Africa Media Review for April 21, 2023

Sudan Army Chief Commits to Civilian Rule, but Not a Cease-Fire for Ramadan’s End
Sudan’s army chief said on Friday morning that the military under his leadership was committed to a peaceful transition to civilian rule, in his first public remarks since a weeklong conflict between his troops and a powerful paramilitary force upended life in Africa’s third-largest nation. But the army commander, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is Sudan’s de facto leader, did not say whether the army would commit to the latest cease-fire that its rival, the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, said it had agreed to on Friday. The cease-fire would allow people to gather for the Eid holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. … Just an hour before, the Rapid Support Forces said that after discussions with global and local organizations, it had agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian truce starting at 6 a.m. local time. The cease-fire, it said, would allow for families to meet during the holiday and evacuate their loved ones, and let people get food and medical care. But in the hours since, residents in several neighborhoods of Khartoum, the capital, have reported intense gunfights in the streets. New York Times

Sudanese to World: Violence in Khartoum Shows Strongmen Can’t Be Trusted
“We told the international community over and over you cannot trust a military dictatorship and militias,” says Mohamed, a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, a grassroots collection of independent pro-democracy activists. “They have always been willing to burn the country down to enrich themselves and gain more power,” he says via messaging app from Khartoum. “Now they are doing it on a larger scale.” … With the urban warfare threatening to tip Sudan into civil war, civil society groups say the conflict is proof that warlords and generals cannot be turned into statesmen and that democracy and civilian governance with accountability – no matter how messy – is the only path out from the bloodshed. … As U.N.-mediated talks among generals, political parties, and civil society groups over the future of Sudan dragged on, the armed forces and RSF solidified their control over swaths of the economy, state institutions, ports, and gold mines. Generals Burhan and Dagalo then teamed up and launched a coup against the interim civilian government and democratic transition in 2021. … By refusing to issue sanctions or consequences for their 2021 coup, says Ms. Khair, the analyst, “there was absolutely no accountability from the international community for these generals for anything they have done.” CSM

Russia’s Wagner Offered Arms to Sudanese General Battling Army
Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group has offered heavy weapons to the leader of Sudan’s Rapid Support Force, one of two rival factions battling for control of the East African country, according to a current and a former U.S. official, and a person close to the Sudanese general. The Kremlin-backed group has offered to send arms, including shoulder-mounted MANPADS antiaircraft missiles, that it has in neighboring Central African Republic, where Wagner has been active in recent years, these people said. … If they were to be delivered, the missiles would add to the firepower of the paramilitary RSF in its war with the Sudanese military, which is led by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s de facto head of state. The Sudanese air force has been striking positions of the RSF, including in densely populated areas in the capital Khartoum. … Regional powers have already meddled in the crisis. Khalifa Haftar, a Russian-backed military commander who controls much eastern Libya, dispatched at least one plane to fly military supplies to the RSF, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Mr. Haftar’s forces have sent convoys carrying military supplies overland from eastern Libya into Sudan to support the RSF, according to a Libyan government official and a former U.S. official. WSJ

Sudan Slips Into Chaos. Russia Lurks In The Background.
In 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned several Prigozhin companies and employees for their work in Sudan, and other countries, including Meroe Gold and Mikhail Potepkin. “Prigozhin’s role in Sudan highlights the interplay between Russia’s paramilitary operations, support for preserving authoritarian regimes, and exploitation of natural resources,” the department said in a statement. The companies targeted “have directly facilitated Prigozhin’s global operations and attempted to suppress and discredit protestors seeking democratic reforms in Sudan.” … “Russia does less well when there are transparent, rules-based governments,” [Joseph Siegle, the director of research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies] said. “That is why Russia doesn’t want things to change. That may be destabilizing for Sudan and the region, but that is a secondary thing for Russia.” RadioFreeEurope

Chief of Staff of Mali Junta Leader among Dead in Attack Near Mauritanian Border
The chief of staff to the head of Mali’s junta was among four people killed in an attack on Tuesday, April 18, a document from the presidency said on Thursday, April 20. Oumar Traoré, chief of staff of Colonel Assimi Goita, was killed in the ambush some 400 kilometers north of the capital Bamako, near the Mauritanian border. … The document identifies three other victims including a security guard, a contractor and a driver. Another driver is missing, the document read. The attack has not yet been claimed. Mali has been battling a security and political crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north of the country in 2012. Since 2020, it has been ruled by a military junta now led by Goita. Under international pressure, the junta pledged to organize elections in the country next year. Le Monde with AFP

In Kais Saied’s Tunisia, ‘Arbitrariness Reigns’
Several days before the end of Ramadan, the streets began to empty as the fast was about to be broken on Tuesday, April 18. Three men sat chatting in a black car parked in a cul de sac in El Menzah 6, a suburb of Tunis where stray dogs bask in the sun. At first glance, there was nothing to suggest that they were police officers, there to carry out the “orders of the governor” – a state representative – and to block access to the small white house across the street that serves as the headquarters of the National Salvation Front (NSFT), the main opposition coalition to Tunisian President Kais Saied. “We don’t know how long we’ll stay there, we just follow instructions,” one of the agents said. “The police prevented us from accessing the premises without any justification,” confirmed NSFT president, Ahmed Nejib Chebbi to Le Monde. “All freedom is collapsing and arbitrariness reigns,” he said. The press conference was to be held the day after Tunisia’s Islamist-conservative Ennahda leader, 81-year-old Rached Ghannouchi, was arrested at his home near Tunis on Monday evening. At least three other movement officials were arrested overnight after the party’s headquarters was raided. In a statement to the official TAP news agency, the National Guard spokesman said that this new wave of arrests was due to Ghannouchi’s recent statements. Le Monde

Tunisia: Is Democracy There Being Destroyed?
Tunisia is the only country that overthrew an authoritarian ruler during the 2011 Arab Spring and went on to build a democracy. However, the raiding of the headquarters of the opposition Ennadha party and arrest of its leader indicates that the country is being taken back to an illiberal form of rule, critics say. … President Saied unwound 10 years of building democracy in little over a year. However, says Dr Yerkes: “You still have civil society groups and a media in Tunisia which can act as a check on his power, and there are still protests by the public. “This is not the end of Tunisia’s democratic story.” The next presidential election is in 2024. Even if Mr Saied wins another five years in power, he cannot serve for more than two terms. BBC

Amnesty, CPJ Urge Ethiopia to Release Arrested Journalists
International rights organisations have urged Ethiopia to stop ‘arbitrary arrests’ of journalists and to respect citizens’ right to peaceful protests. The calls this week by Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) came after Ethiopian authorities arrested at least seven journalists in the latest crackdown following an anti-government protest in the country’s Amhara region. The two rights groups urged Ethiopian authorities to immediately release the journalists and drop all charges. “Ethiopian authorities must immediately release seven media staff detained against a backdrop of rising violence in the Amhara region, investigate allegations of physical assault against one of them and protect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest for all,” Amnesty International said in a statement issued on Monday. The EastAfrican

Kenyan Court Says It Can Hear Case Filed against Facebook’s Meta
A court in Kenya ruled Thursday that it has the jurisdiction to hear a challenge by nearly 200 people who say they were unlawfully sacked by a subcontractor for Facebook’s parent company Meta. The case brought by 183 content moderators employed in Nairobi by Sama, a subcontractor for Meta, was filed on March 17 in a local court, with the workers claiming “unlawful” dismissal by the social media giant. … Meta faces two other legal cases in Kenya. In 2022, a former South African employee of Sama, Daniel Motaung, filed a complaint in Kenya against Sama and Facebook claiming, among other things, poor working conditions and lack of mental health support. The labour relations court in Nairobi declared it had the jurisdiction to try Motaung’s case in February. Meta has appealed the decision. The social media giant is also facing another complaint in Kenya, where a local NGO and two Ethiopian citizens accused Meta of failing to act against online hate speech in Africa. The EastAfrican

Ukraine Nobel Laureate Appeals to ‘Neutral’ South Africa
A Nobel Prize-winning Ukrainian is in Pretoria this week as part of a group urging South Africa’s government to re-think its friendly relations with Russia as it wages war on Kyiv. The Ukrainians called on South Africa to honor an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant and arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he goes there for a summit in August. Oleksandra Romantsova, who heads Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties, an NGO that won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, is in South Africa along with an official from the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, to try and shore up support for Kyiv. Pretoria has taken an officially neutral stance on the conflict and has refrained from criticizing Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. … [Oleksandra Romantsova, who heads Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties] said as a country that has good relations with Moscow, South Africa should use that platform to warn Russia about its human rights abuses in Ukraine, such as the kidnapping of thousands of Ukrainian children. She suggested South Africa could play more of a mediation role. VOA

UN Paints Choppers in Congo Orange to Protect against Attacks
The United Nations has painted bright orange its two white helicopters providing humanitarian relief in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in an effort to protect them from militia attacks by distinguishing them from other aircraft. Insecurity has worsened in east DR Congo since a rebel group known as the M23 — one of many armed militias active in the region — launched a fresh offensive last year. Humanitarian operations to help the thousands of civilians displaced by the fighting have been caught up in the fighting. Last year, the UN recorded 293 security incidents that affected relief missions to east Congo, resulting in the deaths of nine humanitarian workers. More than 20 were kidnapped last year. … Eight peacekeepers were killed when a Monusco helicopter on a reconnaissance mission crashed in the midst of rebel fighting in March last year. The government blamed the M23, which they denied. In February, another peacekeeper was killed when a helicopter operated by the mission came under fire while in mid-air. Reuters

More African Countries Set to Approve Malaria Shot; 20 Million Doses Ready in 2023
African countries are lining up to approve a new vaccine for malaria, with 20 million doses available for them to buy this year, the shot’s manufacturer told Reuters. This week, Nigeria’s medicines regulator followed Ghana’s, with the two nations becoming the first countries in the world to back the new R21 vaccine, developed by scientists at Oxford University and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and Novavax (NVAX.O). The move was unusual as it came before the World Health Organization’s approval. African countries that do not have extensive resources for drug regulation have previously relied on the U.N. agency to initially review new medicines. Detailed data on the malaria vaccine from large-scale trials are not yet publicly available, and it is not clear how the poorest nations will pay for the shot. But the urgency of addressing a disease that kills more than 600,000 people annually, most of them children under age 5 in Africa south of the Sahara, and recent efforts to enhance drug oversight in the region, are changing the process. Reuters

African Finance Ministers Demand Action on Global Financial Architecture Reform
Coming out of the World Bank Group (WBG) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring Meetings, a group of African Finance Ministers and partners is urging global institutions to do more to deliver for African countries. The WBG/IMF Annual Meetings will return to Africa for the first time in fifty years this October, which presents an eight-month window of opportunity for the Multilateral Development Banks and their shareholders to commit to becoming more responsive to Africa’s priorities in a challenging and changing world. “We have discussed Africa’s most pressing economic priorities on several occasions over the past months, and now is the time to put a plan of action in place for real and sustainable change that better serves Africa’s people,” said Nadia Fettah Alaoui, Minister of Finance of Morocco. “We applaud the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund for their openness to reform and urge them to continue to listen to stakeholders, especially from Africa, a continent of 1.5 billion people that receive the majority of resources from these institutions.” Ministers have outlined five specific and achievable asks over the next eight months that will help transform a system that has become less able to adequately confront the challenges that African countries face in today’s world. Africa Feeds