Africa Media Review for January 5, 2023

Tanzania President Lifts 6-Year Ban on Opposition Rallies
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has lifted a six-year-ban on opposition rallies imposed by her autocratic predecessor, a move that was cautiously welcomed as a gain for democracy by the main opposition party. The ban was introduced in 2016 by political strongman John Magufuli at the onset of his first term in office, which was marred by draconian rules. Hassan said Tuesday during a meeting with political party representatives that political parties have a right to hold meetings and the government’s duty is to “give permission and provide security.” But she urged politicians to only engage in constructive criticism and engage in politics that will build the nation. AP

IGAD to Hold Summit in January on South Sudan’s Peace
President William Ruto has announced that the IGAD will hold a Summit before the end of January, with a focus on South Sudan. Ruto on Monday said he had made the commitment following a call from President Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan of Sudan. He said they discussed relations between Kenya and Sudan and deliberated about the security situation in the Eastern Africa region…The R-ARCSS was signed in September 2018 by South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his First Vice President Riek Machar in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Then, leaders called upon all the signatories to commit to working in good faith to achieve the full implementation of the R-ARCSS. The R-ARCSS, which was described as a foundation for building lasting peace and stability in South Sudan, was aimed at reviving the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) signed in 2015. Star

Are Private Wildlife Conservancies the Way to Sustainable Tourism in Africa?
In December, over 190 countries attending a UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada committed to protecting 30% of Earth’s lands, oceans, coastal areas and inland waters in an attempt to conserve global biodiversity. Africa is seen as a key pillar in these efforts. And yet, a conservation revolution may already be underway on the continent. The Great Green Wall for Restoration and Peace is a grand initiative facilitated by the African Union to restore savannas, grasslands and farmlands across Africa – some 100 million hectares worth – and create 10 million jobs. This poster child for African conservation has been touted as transformative – but dig deeper and a more localised transformation is already underway, driven by local, private and community-funded conservation. Mail & Guardian

Sudan Equips Civilian Protection Force in Darfur
Sudanese army has equipped a joint security-keeping force to protect civilians in Darfur, ahead of its deployment in the restive region two years after the signing of a peace agreement. In line with the Juba peace agreement signed in October 2020, the government and the former rebel groups agreed to establish a 12,000 force to protect civilians in Darfur after the withdrawal of the UNAMID. After nearly two years in July 2022, the first batch of the joint security force, about 2000 troops, was formed. Sudan Tribune

DR Congo Rebels Withdraw from Captured Military Camp
The rebel group M23 has announced its withdrawal from a strategic military base that it captured in October 2022 in the Rumangabo area in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In a statement, the group said it would hand over the camp on Thursday to the East African regional force. It follows their announcement last month of plans to withdraw from captured territories as a goodwill gesture in line with the agreements of a regional leaders’ summit in the Angolan capital, Luanda, in November. Residents in the Rutshuru region have been complaining of the group’s slow withdrawal from at least 100 villages it captured since its offensive began last June. BBC

France’s African Ex-Soldiers Win Last Battle – Over Pensions
Some of the last survivors in France from a colonial-era infantry corps that recruited tens of thousands of African soldiers to fight in French wars around the world will be able to live out their final days with family members back in Africa after a French government U-turn on their pension rights. The decision to make claiming their pensions easier follows a years-long campaign on behalf of the “tirailleurs Sénégalais,” who were recruited to fight from Senegal and other former French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa…To be eligible for their French pensions, veterans from the infantry corps founded in 1857 and disbanded a century later had to spend at least six months of the year living in France. That rule separated ageing former combatants from their families in Africa and some died alone, away from loved ones, says Aïssata Seck, who campaigns for them. Her grandfather was also a “tirailleur.” AP

Nigeria to Pay Extra $4Bn If Loan-Bond Swap Is Denied: Buhari
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari says Africa’s largest economy will have to pay 1.8 trillion naira ($4bn) extra interest this year if parliament rejects a loan-to-bond swap request on the central bank’s overdrafts to the government. Buhari made the comments in his budget speech to parliament after signing the 2023 budget into law on Tuesday.  In December, the Senate delayed a decision on the president’s request to convert $53bn worth of central bank overdrafts to the government into 40-year bonds after some lawmakers questioned the plan. In his speech on Tuesday, Buhari said the government currently pays a 3 percent margin above the central bank’s lending rate of 16.5 percent but his administration has negotiated a rate of 9 percent for the bonds. Al Jazeera

‘I’m Scared to Think What Ethiopia Will Become’: Tigray War Refugees Fear Return
A fragile peace process in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where war has left an estimated more than half a million dead, is beginning to show dividends, raising hopes for a end to a conflict that counts ethnic cleansing and human-made famine among its horrors. Yet in Sudan, near the border of Ethiopia and the disputed territory of what is officially called western Tigray, tens of thousands of refugees remain in limbo – unable, or too afraid, to return home. Refugees – mostly ethnic Tigrayans from the Wolkait district of western Tigray, but also some from smaller ethnic groups such as the Kemant, Kunama and Irob – told the Guardian their land was still occupied by armed forces from Ethiopia’s Amhara region or, in some cases, allied troops from neighbouring Eritrea. Guardian

UK, Mauritius Open Talks on Sovereignty of Disputed Chagos Archipelago
Britain and Mauritius have begun talks aimed at ending a decades-old spat over the legal status of the Chagos Islands, whose population was forcibly cleared in the late 1960s to allow the building of a joint UK-US military installation…In his New Year address, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said, “the latest developments on the Chagos issue are very encouraging. Negotiations between Mauritius and Britain have begun.”…Mauritius – which became an independent Commonwealth country in 1968 – has long fought to return the archipelago to its territory and has gained international support for its cause. An International Court of Justice ruling in 2019 backed Mauritius’ claim and said Britain should give up control of the islands. RFI

Death Toll in Somalia Twin Bombings Rises to at Least 20
A doctor says the death toll in a pair of suicide car bombings in Somalia early Wednesday has risen to at least 20, including nine members of the same family. Dr. Yahye Abdi with the hospital in Mahaas district told The Associated Press that more than 50 people were admitted for treatment after the explosions. Police have said the attackers targeted a military facility in the Hiran region, which is at the heart of the government’s offensive against al-Shabab extremists. The attack occurred after the dawn prayer. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. AP

Kenya: President Disowns ‘Office of the First Daughter’
Kenya’s President William Ruto has defended his daughter Charlene Ruto over claims of the existence of the “Office of the First Daughter”. Since her father’s inauguration in September, Charlene Ruto has held several high-profile events and meetings under the title. In Kenyan law, no such office exists. On Wednesday, the president denied the existence of such an office. “Leave my daughter Charlene alone, you know these are kids, they’re just being children, you know very well that there is no such office…. she is just being the daughter of William Ruto and sometimes she doesn’t know the divide between the president and the father,” Mr Ruto told journalists at State House, Nairobi. The activities of the president’s daughter had prompted questions over whether she was using taxpayers’ money. But last month she denied that public money was being used to fund what she called the “Office of the First Daughter.” BBC

East Africa’s Major Events in 2022
Looking back at the most significant events in 2022, the year has mostly been turbulent for East Africa with a few bright spots however recorded. Conflict, climate change, drought, grain shortages and inflation were marked as the major events that devastate the African region in 2022. However, the region has witnessed some positive achievements including peaceful power transitions and peace agreements that offered hope in bringing stability and resolving the many crises that haunted the volatile region. Climate change induced extreme and deadly weather conditions were amplified in the Horn of Africa…While the East African countries and the continent at large are yet to fully recover from the socio-economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has continued to directly affect many African countries. Sudan Tribune

Countdown: Africa’s Elections in 2023
Africa’s elections have either been improving or regressing. It largely depends on who you ask. Doubters say a recent outbreak of coups and coup attempts suggests low belief in elections as a means of choosing leaders. Proponents argue that the frequency of elections shows that people and politicians are now more confident about being subjected to routine tests. This year, Africa expects to hold up to 24 different polls, from presidential to local ones. Presidential elections are significant because they determine new heads of state and policy directions to be taken. East African

A Push for Gold Leaves a Toxic Legacy in Zimbabwe
David Mauta and Wisdom Nyakurima, both 18, stand knee-deep in the Odzi River near the eastern Zimbabwe mining city of Mutare and shovel gravel onto a woven mat. They hinge their hopes on finding flakes of shiny gold. But it’s another metal whose dangers they don’t recognize that may have a more lasting impact. Every day, they touch and breathe mercury, a silverly chemical element that carries deadly implications. The toxic liquid metal is key to their gold-mining efforts, as is the government, which purchases their gold even as officials vow to eliminate mercury’s use. The young men are unregistered artisanal miners, freelance workers who don’t have a license to operate. They sift through rocks in the river and dump beads of mercury over the sediment, which clings to gold. Then they light a match, using the flame to separate the mercury from the gold, a process that shoots toxic vapors into the air. Inhaling these fumes or regular contact with mercury can each have devastating effects on the nervous system and prove fatal, according to the World Health Organization. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones