Africa Media Review for June 9, 2023

Khartoum under Siege as Fighting Spreads across Sudan
Battles have been raging in Sudan’s war-torn capital of Khartoum since last Tuesday with no sign of the violence abating. Other regions are also experiencing prolonged battles, especially Darfur. Witnesses described “the sound of heavy artillery fire” in northern Khartoum, and “clashes with various types of weapons” in south Khartoum. In the city centre, at the confluence of the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers, the island of Tuti is also “under total siege” by RSF forces, residents said. Paramilitaries have also blocked the only bridge to the island. Residents say they cannot move the sick or wounded to hospitals, and worry about looting or stores running out of food. Dozens of women have reported attacks and even rape in their homes at the hands of military and paramilitary forces. … The conflict has now entered its eighth week with fighting between the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Marina Peter, chair of the Sudan and South Sudan Forum, told RFI that “the conflict is only set to last at this stage. It was predictable as the belligerents crave power and have no respect for civilians.” RFI

Rebel Mobilisation in Southern Sudan Raises Fears of Conflict Spreading
Residents of Sudan’s South Kordofan State reported mobilisation by a large rebel force on Thursday, raising fear that internal conflict could spread in the country’s southern regions. The rebel force, the SPLM-N, is led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, and is estimated to contain tens of thousands of men as well as heavy weaponry. It is unclear what position Hilu might take in the conflict that erupted in the capital Khartoum on April 15 between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), but its mobilisation raised fears of clashes, residents said. SPLM-N forces had moved into several army camps around Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, prompting the army to reinforce its positions, they said, adding that the RSF had closed the road between Kadugli and El Obeid to the north, depriving the city of supplies. In past months there had been skirmishes between the SPLM-N and the RSF. Reuters

Sudan Declares UN Envoy Volker Perthes ‘Persona Non Grata’
“The Government of the Republic of Sudan has notified the Secretary-General of the United Nations that it has declared Mr. Volker Perthes (…) persona non grata as of today,” the Sudanese ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement on Thursday. The declaration has been released just weeks after army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan accused Perthes of stoking the country’s conflict and requested his removal. Since late last year, Perthes and the UN-integrated transition assistance mission he heads in war-torn Sudan have been targeted by military and Islamist-backed protests denouncing perceived foreign interference. In a letter to the UN last month, Sudan’s de facto leader Burhan blamed the envoy for exacerbating fighting between the army and the paramilitaries, accused him of not respecting “national sovereignty” and demanded he be replaced. Le Monde

Local Representative: Ethnic Clashes at UN Site in South Sudan Kill at Least 13 People
A local representative says at least 13 people are dead and 21 have been wounded in clashes at a United Nations site in South Sudan for the protection of displaced civilians. The fighting erupted Thursday morning in the Malakal site between members of the Shilluk and Nuer ethnic groups. The cause of the fighting was not immediately clear. The situation remained tense amid fears that the fighting would resume, Yoannes Kimo, deputy chairperson representing displaced people at the site, told The Associated Press by phone. The U.N. office in South Sudan said in a statement that the fighting began with a stabbing, and it called for “calm and order.” It said reports indicated three dead. The office said its mission has reinforced the military and police presence in the area in “close collaboration” with the military and authorities. Deadly violence between ethnic groups and communities still troubles South Sudan years after a 2018 peace deal to end a five-year civil war. During the conflict, thousands of people took shelter inside U.N. protection sites. VOA/AP

Bomb Blast Hits Security Checkpoint in Mogadishu
A witness says a deafening explosion was heard on Friday in the Somali capital, Mogadishu amidst tightened security. The blast from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) struck a main security checkpoint manned by the Uganda-trained paramilitary forces in Karan District. The explosion was followed by a sustained gunfire as the panicked soldiers fired at all directions. Several people are reportedly wounded in the shooting. The security forces cordoned off the scene as the ambulances rushed the wounded to nearby hospital for treatment, according to the eyewitnesses. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Friday’s bombing which comes as security of the city has been improving for the past months. Al-Shabaab was driven out of the capital in 2011 by the national army and the AU troops during an offensive that saw the liberation of major towns, including Afgoye and Marka, Lower Shabelle region. Currently, Somali military is planning a second phase of operation against Al-Shabaab which will see the involvement of Non-ATMIS troops from Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. SMN

Amnesty Urges Independent Probe into Senegal Deaths
Rights group Amnesty International has called on Senegalese authorities to carry out independent investigations into the deadly violence during protests last week, saying at least 23 people died. The death toll by Amnesty is higher than the official number of 16 announced by the government. The rights group says three children were among 23 killed. It said the deaths “including some by gunfire” were recorded in the capital Dakar and the southern town of Ziguinchor during the violent protests on 1 and 2 June. “We call on the authorities to carry out a credible, independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances of these deaths and to ensure that those responsible for unlawful killings are prosecuted according to fair trial standards,” it said. BBC

Guinea-Bissau Opposition Wins Majority in Parliamentary Polls
A coalition of opposition groups in Guinea-Bissau has won a majority of seats in parliament in the first legislative elections since President Umaro Sissoco Embalo dissolved the National People’s Assembly more than a year ago. The five-party Terra Ranka – a coalition led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) – won 54 of 102 seats in Sunday’s polls, ahead of Embalo’s Madem G15 party, which picked up 29, according to results announced by the electoral commission on Thursday. The Party for Social Renewal (PRS) won 12 seats, the Workers’ Party six seats and the Assembly of the People United one seat. More than 20 political parties and coalitions sparred for seats in the elections that will restore parliament after a 13-month absence. Under the current political system, the majority party or coalition appoints the government, but the president has the power to dismiss it in certain circumstances. Al Jazeera

In Zimbabwe, Announcement of Election Date Triggers Both Hope and Despair
Munyaradzi Mushawatu, an electrician in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, was both ecstatic and jittery after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced recently that national elections would be held on Aug. 23. “I have voted in every election since 1990. I can’t wait to make my voice heard. I am ready,” said Mushawatu. But the bravado turned to chagrin as he recalled how the country’s “skewed” elections environment has remained intact for decades. “It’s only the election date that is new. The usual old obstacles remain,” said the 56–year-old father of three. Allegations of fraud, violence and harassment of opposition members have characterized elections held in Zimbabwe since independence from white minority rule in 1980. … For many Zimbabweans, hope offered by the Aug. 23 elections is eclipsed by a realization that although Mnangagwa has tried to present himself as a reformer, prevailing conditions suggest that he is even more repressive than the man he helped remove from power. The opposition and some human rights groups say the playing field has been tilted in the ruling party’s favor. They cite oppressive laws, arrests and detentions of opposition figures, bans of meetings, alleged violence, biased state media coverage and alleged voters’ roll irregularities — just as in previous elections. AP

Nigeria: Peter Obi Seeks Presidential Election Court’s Approval to Interrogate INEC ICT Officials
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, on Thursday, urged the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make its ICT officials available for interrogation by his team of lawyers and experts. Mr Obi seeks to interrogate INEC’s ICT officials regarding the use of the Internet in the conduct of the 25 February presidential election. Mr Obi is challenging the emergence of President Bola Tinubu as winner of the poll. He is alleging manipulation of the electoral process by INEC in favour of Mr Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He alleged fraud and non-compliance with statutory provisions. Premium Times

Liberia: House Probes US$100 Million Cocaine Case
The House of Representatives has instructed its committee on National Security to gather information from the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Ministry of Justice on facts and circumstances surrounding the US$100 million cocaine saga in the country. Plenary requests the committee to establish alternative measures being pursued in finding the actual perpetrators. Recently, jurors at Criminal Court “C” unanimously acquitted four defendants accused of importing into Liberia, 520 kilograms of cocaine valued at US$100 million. The drugs were offloaded at TRH warehouse in Topoe Village, importer of frozen poultry products. The multi-million drug case in Liberia has raised more concerns among people in and out of Liberia. One of those disappointed about the court ruling in the case is United States Ambassador Michael McCarthy, who said in a recent press conference, like many Liberians, including the Minister of Justice, he was saddened to see the acquittal of suspects in both a recent human trafficking case and in the $100 million cocaine trafficking case. … “I hope this does not send a signal of weakness in enforcement to international criminal cartels,” Amb. McCarthy expressed. … The committee is expected to report to the full plenary within a week. New Dawn

UN Agency Joins US in Suspending Food Aid to Ethiopia after Diversions
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday it was temporarily halting its food aid assistance in Ethiopia due to the widespread theft of donations, a day after the United States announced it was doing the same. More than 20 million people need food aid in Africa’s second most-populous nation, largely as a result of the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades and a two-year conflict in the north that left tens of thousands dead before ending in a truce last year. Neither WFP nor the U.S. Agency for International Development provided details about the diversions of aid that led to their decisions, but an internal briefing by a group of foreign donors said USAID believes food has been diverted to Ethiopian military units. Spokespeople for Ethiopia’s government, military and foreign affairs ministry have not responded to Reuters’ requests for comment. … WFP said that nutrition assistance to children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, school meals programs, and activities for building the resilience of farmers and pastoralists would continue uninterrupted. Reuters

Ruto Asks Peers to Cede Trade, Security Powers to the African Union
President William Ruto is calling on African Union (AU) member states to cede certain powers to the continental bloc as part of reforms needed to make the body work. President Ruto made the radical proposal at a summit of leaders of the regional trade bloc, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), in the Zambian capital Lusaka, on Thursday. He urged the audience to consider reforms of the African Union as a “priority”, warning that without such sacrifices, the AU’s vision, including Agenda 2063 and mantras such as “African solutions to African problems”, will never be realised. “Member states must consider donating power to AU on matters trade, regional and global security as well as other areas that Africa can benefit from engaging together rather than individually,” he said in a speech at the 22nd Summit of leaders of Comesa, a 14-member bloc of countries mainly in the East, Central and Southern regions of Africa but also includes Egypt and Tunisia in the north. “We should merge the position of chair of the AU Summit and that of the AU Commission into one so as to give it sufficient leverage to engage on behalf of Africa,” the president added. Nation

Kenya Media Face Up to Risky Assignments
[Video:] Like most journalists, Kenya’s are dealing with an increase in disinformation that threatens to discredit their profession. They are also being targeted with violence for doing their jobs. For VOA, Saida Swaleh has the story from Nairobi. Camera: Rashid Ibrahim VOA

Four Tunisian Soldiers Die in Helicopter Crash
Four Tunisian soldiers on military duty have died after their helicopter crashed into the sea in the country’s north-west. President Kais Saied on Thursday offered condolences to the bereaved families, saying the “accident cost the lives of four army men”. He said there was a need to “renew military equipment” as he met the country’s defence minister following the incident. President Saied also said such incidents could occur in any country – while admitting that the deterioration of some equipment in Tunisia “had led and continues to lead to such tragedies”. In 2021, three soldiers were killed in an army helicopter crash in the southern Gabes province – the findings of the investigations into that incident have not been released. BBC

South African President Admits Failure in Prevention of Cholera Outbreak
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa sought to reassure residents of a community near the capital, Pretoria, after an outbreak of cholera killed 29 people. During a visit to the local water treatment plant, Ramaphosa admitted the government had failed to prevent the outbreak. “The water that comes out of the Temba water works is not fit for human consumption. So we have really dropped the ball for our people here in Tshwane, and I went on as much as to admit that”, said South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa. Investigations are ongoing to try to identify the source of the outbreak. On Wednesday, provincial health authorities said that since last week, 165 people have visited a local hospital in Hammanskraal with symptoms including diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. … South Africa recorded its first two cholera cases in February on the back of outbreaks in nearby Mozambique and Malawi, the two most severely affected countries in 2023, according to the UN. AfricaNews

WHO Declares End to Marburg Virus Outbreak in Equatorial Guinea
The UN’s health agency on Thursday declared an end to a nearly four-month epidemic of Marburg virus in Equatorial Guinea, saying the disease, a cousin of Ebola, had caused 35 confirmed or suspected deaths. “The outbreak of Marburg Virus Disease in Equatorial Guinea ended today with no new cases reported over the past 42 days after the last patient was discharged from treatment,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement. The highly virulent microbe causes severe fever, often accompanied by bleeding and organ failure. It is part of the so-called filovirus family that includes Ebola haemorrhagic fever, which has caused several deadly epidemics in western and central Africa. The outbreak, declared on February 13, was the first of its kind in Equatorial Guinea, a small coastal state in central-western Africa. … The statement paid tribute to local health workers and support by partner organizations for the “hard work” in tackling the outbreak, much of which entails tracing and isolating people in contact with patients. France24

From a Galaxy Far, Far Away to Cape Town: Star Wars Re-Imagined
When George Lucas first created the “Star Wars” universe nearly five decades ago, he probably didn’t imagine extraterrestrial worlds crawling with fynbos, the brightly colored, prickly shrub land of South Africa’s Western Cape. Nor did he likely envision his Jedi warriors channeling the energy of sangomas, southern African traditional healers. But when South African filmmakers Nadia Darries and Daniel Clarke were asked recently to create their own version of the “Star Wars” universe for an animated short film, their alien world bore distinct imprints of their Earthly homeland. … The pair’s 15-minute film, “Aau’s Song,” is part of a recently released anthology called “Star Wars: Visions,” in which animation studios from around the world were invited to re-imagine the famous fantasy universe through their own eyes. The resulting shorts feature Jedi in saris, anime-inspired Sith lords, and lightsaber-wielding teenagers with thick Irish brogues. CSM