Africa Media Review for April 26, 2022

Guinea and Burkina Faso Risk More Sanctions Over Transition Delay
Guinea’s ruling military government has signaled that it might break a deadline to set out its plans to return to civilian rule, opening up the prospect of more sanctions from West Africa’s political and economic bloc. There was no immediate announcement from the military rulers of Burkina Faso who were facing the same Monday deadline to present “acceptable” plans to hand back power to civilians after their January coup. Since August 2020, West Africa has been rocked by two coups in Mali, one in Guinea and one in Burkina Faso. Leaders of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc last month told the military governments in Guinea and Burkina Faso they had until April 25 to explain how and when they would hand back power to civilians or face immediate sanctions…ECOWAS did not immediately reply to a request for comment on how and when sanctions will be imposed on Burkina Faso and Guinea if they did not meet the April 25 deadline. Al Jazeera

South Sudan: UN Condemns Widespread Atrocities in Unity State County
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has “strongly” condemned the widespread sexual violence, killings and other atrocities committed against civilians in Leer County of Unity State. The UN has documented several cases of human rights violations allegedly carried out by armed youth from Koch and Mayendit counties in Leer. Between 17 February and 7 April, 72 civilians were killed, at least 11 others injured and 64 cases of sexual violence recorded, according to team from UNMISS human rights division who have conducted 10 verification missions. Two of the survivors narrated to the UNMISS investigation team how they were repeatedly raped and gang-raped after they came out of hiding to search for food for their children. Another woman who had recently given birth, recounted how she was raped and severely beaten for three days. “I am strongly appalled by these horrific attacks on civilians in Leer. We must all do everything we can to ensure that victims and survivors get the justice they deserve and receive the care and support they need,” said Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for South Sudan. According to initial reports, some 40,000 people have fled the violence in Leer, with thousands reportedly crossing the Nile to Fangak in Jonglei State. Sudan Tribune

Mali Jihadist Group Claims Capture of Russian Wagner Group Fighter
A jihadist group in Mali on Monday claimed to have captured a fighter from the Kremlin-linked Wagner mercenary group reportedly fighting Islamist militants in the West African country. “In the first week of April, (we) captured a soldier of the Russian Wagner forces in the Segou region in central Mali,” the GSIM (the Group to Support Islam and Muslims) said in a statement sent to AFP overnight…The United States, France and others say Russian paramilitaries in Mali are operatives from the private-security firm Wagner, which has also been accused of abuses in the Central African Republic. Mali’s military-dominated government has denied the accusations and said the Russians in the country are military instructors. France24

Hunger Grips Burkina Faso Due to Increasing Jihadi Violence
Martine Roamba’s 10-month-old daughter weakly tugs at her mother’s breast searching for milk. The malnourished baby has been struggling to feed since birth as her mother hasn’t had enough to eat to produce sufficient breastmilk since fleeing her village in northern Burkina Faso last year when jihadis started killing people. Seated on a hospital bed with other severely malnourished children and their parents on the outskirts of Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, 30-year-old Roamba tries to calm her crying daughter. “It’s very worrying and we’re praying to God that the baby doesn’t deteriorate into an even worse situation,” she said. Hunger is soaring across conflict-ridden Burkina Faso, a result of increasing violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, which has killed thousands and displaced millions, preventing people from farming. Some 3.5 million people are food insecure, with nearly 630,000 expected to be on the brink of starvation, according to the latest food security report by the government and U.N. agencies. This is an 82% increase from last year of people facing emergency hunger. AP

Price Hikes Push Stable Foodstuffs Beyond the Reach of Many in Cameroon’s Anglophone Region
The ongoing crisis in the north-west of Cameroon in the anglophone region, coupled with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has pushed the price of stable foods beyond the reach of many. In response, the government has designated the anglophone region an economic disaster zone. At the busy Bamenda food market, hawkers position themselves at the market gate, selling basic home products like washing soap, while shop owners serve customers inside their shops. Shoppers come here in the hope of buying local produce cheaper.  But for more than three months the prices of local produce like plantains and tomatoes as well as basic household commodities have skyrocketed…Within the context of the crisis, many city dwellers now host internally displaced persons, who have fled their towns and villages and have come to the regional capital. Residents have more mouths to feed, but with the current increase in prices, even the most basic food staples are out of reach. “We are facing price hikes in the market which is not backed by much money in our pockets. For example, I will start with magi beef cubes. They have gone from €1.23 (800CFA) to €1.50 (900CFA) a packet,” says market-goer Laura Ngwa. RFI

Nigeria: The Rise and Fall of Boko Haram’s Sambisa Settlements As Seen Through Satellite Images
Publicly available satellite images and open-source information provide a valuable breadth of view into Boko Haram’s expansion and cat-and-mouse game with the military around the Sambisa forest, the vast savannah woodland now synonymous with the twelve-year-old insurgency in Northeast Nigeria. The Sambisa forest and adjoining areas were once known as a sanctuary for wildlife and part of a game reserve situated in the Chad Basin National Park. After analysing images of some of the settlements in the area, HumAngle observed notable changes in the construction of shelters that occurred after 2014 when the insurgency reached its peak and the terror group dominated the area.  Photos and videos from military operations alongside Google Earth satellite images give rare insights into the group’s exploitation of the geography and the nature of settlements, which are usually constructed using natural and accessible materials such as earth, straw, and corrugated iron.  During the recent military incursion in the area, the advancing troops encountered relics of destroyed buildings as well as shelters used by the insurgents and often situated beneath a canopy of trees to conceal them from surveillance and attack aircraft. HumAngle

Six Months Since Coup, Sudan Promises To Keep Up Democracy Fight
Since the October 25 power grab, security forces have killed dozens of anti-coup protesters and arrested hundreds more, with rights groups accusing them of forcefully disappearing, raping, and torturing demonstrators. But while the crackdown has upended countless lives, it has not broken the spirit of the pro-democracy movement. Members of the resistance committees – neighbourhood groups driving the protests through coordinating nationwide marches – say the brutal repression has only hardened their opposition to military rule and pledge to to step up demonstrations after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan concludes next week. “We know the security forces are trying to put us through all sorts of pain … to make us wonder whether our cause is worth suffering for,” Dania Atabani, 22, told Al Jazeera. “But we have reached the point of no return.” Al Jazeera

Sudan: More Troops Deployed to Darfur After Tribal Clashes
Sudan’s military deployed further troops to West Darfur province to help stop tribal fighting that claimed the lives of more than 175 people over the past five days, officials and aid agencies said Monday. The peak of the fighting between Arabs and the African Masalit tribe was Sunday in the town of Kreinik, 80 kilometers east of the provincial capital of Genena. The clashes eventually reached Genena where authorities declared a nightly curfew in the main market, according to the U.N. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the violence which grew out of the killing of two Arab people Thursday in Kreinik by unknown assailants. He called for the acceleration of the deployment of local joint security keeping forces as per a 2020 peace deal between Sudan’s government and a rebel alliance in war-wrecked Darfur region. At least 168 people were killed, and 89 others were wounded on Sunday alone, according to the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur. Thursday-Friday clashes left 8 dead and 16 wounded, it said. AP

CAR: ‘Historic’ Trial Postponed Immediately After Kick-Off
The long-awaited first trial of the Special Criminal Court of the Central African Republic opened on Monday but was immediately postponed to May 16. The court, known by its French acronym CPS, was set up in the capital Bangui seven years ago to prosecute war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in the country since 2003. Unique for being in a country that is still in civil war, the trial could have been a key moment in fostering accountability in a country scarred by decades of violence. The case on Monday involves three suspects – Issa Sallet Adoum, also known as Bozize, Ousman Yaouba and Mahamat Tahir – who were members of the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) armed group, one of the most powerful rebel movements in the country. They are accused of being responsible for the massacre of 46 civilians in two villages near the northwestern town of Paoua in May 2019. The initial date of the trial’s first hearing was set for April 19, but a no-show of the defendants’ lawyers due to disagreements over their wages delayed the opening. It was postponed again as “the lawyers for the defence and those for the civil parties have asked the court for a postponement because they feel that they are not ready,” Paul Yakola, a lawyer for one of the defendants explained. Alain Wabibikaye, a prosecutor at SCC believes this was just a delaying tactic: “because we have followed this entire procedure with them from start to finish for three years and they had access to this procedure at all times, so it is not today that they can ask for a postponement to allow them to organize themselves.” AfricaNews with AFP

African Union Endorses EAC Force Deployment to DR Congo
The African Union has endorsed the decision by East African Community leaders to deploy a regional force to restore peace and stability in eastern DR Congo. In a statement on Tuesday, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat commended the leaders for “their common efforts in finding a sustainable solution to the situation in eastern DRC and the Great Lakes region as a whole.” Last week in a meeting in Nairobi, EAC leaders urged rebel groups in DRC to lay down their arms and they invited them for talks in Kenya. The leaders agreed that should the armed groups not heed to the call for dialogue, they would deploy a regional force against to maintain peace and stability in eastern DRC. However, the meeting between DR Congo President and the armed groups failed to take off due to “logistical challenges.” East African

Tigray Rebels Leave Ethiopia’s Afar Region: TPLF Spokesperson
Tigray rebel forces have withdrawn from the neighbouring region of Afar in Ethiopia, a spokesperson for the rebels has said, as the Afar police commissioner said rebels remained in several districts within the region. Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told the Reuters news agency on Monday that “our forces have left all of Afar”, adding that he hoped it meant that desperately needed food aid could finally arrive in Tigray. The police commissioner in Afar, Ahmed Harif, said Tigrayan forces had withdrawn from the town of Abala but were still in three of the region’s districts and were in control of the highway between Abala and Tigray’s capital Mekelle. There was no immediate comment from the Ethiopian government and it was unclear if the pull-out was negotiated with Addis Ababa. Al Jazeera

Northern Corridor States ‘Monitoring Kenya’s Elections’
Northern Corridor members’ states are closely monitoring developments in the Kenyan political environment with fears that disruptions would negatively affect the supply chain along the transport route that is still recovering from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Northern Corridor is an important transport route to Kenya, Burundi, eastern DR Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), the umbrella body for all private businesses in the country, has said it will work with security agencies under the ‘Mkenya Daima’ initiative to deal with any post poll threats along the corridor that could see the port of Mombasa lose business to Dar es Salaam. “So far we don’t have any indications of any disruptions but we are monitoring closely,” Kepsa CEOe Carol Kariuki told The EastAfrican last week. Kenya’s Ministry of Trade and Industry also indicated there are no signs of a possible disruption along the corridor due to the forthcoming elections. East African

Hope and Hunger: Life at a Crossroads in Madagascar’s Arid South
An influx of aid brought a measure of stability to the Grand Sud, where a paltry harvest in May of 2021 left 1.6 million people on the edge of hunger, with 30,000 facing immediate life-threatening conditions and humanitarian officials warning of “catastrophe.” At the time, the WFP warned the situation could become the world’s first famine powered not by conflict, but instead the first “climate change famine.” The outlook is slightly better this year, but with this season’s rainfall still expected to be below average – the sixth year of similar conditions of the last seven for the beleaguered inhabitants – any upcoming reprieve is feared to be short lived. For Sambo, it is difficult to consider what comes next. His hope for the coming months had been planted as seeds sown in the ground in Berenty village. He longed for the crop yields from the upcoming harvest – which will be completed in May – to lead the residents out of the suffering of recent months and the near-total reliance on humanitarian aid. But when the rains finally did come, they brought hope to some and destruction to others. “The famine should have been fought, the rain has fallen,” he said, referring to Cyclone Emnati, which tore through the region in late February. Al Jazeera

China Aids Zambia in Debt Restructuring Process
President Hakainde Hichilema has thanked China for coming on board to commit and join other creditors in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Zambia debt restructuring process. Speaking during the first quarter of the 2022 press conference at Statehouse in Lusaka on Monday, Hichilema, emphasized that it will be difficult for the government to record sustainable economic development with the current debt levels. “Am proud to announce to the nation that we engaged China, we engaged other creditors to negotiate a debt resolution package, I engaged China myself as President that’s my job, which you gave me, working together with the Ministry of Finance, Foreign Affairs we want to thank China for joining the common framework agreement to resolve the debt crisis,” he disclosed. He said that to this effect Zambia has recorded progress with the debt restructuring program which is targeted at restoring and reviving the country’s economy…Hichilema added that contrary to assertions by some sectors of the society that he was ignoring China in the IMF negotiation process, he personally engaged China, and was proud to announce that China is now part of the common framework committee. The Head of State explained that within the eight months that the United Party for National Development (UPND) has been in office, Zambia is on course with the debt restructuring, adding that all the required components have already been put in place. Hichilema further stated that it’s not a coincidence that the country has continued to record a reduced inflation rate and stable exchange rate but that it is because of the measures that the government has continued to implement to bring stability to the country’s economy. AfricaNews with AP

Malawi: How Scientists Mapped Mosquito Breeding Grounds Using Drones
Using an innovative, 21st-century way to destroy a centuries-old problem, scientists at the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust use drones to map out where mosquitoes breed in an effort to identify and destroy malaria-causing mosquitoes. In Malawi, malaria is one of the top three public health issues, according to a study published in the Malaria Journal. Nearly four million people are diagnosed with the infection every year and the country accounts for two percent of malaria cases worldwide.  Although the country has made significant steps in controlling the disease by distributing treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying, the scientists have been looking at ways of modifying potential mosquito breeding sites so that the mosquitos can no longer develop. When residents of Chiponde Village in Kasungu District first saw the small flying vehicles, they were scared, says Symon Moroko, a 41-year-old father of three. Many had never seen a drone before. RFI



Photo: Adam Jones