Africa Media Review for April 12, 2023

At Least 3,500 AU Soldiers Killed in Somalia Since 2007
Thousands of African Union peacekeepers have been killed and hundreds more injured in Somalia since the forces began their work in that country in early 2007, the head of their mission told VOA Somali. The peacekeepers were deployed to help protect the government and installations from al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabab militants. Mohamed El-Amine Souef, the special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, disclosed the casualty figures during an interview last week with the “Investigative Dossier,” a VOA Somali radio program. “The troops were not well-prepared, and the administration was not even in Mogadishu. Many cases were not properly documented,” Souef said via the WhatsApp messaging platform. Originally known as the African Union Mission in Somalia, the operation’s first deployment in Mogadishu came in March 2007 with troops from Uganda. In April 2022, the African Union Mission changed its name to the African Union Transition Mission, or ATMIS, with a view to withdrawing from Somalia by December 2024 after Somali forces assumed security responsibilities in the country. ATMIS currently has around 19,000 peacekeepers operating in Somalia. VOA

In Mogadishu, UN Chief Urges ‘Massive International Support’ for Somalia
Continuing his tradition of carrying out solidarity visits to Muslim countries during the Holy Month of Ramadan, the United Nations chief today landed in Somalia, where he underlined the need for international engagement to alleviate the country’s dire humanitarian situation and aid with state-building efforts. “I am also here to ring the alarm on the need of massive international support, because of the humanitarian difficulties the country is facing, massive humanitarian support in relation to the build-up of a security capacity of Somalia, and massive humanitarian support in stabilisation and development of the country,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. … “It is time for the international community to mobilise much more support, support for the Somalis to guarantee the security of their people and fight terrorism, support for the Somalis to solve the humanitarian drama that we can witness in a camp like this one.” UN News

Mali: Guterres Urges Junta to “Speed Up” Civilian Return
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Mali’s ruling junta to “accelerate” the pace of returning power to elected civilians by early 2024 as it has pledged to do, in a report to the Security Council. In this report, consulted by AFP on Tuesday on the eve of a Council meeting, Mr. Guterres is also concerned about the persistence of violence and its impact on the population, and the “impasse” in which an important peace agreement between the Malian state and armed groups in the north is located. … In his quarterly report, Guterres notes “progress” on this path, such as the drafting of a constitution and the creation of an election management authority. But, he added, “there has been a delay in the implementation of some key activities. “With less than a year to go before the end of the transition, it is incumbent on the Malian authorities to do everything in their power to accelerate this process so that constitutional order is restored within the agreed timeframe,” he said. The junta has just announced the indefinite postponement of a referendum on the constitution. AfricaNews/AFP

Tunisian Police Destroy Migrant Camp by UN Office
Police in Tunisia’s capital have forcefully removed homeless sub-Saharan Africans who had been camping outside UN buildings in Tunis for several weeks. Many black Africans have been seeking repatriation after recent remarks by President Kais Saied unleashed a wave of violence against them. He denies inciting hatred by saying they were part of a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of the North African country, which has a predominantly Arab-Muslim culture. What followed was a crackdown on migrants with many subjected to detentions, abuse and evictions from their houses. Journalists have been tweeting from the scene of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) office, saying a camp where migrants had gathered has been completely destroyed. “Police have arrested many people, and having spoken to one migrant, he says he cannot find his wife and child now,” tweeted freelance journalist Elizia Volkmann, adding that many of them were registered refugees. “Lawyers are investigating where those arrested have been taken,” she said. BBC

Equatorial Guinea: 11 Deaths from Marburg Virus – New Report
A new provisional death toll from the Marburg virus outbreak that has been raging for nearly three months in Equatorial Guinea has risen to 11 confirmed deaths, according to a new Health Ministry report Tuesday. The last death recorded by the authorities was due to the epidemic of this virus cousin of Ebola and almost as deadly as it was on April 3. The ministry also mentions 15 positive cases, none of which are hospitalized, and 385 contact cases “followed” against 604 last week, said the ministry in a document dated Monday and posted on Twitter Tuesday. Cases of the hemorrhagic fever have spread from the eastern province of Kie-Ntem, where it caused the first known deaths on January 7, to Bata, the economic capital of the small central African country, where nine cases have been confirmed, according to authorities. AfricaNews/AFP

Mass Graves, Unclaimed Bodies Haunt East DR Congo Kishishe Town
Michel hid in the outdoor lavatory of his church in Kishishe, a town in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, praying that M23 rebels wouldn’t find him. That day, November 29, the rebels raided the town of thousands of people and committed their worst-recorded massacre since launching their campaign in late 2021. Over 170 civilians were killed, according to the United Nations. “They told them to sit on the edge of a hole, and they started shooting them,” said Michel, who witnessed the killings from his hiding place. M23 rebels had captured Kishishe a week earlier, but they swept back into the town again that morning searching for Mai-Mai militiamen who attacked them and then hid inside houses, according to several residents. … The Tutsi-led militia has gained strategic toeholds across North Kivu, including lucrative border posts and control of most roads leading to Goma. But its capture of Kishishe was resonant for another reason: the town had long been a bastion of the FDLR militia — a descendant of the Rwandan Hutu extremist groups that carried out the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The Nation

Regional Military Force in Eastern DRC Fuels Fears of Fragmentation, Hopes for Peace
The EAC troops are tasked with defusing the tension flared up in eastern DRC by rebel groups. Then why do some Congolese fear a fragmentation of their country from the troops? The Democratic Republic of Congo has once again been fighting M23 rebels after the armed group re-emerged in late 2021. After a series of setbacks on the front, the seven-nation East African Community (EAC) which includes the DRC decided to form a military force to respond to the crisis last June. Kenyan soldiers deployed in November, followed in recent weeks by Burundian, Ugandan and South Sudanese troops. They are tasked with overseeing the withdrawal of M23 fighters from eastern DRC. AfricaNews

Sudan Fatwa Call Worries UN as Bashir Loyalists Up Activity
The United Nations expressed concern on Tuesday about a request for a fatwa seeking the assassination of its head in Sudan, as loyalists of ousted leader Omar al-Bashir stepped up opposition to a draft deal for a new civilian government. In a video on social media, a man calling himself only Abdelmoneim is seen speaking to a gathering in Khartoum that included pro-Bashir politicians seeking inclusion in the deal. “I volunteer to assassinate Volker, and I request a fatwa (religious legal opinion) to make his blood permissible,” the man said, referring to U.N. envoy Volker Perthes. Government sources said an investigation had been opened. “The language of incitement and violence will only deepen divisions on the ground, but it will not deter the mission from carrying out its duties,” the U.N. office in Sudan said in a statement. Reuters

Opposition Party Calls for Release of Political Prisoners in Algeria
The workers’ party (PT), one of the main opposition parties in Algeria, drew a gloomy picture of the human rights situation in the country, calling for the release of political detainees and prisoners of conscience. In a statement issued after the weekly meeting of the secretariat of its political bureau, the workers’ party called on the authorities “to prevail the interests of the country by enacting the urgent measures of relaxation, starting with the release of political detainees and prisoners of conscience.” In this connection, the PT expressed “shock” following the heavy sentence of journalist Ihsane El Kadi by the judiciary to five years in prison. “Beyond the criminalization of the profession of journalism and freedom of expression as well as attacks on democratic freedoms, the repression that strikes the political action, constitute a danger to national sovereignty as it can serve as a pretext for foreign interference,” warned the workers’ party. North Africa Post

Niger’s Agadez Region Overwhelmed by Migration
Along the dusty alley, new faces appear in the doorways. In Arlit, a mining town in the Agadez region of northern Niger, the massive arrival of migrants from all over West Africa has caused the population to explode. … The Agadez region has been experiencing a massive influx of migrants for several years. According to the authorities, the population of the towns has doubled in ten years, with migrants from Algeria and the whole of West Africa, nationals from neighbouring countries attracted by the gold deposits, and Nigeriens from the south of the country. “The budget of the local authorities cannot support the additional needs in terms of sanitation or school infrastructure, it is beyond our budgetary forecasts,” warns the mayor of the town of Arlit, Abdourahamane Mouali. “But since these migrants are here, we have to deal with them, if only from a humanitarian point of view,” says this elected official. AfricaNews/AFP

Low Trust in Zimbabwe Electoral Commission but High Hopes for Democracy – Afrobarometer
Only 47% of Zimbabweans believe that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will conduct credible elections. This, despite the fact that locals are comfortable that their ability to vote by secret ballot guarantees their freedom of choice, an Afrobarometer study has found. The mistrust in the ZEC is foregrounded by the 2018 elections which, according to respondents to the survey, were not free and fair. Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, who needed 50% plus one vote, received 50.8% of the vote and his closest rival, Nelson Chamisa – then leading the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance – received 44.3%. It took three days for the results to be announced. There was a 75% voter turnout in 2018, even though some raised fears of intimidation. Now it’s back to the race for Mnangagwa and Chamisa, who are expected to be the headline candidates in the elections between 26 July and 26 August. The ZEC is already under fire because the voters’ roll has not been availed. News24

Ivory Coast: Are Personal Freedoms on the Decline Ahead of Local Elections?
Several opposition activists were arrested and convicted at the end of February, once again sparking a debate on free speech and freedom of assembly in the country. A few months ahead of municipal and regional elections this autumn, opposition groups and civil society actors are denouncing intimidation attempts and attacks on freedom of expression. The secretary general of the opposition African Peoples’ Party (PPA-CI), Damana Pickass, was summoned by an investigating judge on February 24, suspected of involvement in an attack on a military camp in April 2021. A few dozen party sympathisers gathered outside the judge’s office in a show of support and were met with a large police force. “We were arrested in a brutal way. One policeman shouted, ‘Round them all up’ for no reason,” says Joachim Zelehi Serikpa, deputy secretary general of the party. Others described the use of teargas and beatings of those wearing caps or scarves bearing the image of Laurent Gbagbo, the former president who founded the party in October 2021. France24

UN Resupplies Mission in Western Sahara for First Time Since 2020
The United Nations has sent an overland convoy to resupply its peacekeeping mission in separatist-controlled Western Sahara for the first time since 2020. The UN says its presence in the field is key to finding a way to resolve the disagreement over what to do with the territory. Two sites hosting UN peacekeepers as part of the Minurso mission were resupplied from April 5 to 7, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, on Monday. Since November 2020 and the resumption of hostilities between separatists and the Moroccan government, ground convoys have been limited, and supplies arrived via plane and helicopter. This limited what could be brought in, notably fuel. The sites in Tifariti and Mehaires are both east of the 2,700 kilometre-long sand wall separating the Moroccan-controlled part of the former Spanish colony from that controlled by the Polisario Front, an armed separatist movement that has been fighting for independence since the 1970s. The deliveries were brokered with the support of both Polisario and the Moroccan government, and Dujarric said a UN presence in the field is crucial “to create space for the political process to progress”. RFI

Singapore Oil Tanker Boarded by ‘Unidentified Persons’ off Ivory Coast on Monday
A Singapore-registered oil tanker was boarded by “unidentified persons” about 300 nautical miles (555 km) off Ivory Coast in the Gulf of Guinea on Monday, the city-state’s authorities said on Tuesday night. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said that the tanker Success 9 had 20 crew onboard of various nationalities, and one of them was Singaporean. The MPA said it was working closely with the ship owner, the Monrovia Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and the Information Fusion Centre at the Changi Command and Control Centre to monitor the situation and render the necessary assistance. … An Ivorian security source involved in the matter said a patrol boat had been sent out to rescue the tanker, but was unable to locate it because its beacon had been turned off. “We think it’s an act of piracy because the modus operandi is the same,” the source, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters. Reuters

Fishing Regulators Need More Transparency, Ocean Groups Say
Some regional fisheries management organizations that were set up by the United Nations to measure and conserve fish populations — but are difficult to hold to account — need to be more transparent about how they make their rules and regulations if fish species are to be protected and maintained for people reliant on healthy fish stocks for their livelihoods, conservation agencies and fishing industry players say. The 50-some regional fisheries management organizations worldwide bring together local, coastal states and bigger international players to regulate how companies and countries can fish in waters worldwide in a way that best conserves populations of fish and other ocean species based on scientific evidence. For years, these regional regulators have been accused of undemocratic practices that favor large, industrial fishers but now several conservation groups are banding together to renew calls for a culture change. … The hope for conservation groups is that even before the creation of marine protected areas in the oceans, which could take a few years, fishery bodies involve more and varied stakeholders — no matter the size of their fleet — in open discussion and decisions about conserving fish populations. AP