Africa Media Review for June 21, 2024

Malawi President Names New Deputy after Plane Crash Kills Predecessor
Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera appointed Michael Usi as his vice president on Thursday, after the previous vice president was killed in an airplane crash last week. Former Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine others were killed when the military plane they were travelling in crashed in a forest on June 10. Chilima was expected to challenge Chakwera in next year’s presidential election. Usi will be sworn into office on Friday, a government statement said. He previously served as minister of natural resources and climate change and was a close ally of Chilima having served as his running mate. Reuters

Probe Begins into Police Conduct during Kenya’s Anti-government Protests
An investigation began Friday in Kenya into police conduct during protests against a government plan to impose new taxes, according to the country’s police watchdog. The chairperson of Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority, Anne Makori, lauded protesters for demonstrating peacefully and urged police to exercise restraint while noting the killing of a protester and injuries sustained by demonstrators and police officers. Thousands of protesters had on Thursday marched in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi and other major cities and towns across the country, demanding that legislators reject a finance bill that has imposed new taxes on Kenyans. AP

Zimbabwean Opposition Leader, Youths Appear in Court after 2 Nights in Jail
A Zimbabwean opposition leader and nearly 100 youths who spent two nights in jail for allegedly holding an unsanctioned meeting appeared in court in Harare on Tuesday, where they complained of police assaults. After their arrest Sunday, members of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change, or Triple C, arrived in court in apparent pain — some limping, and one with a broken leg — under heavy police guard…Tinashe Chinopfukutwa, a lawyer representing Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, told reporters that his clients had been abused upon arrest…Agency Gumbo, a lawyer and a member of parliament with Triple C, said party members had been arrested at Timba’s home Sunday while commemorating International Day of the African Child. He said the arrests were meant to quell opposition’s activities, which started during the era of the late President Robert Mugabe’s nearly 40 years in power. VOA

War on Activists: More than 400 Human Rights Defenders, Journalists in DRC Targeted within a Year
Last year, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) adopted a law to protect human rights defenders, putting it in compliance with minimum international standards. But that has not stopped persecutions which – in many instances – result in murder…Both non-state and state actors have in the past been implicated in incidents of intimidation, threats of physical violence, attacks and acts of reprisals targeting journalists and human rights defenders…For the period June 2023 to April this year, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC said it recorded cases of 387 human rights defenders and 67 journalists being either threatened or attacked. News24

Some Life-saving Food Assistance Entered South Darfur, UN Says, but Aid Groups Say More Is Needed
South Darfur saw a slight increase in critical aid when the U.N.’s World Food Program delivered life-saving food and nutrition to some families across the violence-riddled western Sudanese state, the organization said. But more assistance is needed, humanitarian organizations say. The WFP mission in Sudan said Tuesday that more than 50,000 people in hunger hotspots across South Darfur are receiving much-needed food assistance in collaboration with relief agency World Vision…In May, the WFP said in a report that at least 1.7 million people are already experiencing emergency levels of hunger in Darfur, including in Al Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state that is besieged by RSF. Despite the “devastating levels of hunger” that civilians are facing in the greater Darfur region, deliveries of food assistance have been “intermittent due to fighting and endless bureaucratic hurdles,” WFP said. AP

Egypt Unlawfully Deported Sudanese Refugees, Rights Group Says
Egypt has carried out mass arrests and unlawful deportations of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Sudan, Amnesty International said in a report on Wednesday. The rights group said it had documented 12 incidents in which Egyptian authorities returned an estimated total of 800 Sudanese nationals between January and March this year without giving them the chance to claim asylum or challenge deportation decisions. It also said it had documented in detail the cases of 27 Sudanese refugees arrested between October 2023 and March 2024, 26 of whom were among those collectively expelled. Refugees had been held in cruel and inhuman conditions ahead of their deportation, it added. The total number of arrests and deportations are unclear as there are no publicly available statistics. The U.N. refugee agency said thousands were deported late last year, many of them Sudanese. Reuters

South Sudan’s Vice President Expresses Concerns over Ongoing Peace Talks
South Sudan ’s vice president said Thursday that peace talks in neighboring Kenya have failed to acknowledge the country’s peace agreement established in 2018, alleging a new draft agreement is aimed at replacing the original peace deal. Riek Machar in a protest letter to the talks’ mediator said the draft established alternative institutions to replace or run in parallel with those established by the previous peace agreement. He added that the current peace talks should complement and not obliterate the original deal. The former rebel leader signed an agreement with President Salva Kiir in 2018 that ended a five-year civil war that killed about 400,000 people. Machar and Kiir were on opposite sides in the war and Machar was appointed vice president after the 2018 deal. His group isn’t part of the current talks, which are for groups that were not included in the 2018 agreement…The body mandated with monitoring the implementation of the 2018 peace deal raised concerns in May over the slow implementation of election related tasks with only a few months left until December elections. AP

South Sudan Urges Burundi, Ethiopian Refugees to Return Home
The Government of South Sudan on Thursday appealed to Burundian and Ethiopian refugees to return home as the government is grappling with a refugee crisis. Speaking during the World Refugee Day celebrations at the Gorom Refugee Settlement in the outskirts of Juba, Dut Akol Kuol, the Director General for Protection in the South Sudan Commission for Refugee Affairs, said South Sudan is hosting about 470,000 refugees from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic, and Ethiopia among others and that it is difficult for the government to resettle them…He revealed that the government will increase land allocation to the refugee hosting areas from the current 15,000 hectares to 50,000 hectares for refugee livelihood activities. Akol encouraged refugees from Burundi and Ethiopia to voluntarily register to return home as their countries are now stable. Radio Tamazuj

Deaths on Migration Route to Canary Islands Soar to 1,000 a Month
More than 5,000 people died in the first five months of this year trying to reach Spain by sea, 95% of them on Atlantic Ocean crossings from West and Northwest Africa to the Canary Islands, a new report on the world’s deadliest migration route reveals. Mauritania has overtaken Senegal as the main departure point, representing 3,600 of the deaths between January and April, according to the report from Ca-minando Fronteras (Walking Borders), a collective dedicated to protecting migrant communities. Arrivals in the Canary Islands have been rising for years, but the latest figures represent an increase in fatalities of almost 700% in the first five months of 2024 over the same period in 2023. During that time frame, at least 47 boats – small vessels with hundreds of people typically packed onto them – disappeared with everyone on board, and an average of 33 people died each day, the report says. The Atlantic route to the Canary Islands has three primary exit points: southern Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal, while there are also dangerous maritime crossings of the Mediterranean Sea, albeit in lesser numbers and involving far fewer deaths. The land routes to the Spanish enclaves in North Africa – Ceuta and Melilla – have seen a significant fall in traffic in recent years. The New Humanitarian

UN Rapporteur: Fundamental Freedoms Systematically Repressed in Eritrea
A human rights expert says the Eritrean government is maintaining its iron grip on society by systematically repressing the fundamental rights and freedoms of its people through violent and threatening means. “The human rights situation in Eritrea remains dire. Patterns of gross human rights violations, including the widespread use of arbitrary and incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance persist unabated,” Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, told the U.N. Human Rights Council Thursday…The report says civic space continues to be completely closed in Eritrea; that there is no freedom of expression, association, and assembly; no independent media; and that dissent is systematically suppressed, “including through arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance.” The special rapporteur told the council that “the stifling of civic engagement and suppression of critical voices by the Eritrean authorities also extends to Eritrean communities worldwide.” VOA

5630 Insurgents Surrender, Weapons Recovered In Lake Chad, Says Nigeria Army Chief
Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja, Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), has commended the efforts of Nigerian troops in the Lake Chad region, marking a “significant improvement” in regional security. During a visit to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, North East Nigeria, on Monday, Lagbaja…highlighted the substantial progress made over the last four months, emphasising the positive peace indicators through the mass recovery of equipment and insurgents’ surrender. “A total of 963 individuals were successfully rescued from insurgent captivity, “ the army chief said. “Additionally, 5,630 insurgents, including a key figure – Muhammed Usman, the media operations controller for Abu Ali, an ISWAP sub-commander – surrendered to Nigerian forces. Since January, the military has neutralised 282 insurgents.” HumAngle

Nigeria’s Cross River Communities Unite Two Years After Bloody Inter-communal Crisis
After years of bloody tussle over a parcel of land at the boundary – Nko, a community in Yakurr Local Government Area and Onyadama in Obubra Local Government Area in Cross River, South-south Nigeria, have agreed to co-exist peacefully. This resolution comes two years after soldiers sent on a peacekeeping assignment to the two warring communities used extreme force against armless civilians, leading to deaths and injuries on both sides…Osong Obeten, chairperson of the Nko youth board of trustees, attributed the peace process to collaboration between Nko and Onyadama youths…A 1947 district court judgment awarded the disputed land to Onyadama, but Nko community leaders contested the ruling. They appealed to the West African Court of Appeal then, but their case was dismissed with costs in April 1949. While the court judgments doused tension at the time, a crisis brewed again in the early 90s when Onyadama accused Nko residents of encroaching on the land. Since then, the two communities have been at war until the reconciliation moves in May. HumAngle

Namibian Court Declares Laws Banning Gay Sex Unconstitutional
A high court in Namibia on Friday declared unconstitutional two colonial-era laws that criminalised same-sex acts between men, in a landmark win for the LGBTQ community in the southern African nation. The case was brought by Namibian activist Friedel Dausab with the support of UK-based non-governmental organisation Human Dignity Trust. Rights campaigners say that while convictions under the laws on “sodomy” and “unnatural sexual offences” were relatively rare, they have perpetuated discrimination against the LGBTQ community and made gay men live in fear of arrest. Namibia inherited the laws when it gained independence from South Africa in 1990, though same-sex acts between men were initially criminalised under colonial rule. South Africa has since decriminalised same-sex sexual activity and is the only country on the African continent to allow LGBTQ couples to adopt children, marry and enter civil unions. Reuters

Senegal Customs Seize Cocaine Shipments Worth over $50M
Senegalese customs said Tuesday it had intercepted three shipments of cocaine with a total estimated value of more than $50 million in the past five days. The authorities have made an increasing number of cocaine seizures in recent months from neighboring countries — notably Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Mali — which are reputed to be transit zones for drugs produced in Latin America on their way to Europe…Several seizures of cocaine have been announced by customs in recent months, including a 1-ton haul in mid-April in the east of the country, near the border with Mali, and several others earlier this month. In November, the army announced the seizure of nearly 3 tons of cocaine from a vessel seized in international waters off the coast of Senegal. AFP

Uganda Signs Deal with UAE to Build Third International Airport
Uganda has signed a pact with a business association from the United Arab Emirates to build a new international airport, President Yoweri Museveni’s office said on Friday. The deal for the East African nation’s third such airport expands the UAE’s economic footprint beyond its interests in the renewable energy and oil and gas industries.
The UAE’s Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry will build the airport just outside the Kidepo National Park in the northeast near Uganda’s border with Kenya, Museveni’s office said in a statement, without giving the cost. Construction will start in August, said Abdallah Sultan Al Owais, chairman of the Sharjah business body. The airport will boost tourism by drawing visitors to the 1,442-sq-km (557-sq-mile) Kidepo park known for lions, giraffes, buffaloes and other big game. The agreement was “a sign of the deepening relations with our Gulf partners and another opportunity to co-operate in investment and trade”, Museveni, who witnessed the signing, said in a post on X. Reuters