Africa Media Review for January 29, 2024

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso Break Away from Key West African Bloc
Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso issued a joint statement accusing the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, of kowtowing to “foreign powers” and said their withdrawal from the union was effective immediately…Later Sunday, ECOWAS…said that it had “yet to receive any direct formal notification” from the three countries regarding their intent to withdraw. In a statement, the bloc said that it had been working with all three nations “for the restoration of constitutional order” and that it “remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse”…None of the military juntas…has laid out a clear timeline for a democratic transition.The Washington Post

Mali Junta Eyes New Peace Talks after Ending Accord with Separatists
Mali’s junta on Friday issued a decree to establish a committee to organise national peace and reconciliation talks, a day after it ended a 2015 peace deal with Tuareg separatist rebels and accused mediator Algeria of interfering in its affairs…It did not give a timeframe or say which groups it wanted to include in the dialogue. Tuareg rebel spokesperson Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane on Saturday told Reuters the new initiative was a “staged event” between groups who are already aligned…An alliance of Tuareg rebel groups on Friday acknowledged the termination of the 2015 peace deal in a statement and called on their members to review and update their objectives in light of the new situation. Reuters

Somali Pirates Are Suspected of Hijacking a Sri Lankan Fishing Boat and Abducting Its 6 Crew
Sri Lanka’s diplomats are talking with Somali authorities trying to ascertain the whereabouts of a fishing vessel and its six crewmembers suspected of being abducted by Somali pirates two days ago, officials said Monday. The apparent abduction came two weeks after Sri Lanka said it would join a U.S.-led operation to protect merchant vessels sailing in the Red Sea against attacks by Yemen-based Houthi rebels. Other suspected hijackings in waters off Somalia have raised concern that Somali pirates have resumed activity, a decade after they caused chaos in international shipping. AP

Sudan War ‘A Living Nightmare for Children’: UNICEF Representative
[Mandeep O’Brien, Representative of the UN Children’s Fund in Sudan,] said the fighting has sparked the world’s largest child displacement crisis. More than 3.5 million boys and girls have fled their homes for safer locations, with some uprooted several times. The bad news continues as more than 7.4 million young Sudanese do not have access to safe drinking water, putting them at risk of waterborne diseases, and nearly two million are in urgent need of lifesaving vaccines. Sudan also has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. More than three million under-fives suffer from acute malnutrition, and 700,000 could die from its severest form unless they receive medical treatment. UN News

South Sudan: 52 Killed in Clashes in the Disputed Oil-Rich African Region of Abyei, an Official Says
Gunmen attacked villagers in the oil-rich region of Abyei claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, leaving at least 52 people dead, including a U.N. peacekeeper, and 64 wounded, a regional official said Sunday. The motive for the attack Saturday evening was not immediately clear but it was suspected to revolve around a land dispute…Both Sudan and South Sudan claim ownership of Abyei, whose status was unresolved after South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011…Currently, the region is under the control of South Sudan. AP

Nigerian Security Forces Respond to Surge in Attacks
Nigerian authorities say reinforcements have been sent to a local Mangu district in central Plateau state where at least 30 people were killed in attacks [last] week. Authorities say some suspects also have been arrested and that operatives are responding to a surge in violence in the region known for clashes between farmers and herders. Nigerian defense authorities in Abuja told journalists during a media briefing Thursday that the killing of a local man by herders and an attempted cattle rustling triggered the latest violence. The attackers invaded villages along the borders of the Mangu and Barkin Ladi districts, shooting indiscriminately and setting fire to houses and property. Women and children were among the casualties. VOA

Italy’s Meloni Opens Africa Summit to Unveil Plan to Boost Development and Curb Migration
Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni opened a summit of African leaders on Monday aimed at illustrating Italy’s big development plan for the continent that her government hopes will stem migration flows and forge a new relationship between Europe and Africa…Italian officials say the plan involves pilot projects in areas such as education, health care, water, sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure…As the summit got underway, Italian green and opposition lawmakers planned a counter-conference at Italy’s lower chamber of parliament to criticize the Mattei Plan as a neocolonial “empty box” that seeks to again exploit Africa’s natural resources. AP

CAR: President Touadéra Meets Pope Francis for Talks on Cooperation and Diplomacy
In a significant diplomatic encounter, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra of the Central African Republic engaged in discussions with Pope Francis during his visit to the Vatican on Saturday. The meeting focused on the social, political, and humanitarian situation in the Central African country, with an emphasis on enhancing international cooperation for the nation’s common good. The Holy See and Central African Republic relations took centre stage, along with a discussion on the influential role played by the Catholic Church within the country…President Touadéra’s visit to the Vatican occurred within the context of his broader trip to Italy, where discussions between Rome and African nations were underway, amid the Italy-Africa Summit. Africanews and AP

Why Uganda Picked UAE Firm to Refuel Its Oil Refinery Project
On January 23, Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa announced that the government had picked Alpha MBM Investments Llc from the UAE, with which Kampala signed a Memorandum of Understanding on December 22, 2023, outlining co-operation and negotiation terms for the refinery…Based in Dubai, Alpha MBM Group is the private investment office led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, a member of the Dubai Royal Family…The structure of the refinery’s shareholding is 60 percent taken up by the developer, while the remaining 40 percent is allocated to the government of Uganda, which has invited East African Community partner states to buy shares. The refinery is sold as a regional infrastructure project that will address the region’s demand for petroleum products. The East African

Uganda Says Judge’s Dissent from World Court Ruling on Israel Does Not Reflect Its Position
Julia Sebutinde [a Ugandan judge on the International Court of Justice (ICJ)] was the only judge on the 17-member ICJ panel to vote against all six measures adopted by the court in a ruling ordering Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide as it fights Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. “The position taken by Judge Sebutinde is her own individual and independent opinion, and does not in any way reflect the position of the government of the republic of Uganda,” the government said in a statement issued late on Saturday. It added that the east African country supported the position of the Non-Aligned Movement on the conflict that was adopted at its summit in the Ugandan capital this month. That NAM position contained in a document issued at the end of the summit condemned Israel’s military campaign and killing of civilians and also called for an immediate ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian access. Reuters

How Kenya’s judges stood up to President William Ruto
Following weeks of bitter rows and mud-slinging between President William Ruto and Kenya’s judges, two separate courts have ruled against the government, both on matters close to the president’s heart. Firstly, a court on Friday ordered the government to stop taking payments for a new housing levy and just an hour or so later, a different court said the president could not send 1,000 police officers to Haiti, as Mr Ruto had promised the UN. Analysts see this as a sign that Kenya’s judges remain fiercely independent despite what they see as the president’s attempts at intimidation. Mr Ruto has recently launched a series of extraordinary attacks on the judiciary, accusing unnamed judges of corruption, while criticising those who went to court to stop government projects. BBC

Thousands March against Femicide in Kenya Following the January Slayings of at Least 14 Women
Thousands of people marched in cities and towns in Kenya during protests Saturday over the recent slayings of more than a dozen women. The anti-femicide demonstration was the largest event ever held in the country against sexual and gender-based violence…Kenyan media outlets have reported the slayings of at least 14 women since the start of the year, according to Patricia Andago, a data journalist at media and research firm Odipo Dev who also took part in the march. Odipo Dev reported this week that news accounts showed at least 500 women were killed in acts of femicide from January 2016 to December 2023. Many more cases go unreported, Andago said. AP

Britain to Return Looted Crown Jewels to Ghana, but Only on Loan
More than 30 pieces will be loaned back to their place of origin, two of the UK’s biggest museums announced on Thursday. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) will lend 17 items, while the British Museum will send 15 pieces – with ornaments, jewellery and talismans among the treasures. They will be loaned to the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi on a three-year basis, with an option to extend for the same amount of time…The loan was negotiated not between governments but by the museums and Otumfo Osei Tutu II, the current Asante king known as the Asantehene…The objects were mostly taken during wars between the British and Asante empires. RFI