Africa Media Review for March 14, 2024

Mapping a Surge of Disinformation in Africa
The proliferation of disinformation is a fundamental challenge to stable and prosperous African societies…The 189 documented disinformation campaigns in Africa are nearly quadruple the number reported in 2022…Actors driving sophisticated disinformation attacks on African media ecosystems are taking advantage of the rapid expansion in the reach and accessibility of digital communications to reshape the continent’s information systems at scales and speeds not possible through traditional analog platforms…Disinformation campaigns have directly driven deadly violence, promoted and validated military coups, cowed civil society members into silence, and served as smokescreens for corruption and exploitation. This has had real-world consequences for diminishing Africans’ rights, freedoms, and security. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Nigeria Reopens Land, Air Borders with Niger, Lifts Other Sanctions
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu has ordered the lifting of all sanctions imposed on neighbouring Niger following the coup there. Mr Tinubu gave the order on Wednesday following a decision by ECOWAS leaders to lift all sanctions on Niger, Mali and Guinea, three West African countries currently led by putschists…All Niger assets frozen by the ECOWAS Central Bank will also be lifted based on the presidential order. PREMIUM TIMES reported how Nigeria, in compliance with an ECOWAS resolution, imposed the sanctions on Niger following the coup last July that led to the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum. Premium Times

Nigerian Kidnappers Demand $620,000 for Release of School Hostages
Gunmen who kidnapped 286 students and staff from a school in northern Nigeria last week have demanded a total of 1 billion naira ($620,432) for their release, a spokesman for the families of the hostages and a local councillor told Reuters. The school children, some older students and members of the school staff were abducted on March 7 in the town of Kuriga, in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna State, in the first mass kidnapping in the country since 2021…The country’s information minister, Mohammed Idris, told reporters on Wednesday that Tinubu’s position on the kidnappings in Kuriga was that security forces should secure the hostages’ release without any payment to the kidnappers…Under Tinubu’s predecessor, legislation was introduced imposing jail time for anyone found paying a ransom to free a hostage as kidnappings in Nigeria became ever more frequent. Reuters

Nigeria Orders Creation of Police Base in Remote Community After Mass Kidnappings
Police in Nigeria have ordered the creation of a new base for officers and the deployment of special forces in a remote village in northwest Kaduna state, where nearly 300 students were abducted by armed bandits on March 7. Nigerian police chief Kayode Egbetokun announced plans for the new base and the deployment during a visit with Kaduna Governor Uba Sani on Tuesday…The new police base will be in Kuriga and deployment of extra officers to the area has begun…The recent kidnappings are blamed, in part, on the absence of security forces in those remote areas. Last month, the president met with all 36 state governors to discuss decentralizing Nigeria’s police force and creating a police arm for each state. VOA

Rwanda Opposition Leader Barred from Election over Past Convictions
A Rwandan court has found the opposition leader and dissident Victoire Ingabire ineligible to run in the July presidential election because of previous convictions for terrorism and genocide denial. A fierce critic of Rwanda’s long-ruling president, Paul Kagame, Ingabire spent eight years in prison before receiving a presidential pardon in 2018 that cut short her 15-year sentence. She had asked the Kigali high court to allow her to contest the 15 July polls despite a legal ban on convicted candidates who have been jailed for six months or longer…Ingabire regularly accuses the Rwandan leader of suppressing dissent and neglecting the poor…Numerous opposition politicians have disappeared or been killed in mysterious circumstances over the last few years. The Guardian

Cameroon: Govt Deems Two Opposition Groups ‘Illegal’, Issues Warning Ahead 2025 Election
The Cameroonian government has described two political groups seeking to create opposition coalitions as illegal. A statement from the Territorial Administration Minister Paul Atanga Nji on Tuesday named “The Political Alliance for Change (APC) and the Alliance for Political Transition in Cameroon (ATP) and described them as not political parties under the law..Led by former deputy Jean Michel Nintcheu, the APC was set up in December at a congress of the leading opposition Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC), which backed Maurice Kamto for president in the 2018 ballot…International NGOs accuse the regime of President Paul Biya, who has ruled with for more than 41 years, of systematically suppressing opposition. Africanews

Campaign for Jailed Senegal Election Candidate Faye Takes to the Road
Backers of detained opposition presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye are taking his campaign to the streets of Senegal with posters and bracelets, drumming up support in the hope he will be released before the vote. Faye was relatively unknown within Senegal’s tumultuous political scene until popular firebrand opposition leader Ousmane Sonko backed his candidacy for the March 24 vote. Sonko, who enjoys widespread support among Senegal’s jobless youths, is also in detention and disqualified from the race over a defamation conviction…Faye, who is facing charges including defamation and contempt of court, remains eligible because there has been no ruling yet against him…The Faye coalition has promised institutional changes, and plans to create a new national currency, which could have significant implications for the eight-nation West African Economic and Monetary Union. It also plans to renegotiate mining and energy contracts. Reuters

Jacob Zuma – the Political Wildcard in South Africa’s Election
Despite being a disgraced former president who was sent to jail, Jacob Zuma is turning out to be the political wildcard in South Africa’s election campaign…The two most recent opinion polls suggest that Mr Zuma’s party, [uMkhonto we Sizwe] – known by the acronym MK – is making a huge impact, gaining around 13% of the national vote and 25% in the former president’s political heartland of KwaZulu-Natal…At first, the ANC ignored the formation of the MK party but after Mr Zuma threw his weight behind it in December, the party launched legal action in the electoral court to deregister it and prevent it from running…Another dispute is raging over whether Mr Zuma is eligible to serve as a lawmaker as he was convicted of contempt of court, and sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2021, for refusing to co-operate with a judge-led inquiry into corruption during his nine-year presidency. Mr Zuma is also facing 16 charges of corruption over a multi-billion dollar arms deal…The MK party has put Mr Zuma at the top of its list of parliamentary candidates, despite the fact that the Independent Electoral Commission pointed out in January that his conviction disqualified him. BBC

Congo Faces Unprecedented Crisis as Violence Displaces 250,000 in the Last Month, a UN Official Says
Escalating violence in Congo’s eastern region has displaced at least 250,000 people in the last month, a senior United Nations official said Wednesday, describing the situation as an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Far from the nation’s capital, Kinshasa, eastern Congo has long been overrun by more than 120 armed groups seeking a share of the region’s gold and other resources as they carry out mass killings. The result is one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with about 7 million people displaced, many of them beyond the reach of aid…Amid intensified fighting with security forces, the M23 rebel group…has continued to attack villages, forcing many to flee to Goma, the region’s largest city whose estimated population of 2 million people is already overstretched with inadequate resources. AP

New Coalition in Sudan Eyes Political Pact with Military
The newly formed National Forces Coordination (NFC), led by Sovereign Council Deputy Chairman Malik Agar, announced plans to sign a political declaration with the Sudanese military…On Wednesday, Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council and army commander-in-chief, met with Agar and other NFC leaders…NFC spokesperson Mustafa Tambour said they briefed al-Burhan about the coalition’s recent founding conference and its goals. [Tambour] declared that no political progress would occur until the “rebellious militia” is defeated…The NFC includes several signatories to the Juba Peace Agreement, political parties, civil society organizations, and various regional and political entities. Sudan Tribune

EU Maritime Force Says It Is Shadowing a Bangladesh-Flagged Ship Seized by Pirates off Somali Coast
The 23 crew members of a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship boarded by pirates off Somalia this week have been taken hostage, and a European Union vessel is tracking the ship as it heads toward the coast, the EU’s maritime security force said Wednesday. The hijacking of the MV Abdullah, first reported Tuesday by the British military, took place nearly 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) east of Somalia’s coastal capital Mogadishu…“The situation on board is that pirates have seized and taken its 23-member crew hostage,” the statement said. “The crew is safe, and the action is still ongoing. The ship is sailing towards the Somali coast.” An EU ship deployed as part of Operation ATALANTA is “shadowing” the cargo carrier, the EU force said in a statement…Twenty armed assailants took control of the vessel while it was going from the Mozambique capital Maputo to Hamriya in the United Arab Emirates, according to Ambrey, a British maritime security company. AP

Dozens More Migrants Reach a Greek Island South of Crete as Smugglers Seek New Routes
A boat carrying 91 migrants has reached [Gavdos island,] a small island south of Crete that is seeing a spike in the arrival of people attempting the long and dangerous crossing from Africa, Greek authorities said Wednesday…They are believed to have set off from the coast of eastern Libya, about 170 nautical miles to the south…Gavdos, which lies some 27 nautical miles south of Crete, and Crete’s southern coastline have seen an increase in migrant arrivals in recent months…Greece is a major arrival point for migrants seeking a better life in the European Union. For years, most headed for the eastern Aegean Sea islands near the Turkish mainland. But increased Greek and European Union sea patrols in the area have prompted smuggling gangs to also seek alternative routes, including from Libya to southern Crete and from Turkey to Italy round the southern Greek mainland. AP

Britain to Offer Failed Asylum Seekers 3,000 Pounds to Move to Rwanda
The British government is planning to pay asylum seekers up to 3,000 pounds ($3,836) each to move to Rwanda under a voluntary plan to help clear the backlog of refugees who have had their applications to remain in the country rejected. The new agreement with Rwanda is separate from the government’s stalled plan to forcibly deport most asylum seekers to the East African country, which was last year ruled unlawful by the UK’s Supreme Court. Instead, it mirrors an existing government policy, where asylum seekers are offered financial assistance to leave the Britain for their home country, but under the new plan people will get the money if they agree to live in Rwanda. Reuters

African Cocoa Plants Run Out of Beans as Global Chocolate Crisis Deepens
Major African cocoa plants in Ivory Coast and Ghana have stopped or cut processing because they cannot afford to buy beans, four trading sources said, meaning chocolate prices around the world are likely to soar…In normal times,…traders and processors purchase beans from local dealers up to a year in advance at pre-agreed prices. Local regulators then set lower farmgate prices that farmers can charge for beans. However, in times of shortage like this year, the system breaks down – local dealers often pay farmers a premium to the farmgate price to secure beans. The dealers then sell the beans on the spot market at higher prices instead of delivering them at pre-agreed prices. As global traders rush to purchase those beans at any price to meet their obligations with the chocolate firms, local processors are often left short of beans. Reuters

Muddy Roads, Angry Farmers and Civil War: One Man’s Epic Run from Cape Town to London
[Ultramarathoner Deo Kato is running from Cape Town to London. He] wants to tell the story of human migration, highlighting parallels between the millions of people forced to leave their homes today in search of a better life and the earliest movement of humans from Africa…The 36-year-old Ugandan-born London-based runner started his journey on 24 July last year from Cape Town’s Long March to Freedom monument, which commemorates the anti-apartheid struggle. He had hoped to complete the challenge in 381 days – the same number of days that African Americans in Alabama staged the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 – but a number of setbacks has put him behind schedule…He has already run the equivalent of nearly 180 marathons, accompanied only by a one-man crew following by car, and is now waiting on the Kenyan side of Moyale, a town on the border with Ethiopia…Kato is running on average 25 miles a day. The Guardian