Africa Media Review for April 25, 2023

Sudan Crisis Threatens to Bring Fresh Turmoil to Neighbouring Chad
The violent power struggle that has erupted in Sudan will heighten instability in its politically fragile neighbour Chad, with tens of thousands of refugees already crossing the border. … [Chad’s] promised democratic transition that was meant to culminate in elections in October failed to materialise, sparking protests by opposition groups that were violently put down. Some 50 people were killed, according to official figures, although the true number may be higher, with rights groups accusing security forces of firing at civilians. “Chad’s a fractious place — not unlike Sudan. There are a lot of different groups and militias,” said Daniel Eizenga, a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies think-tank. The current political process there was “about . . . keeping the Déby regime in place,” he added. Analysts say western countries and the African Union have been paying insufficient attention to Mahamat Déby’s coup in Chad, compared with the criticism levelled at the juntas in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea. … When Germany’s ambassador to Chad did break ranks this month to criticise the lack of progress with the democratic transition, he was kicked out of the country. … Eizenga, of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, agreed the mounting uncertainty in Sudan could create significant problems in Chad. “The Déby regime is kind of a pressure cooker,” he said. “If left long enough, pressure cookers can explode because inside there’s a lot of turmoil building.” FT

Cease-Fire Makes Khartoum a Patchwork of War and Calm, as Evacuations Proceed
Residents of Sudan’s capital said a three-day cease-fire supposed to take hold overnight appeared to be shaky on Tuesday, with some residents reporting shelling and gunfire — especially downtown — but in other neighborhoods families emerged from their battered homes and scurried through the bombed-out streets seeking safety. Millions of people were trapped on the front lines when fighting exploded in multiple cities in Sudan 11 days ago between the army and a heavily armed paramilitary force. The latest attempt at a cease-fire — the fourth — was announced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken late Monday night. None of the other cease-fires have held in the capital, although the western region of Darfur has negotiated a temporary pause in fighting in most places. … The newest cease-fire will be a key test of command and control for both sides. Many Sudanese report RSF soldiers invading homes, robbing inhabitants or executing people. … Internet and phone access has been patchy, partly because of damage to mobile phone towers and service providers. A collapse in communications would be a disaster for Sudan. Once government services broke down, citizens started using social media to help one another organize for safe evacuations, medicines and food. Washington Post

Kenya Accuses Russia, Gulf Countries of Destabilising Sudan
Kenya says Russian and Gulf countries’ involvement in Sudan’s politics is hurting the search for peace, raising concerns that only the African Union (AU) had expressed in vague terms last week. … the Kenyan top diplomat fingered Russia and some Gulf countries of taking sides as the continent pursues a return-to-civilian rule in Sudan. … “It is quite tragic that we have more bullets coming into Sudan or being used in Sudan than food. And it’s a tragedy, because we see from where we sit a lot of international interference, a lot of other players trying to use Sudan as a playing field for whatever reason, for the gold in Sudan, for territorial strength and control of the region,” Mutua said at a joint briefing with US Secretary of State Blinken. “And we’re trying to ask – we are asking external forces to leave Sudan alone. As an African continent and the AU and intergovernmental organisation called Igad, we are trying to find solutions for Sudan.” The EastAfrican

As Sudan’s Capital Burns, the Darfur Region Negotiates a Fragile Truce
Civilian-led peace committees have brokered temporary cease-fires in much of Sudan’s Darfur region and they have largely held, a glimmer of hope after a week of brutal fighting across the country between the military and a heavily armed paramilitary force. … Although the western region of Darfur has been hard-hit by violence, truces in four out of the five states in the region have held since Thursday night, said Salah al-Din Muhammad al-Fadl, the head of the Native Administration in Darfur, a government forum with representatives from all tribes. Both sides have committed to hold their current positions, and now leaders are working on humanitarian corridors to deliver aid and collect bodies, he said. … Drawing on past lessons, Darfuri activists, religious leaders and local officials have managed to pause the fighting, with police protecting civilian infrastructure in the two main towns: Nyala in South Darfur and El Fashir in North Darfur. Washington Post

Libya Seeks U.S Help in Fresh Effort to Recover Gadhafi Billions
Libya’s United Nations-backed government is asking Washington to help it recover tens of billions of dollars in state assets that it alleges were stolen by the country’s former dictator Moammar Gadhafi and his cronies and stashed around the world. Gadhafi ruled the oil-rich country for 42 years before he was ousted and killed, and Libyan officials say family members and others close to him looted government coffers of cash, gold and rare antiquities. A 2016 study by Berlin-based Transparency International estimates as much as $120 billion was taken. A U.N. agency has helped Libya to trace and identify roughly $54 billion in assets, including deposits in banks, gold, diamonds, aircraft and ships, some of which are in the U.S. and other Western countries. … The Tripoli-based Libyan Asset Recovery and Management Office, known as LARMO, was established in 2017 with the help of the U.N. and is seen as the best hope for recovering anything. Mr. Mensli said it operates as a government entity independent from political factions. Mr. Mensli acknowledged that some governments have reservations about whether the Libyan government is capable of managing large sums of money. To address their concerns, he said any recovered funds would be kept in a secure location overseas, before being repatriated in batches to fund specific projects, such as the construction of schools and hospitals. WSJ

Morocco Seizes 5.4 Tonnes of Cannabis, Haul of Cocaine
Moroccan police seized 5.4 tonnes of cannabis resin stashed in a truck headed for Spain, and 60 kilogrammes of cocaine packed in frozen tuna, security officials said. Security and customs officers seized the cannabis resin in the northern port of Tangier “on board an international freight truck”, the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) said late Saturday. The resin blocks were pressed into plates slotted into specially fitted cavities, including in the truck’s chassis. The 45-year-old Moroccan driver was arrested. In a separate operation, also in Tangier, nearly 60 kilogrammes of cocaine were seized on Thursday inside a refrigerated container, police said. The cocaine was packed in tuna marked as coming from Ecuador and destined for Spain. Morocco is the world’s largest producer of cannabis resin according to the United Nations, and police seized nearly 100 tonnes last year. Police in recent years have also made multiple large seizures of cocaine, with South American cartels using the North African nation as a smuggling transit hub for Europe. AFP

Cotton, Gold or Jihad: Burkina Faso’s Youth Caught between Violence and Hardship
“You have to mix Nescafé with drugs, only then will you not be afraid when you go down the mine,” said Salif*, a young man from Kékélesso in western Burkina Faso, describing his experience of working in a goldmine in Mali, a job that almost killed him. “One day I saw a yellow drum from afar and thought it contained water, but it was acid,” he said. He felt the burning in his hand before he drank the liquid. Not long after, he returned to Burkina Faso to search for work in his home country, his ambition to save up enough money to get married thwarted. Burkina Faso’s population of 22 million has a median age of 17 – one of the lowest in the world. Six decades after independence from France it faces a big demographic problem: what to do with all its young people. Salif’s career path reflects that of many of his compatriots: leaving to dig for gold in Mali, returning home, and working a string of precarious jobs. At the moment he is employed as a security guard – one of the few thriving professions in a country ravaged by jihadism. Guardian

As Sand Miners Prosper in Uganda, a Vital Lake Basin Suffers
The excavator grunts in the heart of the wetland, baring its teeth. There are trucks waiting to be loaded with sand, and more almost certainly on the way. This is how it is here daily in Lwera — a central Ugandan region on the fringes of Lake Victoria: a near-constant demand for sand that’s exerting pressure on a wetland that’s home to locals and animals and feeds into Africa’s largest freshwater lake. Lwera is a breeding ground for fish, serves as a stop for migratory birds and can store vast amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide underground. The wetland stretches more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) astride the highway from the Ugandan capital Kampala into the western interior. It has long been worked over by sand miners, both legal and illegal, motivated by demand from the construction industry. Now, all known corporate operations within the wetland have authorization to be there, giving them a measure of legitimacy that’s frustrating environmental activists, local officials and others who say the mining activities must be stopped because they degrade the wetland. They charge that while the companies are there legally, their activities are in many ways unlawful. AP

Stable Diffusion and DALL-E Display Bias When Prompted for Artwork of ‘African Workers’
AI-generated imagery has exploded in popularity as tools become more sophisticated. But the technology is fraught with concerns regarding intellectual property, bias, and disinformation. AI models like Stable Diffusion produce images of “African workers” that reflect harmful stereotypes. … Critics have warned that the tech industry is moving into generative AI with the same move-fast-and-break-things mentality it did at the launch of social media platforms; get the technology out there first, and deal with the consequences later. Business Insider

Nigeria: Ansaru Terrorists Using Local Language To Spread Propaganda On Facebook
Members of an Al-Qaeda-linked terror group in Nigeria have been using social media to spread their jihadi propaganda, recruit members and gather sympathisers freely, going undetected by moderators. Terrorist group Ansaru found ways to bypass the weak human and automated monitoring systems on the platforms, despite social media companies’ efforts to remove terror-related content, HumAngle can exclusively reveal. By using local languages, they have enjoyed the freedom to gather audiences and create a false image of themselves in order to push themselves on potential recruits through propaganda messages reaching millions of young people. … During a months-long investigation, HumAngle tracked 22 accounts linked to Ansaru, which have been used to spread Al-Qaeda propaganda and messages in Hausa. This highlights the ineffectiveness of social media platforms in removing terrorist content. The platform has also become a place where Ansaru Jihadists can announce the creation of their public and private Whatsapp and Telegram channels, where they share more violent content. HumAngle

Can Africa Get Close to Vaccine Independence? Here’s What It Will Take.
Just 3 percent of all Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered in 2021 went to Africa, home to a fifth of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization. In the vast debacle of global vaccine inequity, it was Africa that was left furthest behind as the pandemic raged, and that had the least leverage to negotiate contracts. African leaders vowed to make sure that never happened again. High-income nations and philanthropic groups promised to help fund the effort to make vaccine access more equitable. There was a flurry of announcements of new partnerships and investments: plans to modernize the handful of existing pharmaceutical manufacturing operations in Africa; plans to build new ones; plans to send shipping containers from Europe with pop-up facilities to produce the new mRNA vaccines; plans for an mRNA production incubator that would dispense open-source technology around the continent. Now, some of the hype has subsided, and there are some signs of real progress. But it’s also become evident just how big the hurdles are. … The big issue, as always, is money. The many-step process of making vaccines needs high biosecurity and intense quality control. New York Times