Africa Media Review for January 4, 2024

Ernest Bai Koroma: Sierra Leone Ex-President Charged with Treason
Former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has been charged with treason and other offences… Last November, gunmen broke into a military armoury and several prisons in Freetown, freeing almost 2,000 inmates. He has denied any involvement in the attack which killed about 20 people. West African leaders had tried to broker a deal for Mr Koroma to go into exile in Nigeria if the charges were dropped, the BBC understands. … The former president’s lawyer, Joseph Kamara, told the BBC he was “shocked and in utter disbelief”, saying the charges set a “dangerous precedent”.”A dark cloud has shadowed the skies of our country, meaning that we are dragging a former head of state – democratically elected – on trumped-up charges under a political vendetta,” he said. Mr Koroma has been under house arrest since being questioned over the coup. He was president for 11 years until 2018, when current President Julius Maada Bio was elected. BBC

African Union Calls for De-Escalation in Horn of Africa Tensions
The African Union on Thursday, January 4, joined the United States in appealing for calm in the Horn of Africa after regional tensions soared following a contested deal on Monday between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland. AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat issued a statement appealing for “calm and mutual respect to de-escalate the simmering tension” between Ethiopia and Somalia. He called on the two nations to engage in a negotiation process “without delay” to settle their differences. Faki also urged them to “refrain from any action that unintentionally may lead to a deterioration of the good relations between the two neighboring Eastern African countries.” “He stresses the imperative to respect unity, territorial integrity and full sovereignty of all African Union member states,” the statement said. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) gives landlocked Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country, long-desired access to the Red Sea through Somaliland. The wide-ranging deal signed in Addis Ababa gives Ethiopia access to commercial maritime services and a military base, with Somaliland leasing it 20 kilometers (12 miles) of coastline for 50 years. Somaliland’s leader Muse Bihi Abdi has said that in exchange, Ethiopia would “fully recognise” Somaliland but this has not been confirmed by Addis Ababa. Le Monde

As Somalis Protest, Ethiopia Defends Sea Access Deal With Somaliland
Ethiopia’s government is defending a maritime access deal signed with the self-declared republic of Somaliland, a day after Somalia declared the deal “null and void.” In a statement issued on Wednesday, landlocked Ethiopia said it has a “longstanding cooperation agreement” with Somaliland, and that “consultations on mutual benefits have been going on for months”…In Somalia’s capital, residents rallied at a soccer stadium Wednesday to condemn the deal…Somalia’s Minister of Interior, Federal and Reconciliation Ahmed Moallim Fiqi, who spoke at the demonstration, said the Somali government will not accept the move by the Ethiopian prime minister…The Somaliland cabinet backed the deal at a meeting on Wednesday. “The cabinet of the Somaliland republic expresses to the international community that Somaliland republic is an independent country, and is also in control of its land, sea and air,” Information Minister Ali Hassan Mohamed said. He alleged the statement from the Somali government in Mogadishu on the deal violates past agreements between Somalia and Somaliland. Meanwhile, Somalia urged the head of the East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to withdraw a statement made earlier on the diplomatic tension between the two sides…Somalia expressed dissatisfaction with the statement, saying it “falls short of condemning the Ethiopian Government of violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.” VOA

DR Congo: Opposition Candidate Petitions Court to Challenge Felix Tshisekedi’s Victory
An opposition candidate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has filed a petition before the Constitutional Court against the victory of Félix Tshisekedi’s in the country’s presidential election. According to provisional figures from the electoral commission,(CENI) incumbent President Félix Tshisekedi won the election with over 73% of the vote, ahead of the other 25 candidates. Théodore Ngoy, who came last in the presidential election filed the petition just before the expiration of its deadline. He is credited by the Céni with 0.02% of the vote and 4,139 votes. Ngoy was part of disappointed candidates who had two days to lodge appeals. The deadline expired Wednesday evening, and only one candidate finally appealed to the Constitutional Court. The Court now has seven days to examine this appeal and give its decision. The opposition who have described the election as a sham say they they have no confidence in the court or Ceni, which they argue is subservient to the government. Ngoy, a lawyer, professor and pastor who already ran before in the 2018 presidential election wants the election annulled. AfricaNews

Canadian Peacekeepers Plot Strategy to Defend Congolese City from Rebels
Canadian peacekeepers are “key contributors” in a United Nations military plan to defend the Congolese city of Goma from a potentially disastrous attack by the Rwandan-backed M23 rebel militia, federal officials say…The M23 rebels have reportedly moved into the hills surrounding the town of Saké, the gateway to Goma and the last remaining town on the road to the eastern city. Goma is considered strategically important because it is the capital of North Kivu province, the regional headquarters…The M23 militia, officially the March 23 Movement, captured Goma briefly in 2012. It was temporarily defeated by a UN force a few months later, but revived its forces last year and has captured a large swath of territory in eastern Congo since then…Congo’s military, weakened by corruption and poor discipline, has proven unable to stop M23′s advance. The government recruited help from a force of East African troops, but later complained that the East Africans were unwilling to clash with M23. The last remaining East African troops left Goma last week. To replace the East Africans, the Congolese government is relying on a new force from Southern Africa, including troops who began arriving in Goma this week…The government has also recruited hundreds of private military contractors from Burundi and Romania, along with a volunteer force of armed Congolese civilians known as the Wazalendo (“the patriots”) who are battling against M23. But the UN peacekeeping force, known as MONUSCO, remains the largest military unit in Goma, despite official plans to withdraw it from Congo over the next 12 months. For weeks, it has been mapping out the details for the defence of Goma, with assistance from the nine Canadian Armed Forces officers who serve in the UN force. The operation has been codenamed Operation SPRINGBOK. The Globe and Mail

Congo Rebels Warn SADC Intervention Force That They Are Ready to Fight
South African, Tanzanian and Malawian troops started arriving in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 15 December on a mission ordered by the the Southern African Development Community. The goal of the SADC Mission in DRC (SAMIDRC) is to try to restore peace to the eastern territory which has been rocked by violence between countless armed groups and the DRC military. SAMIDRC’s main target is the M23 which has been rapidly expanding its territory in eastern DRC since 2021. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi – who has just been re-elected to a second term – has accused Rwanda of actively supporting the largely ethnic-Tutsi M23…On the same day as SADC deployed, the M23 and other rebel groups and political parties met in Nairobi to establish the Alliance Fleuve Congo (AFC) – Congo River Alliance – under the leadership of Corneille Nangaa, a former head of the DRC’s national electoral commission. Daily Maverick

A Timeline of France’s 2023 in Africa
Here’s a timeline of France’s 2023 in Africa. February: French troops pull out of Burkina Faso. March: Mali sanctions French media. July: Niger coup puts Paris and Niamey on standoff. December: G5 Sahel wobbles. On December 2, Niger and Burkina Faso announced their withdrawal from the joint force of G5 Sahel, a multinational military alliance founded to combat armed groups in the unstable Sahel region. Created in 2014, the movement was originally a five-nation bloc, with a counterinsurgency force backed by France added in 2017. December: Niamey embassy closes, French troops pull out of Niger. France withdrew 1,500 soldiers stationed in Niger five months after the military seized power in Niamey, with one of its major demands being the withdrawal of the French force. Al Jazeera

Sudan: WFP Condemns Theft of Food from Gezira State Warehouse
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has strongly condemned the looting of food supplies from its premises in Gezira State. Last weekend’s incident, the agency said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, occurred after elements of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke into its warehouse and office, following their takeover of Wad Medani. The warehouse reportedly contained enough stocks to feed nearly 1.5 million severely food insecure people for one month in Gezira State, where a new offensive has forced more than 300,000 people to again run for their lives…The WFP warehouse, WFP noted, contained more than 2,500 metric tons of life-saving food, including pulses, sorghum, vegetable oil and nutrition supplements. The specialized nutritious foods were intended to prevent and support malnutrition treatment for more than 20,000 children and pregnant and breastfeeding women through WFP-supported health centers, the agency said. The incident, WFP said, forced it to temporarily pause distributions in Gezira state. The agency, however said, it has embarked on some food distributions in states further to the east, where people fleeing Gezira are currently seeking refuge. Sudan Tribune

Moroccan Police Seizes 1.4 Tonnes of Cocaine
Moroccan police said it seized on Tuesday 1.488 tonnes (3,280 lb) of cocaine concealed in banana boxes in the northern Tanger Med port. The drug was found in a container on a Turkey-bound ship with a European flag departing from South America, the police said in a statement. The operation was conducted in coordination with Spanish security services, the Moroccan police said, noting that investigations are ongoing. In October, Moroccan police found 1.37 tonnes of cocaine in Casablanca. Reuters

The Ebola Survivors Who Are Still Infectious – 10 Years after the World’s Biggest Outbreak
Between December 2013 and June 2016, nearly 30,000 people were infected [with Ebola] and 11,000 killed across West Africa. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were hardest hit…Sporadic outbreaks have occurred ever since – and experts now believe it is lingering in an unlikely source: the testicles of male survivors. Two years ago, the virus re-emerged in Guinea – killing 12 people and infecting 23 – and was eventually traced back to someone who had survived the West Africa epidemic and transmitted it via their semen to a partner. The finding, based on genetic sequencing of patient samples, shocked researchers. Prior to then, the longest the virus had been known to persist in a survivor was 500 days. Professor Miles Carroll, an infectious disease expert at Oxford University’s Pandemic Sciences Institute, is conducting research into how the Ebola virus replicates in former patients and how long it can survive for. “It’s shocking that the virus can persist for so long in the testes,” he says. “This is extremely high risk, because without the capabilities that Guinea has – a result of its experience in the previous epidemic – the 2021 outbreak could have become much bigger.”…As part of his research, Carroll and his team at Oxford University are growing testicle cells in a petri-dish, which will then be infected with Ebola virus and closely monitored. The Telegraph

Kenyan Farmers Battle Toxic Legacy of Locust Plague Three Years On
In January 2020, one of the biggest locust plagues to hit the Horn of Africa in 70 years landed in Garissa, a remote town in northeastern Kenya near the Somali border…The FAO spearheaded a “Desert Locust” campaign with a budget of more than $230m, in partnership with the World Bank and World Food Programme. Together, they aided Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture in spraying a cocktail of pesticides across 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of land, home to 26,650 households…Of the 193,600 litres (51,000 gallons) of pesticides the FAO procured for the Kenyan government, 155,600 litres were organophosphates such as fenitrothion and chlorpyrifos. These chemicals have been banned for use on food or feed crops across most Western countries for their proven neurological toxicity to humans and ecological devastation. Still, the FAO procured and distributed them to untrained community members against the advice of its own independent advisory body, the Locust Pesticide Referee Group (LPRG). In a 2021 report, the LPRG expressed uneasiness about FAO’s choice of outdated chemicals…An internal report dated September 2020 that Al Jazeera obtained from sources at the Ministry of Agriculture showed that the FAO did not conduct required environmental and social impact assessments as per Kenya’s environmental laws. The report condemned the lack of communication with communities on the ground regarding when the pesticides were sprayed. Al Jazeera

Kenya: ‘This Is a Real Look into Our Lives’: The Maasai Women Photographing Their People
The growing care burden of these women on the frontline of the climate crisis is the subject of a recent photo series by Maasai photographers Claire Metito and Irene Naneu…Metito and Naneu were among 14 women in Kenya and Ghana who took part in a programme by Lensational, a social enterprise that supports underrepresented women to learn photography and document the changes happening in their lives on issues such as climate breakdown. Metito chose to depict her mother-in-law Rikoiyan’s experiences because the matriarch’s life reflects the harsh realities that have become normalised, even among the women themselves. Rikoiyan and other women in their seven-family household go to great lengths to care for sick cattle and keep their herd alive, but they have lost most of their cows to the drought in recent years, and have to rely for milk on goats, which produce only a fraction of the supply…Naneu’s images capture the life of Lenoi Mayiempe, a farmer from Narok in southern Kenya, who is the primary guardian of her two grandchildren. Mayiempe has managed to keep many heads of cattle despite the drought, but faces challenges getting water as rivers and dams dry up. Unpredictable rain patterns have made it difficult to count on a healthy yield, so she leases out part of her land to community members to manage the risk. She began managing the property after her husband died, but it belongs to her two sons. Gender norms that restrict land ownership by women also expose them to vulnerability. The Guardian