Africa Media Review for April 18, 2023

Students Trapped, Hospitals Shelled and Diplomats Assaulted as Sudan Fighting Intensifies
For more than three days, students at the University of Khartoum have been trapped inside campus buildings as artillery and gunfire rain down around them in Sudan’s capital. Fierce fighting between the country’s army and a paramilitary group has spread across the nation since erupting Saturday – but the university area is a particular hotspot due to its proximity to the General Command of the Armed Forces, with warplanes hovering overhead and nearby buildings destroyed by fire. “It is scary that our country will turn into a battlefield overnight,” said 23-year-old Al-Muzaffar Farouk, one of 89 students, faculty members and staff sheltering inside the university library. … Khartoum has been wracked by violence and chaos in a bloody tussle for power between Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The two leaders have traded blame for instigating the fighting and breaking temporary ceasefires. Meanwhile, civilians are paying the price, with at least 180 people killed and 1,800 others injured, according to UN officials on Monday. “I can see outside smoke rising from buildings. And I can hear from my residence blasts, heavy gunfire from outside. The streets are totally empty,” said Red Cross staffer Germain Mwehu from Khartoum. CNN

US Diplomatic Convoy Attacked in Sudan amid New Truce Appeal
Washington’s top diplomat said Tuesday that a U.S. Embassy convoy came under fire in Sudan and denounced “indiscriminate military operations” as the country’s armed forces and a powerful rival unleashed heavy weapons in urban areas for a fourth day. The convoy of clearly marked embassy vehicles was attacked on Monday, and preliminary reports link the assailants to the Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitary group battling Sudan’s military, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters. Everyone in the convoy was safe, Blinken said. The convoy attack in Khartoum, along with earlier assaults on aid workers and the EU envoy’s residence in the Sudanese capital, signaled further descent into chaos since the battle by two rival generals for control of Africa’s third-largest country erupted over the weekend. … Dagalo said in a series of tweets Tuesday that he had approved a 24-hour humanitarian truce after speaking to Blinken while the Sudanese military said more troops would join the battle and that it would “widen the scope of its operations” against the RSF. AP

Behind Chaos in Sudan Is a Broader Global Power Struggle
Burhan and Hemedti were supposed to be stewards of a political transition back toward democracy, but they appear to have for their own reasons balked on that process. “The failure to form a government and the deterioration of the economic and security situation in the country, prompted the various military and civilian parties to sign a framework agreement in December 2022, which was widely accepted by civilians and important and influential parties from the international and regional communities,” explained a story in Asharq Al-Awsat, an influential Arabic-language daily. Instead, unable to come to terms with the forging of an apolitical army, the two leaders came to blows. … “Now, fighting could turn into a protracted conflict, with many fearing that the war could drag in regional patrons and neighbors such as Chad, Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia. … While it may ripple across borders, the chaos in Sudan also is fueled, in part, by outside players. The interim regime dominated by Burhan and Hemedti has been propped up by billions of dollars in Emirati and Saudi financing. Egypt has stepped up its support of Burhan’s forces, while Russia, and in particular the influential Wagner Group mercenaries, has developed apparent ties and contacts with Hemedti’s forces. Sudanese fighters, particularly from Darfur, have ended up on the front lines of both the Saudi- and Emirati-led war effort in Yemen, as well as the conflict in Libya, where a thicket of regional powers, including the UAE, Qatar, Libya and Russia, were all involved. Washington Post

Ennahda Leader Detained, Most Prominent Critic of Tunisian President
Tunisian police on Monday detained Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi, his party said, in a move that marks an escalation in a campaign of arrests that has already targeted numerous high-profile opponents of President Kais Saied. The police raided Ghannouchi’s house on Monday evening, searching it before taking him to what the Islamist Ennahda called an “unknown destination.” Police have this year detained leading political figures in Tunisia who accuse Saied of a coup for his moves to close the elected parliament in 2021 and move to rule by decree before rewriting the constitution. … Ghannouchi had already faced repeated rounds of judicial questioning over the past year on charges relating to Ennahda’s finances and to allegations it helped Islamists travel to Syria for jihad, charges he and the party both deny. The 81-year-old was a political prisoner in the 1980s and went into exile in the 1990s before returning during Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that brought democracy. Reuters

Tunisia Shuts Offices of Opposition Party Ennahdha, Says Party Official
Tunisian authorities closed the offices of Islamist-inspired opposition party Ennahdha on Tuesday, a day after arresting its leader Rached Ghannouchi, a senior party official said. “A police unit showed up at the party’s main headquarters (in Tunis) and ordered everyone there to leave before closing it,” Riadh Chaibi said. “The police also closed the other offices of the party elsewhere in the country and prohibited any meeting in these premises,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The move came after Ennahdha’s veteran leader Ghannouchi was arrested at his home in the capital Tunis, the latest in a string of opposition figures held. Ennahdha was the largest party in Tunisia’s parliament before President Kais Saied dissolved the chamber in July 2021. Since early February, authorities in the North African country have arrested more than 20 political opponents and personalities. They have included politicians, former ministers, businessmen, trade unionists and the owner of Tunisia’s most popular radio station, Mosaique FM. Le Monde and AFP

South Sudan Hit by Wave of Abductions Targeting Women and Children
The door of the small humanitarian plane dropped onto the gravel of the Pibor airstrip in eastern South Sudan. Clara (all victims’ names have been changed) hurried down the three steps that separated her from the arms of her father and husband, who had come to greet her on this warm March morning. Kidnapped in the summer of 2022 during an attack by Nuer herders from the neighboring Jonglei State, she had just been repatriated from the city of Bor by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. … Clara’s story is not unique. Since the beginning of the year, 117 women and children from the Murle group abducted in the Greater Pibor region have been able to return home. Hundreds more are still being held against their will. Authorities estimate that 1,810 people were taken from their families between December 24, 2022, and mid-January. Assaults carried out by heavily armed Nuer and Dinka herders claimed the lives of 661 Murle villagers on Christmas Day. Le Monde

Nigeria’s Electoral Body Voids Result in Adamawa Governorship Race
Nigeria’s electoral commission on Sunday halted announcement of results in Adamawa’s state governor election and said the declaration of Aisha Dahiru as the country’s first elected female state governor was null and void. Nigerians voted for state governors on March 11 but the election in Adamawa, a largely conservative Muslim state, was inconclusive and supplementary voting was held on Saturday in 69 polling units where a little more than 36,000 voters were registered. Dahiru, the ruling All Progressive Congress party’s candidate, has been held up as a pioneer who could pave the way for more women to seek political office in Nigeria. She had been declared as the winner on Sunday by the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) resident electoral commissioner with half of the districts yet to announce their results. The INEC quickly declared that result null and void, saying the official had no power to make such an announcement. Reuters

Nigeria Regulator Grants Approval to Oxford’s Malaria Vaccine
Nigeria has granted provisional approval to Oxford University’s R21 malaria vaccine, its medicines regulator said Monday, making it the second country to do so after Ghana last week. The approvals are unusual as they have come before the publication of final-stage trial data for the vaccine. “A provisional approval of the R21 Malaria Vaccine was recommended, and this shall be done in line with the WHO’s Malaria Vaccine Implementation Guideline,” Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said. Malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, kills more than 600,000 people each year, most of them African babies and children. Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, is the world’s worst-affected country with 27% of global cases and 32% of global deaths, according to a 2021 World Health Organization (WHO) report. It was unclear when the R21 vaccine may be rolled out in Nigeria or Ghana as other regulatory bodies, including the WHO, are still assessing its safety and effectiveness. Reuters

Africa Needs More Help with Climate Change, Debt and Food Crises
Africa is struggling with the triple shock of rising debt burdens, an ongoing food crisis and climate change fallout and needs more help from international institutions and wealthy nations to cope, African finance ministers said on Saturday. Developing African economies were only beginning to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provoked capital market turmoil and an inflation acceleration that sent food prices soaring. The continent, meanwhile, was already struggling with extreme weather events, including drought, flooding and cyclones, aggravated by climate change. “African countries are really victims. They really aren’t responsible for these devastating effects (of climate change),” Comoros Finance Minister Mze Abdou Mohamed Chanfiou said in a news conference alongside two of his African counterparts during the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank spring meetings in Washington. The trio were speaking on behalf of the continent’s finance ministers. Reuters

Who Buys Lion Bones? Inside South Africa’s Skeleton Trade
The country has sent thousands of lion skeletons to Asia—legally. Experts say this has encouraged an illegal trade, potentially endangering South Africa’s remaining wild lions. … More than 3,300 skeletons and carcasses from captive lions in South Africa—nearly equivalent to the number of the country’s wild lions—were legally shipped to Vietnam, Laos, and elsewhere in East and Southeast Asia between April 2016 and April 2019, new reporting reveals. This finding is important because it sheds light on the inner workings of the global trade in big cat parts—illegal as well as legal—that’s pushing lions and other wild animals closer to extinction. But who wants the bones of lions, and why? The trade didn’t start with lions. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that tiger bones brewed into “wine” can treat illnesses such as arthritis and rheumatism and boost sex drive—claims not supported by science. National Geographic

East Africa’s Cross-Border Electric Trains Set to Speed Up Intra-African Trade
Tanzania and Burundi have floated a tender for designing and constructing an electrified railway that will initially connect the two countries and pass through the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the countries look to tap the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the world’s largest single market, and create the continent’s second multinational electrified railway. The AfCFTA is set to combine Africa’s population of nearly 1.4. billion people and markets with a current combined GDP of more than $3 trillion, into a single market. About 282km of an electrified standard gauge railway (SGR) line will be built from Uvinza in Tanzania (off the Tabora–Kigoma line), across the international border along Malagarasi River to Musongati and onwards to Gitega, both in Burundi. … The project will be implemented over a period of five years. On completion, it will be Africa’s second cross-border electrified rail after Ethiopia and Djibouti launched the continent’s first fully electric multinational railway line, in 2016. Bird Story Agency