Africa Media Review for December 28, 2023

High-Stakes Sudan Peace Talks Postponed for ‘Technical Reasons’
Amid the ongoing conflict in Sudan, the highly anticipated face-to-face meeting between the top commanders of the warring Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces was postponed for “technical reasons,” Djibouti’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday. Facilitated by the East African regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the meeting was scheduled to take place Thursday in Djibouti. The meeting would have marked the first known direct encounter between military chief General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the commander of RSF, since Sudan’s conflict erupted more than eight months ago…Meanwhile, Dagalo highlighted his Wednesday visit to Uganda on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. Dagalo said he discussed “developments in Sudan and the suffering of the Sudanese people,” with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, presenting what he says is his vision for negotiations, ending the war, and rebuilding the Sudanese state. VOA

Sudan: South Darfur Health Centre Closure Sparks New Humanitarian Crisis
South Darfur’s health authorities announced the closure of a primary health centre in the capital of Nyala, citing a critical shortage of medical supplies and an inability to treat patients, last week. Dr Essa Abdelrahman, the centre’s director told Radio Dabanga that over 56 villages and at least 6,000 displaced people are now lacking essential health services. According to some metrics, the current conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have caused an exceptional 80 per cent loss in health infrastructure across South Darfur. This is to say nothing of the crucial health supplies that were also looted, further compounding the state’s health woes…In early September, doctors in the South Darfur capital of Nyala reported that several health facilities, including a number of hospitals, are out of service. Ahmed El Tijani, a paediatric specialist, stated that at least three private clinics and three hospitals – Nyala Teaching Hospital, parts of the Nyala Specialist Hospital, and the Nyala Police Hospital – are out of service. The Italian Children’s Hospital ceased inpatient services due to staff shortages. Radio Dabanga

Burkina: Kidnapping of Former Foreign Minister
Ablassé Ouédraogo, former Burkina Faso foreign minister and former deputy director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), was kidnapped on Sunday by “individuals” claiming to belong to the “national police”, his political party announced on Wednesday, calling for his “immediate release”. Ablassé Ouédraogo, aged 70, “was taken by individuals claiming to be members of the national police force from his home in Ouagadougou on Sunday 24 December at around 6.30pm”, wrote the party he chairs, Le Faso autrement, in a press release…In early November, the party denounced the army’s decision to “requisition its president, Ablassé Ouédraogo” to “send him to the front” in the “fight against terrorism”. According to Faso Autrement, this requisition is “a sanction” applied in response to the “stances” taken by the politician. Ablassé Ouédraogo, Blaise Compaoré’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs (1994-1999), has gone over to the opposition and set up his own party. He is highly critical of the military regime installed since a coup d’état at the end of September 2022 and led by Captain Ibrahim Traoré. In an open letter published at the beginning of October, he denounced “the restrictions on individual and collective freedoms, the muzzling of the press” and “the retreat of democracy” that he had observed since the coup. Africanews with AFP

Russia Reopens Embassy in Burkina Faso Closed in 1992
Russia on Thursday, December 28, reopened its embassy in Burkina Faso after a gap of nearly 32 years, the West African nation’s government and a Russian diplomat said. The Burkinabe foreign ministry confirmed in a statement that “Russia formally reopened its embassy this Thursday in Ouagadougou.” The mission was closed in 1992. The Russian ambassador to Ivory Coast, Alexei Saltykov, said Russian President Vladimir Putin would name the new envoy. Saltykov said he would head the mission in Burkina Faso until the new ambassador is named and described Burkina Faso as “an old partner with whom we have solid and friendly ties”…Since coming to power in September 2022, the ruling junta has distanced itself from France – its historic partner and former colonial power – and moved closer to Russia. In October, Burkina Faso signed a deal with Russia for the construction of a nuclear power plant to increase the energy supply to the Sahel country where less than a quarter of the population has access to electricity. Le Monde with AFP

Benin Lifts Suspension of Imported Goods Transiting to Niger
Benin has lifted its suspension of imported goods transiting to Niger through the port of Cotonou in a move that follows five months of sanctions on the coup-hit country. The measure was taken “in view of the substantial improvement in the operational conditions for handling goods at the port of Cotonou” the port’s director general Bart Van Eenoo said on Wednesday. It comes almost a week after Benin President Patrice Talon called for relations to be swiftly re-established between his country and neighbouring Niger. The West African regional bloc Ecowas had imposed sanctions on Niger following a coup on 26 July…The measures have led to the closure of the border with Benin, which has seen a fall in revenues after the transport of goods to Niger via its ports was halted. Goods for Niger represent 80 percent of the transit volume at the port of Cotonou…”This does not mean that the Ecowas measures are lifted,” the commercial and marketing director of the autonomous port of Cotonou, Kristof Van den Branden, told RFI. “These are only measures for the operations of the port of Cotonou.” RFI with AFP

Central Africa Blames Fuel Shortage on Supply Disruptions, Smuggling
Central Africa has, for months, been plagued with acute fuel shortages that have stifled regional economic growth, disrupted local businesses, and contributed to rising food prices and social unrest. The shortages are partly blamed on increased demand coupled with disruptions in supply, and on illegal trade in conflict zones…The landlocked Central African Republic, which receives fuel supplies through Cameroon’s Douala seaport, also reports disruptions. Aid agencies in the country, which has been hit by sectarian violence, say if nothing is done to stop the fuel crisis, delivery of needed humanitarian aid will be affected. A severe fuel crisis is also stirring social unrest in Chad. Officials there report protests in the capital, N’djamena, and in towns including Bongor, Moundou, Faya-Largeau and Abeche, where the military this week said it dispersed protesters with tear gas…Sudan’s fighting shut down businesses and forced civilians and fuel merchants to flee the northeastern African state. Chadian officials say Sudanese civilians who brave the fighting, as well as troops of Sudan’s national army and a rival national paramilitary force, rush to Chad’s porous 1,400-kilometer border for fuel regularly. VOA

Political Crisis in Nigerian Oil Capital Sparks Fears of More Economic Woes
On October 30, oil-rich Rivers State, Nigeria’s oil capital, became the latest hub of political drama in the country following the state parliament’s attempted impeachment of Siminalayi Fubara, who had been governor for only five months…Nyesom Wike, Fubara’s predecessor…has accused Fubara of wanting to destabilise the structure that brought him to office. Since then, a political crisis has unfolded, impeding governance in the state and risking crude production in Africa’s largest oil producer…Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu met with parties involved in the crisis on December 18. After the meeting, the parties involved reportedly signed a resolution stating that court cases instituted by Fubara be withdrawn and the state parliament drop all impeachment proceedings against him…The peace agreement has barely resolved the crisis, creating fears of continued risk to the oil capital, even as Nigeria’s economy, which is overly reliant on oil exports, continues to plummet… [Jonathan Lokpobiri, president of the nationalist Ijaw Youth Council (IYC)] said a lack of a fair and lasting solution could force the people to deploy different means in showing support for the governor, warning that interested parties could “go destructive which tends to get attention faster and better”…This could lead to an armed revolution, says [Peter Medee, associate professor of economics at the University of Port Harcourt]. “People revolt in their area of advantage and one of their [Ijaw people] area of advantage is the oil pipeline that carries crude from other parts of the state through Ogoniland in Rivers …they could cut it off,” he told Al Jazeera.

Nigerian Firm Plans First-Ever Gas Supply Deal to South Africa
Nigeria will kick off the delivery of gas to South Africa for the first in the history of trade relations between the two nations if talks between Riverside LNG and counterparts in Africa’s most industrialised nation succeed…In November, Riverside LNG signed a pact with Johannes Scheutze Energy Import AG in Germany regarding renewable energy and a gas export deal worth $500 million. Nigeria is in a drive to rev up foreign interest in its oil and gas industry, constrained for years by multiple issues from crude theft and pipeline vandalism to ageing infrastructure and structural bottlenecks, all of which account for why international oil companies exit in droves…South Africa needs to build a plant first to enable it to take liquefied natural gas from Riverside LNG, implying that supply will only begin in 2027. That means there’s “enough time for import terminal infrastructure,” the Riverside LNG CEO said. The initiative could help South Africa in tackling a sticky electricity problem. The country is in the middle of a profound power crisis as Eskom, the state-owned electric utility, reels from the strain of old infrastructure, forcing the company to resort to load-shedding that often triggers blackouts across the country in a big blow to economic activities. Premium Times

Botswana Backlash to Zimbabwe Border Plan
A proposal by Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi to allow citizens to cross borders using national identity cards instead of passports has drawn heavy criticism in Botswana. Speaking at a festival in Gaborone this month, Mnangagwa announced the deal to remove passport requirements, saying laws were being changed to facilitate it. This provoked a public outcry in Botswana, forcing the labor minister to clarify to parliament no agreement is yet in place and procedures are still underway…Relations are warming between Mnangagwa and Masisi despite continued rights abuses and electoral fraud in Zimbabwe…While some East African states remove visa requirements, Botswana lawmakers and citizens say dropping passports on the Zimbabwe border could increase illegal migration and job losses, mirroring South African xenophobia…Botswana hosts the second largest Zimbabwean emigrant population after South Africa. Analysts expect more to seek refuge if borders open…Some Zimbabweans already travel to Botswana for affordable goods and healthcare as domestic systems collapse. The Africa Report

Egypt: Passport Holders Stranded in Rafah Plead with Authorities to Be Allowed Home
Dozens of Egyptian passport and ID holders have been stuck in the Gaza Strip for weeks, increasingly desperate for the opportunity to leave the besieged territory and escape the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. “We are staying here in front of the terminal. We have been sleeping here on the chairs for 25 days. There is no solution for us. Every day and every week there are lists of travellers (allowed to cross), but we are surprised that they are not Egyptian, they are Palestinian passport holders. Why? We are originally Egyptians and hold Egyptian passports. We were born in Egypt.” said Hossam el-Dein Hafez, Egyptian passport holder. Since the war broke out, many Egyptians desperate to escape Israel’s incessant bombing have left their homes in Gaza and camped around the black metal gate on its southern frontier. Some have been sleeping on chairs outside the crossing terminal, hoping for the chance to be able to return to their homeland. Africanews

Kenya-Tested Malaria Vaccine Gets WHO Approval
A malaria jab that was tested in Kenya alongside other countries, has been prequalified for use by the World Health Organisation (WHO)…The global health regulator had in October this year recommended the R21/Matrix-M jab for the prevention of malaria in children following the advice of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunisation and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group. This came after Phase III trials which enrolled 4,800 children aged five months to three years in four countries across Africa namely Kenya, Mali, Burkina Faso and Tanzania…As part of the prequalification process, WHO applies international standards to comprehensively evaluate and determine whether vaccines are safe, effective and manufactured to international standards. WHO also ensures the continued safety and efficacy of prequalified vaccines through, for example, regular re-evaluation, site inspection and targeted testing. The East African

Mauritania: The Refugees Putting Out Fires – and Prejudice
As Mauritania faces its yearly bushfire season, a group made up of refugees teams up with the local community to put out the flames and save pastures for livestock. The firefighting team was first established by a handful of refugees, before gaining support and recognition by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) in 2018…According to the Mauritanian Environment Ministry, between 50,000 and 200,000 hectares of land suffer fires each year…Mauritania is also one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis…Desertification, caused by long periods of drought and reduced rainfall, is a challenge for nomadic and pastoralist communities in the country…Protecting the little remaining pastures from wildfires is therefore becoming more crucial than ever. The refugee firefighters know this. When a fire is detected, they can be called up at any time of the day or night, and rush to the task. To put out the flames, there are no hosepipes or fire engines; the endemic water scarcity represents an obstacle to traditional approaches. Instead, the fire brigade opts for another tool: there’s an ever-green bush, which animals don’t eat. The tough branches, put together, can be whipped onto the ground, suffocating the flames and thus clearing the ground to create a fire-break. DW