Africa Media Review for March 15, 2024

Senegal’s Top Opposition Leader and His Presidential Candidate Released from Prison
The announcement of their release sparked jubilant scenes and the sound of car horns echoing throughout the streets of Dakar, the Senegalese capital. [Ousmane] Sonko, the country’s main opposition figure, and [Bassirou Diomaye] Faye, his right-hand man and candidate to replace him in the presidential race scheduled for March 24, left Dakar’s Cap-Manuel prison together on the evening of Thursday, March 14. The two men had been incarcerated on several charges, including “calling for insurrection”…According to Amnesty International, the two men are the main beneficiaries of the law granting amnesty for acts relating to the political demonstrations that shook Senegal between 2021 and 2024, during which some 60 people were killed. Voted on March 6 by the National Assembly, the law was ratified on Thursday by President Macky Sall, who had fiercely defended it despite the controversy it generated, even within his own camp…Convicted of defamation and corrupting the youth, before being imprisoned in July 2023 for calling for insurrection, Sonko was excluded from the electoral lists and declared ineligible. He appointed his successor Faye in his place. Le Monde

Internet Outage Hits Several African Countries as Undersea Cables Fail
A dozen countries across Africa suffered a major internet outage on Thursday, March 14, as multiple undersea telecommunication cables reported failures, network operators and internet watch groups said. The cause of the failure was not immediately clear. The MTN Group, one of Africa’s largest network providers, said the ongoing disruptions were a result of failures in multiple major undersea cables…Network disruptions caused by cable damage have occurred in Africa in recent years. However, “today’s disruption points to something larger (and) this is amongst the most severe,” said Isik Mater, director of research at NetBlocks, a group that documents internet disruptions around the world. NetBlocks said data transmission and measurement shows a major disruption to international transits, “likely at or near the subsea network cable landing points.” There were fears of disruption of essential services in worst-hit countries like Côte d’Ivoire where the disruption was severe. Le Monde with AP

Loud Explosion Is Heard as Somali Militant Group Says Its Fighters Have Attacked a Hotel in Capital
The Somali extremist group al-Shabab said its fighters have attacked a hotel in the capital Mogadishu, where a loud explosion and gunfire were heard Thursday night. Al-Shabab said on its Telegram channel that its fighters managed to penetrate the SYL Hotel, which is located not far from the presidential palace in a normally secure part of Mogadishu. The hotel is patronized by government officials. There was no immediate word on casualties. Attacks in the seaside capital had reduced in recent weeks amid a beefing up of security there. Al-Shabab, which opposes Somalia’s federal government, is responsible for many lethal attacks on hotels and other places over the years. AP

Inside Somalia’s War on Al-Shabab Disinformation
The Somali government has within the last year and half prioritized curtailing al-Shabab’s online media presence to reduce the group’s reach and influence. Government officials have confirmed to VOA for the first time that there are dedicated teams at Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency, or NISA, that monitor and alert tech companies for removal of extremist content…“We trained people with the necessary skills, special offices have been set up, equipment has been made available, and legislation has been passed by the parliament,” [says Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf al-Adala]…The government said apart from publishing al-Shabab ideology, the websites spread misinformation and disinformation by misrepresenting the views of the Somali government, claiming the country is under attack from “crusaders,” and slandering the government as “apostate” even though Somalia’s constitution is based on Islamic law…Defectors say al-Shabab spends a lot of money translating these messages into English, Arabic, Swahili and Amharic. Hadley says another al-Shabab tactic is to share so-called “news material” related to the group but obscured as generic news activity and news articles on various websites. VOA

Hunters in Niger Lament Loss of Range to Islamist Threat
Hunting for small game is a traditional pursuit across the vast sandy steppes in West Africa’s Sahel region, but rising violence linked to a decade-old fight with Islamist insurgents has limited the range for hunters in Niger like Abdou Kouda…The number of prey available, including ground squirrels, hares, bustards and guinea fowl, have dwindled as more hunters converge in smaller, permitted hunting areas, said Elhaj Aboubacar Mai Doukia, president of a local hunters’ association…Niger’s security situation has worsened in recent months, with an increase in attacks by Islamist groups since a military junta ousted its president last July. The hunters’ plight is just one of myriad ways the long-running conflict has hurt the region’s communities. Reuters

No Incident of Piracy on Nigerian Waters in Two Years – Navy Chief
The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Emmanuel Ogalla, says there has been no record of piracy on Nigerian territorial waters in the last two years…The CNS said that the navy had conducted a series of operations to maintain a credible presence at sea to checkmate piracy and robbery. According to him, the efforts led to the reduction of criminalities on the sea from 22 incidences of piracy and 16 sea robberies in 2020 to just two and three, respectively, in 2022. He also said that the figure was the lowest recorded in 27 years, adding that this led to the delisting of Nigeria from the world piracy list by the International Maritime Bureau in 2021. Premium Times

Hardship Worsens as Fire Engulfs IDP Camp in North East Nigeria
On Tuesday, March 12, a fire outbreak at the Muna Kumburi displacement camp in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, North East Nigeria, destroyed 3200 shelters, killing two teenagers. A significant number of people who participated in the fight against the raging fire ended up with various degrees of injuries. Over 7000 displaced persons have been rendered homeless after the incident, according to Malam Yasami, chairman of the camp. The cause of the fire is unknown at the time of filing this report. This comes at a time of looming camps closure and reduced humanitarian assistance…The incident stretches the difficult living conditions of people in the camp, especially as it is happening in the month of the muslim Ramadan fast when food is critically needed. HumAngle

Kenya’s President Reaffirms Commitment to Deploy a Police Force to Haiti to Help Quell Gang Violence
Kenyan President William Ruto said Wednesday the country will still lead a U.N.-backed multi-national police force to help quell gang violence in Haiti once a transitional presidential council is formed in the Caribbean country. Ruto said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had briefed him on the latest developments in Haiti and that he assured Blinken of Kenya’s commitment to deploy a police force to Haiti…Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing’oei on Tuesday said Kenya had put on hold the deployment of 1,000 of its policemen until a clear administration is in place in Haiti. The announcement came after Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he would resign once a presidential council is created. AP

South Africa’s ANC Wary of Post-election Coalition, Says It ‘Won’t Work’
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party is betting on retaining its parliamentary majority in a May election and is not in talks with other parties on a possible coalition government, the party’s deputy secretary general said. South Africans will go to polls on May 29 to elect a new National Assembly, which will then choose the next president…Surveys show that the ANC is likely to lose its parliamentary majority for the first time since Nelson Mandela led it to power at the fall of apartheid 30 years ago. This would open up the prospect of coalition rule. “A coalition government won’t work for now,” said Mokonyane, pointing to failed power-sharing attempts at the local government level, where coalitions have largely proved unstable due to a lack of legislation to regulate the partnerships. Reuters

Nigeria’s Mass Abductions: What Lies behind the Resurgence?
Nigeria is once more being rocked by mass abductions…In recent months, there had been a lull in this type of mass kidnapping…So why is there a resurgence of this kidnapping that is endangering the lives of the most vulnerable Nigerians?…[I]n general, kidnap-for-ransom in Nigeria is a low-risk, high-reward business. Those abducted are usually freed after money is handed over, and the perpetrators are rarely arrested. This is despite the fact that paying a ransom to free someone has been made illegal…Apart from ransoms of money, gangs have in the past demanded foodstuffs, motorcycles and even petrol in exchange for the release of hostages. “Nigeria’s poor economy creates the conditions for kidnapping. Over the past year, the government has not been able to fix its foreign exchange problem,” William Linder, a retired CIA officer and head of 14 North, an Africa-focused risk advisory, told the BBC…Islamist violence in the wider region has added to the insecurity. The vast forest reserves in the border regions have been turned into operational bases for the criminals. BBC

Darfur Rape Survivors Gather Together after Ethnically Targeted Campaign
Twice a week, a group of women gather together in a nondescript house in Ardamata, on the outskirts of Geneina in Sudan’s West Darfur state, to tell their stories to each other, cry, and drink coffee. The women, who work or used to work in education, are all survivors of an ethnically targeted campaign of rape and sexual abuse carried out by fighters from Arab militias backed by the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group on 5 November, after the fall of the army garrison in Ardamata. Most of the rape campaign’s victims were from the Masalit community, a darker-skinned ethnic African tribe that made up a majority in Geneina before they were largely driven out during fighting that began in April last year. The survivors’ group was founded by Mariam Abdulkarim (not her real name), an Arab former high school teacher, without any funding or professional training. She said she was gang-raped on 5 November by men who saw her carrying her three-year-old son, who has dark skin on account of her estranged husband…Abdulkarim said she offered her home as a shelter for her neighbours in the days after the garrison fell, thinking that her Arab ethnicity might offer them some protection. The Guardian

Saudis Bet on African Minerals for Green Transition
[Saudi Arabia] aims to drastically expand its domestic mining sector but acknowledges that even with the potential riches under its soil…it can only access certain minerals at home. So, as a top Saudi official told Semafor in an interview from the kingdom’s capital, it plans to invest abroad, fashioning itself as a hub for refining, processing, and manufacturing based on raw minerals mined abroad…The kingdom has in recent months signed deals with four African countries to explore mining partnerships, and has held talks with the U.S. to jointly secure access to metals necessary for both countries’ efforts in the energy transition. Among Riyadh’s commitments has reportedly been to acquire $15 billion worth of global mining stakes to ensure access to critical minerals…The continent’s mining sector has largely been left to either existing mining companies or Chinese giants, so a new investor angling for finite resources by definition gives African governments more bargaining power, whether or not they eventually agree deals with Riyadh. Semafor

Africa to Play ‘Huge Role’ in US Critical Mineral Strategy, Says Treasury’s No. 2
The United States is looking to Africa to help loosen a Chinese stranglehold on battery metals and reduce Russia’s influence over the market for other minerals, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on Thursday…But as Washington plots a course for its energy transition it is lagging behind China, which has spent the past decade securing access to minerals needed for the production of products like electric vehicle batteries and solar panels…Adeyemo said the United States was working with G7 allies to close that infrastructure gap. The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is, meanwhile, aiming to de-risk private investment in Africa. And the deputy secretary said Washington was incentivising U.S. manufacturing to boost demand for those minerals and create favourable market conditions for miners. Reuters