Africa Media Review for February 9, 2024

West Africa Bloc Urges Burkina, Niger and Mali Not to Withdraw
The West African regional bloc ECOWAS pushed junta-led Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali to reconsider their decision to quit the political and economic alliance, it said on Thursday, warning of the hardships the move would force on their citizens. The three countries’ self-appointed military leaders jointly announced on Jan. 28 they were abandoning the bloc after it pressured them to restore constitutional order following a string of coups…Member states wishing to withdraw must give a written one-year notice. On Wednesday the juntas said they planned to leave “without delay” as they did not feel bound by treaty terms, increasing the chances of a messy disentanglement from the region’s trade and services flows, worth nearly $150 billion a year…A swift departure also raises pressing questions for the millions of nationals from the three poor and landlocked nations who have settled in neighbouring states as the bloc allows visa-free travel and right to work. Reuters

US Calls for Investigation into Alleged Civilian Killings in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region
The U.S. is calling for an investigation into an alleged massacre of civilians in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, where a local rights group says more than 80 people were killed last week following clashes between soldiers and armed groups. The U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, Ervin Massinga, said Friday that the “U.S. government is deeply concerned” by the reports from the town of Merawi and called for “unfettered access by independent human rights monitors as well as an impartial investigation to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice”…A rebellion broke out in Amhara last April when the government moved to dissolve regional forces and absorb them into the federal army. A militia group known as the Fano launched a surprise assault in August in which they captured towns across Amhara over several days before retreating to the countryside. AP

UN Chief Urges All Nations to Do Everything Possible to Stop the ‘Horrible’ War in Sudan
The United Nations chief on Thursday urged the international community to mobilize and do everything possible to stop the war in Sudan, saying “what is happening is horrible.” Secretary-General António Guterres said there is no military solution to the conflict between forces supporting rival generals that began in mid-April 2023, and he stressed that continued fighting “will not bring any solution so we must stop this as soon as possible”…The U.N. is working with the regional group IGAD, the African Union and the Arab League, and Guterres expressed hope he will meet with them at the upcoming AU summit on Feb. 17-18 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, “to see how we can converge our efforts to bring these two generals to the table” and achieve a ceasefire and create conditions to get humanitarian aid into Sudan for people in “desperate condition.” AP

Sudan Rejects Peace Talks outside Jeddah Process
The Sudanese government reiterated its commitment to negotiating the ongoing conflict solely through the Saudi-US-backed Jeddah platform, rejecting alternative venues like the UN-proposed talks in Switzerland. On Thursday, Lt General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan chaired a joint meeting of the Sovereign Council and the Council of Ministers. He briefed the meeting about the ongoing efforts to end the conflict with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), according to a statement by the Sovereign Council…These statements follow UN Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths’ announcement of an agreement with the Sudanese army commander-in-chief and RSF leader to discuss the implementation of the humanitarian aid delivery under the Jeddah Agreement, with talks to be held in Switzerland. Sudan Tribune

Nigeria: Kidnappers Terrorising Abuja, Neighbouring States Killed in Gunfire – Police
The police have killed members of another gang of kidnappers terrorising Abuja, Kaduna, Kogi, and Nasarawa states. The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the gang members killed early Thursday by operatives of the intelligence unit of the Nigerian Police, the DFI-IRT, were also involved in the supplying of arms to other bandits operating in the areas. The gang was said to have been involved in kidnapping and gun-running…This came about a week after the police announced the killing the leader of a kidnap gang in Abuja. Premium Times

The EU Announces 210 Million Euros in Aid to Help Mauritania Curb Migration
The EU on Thursday announced 210 million euros to help Mauritania crack down on people smugglers and deter migrant boats from taking off, as the number of people attempting the dangerous Atlantic crossing from West Africa to Europe rises sharply. Mauritania, during a meeting with European officials in its coastal capital of Nouakchott, also noted that it was itself increasingly struggling to cope with the growing number of migrants and refugees entering its borders as security in the Sahel region declines…One of the most stable countries in the Sahel, Mauritania has been hailed as a key partner in the fight against terrorism, and Von der Leyen announced an additional 22 million euros for a new anti-terrorism battalion in Mauritania that will patrol the border with restive Mali. AP

Rights Group Sees Retaliation as the Motive for Jailing an Egyptian Presidential Challenger
A leading human rights group dismissed on Thursday the conviction of a prominent Egyptian political activist as an act of retaliation for his decision to challenge President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in last year’s presidential election. On Tuesday, a Cairo misdemeanor court sentenced former presidential hopeful Ahmed Altantawy, along with 22 of his aides, including his campaign manager, to one year in prison on grounds of disseminating un-authortized endorsement forms for his candidacy. The court also barred Altantawy from national elections for the next five years. “It isn’t just that the authorities are punishing peaceful dissent. By barring Tantawy from running in future elections, the authorities are sending a clear message that no serious challenge to Sisi will be tolerated,” said a statement released by Human Rights Watch. AP

South African President Defends 30 Years of ANC Rule in Speech to Parliament Ahead of Elections
President Cyril Ramaphosa insisted Thursday that his ruling African National Congress party is making progress in addressing South Africa’s problems such as record unemployment, an electricity crisis and corruption allegations that have even dented his own reputation…The ANC has been in government ever since the end of the apartheid system of racial segregation in 1994, but its reputation as South Africa’s liberator has been eroded and its support has gradually declined…He is now seeking a second and final five-year term in elections which must happen between May and August…The ANC is still widely expected to win the largest share of votes in South Africa’s seventh all-race national elections since the downfall of apartheid. But if it drops below 50%, it would need to enter into a coalition to remain in government and keep Ramaphosa for a second term. AP

Liberia Orders Central Bank Audit as Part of Anti-graft Drive
Liberia’s President Joseph Boakai has commissioned an audit of three key government institutions, including the central bank, as part of efforts to tackle graft, the presidency said on Thursday. Boakai, who defeated his predecessor George Weah in November elections, won on the promise to tackle corruption and improve livelihoods in the West African nation. The anti-corruption push included an audit of the former government. In a statement on Thursday, the presidency said Boakai had asked Liberia’s General Auditing Commission to carry out an audit of the central bank, the national security agency and the executive protection service. The inspection will focus on the period from 2018 to 2023, and report its findings within three months. Reuters

Exxon Mobil to Exit Equatorial Guinea
Exxon Mobil Corp said on Thursday it will exit Equatorial Guinea in the second quarter of this year, when the oil major will transfer its remaining investments in the country to the local government. Reuters reported in 2022 that Exxon had decided to leave the country once its licenses expired, amid a larger Africa phase out from legacy crude assets. The company said the decision was aligned with its “long-term strategy”…Exxon’s oil output in Equatorial Guinea has been declining over the years and the oil giant has been trying to sell its key asset Zafiro operation since 2020. Reuters

Lobito Corridor: Hoping to Break China’s Grip on African Ore
In October 2023, the United States and the European Union passed a declaration to support efforts to revive and strengthen the Lobito corridor…For Washington and Brussels, linking the Copper Belt with the Atlantic Ocean is, however, also a geopolitical move in their race against Beijing. China currently dominates the market for the strategic supply chains for the energy transition…From the mining capital of Kolwezi in the DRC to Lobito in Angola, the distance measures 1,600 kilometers — half the distance to Durban, South Africa. In addition to these shorter distances, the fact that the Lobito corridor is a rail link also helps drum up excitement for the project: Hauling cargo on rails is far more climate-friendly. DW

‘Love Is Our First Medicine’: Treating Mental Health in Cameroon’s Unique Refuge
Founded in May 2021 and located in the grounds of Jamot hospital in Yaoundé, [Le Village de L’amour] is a joint project between the public health ministry and Yaoundé city council…The team – from a pool of more than 100 volunteers…regularly scours the streets of the city, with security provided by the council, looking for homeless people in need of help…Patients whose families cannot be found or refuse to help them are taken to the village…Of the 100-plus patients at the village, 95% have schizophrenia…Mental illness in Cameroon is often misunderstood and stigmatised, with witchcraft blamed when someone lives with a mental health condition…According to the World Health Organization, in 2020 there were only 12 psychiatrists, 300 psychologists and 150 mental health nurses in Cameroon, a country of 28 million people. The Guardian