Africa Media Review for June 24, 2024

Sudan: El Fasher Death Toll Mounts amid Calls to Destroy RSF Artillery
The death toll in El Fasher has risen to over 260, with more than a thousand five hundred injured since fighting began in May, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Ministry of Health in Darfur. Meanwhile, the governor of North Darfur has called for the destruction of Rapid Support Forces (RSF) artillery bombarding the state capital. The RSF initiated a siege on El Fasher on May 10th, followed by heavy shelling and fierce clashes with the Sudanese army and its allies…[MSF] condemned the RSF’s shelling of the Saudi Maternity Hospital’s pharmacy on Friday night, which resulted in the death of a pharmacist and two others nearby. MSF highlighted the ongoing attacks on hospitals and the obstruction of aid deliveries, despite a UN Security Council plea for a ceasefire. The Saudi Hospital, now only partially operational due to damage, remains the sole functioning medical facility in El Fasher, struggling with limited supplies and staff. The hospital has been targeted twice since May 10th, part of eight attacks on healthcare facilities in the city. The South Hospital was closed after an RSF attack, while the Hospital for Obstetrics and Gynecology was shut down following an RSF shelling. Sudan Tribune

South Africa: Then There Were 10 – Unity Government Hits Double Digits while Talks Continue over Cabinet Posts
Rise Mzansi and Al Jama-ah became the latest parties to join the Government of National Unity (GNU), marking a significant milestone in the country’s political landscape as it brings the total number of parties participating in the GNU to 10 of the 18 parties in the National Assembly…Rise Mzansi believes the GNU can help it implement aspects of its manifesto, including addressing hunger, food insecurity and crime and delivering economic justice to marginalised South Africans…The inclusion of Rise Mzansi and Al Jama-ah brings the number of GNU members to 10. They join the ranks of the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Patriotic Alliance (PA), Good, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM). The seventh-largest party in Parliament, the FF+, which joined the GNU on Thursday, echoed a similar sentiment to Rise Mzansi, stating that its participation in the GNU was based on influencing policy rather than seeking positions…President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to announce his Cabinet on Sunday, but this did not happen as discussions are ongoing. Daily Maverick

Malian Political Parties Say Leaders Arrested amid Crackdown
An alliance of political parties and civil society groups in junta-led Mali said several of their leaders were arrested on Thursday evening during a private meeting at a house of a former minister…The West African country, which has been under military rule since a coup in 2020, in April issued a decree that restricted political life in the name of maintaining public order…Boubacar Toure, a representative of one of the parties, told Reuters on Friday that 11 people had been arrested at the private meeting. Most of them were political leaders, he said…The ruling junta has suspended all activities by political parties and “associations of a political nature” after the group of political parties and civil society organisations jointly criticised the authorities on March 31 for failing to schedule elections within the promised time frame…”The objective of these arbitrary arrests … is to create fear among citizens, so that no activist, no member of an association, will raise a finger or come out to denounce what is being done,” [the president of an association] said. Reuters

Coup-hit Niger Was Betting on a China-backed Oil Pipeline as a Lifeline. Then the Troubles Began
A China-backed pipeline that would make Niger an oil-exporting country is being threatened by an internal security crisis and a diplomatic dispute with neighoring Benin, both as a result of last year’s coup that toppled the West African nation’s democratic government. The 1,930-kilometer (1,200-mile) pipeline runs from Niger’s Chinese-built Agadem oil field to the port of Cotonou in Benin. It was designed to help the oil-rich but landlocked Niger achieve an almost fivefold increase in oil production through a $400 million deal signed in April with China’s state-run national petroleum company. But it has been stalled by several challenges, including the diplomatic disagreement with Benin that led to the pipeline’s closure last week. There also has been an attack this week by the local Patriotic Liberation Front rebel group, which claimed to have disabled a part of the pipeline and is threatening more attacks if the $400 million deal with China isn’t canceled. AP

Niger Revokes French Company’s Operating Permit at Major Uranium Mine
Nigerien military authorities have withdrawn the operating permit for a large uranium mine from the French company Orano, the company said, significantly escalating tensions between the military junta and the country’s former colonial power. Niger, a landlocked country of 26 million, is the world’s seventh biggest supplier of uranium, used for the production of weapons and nuclear power…Before the military coup last year, Niger was the West’s major economic and security partner in the Sahel, the vast region south of the Sahara Desert that has become a hot spot for violent extremism. But the military junta which seized power on the pledge of cutting ties with the West vowed to review mining concessions in the country and ordered the withdrawal of Western troops. The Imouraren mine, located in the northern part of the country, is one of the largest uranium deposits in the world, with reserves estimated at 200,000 tons.  AP

Togo Lifts Suspension on Foreign Journalist Accreditation
Togo authorities said they will lift a suspension on accreditations for foreign journalists imposed in April after a highly contested constitutional reform. The High Authority for Audiovisual and Communication, or HAAC, suspended accreditations before legislative elections that saw President Faure Gnassingbe’s ruling party extend his family’s political dynasty…Reporters Without Borders had denounced the suspension as a violation of freedom of information…Under the constitutional reform, the presidency becomes a largely ceremonial post elected by lawmakers. Power shifts to a new president of the council of ministers. That position will automatically be taken by the head of the ruling party, in this case Gnassingbe as the UNIR leader…Critics called the reform an “institutional coup” tailored for Gnassingbe to evade term limits on his presidency. AFP

Guinea Media Regulators Jailed over Junta Bribery Claim
Two media regulators in Guinea were sentenced Thursday to eight months in prison after claiming the heads of popular outlets were bribed by the ruling military, their lawyer said. The ruling followed months of a junta-led crackdown on media freedom across Guinea that saw four private radio stations and two private television channels banned in May. Djene Diaby and Tawel Camara — two of the 13 commissioners of Guinea’s media regulator, the High Authority for Communication — were also fined 1 million Guinean francs ($116) each, lawyer Kemoko Malick Diakite told reporters…In comments to reporters on June 12, Diaby and Camara accused the owners of the now-banned media organizations of receiving money from the junta in return for favorable coverage. However, those media organizations continued to criticize the junta, which led to them being banned last month, the commissioners claimed. Diaby and Camara were charged with defamation against the head of state and detained in Conakry’s central prison. AFP

Militia Kills at Least 23 People in Eastern Congo Village Attacks
A militia killed at least 23 people in attacks on several villages in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province in recent days, local authorities said on Saturday. The Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) group, one of many armed groups operating in the conflict-ridden east, carried out the killings in Djugu territory on Thursday and Friday, two local community leaders told Reuters…The motive for the attacks was not clear but militia violence in Congo is linked to long-running competition for influence and the region’s rich mineral resources. The human rights situation in Ituri has deteriorated since the beginning of the year as CODECO carries out more attacks, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) said in a report published in March. Reuters

DR Congo’s War-displaced Face Rebel Shelling and Militia Abuses
Thirty-five civilians [in Goma, the largest city in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo] were killed on 3 May when shelling hit two camps sheltering people displaced by the two-year conflict between the M23 rebel group – which is supported by neighbouring Rwanda – and DRC’s army, which is backed by local militias, Burundian soldiers, and southern African troops…Some 1.5 million people have been displaced by the still-escalating conflict, including 700,000 who have taken shelter in Goma, either with host families or in camps…The camps and the city itself have also become increasingly militarised, as pro-government forces – including the army, private security contractors, and local militias known as Wazalendo (‘patriots’ in Swahili) – try to halt the M23 advance…Displaced people said armed men affiliated either to the Congolese army or the Wazalendo are also causing major problems in the camps, from assaults on women and girls to robberies and extortion. The New Humanitarian

Nigerian Army Bolsters Air Capacity with Two New Helicopters
[Nigerian Army] spokesperson Major-General Onyema Nwachukwu said in a statement that it received the first batch of two Bell UH-1H “Huey” helicopters, each equipped with advanced sensors to conduct various missions including reconnaissance, rescue and medical evacuations. The delivery marks the start of the Nigerian Army aviation wing that will provide air support for ground operations, Nwachukwu said. Nigeria has ramped up military spending in recent years as it struggles to contain attacks and kidnappings in its northwest, a 15-year insurgency in the northeast and sectarian clashes in the central region. In 2021, Nigeria received 12 American-made A-29 Super Tucano light attack planes to fight insurgents. It currently has pending deliveries for 24 M-346 attack aircraft, 12 Agusta 109 Trekker multi-role helicopters and Chinese-made Wing Loong II drones. Reuters

Rice Farming Brought Prosperity to Northwestern Nigeria — Then the Bandits Came
[In 2015], the Nigerian Customs Service banned the import of rice. The objective was straightforward: to support local farmers to boost domestic production, which would both stimulate economic development and food sovereignty while decreasing reliance on imports…In the wake of the Boko Haram insurgency, when hundreds of thousands of people in Nigeria’s north were displaced and instability reigned, rice was a way to find solid ground again…But the combination of booming business and flimsy law enforcement has created a market for exploitation, and Sokoto’s farmers are paying a hefty price. A monthslong investigation by New Lines reveals that since 2021, rice farmers in Sokoto have been coerced into striking deals, facing severe attacks and paying egregious illegal “taxes” to local bandits in order to plant, harvest and sell their crops. Many have been forced to pay years’ worth of profits, or give over their capital investments to armed groups, unaffiliated with the militant organizations also menacing the area, as a form of “protection.” Failure to do so can result in kidnapping for ransom or death. New Lines Magazine

Constitution Gap in South Sudan as Elections Beckon
With [South Sudan] having failed to meet the September 2020 deadline for a permanent constitution, all indications are that the demand by the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) for one before elections cannot be achieved in six months. This means the country could go to an election without clear constitutional provisions to guide the process. But close associates of President Salva Kiir maintain that the government can rely on the South Sudan Transitional Constitution, 2011. Yet, the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement in Chapter 6 prescribes a constitution to guide the electoral and election processes…The 2011 Transitional Constitution provides guidelines in Chapter 14 on who can contest an election, while much of the chapter focuses on the formation and the functions of the National Elections Commission (Nec)…Unlike other constitutions in the region that are complemented by election laws, it has no mention of political parties and their conduct during elections, and no provision for electoral dispute mechanisms…Some observers are concerned that should the country go to elections without a constitution, the outcome can easily be rejected on a legal basis, and, in the absence of election-dispute mechanisms, the country could plunge into fresh violence. The EastAfrican

UN Agency: Foreign Investment in Africa Drops; Energy Sector Receives Biggest Deals
The World Investment Report, released Thursday by the U.N. Trade and Development, said foreign investment remains subdued by the global economic slowdown and rising geopolitical tensions. On the continent, central African countries recorded the largest drop in foreign investment, 17 percent, and West Africa recorded the lowest dip, 1 percent…Researchers say that the lack of financial inflows to Africa and other countries affected sustainable development, with new funding dropping by 10 percent globally. Lack of financing for development programs will hinder countries from achieving the 2030 agenda, which covers economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection…The fall of foreign direct investment in Africa is blamed on insecurity in some African countries, the weakening of local currencies, a harsh business environment, corruption and political uncertainty. VOA

Rwanda: Former Colonies Want France Out. This African Nation Says, Bienvenue!
As other African nations seek to reduce France’s influence, Rwanda is embracing it, celebrating French culture, language and food, despite decades of frosty relations with Paris over its role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. In return, French companies are scaling up their investments in Rwanda. The détente, which is being championed by Rwanda’s longtime leader, Paul Kagame., has garnered France a much-needed security partner in Africa and secured Rwanda millions of dollars in development and trade funds…France, wary of another military intervention, has looked to Rwanda as an alternative to deploying troops on African soil, said Federico Donelli, a professor of international relations at the University of Trieste…The French development agency has spent half a billion euros creating jobs and renovating health facilities. The New York Times

Photo Essay: In the Spirit of Perseverance, Artists Flock to Congo’S Biggest Dance Festival
[Virginie Magumba, a 22-year-old professional dancer from Goma, in eastern Congo] won the prize for Best Congolese Dancer at this year’s Goma dance festival, the largest dancing event in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The annual festival, which sees dancers from all over the world flocking to Goma, has been held in the city for the past seven years despite ongoing attacks by rebel groups in Eastern Congo. The region has long been overrun by more than 120 armed groups seeking a share of the its gold and other resources as they carry out mass killings…Over time, dancing became a sort of therapy for her. It made her forget family troubles and the ongoing violence in the region — and allowed her to keep hope. “We try to keep hoping, but it’s hard when nothing is improving,” she said. “The festival embodies this spirit of perseverance.” AP