Africa Media Review for June 27, 2023

Fighting Erupts in Sudan’s Southeast after RSF Takes Base of Police Brigade in Khartoum
Sudan’s army confirmed Monday that the rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had taken the main base of a well-equipped police brigade in Khartoum and there were reports of fighting spreading for the first time to Blue Nile state near Ethiopia. The RSF said it had captured dozens of armoured vehicles and pickup trucks after seizing the Central Reserve Police headquarters on Sunday, consolidating its position in southern Khartoum where several important military camps are situated. The army had leant on the Central Reserve Police for ground fighting in Khartoum, where it has struggled to counter mobile RSF units that quickly spread out across the city once fighting erupted on April 15. The army said in a statement that the Central Reserve police base had been taken after three days of fighting, accusing the RSF of attacking “state institutions.” Globe & Mail

African Union Calls for Demilitarizing Khartoum
The Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) has issued a call to demilitarize Khartoum and ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the war-affected population. The council held a meeting on June 15 to discuss the situation in the Horn of African countries, with a particular focus on Sudan. Following the meeting, the 15-member body released a statement outlining their stance. “The Council “Demands unconditional and immediate cessation of hostilities and demilitarization of Khartoum, as well as the establishment of humanitarian corridors, in order to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid to the population in need,” reads the statement. The repeated violation of the ceasefire by the warring parties has resulted in the suspension of the Jeddah process, which aimed to bring an end to the fighting in Khartoum and Darfur. The Peace and Security Council expresses its support for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) efforts to resolve the conflict in Sudan. They also call for the initiation of an inclusive political process to address the challenges faced by the country and work towards a sustainable solution. Sudan Tribune

Sierra Leone Opposition Cries Foul over Vote Results
The opposition candidate has called the provisional results in Sierra Leone “daylight robbery”, alleging that his electoral agents were not allowed to verify the ballot counting. With the majority of ballots counted, the incumbent, Julius Maada Bio, appears to have a strong lead over his main rival, Samura Kamara. The BBC’s correspondent in the capital Freetown says Mr Bio’s success can more likely be attributed to a series of strategic electoral alliances he made in the course of the campaign, including in opposition strongholds. European Union observers have criticised the electoral commission for a lack of transparency, and noted incidents of violence in some regions during the vote. The electoral commission in Sierra Leone has said it expects final results from Sunday’s presidential election to be published later. BBC

Police Probe Kenyan Trader ‘For Importing Weapons for Al Shabaab Terrorists’
A businessman is being investigated in connection with two illegal shipments of military equipment and explosives seized at Mogadishu port last month. The State alleges that Mr Zakariya Kamal Sufi Abashiek bought military equipment from China on behalf of Al Shabaab and facilitated its shipment to Somalia. Documents seen by Nation indicate that the items seized at Mogadishu port include five high specification JS crop drones with the capacity to carry 10 litres of liquid 500 metres above sea level and cover 10 hectares, rifle scopes, rolls of material for making military uniforms, and 3,000 metres of canvas packed in 30-metre rolls for making tents. … Before his arrest, ATPU received information in mid-April that Mr Kamal was providing logistical support to the Al Shabaab terrorist organisation in Somalia and was in the process of transporting a suspicious container from China to Somalia. Nation

Journalism on Trial in Africa: Fortitude and Fake News
The world of journalism has been somewhat emboldened since 7 June when judges in a South African High Court threw out a private prosecution brought by the country’s former president Jacob Zuma. His target was journalist Karyn Maughan, whom the court heard he’d developed an ‘extraordinary animosity’ towards. Maughan’s reporting included references to documents about Zuma’s health that were already on public record as part of the twists and turns surrounding his medical parole. In response, the court heard that Maughan was the victim of a systematic campaign to silence her, including intimidation and physical threats waged both on- and offline. Intimidation of journalists persists across Africa. Since the start of this year and against a backdrop of civil war and a slow political transition, three journalists have been killed in Cameroon. Despite a large media presence, Cameroon is one of the most dangerous environments for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders. In Senegal journalists have faced arbitrary arrest, and in many settings including Congo the media is controlled by powerful governing elites. Premium Times

UN Officials Warn of Impact on Horn of Africa if Black Sea Grain Deal Ends
Moscow has been threatening to walk away from the deal known as the Black Sea grain initiative – brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July last year – if obstacles to its own grain and fertilizer shipments are not removed. A Ukrainian envoy has said he was 99.9% certain Russia would quit when it comes up for renewal on July 18. Famine in parts of the Horn of Africa was averted this year as the rainy season, projected to fail for a fifth consecutive year, beat expectations. But aid officials say some 60 million people are still food insecure in seven east African countries and worry about the impact of a further blow. “A non renewal of the Black Sea initiative would absolutely hit Eastern Africa very, very hard,” Dominique Ferretti, World Food Programme Senior Emergency Officer, told a Geneva briefing. “There’s a number of countries that depend on Ukraine’s wheat and without it we would see significantly higher food prices.” … A World Health Organization official said some 10.4 million children faced acute malnutrition and reported the highest admittance levels to medical facilities in the past three years in Somalia, South Sudan and parts of Kenya. Reuters

Gabon: Elections to Be Held on August 26
Gabon will hold presidential, legislative and local elections on August 26, the country’s government announced Tuesday. The Council of Ministers announced the “convening of the electoral college for the election of the President of the Republic” plus members of the national assembly and municipal councils in August. While President Ali Bongo Ondimba has not yet said whether he will stand again, he is widely expected to run for re-election against a very divided opposition. Bongo’s powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) holds strong majorities in both houses of parliament and is pushing for the president to announce he will run again. Bongo came to power in 2009 when he took over from his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, and was narrowly re-elected in 2016. … The Bongo family has ruled the country for 55 years already, with the opposition regularly branding them a “dynastic power”. … Gabon is one of the richest African countries, in terms of GDP, due to its petrol, timber and manganese production, as well as its low population at only 2.3 million people. It is amongst the top producers of petroleum in sub-Saharan African, with the resource accounting for 38.5% of its GDP and 70.5% of its export revenue. … “Despite its economic potential, the country is struggling to translate the wealth of its resources into sustainable and inclusive growth”, the World Bank said in 2022. A third of the country’s inhabitants live below the poverty line. AfricaNews/AFP

Outrage After Nigerian Accused of Blasphemy is Stoned to Death
A man was stoned to death after being accused of blasphemy in northwest Nigeria, authorities and activists said, sparking outrage on Monday from rights groups worried about what they said were growing threats to religious freedom in the region. Usman Buda, a butcher, was killed Sunday in Sokoto state’s Gwandu district after he “allegedly blasphemed the Holy Prophet Muhammad” during an argument with another trader in a marketplace, police spokesman Ahmad Rufa’i said in a statement Sunday night. Rufa’i said a police team was deployed in the area but when they arrived, “the mob escaped the scene and left the victim unconscious.” He was later declared dead at Usmanu Danfodiyo Teaching Hospital in Sokoto, Rufa’i said. The killing was the latest attack rights campaigners have said threatens religious freedom in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northern region. Blasphemy carries the death penalty under Islamic law in the area. Amnesty International Nigeria’s office said the failure to ensure justice in such cases would encourage more extrajudicial killings. “The government is not taking the matter seriously and that has to change,” Isa Sanusi, acting director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said. VOA/AP

As Nigeria Scraps Fuel Subsidy, a Vibrant Black Market Collapses
Things have been topsy turvy lately on the roadsides of West African nations where cheap contraband petrol from Nigeria has abruptly doubled in price, upending an informal sector that is central to the region’s economic activity. Since Nigeria scrapped a state fuel subsidy on May 31, black market fuel vendors and commercial drivers in Cameroon, Benin and Togo who were heavily reliant on petrol smuggled from Nigeria have seen their businesses collapse. With supplies dwindling, queues have been forming at official petrol stations, where fuel is now competitively priced. In Garoua, a town in northwest Cameroon about 60 km (37 miles) east of the Nigerian border, a litre of petrol on the black market used to sell for about 300 CFA francs ($0.48). Now the minimum is 600 CFA francs, vendors said. … The trade in black market fuel is so central to the local economy that authorities either turn a blind eye or are complicit. A Reuters reporter in Garoua saw a Cameroonian customs officer sitting on a motorcycle-taxi that was being refuelled with smuggled Nigerian petrol. Reuters

Zambia Seizes Properties Linked to Former President Edgar Lungu
The lawyer for Zambia’s former President Edgar Lungu has denounced a government takeover of some 20 properties linked to his family, calling it a political witch hunt. Zambia’s current president has been cracking down on corruption, but critics say he is targeting political opponents. The government officially seized the properties from the Lungu family last week. They include 15 two-story flats, a three-story lodge, a farm and a house. The properties were seized under the 2010 Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crimes Law, which allows the state to seize assets it believes were acquired through illegal means. … The Zambian director of public prosecutions, Gilbert Phiri, has warned that the government will clamp down on corruption until it stops. … Boniface Cheembe is executive director of the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, a human rights NGO. He says while the current government campaigned on its anti-corruption agenda, he hopes prosecutors will not be one-sided. VOA

Zim Inflation Jumps from 87% to 176% in a Month after Currency Crash
Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate raced to triple digits for the first time in five months after multiple devaluations of the local currency led prices to surge. The blended consumer price index, which the southern African nation adopted as its inflation benchmark in February, rose 175.8% in June from 86.5% the previous month, Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency said at a briefing. Prices climbed 74.5% in the month, compared with 15.7% in May. … Inflation has been stoked by a sharp depreciation in the Zimbabwean dollar. The central bank has loosened controls on the foreign-exchange market since May. It stopped short of free-floating the local currency in the battle to end volatility and close the gap between the official and black-market rate that’s distorted pricing and led to a spike in food costs. The Zimbabwean dollar has depreciated 85% in the past two months on the official market. The high cost of living and currency weakness are likely to become rallying points heading up to elections scheduled for Aug. 23, which will see 11 candidates vie for the position of president including incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa. Bloomberg

Kenya Lawyers Take Supreme Court to EACJ
Kenyan lawyers have moved to the East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) complaining over the country’s Supreme Court decision to lock out persons and entities who are not parties to a case from lodging an appeal. The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) claims its statutory obligation “to uphold the Constitution of Kenya and advance the rule of law and administration of justice” has been limited by the Supreme Court. They are also aggrieved by the court’s decision to slap the society with costs incurred in a public interest case that was challenging a government’s decision to procure and install a Device Management System that “threatens the right to privacy of millions of Kenyan mobile subscribers”. “The Supreme Court failed to uphold the rule of law by imposing a negative costs order on LSK in public interest litigation absent a finding of bad faith, ill will, misconduct, or frivolity by the LSK and in a manner that will discourage protection of human rights and good governance through public interest litigation,” said LSK lawyer Dudley Ochiel. … LSK wants the regional court to declare that the Supreme Court of Kenya violated the EAC Treaty and the Kenyan Constitution. It also wants an order of restitution restoring LSK’s right of access to justice and reverting the case on DMS for hearing on the merits. East African

Meet the Women Helping Rape Victims Recover Dignity in Congo’s Conflicts
Neema Paypay Mutsiirwa treks up the hill to her office in Masisi-Centre, the capital of Masisi territory, deep in the mountains of eastern Congo. It is a steep climb, made more difficult by slick mud and loose rocks. But Ms. Mutsiirwa does not pause to catch her breath, taking forceful steps in her rubber sandals. It’s a determination that serves Ms. Mutsiirwa well in her work counseling survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. Raised on the slopes of Masisi, she has dedicated her life to her role as the coordinator of Women’s Action for Social Change, a civic group. That makes her one of a handful of people in this conflict-ravaged area who, beyond clinical needs, provide desperately needed support to female victims of violence. … With scant resources, and in the face of enormous difficulties, Ms. Mutsiirwa and others like her provide a vital safety net amid the latest uptick in fighting. “We don’t leave the office,” Ms. Mutsiirwa says. “They come all days, from different places.” … This month, Human Rights Watch documented more than a dozen rapes committed by M23 fighters in North Kivu between late 2022 and spring 2023, which the advocacy organization dubbed war crimes. It has previously recorded similar assaults by other armed groups operating in the region. CSM

Ex-Botswana Minister Talks about Sexual Harassment on the Job
Economist Bogolo Kenewendo made the headlines five years ago after becoming, at 30, Botswana’s trade minister and one of the youngest, if not the youngest, government ministers in the world. She is now the UN Climate Champion’s Special Advisor for Africa. But in an interview with the BBC Focus on Africa podcast she has spoken about the sexual harassment and discrimination faced by women at the top of politics. Looking back at her 19 months in the job she spoke about how she “survived the environment”. “When you’re a young woman in such a space there are a lot of innuendos – how you got the job – but even those who you work with, fighting off sexual advances or even harassment in some cases. “There was a severe case that happened and I reported it to my principals and there was action,” she told the BBC’s Audrey Brown without going into more details. “What surprised me was that they thought it was an isolated case, which it wasn’t. They quickly learnt that it wasn’t an isolated case and so it was taken care of.” She added that as a result she felt empowered to bring bills to parliament that dealt with the protection of women and children. BBC

Flooding Hits Ivory Coast Cocoa Mid Crop, Could Hinder Next Main Crop
Above-average rain in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa regions last week has flooded plantations and could affect the start of the next October-to-March main crop, farmers said on Monday. The world’s top cocoa producer is in its rainy season, which runs officially from April to mid-November. Downpours are usually abundant and heavy during this time. Several farmers said rain had caused flooding that barred them from accessing their crops. … More heavy rain could hinder the start of the next main crop as it would knock flowers from trees, while the April-to-September mid-crop was tailing off with low yields, they added. “It is not good here, showers come one after the other. Farmers can no longer go to the fields because rivers have broken their banks and there is flooding,” said Arsene Kouao. He farms near the eastern region of Abengourou, where 206.3 millimetres (mm) (8.12 inches) of rain fell last week, 153 mm above the five-year average. Reuters