Africa Media Review for December 15, 2023

ECOWAS Suspends Niger from Decision-Making Bodies over Military Coup
In response to the recent military coup in Niger, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken a firm stance by suspending the nation from all decision-making bodies within the regional bloc. The move comes as ECOWAS called for the restoration of constitutional order in Niger following the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum’s government on July 26th, 2023. In a statement released on Thursday, the ECOWAS Commission clarified its position on the situation in Niger. Before the Heads of State and Government Summit held on December 10th, ECOWAS had regarded the events in Niger as an attempted coup, with President Bazoum recognized as the legitimate leader. During this period, Niger actively participated in ECOWAS structures, with its government representatives attending statutory meetings. However, the Summit marked a significant shift, acknowledging the coup’s success in ousting President Bazoum’s government. Consequently, the ECOWAS Commission, guided by its commitment to democratic governance and constitutional order, has suspended Niger from all decision-making bodies until constitutional rule is reinstated in the country. BusinessDay Nigeria

Nigeria Supreme Court Blocks Release of Separatist Leader Kanu
Nigeria’s Supreme Court on Friday overturned a judgment by a lower court that dropped terrorism charges against separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu, ruling that he should stay in detention. Kanu, a British citizen who leads the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), disappeared from Nigeria after skipping bail in 2017. He was arrested in Kenya in 2021 and charged with terrorism. Supreme Court Judge Lawal Garba ruled that Kanu’s seven-count terrorism trial at a lower federal court should continue. Kanu had denied the charges of terrorism and knowingly broadcasting falsehoods, which are linked to social media posts he issued between 2018 and last year. Kanu’s IPOB campaigns for the secession of a part of southeastern Nigeria where the majority belong to the Igbo ethnic group. Nigerian authorities have labeled IPOB a terrorist organisation. An attempt by the southeastern region to secede as the Republic of Biafra in 1967 – the year that Kanu was born – triggered a three-year civil war that killed more than 1 million people. Reuters

Exclusive: Eastern Congo Ceasefire Extended for Two Weeks, US Official Says
The parties to a ceasefire in parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have agreed to a two-week extension, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the developments…Such a deal, which was not previously reported and could not be independently verified with the parties, would come ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo’s Dec. 20 general elections…The White House had previously announced a 72-hour ceasefire, starting on Monday, which they said applied to armed forces and non-state armed groups occupying certain key transit hubs in eastern DRC. That initial ceasefire expired and was “broadly” adhered to, U.S. officials said. The new ceasefire, which the United States helped facilitate, was expected to apply to roughly the same areas and parties…Conflict and violence in the eastern DRC is among many concerns weighing on the country ahead of the elections, where other issues include the economy, corruption and mining in the huge Central African country of 95 million people. Worsening attacks by armed groups have killed thousands and displaced nearly 7 million people, many of whom live in crowded camps without running water, power or reliable access to jobs and food. The United Nations has described it as one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. Reuters

Chad: A Referendum to End Military Rule in 2024
On December 17, more than eight million Chadians will vote in a referendum on a new constitution, according to the National Commission in charge of organizing the constitutional referendum. But the ballot seems to be going in General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno’s favor from the outset, simply because the government has not respected the recommendation of the national dialogue to let the people choose the form of state. Even if a fringe of the opposition advocates federalism, only one bill is proposed, that of the unitary state, supported by the government…The “yes” side seems certain to win: the government is waging a high-powered campaign that is crushing the “no” campaign and is partly based on the rallying of supporters of Succès Masra, an opponent who signed an agreement in principle with the military at the end of October. This alliance stands a good chance against a divided opposition that has been the target of violent repression for over a year… The two main platforms of parties hostile to the junta are calling for a boycott, and are putting up “Stop the referendum” posters with large red crosses where they can. They hope that a low turnout will delegitimize a general whom they accuse of perpetuating a 33-year “Déby dynasty.” Africanews

War Pushes Sudan towards ‘Catastrophic’ Famine-Like Conditions
Families in Sudan’s conflict zones could experience famine-like hunger by next summer, the United Nations has warned, while some in the war-ravaged capital are surviving on a single, meagre daily meal. Some 30 million people, almost two thirds of the population, are in need of assistance in Sudan according to the UN, double the number before fighting broke out between the army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in mid-April. “More and more people are struggling to eat a basic meal a day, and unless things change there is a very real risk they won’t even be able to do that,” said WFP country head Eddie Rowe. According to the U.N.’s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), some 18 million people urgently need humanitarian food assistance, the highest number on record for the country’s more plentiful harvest season. They are concentrated in the capital Khartoum, where more than half face acute food insecurity, and the densely packed cities and towns that have seen fighting in the Darfur and Kordofan regions. According to the IPC, if conditions don’t improve by May, families would start to experience “catastrophic” hunger, meaning they would starve to death without assistance, having depleted their assets and run out of options. Reuters

Sudan: Rape, Murder, Looting: Massacre in Ardamata Is the Latest Chapter in Darfur’s Horror Story
On 5 November, after capturing a Sudanese military base, fighters from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied Arab militia went house to house in Ardamata, a suburb of El Geneina, the capital of Sudan’s West Darfur region, in a frenzy of killing, according to witnesses. The gunmen mostly sought out men and teenage boys from the Masalit community, an African ethnic group, accusing them of being fighters and harbouring weapons. Members of other black, non-Arab groups were targeted, too. During their searches, they demanded to know their victims’ ethnicity, referring to them as “abeed” (slaves) and “nawab”, a racial insult that means “Africans”…Whole neighbourhoods were stripped of their contents and homes were razed…Two people reported girls being raped. The UN human rights office has said some people were burned alive. The killings on 5 November came after a battle for the Sudanese military base, a regional headquarters on Ardamata’s eastern fringes. During days of fighting, dozens of people in residential neighbourhoods were killed by shelling, according to a community tally, while the RSF and Arab militia raided homes and shot Masalit community leaders and other civilians. On the roads, people were robbed and murdered as they fled. The UN says more than 800 people were killed. The Roots Organization for Human Rights and Violation Monitoring, a local NGO, has counted 1,300 dead, mostly civilians. The Guardian

Rwandan Politician Who Criticised Sunak’s Bill Fears for Her Safety
A Rwandan opposition politician who publicly criticised the UK’s deportation deal this week fears for her safety after a presidential adviser condemned her for “waging war on her compatriots”. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who wrote a column in the Guardian on Tuesday questioning her country’s treatment of refugees, said she has become concerned about the fallout from the criticism after the aide, an ally of Paul Kagame, wrote she was “maligning Rwanda” in international media. Umuhoza, who spent eight years in jail after what human rights groups called a flawed trial, also says she has received warnings of a threat against her life. Her views have been condemned by government supporters on social media…In 2010, Umuhoza, a Hutu, was arrested in Rwanda on return from exile as leader of the United Democratic Forces party. After questioning why there were few mentions of the moderate Hutu victims of the 1994 genocide at a memorial, Umuhoza was arrested on charges that included collaborating with a terrorist organisation and “minimising the genocide” and was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. She was released in 2018 after receiving a pardon from Kagame. She spent five of her eight years in jail in solitary confinement…Kagame has been accused of seeking to assassinate and kidnap political opponents. The Guardian

Preparations to Deploy Kenyan Police to Haiti Ramp Up, despite Legal Hurdles
The head of Haiti’s national police visited Kenya Thursday, as local authorities prepare for the deployment of Kenyan police to the Caribbean nation plagued by gang violence. Kenyan authorities said Thursday that Frantz Elbe, on a fact-finding mission, met Kenyan police chief Japhet Koome Thursday. Elbe “is on a three-day official visit to Kenya for bilateral security discussions between the two law enforcement agencies,” a statement from Koome’s office said. No more details were given. In October, the U.N. Security Council approved the deployment of a Kenyan-led foreign armed force to Haiti to help bring gang violence under control…Elbe’s visit comes days after a Kenyan team flew to Haiti for discussions with authorities there. Kenyan police would lead a U.N.-backed multinational force to Haiti, but the proposed deployment has proved controversial as it faces a legal hurdle at home. Kenyan officials told the AP that the first group of about 300 officers is expected to be deployed by February, with authorities still awaiting the verdict in a case that seeks to block the deployment. A decision is expected in January. The planned deployment was first blocked by the High Court in Nairobi in October. AP

US, EU Reiterate Support for Algiers Agreement, Call for Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea
The US and the EU have called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to work together to implement the Algiers Agreement, a peace deal signed between the governments of the two countries in December 2000 to demarcate a common border. In a separate statement issued in connection with the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the agreement, both US and EU reiterated their support for the Agreement…The agreement stipulated that the two states, fresh out of a two year costly war, would accept a decision by the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) as “final and binding.” However, when the EEBC delivered its decision awarding the town of Badme, the epicenter of the war that killed tens and thousands from both sides, to Eritrea, Ethiopia backtracked from its commitment which led to sixteen years state of no war no peace between the two countries and frustrating the international community. In June 2018, however, Ethiopia fully accepted the Algiers Agreement, which paved the way for the restoration of relations between the two countries and enabling them to fight alongside each other during the two years long Tigray war. The US and EU’s statements came amid escalating tension between the two countries following Ethiopia’s recent claim for access to the Red Sea. Addis Standard

US Invests in Africa in Effort to Counter Chinese Influence
The United States has struck hundreds of deals worth $14.2 billion with African nations over the past year as Washington tries to counter growing influence on the continent by China. The 547 new trade and investment agreements represent a 67% increase from 2022 in the number and value of closed deals, according to British Robinson, coordinator for the Prosper Africa trade and business initiative, a program that connects U.S. and African businesses. [During a December 12 virtual media briefing,] Robinson said the presidential and national security initiative is aimed at strengthening strategic and economic partnerships by mobilizing two-way trade and investment flow, and young people are key to realizing that goal…Judd Devermont, U.S. National Security Council senior director for African Affairs, said it has been a record-setting year for U.S.-Africa relations, with the United States following through on its commitment to invest some $55 billion over three years…The announcement comes as Washington works to deepen its engagement with Africa, where China has been expanding its influence with infrastructure, investment, loans, among other initiatives. VOA

Prominent Mozambican Journalist Murdered
Renowned Mozambican journalist João Chamusse was discovered lifeless outside his residence on the outskirts of the capital, Maputo, in what is believed to be a case of murder. Local media reports that Chamusse fell victim to unidentified assailants, with neighbours attesting to hearing his desperate cries for help during the early hours of Thursday. The investigative process revealed a gruesome scene, where Chamusse was found with a head wound, accompanied by a machete and gardening hoe in close proximity. As the co-owner and editor of Ponto por Ponto, a privately owned online weekly newspaper, Chamusse was an influential figure known for contributing critical commentary on the government via a local TV station. The newspaper unequivocally declares that its editorial director fell prey to a “knife-related murder.” In response to this tragic incident, the Mozambique chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), a prominent regional press freedom group, has strongly condemned the killing. Misa emphasized Chamusse’s significant role in championing press and expression freedoms within the country. Africanews

Using Dance to Tell the Story of Mozambique’s Struggles
Panaíbra Gabriel Canda is arguably Mozambique’s most prolific and influential contemporary dancer and choreographer…Mr. Canda, 47, has used his art to offer searing critiques of his nation’s evolution through the independence struggle, socialism, civil war, democracy and corruption. He also has taken aim at Western domination and jaded perceptions of Africa…Early in his career, Mr. Canda focused on traditional cultural dances that Mozambican dancers often practiced during the liberation struggle. But he felt that traditional dance stifled his creativity. So he began to reflect on his life in Maputo, his present concerns and the burning issues in his nation — communism, democracy, freedom of expression. He has a lot of material to work with these days. Many Mozambicans are increasingly concerned that their government is sliding toward authoritarianism. An extremist insurgency in the northern part of the country has led to some instability. Mr. Canda’s work has expressed disillusion with politics, a sentiment that Mozambique’s leaders lie to their constituents…But amid the pressing issues, he has sought to use new aesthetics and rhythms to transform traditional dance. He once mixed xigubo, a traditional Mozambican war dance, with fado, a musical genre of Portugal. It was an experiment, Mr. Canda said, to see what happens when you merge art from a colonial power that imposed its ways on his country with Mozambican tradition. The New York Times