Africa Media Review for January 19, 2023

Chadian Protesters’ Hellish Ordeal in Remote Desert Prison
After being rounded up by police over mass protests against Chad’s military junta in October last year, hundreds of mostly young men faced this nightmarish two-day journey to the high-security Koro Toro prison, deep in the hostile Djurab desert. After they arrived at the remote jail, many were sentenced in a mass trial without lawyers and put in the brutal charge of jihadist prisoners.  “We thought only of death,” said Nadjilem, one of several prisoners, since released, who spoke to AFP about their ordeal, using pseudonyms out of fear for their safety. Security forces swept up the men before and after mass protests over plans by General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno’s military junta to extend its rule by two years. AFP

Mass Graves Found in Eastern DR Congo: UN
United Nations peacekeepers have discovered mass graves in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo containing the bodies of 42 civilians, a UN spokesman said Wednesday.  The victims, including 12 women and six children, were discovered in the village of Nyamamba in Ituri province, about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) east of the provincial capital Bunia, according to Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Peacekeepers found another grave with the bodies of seven men in the village of Mbogi in the same province. The graves were discovered after investigations by the UN mission in the DR Congo, known as MONUSCO, following reports that militants from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) rebel group attacked civilians in the area over the weekend, said Haq, adding “this is when they made the gruesome discoveries.” Anadolu Agency

Police Crack Down on Protest Against East DR Congo Force
A protest against an East African force deployed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was violently dispersed by police in Goma on Wednesday, AFP correspondents saw. About 100 demonstrators gathered near a roundabout to march against the East African Community (EAC) force, which they said was ineffective…Journalists were threatened by police and an officer threw a tear gas grenade at the group of reporters, hitting an AFP correspondent in the head. AFP

Abducted Burkina Women Flee from Jihadist Gunmen Through Bush
Burkina Faso authorities said about 50 women were kidnapped on January 12 and 13, 2023 in Arbinda district, part of the restive Soum province — a new tactic by Islamist insurgents whose brutal attacks blight the West African country…Another survivor, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters the abductors gathered women into groups and made them shepherd stolen sheep to disguise what was happening. “I managed to hide in a ravine with another (woman),” the second woman said. “We got back to the village at nightfall. Others returned the following morning,” she said. Reuters

Senegal Opposition Leader Sonko to Face Trial over Rape Charges
Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko will face trial on charges of rape and making death threats to a beauty salon employee in 2021, an investigating judge has said. The judge referred the matter to Senegal’s criminal chamber for trial in a letter dated January 17 and seen by Reuters news agency on Wednesday…A trial could jeopardise his intention to compete in the 2024 presidential election. Sonko, who came third in the 2019 election, has announced he will run. It could also stoke political tensions in Senegal. Clashes broke out in the country in March 2021 when Sonko was initially summoned by the investigating judge and arrested. Sonko is accused of sexually assaulting a woman who worked in a massage parlour and later threatening her. He and his backers say the trial is politically motivated to eliminate him from the presidential race. Al Jazeera

‘Obi Understands’: Young Nigerians Swell Support of Presidential Hopeful
Nigerians go to the polls on 25 February to choose a replacement for Muhammadu Buhari, whose eight-year rule has been sharply criticised for failing to get to grips with rampant insecurity and a cost of living crisis. A former state governor running for the Labour party, Obi is the first third-party candidate to present a real challenge to the dominance of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), since the end of military dictatorship in 1999. The 61-year-old has appealed to younger voters with a message that he is different from his old-guard rivals and wants to bring real change to Nigeria…Analysts say some younger people have turned towards Obi out of a sense of desperation with the status quo in Nigeria and continued anger over the brutal suppression two years ago of the #EndSars movement – named after a hated police unit – which demanded better governance. Guardian

Nigeria Rescues Last Hostages of Train Station Kidnap
The authorities in Edo state in southern Nigeria says the last two hostages from a group of people who were kidnapped from a train station in the state almost two weeks ago have now been released. Seven suspects, including two village chiefs, have also been arrested and are currently in police custody. Twenty people were kidnapped from the Igueben train station by armed men on 7 January. Six victims were freed within 48 hours, and a further 12 victims were rescued by security services and armed vigilantes over the weekend in a separate rescue operation. Kidnapping for ransom is common across Nigerian roads and there are concerns that criminals are starting to target the country’s railways. BBC

Report: Climate Change Fueling Conflict in Lake Chad Basin
Droughts, flooding and a shrinking Lake Chad caused in part by climate change is fueling conflict and migration in the region and needs to be better addressed, a report said Thursday. Human rights group Refugees International called for the issue to be central to a high-level international conference on the Lake Chad basin next week in Niamey, Niger’s capital. The report found that shrinking natural resources due to adverse weather are heightening tensions across communities and displacing people. It said that around 3 million people have been displaced and an additional 11 million were in need of humanitarian assistance…The United Nations weather agency warned that Lake Chad basin “is particularly vulnerable to climate change related extreme events such as floods and droughts” and issued alerts that “extreme events will likely become more abundant causing more frequent droughts and flooding with impacts on food security and general security in the region.” AP

Report on Misinformation in Sudan: Fake News Campaign Prelude for Coup
The report introduces a series of misinformation campaigns it detected. The “mentioned campaigns can be defined as waves of wholly or partly fabricated content disseminated on a regular and organised basis, with the aim of misleading, distracting, or testing public opinion towards a particular issue or incident”. One of the first examples investigated in the report is a wave of disinformation before the October 25, 2021, military coup. Since October 10, 2021, a seemingly systematic campaign was organised on Sudanese social media, flooding it with rumours and disinformation, the report explains. Certain Facebook accounts “exchanged a lot of misleading information and rumours that revolved around political and security issues”. Since the coup, Beam Reports’ disinformation observatory Marsad Beam has noted the increased spread of rumours and disinformation on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The study explains “how prolusion for the coup took place by misleading public opinion and disseminating some disinformation that may have been spread for the purpose of testing public opinion and monitoring potential reactions.” Dabanga

Ethiopia Deputy Finmin: Rumor of FX Devaluation ‘Completely Unfounded’
Ethiopia’s deputy finance minister said on Thursday that rumors the birr currency would be devalued were “completely unfounded,” as the east African country seeks an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan after an African Union-backed ceasefire…Ethiopia currently operates a managed exchange rate for the birr, allowing it to depreciate gradually against the dollar. In 2020, the IMF recommended moving to a market-clearing exchange rate regime, to deal with an overvalued currency and FX shortages. Africa’s second-most populous country requested a debt restructuring under the Group of 20’s Common Framework process in early 2021, but progress was held up by a two-year civil war in the Tigray region. Reuters

South Africa’s Disintegrating Freight Railway Is Crippling Firms
If exporters cannot move their goods, the economy will stumble. South Africa’s freight rail network is in such bad shape that firms are struggling to move their goods. In 2017 trains hauled 81m tonnes of coal to export terminals. This year about 54m tonnes will go that way; lorries will carry only another 9m. The decline reflects a missed opportunity: international coal prices soared last year after Russia invaded Ukraine. The gap between what coal miners could dig and what they could export last year represents a loss of at least 80bn rand ($4.7bn), estimates Jan Havenga of Stellenbosch University. Other miners and manufacturers report similar deficits. The total hit to South African firms from lost exports and the extra costs of going by road will amount to about 400bn rand in 2022 (6% of GDP). Economist

Rich Nations Can Stave Off African Debt Crisis, AfDB Says
Rich nations can help stave off a debt crisis in Africa by allowing low-income countries to delay repayments, speed up the restructuring of liabilities for sovereign defaulters and reallocate International Monetary Fund reserves to countries in need, the African Development Bank said.  Twenty-three African nations were either in, or at a high risk of, debt distress by the end of September, the Abidjan, Ivory Coast-based lender said in a report published Thursday. While risks are seen lingering as governments grapple with the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and economic shocks spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “persistently tight” global financial conditions could heighten vulnerabilities, it said. Bloomberg