Africa Media Review for June 16, 2023

Sudan: Brutal Killing of Governor Heralds New Round of Violence in Darfur
The killing of a powerful governor in Darfur, in western Sudan, has heightened worries that fighting between the country’s warring military factions is pushing a region blighted by genocide two decades ago into a new ethnic civil war. Since April, Sudan’s military has been battling the Rapid Support Forces, a well-armed paramilitary group that until recently was part of the national armed forces. The fighting has razed parts of the capital, Khartoum, and also engulfed Darfur. Peace talks led by American and Saudi diplomats have failed to broker a durable cease-fire. With no end in sight to the fierce national conflict, the killing on Wednesday of Khamis Abdullah Abakar, the governor of West Darfur, one of the five states that make up the region, threatened to further ignite a tinderbox territory that has a history of catastrophic ethnic conflict. The United Nations mission to Sudan said in a statement that “compelling eyewitness accounts attribute this act to Arab militias and the Rapid Support Forces.” … Mr. Abakar’s killing also heightened concern that the leaders of the two factions — the military chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the R.S.F. leader, Lt. Gen Mohamed Hamdan — were struggling to control the forces they had unleashed. New York Times

African Peace Mission Visits Ukrainian Capital to Sounds of Air Raid
At least two explosions rocked Kyiv on Friday and air raid sirens blared as African leaders began a peace mission, hoping to mediate between Ukraine and Russia. The peace delegation, including leaders from South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, the Comoros and Egypt, said it was pressing on with plans to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy later on Friday, before talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on Saturday. … Ukraine’s air force said it had downed six “Kinzhal” ballistic missiles, six cruise missiles and two drones. … The air attack was the latest of many launched by Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022. … “Putin ‘builds confidence’ by launching the largest missile attack on Kyiv in weeks, exactly amid the visit of African leaders to our capital,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace.” … The African leaders had begun their trip by visiting Bucha, a town outside Kyiv where Ukraine says Russian occupiers carried out executions, rapes and torture, and where international investigators are collecting evidence of war crimes. Reuters

Africa Needs Grain Imports, Key Countries Say Ahead of Putin Talks
Key African countries stressed the need for grain imports to tackle food insecurity as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to discuss with the continent’s leaders the fate of a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of food and fertilizer from Ukraine. Putin said on Tuesday that Russia was considering quitting the Black Sea Grain Initiative – brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July – because its own grain and fertilizer shipments still face obstacles. The pact could expire on July 17. … “We are therefore not aware of any threats to pull out of the grain deal,” [South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spokesperson Vincent Magwenya] told Reuters on Wednesday. … food and fertilizer exports do not fall under the West’s tough sanctions imposed on Russia over the war… According to U.N. data, more than 31 million tons of grain have been exported under the pact, with 43% of that to developing countries. The U.N. World Food Program has shipped more than 625,000 tons of grain for aid operations. The Black Sea grain deal was initially brokered for 120 days. Russia has agreed to extend it three times but warned on Wednesday that its “goodwill” cannot last forever. Reuters

Tunisians Mourn a Hard-Fought Freedom Rapidly Slipping Away
Mosaïque FM, Tunisia’s most popular radio station, comes to life each morning around 5:30 a.m. with the martial strains of the national anthem. Next comes a voice crooning a verse from the Quran, then music and news, followed by the political show “Watch What They Say,” which has chronicled the floundering of the country’s young democracy and its recent U-turn toward autocracy. The show’s host, Hajer Tlili, says she specializes in catching politicians out in their inconsistencies and hypocrisies. But lately, it has been Ms. Tlili who has had to consider what she says. The director of Mosaïque, an independent station, was jailed from February to May. One of its reporters has been sentenced to five years in prison; two more have been interrogated over criticizing the government. … President Kais Saied sidelined the North African country’s democratic institutions two years ago, re-establishing one-man rule. More than 20 journalists now face prison time, and other Tunisians have been jailed for antigovernment Facebook posts. New York Times

Russia, Algeria Tighten ‘Strategic’ Ties
President Vladimir Putin and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune pledged to deepen their two countries’ “strategic partnership” as the Kremlin seeks to pivot Russia towards Asia and Africa. Tebboune’s three-day state visit comes as Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine stretches into a second year. Amid ruptured ties with the West, Putin is seeking to bolster relationships with countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. …The two leaders signed a declaration on “deep strategic partnership”, among other agreements. The Kremlin plans a new Africa summit in July in Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg and Putin repeatedly stressed he hoped to see Tebboune there. Africanews and AFP

Zimbabwe Prisoner Release Triggers Trauma from ‘Green Bombers’ Years
In late May, Zimbabwe released more than 4 200 prisoners, a move that was hailed as good for decongesting its prisons that housed more than 22 000 inmates, well over their capacity of 17 000. Most of the released prisoners are older people, children, women imprisoned for nonviolent offences and the terminally ill and disabled. But a portion of those who benefited from the presidential amnesty are people who were convicted for violent offences but had served at least 75% of their sentence. In the country and its diaspora, the release of the latter group triggered speculation that the ruling Zanu-PF will use the released prisoners to commit elections-related violence. Haruzivishe Makomborero, an opposition activist who lives in exile, fears the government is “taking notes from its ally, Russia.” “Just like the Russian Wagner group is recruiting prisoners to fight in the invasion of Ukraine, Zanu-PF will use some of these prisoners for political violence in the coming elections,” Haruzivishe speculates, referring to the general elections slated for 23 August. … The concerns of those who share Makomborero’s fears are perhaps best understood by remembering another episode in Zimbabwe’s halting democratic experiment: the “Green Bombers.” The Green Bombers were a youth brigade who played a pivotal role in ensuring that Zanu-PF won elections in the mid to late 2000s. Mail & Guardian

Sierra Leone Opposition Calls for Election Chief to Resign
Sierra Leone’s leading opposition candidate has called for the country’s electoral commissioners to resign a week before a presidential poll, saying his party did not believe in their ability to hold free and fair elections. Samura Kamara, head of the All People’s Congress (APC) party, said he wanted the chief electoral commissioner and all regional commissioners of the national election body to be replaced by “an independent internationally accredited team”. “We do not have a credible final voters register,” Kamara told Reuters late on Wednesday, following an address to the nation. “The production of blurred and substandard voter identity cards, the repeated failure to meet deadlines regarding the submission of credible voter registration data, and the subsequent release of highly questionable data, have raised serious doubts about the Commission’s commitment to conducting free and fair elections,” he said. The West African country will go to the polls on 24 June to decide whether President Julius Maada Bio will get a second term. Kamara was the runner-up to Bio in a close race in 2018. … On Tuesday, dozens of young people were arrested following opposition protests in several cities calling for the electoral commissioner to resign, local media reported. Reuters

DR Congo: Armed Group Attacks Displace Nearly One Million Since January
Escalating violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has displaced nearly one million people since January, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday. An estimated 6.1 million are internally displaced, a 17 per cent increase from October, according to its Displacement Tracking Matrix. IOM said civilians have been killed or forced to flee their homes due to a surge in violence and attacks by armed groups. At least 46 people were killed in the latest incident which occurred at a camp for displaced persons in eastern Ituri province on Sunday. … As conflict intensifies, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, with millions facing acute food insecurity as well as other critical needs.  Overall, more than 26 million people across the DRC need humanitarian aid. UN News

International Court Prosecutor to Probe Crimes in Eastern Congo Following Government Request
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Thursday he is opening a preliminary probe in Congo after the African nation asked him to investigate alleged crimes in its North Kivu province since January last year. The request marks the second time Congolese authorities have sought an investigation by the global war crimes court. Congo, a member state of the court, first requested a probe in 2004 into crimes since 2002. That led to three convictions of rebel leaders involved in the long-running armed conflict in the mineral-rich nation. Prosecutor Karim Khan said that Congo’s new request — known at the court as a referral — asks prosecutors to “investigate particular armed forces and groups” allegedly responsible for crimes in the eastern province of North Kivu. … Khan said his preliminary assessment would look at all crimes in the region “irrespective of affiliation or nationality.” He said his first step will be to assess whether the request by Congo can be merged with the earlier investigations and cases. AP

‘I’m Left with Nothing’: Nigerians Feel Brunt of Economic Shakeup
Nigerians are feeling the strain as their new president pushes through a series of unpopular policies that have earned him praise from foreign investors. Bola Tinubu, who was sworn in on 29 May, has surprised many observers by taking a running start to his tenure of Africa’s most populous country. In little over two weeks he has banished a longstanding petrol subsidy, ejected the country’s central bank governor and ended restrictions on the rate of the naira, Nigeria’s currency. The steps have fired up markets, sending stocks in what is also Africa’s largest economy to their highest level in 15 years. But they have also increased living costs and drawn criticism from many Nigerians who have faced years of economic mismanagement. … Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at analyst company SBM Intelligence, said Nigeria was in “national sacrifice mode”. The devaluation of the naira combined with the dropping of the fuel subsidy was already causing inflation, he said. He added: “The hope is that the end of the subsidy regime frees up enough resources, political trust and transparency permitting, to be channelled towards desperately needed infrastructural and social investment.” Guardian

Why Kenya Could Take the Lead in Carbon Removal
East Africa’s Rift Valley, which runs for thousands of kilometres from the Red Sea to Mozambique, provides a unique window into the evolutionary history of humanity. The shifting of tectonic plates that formed its deep lakes and sheltered canyons created conditions that first nurtured the ancestors of modern humans and then preserved their bones. Those geological forces may also push open a door to the future by making it possible to capture and store global-warming carbon dioxide cheaply from the air. That, at least, is the hope of James Irungu Mwangi, a Kenyan environmentalist and development expert, who talks of the opportunity that could be afforded by what he calls “the Great Carbon Valley.” The rift, he argues, has the key attributes that make it attractive for “direct air capture” (dac) stations to suck carbon dioxide from the air: renewable-energy potential and the right geology for storing carbon. The Economist

World Breaks Average Temperature Record for June: EU
Average global temperatures at the start of June were the warmest ever recorded for the period, trouncing previous records by a “substantial margin”, the European Union’s climate monitoring unit said. “The world has just experienced its warmest early June on record,” Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), said in a statement on Thursday. … Temperatures have since dipped, but experts say the short surge in early June marked a new global heat record for the month and indicates more extremes ahead as the planet enters an El Niño phase that could last years. … UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday the world is racing towards a climate change disaster, describing the global response as woefully inadequate. Current climate policies will lead to average temperatures 2.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times by the end of the century, nearly twice the UN goal of a 1.5-degree Celsius rise, Guterres said. … “Countries are far off-track in meeting climate promises and commitments. I see a lack of ambition. A lack of trust. A lack of support. A lack of cooperation. And an abundance of problems around clarity and credibility,” he said. Al Jazeera