Africa Media Review for January 31, 2024

African Union Urges Dialogue between ECOWAS and Junta-Led States
The African Union (AU) on Tuesday called for dialogue between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and junta-led countries Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso who have said they will leave the bloc. The trio’s decision to exit ECOWAS, which they announced on Sunday, is a blow to the bloc’s regional integration efforts after it suspended them following coups. The AU had backed ECOWAS’ efforts to restore democracy…Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger’s foreign ministries formally notified the ECOWAS Commission of their decisions to leave the bloc in written notices dated Jan. 29. According to the bloc’s treaty, member states wishing to withdraw must give a written one-year notice. So the move to quit the 15-member bloc could yet take time to implement, opening a door for negotiations. Reuters

Sudan’s Burhan Declares Wide-Ranging Offensive on RSF Positions
In a significant shift in strategy, Sudanese Army Commander-in-Chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan has directed the army and allied armed movements to launch a full-scale offensive against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), aiming to expel them from all areas under their control. Al-Burhan’s announcement, made during a visit to Kassala State, came amidst a comprehensive mobilization of Sudanese army forces and armed movements from Darfur, who are receiving extensive military training and support from civilian volunteers…Upon the outbreak of the armed conflict with the Rapid Support Forces, Al-Burhan instructed his troops to prioritize defensive manoeuvres and abstain from offensive actions…This announcement marks the official transition from a defensive posture to an offensive strategy against the RSF, almost nine months after the conflict began. Sudan Tribune

Militants in Eastern Congo Kill 12 Villagers as Country’s Leader Rules Out Talks with Rwanda
Militants killed at least 12 villagers in a spate of attacks in eastern Congo, a local official and a civil society leader said as the country’s president ruled out dialogue with neighboring Rwanda over a related conflict. The killings in Congo’s North Kivu province took place on Tuesday and were carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, armed militants believed to be linked to the extremist Islamic State group. The militants attacked three villages in the Beni territory, according to Kinos Katuho, the president of the local Mamove civil society organization. Eastern Congo has struggled with armed violence for decades as more than 120 groups fight for power, land and valuable mineral resources, while others try to defend their communities. AP

Cameroon: Attack Blamed on Separatists Leave at Least 1 Dead in South-West Cameroon
At least one person was reported dead after an attack attributed to separatists in western Cameroon shook up the city on Buea. According to private Cameroonian media Canal 2, the fighters attacked armed forces on patrol near a market in Buea before targeting civilians and burning cars…Residents of Cameroon’s South-West and North-West regions have been suffering at the hands of separatists fighters for 7 years. The armed groups carry out attacks, kidnappings and killings forcing thousands to flee for their live and displace in other regions. Insurgents began fighting the Cameroonian military then attacking the population after civilian protests calling for greater representation for the Francophone country’s English-speaking minority were violently repressed. Africanews

Again, Senate Summons Security Chiefs over Rising Insecurity across Nigeria
The Senate on Tuesday summoned security chiefs to an interactive session over the rising cases of kidnapping, terrorism, banditry, armed robbery, killings and other criminal activities across the country…The service chiefs summoned are the Chief of Defence Staff, Christopher Musa, Chief of Army Staff, Taoreed Lagbaja, Chief of Air Staff, Hassan Abubakar and Chief of Naval Staff, Emmanuel Ogalla. Mr Akpabio directed the service chiefs to appear before senators next week to find a lasting solution to the rising case of insecurity in the country…Mr Akpabio, while responding to the motion, said the lawmakers have the responsibility to collaborate with the executive to resolve the rising insecurity in the country…“Security is everybody’s business, and without security, we can not make progress.” Premium Times

Nearly 400 Ethiopians Have Died of Starvation Recently. Millions More Need Food Aid
Nearly 400 people have died of starvation in Ethiopia’s Tigray and Amhara regions in recent months, the national ombudsman said Tuesday, a rare admission of hunger-related deaths by a federal body. Local officials have previously reported starvation deaths in their districts, but Ethiopia’s federal government has insisted these reports are “completely wrong.” Ethiopia’s ombudsman office sent experts to the regions, which are gripped by drought and still reeling from a devastating civil war that officially ended 14 months ago. They concluded that 351 people have died of hunger in Tigray in the past six months, with 44 more deaths in Amhara. AP

Somalia’s Intelligence Agency Says It Blocks WhatsApp Groups Used by Al-Qaida-Linked Militants
Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency said Tuesday it has for the first time managed to shut down 20 WhatsApp groups allegedly operated by the extremist group al-Shabab for extortion and intimidation. NISA in a statement said its cyber division had identified what it described as the virtual hubs for illicit activities by East Africa’s al-Qaida affiliate. The agency said it also disabled data services for approximately 2,500 phone numbers associated with them. Somalia is seeking to disrupt al-Shabab’s communication channels and financial transactions as part of a “total war” declared against the group that for years has controlled parts of the country and carried out attacks in the capital, Mogadishu. AP

Somalia to Launch Its First Current Affairs TV Show Led by Women
Somalia’s only all-female media team, Bilan, is launching the country’s first TV current affairs show to be hosted by a woman. The debate show, which plans to address some taboo subjects, will also be the first programme on Somali television to have a panel of at least 50% women, and the first to broach contentious topics, such as a critical shortage of female teachers and the challenges faced by women trying to get into politics, as well as environmental issues…Somalia’s media sector is male-dominated, with a strong focus on politics. All six founding members of Bilan have faced discrimination and harassment in their careers. The project was set up to offer women a safe space to tell the stories they wanted to tell, and has covered a wide range of under-reported stories, including Somalis living with HIV, child abuse and postnatal depression. The Guardian

Kenya Endorses Italy’s Africa Plan despite Criticism over Funding
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni unveiled a long-awaited initiative on Monday aimed at helping African countries prosper in return for curbing illegal immigration, pumping a preliminary 5.5 billion euros ($5.96 billion) into the scheme. Some critics scoffed at the small scale of many of the projects, while the chairman of the African Union Commission publicly chastised Meloni for not consulting more widely on the priorities beforehand. But Kenyan President William Ruto told Reuters that the so-called Mattei plan, named after the late founder of Italian energy giant Eni, represented a good start…The Kenyan leader said it was especially relevant given Italy held the rotating chair of the Group of Seven (G7) major Western powers, adding that he was confident Meloni would honour her pledge to promote African interests during her presidency. Reuters

Kenyan President Says Haiti Mission to Go Ahead despite Court Ruling
Kenya is going to push ahead with plans to lead a U.N.-approved security mission to Haiti, despite a court in Nairobi last week blocking the deployment, Kenyan President William Ruto told Reuters on Tuesday. The international force is aimed at tackling rampant gang violence in the Caribbean nation, which killed nearly 5,000 people last year, and is due to be initially financed by the United States…Haiti first sought help in 2022 as gang violence surged but was unable to find anyone willing to take charge, with many foreign governments wary of supporting the impoverished country’s unelected administration. Kenya, which has a long history of taking part in international peace-keeping operations, stepped forward last July and committed 1,000 police officers, saying it was doing so in solidarity with a brother nation. Reuters

Loss and Damage: SA Nominated to Represent Africa on UN Climate Change Fund
[South Africa’s place on the United Nations Loss and Damage Fund board] will see it represent the 54 countries of the African continent as South Africa negotiates under the Africa group at the annual global climate talks…South Africa has been crucial in bridging the gap between developed and developing countries, using this role to call for climate financing over the past 10 to 15 years. The country was also crucial in advocating for the Green Climate Fund, adopted at COP17 in Durban, whose transitional committee was chaired by former finance minister Trevor Manuel. SA was also instrumental in pushing for Just Transition funding and pioneering the Just Energy Transition Partnership, among other efforts. Daily Maverick

Zimbabwe Opposition Figure Gets Suspended Sentence after Nearly 2 Years in Pretrial Detention
A Zimbabwe opposition figure who spent nearly two years in pretrial detention is set be freed after a magistrate sentenced him to a suspended prison sentence on Tuesday for inciting violence. Job Sikhala, an outspoken official with the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change party and a former member of parliament, was given the suspended two-year sentence after a trial that supporters criticized as being politically motivated. Amnesty International has called the charges “baseless” and said his treatment was an example of the government’s attempts to silence dissent. Sikhala, seen by many as the face of resistance to Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was arrested in June 2022. AP