Africa Media Review for June 1, 2023

Sudan’s Army Withdraws From Cease-Fire Talks
Sudan’s army has withdrawn from talks aimed at achieving a full cease-fire and delivering humanitarian aid across the country, it said on Wednesday, raising the specter of escalating clashes as a war between rival generals rages for a second month in Africa’s third-largest nation. The talks, facilitated by Saudi Arabia and the United States, were the only major ongoing official effort to mediate between the Sudanese Army and its paramilitary rival, the Rapid Support Forces. The army’s withdrawal from the talks deals a blow to the attempts to decisively end the war, which has released a paroxysm of violence and chaos that have killed hundreds of people and displaced millions more. … Organizations for journalists and local activists have also accused the warring parties of increasingly targeting their members with home raids and arrests. … With the breakdown of the talks in Jeddah, observers are now worried about a protracted conflict that could have serious regional ramifications. “Sudan is not getting the high-level attention needed to prevent another failed state in the region,” said Alan Boswell, the Horn of Africa director at the International Crisis Group, a research organization. “Sudan is collapsing and, thus far, no one seems to be able to do anything to reverse it.” New York Times

Sudan: 19 Killed in Shelling of Market in Poor Area South of Khartoum
Nineteen people have been killed and 106 more injured in shelling at a market in a poor area south of Khartoum, the Sudanese Doctors Trade Union has said. Six tank shells were fired from al-Shajara, one of the few areas the army controls in Khartoum, and targeted the neighbourhood of Mayo, an area that is not known to be near any military target, residents said. … “Really it’s been the worst day I saw since the beginning of the war, scenes I will always remember of women and children and men in awful shape” said Abdelmotal Saboon a resident in the area and volunteer at the nearby al-Bashair hospital. … “Nobody can afford to leave here, all our relatives are here, they cannot flee,” said Mohamed Zain another resident of Mayo. Almost 90% of Khartoum is controlled by the RSF. The incident came a day after General Abdulfatah al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese army and the de-facto leader of the country, announced he would be pulling out of US and Saudi-brokered ceasefire talks, accusing the RSF of failing to honour its commitments. In front of army soldiers at the military headquarters, al-Burhan said they would use deadly force against the enemy. Guardian

Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa Sets Elections for August 23
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has set August 23 as the long-awaited election date, ending speculation about the timing of the polls. The 80-year-old President, who has been in power since a 2017 military coup that toppled long-time former ruler Robert Mugabe, made the proclamation after some haggling over electoral reforms. Zimbabwe’s Parliament is still debating contentious proposed amendments to the Electoral Act that were supposed to come into effect before the polls. With the announcement of the date of the polls, the election reforms will likely be abandoned, legal experts said. Mnangagwa, whose first full term of office ends on August 26 after narrowly beating then 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa in the disputed 2018 elections, said nomination courts would vet aspiring presidential, parliamentary and local government poll candidates on June 21. The presidential election run-off has been set for October 2. To avoid a run-off, a presidential candidate must win 50 percent plus one vote. Chamisa, who now leads the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) that was formed last year, had earlier expressed concerns about delays in the announcement of the poll date. EastAfrican

Zimbabwe Passes Bill to Punish ‘Unpatriotic Acts’
Zimbabwe’s parliament has voted in favour of a controversial bill to punish citizens for “unpatriotic acts,” including imposing heavy fines or even the death penalty on them. Critics have called it a dark day for democracy. The so-called patriot clause of the Criminal Act targets those who harm the “national interest of Zimbabwe.” It includes any citizen who meets a representative of a foreign country with the aim of encouraging sanctions against Zimbabwe or overthrowing the government. … Parliament voted 99 to 17 in favour of the law – one of the most controversial of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidency. It will now go to the senate before it is signed into law. Critics say the legislation is unconstitutional as it would violate freedom of association and the right to free speech. An opposition official told the BBC that the way to end sanctions is to uphold human rights, not to criminalise criticism. BBC

Familiar Faces, Concerns Linger Ahead of Sierra Leone’s June Vote
On April 23, President Julius Maada Bio and Kandeh Yumkella danced together at a public function in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital, effectively signalling the start of the 2023 election season in the West African state. The occasion was the signing of a strategic alliance between the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Yumkella’s National Grand Coalition (NGC), one of the country’s opposition parties, ahead of the June 24 presidential election. … Five years ago, both men were on opposite sides, seeking the same position. SLPP’s Bio won that presidential election, edging ahead with 43.3 percent to 42.7 percent by Samura Kamara of the then-ruling All People’s Congress (APC) in the first round of voting. NGC leader Yumkella placed third. Bio won narrowly in the second round against Kamara, then backed by outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma, who was ineligible to run after two terms in office. … Approximately 3.3 million people – around half of the entire population – are registered to vote in what is on course to be a keenly contested election. Bio will again face off against the APC’s Kamara, hoping to win the 55 percent required in the first round for a second and final term in office. … Electoral reform, proposed by Bio and carried out by the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) in the second half of 2022, was politically controversial but ruled as legal by the Supreme Court in January 2023 after the APC challenged the decision. Al Jazeera

BRICS Foreign Ministers Meet in Cape Town as Questions Mount about Putin’s Possible Visit
The foreign ministers of BRICS meet in Cape Town on Thursday to prepare for their August summit in Durban amid growing speculation and uncertainty about whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the summit. When the five foreign ministers from South Africa, Russia, Brazil, China and India meet in Cape Town, they will be joined, virtually, by their counterparts from the “Friends of BRICS” — a sign of growing interest from Global South countries in joining this bloc. The foreign ministers of Iran, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Comoros, Gabon, Argentina, Bangladesh and Egypt are all due to address the meeting by video. Who to admit as new members will be one of the main agenda items at the foreign ministers’ meeting and the summit. But the foreign ministers are also likely to discuss what to do about Putin. In March this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of Putin for his alleged complicity in the war crime of abducting Ukrainian children and deporting them to Russia. As an ICC member, South Africa would be obliged to arrest Putin if he sets foot in the country and surrender him to the court in The Hague if the ICC asks South Africa to do so. Daily Maverick

EAC Extends Mandate of Regional Force in Congo to September
The leaders of the East African Community (EAC) on Wednesday approved the extension of the mandate of the regional force in the Democratic Republic of Congo until September. But the six-month extension, effective March 8, has to be ratified by the government in Kinshasa, the formal requirement to fulfil the pact with the EAC. The decision emerged from the 21st extraordinary summit of the bloc’s heads of State in Burundian commercial capital Bujumbura, chaired by President Evariste Ndayishimiye. A communique read by the EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki said the extension of the mandate of the mission known as the East Africa Community Regional Force (EACRF) is aimed at consolidating the gains made by the force that has helped achieve a relative return to normalcy in the region, a result of a two-month ceasefire between the local army, FARDC, and the dominant rebel group M23. … Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, who has openly criticised the EACRF for refusing to take on M23, had initially agreed to extend the force’s stay until June after its mandate expired in March. In April, the EACRF commander Major-General Jeff Nyagah resigned at the height of the troop’s ineffectiveness claims. EastAfrican

Protesters Clash with Soldiers at Ghana Gold Mining Town
Heavily armed soldiers have fired shots to disperse protesters in the gold mining town of Obuasi, in the Ashanti region of Ghana, amid an army crackdown on miners whom the government sees as illegal. Authorities arrested seven illegal miners on Monday for exiting a shaft belonging to one of the world’s largest gold miners, AngloGold, according to the company. Reports then trickled in on Tuesday that hundreds of other miners were trapped underground. It was unclear whether those still underground were unable or reluctant to get out. Relatives said the miners had been trapped for days without food or water. Dozens who got out were arrested for operating illegally in the area, their families told Al Jazeera, adding that police were requesting cash payments to release them. … A local journalist sent footage to AFP showing heavily armed soldiers on the streets of Obuasi and said he had to “take cover.” Illicit mining is widespread in the West African country, where many in poor communities see it as a way of making a living. Since taking office in 2017, President Nana Akufo-Addo has promised to rid the country of “galamsey,” the name given by locals to illegal mining. Al Jazeera

Senegal’s Sonko Claims He Is Being ‘Illegally Held’ as ‘National Dialogue’ Opens
Sonko was arrested on Sunday while leading supporters from his native Zighinchor, in Casamance, towards the Senegalese capital, Dakar. On Monday, protesters clashed with security forces in Dakar, burning cars and building barricades to protest the treatment of the opposition leader, according to RFI’s correspondent Charlotte Idrac. The Senegalese branch of the human rights group Amnesty International posted on Twitter on Sunday that “the restrictions imposed on Ousmane Sonko’s freedom to come and go, without notification, are illegal and must end,” calling on authorities to follow the rule of law. Political tension is still high as Sonko’s supporters are ready to protest, and a national dialogue between the government and the various political and civil society actors is to begin Wednesday [yesterday], in Dakar. His arrest abruptly ended Sonko’s cross-country march. … For Sonko and his opposition party, the arrest underlines President Macky Sall’s intentions to run for a third mandate, which Sonko has denounced. He’s been calling his supporters to protests against the current government. Sonko, however, is facing a rape trial, which could result in him being ineligible to run in next year’s presidential election. Last Wednesday, a prosecutor called for a 10-year prison sentence. Sonko, 48, has been charged with rape and making death threats against an employee of a beauty salon in Dakar. Adji Sarr, 20, said she had been abused five times by Sonko. RFI

Vulture Surveillance System Alerts Zambian Park to Poachers
Lion and leopard populations in Zambia’s Kafue National Park are showing signs of a modest comeback following decades of poaching, helped by expanded protection strategies, including an innovative vulture early-warning system. Big cat densities across Kafue, measured broadly for the first time by global conservation organisation Panthera, remained stable and in some cases increased from 2018 to 2022, according to a new report shared exclusively with Reuters. … In the recent assessment, scientists found that more lion cubs were born into Kafue prides from 2018 to 2021. That’s a sign that adult survival is improving because as females live longer, “they’re more likely to give birth to cubs,” said Panthera lion program director Andrew Loveridge. … One of the more innovative approaches is tagging white-backed and hooded vultures with satellite trackers to quickly alert wildlife managers of poached or poisoned carcasses. Reuters

Illegal Fishing Costs West African Nations Billions in Revenue
Six West African nations lose U.S. $2.3 billion a year as a result of illegal fishing, says a new report from Amnesty International. The human rights group names Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone as the countries in the regions whose economies are damaged by the practice. The report, which focusses in particular on abuses in Gambia, examines the operations of fishmeal and fish oil factories and the damage caused by foreign-owned industrial trawlers. Its release comes as the Gambian media has also highlighted the issue in reports on a forum hosted by the country’s Ministry of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, and soon after the Outlaw Ocean project published a video report on the problem. The Amnesty report notes that fish are an essential resource for Gambians and the industry plays an important part in the economy. AllAfrica

Namibia Signs $10 Billion Green Energy Deal With Germany’s Hyphen
Namibia’s president recently signed a projected $10 billion deal that calls for Namibia and the German company Hyphen Energy to produce “green hydrogen,” a clean energy source that advocates see as the fuel of the future. Hyphen Energy last Friday concluded a multibillion-dollar agreement with the Namibian government to construct the project in the Tsau Khaeb National Park. If a study finds the project to be feasible, Hyphen will build factories, pipelines and ports with the goal of producing 2 million tons of ammonia by 2030. The ammonia, which could be used as fuel, would be produced using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. The project would also produce oxygen and electricity for local consumption. … This green hydrogen project is touted as the largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. Other countries such as Morocco are also embarking on green hydrogen projects, and Namibian commentators question what competitive advantage Namibia would have with exports over countries in closer proximity to Europe, which is viewed as the main buyer. VOA

The Ghost in Your Phone
It’s hot. A mother works outside, a baby strapped to her back. The two of them breathe in toxic dust, day after day. And they’re just two of thousands, cramped so close together it’s hard to move, all facing down the mountain of cobalt stone. Cobalt mining is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. And it’s also one of the most essential: cobalt is what powers the batteries in your smartphone, your laptop, the electric car you felt good about buying. More than three-quarters of the world’s cobalt supply lies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose abundant resources have drawn greed and grifters for centuries. NPR