Africa Media Review for June 5, 2023

Fighting Escalates in Khartoum After Cease-Fire Expires
Fighting intensified in several areas of Khartoum on Sunday, residents of Sudan’s capital reported, a day after the expiry of a cease-fire deal between rival military factions brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States. The cease-fire had started on May 22 and expired on Saturday evening. It calmed the fighting slightly and allowed limited humanitarian access, but like previous truces was repeatedly violated. Talks to extend the cease-fire broke down on Friday. The deadly power struggle which erupted in Sudan on April 15 has triggered a major humanitarian crisis in which more than 1.2 million people have been displaced within the country and caused another 400,000 to flee into neighboring states. It also threatens to destabilize the region as a whole. Live footage on Sunday showed black smoke billowing above the capital. “In southern Khartoum we are living in terror of violent bombardment, the sound of anti-aircraft guns and power cuts,” said 34-year-old resident Sara Hassan by phone. “We are in real hell.” VOA

AU Seeks to Tap the Influence of Civilian Groups in Sudan Peace
The African Union’s proposal to expand the peace search in Sudan has received early backing from the West, suggesting mediation will now go beyond warring generals and rope in civilian groups. After Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni chaired a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council last week, the AU’s peace building body for which Uganda was chair in May, said it was pursuing the “Roadmap on the Resolution of the Conflict in Sudan”, a proposal in which there will be a centralised mediation and more parties involved according to their influence. Known as the Expanded Mechanism, it places a bigger role on Sudan’s neighbours, but other countries such as the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who have a commanding influence on parties in Sudan, will also be involved. It is a departure from the past, where countries individually proposed mediation. East African

Senegal Government Cuts Mobile Internet Access Amid Deadly Rioting
Senegal’s government has cut access to mobile internet services in certain areas because of deadly rioting in which “hateful and subversive” messages have been posted online, it said in a statement on Sunday. The West African country has been rocked by three days of violent protests in which 16 people have died, one of its deadliest bouts of civil unrest in decades. Last week, the government limited access to certain messaging platforms, but many were able to bypass the outage with the use of virtual private networks that mask the location of the user. It extended the outage on Sunday to include all data on mobile internet devices in certain areas and at certain times, the statement said. … The catalyst for the unrest was the sentencing on Thursday of popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko in a two-year-old rape case. His supporters say the prosecution was politically motivated and he has denied any wrongdoing. VOA

Gunmen Kill Dozens and Kidnap Children in Northern Nigeria
Gunmen in Nigeria have killed dozens of people and kidnapped a number of children in separate attacks in two northern states, police and residents said on Sunday, the latest incidents in a region dogged by armed violence. Armed gangs on motorbikes frequently take advantage of thinly stretched security forces in the region to kidnap villagers, motorists and students for ransom. Residents said armed men had attacked Janbako and Sakkida villages in northwestern Zamfara state on Saturday, killing 24 people. The gunmen also abducted several children who were collecting firewood in a forest in neighbouring Gora village. Hussaini Ahmadu and Abubakar Maradun, local residents in Janbako and Sakkida, told Reuters by phone that the gangs had earlier in the week demanded villagers pay a fee to enable them to farm their fields, but villagers did not do so. Reuters

Nigerian Senate Whittles Down Powers of Anti-Corruption Chair
The Senate has passed a bill to amend the law establishing the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), which steeply cuts down on the power of the commission’s chairperson. If it gets concurrent approval of the House of Representatives and the assent of Nigeria’s president, it may cripple the prime anti-corruption agency’s capacity to fight corruption, a review of the proposed legislation has revealed. The upper chamber passed the legislation on Thursday seeking profound changes to the administration of the anti-corruption agency by devolving powers and responsibilities which the commission’s chairman wields for the day-to-day running of the agency to its board, which ordinarily meets periodically. … By assigning responsibilities and functions to the board members, the lawmakers are elevating them from their mere supervisory roles to being involved in the daily running of the commission, which many fear would create a bureaucratic snag in the commission’s functioning. Aside from assigning responsibilities to board members, whom the bill seeks to rechristen as commissioners, the bill also tries to strip the chairman of the power over “administrative order”. … Many have said the new amendment bill was a way of the National Assembly getting at the current chairman of the ICPC, Bolaji Owasanoye, who has focused on exposing fraud and mismanagement of funds meant for constituency projects by federal lawmakers. Premium Times

Ugandan Peacekeepers Killed in Jihadist Attack in Somalia
Some 54 Ugandan peacekeepers died when militants besieged an African Union base in Somalia last week, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said, in one of the worst recent attacks by Al-Shabaab jihadists in the war-torn country. “We discovered the lifeless bodies of 54 fallen soldiers, including a commander,” Museveni said in a Twitter post late Saturday. He was speaking during a meeting with members of his governing National Resistance Movement party, the presidency told AFP news agency on Sunday. The toll is one of the heaviest yet since pro-government forces backed by the AU force known as ATMIS launched an offensive against Al-Shabaab last August. … Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s fragile central government for more than a decade, claimed responsibility for the May 26 attack, saying it had overrun the base and killed 137 soldiers. The militants drove a car laden with explosives into the base in Bulo Marer, 120 kilometres southwest of the capital Mogadishu, leading to a gunfight, local residents and a Somali military commander said. RFI

Three Al-Shabaab Militants Killed in US Airstrike
Three Al-Shabaab militants were killed in an airstrike on Thursday, the US Africa Command, AFRICOM has said. AFRICOM said Friday the strike in Wayanta area located some 60 kilometres south of Kismayo in Jubaland killed three militants. AFRICOM added that there were no civilian casualties based on the initial assessment. The strike is the second in a week after a similar one on May 26 when Al-Shabaab militants attacked ATMIS base Bulo Mareer in Lower Shabelle region. Goobjoog

More Than 2 Million People Displaced, Burkina Faso’s Government Says, as Aid Falls Short
Violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group has made Burkina Faso a country with one of the world’s fastest-growing populations of internally displaced people, with the number mushrooming by more than 2,000% since 2019, according to government data. Figures released last month showed more than 2 million people are internally displaced in the West African nation, the majority of them women and children, fueling a dire humanitarian crisis as the conflict pushed people from their homes, off their farms and into congested urban areas or makeshift camps. Aid groups and the government are scrambling to respond amid a lack of funds and growing needs. One in four people requires aid, and tens of thousands are facing catastrophic levels of hunger. Yet not even half of the $800 million humanitarian response budget requested last year by aid groups was funded, according to the United Nations. AP

Zimbabwean Parliament Approves Controversial New Law Ahead of Elections
Parliament in Zimbabwe has approved a controversial new law that criminalises acts that damage “the sovereignty and national interest” of the southern African country. The new law was passed hours after the government announced nationwide elections for August 23rd. Critics claim the new law kills free speech. “What they are criminalizing is differing opinion against Zanu-PF and different opinion from Mnangagwa himself, who is a presidential candidate for Zanu-PF and this happens at the edge of an election showing without any doubt that the envelope of reform is being done by Zanu, contrary to what they put particularly in the international community, that they are reforming”, said Ostallos Siziba, National Deputy Spokesperson for the opposition’s CCC party. … The bill is the latest in a series of moves that critics say are aimed at shutting down dissenting voices in the run up to the elections. AfricaNews

Rwanda Roots for Recognition of M23 in Congo Talks
Rwanda wants the M23 rebel group to be part of the dialogue to restore peace in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a proposal that could potentially kick up a storm in Kinshasa. During the 21st Extraordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State in Bujumbura on Wednesday, Rwanda Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente called on the leaders to involve the M23 in both the Nairobi Process and the field visit and verification at the Rumangabo camp for the pre-cantonment programme meant to see the group withdraw from occupied areas in exchange for reintegration and reconciliation. “We don’t see how the M23 is not involved in the process that is going to assess where they are going to be living,” said Ngirente. … Rwanda has often been seen to back the M23, something that angers Kinshasa, which refers to them as a terrorist group. Of all the groups under the Nairobi Process, a peace programme under the East African Community, Kinshasa has refused to hold dialogue with M23, demanding that they first surrender territory to the Congolese army (FARDC) and lay down arms. East African

Eswatini: Two Pro-Democracy MPs Convicted of “Terrorism”
Two pro-democracy MPs in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Eswatini, were found guilty on Thursday of terrorism and murder in connection with the wave of anti-regime protests that rocked the country in 2021. The two men, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, were tried by a court in the capital Mbabane almost two years after their arrest in July 2021. Charged with inciting demonstrations, they had pleaded not guilty. “I find the accused guilty of all the charges against them”, said Judge Mumcy Dlamini. They face up to 20 years in prison. Their sentences will be handed down “at a date to be determined”, the judge continued. Mr Mabuza and Mr Dube were arrested in the midst of a wave of demonstrations calling for democratic reforms. These protests were severely repressed by the regime’s police and dozens of protesters were killed. The two MPs had in particular called for reform of the complex system of elections in which political parties, although theoretically authorised, are not allowed to participate. AfricaNews/AFP

Guinea-Bissau Votes to Elect Legislature More Than a Year after President Dissolved Parliament
Bissau-Guineans voted Sunday in a highly anticipated election to fill Guinea-Bissau’s national legislature, more than a year after the West African nation’s president dissolved parliament. Nearly 1 million voters were registered to elect more than 100 lawmakers from six parties with active seats in the National People’s Assembly, according to the Centre for Democracy and Development, an African human rights organization. Guinea-Bissau is a small nation that gained independence from Portugal nearly five decades ago. The country has endured continued political turmoil, including multiple coups, since then. President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, a former army general, took office after he was declared the winner of a December 2019 runoff election. He survived a February 2022 coup attempt when assailants armed with machine guns and AK-47s attacked the government palace. AP

Investigative Journalism under Threat in Africa
Investigative journalists in Africa have to find innovative ways to do their work as resources become scarce and safety concerns grow. Various investigative journalists spoke about the challenges of their work at the Information and Communication Rights in Africa regional conference in Windhoek last week. The regional conference on Information and Communication Rights in Africa, which took place from 31 May to 2 June 2023 in Windhoek, brought together access to information (ATI), digital rights and human rights activists, media workers and support actors from across Africa to discuss the state of access to information, digital rights and human rights in Africa and propose solutions to some of the major challenges faced by citizens of the continent. The conference focused on strengthening freedom of expression and the public media landscape in Africa. New Era

Suez Canal Traffic Resumes after Broken Down Tanker Tugged Away
Egypt deployed three tugboats Sunday to tow away an oil tanker that had broken down and caused brief delays in the Suez Canal, authorities in charge of the vital waterway said. Traffic in both directions returned to normal after a brief disruption when the Malta-flagged Seavigour experienced a “machinery malfunction” while en route from Russia to China, the Suez Canal Authority said. Three tugboats “successfully towed and moored the ship” at a shipyard where the technical fault will be fixed before the tanker “resumes its crossing,” according to a statement. Brief disruptions caused by ships breaking down or running aground are common in the waterway, through which about 10 percent of global maritime trade passes. Most are refloated within hours, allowing traffic to resume. VOA

Mass Layoff of Facebook Moderators in Kenya Halted by Court
A Kenyan court on Friday ordered the suspension of the mass sacking of scores of content moderators by a subcontractor for Facebook’s parent company Meta and directed the social media giant to provide counselling to the employees. A total of 184 moderators employed in Nairobi by Sama, an outsourcing firm for Meta, filed a lawsuit in March, claiming their dismissal was “unlawful”. In a 142-page ruling, labour court judge Byram Ongaya said Meta and Sama were “restrained from terminating the contracts” pending the determination of the lawsuit challenging the legality of the dismissal. “An interim order is hereby issued that any contracts that were to lapse before the determination of the petition be extended” until the case is settled, the judge added. Ongaya also barred Facebook’s new outsourcing firm, Luxembourg-headquartered Majorel, from blacklisting the moderators from applying for the same roles. … British-based legal activist firm Foxglove, which is supporting the case, said the ruling was “a major blow to the outsourcing model Facebook uses to avoid responsibility for its key safety workers”. Meta has faced scrutiny over the working conditions of content moderators who say they spend hours focused on hateful, disturbing posts with little regard for their well-being. The company is facing two other legal cases in Kenya. News24/AFP