Africa Media Review for July 5, 2024

Kenya’s Ruto Pledges Government Changes after Nationwide Protests
Kenyan President William Ruto said on Friday that he would make changes to the government soon, after weeks of nationwide protests that started as online anger over tax hikes and culminated in the violent storming of parliament. The protests prompted Ruto to withdraw the finance bill that contained the proposed tax hikes, leaving a 346 billion shilling ($2.7 billion) hole in the budget for the fiscal year that started on July 1. Ruto said in an address to the nation on Friday that his government would cut spending by 177 billion shillings in the fiscal year that started in July, with the additional amount that needs to be raised covered by increased borrowing. Reuters

Kenya Rights Groups Decry Abductions as Government Cracks down on Protests
Dozens of Kenyans have been targeted in abductions in the past two weeks, said human rights groups, who blame the extrajudicial arrests on Kenya’s intelligence services…Amnesty, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Law Society of Kenya all put the number of abductions at more than 30, though they said most were later released. Faith Odhiambo, the president of Law Society of Kenya, said the interrogations abduction victims have undergone during their ordeals have focused on how the protest movement is financed, how it is organised, and the identity of its leaders…Amnesty had confirmed some instances of torture during the illegal detentions. Reuters

They Live with Fear in Their Stomachs’: Increasing Violence Deepens Crisis in Burkina Faso
[In Burkina Faso an insurgency has been simmering since 2014, killing thousands and pushing more than 2 million – almost 10% of the population – from their homes.] The situation has been described as the world’s most neglected crisis….Last year saw an uptick in violence, with more than 8,000 people reported killed, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (Acled), a 137% increase on 2022…More than 6 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN, which has received 17% of the $935m it says it requires this year to meet the west African country’s needs…Aid is not reaching 40 cities blockaded by armed groups in the north and east, home to about 1.2 million people…The price of basic goods has increased fivefold in the blockaded cities. The Guardian

Sudan Activists Say 25 People Drowned Fleeing Fighting
Pro-democracy activists in Sudan on Thursday said around 25 people drowned in the Nile River while trying to flee fighting between the Sudanese army and paramilitary forces in the southeast. “Around 25 citizens, most of them women and children, have died in a boat sinking” while crossing the Blue Nile River in the southeastern state of Sennar, a local resistance committee said in a statement…”Entire families perished” in the accident, they said, while fleeing the RSF’s recent advance through Sennar. On Saturday, the RSF announced they had captured a military base in Sinja, the capital of Sennar state, where over half a million people had sought shelter from the war. Witnesses also reported the RSF sweeping through neighboring villages, pushing residents to flee in small wooden boats across the Nile. At least 55,000 people fled Sinja within a three-day period, the United Nations said Monday. AFP

UN Envoy Invites Sudanese Army and RSF to Indirect Talks in Geneva
The UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy, Ramtane Lamamra, has invited the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to participate in indirect talks aimed at addressing the humanitarian crisis and protecting civilians in Sudan. The invitation follows Security Council Resolution 2736 (2024), adopted on June 13th, which called for further recommendations on civilian protection and encouraged the coordinated engagement of Mr. Lamamra with regional actors to advance peace in Sudan. In letters dated June 26 seen by Sudan Tribune, Mr. Lamamra invited the Chairman of the Sovereign Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudanese army, as well as the RSF commander, to discuss measures to ensure the distribution of humanitarian aid and protect civilians across Sudan. The senior-level delegations are set to convene in Geneva, Switzerland, starting July 10th, 2024, for discussions in a “proximity format” facilitated by the United Nations. Sudan Tribune

DR Congo Soldiers Sentenced to Death for Fleeing Battle
Twenty-five soldiers have been sentenced to death by a military tribunal in the Democratic Republic of Congo for fleeing battles against M23 rebels and theft, their lawyer and an army spokesman said on Thursday. Congo’s army has been fighting the Rwanda-backed M23 insurgency for more than two years, as well as facing other militia violence, with around 2.7 million people displaced within North Kivu province. The rebels advanced into strategically important territory last week. On Tuesday, the army detained 27 soldiers after they abandoned their positions in the villages of Keseghe and Matembe in the province. Army spokesman Reagan Mbuyi Kalonji said the runaways were found stealing goods from shops in the nearby village of Alimbongo. They were detained along with four of their wives, who were staying in the village and who received the looted goods, Kalonji said.
A military tribunal was set up in Alimbongo on Wednesday to try them and the magistrate sentenced 25 to death for theft, fleeing the enemy and violating orders, among other charges. Reuters

Army Disarray Hobbles Congo’s Fight with Rwanda-backed Rebels, Officers Say
[Last December, soldiers from Democratic Republic of Congo’s 223rd Battalion sent to Goma]…abandoned their positions without a fight, according to military prosecutors at his court martial…The case, in which eight officers were sentenced to death in May for cowardice and other crimes, exposed damaging disarray in Congo’s armed forces, which have faced a cascade of losses as they struggle to curb a two-year uprising in the eastern borderlands with Rwanda…Reuters spoke to six senior members of Congo’s armed forces and two Western diplomats who said that Congolese military dysfunction is also a major factor in M23’s battlefield successes. The officers cited mismanagement by army leaders, inexperienced and demoralised troops, and an over-reliance on proxy forces, which they said have kept Congo on the back foot despite ballooning defence spending and the support of troops from regional allies. Congo’s military has long been hobbled by internal divisions, insufficient resources, poor logistics and the country’s endemic corruption, according to security analysts and the officers interviewed by Reuters. But the dysfunction has become acute in this crisis. Reuters

A Militia Attack on a Congo Gold Mine Kills 6 Chinese Miners and 2 Congolese Soldiers
A militia attack on a gold mine in northeastern Congo killed six Chinese miners and two Congolese soldiers, a civil society group said Thursday, the latest assault as violence worsens in the resource-rich region. The attack on Wednesday targeted the village of Gambala and the nearby “Camp Blanquette” gold mine in the Ituri province, according to Jean Robert Basiloko, a member of a local civil society group. A militia known as the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, or CODECO, claimed responsibility for the attack…On Wednesday, the militiamen set homes ablaze and then attacked the mine, which is guarded by a competing armed group, the Zaire Militia, Basiloko told The Associated Press…CODECO is a loose association of militia groups mainly from the ethnic Lendu farming community. AP

At Least 89 Migrants Dead after Boat Capsizes off Mauritania, State News Agency Says
Nearly 90 migrants bound for Europe died and dozens more are missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Mauritania earlier this week, the state news agency and a local official said on Thursday…The agency quoted survivors saying the boat had set sail from the border of Senegal and Gambia with 170 passengers on board, bringing the number of missing to 72…The Atlantic route is particularly dangerous due to strong currents, with migrants travelling in overloaded, often unseaworthy, boats without enough drinking water. However, it has grown in popularity due to increased vigilance in the Mediterranean…More than 5,000 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first five months of this year, or the equivalent of 33 deaths per day, according to Caminando Fronteras, a Spanish charity. That is the highest daily number of deaths since it began collating figures in 2007, and the vast majority were on the Atlantic route. The Guardian

Refugees, Migrants Face Violence, Abuse and Death on Routes across Africa, New Data Shows
Refugees and migrants continue to face extreme forms of violence, exploitation and death on sea and on land across Africa as they attempt to leave the continent, UN agencies said on Friday, in an appeal to border authorities to do more to protect them. Data from a new report by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, the UN migration agency IOM and the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) highlights the often under-reported perils facing vulnerable people on the move on dangerous land routes…More people are estimated to cross the Sahara desert than the Mediterranean Sea and deaths of refugees and migrants in the desert are presumed to be double those at sea. The report – “On this journey, no-one cares if you live or die” – spans a three-year data collection period and warns of an increase in the number of people attempting these perilous land crossings…So-called push factors on the migration route include the deteriorating situation in countries of origin and host countries – such as new conflicts in the Sahel and Sudan – the devastating impact of climate change and disasters on new and protracted emergencies in the East and Horn of Africa, as well as racism and xenophobia towards refugees and migrants…The kinds of abuse reported include torture, physical violence, arbitrary detention, death, kidnapping for ransom, sexual violence and exploitation, enslavement, human trafficking, forced labour, organ removal, robbery, arbitrary detention, collective expulsions and refoulement. UN News

Ten Years after a Celebrity Summit Promised to End Rape as a Weapon of War, Is There Any Change for the Women of South Sudan?
[In 2014 at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, world leaders pledged to tackle rape as a weapon of war.]…Behind the UK-led commitments to end conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), a Guardian investigation reveals that in reality South Sudan received little funding or support to catalyse change. High-profile perpetrators remain in public office…CRSV in South Sudan is still not even a specific offence…South Sudan was earmarked as a priority country [at the 2014 summit]…Yet documents suggest it was largely ignored by the UK’s [Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI)] team…[M]ost metrics suggest PSVI has failed in South Sudan. A 2023 UN security council assessment states that patterns of wartime sexual violence in South Sudan have “deepened”…In the past year armed groups have raped women, and children as young as six. At least one woman has died from her injuries…Tensions are escalating. Unresolved ethnic disputes, a nosediving economy and the pressure from more than 500,000 refugees fleeing the war in Sudan are stress testing a brittle state. Elections set for later this year add to the volatility. The Guardian

Two Kings Battle for a Millennium-Old Throne in Nigeria
The battle unfolding for the emirate of Kano — one of West Africa’s oldest and most revered kingdoms — is not just a struggle for an ancient throne, but also part of a wider contest for control over the most populous state in Africa’s most populous country…The emirs of Kano once had absolute power, ruling over their subjects…Today…their kingdom is part of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest democracy, and they operate alongside its elected officials. Like British monarchs, they have great influence over their subjects, but few official powers. The clash between the two emirs has become a flashpoint ahead of the Nigerian presidential election in 2027. Different branches of Nigeria’s elected government have chosen sides, analysts say: The local state government supports Emir Sanusi, a reformist and the current king, while the federal government supports Emir Aminu, a more traditional ruler who is fighting to retake the crown…Africa’s traditional leaders command great loyalty, and politicians are often keen to capitalize on it. The New York Times

Ghana Presidential Candidate Bawumia Picks Energy Minister as Running Mate
Ghana’s Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia of the country’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) has picked the current energy minister as his running mate for December’s presidential election. President Nana Akufo-Addo will step down in January 2025 after serving the constitutionally mandated eight years. Ruling parties are often considered favourite to win presidential races in Ghana, but none has ever won more than two consecutive terms. Bawumia’s choice of Matthew Opoku Prempeh, a lawmaker, doctor and Christian from Ghana’s populous Asante region, continues a tradition in which the two main political parties often choose running mates from a different religious and ethnic background in a bid to foster unity and appeal to more voters. Bawumia, a 61-year-old economist and former central banker, was elected NPP candidate for the presidential election in November last year, teeing up a contest with former President John Dramani Mahama, who is seeking a comeback…Bawumia is the first Muslim to lead a major party in Ghana since 1992 and also the first person outside the dominant Akan-speaking ethnic group to lead the NPP. Reuters

Women behind the Lens: ‘I Want to Be Like Her Is My Way of Paying Tribute to 10 Exceptional Africans
[Model and actor Stella Tchuisse impersonates trailblazing women who have ‘changed narratives’ about the continent.] For generations, African women have played a critical role in the political, economic, social, artistic and spiritual growth of our continent…I Want to Be Like Her is my way of paying tribute to 10 exceptional African women, both living and past. They include writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; director general of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Cameroonian lawyer and LGBTQ+ rights advocate Alice Nkom; and the late Kenyan environmentalist Wangarĩ Maathai…To tell these stories, I decided as an actor and model to impersonate each of the women in a series of photos that represent their profession or accomplishments – or both. After realising the strength of the attachment they all have to their own cultures and traditions, I added elements of African lifestyle and crafts to the images…This attachment and faithfulness to the continent is something I wanted to be present in the images to suggest that African culture and traditions have a role to play in shaping future generations of African female leaders. The Guardian