Africa Media Review for March 11, 2024

Nigeria School Abductions: More Pupils Snatched as Army Hunts for Missing
Armed men have kidnapped 15 pupils from a boarding school in northwestern Nigeria days after more than 280 students were abducted from another school with the army still searching for them. The men broke into the Islamic seminary in the village of Gidan Bakuso in Sokoto state on Saturday and seized 15 children from the hostel as they slept, police told The Associated Press news agency…It was the third incident of mass kidnapping in northern Nigeria since late last week, when more than 200 people, mostly women and children, were abducted by suspected fighters in Borno state. On Thursday, 287 students were taken hostage from a government primary and secondary school in Kaduna state…Kidnappings are common in northwestern and central Nigeria where criminal gangs occupying vast, remote forests terrorise residents. Known as bandits, these groups loot villages, and kill and kidnap residents, especially students, for huge ransoms. Al Jazeera

Senegal’s Presidential Candidates Kick Off Campaigns after Violent Protests over a Delay of the Vote
Presidential candidates in Senegal kicked off their election campaigns on Saturday, following weeks of violent protests across the African country after the vote was delayed. The 19 approved candidates vying for the top job now have a shorter period to rally supporters ahead of the March 24 election, expected to be the most tightly contested race since Senegal gained independence more than six decades ago…Alioune Tine, the founder of the Senegalese think tank Afrikajom Center, said that because of the delay, the candidates with the most financial resources will likely benefit from this shorter window. “It’s going to be a hard-fought battle,” said Tine, adding that there is no clear favorite. Most of the campaign ahead and the vote itself will take place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the pious fast from dawn till dusk…Senegal has a majority Muslim population. AP

Senegal Opposition Coalition Promises New Currency and Revamp of Oil Contracts
A Senegalese opposition coalition backed by popular firebrand Ousmane Sonko launched its presidential campaign platform on Saturday with promises to create a new national currency and renegotiate mining and energy contracts. There are no public election opinion polls in Senegal, but the coalition’s candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, is seen as a strong contender among the 19 candidates vying for the presidency in the March 24 vote. If he is elected, the coalition’s plans could have significant implications for the eight-nation West African Economic and Monetary Union and for Senegal’s plans to become an oil producer later this year…The coalition’s platform…plans significant governance shake-ups including the creation of a vice-president role and the abolition of the prime minister’s position. Its proposals that might particularly worry regional allies and investors include tax and customs reforms, the introduction of a national currency, and the renegotiation of contracts related to mining, hydrocarbons, public procurement and infrastructure. Reuters

Chad: Junta-Nominated Prime Minister to Run for President
Chad’s junta-appointed prime minister on Sunday, March 10, said he would contest the May 6 presidential elections, eight days after incumbent Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno announced his candidacy. Former opposition leader Succès Masra returned from exile and signed a reconciliation deal with Déby Itno before becoming premier this year. The opposition says his candidacy is a ploy to give an appearance of pluralism in a vote the junta chief is certain to win with his main rivals dead or in exile. Masra, 40, unveiled his election bid at a campaign meeting attended by hundreds of activists from his Transformers party, saying he wanted to “heal hearts and unite the people.” Responding to critics who disapproved of his decision to ally with the junta, Masra defended “an agreement of the brave” that meant “our quest for justice is never transformed into a quest for revenge”… Masra had organized protests that were banned or systematically repressed, until October 22, 2022, when hundreds were shot dead by security forces, according to international NGOs, and about 1,000 more jailed…Masra fled Chad before returning on November 3 to sign the reconciliation deal that amnestied the October 22 demonstrators, as well as those who opened fire. Le Monde with AFP

Congo Prosecutor Seeks 20-Year Jail Sentence for Journalist
A prosecutor in the Democratic Republic of Congo has asked a court in the capital Kinshasa to sentence journalist Stanis Bujakera to 20 years in prison, one of his lawyers said on Friday. Bujakera, a Congolese national who works for international media outlets including Reuters, was detained on Sept. 8 and later charged with spreading false information about the death of a prominent opposition politician. He denies the charges…The court is likely to issue a verdict next week. The case stems from an article published by French news magazine Jeune Afrique about the circumstances of the death of Cherubin Okende, a former transport minister whose body was found in Kinshasa on July 13. Jeune Afrique said last September it stood by its Aug. 31 story, which said that an internal report by the National Intelligence Agency had accused military intelligence agents of possible involvement in Okende’s killing. The magazine has demanded Bujakera’s release, adding that he was not the author of the article and his name was not on it. Congolese authorities have disputed the authenticity of the article. They said last month that Okende took his own life. Reuters

Sudan Army General Rules Out Ramadan Truce Unless RSF Leaves Civilian Sites
A top general from Sudan’s army has ruled out a truce in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan unless the paramilitary group it is battling leaves civilian and public sites. The statement by Yasser al-Atta, a deputy commander of the army, comes after the army claimed advances in Omdurman, part of the wider capital, and an appeal by the United Nations Security Council for a truce during Ramadan, which begins this week. The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said it welcomed the ceasefire call. Atta’s statement, issued on the army’s official Telegram channel on Sunday and based on comments he made the previous day in Kassala state, said there could be no Ramadan ceasefire unless the RSF complied with a commitment made last May at Saudi and U.S.-mediated talks in Jeddah to withdraw from civilian homes and public facilities. It also said there should be no role for Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the RSF leader commonly known as Hemedti, or his family, in Sudan’s future politics or military. Reuters

U.S. Special Envoy in Uganda, UAE over Sudan Conflict
The new United States Special Envoy for Sudan, Tom Perriello will travel to Africa and the Middle East as the Joe Biden administration expedites the country’s commitment to end the ongoing conflict in Sudan. Discussion during the tour from March 11-23 will mainly focus on meeting the immediate and dire humanitarian needs of the Sudanese people, and charting a path toward civilian, democratic government, the US Department of State said. “In Kampala, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, and Cairo, the Special Envoy will meet with a broad range of Sudanese civilians, including civil society, Resistance Committees, Emergency Response Room members, women, youth, and other Sudanese grassroots organizations and parties to hear their perspectives on how to bolster their efforts to respond to urgent needs, demand an end to the conflict, and prepare for a democratic transition in Sudan,” partly reads the State Department statement. Sudan Tribune

Central African Bloc Lifts Gabon Sanctions
The Economic Community of Central African States agreed to lift sanctions on Gabon on Saturday and reintegrate it into the regional bloc, six months after suspending its membership in response to a coup that ousted President Ali Bongo. Member states made the decision at a meeting in neighbouring Equatorial Guinea, Gabon’s Foreign Minister Regis Onanga Ndiaye said in a televised address late on Saturday. There was no statement from the bloc, but in a post on X Burundi’s Foreign Minister Albert Shingiro confirmed an agreement to lift sanctions was reached at the meeting, which he had attended. Soon after the Aug. 30 coup, the bloc suspended Gabon’s membership and its participation in all related activities – measures it said would remain in effect until the return of constitutional order. The junta that ousted Bongo is still in power, but in November it said it aimed to hold elections in August 2025. Reuters

Libyan Leaders Agree to Form New Unified Government
Three key Libyan leaders said on Sunday they had agreed on the “necessity” of forming a new unified government that would supervise long-delayed elections…The leaders are the president of the Presidential Council (PC) Mohamed Menfi, the head of High State Council (HSC) Mohamed Takala, who are both based in Tripoli, and Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) in Benghazi. In a joint statement, the three leaders also called on the U.N. Mission in Libya and the international community to support their proposals. They said they had agreed to form a technical committee to “look into controversial points”. They met in Cairo at the invitation of Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Menfi came to power when the Government of National Unity (GNU) under Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah was installed through a U.N.-backed process in 2021, but the parliament no longer recognises its legitimacy…The House of Representatives was elected in 2014, while the High State Council was formed as part of a 2015 political agreement and drawn from a parliament elected in 2012.  Reuters

Ex-Ivory Coast President Gbagbo Agrees to Contest 2025 Election
Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo agreed on Saturday to lead the party he founded into the 2025 presidential elections, spokesman Katinan Kone told Reuters following a meeting of the party’s central committee. Gbagbo, president of the West African country from 2000 to 2011, launched his African People’s Party – Cote d’Ivoire (PPA-CI) in 2021 following his acquittal on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and return from a decade abroad. He was acquitted in 2019 by the Netherlands-based ICC on charges relating to his role in a civil war sparked by his refusal to concede defeat in an election. Gbagbo lost control of the party he previously founded, the Ivorian Popular Front (IPF), to a former ally while imprisoned awaiting trial in the Netherlands for several years, but he retains a large and loyal base of supporters at home. The election is expected to be held in October 2025. President Alassane Ouattara, who was re-elected in 2020, has not yet said whether he will run again. Reuters

US Issues Sanctions on Russian, Central African Republic Entities over Wagner Ties
The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two entities it accused of advancing Russia’s “malign activities” in the Central African Republic (CAR) and enabling the Wagner mercenary group, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement. The entities, a CAR-based timber company and a Russia-based company, sought to benefit financially “from illicit natural resource extraction and provided material and financial support to the Wagner Group and other organizations” tied to Wagner’s former owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who died in a 2023 plane explosion in Russia, the Treasury said. The action targets CAR-based Bois Rouge SARLU for its ties to Wagner and St. Petersburg-based Broker Expert for its support of Bois Rouge, it said in a statement…The Central African Republic, a former French colony, has become one of Russia’s closest African allies in recent years, playing host to one of the Wagner Group mercenary army’s largest foreign operations. Reuters

US Accuses Zimbabwe of Harassing and Deporting Officials, as Relations Deteriorate Further
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Zimbabwean officials “abruptly detained and deported USAID officials and contractors, who were conducting an assessment of the development and governance context in Zimbabwe.” Last week, the U.S sanctioned Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, its first lady and other officials for their alleged involvement in corruption and human rights abuses. The State Department said the incident took place last month, before the latest round of sanctions was announced, although it was only revealed now…Miller said members of the assessment team “were subject to aggressive handling, prolonged interrogation and intimidation, unsafe and forced nighttime transportation, overnight detention and confinement, and forced removal from the country.” In a separate statement, USAID administrator Samantha Power accused the Zimbabwean authorities of “seizure of and intrusion into personal electronic equipment” of the officials and some contractors. AP

Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Is Now Peaceful, but Extreme Hunger Afflicts Its Children
Tigray is now peaceful but war’s effects linger, compounded by drought and a level of aid mismanagement that caused the U.N. and the U.S. to temporarily suspend deliveries last year…Nearly 400 people died of starvation in Tigray and the neighboring Amhara region in the six months leading to January, the national ombudsman revealed in January, a rare admission of hunger-related deaths by a federal government. Most of those deaths were recorded in Tigray, home to 5.5 million people. Until the signing of a peace agreement in November 2022, the region was the scene of a deadly war between federal troops and forces loyal to the region’s now-ousted ruling party. But months after the end of the conflict, the U.N. and the U.S. halted food aid for Tigray because of a massive scheme by Ethiopian officials to steal humanitarian grain. An inadequate growing season followed. Persistent insecurity meant only 49% of Tigray’s farmland was planted during the main planting season last year, according to an assessment by U.N. agencies, NGOs and the regional authorities, and seen by the AP.  AP

Blinken Talks to Kenyan President about Haiti Crisis, Says State Dept
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Kenyan President William Ruto about the Haiti crisis and the two men underscored their commitment to a multinational security mission to restore order, the State Department said on Saturday. Haiti entered a state of emergency last Sunday after fighting escalated while Prime Minister Ariel Henry was in Nairobi seeking a deal for the long-delayed U.N.-backed mission. Kenya announced last year it would lead the force but months of domestic legal wrangling have effectively placed the mission on hold. In a statement, the State Department said Blinken and Ruto “underscored unwavering commitment to the deployment of a Multinational Security Support mission”. It gave no other details of the talks and did not say when the conversation took place. Reuters