Africa Media Review for December 14, 2023

US Plans to Resume Partnership with Niger, Diplomat Says
The United States intends to resume security and development cooperation with Niger provided it takes steps to restore democracy, a U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday after meeting the military leaders who took power in a coup in July. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said she had met the top ministers in Niger’s ruling military council – known as the CNSP – and encouraged them to announce a timeline for a swift transition back to democratic rule…Niger has been an important ally in Washington’s fight against Islamist insurgents who have killed thousands of people in West Africa’s Sahel region. The United States, like France and other Western partners, cut off aid to Niger after the military coup. But it did not withdraw its troops, leaving room for cooperation to resume…Over the past decade, U.S. troops have trained Nigerien forces in counterterrorism and operated two military bases…Phee said she urged the junta to respond positively to an offer for high-level negotiations with West African bloc ECOWAS. Reuters

Dozens Killed in Double Attack on Mali Army Camp and Village
Around two dozen soldiers and at least five civilians were killed when militants attacked a military camp and a village in central Mali on Tuesday, a local official said. The attack took place in a rural commune of Mali’s south-central Segou Region on Tuesday afternoon. Armed assailants stormed the village of Farabougou and a nearby military camp, shooting everywhere, the official said via telephone. Militants seized and destroyed the camp, killing around 30 soldiers, said the official, who did not wish to be named. “There were many civilian and military victims,” he said, adding that the bodies of five villagers had been found and many more were injured. The aftermath is still being assessed, he said. Two other local officials confirmed the attack but did not provide a death toll. One survivor told a local radio station that the assailants kidnapped some male residents and killed the rest. Reuters

Gunmen Kill Four Soldiers, Abduct Two South Koreans in Ambush in Southern Nigeria
At least four Nigerian soldiers were killed while two South Koreans were abducted during an attack by gunmen in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern Rivers state, authorities said. The gunmen ambushed a convoy escorting the Koreans on a work trip in the Ahoada East council area, resulting in a shootout, Maj. Jonah Danjuma, an army spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday…Abductions for ransom are common in parts of Nigeria, but it has been especially widespread in Rivers and other parts of the oil-rich Niger Delta region where many foreign companies in the oil and engineering sectors operate. The region also struggles with high poverty and hunger despite its natural resources. Hostages are usually released after the payment of large ransoms, though security forces in the past have succeeded in freeing some. AP

In Nigeria, a Mixed Reception for COP28 Deal to ‘Transition Away’ From Fossil Fuels
The United Nations’ COP28 summit closed Wednesday with the signing of a deal to transition away from oil, gas and coal in what the text called a “just, orderly and equitable manner” in hopes of reducing carbon emissions and ease global warming…The deal also seeks to triple renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 and promote carbon capture technologies that can clean up hard-to-decarbonize industries…Members of the OPEC oil-producing countries, including Nigeria, initially resisted calls by more than 100 nations for stronger measures, such as a complete “phase out” of fossil fuels…Critics argue that decarbonizing technology is expensive and a diversionary tactic by countries so that they can continue to produce fossil fuels. Oil accounts for 95% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. [Peter Tarfa, former climate change director at Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment] said authorities must begin to look elsewhere to grow Nigeria’s economy. “There’s a lot of investment now going on toward the green economy pathway,” he said. “For Nigeria, we cannot act in isolation. … The phaseout or phase down of fuel consumption will definitely impact the economy, but now the time has come for the government to start diversifying to other sources.” VOA

UN Warns Nearly 50 Million People Could Face Hunger Next Year in West and Central Africa
The United Nations warned on Tuesday that hunger could surge across West and Central Africa next year, primarily driven by violence in the conflict-riddled region. Nearly 50 million people could face food insecurity and more than 2.5 million will be on the brink of starvation, said officials from the U.N., the Food and Agriculture Organization, regional and other groups as they presented the findings in Senegal’s capital, Dakar. The report is compiled by regional governments, the U.N. and aid groups. While climate change and inflation are contributing factors, the main driver of food insecurity is increasing violence, particularly across the Central Sahel — the vast expanse below the Sahara Desert — which has been hardest hit…The U.N. says it’s unable to meet the soaring needs because of dwindling funds. Forty percent of people who were food insecure this year did not get aid and those who did received less than 50% of the full rations, said Ollo Sib from the World Food Program. AP

Explainer: How Darfur Became a ‘Humanitarian Calamity and Catastrophic Human Rights Crisis’
Today, Darfur is home to approximately 80 tribes and ethnic groups, encompassing both nomadic and sedentary communities. While tribal and ethnic conflicts are not uncommon, the situation escalated in 2003 when rebels, notably the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), took up arms against the Sudanese Government, protesting the unequal distribution of economic resources. This conflict pitted Sudanese Government forces, supported by allied militia known as the Janjaweed, against rebel groups resisting the autocratic rule of former President Omar al-Bashir…Some 300,000 people lost their lives, and millions were displaced, including 400,000 refugees who were forced to flee to camps in neighbouring Chad…Although Darfur has experienced intermittent periods of reduced violence in recent years…the situation took a drastic turn with the outbreak of conflict in April 2023 between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the Sudanese Armed Forces…Escalating violence across the Darfur region in Sudan has sparked fears that the atrocities committed two decades ago could be repeated…In West Darfur, hundreds have died in ethnically motivated attacks by RSF and allied militia according to the UN’s human rights chief. UN News

Report: Russia Has Laundered $2.5 Billion of African Gold since February 2022
The Kremlin has laundered $2.5 billion of African gold since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to a report by an international group of researchers and human rights activists published on Dec. 12…The research focused on Wagner’s operations in three African countries, each illustrating a different method of resource extraction. In the Central African Republic, a Wagner front company has been reportedly awarded exclusive rights to the Ndassima mine, the country’s largest gold mine, in return for propping up an authoritarian regime. In Sudan, Wagner has become the dominant buyer of the country’s unprocessed gold through a Russia-controlled major refinery, the report said. The mercenary group is also allegedly involved in gold smuggling. A number of Russian military planes loaded with the precious metal have been identified by Sudanese customs officials. Finally, in Mali, Wagner is reportedly paid around $10.8 million per month to prop up the country’s military junta, which, in turn, relies on a small number of international mining companies for most of its tax revenue. The Kyiv Independent

A Military Court Convicts Tunisian Opposition Activist Chaima Issa of Undermining Security
A military court in Tunisia convicted a prominent opposition activist of undermining state security and gave her a one-year suspended prison sentence Wednesday, according to a defense lawyer. The lawyer representing Chaima Issa denounced the verdict but expressed satisfaction that she would remain free and plans to appeal. Public prosecutors began investigating Issa, a leader in a coalition of parties opposed to President Kais Saied, after she criticized authorities on Tunisia’s most prominent radio station in February. She was jailed from that month to July…She criticized the charges as politically motivated before walking into the military court hearing on Tuesday…Critics of the Tunisian president have increasingly faced prosecution and arrests. More than 20 have been charged in military courts with “plotting against state security.” AP

Senegal Court Orders Opposition Leader Sonko to Be Reinstated on Electoral List
A Senegal court has ordered jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to be reinstated on the electoral register, a ruling that could pave the way for him to run in a February presidential election, Sonko’s lawyer Cire Cledor Ly said on Thursday. Sonko has faced a flurry of court cases over the past two years for charges including libel and rape, which he denies…Sonko, 49, was cleared of rape in June, but sentenced to a two-year jail term after a court found him guilty of an offence described in the penal code as immoral behaviour towards individuals younger than 21. He was arrested in July for insurrection and was struck off the electoral roll, a decision that potentially ruled him out of the February vote. Sonko came third in Senegal’s 2019 presidential election, and he is seen as a main opposition challenger in the race to succeed President Macky Sall…A lawyer for the state said the government would appeal. Reuters

Senegal Fits Inmates with Ankle Tags to Reduce Prison Crowding
Like most countries in Africa, Senegal’s prisons are old, overcrowded and cannot manage the thousands incarcerated for petty crimes, or those in pre-trial lock-up. Many are ineligible for bail because they do not have official addresses. This year, it launched a pilot scheme to reduce the prison population by releasing hundreds of inmates under electronic supervision, the first country to do so in West Africa, according to the government. If successful, it could become a blueprint for other countries with clogged jails – Morocco and Togo are already pursuing similar programmes. Ankle monitors have their critics, however. Detractors say they do not resolve the underlying causes of crammed cells, including harsh punishments for minor crimes and glacial judicial systems. And in authoritarian regimes, rights groups fear they may be overused for surveillance purposes…Sceptics say the tag, which requires charging, excludes people in poorer areas without electricity – around 30% of the population, according to the World Bank. Reuters

Ghana Will Enter ‘Malaria Elimination’ Phase in 2024
Ghana is moving to the “elimination phase” in its longstanding battle with malaria, after successful years-long trials with groundbreaking vaccines, according to the country’s top health official. Dr Patrick Aboagye, director general of the Ghana Health Service, told Semafor Africa the West African country has “seen a massive reduction in the malaria case load and malaria fatality has gone down” since RTS,S, the first malaria vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), was first piloted four years ago. Malaria…is responsible for an average reduction of 1.3% in Africa’s economic growth every year, according to the WHO. The cost is largely due to malaria-related absenteeism and public health interventions, such as insecticide spreading and the distribution of bed nets…RTS,S — also known as Mosquirix, from British drugmaker GSK — was approved by the WHO last year. Ghana in April became the first country in the world to approve the R21/Matrix-M jab, which was developed by Oxford University and is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The WHO recommended it in October. Semafor

A New Cocktail Festival Puts the Spotlight on Africa
The rising interest in cocktails and spirits over the past quarter-century has led to an explosion of conventions and festivals all over the world where drinks are poured and discussed in depth. Africa, however, has been largely absent from this global party. That situation will change next year with the arrival of Ajabu, in South Africa. Billed as the continent’s first international spirits and cocktail festival to be held biannually, the event will run in Johannesburg from March 10 to 13, then in Cape Town from March 13 to 18…(Ajabu means “something wondrous” in Swahili.) The event is the brainchild of Mark Talbot Holmes, the founder of U’Luvka Vodka, and Colin Asare-Appiah, a native of Ghana who rose quickly through London’s mixology ranks in the 1990s and early 2000s…“I’ve always been African-centric,” [Asare-Appiah] said. “I wanted the groups of people I’ve worked with over the years to come together and celebrate the uniqueness of Africa.” Ajabu will…[fly] in bartenders from bars in several African countries. The New York Times