Africa Media Review for January 11, 2024

Al Shabab Terrorist Group Captures U.N. Helicopter in Somalia
A United Nations helicopter carrying nine passengers was captured in Somalia on Wednesday by the terrorist group Al Shabab after making an emergency landing because of technical difficulties in an area controlled by the group, three senior Somali officials said. Six of the passengers were captured, while two escaped and one was killed, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters…Al Shabab, which means “The Youth” in Arabic, has spread havoc across Somalia for almost a decade and half, promising to topple the U.N.-backed national government and to establish an Islamic state in the Horn of Africa nation. The group commands between 7,000 and 12,000 fighters and makes about $120 million annually through extortion and taxation, according to Somali authorities and U.S. intelligence officials. The helicopter, which belonged to the United Nations Support Office in Somalia, provides logistical assistance to the 17,000-member peacekeeping forces with the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia. That support includes ferrying food and fuel, providing land and air transportation as well as casualty evacuations. The New York Times

Somalia Calls on Ethiopia to Tear Up Deal with Breakaway Somaliland
Somalia has demanded that Ethiopia rip up the agreement signed last week that would give Addis Ababa access to a stretch of Somaliland’s coastline, a move that has boosted the autonomous territory’s quest for statehood. Landlocked Ethiopia on January 1 opened dialogue to formally recognise Somaliland, in return for a 50-year lease on a 20km strip of land around the Gulf of Aden port of Berbera. The memorandum of understanding signed by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi has sparked tensions in the volatile but strategically important Horn of Africa region that bridges the Middle East and Africa…The Horn of Africa is a strategically vital region that borders the Red Sea, one of the world’s most vital maritime corridors through which nearly 15 per cent of global seaborne trade passes. The importance and vulnerability of the corridor have been highlighted by recent attacks on commercial ships by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, which have forced vessels to reroute and sent transport costs soaring. Access to the region’s ports has been coveted by Gulf states as well as Russia, Turkey and China. Financial Times

Comoros President Tipped to Win New Term amid Partial Opposition Boycott
Comoros will vote in an election on Sunday that is expected to deliver a fourth term to President Azali Assoumani, a former military officer whose opponents accuse him of muzzling dissent in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation. Assoumani, who has served as the chair of the African Union for the past year, will face five competitors. Other opposition leaders have called for a boycott, accusing the electoral commission of favouring the ruling party. The electoral commission has denied this and said the election will be transparent. Regional observer missions, including from the African Union, said the last election in 2019 was riddled with irregularities and lacked credibility. The earlier vote followed constitutional reforms that removed a requirement that the presidency rotate among the country’s three main islands every five years, and thus allowed Assoumani to seek re-election…Since 2019, Assoumani’s government has cracked down on dissent, critics say. Former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi was sentenced to life in prison in 2022 for high treason related to corruption allegations. Reuters

Morocco Wins Vote to Lead UN Human Rights Body after Showdown with S.Africa
Morocco won a vote on Wednesday to lead the United Nations Human Rights Council after a heated showdown with South Africa, which said Rabat’s human rights record made it unfit to preside over the body. The Moroccan candidate, Ambassador Omar Zniber, received 30 votes, and his South African opponent, Ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi, secured 17 in a secret ballot in Geneva. Morocco, in turn, accused South Africa and some other African states of undermining its efforts to hold the position, a prestigious but mostly symbolic post. The vote marks a rare public dispute in the African group whose turn it was to lead the 47-member council. It normally strives to take decisions as a bloc. The dispute in part revolves around Morocco’s sovereignty claim over Western Sahara, where the Algeria-backed Polisario Front is seeking independence. Morocco has denied allegations of rights abuses against its opponents there. As part of a broader strategy, Morocco has been courting countries, including African neighbours, to build support for its policies for the former Spanish territory. It has failed to garner the support of South Africa, which helped organise an event to promote self-determination for the Sahrawi people in Geneva last year…The U.N. Human Rights Council, which convenes several times a year, is the only intergovernmental global body designed to protect human rights worldwide. It can increase scrutiny of countries’ human rights records and authorise probes. Reuters

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Travel to Africa in January
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi will travel to Africa and visit Egypt, Tunisia, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire from Jan. 13-18, China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday. The visit will mark the 34th consecutive year in which the foreign minister has gone to Africa for their first overseas trip of the year, foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular press conference. Wang will also visit Brazil and Jamaica from Jan. 18-22, Mao added. Reuters

Nigerian Army Arrests Soldiers after Viral Torture Video
The Nigerian army has arrested two soldiers after a viral video allegedly showed them torturing a civilian. In the footage, a man in military fatigues and another in civilian clothing repeatedly kick and whip a third shirtless man, as he repeatedly pleas for mercy…The army has expressed “utmost dismay” at the “unprofessional conduct” allegedly displayed by the officers. “It is instructive to mention that the soldiers involved in that unprofessional conduct have been clearly identified and arrested,” the army added in a statement on Wednesday. The alleged assault took place in Nigeria’s Rivers state, but the date is unclear…The army has assured that it will conduct a thorough investigation to address the incident and promised to “sanction those involved”. International human rights groups have previously criticised Nigeria’s army for alleged rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings. Nigerian soldiers used to have a reputation for acting with impunity – for many years it was rare for soldiers to face disciplinary action if they attacked civilians. But this has changed in recent years. Army chief Taoreed Lagbaja vowed to make the army more disciplined and professional when he was appointed last year. BBC

Nigeria: 15 Persons Kidnapped in 2024 as Abuja Grapples with Rising Crime Rate
No fewer than 15 persons have been reportedly kidnapped in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) since the beginning of 2024. The victims were kidnapped in two major incidents that occurred in the first week of the new year thus depicting rising cases of abduction in the nation’s capital…Within the last three years, Abuja has recorded close to 50 kidnap cases involving over 200 persons. From January 2021 to 30 June 2023, there were about 40 recorded cases affecting a staggering 236 victims. Between October and December 2023, there were 13 recorded kidnap incidents and 80 victims. The incidents took place in Gbau, Kuje, Gauge, Pegi, Abaji, Keti, and Kwali, unchallenged by security agencies. These incidents were also reported to have resulted in significant economic losses, with confirmed payment of ransom totalling N653.7 million between 2021 and 2022. Premium Times

Four Million Ethiopians on the Brink as Food Crises Escalates
The Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission (DRMC) and the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator have released a joint statement urgently addressing the severe humanitarian crisis affecting approximately four million individuals in drought-afflicted areas of Ethiopia. The statement highlights that repeated instances of drought over the preceding year have drastically affected agricultural productivity and food accessibility in the regions of Afar, Amhara, Tigray, Oromia, Southern, and Southwest. The extended absence of rainfall has led to the devastation of crops and livestock, intensifying already high levels of acute food insecurity. Furthermore, malnutrition rates have escalated due to a lack of access to nutritious food. Additionally, the drought has resulted in critical water shortages for human and animal use, heightening the threat of water-borne diseases. As a consequence, there has been a spike in malaria, measles, and cholera among communities with diminished resilience…In the previous month, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) issued a grave warning about the escalating food insecurity in Ethiopia. As a leading entity in monitoring acute food insecurity, FEWS NET forecasted a dramatic increase in challenges, with four million people at risk of entering emergency hunger conditions across five regions by mid-2024 in the absence of urgent intervention. Addis Standard

South Sudan’s Warrap State Approves Shoot-to-Kill Law to Combat Violence
South Sudan’s Warrap State, home to President Salva Kiir, has approved a law authorizing the use of lethal force against individuals involved in cattle raiding, revenge killings, and other criminal activities. The decision, reached during a meeting of the Warrap State Council of Ministers chaired by Governor Kuol Muor Muor, is part of an effort to restore law and order in the state, which has been plagued by chronic communal conflicts and cattle theft. The Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Development Bill 2024, also known as the Green Book, was unanimously endorsed by the council members. The bill, which now awaits approval by the State Transitional Legislative Assembly, aims to address the root causes of violence in Warrap State, including land disputes, unilateral naming of other people’s places, kidnapping of girls, forced marriage and adultery, and competition for limited resources such as water and pastures for cattle. Under the new law, individuals found guilty of cattle raiding or revenge killings will be sentenced to death by firing squad. Those caught with illegal firearms will face fines and up to seven years in prison, while those who illegally rename ancestral land will be fined, jailed for three years, and forced to adhere to local customs…The approval of the shoot-to-kill law has sparked mixed reactions. Human rights activists have condemned the measure, arguing that it amounts to extrajudicial killings. Sudan Tribune

Nelson Mandela’s Support for Palestinians Endures with South Africa’s Genocide Case against Israel
[South Africa] has taken the rare step of bringing a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice because of its war in Gaza. South Africa is not a diplomatic heavyweight and is geographically far from the conflict. But its ruling African National Congress, which Mandela led from an anti-apartheid liberation movement to a political party in government, has retained its strong pro-Palestinian stance even after Mandela died in 2013…South Africa’s ANC-led government says it is taking a moral stance in its genocide case against Israel, first seeking an order for Israel to stop the assaults in Gaza that have killed more than 23,300 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. But the case has given rise to accusations of hypocrisy: The ANC has itself ignored international court orders. The ANC government refused to arrest then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visited South Africa in 2015 while the subject of a warrant on allegations of genocide by the separate International Criminal Court. South Africa has also retained strong ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin since the invasion of Ukraine, overlooking an ICC indictment against Putin for alleged war crimes in relation to the abduction of children from Ukraine. AP

Zambia Cholera: President Hakainde Hichilema Urges People to Move to Villages
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema has urged people to relocate from towns to villages following the deaths of about 300 people in a cholera outbreak. Poor sanitation in some densely populated urban areas was a good breeding ground for cholera, he said. To decongest major towns, residents should relocate to rural areas where there was enough space and “perfect sanitation”, Mr Hichilema added. More than 7,500 cholera cases have been reported nationwide since last October. In the last 24 hours, there were more than 500 new cases and 17 deaths, the health ministry said. The reopening of schools has been delayed as part of a series of preventative measures. The disease has so far spread to eight of Zambia’s 10 provinces…Neighbouring Mozambique and Zimbabwe have heightened surveillance to prevent cross-border transmission. For months now, Zimbabwe has also been battling to stem the spread of cholera because the country lacks clean water. The bacterial disease is spread by contaminated water or food, and causes severe dehydration from vomiting and diarrhoea. It can kill within hours if left untreated. BBC

A Visa by Another Name: Travellers Dismayed over Kenya’s Stealth Visa Charge
Travellers to Kenya are complaining about a new system that requires them to apply for Electronic Traveller Authorisation (ETA) three days ahead of their trips – which means they effectively still pay for visas in all but name. Travel visas, which cost the equivalent of just under R1 000, were dropped on 1 January. The new ETA comes in at a little under R600. But the new system isn’t a discount for everyone. Before the system came into effect, travellers from 51 countries didn’t require visas at all, so they paid nothing…The ETA is issued 72 hours ahead of one’s travel to Kenya. To get the ETA, a passport-size photo and one’s flight itinerary, accommodation reservations or an invitation letter from a person one would be visiting are required. Children under the age of 16 accompanied by their parents will also need the ETA. This is despite that they were exempted from paying visa fees as of 2016. News24

Football Stars Bring Culture to the Forefront at the 2023 AFCON
Players across the African continent have arrived in Côte d’Ivoire in splendour, bringing forth an extraordinary fusion of tradition and sport as they gear up for the 2023 African Cup of Nations. This season’s tournament stands out for its infusion of flair and ceremony, as teams deliberately pay homage to their diverse cultural identities long before the first whistle blows. The vibrancy and richness of Africa’s tapestry are on full display, turning the arrival of each squad into a captivating cultural spectacle. Ghana’s Black Stars, Nigeria’s Super Eagles, the spirited Gambian team, and the formidable Senegalese squad have orchestrated a look, proudly donning their traditional attire. The runway to the pitch has become a vibrant showcase of the continent’s cultural diversity. From January 13 to February 11, 2024, the 34th edition of the African Cup of Nations will be held in Ivory Coast, a first since 1984. Twenty-four teams are competing with the ambition of succeeding Senegal, champion of Africa in the title. Africanews