Africa Media Review for March 10, 2023

Diplomats in Libya Pushing To Speed Up UN-Backed Election
Diplomats, including the new UN envoy to Libya, are pushing to accelerate plans to hold overdue elections. Tripoli-based Khaled Al Mishri, who heads the High Council of State, met US Special Envoy to Libya Richard Norland, and charge d’affaires of his country’s embassy, Leslie Ordman, in separate meetings. Mr Al Mishri also met France’s Special Envoy to Libya, Paul Soler, and French ambassador to Libya, Mustafa Maharaj. The two meetings dealt with the initiative announced by UN envoy to LIbya Abdoulaye Bathily last month on launching an election panel to organise presidential and legislative polls this year…The US embassy last week called on “key Libyan leaders to approach the plan in a constructive spirit”, saying in an online post the UN proposal would “build on progress made between” the two chambers “on the legal basis for elections”. Britain also said it supported the plan. “Libyans deserve certainty and faith in their institutions,” its mission at the UN in New York tweeted shortly after Mr Bathily had spoken at the Security Council. “Conditions for elections must be agreed by all and the results respected.” National News

Somalia Working To ‘Stop Violence’ Amid Somaliland Tension
Somalia is working closely to restore peace in its northern breakaway region of Somaliland amid heightening tensions between the region’s authorities and local clan forces, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told Al Jazeera. “We believe that unity is the only solution… but we don’t want this unity through violence, which makes matters worse,” Mohamud told Al Jazeera on Monday. Violence erupted after leaders of the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn provinces of Somaliland – which claimed independence from Somalia in 1991 – announced their intention to rejoin Somalia. Fighting broke out last month around the town of Lascanood in Sool, killing at least 80 people and displacing more than 185,000, according to the UN. “We’ve been advocating for the last couple of weeks on how we can first stop the violence and then open a space for dialogue,” Mohamud said in a wide-ranging interview in which he talked about the state’s fight against the al-Shabab armed group, a sweeping drought in the country and gender violence. Al Jazeera

Amnesty Calls on Ethiopia To End Social Media Blackout
Amnesty International on Thursday called on Ethiopian authorities to restore access to social media networks including Facebook, TikTok and Youtube as a blockade on some platforms entered its second month. In a statement, Amnesty said the blockade clearly violated rights to freedom of expression and access to information and “further stains the country’s already dismal record on media freedom”…Amnesty said the blockage followed calls for street protests by leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church after a group of rebel archbishops created a dissident synod. The Tewadeho Church — representing 40 percent of Ethiopia’s 120 million people — accused Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of offering a form of recognition to the breakaway bishops, and interfering in its religious affairs. Channels

What Next for NGOs Against Uganda Oil?
Those suing TotalEnergies included Friends of the Earth-France, Survie (Survival) and four Ugandan civil society organisations; the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) of Dickens Kamugisha, Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED) of Bashir Twesigye, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) of Frank Muramuzi together with Friends of the Earth-Uganda (which is affiliated to Friends of the Earth International), and Navigators of Development Association (NAVODA). In their 2019 suit they had argued that the development of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) failed to adhere to ‘a duty of vigilance’; which is a French legislation introduced in 2017 that compels transnational corporations like TotalEnergies to avoid endangering the health, human rights, safety (of people) and the environment. The NGOs also accused TotalEnergies of “taking land from more than 100,000 project-affected people without adequate compensation.” They also said the company intended to drill wells in Murchison Falls National Park, which would endanger one of the most biodiverse protected areas in Africa. Independent Uganda

East Coast African States Ail From Too Much, Too Little Rain
Surrounded by miles of dried land and what remains of his famished livestock, Daniel Lepaine is a worried man. Dozens of his goats in Ngong, a town in southern Kenya, have died after three years of harrowing drought in the east and Horn of Africa. The rest are on the verge of starvation as rain continues to fail. “If this drought persists, I will have no livelihood and nothing for my family,” Lepaine mourned. “We are praying hard for the rains.” But a few thousand miles south, communities are facing the opposite problem. Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which has already caused 21 deaths and displaced thousands of others in Madagascar and Mozambique, is set to make landfall in Mozambique once more on Friday. The nation is already suffering from Freddy’s first battering last month and severe flooding before that. Meteorologists told The Associated Press the uneven and devastating water distribution across Africa’s east coast states is caused by natural weather systems and exacerbated by human-made climate change with cyclones sucking up water that would otherwise be destined for nations further north. AP

Uganda MPs Propose Tough Penalties for Same-Sex Affairs
Ugandan lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation to parliament that proposes tough new penalties for same-sex relations in a country where homosexuality is already illegal, defying criticism from human rights groups. Annet Anita Among, the speaker of parliament, referred the bill to a house committee for scrutiny, the first step in an accelerated process to pass the proposal into law…The bill comes as conspiracy theories accusing shadowy international forces of promoting homosexuality gain traction on social media in conservative Uganda. Under the proposed law, anyone who engages in same-sex activity or who “holds out” as LGBTQ could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment. AFP

South Sudan Rivals To Meet Over Minister’s Firing
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his first deputy, Riek Machar, are expected to meet on Friday at the State House in the capital, Juba, to discuss the recent dismissal of Defence Minister Angelina Teny. Mr Kiir also swapped the ministries of defence and interior, taking defence to his political party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the interior ministry to Mr Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO). The SPLM-IO termed the presidential decrees “unilateral” and “a violation” of the revitalised peace agreement and demanded that Ms Teny be reinstated to her position. The peace agreement gives parties the power to remove their representatives in the council of ministers and nominate the replacements by notifying the president. The meeting on the changes was initially planned for Thursday but was moved to Friday at the request of the president, an official in Mr Machar’s office told the BBC. An international body monitoring the implementation of the revitalised peace agreement has welcomed the announcement of the meeting. The Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) said it was encouraging “consultation to resolve the issue of the removal of the defence minister, and urge the parties to observe the letter and spirit of the revitalised agreement.” BBC

Children Face Acute Risk Amid Malawi’s Deadliest Cholera Outbreak
Malawi’s cholera outbreak is the country’s deadliest on record, claiming more than 1,500 lives, according to the UN. More than 50,000 cases have been detected in the landlocked country in south-east Africa since an outbreak was declared in March last year, triggered by two devastating tropical storms that hit the region. Almost 200 children have died. Cholera has been endemic in Malawi since the late 1990s, but a phenomenon that is usually seasonal, limited to between November and May, has this time persisted and spread to all of Malawi’s 28 districts. Guardian

Senegal’s Alleged Funding of Marine Le Pen Sparks Row
Senegal’s former prime minister, Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare, was taken into police custody on Thursday after questioning President Macky Sall if he had financed a French politician. His lawyer told the media that Mr Soumare was summoned by police over his letter to the president about the alleged donation. In the letter, Mr Soumare had asked the president whether he had donated 12m euros ($12.7m; £10.6m) to a “French political figure” whose party is distinguished “by hatred and rejection of others.” The Senegalese government on Tuesday denied making any financial donation to the leader of France’s National Rally, Marine Le Pen, who visited Mr Sall on 18 January. It “rejected and condemned” the insinuations and described them as “cowardly and unfounded”, according to a statement. BBC

Nigeria: Six Dead, Many Injured As Train Crushes Lagos Govt Staff Bus
The unfortunate crash occurred at the PWD bus stop in the Ikeja area of the state on Thursday morning. Already, six persons have been confirmed dead by emergency responders, and over 82 persons injured and rushed to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who visited the hospital, said two persons died at the scene of the accident and four at the hospital. He said 85 passengers were involved in all, 42 with moderate injuries, 29 with serious injuries while eight have mild injuries. The sights from the scene are gory as passersby watch in horror even as dead and injured victims were extricated from the bus which was hit right on the rail tracks. The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) spokesman, Adebayo Taofiq said though the bus involved in the crash is the same as the regular BRT buses in the state, the bus was a staff bus of the Lagos State Government. Channels

Egypt Plans To Connect Sudan With High-Speed Rail Link
The Egyptian Minister of Transport, Kamel El Wazir, announced plans for a rail link between Sudan and Egypt in a conference in Marrakech, chaired by the International Union of Railways on Wednesday. The ministry’s proposed Egypt-Sudan railway line will extend the second line of the high-speed train from Abu Simbel in southern Egypt, to Sudan’s Wadi Halfa. According to Egyptian newspaper El Yom El Sabi, the project is a continuation of the Egyptian government’s efforts to expand sustainable development programmes. A $2.5 million feasibility study for the 80-kilometre line between the southern Egyptian town and Wadi Halfa in northern Sudan, was funded by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, following an agreement reached between Egypt and Kuwait in April last year. As well as providing a cost-effective means of travel between the two countries, Egypt’s International Co-operation Ministry stated in a press release last year, the rail link would “open opportunities for continued co-operation between Sudan and Egypt”, and potentially improve bilateral trade. Dabanga

US Arms Control Ambassador Visits Africa
US Department of State’s Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, is visiting Algeria and Benin to focus “on a range of security, non-proliferation, and arms control issues.” US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, travelled to Algeria last year and discussed regional security and stability with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra. Now, in Algiers, Jenkins met “with senior government officials to discuss issues of mutual concern, including efforts to deepen bilateral security cooperation to address shared regional security challenges.” Regional security issues were also under the spotlight during her 4-6 March visit…The US-Benin bilateral defence relationship includes security cooperation programmes. According to the US Embassy in Cotonou, America, “collaborates in managing these programs with the regional Office of Security Cooperation in Accra, Ghana,” additionally, “in addition to providing support for joint military exercises, US Embassy Cotonou’s Security Cooperation team supports US Department of Defence (DoD) training, development, and aid programmes in Benin such as the State Partnership Program, IMET, ACSS, ACOTA, FMF, Section 1206, GPOI, Africa Partnership Station, the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Programme, and any other security cooperation programs that involve Benin.” DefenceWeb

Global Freedom Recession May Be ‘Bottoming Out’: Freedom House
A new report from the United States-based Freedom House group has said that despite overall global freedoms declining for a 17th straight year in 2022, a brighter outlook may be around the corner. The annual Freedom in the World report continued a grim assessment of global political rights and civil liberties, with 35 countries showing a backslide in the group’s freedom index, fuelled by “war, coups, and attacks on democratic institutions by illiberal incumbents”…Leading catalysers for declining freedoms in 2022 included Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, successive coups in Burkina Faso, and efforts to consolidate power in Tunisia. Still, the report’s authors noted that there may be reason for optimism. The 35 countries with declining freedoms in 2022 represented the lowest number in the category in 17 years of decline. Meanwhile, with 34 countries showing marked improvement in freedoms, the gap between improving countries and declining countries is “the narrowest it has ever been through 17 consecutive years of deterioration”, the report said. Al Jazeera