Africa Media Review for January 19, 2024

EU, AU, US Say Sudan War and Somalia’s Tension with Ethiopia Threaten Horn of Africa’s Stability
The African Union, European Union, and United States called Thursday for an immediate cease-fire and constructive dialogue between warring factions in Sudan. The groups also called for an end to tension between Somalia and Ethiopia over an agreement signed between Ethiopia and Somalia’s breakaway region Somaliland. Representatives of the groups, who spoke in Kampala, Uganda, after the meeting of an East African regional bloc, said that the two crises are threatening regional stability in the Horn of Africa…Michael Hammer, U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, called on Sudan’s factions to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law and to fulfill recent commitments to stop fighting…He spoke after the regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, held an emergency meeting of heads of states in Kampala to discuss the Sudan war and rising tension between Somalia and Ethiopia…On Tuesday, the Sudanese government suspended ties with the east African regional bloc, accusing it of violating Sudan’s sovereignty by inviting the paramilitary leader to a summit. Hemedti attended Thursday’s summit in Kampala but did not speak. AP

Plane with UN Cargo Crashes in Somalia
A cargo plane contracted by the United Nations (UN) on Thursday crashed while landing on an airstrip in El-Barde in Somalia’s South West State, killing one person and injuring two others. The aircraft was carrying humanitarian supplies for the World Food Programme (WFP) when it veered off the runway…The UN said it was working with the contracted airline company, the federal government and the South West State authorities to investigate the incident. The accident comes just a week after a UN helicopter made an emergency landing in an Al Shabaab-controlled territory in Central Galmudug State. An internal UN memo circulated to staff in Somalia last week said nine people were aboard the helicopter and six were reportedly taken into captivity. One passenger was believed to have been killed and two had fled, the memo added. The East African

At Least Nine People Killed in Central Nigeria Attacks
At least nine people have been killed in Central Nigeria just weeks after a flare-up in intercommunal attacks left nearly 200 dead, the local government said on Thursday. Officials said the victims died in three attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Bokkos district of Plateau State, a region plagued for years by religious and ethnic tensions. “Five people were killed while cultivating their potato farm at Butura Kampani,” said Bokkos local authority chairman Monday Kassah. “Three others were also killed at their potato farm (on Wednesday) behind the university,” Kassah said. Gunshots were heard across farmland behind Plateau State University Bokkos campus, and three bodies were recovered, staff member Azi Peter said. On Tuesday another man was killed in Butura Kampani village, Kassah said. Plateau State, which lies on the dividing line between Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north and mainly Christian south, regularly sees outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence. Although there is often violence between farmers and nomadic herders, authorities have not blamed any group for the most recent attacks. The East African

Suez Canal Diversions Pile Pressure on Egypt’s Distressed Economy
A sharp downturn in revenue after sea attacks by Yemen’s Houthis diverted away shipping away from the Suez Canal has struck a painful new blow to Egypt’s already deteriorating economy, adding urgency to the need for reforms and help from abroad. Nearly all Egypt’s main sources of foreign currency – natural gas exports, tourism, worker remittances from abroad, and now Suez Canal revenue – have come under recent and severe pressure. Egypt needs foreign currency not only to import essential commodities to feed its people, but also to repay $189.7 billion in foreign debt, most of it racked up over the last ten years. At least $42.26 billion in debt repayments is due this year, although analysts expect that some of that to be rolled over…The chairman of the Suez Canal Authority said last week that canal revenue had fallen by 40% in the first 11 days of January. Reuters

Congo Opposition Leaders Call for Protest on Inauguration Day
Two of the main opposition candidates in Democratic Republic of Congo’s December presidential election have called for a protest this Saturday, when President Felix Tshisekedi is due to be sworn in for a second term. Tshisekedi and his party won the Dec. 20-24 general election by a landslide, but the vote was marred by widespread allegations of fraud, logistical shortcomings and disruptions…The two opposition leaders, Martin Fayulu and Moise Katumbi, as well as others have called for a re-run – a demand authorities have dismissed…The protests would be held in the capital Kinshasa and the second-largest city Lubumbashi, Katumbi said. Separately, Congo’s powerful Catholic bishops’ conference on Thursday issued a statement saying the election was “a catastrophe” and that “our country is in danger”. “We discovered a considerable number of parallel votes with voting machines found in private homes,” said the statement from the bishop’s conference, CENCO, which ran the largest election observation mission throughout the country. The statement levelled harsh criticism at Congo’s national electoral commission, the CENI, saying it should question its role in the situation. Reuters

Comoros Election: Internet Cut after Protests
Authorities in Comoros have cut access to the internet in the wake of protests against the re-election of President Azali Assoumani. One person has reportedly been killed and six others injured as police continue to battle angry opposition supporters in the capital, Moroni. Several roads in the capital have been barricaded and an unspecified number of protesters arrested. A night-time curfew has been imposed to curb the spreading unrest. The electoral commission on Tuesday announced that Mr Assoumani had garnered 63% of the vote in Sunday’s ballot to secure a fourth term as president. The declaration triggered violent protests on Wednesday after opposition parties termed the results fraud and called for their cancellation. Buildings in the capital were vandalised, looted and burned, including the home of a minister. A car at the home of another minister was also burned and a national food depot burnt down during the protests. Internet services have been severely disrupted and some sites are inaccessible, Global internet monitoring site Netblocks confirms. WhatsApp calls have been blocked and mobile messages restricted due to very low connection speeds, Comores Infos news website reports. It says the aim was to prevent demonstrators from communicating and sharing compromising images on social networks. BBC

Kenyan President’s War with Judges Emboldens His Allies to Defy Courts
An onslaught on Kenya’s judiciary led by the country’s president and his allies has prompted fears that it could trigger constitutional crises and erode public trust in the legal system. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua had been expected to file a petition on Thursday seeking the removal of a high court judge who ordered the forfeiture of his funds amounting to $1.2 million in a graft case before his election. But he announced on the day that he would put the petition on hold to enter talks over the dispute. Gachagua has urged Kenyans who have had bad experiences with judges to file official complaints. In January, Ruto vowed to defy court orders he claimed were imposed by corrupt judges who had accepted bribes to sabotage his administration. Kenya’s courts have prevented the implementation of some of Ruto’s most important policy decisions, including an affordable housing levy and the deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti. Timothy Thondu, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya, said the ongoing disputes with the judiciary would embolden regular citizens to disregard the rule of law. Semafor

Donkey Cart Loaded with Explosives Kills a Police Officer and Critically Injures 4 Others in Kenya
A donkey cart carrying a suspected improvised bomb blew up at a checkpoint on the Kenya-Somalia border Thursday, killing one Kenyan police officer and critically wounding four others, authorities said. A Kenyan police report seen by The Associated Press said the cart pulled by two donkeys and ridden by one man passed the Somali checkpoint of Bula Hawa and entered Kenyan territory, where it was stopped by officers to check the load. The rider jumped off and ran back into Somalia moments before the cart exploded, causing a huge fire at the border post in the northern county of Mandera, the report said. The report said that the cart’s driver was arrested by Somali police as he tried to flee, and that the Mandera county security team was negotiating with the Bula Hawa police to have him handed over to Kenyan authorities. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on al-Shabab, a Somalia-based extremist group…In recent years, al-Shabab attacks in Kenya have been limited to roadside bombs mainly targeting the military and police. On Monday, five police officers were wounded when their truck was hit by a roadside bomb in Lafey Mandera county. AP

Femicide in Kenya a National Crisis, Say Rights Groups
Rights groups are calling for the Kenyan government to urgently investigate and prosecute cases of femicide, after the brutal murders of two women. Last year, Femicide Count Kenya recorded 152 killings – the highest in the past five years. Representatives from the nonprofit, which records reported cases only, says the actual number of killings is likely to be much higher. At least four cases of femicide have occurred since the start of the year. Two gained public attention, including the murder of the 26-year-old Starlet Wahu on 4 January, who was stabbed by a man alleged to be part of a criminal ring, whose members violently extort and rape women they target through dating sites. A man is in police custody and investigations continue. Barely two weeks after Wahu’s body was discovered, another woman was drugged and dismembered by a man she had arranged to meet in a rented flat. Her body parts were disposed of in plastic bags. More than one in three women in Kenya report having experienced physical violence in their lifetime, according to a 2022 national survey. Rights groups say while the country has strong laws and policies against gender-based violence, implementation is wanting…Since Femicide Count Kenya was founded in 2019, it has recorded incidents of women killed by stabbing, beating, mutilation, strangling and being doused in fuel and set on fire. Most of the victims were aged between 21 and 30. The Guardian

Cash-in-Transit Heists Bring Terror to South Africa’s Roads
Violent crime is soaring in South Africa, with audacious security van heists commonplace and the murder rate at a 20-year high. For the government – and all those who live here – this grim record is a serious problem. It is election year, the most competitive since the birth of democracy in 1994, and crime is a key issue. According to the latest annual statistics, more than 27,000 people were killed in a year. But the number solved has fallen to a grave low, only 12%. Getting away with murder has become normal…The brash confidence of violent criminals is vividly illustrated by the very public phenomenon of cash-in-transit hijacks, known here simply as CIT. Security vans carrying money are rammed off busy daytime roads by deliberate attacks with vehicles, with guards set upon by heavily armed men who use bombs to blow open safes. Robberies can last extended periods, with motorway traffic continuing normally on the other side of the road while gangs prime their explosives and rove about with automatic weapons, sometimes filmed by onlookers…The daily threat of crime means the ruling African National Congress, which came to power 30 years ago in April, is under significant pressure to act. The murder rate fell in the years after the end of apartheid, reaching a low point around a decade ago. Since then, it has increased 77% to the current level – back to where it was 20 years ago. BBC

Uganda: Thomas Kwoyelo: Lord’s Resistance Army Commander on Trial
The long-awaited trial of a child soldier-turned-commander in the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has begun in Uganda. Thomas Kwoyelo faces more than 90 charges – including murder, rape and the recruitment of child soldiers. He has spent the last 14 years in pre-trial detention, which analysts partly attribute to the scale and complexity of the alleged crimes. During a court appearance in 2011, Mr Kwoyelo denied the charges against him. Joseph Kony formed the LRA in Uganda more than two decades ago, and claimed to be fighting to install a government based on the Bible’s 10 Commandments. The group was notorious for chopping off people’s limbs and abducting children to use as soldiers and sex slaves. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes by the conflict. It operated mostly in northern Uganda at first, then shifted to the Democratic Republic of Congo where Mr Kwoyelo was arrested in 2009, and later the Central African Republic. Friday’s trial is taking place at the International Crimes Division of the High Court in Gulu, seen as Uganda’s answer to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Mr Kwoyelo has previously appeared in court as part of pre-trial hearings, but the case has repeatedly been postponed. Multiple witnesses are expected to give their accounts of what happened to the court. BBC

China, US Dispatched Envoys to 10 African Countries This Year as Hearts and Minds Campaign Heats Up
There is apparently no time to waste, with China and the US having dispatched envoys to 10 African countries so far this year. Both global powers will have representatives at the inauguration of Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on Saturday. China is sending the vice-chairperson of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Shen Yueyue. The US has a bigger entourage that will include Lucy Tamlyn, the ambassador to Kinshasa; Mary Catherine Phee, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of African Affairs, US Department of State; Monde Muyangwa, the assistant administrator of the Bureau for Africa, US Agency for International Development; and the deputy chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Chidi Blyden. Since coming into office as China’s foreign affairs minister in 2013, Wang Yi has visited Africa every January. He only missed out in 2023, when he was briefly replaced by Qin Gang for seven months. Wang’s Africa tour last week started in Egypt amid calls for a peace conference to end the war in Gaza…From Egypt, Wang made a trip to Tunisia and held talks with President Kais Saied. They also spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Togo, Wang met his counterpart, Robert Dussey, and the latter said his country was in support of China’s claim over Taiwan…On the last leg of his tour, he headed for Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday. China also has diplomats in Uganda attending the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) Summit.