which would have given them leverage to change laws. With 176 members, it will face off with the CCC’s 103. … For the first time in more than two Parliament seasons, there is no independent candidate. This after the only surviving independent from the July 2018 elections, Temba Mliswa, lost to the CCC’s Richard Tsvangirai, the son of the late opposition stalwart Morgan Tsvangirai who founded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Mliswa urged opposition legislators to push for electoral reforms during their time in Parliament. “My clarion call to the opposition is that it should go in with a clear agenda of electoral reforms that it should pursue. “They have experienced the effect of the field in its current state and are aware of what needs to change,” he said. … Some 87 candidates were disqualified, and Mwonzora withdrew from the presidential race ahead of the polls when he stated the country was heading towards sham elections. One of the most notable absentees is Tendai Biti, who has been a legislator for the opposition since 2000, representing Harare East. The delimitation that was used for the August polls collapsed his constituency, and as a result, he was replaced by Allan “Rusty” Markham. News24

South Africa ‘Held to Ransom’ by Big Pharma, Overcharged for COVID Vaccines
Big pharmaceutical companies “bullied” South Africa into signing unfair agreements that forced the country to overpay for COVID-19 vaccines compared with Western nations, according to a nonprofit that lobbied for the details to be released. The details were revealed on Tuesday in an analysis by the Health Justice Initiative (HJI), a South African NGO campaigning against public health inequality after it won a court bid last month to get the government to release its contracts. During the height of the pandemic, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) charged South Africa 15 percent more per dose of its COVID vaccine than it charged the European Union, while Pfizer-BioNTech charged South Africa nearly 33 percent more than it reportedly charged the African Union, according to vaccine contracts between the pharmaceutical companies and the government. “In simple terms, Big Pharma bullied South Africa into these conditions,” HJI director Fatima Hassan told Al Jazeera. “Amid a deadly pandemic, when scarce vaccines were only going to the richest countries, the companies exploited our desperation.” Al Jazeera

After South African Fire, Migrants Fear a Violent Backlash
Two days after escaping a roaring blaze by slithering down a curtain with his 15-month-old daughter strapped to his chest, and hours after burying two fellow Malawians who didn’t survive, Yasini Kumbasa was stopped in downtown Johannesburg by police officers demanding to see his passport. He’d lost just about everything in the fire, but the officers were unmoved when he tried to explain that his passport was destroyed. Accusing him of being in South Africa illegally, they locked him up and demanded at least 1,500 rand, or $78, about what he paid in rent each month, for his release, Mr. Kumbasa said. After spending three nights in a downtown police station, Mr. Kumbasa, 29, said he got out with money his wife borrowed from a Malawian acquaintance. As South Africans furiously debate the decades of failed government policy, overlooked warnings and ineffective leadership that led a derelict building occupied by hundreds of squatters to go up in flames last week, immigrants again find themselves in the cross hairs and feeling more vulnerable, even as they carry the heaviest trauma from the blaze. New York Times

South Sudan: From Garrison Town to Goldrush City: Life in Africa’s Youngest Capital
… Kiden’s is a familiar story in Juba – a city of incomers. The lack of security or basic services in rural South Sudan, a country the size of France with a population approaching 12 million, pushes people to seek opportunities in the capital. Since April, when war broke out in neighbouring Sudan, more than 6,000 of the country’s refugees have arrived in Juba. Most ended up at Gorom, south-west of the city, a camp created years ago to host Ethiopian refugees. Here, food is scarce. Refugees share the little humanitarian assistance they get with some support from the Sudanese community in Juba. The lack of aid has already driven some young people back to Sudan, or even to Libya. In many ways, Juba tells the story of South Sudan. The country broke away from Sudan in July 2011, after a period of autonomy that started at the end of the second Sudanese civil war (1983-2005). By then, Juba was a small garrison town of the Sudan armed forces (SAF) that had been surrounded for years by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) rebels, led by John Garang. When he died in a helicopter crash in July 2005, weeks after being sworn in as Sudan’s first vice-president, Juba opened up for his funeral; the former rebels entered the city they had besieged but never captured, and the rest of the world followed. The soon-to-be youngest capital city in the world became the centre of a new “goldrush.” Guardian