Africa Media Review for April 12, 2024

Malian Parties Reject Junta’s Suspension of Political Activities
Malian political parties and civil society groups jointly rejected on Thursday the ruling junta’s order to suspend political activities and vowed to mount a legal challenge to what one opposition politician called the “dictatorial” move. The West African country has been under military rule since a coup in 2020. Tensions have risen in recent weeks, leading major parties and other organisations jointly to call out the junta on March 31 for not scheduling elections within the promised time frame. The authorities issued a decree on Wednesday suspending until further notice all activities by political parties and groups on the grounds of maintaining public order. Joining forces again, the parties and civil society groups said they were astonished by the decision and called it a “serious violation … of democratic freedoms.” … In an online post titled “DICTATORIAL DRIFT,” senior opposition politician Housseini Guindo said it was time for “our people … to resist this ignominy and initiate civil disobedience until the fall of the illegal and illegitimate regime.” Reuters

Mali’s Junta Bans the Media from Reporting on Political Activities in a Deepening Crackdown
In a deepening crackdown, Mali’s ruling junta on Thursday banned the media from reporting on activities of political parties and associations, a day after suspending all political activities in the country until further notice. The order, issued by Mali’s high authority for communication, was distributed on social media. The notice said it applied to all forms of the media, including television, radio, online and print newspapers. … The group, known as Maison de le Press, or Press House, said it rejects the order and called on journalists to continue to report on politics in Mali. It also urged them to “stand tall, remain unified and to mobilize to defend the right of citizens to have access to information.” AP

Russians Arrive in Niger as Military Accord Starts
Dozens of Russian military instructors have arrived in Niger as part of a new accord with the country’s junta, which has cut links with its Western allies. … The Russian Defence Ministry’s paramilitary group Africa Corps, also known as the Russian Expeditionary Corps (REK), wrote on Telegram that this was the first group of servicemen and volunteers to go to Niger. In an attached video, a serviceman of the corps said in French that they were there to “develop military cooperation” between the countries and had brought “various special military equipment” to help with training. … Ulf Laessing, a specialist in the Sahel region for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which promotes democracy, told the BBC World Service’s Newsday programme that the military supplies appeared to be part of a “regime survival package.” … While the military government cited worsening insecurity in Niger as the reason for the coup, reports indicate that insurgents have continued to carry out attacks in parts of the country – almost on a monthly basis – especially in the Tillabery region. BBC

Sexual Assaults Rise in Central African Republic
It was too late for the mother to shield her children when the two masked and armed Russian fighters burst into her home, held her at gunpoint and took turns raping her. Her five children were forced to watch in the dark. Seated in a restaurant in Central African Republic’s capital, where she has since fled, she wiped away tears. Two years on, the assault has “stayed with me in my core,” she said. The Associated Press does not identify survivors of sexual assault. She blamed the Russians who are part of the Wagner mercenary group that operates alongside Central African Republic’s army and has been accused by locals and rights groups of abuses. She had seen them patrolling in her town of Bambari before. … Gender-based violence is rising in Central African Republic amid ongoing conflict, weak legal and care systems and the stigma of speaking up, locals and aid groups say. Since 2020, incidents have jumped from about 9,200 reported cases to 25,500, according to cases tracked by the U.N. and partners. AP

Ukraine Inaugurated an Embassy in Ivory Coast on Thursday
Ukraine inaugurated an embassy in Ivory Coast on Thursday, a day after opening an embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo as Kyiv seeks a greater presence in Africa to counter Moscow’s influence. “A brilliant new page is being written in the new history of relations between Ukraine-Africa and Ukraine-Ivory Coast”, deputy foreign minister Maksym Subkh said, according to a translation of his Ukrainian speech into French. The new embassies were the result of “the instructions of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to spread Ukraine’s diplomatic presence in Africa”, he added. Subkh opened Kyiv’s embassy in Kinshasa on Wednesday amid plans to open several more representations in Africa to bolster support, DR Congo’s foreign ministry told AFP. He is due to visit Ghana, Mozambique, Botswana and Rwanda to inaugurate embassies in the coming weeks, a representative of the new embassy in Abidjan told AFP. “This war can seem very far away. But the catastrophic increase in food prices has already impacted the lives of millions of African families,” Subkh said… AFP

Sudan’s War Began a Year Ago. Children Are among Its Most Fragile Survivors
The war in Sudan began a year ago. Here in a remote camp for tens of thousands of people who have fled into neighboring Chad, the anniversary is marked by near starvation. … Close to 9 million people have fled their homes, according to the United Nations, and more than 1 million have left the country. Thousands have been killed in a conflict overshadowed by the ones in Gaza and Ukraine. The U.N. says it has asked for $2.7 billion in funding to respond to humanitarian needs but has received $155 million — or 6%. “It has been everyday Sudanese who have — often at great personal risk —stepped up to support each other,” Eatizaz Yousif, country director with the International Rescue Committee, said in a joint statement by aid groups urging the world to give more. The U.N. has warned of an impending generational catastrophe. An estimated 3 million Sudanese children are malnourished. About 19 million children are out of school. A quarter of Sudan’s hospitals are no longer functioning. … Now, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court say there are grounds to believe both sides in the current conflict are committing war crimes. AP

Sudan Civil War: Are Iranian Drones Helping the Army Gain Ground?
A year into Sudan’s civil war, Iranian-made armed drones have helped the army turn the tide of the conflict, halting the progress of the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Force and regaining territory around the capital, a senior army source told Reuters. Six Iranian sources, regional officials and diplomats – who, like the army source, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information – also told Reuters the military had acquired Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the past few months. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) used some older UAVs in the first months of the war alongside artillery batteries and fighter jets, but had little success in rooting out RSF fighters embedded in heavily populated neighbourhoods in Khartoum and other cities, more than a dozen Khartoum residents said. In January, nine months after fighting erupted, much more effective drones began operating from the army’s Wadi Sayidna base to the north of Khartoum, according to five eyewitnesses living in the area. … Flight tracking records collated by Wim Zwijnenburg of Dutch peace organisation Pax and provided to Reuters show that in December 2023 and January 2024, a Boeing 747-200 cargo plane operated by Qeshm Fars Air made six journeys from Iran to Port Sudan, an important base for the army since the RSF took over strategic sites in Khartoum in the first days of the war. Reuters

African Hunger Rises as Drought and War Trigger Soaring Food Prices
Across much of Africa, food prices are soaring and hunger is rising. In southern Africa, drought and climate change are leading to crop failures and higher inflation. In countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, war and conflict are making food much scarcer and costlier, and malnutrition is growing. Humanitarian agencies are trying to help, but their budgets are squeezed. … The crisis is far worse in war zones such as Sudan, where cereal prices have doubled and malnutrition is soaring because of the conflict that erupted a year ago, or in eastern Congo, where food prices have escalated in the city of Goma as rebel fighters besiege it. In Ethiopia, maize prices are still far above normal, partly because of years of regional wars that severed trade links to larger cities. … “Hunger drives conflict and conflict drives hunger,” Andy Harrington, the group’s executive director, said in a commentary this week. “It destroys crops and stored grain. It disrupts food production and trade.” He quoted one of the group’s partners in eastern Congo, Flori Bwami, who said: “There’s no peace without bread.” Globe and Mail

10 Years after Chibok, Nigerian Families Cope with the Trauma of More School Kidnappings
His weak body stood in the doorway, exhausted and covered in dirt. For two years, the boy had been among Nigeria’s ghosts, one of at least 1,500 schoolchildren and others seized by armed groups and held for ransom. But paying a ransom didn’t work for 12-year-old Treasure, the only captive held back from the more than 100 schoolchildren kidnapped from their school in July 2021 in the northwestern Kaduna state. Instead, his captors hung on, and he had to escape the forests on his own in November. Treasure’s ordeal is part of a worrying new development in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country where the mass abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls a decade ago marked a new era of fear —with nearly 100 of the girls still in captivity. Since the Chibok abductions, at least 1,500 students have been kidnapped, as armed groups increasingly find in them a lucrative way to fund other crimes and control villages in the nation’s mineral-rich but poorly policed northwestern region. AP

‘I Just Drink Water And Endure’: Ramadan In A Nigerian Displacement Camp
“Life has been very difficult and devastating compared to where we came from. I used to welcome Ramadan with open arms and stocked the house with food. But since we got here, eating has been a nightmare. And it’s not any different this month,” Umaru told HumAngle. … Northwestern Nigeria has been a hotbed of criminal activity for close to a decade now. Terrorists have continued to raid and loot villages and conduct mass killings that have resulted in the deaths of no fewer than 12,000 people (as of 2021) and displaced hundreds of thousands more. They also run a million-dollar kidnap-for-ransom enterprise, abducting locals, including schoolchildren, to sustain their operations. HumAngle

Ethiopia’s Rights Body Calls for Investigation into the Killing of a Prominent Opposition Figure
Ethiopia’s state-appointed rights commission on Wednesday called for an investigation into the killing of a prominent opposition figure recently released from prison. Bate Urgessa was gunned down on Tuesday night in his hometown of Meki in Oromia, Ethiopia’s biggest region, according to the Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF. He was a political officer with the OLF, a legally registered opposition group that boycotted elections in 2021. The OLF said it has information indicating that Bate “was shot dead,” adding that it’s investigating. Daniel Bekele, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, called for “a prompt, impartial and full investigation by both the Oromia regional and Ethiopian federal authorities to hold perpetrators to account.” AP

Kenya Proposes Maritime Treaty to Defuse Ethiopia-Somalia Tensions
Kenya has proposed a regional maritime treaty to defuse tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia over a deal allowing Ethiopia to set up a naval base and giving it port access in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland, a top Kenyan official said on Thursday. Landlocked Ethiopia agreed on Jan. 1 to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline in Somaliland, a part of Somalia which claims independence and has had effective autonomy since 1991, offering possible recognition of Somaliland in exchange. That prompted a defiant response from Somalia and fuelled concern the deal could further destabilise the Horn of Africa region. The treaty Kenya is proposing in consultation with Djibouti and regional bloc IGAD would govern how landlocked states in the region can access ports on commercial terms, Korir Sing’oei, Kenya’s principal secretary for foreign affairs, told Reuters. “IGAD can be able to formulate a treaty for sharing maritime resources,” he said, referring to the bloc which brings together countries in the region. Reuters

Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s Scandal-Ridden Ex-President, Is Running Again
Jacob Zuma, who resigned as South Africa’s president in shame in 2018, is now staging his biggest comeback act yet by running in next month’s parliamentary elections with an upstart opposition party at the top of its ticket — the slot designated for a party’s presidential contender. Mr. Zuma’s participation in the race is a blow to a faltering African National Congress — the party he once led — which has governed the country since the end of apartheid three decades ago. The A.N.C. and its leader, the country’s current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, are now struggling to win back the trust of voters disillusioned by a stagnant economy and years of corruption. Mr. Zuma, who is 81, won a big victory on Tuesday when he was cleared by a court to be on the ballot, despite having served time in prison for refusing to testify in a corruption inquiry. On Wednesday, his party — uMkhonto weSizwe — released its list of national candidates with his name at the top. New York Times