Africa Media Review for December 23, 2022

Horn of Africa Faces Most Severe Drought in More than Two Generations – UNICEF
The number of children suffering from dire drought conditions across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has more than doubled in five months, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday. Around 20.2 million children are under threat of severe hunger, thirst and disease – compared to 10 million in July – as climate change, conflict, global inflation and grain shortages devastate the region. “While collective and accelerated efforts have mitigated some of the worst impact of what had been feared, children in the Horn of Africa are still facing the most severe drought in more than two generations”, stated UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Lieke van de Wiel. Nearly two million children across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are estimated to need urgent treatment for severe acute malnutrition, the deadliest form of hunger. Meanwhile, water insecurity has more than doubled with close to 24 million people now confronting dire water shortages. At the same time, drought has internally displaced over two million people and driven approximately 2.7 million children out of school, with an additional four million others at risk of dropping out. UN News

Leaked UN Report Cites ‘Substantial Evidence’ of Rwanda Supporting M23 Rebels
A leaked report from UN experts accuses Rwanda’s army of running military operations against DR Congo. Rwanda has long denied Kinshasa’s accusations that it supports the M23 rebels. Also in this edition: Somalia begins bringing home troops it claims were training in Eritrea. Some of the soldiers’ families have said the men were recruited under false promises of paid, civilian work in Qatar – only to find they’d been unwittingly and unwillingly enrolled into the army. Finally, we report on how Sudan’s education system is in crisis, with most 10-year-olds unable to read. France24

Growing Pressure on Rwanda from France, Germany over Congo
International pressure is growing on Rwanda as France and Germany are the latest parties to openly accuse the country of supporting armed rebels in neighboring eastern Congo — with possible repercussions for foreign aid that Kigali has long enjoyed. For months, renewed attacks by the M23 rebels have angered Congo’s government and led to talk of war in eastern Congo, a volatile region rich in minerals critical to much of the world’s technology. … Now other major donors have joined the criticism of Rwanda. … [O]n Tuesday, the German foreign ministry’s director for sub-Saharan Africa, Christoph Retzlaff, tweeted that Rwanda should “immediately cease” its support for the M23 and quickly contribute to a solution to the “disastrous” crisis. Germany’s official development assistance to Rwanda was more than $94 million in 2021. … The public pressure on Rwanda over its alleged support of the M23 is notable. Human rights watchdogs and others have long accused Rwanda of using the international community’s guilt over its delayed response to the country’s horrific 1994 genocide to dampen criticism of its actions including the stifling of opposition at home and abroad. AP

DR Congo’s M23 Rebels Pledge to Retreat from Strategic Town of Kibumba
DR Congo’s M23 rebels, who have seized swathes of territory in the east of the country, pledged Friday to retreat from a strategic frontline position near the city of Goma. A Tutsi-led group, the M23 rebel group re-emerged from dormancy late last year and has since advanced across the country’s troubled North Kivu province, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee in fear. In a statement Friday, the M23 announced that it would withdraw from its position in the town of Kibumba – about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Goma, a commercial hub of over one million people. Kibumba lies on the current frontline between the M23 and Congolese troops on a key highway leading to the city. The M23 stated it was handing Kibumba over to the East African Community’s military force as a “goodwill gesture” in line with recent peace talks in Angola’s capital Luanda. France24

Al-Shabab Kills Two Policemen, One Civilian in Eastern Kenya
Al-Shabab fighters have attacked a police vehicle in eastern Kenya, killing two officers and one civilian, police and the armed group said. The truck was travelling from Hayley Lapsset camp to Garissa town, about 120km (75 miles) from the Somali border, when it hit an explosive device, according to a police statement on Wednesday. The fighters then fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the vehicle and engaged in a heavy firefight which killed the victims, police said. Al-Shabab’s Radio Andalus said in a broadcast their gunmen killed two Kenyan security force members and injured several others in the attack. … The al-Qaeda-linked group continues to make cross-border raids to pressure Kenya into withdrawing its forces from the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force in Somalia. … Al-Shabab has been under pressure in Somalia since August when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud began an offensive against them, supported by the United States, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and allied local militias. Al Jazeera

Journalists in Somalia Slam Government Restrictions, Arrests
Journalists in Somalia say the government is further restricting their work amid a significant military offensive against the al-Shabab extremist group, with a new directive to submit content for approval before publication. In the latest incident, police in the central state of Hirshabelle detained four media personnel in Beledweyne for reporting that al-Shabab attacked rural areas after local militias fighting them withdrew over pay issues, media groups said. Chief editor Mustaf Ali Adow of the independent Radio Hiiraanweyn and three colleagues were detained Thursday and the station was taken off the air. A joint statement by the Somali Journalists Syndicate, the Somali Media Association and Somalia Mechanism for Safety of the Journalists condemned the raid and demanded the journalists’ immediate release. “State security personnel shouldn’t use the continuing security operations as a justification to impose restrictions on press freedom,” Mohamed Ibrahim, president of the Somali Journalists Syndicate, told The Associated Press. AP

Ethiopia’s Warring Parties Agree to Ceasefire Monitor
Ethiopia’s government and Tigray’s rebel forces have agreed to create a joint monitoring body to ensure a peace deal to end the country’s brutal war is respected by all sides. The rivals announced a ceasefire in November that halted fighting in the northern Tigray region, where tens of thousands have died in two years of bloodshed. Among the terms of the agreement was a provision to establish a monitoring and compliance mechanism so that both sides could be confident the truce was being honoured, and any violations addressed. These details were finalised on Thursday by military commanders from Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) at a meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Workneh Gebeyehu, executive secretary of IGAD, the East African bloc supporting the process, said the creation of a joint monitor was a “clear testament” by all parties to honour the letter and spirit of the peace deal. A representative from each side of the conflict, plus a delegate from IGAD and the African Union (AU), would form a joint committee to safeguard the peace deal and ensure its provisions are being respected. News24/AFP

Ethiopia: Despite Peace Agreement, Fear, Looting and Shortages Remain the Norm in Tigray
Despite a peace agreement signed in early November, Tigray is living in disarray and fear, with daily shortages, but also violence, expulsions and looting committed by allies of the Ethiopian army, according to residents and humanitarian workers. Since the agreement signed in Pretoria between the rebel authorities of Tigray, from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and the federal government of Ethiopia, the fighting has stopped. Food and medical aid are gradually arriving and the regional capital Mekele has been connected to the national power grid. However, residents and aid workers from various parts of Tigray told AFP – mostly on the condition of anonymity for security reasons – that looting and persecution of civilians continue in the region. They blame the army of Eritrea, which borders Tigray’s northern border, and fighters from the Amhara region, which borders its southern border, both of which have been supporting the Ethiopian army in the conflict but whose leaders did not attend the Pretoria talks. AfricaNews/AFP

Armed Groups in Northern Mali Pull Out of Algiers Peace Talks
A coalition of armed groups in northern Mali has pulled out of long-running peace talks based on a 2015 Algiers accord because of what they call a lack of political will on the part of the country’s military government. The coalition, called the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), said in a statement on Thursday that it would only come back to the table if talks were held in a neutral country under international mediation. “CSP-PSD regrets the persistent absence of political will of the transitional authorities to implement [the peace accord],” it said, adding it would “suspend participation” in the talks. There was no immediate comment from Malian authorities. The announcement jeopardised the agreement signed in Algiers more than seven years ago between the West African country’s then-civilian government and armed groups to restore peace in the north, after rebels sought to break away from the capital Bamako in 2012. Al Jazeera

Nigeria: Police Dismiss Seven Officers for Extortion
The police in Imo State said they have dismissed seven officers over alleged extortion in the state. The police spokesperson in the state, Michael Abattam, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday. Mr Abattam, a chief superintendent of police, said the dismissal of the officers followed a series of complaints to the commissioner of police in Imo State against the officers by some residents. The police spokesperson said the complainants accused some police officers of brutality, harassment, extortion and illegal checking of their mobile phones. … The police spokesperson said the officers were arrested on 8 November at a bank in Umuahia, Abia State, South-east Nigeria, while they were allegedly working outside their jurisdiction and conspiring to extort an un-identified “innocent” resident. … Ahmed Barde, the commissioner of police in the state, Mr Abattam said, has consequently directed all area commanders, heads of departments, divisional police officers and tactical teams’ commanders of various police units in the state to ensure officers under them do not commit such offences. … “Use the command’s emergency control room numbers in times of distress or whenever you are being harassed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force for quick intervention,” Mr Barde told the residents. Premium Times

Sudan, Yemen Sign Military Cooperation Agreement
Sudan and Yemen defence ministers on Wednesday signed a military cooperation agreement on peace operations and counter-terrorism. … In a statement released at the end of his visit, the Defence Ministry said that [Yemen’s Lt-Gen Mohsen] al-Daeri [and Sudanese counterpart Yassin Ibrahim] signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on military cooperation providing a legal framework for strengthening and developing joint cooperation in the fields of training and visits of military delegations at all levels. … The Sudanese army was heavily involved in the civil war in Yemen under the umbrella of the Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Houthi group in support of the internationally recognised government. … Nowadays, the number of Sudanese troops in Yemen is unknown, but officials say they have no significant presence.… The deal took place as the military leaders say ready to hand over power to a fully civilian government. The military wanted to have the capacity to sign a military cooperation agreement with foreign countries, but the civilians say the decision should be taken by the government, not the army. Sudan Tribune

Mozambique: Insurgents Capture Large Munitions Stockpile at Chai
Insurgents raided a Mozambican security forces base at Chai, in Macomia district, on Tuesday night, seizing a large array of weapons and ammunition. … [T]he captured stockpile … includes 13 assault rifles, three light machine guns, two rocket propelled grenade launchers and large quantities of ammunition. … Chai is located on the N380 road, which runs through central Macomia, less than 10km south of the Messalo river. The area has been a hive of insurgent activity since July this year when security forces completed their clearing operation of the Katupa forest, about 20km east of Chai. On 12 December, insurgents attacked Mozambican Armed Defence Forces (FADM) bases at Nkoe and Nova Zambezia, both within 20km of Chai. It is not confirmed how many were killed but Portuguese news agency Lusa reported that four bodies were later discovered in the forest near Nova Zambezia, one of which belonged to a member of the Local Force. … The scale of activity south of the Messalo and west of the N380 in Macomia suggests this is one of the insurgents’ main strongholds in Cabo Delgado. Zitamar

Catholic Bishop Urges South Sudanese to Be Hopeful
A Catholic bishop has urged South Sudanese not to lose hope, as 2023 would be a better year for the country and its citizens. The world’s youngest nation has been confronting a multi-year flood that is exacerbating already high levels of hunger caused by conflicts and the global food crisis. On 4 August 2022, parties to the 2018 peace agreement signed on to a further two-year extension of the governance arrangements, postponing elections until late 2024. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Juba, Stephen Ameyu, said South Sudanese should be hopeful and change their hearts for God to intervene. … “We have a lot of displacements, we have a lot of disasters, and these disasters should not leave us in despair, let us always hope that God is with us and will continue to sustain us in our difficulties,” he added. The religious leader, however, expressed frustrations with the political leaders for not demonstrating political will to change the country. “In my short moment of service for the church, I had witnessed a lot of stressful situations, a lot of killings, a lot of destruction, and I have visited places, and whenever I ask people where the problem is, they always say, the problem is in Juba,” Bishop Ameyu said.” Why cannot we really change this situation of destruction and killings?” He asked. Radio Tamazuj

Bulawayo Police Block Gukurahundi Commemorations, Arrest Three Activists
Three people were Thursday arrested in Bulawayo during Gukurahundi commemorations organised by a local pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu as part of Unity day commemorations. … Ibhetshu LikaZulu secretary general Mbuso Fuzwayo confirmed the arrests. “We have always said that the current Gukurahundi resolution attempts by the government are not genuine. They are meant to deceive the people that government is doing something to resolve the genocide when in actually fact the state is even more determined to crush anyone who speaks about the issue,” said Fuzwayo. President Emmerson Mnangagwa this year launched a traditional chiefs driven Gukurahundi community engagement programme which has been received with mixed feelings by stakeholders. Some against the idea have argued Gukurahundi should be handled by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC). New Zimbabwe

No Reprieve in Burundi: Human Rights Defender Still Detained despite Acquittal
Good news met bad yesterday in Burundi, as the lawyer Tony Germain Nkina continued to be held in prison despite his recent acquittal, meaning his detention is now illegal. Nkina, a lawyer who previously worked for a leading Burundian human rights organization, is one of the last people publicly associated with the country’s once thriving human rights movement and still in prison today. In 2020, while visiting a client in Kabarore commune, he was arrested and accused of working with armed groups. He was briefly detained by the intelligence service in Kayanza, then transferred to police detention, and finally to Ngozi prison, where he is currently detained. Last year, the court of Kayanza convicted Nkina of “collaboration with rebels who attacked Burundi,” and sentenced him to five years in prison, despite no evidence being presented against him. Thankfully, this conviction was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court earlier this month and the case was sent back to the appeal court of Ngozi for retrial. On December 20, that court acquitted him and his co-accused of all charges. It was a rare moment of judicial independence in Burundi. HRW

Gambia Navy Officer Behind Failed Coup Bid – Government
A navy officer has been named by The Gambia’s government as the alleged ringleader of a failed coup plot. Lance Corporal Sanna Fadera had been detained, along with four other officers, in an operation under way since Tuesday, a statement said. The main opposition party and the West African regional bloc condemned the attempted coup. A retired military officer said he doubted the plot was serious, as all the officers were junior. The government statement said that loyalist troops were still searching for two alleged accomplices, following the arrest of officers from the navy, military police, state guards and first infantry battalions. … Many senior officers left the army after Mr Barrow took office. He has been distrustful of the military, with troops from neighbouring Senegal in charge of his personal security, while the main international airport and sea port are guarded by troops from Nigeria and Ghana respectively. This has made him unpopular with many Gambians, who feel that he has undermined the country’s sovereignty by relying on foreign forces. BBC

Gambia’s Attempted Coup Blamed on Lack of Security Reforms
The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States have condemned an alleged coup attempt in Gambia. The Gambian government says it arrested four troops planning to overthrow President Adama Barrow. Political analysts say a lack of security reforms is to blame for this latest coup attempt in the small West African nation. … Gambian political analyst Sait Matty Jaw says people are worried about their economic situation but do not support military involvement in the country’s political affairs. “There are so many other issues people are worried about, but we also know that the majority of Gambians are anti-coup based on survey data.” … Jaw says lack of security reforms is to blame for Wednesday’s coup attempt. “People are raising questions in terms of the speed of this reform and some of these things are part of what is increasing the insecurity and the need to speed this process,” Jaw said. “The other issue raises questions about the broader transitional justice process because a lot of things need to be done.” VOA

How an Underwater Film Inspired a Marine Protected Area off Kenya’s Coast
Famous for its sprawling nature reserves that are home to all “Big Five” animals, Kenya’s 882 miles of coastline along the Indian Ocean are often overlooked. It’s a place where people go to “chill out,” but not to observe and connect with the wild and unique ecosystem, says Kenyan filmmaker, photographer and conservationist Jahawi Bertolli. Bertolli is determined to change this outlook and believes that visual storytelling is one way to do it. “No one was telling stories about the ocean here (in Kenya),” he says. So far, his work has focused mainly on the Lamu Archipelago along Kenya’s northern coast, where his wife Elke Bertolli, also a photographer and filmmaker, grew up. Lamu is a hidden gem, he says, and filming has led to new discoveries. “There’s not much scientific work that’s happened up here so a lot of what we’re finding is new,” he adds. “We’re finding these incredible reefs. We’re finding incredible biodiversity.” CNN



Photo: Adam Jones