Africa Media Review for April 3, 2024

Senegal Swears In Africa’s Youngest Elected Leader as President in a Dramatic Prison-to-Palace Rise
Senegal inaugurated Africa’s youngest elected leader as president on Tuesday, as the 44-year-old and previously little-known Bassirou Diomaye Faye completed a dramatic ascent from prison to palace within weeks…This is the first elected office for Faye, a former tax inspector. His rise has reflected widespread frustration among Senegal’s youth with the country’s direction — a common sentiment across Africa, which has the world’s youngest population and a number of leaders widely accused of clinging to power for decades…Faye on Tuesday offered reassurance that change would not come at the expense of Senegal’s reputation as a stable democracy in a troubled region. AP

Senegal President Faye Appoints Ally Sonko as Prime Minister
New Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye on Tuesday appointed firebrand politician and key backer Ousmane Sonko as prime minister in his first act as president. Sonko, an opponent of former President Macky Sall, is popular among the West African nation’s youth but was barred from the March 24 presidential election due to a defamation conviction. He denied any wrongdoing. Campaigning jointly under the slogan “Diomaye is Sonko,” Sonko urged supporters to vote for his top lieutenant, Faye, who ultimately won with over 54% of the vote in the first round…Speaking after his appointment, Sonko said he would present Faye with a full list of proposed ministerial appointments for his approval. Reuters

Mali Political Parties Request Elections after Junta Shuns Transition Promise
Political parties in Mali have requested a time frame for presidential elections after the ruling junta failed to organise polls within a promised 24-month transition back to democracy…Mali’s current junta seized power in a second 2021 coup and later promised to take 24 months from March 2022 to restore civilian rule, with a start date of March 26, 2024 and elections in February. It passed a new electoral law in June 2022, but said in September last year that it would postpone February elections for technical reasons, sparking outrage among political groups…In a joint statement late on Sunday, some of Mali’s main political parties and civil society groups called on authorities to set up an institutional framework for polls as soon as possible…Mali’s military rulers already failed on a first promise to hold elections in February 2022, prompting stiff sanctions from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)…ECOWAS, West Africa’s main political and economic body, eventually lifted Mali’s sanctions after the new electoral law was published. Reuters

Hunger Stalks War-Ravaged Sudan
In Sudan’s post-apocalyptic cities, in the desert battlegrounds of Darfur and even in the war-ravaged farmlands of the south, families are beginning to starve…The United Nations’ World Food Program says roots of the hunger problem are twofold: access and funding. Within Sudan, WFP trucks have been blocked, hijacked, attacked, looted and detained. Outside Sudan, makeshift camps are swollen with hungry and sick arrivals — but there’s no money to feed them…All food distribution in Chad — home to 1.1 million refugees — will cease entirely within a week, said Cindy McCain, executive director of WFP…The last time that WFP, the only major supplier of food aid in the region, was able to distribute food in Darfur was December. The military shut routes into Darfur from Chad in February, although two convoys of aid were permitted to cross this week. The Washington Post

Sudan Suspends Work of Al Arabiya, Al Hadath and Sky News Arabia Channels, State News Agency Says
Sudan on Tuesday suspended the work of Saudi state-owned broadcasters Al Arabiya, Al Hadath and UAE-owned Sky News Arabia channel “due to its lack of commitment to the required professionalism and transparency and failure to renew its licenses”, Sudanese state news agency (SUNA) said. The Sudanese Journalists Syndicate condemned the decision by the information ministry, saying it was a clear violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. “Closing satellite channels and restricting those working in the profession would silence the voice of the professional media, and would also open the door to the spread of rumors and hate speech,” the syndicate said on Tuesday in a statement. The decision comes as a continuation of intimidation tactics imposed on journalists who have been working under extreme conditions since war broke out last April, the statement added. Reuters

CEPO Calls for Urgent Support for Media in South Sudan
A leading civil society outfit, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), has pressed for exigent funding for independent media in South Sudan ahead of elections slated for December 2024. According to a press statement on Tuesday…CEPO said the role of the media in South Sudan is critical in the current period as the country is heading towards the end of the political transitional period which will culminate in elections…CEPO Executive Director Edmund Yakani stated that the trend of shrinking funding for the independent media in South Sudan is a great threat and risk to the growth of democracy, transparency, and accountability…The media landscape in South Sudan is characterized by repressive strategies by the government which still censors journalists and citizens with critical views of the régime, despite progressive media and broadcast legislation being signed into law in 2013. Radio Tamazuj

At Least 12 Killed, 15 Children Missing in South Sudan Attack
Youths attacked a village in eastern South Sudan and shot dead at least 12 people while 15 children are missing, officials said on Tuesday, as local conflicts continued to increase ahead of elections late this year. A civil war from 2013-18 caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and although the main belligerents have since been at peace, clashes continue among armed groups…The attackers, from the Murle ethnic group, are also suspected of abducting children, Owety Olung, the acting commissioner of Pochalla County, said…Pochalla County is mostly inhabited by the Anyuak ethnic group. They and the Murle, who mainly live in neighbouring Boma County, have fought sporadically and the violence, partly motivated by cattle rustling, has involved ethnic groups from neighbouring Jonglei State. Reuters

Former Rebels in Central African Republic Disarm but Face Few Options. Wagner Is One of Them
Nearly 5,000 fighters have put down their arms in Central African Republic since [a disarmament] program launched nearly a decade ago. Yet former rebels, communities and conflict experts say it’s hard to stop fighting in a country where little other paid work exists…Another armed presence is Wagner, the Russian mercenary group tasked with protecting the presidency and securing the country. Its fighters have been accused by rights groups and civilians of recruiting a local militia to help it fight rebels while committing abuses and exploiting Central African Republic’s rich mines and forests…A report last year by the investigative group the Sentry found that some militia members fighting alongside Wagner had been formally integrated into the military, while others had not…International Crisis Group researcher Charles Bouessel said he has spoken with several rebels who went through the disarmament program and then were recruited by Wagner and the government in Bangui and the Ouaka region. AP

Doctors’ Strike Reveals Unemployment Crisis for Kenyan Medics
A strike by doctors in Kenya has laid bare an unemployment crisis in which qualified medical graduates are struggling to get jobs, despite staff shortages at public hospitals, due to the government’s budget shortfalls. The walkout, now in its third week, comes as Kenya faces potential funding constraints due to a rising debt repayment burden, according to the country’s parliamentary budget office. Some 4,000 public sector doctors are on strike, said the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists Dentists Union (KMPDU), which is nearly half of the country’s roughly 9,000 registered doctors…The situation worsened on Monday (April 1) when clinical officers, primary health care providers who had been helping keep hospitals running in the absence of doctors, also launched a nationwide strike. Semafor

How Congo’s Trees Are Smuggled through East Africa
Criminals in East Africa are exploiting the multiple conflicts in the north-east of the DRC to allow the trafficking of its protected hardwoods. The key economies in the East African Community – Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – are all benefiting from this timber trafficking and flagrantly breaking their environmental pledges. The illicit trade is facilitated by ‘big men’ close to security services and politicians across the region – they ensure the border controls fail. Corrupt payments by the loggers and truckers to border checkpoints oil the wheels of the trade, where fake certificates of origin are produced for a large fee. These timber smuggling rackets are wrecking the ecology of the Congo basin and its contribution to the fight against uncontrolled global warming. The Africa Report

Namibia Investigates Surge in Rhino Poaching in Etosha Park
Namibian authorities are investigating a surge in rhino poaching that has seen 28 rhinos poached already this year, two-thirds of them in the Southern African country’s flagship Etosha National Park. It was particularly concerning that 19 rhinos were poached in Etosha this year, given the park is a focus for conservation efforts and a major international tourist attraction, the environment ministry said in a statement on Monday. Of the rhinos poached, 19 were critically-endangered black rhinos and nine near-threatened white rhinos…Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are used in East Asian countries for making traditional medicines and jewellery. Reuters

Ugandan Court Rejects Bid to Nullify Anti-gay Law That Provides for the Death Penalty in Some Cases
Uganda’s constitutional court on Wednesday upheld an anti-gay law that allows the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.” President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law in May last year. The law is supported by many in the East African country but widely condemned by rights activists and others abroad. Activists had contested the law in court, but the judges declined to overturn it in their ruling. The law defines “aggravated homosexuality” as cases of homosexual relations involving a minor and other categories of vulnerable people, or when the perpetrator is infected with HIV. AP

Nigeria’s Chibok Girls: Parents of Kidnapped Children Heartbroken – Again
[Several rescued girls from Chibok and their husbands, former Boko Haram fighters,] now reside in the city of Maiduguri – Borno’s capital…in housing organised by the state’s governor Babagana Umaru Zulum…[A number of Chibok parents are] disturbed by what seems to be the Nigerian government’s approval of marriages between their rescued daughters and the men who abducted them. Allowing the freed women to live with their former captors as wives, while their accommodation is provided by the government, is perceived by the parents as Governor Zulum sacrificing their daughters in the quest for stability in the region…The freed Chibok girls [say they want] to stay with their Boko Haram husbands…Experts attribute this to several factors, including the sense of belonging fostered by being part of the insurgent group, indoctrination into its extremist beliefs, the development of romantic attachments over time and the formation of family bonds, particularly when they have children together. BBC

Nigerian Takes to the Water to Raise Mental Health Awareness
Nigerian swimmer Akinrodoye Samuel has tried to raise awareness on mental health in Africa’s most populous nation, swimming nearly 12 km (7.45 miles), the length of the longest bridge in Lagos where many people have jumped to their deaths. Samuel, a swimming coach, said he was moved by the experience of a friend who nearly took his own life due to depression. A 2021 UNICEF report showed one in six Nigerians aged between 15 and 24 were depressed, anxious or had other mental health issues. Medical professionals say the stigma associated with mental health in Nigeria’s culturally conservative society makes it difficult for people to open up. “We are doing this too so people don’t just think that suicide is the next option,” Samuel told Reuters after finishing the swim in the Lagos Lagoon on Saturday. Reuters