Africa Media Review for March 19, 2024

Threat of Regional War Intensifies as DR Congo Rebels Close In on Goma
M23, which observers say is being backed by neighbouring Rwanda, has fought its way to within 25km of Goma. The rebel group controls almost all supply routes into the city, where the 1.5mn-strong population has been swelled by hundreds of thousands of displaced people, sending the price of basic commodities rocketing, according to aid agencies and analysts. More than 230,000 people fled to Goma in February alone, according to UNHCR…In December, a UN report provided evidence that M23 fighters had been trained in Rwanda and that the Rwandan army had provided it with troop reinforcements and directly intervened on Congolese territory…M23, made up mostly of Congolese Tutsis, claims to be protecting the DRC’s Tutsi population against a Hutu militia, the FDLR…The risk of M23 again overrunning Goma was high, analysts said. “The surge in violence towards Goma . . . increasingly signals the rebels’ intention to take over the city,” Acled, an organisation that aggregates conflict data, said in a recent report. Financial Times

Congolese Journalist Convicted of Spreading False Information Expected to Be Freed Soon
Congolese journalist Stanis Bujakera was set to be freed soon after a court found him guilty and sentenced him Monday to six months in prison for spreading false information among other charges, according to media freedom group Reporters Without Borders. He was expected to be released hours or days after the verdict, having already served more than six months while waiting for trial. A court in Kinshasa also fined him 1 million Congolese francs ($360)…Bujakera, who has denied all charges, had faced up to 20 years in prison. He was accused of fabricating a memo that implicated a Congolese intelligence official in the murder of an opposition spokesman. “He should never have been arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned and convicted on the basis of a case that was clearly fabricated against him,” Reporters without Borders said in a statement. AP

At Least 100 Villagers Are Kidnapped in the Latest Mass Abduction in Northern Nigeria
Armed gangs attacked two villages in Nigeria’s northwest over the weekend and seized at least 100 people from their homes, residents and a state official told The Associated Press on Monday, in the latest mass abduction in the region. The gunmen attacked communities in Kaduna state’s Kajuru council area on Saturday and Sunday, said Usman Dallami Stingo, who represents Kajuru in the state legislature. Kaduna state is where nearly 300 schoolchildren were abducted less than two weeks ago. The latest kidnappings, like the previous one, have been blamed on bandit groups known for mass killings and kidnappings in Nigeria’s northwestern and central regions. Most of the bandits were previously herders in conflict with local communities. The kidnappers attacked the Dogon Noma community early Saturday and abducted 14 women, then attacked the Kajuru-Station community on Sunday night and seized 87 people, Stingo said. AP

US Warned Niger about Ties to Russia, Iran before Junta Revoked Accord, Pentagon Says
U.S. officials traveled to Niger last week to express concerns about the country’s potential development of ties to Russia and Iran before the ruling junta on Saturday revoked an accord governing the roughly 1,000 U.S. military personnel there, the Pentagon said on Monday. The Pentagon added it was seeking clarification about the way ahead. Niger said on Saturday it had revoked “with immediate effect” its military accord with the United States that had allowed Pentagon personnel to operate on its soil…”U.S. officials expressed concern over Niger’s potential relationships with Russia and Iran,” [Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said.] High-level Russian defense officials including Yunus-bek Yevkurov, Russia’s deputy defense minister, have visited the country and met with the junta leader. The prime minister of the ruling junta, Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine, visited Iran in January. Reuters

Chad Expects Some 20 Candidates to Compete With Military Ruler in Elections
Officials in Chad say close to 20 candidates will be challenging military ruler General Mahamat Idriss Deby in Chad’s May 6 presidential election. The final list of candidates for the polls…will be officially declared on March 24, according to Chad’s Constitutional Council. Among the presidential hopefuls is Ndjelar Koumadji Mariam, president of the National Union for Alternation in Chad, the only female candidate…Opposition leader and pro-democracy figure Success Masra, who was appointed transitional prime minister in January, said he is the candidate of The Transformers, a party he heads…Transitional president General Mahamat Idriss Deby is the nominee of Chad’s former ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement, or MPS party…[O]pposition candidates say voters should be vigilant before, during and after the polls. They say voters should be ready to defend their votes and report fraud or irregularities for legal action. The central African state’s constitutional council says campaigning for the first round of the presidential election begins April 14 and ends May 4. VOA

Senegal Election 2024: What You Need to Know
The governing party’s candidate is Amadou Ba, a former prime minister. The man many see as the main challenger, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, was just released from jail. He’s backed by a popular but divisive politician, Ousmane Sonko. Then there are 17 other candidates, among them former mayors and prime ministers…The economy is a big [issue] — most Senegalese say that the economic situation is bad and that managing it is the most important problem facing the government, according to Afrobarometer, an independent research network. The economy is growing, but more than 36 percent of people live in poverty…Results from the first round should emerge about a week after the election next Sunday, but many analysts expect a runoff. The last time that happened, the runoff took place about a month after the first round. Mr. Sall says he’ll leave office by April 2, and if there’s a runoff, the constitutional council says, the head of the national assembly, Amadou Mame Diop, should take over in the interim. The New York Times

UN Reports a 35% Increase in People Affected by Violence in South Sudan
The number of people affected by violence in South Sudan surged by 35% in the last three months of 2023, the United Nations reported. The U.N. Mission in South Sudan, or UNMISS, documented 233 incidents of violence affecting 862 people. Of that, 406 were killed, 293 were injured, 100 were abducted and 63 subjected to conflict-related sexual violence, it said in a report released Monday. It was a 35% increase in the number of victims reported from the previous quarter. South Sudan is to hold elections later this year, the first since a 2018 peace deal between President Salva Kiir and his former rival, Riek Machar, that ended a five-year conflict that killed hundreds of thousands. Violence caused by ethnic tensions and disputes over resources such as land has increased in various parts of the country in recent months, particularly in the oil-rich region of Abyei. AP

Somali Forces, Foreign Navies Prepare Attack on Hijacked Ship, Police Say
Somali police and international navies were preparing on Monday to attack a commercial ship that was hijacked by pirates last week, the Puntland region’s police force said, two days after Indian commandos rescued another cargo vessel held by pirates. The MV Abdullah was hijacked off the coast of Somalia last week, the latest of more than 20 attacks since November by Somali pirates who had laid dormant for nearly a decade. On Saturday, the Indian navy rescued another cargo vessel, the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen, which had been seized in December, freeing its 17 crew members and arresting 35 pirates. The police force from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, a base for many pirate gangs, said it was on high alert and prepared to participate in an operation against the pirates holding the Abdullah…On Sunday, the Puntland police said they had seized a vehicle that was transporting the narcotic khat to be supplied to the pirates on board Abdullah. Reuters

Tunisia-Libya Border Crossing Closed Due to Clashes
Tunisia and Libya have closed a major border crossing at Ras Jdir due to armed clashes, Tunisian state TV and Libyan authorities said. Libya’s interior ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that “outlaws” had attacked the border, which sees a large flow of Libyans often going to Tunisia for medical treatment and trucks with goods coming in the opposite direction…The ministry said on Sunday it had deployed security forces at the border to combat smuggling and insecurity. Tunisia’s Tataouine Radio said late on Monday that Tunisia closed the crossing for the safety of citizens going to Libya. Reuters

Zimbabwe Goes Hungry as Crops Wither amid El Nino Drought
Zimbabwe has failed to feed itself since 2000 when former president Robert Mugabe seized white-owned farms, disrupting production and leading to sharp falls in output, leaving many Zimbabweans reliant on food aid for survival. The crisis has been exacerbated by an El Nino-induced drought that has hit many southern African nations. The government has estimated that 2.7 million people will go hungry this year, although the real number could be higher…El Nino is a naturally occurring weather phenomenon associated with a disruption of wind patterns that means warmer ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific. It occurs on average every two to seven years, typically lasts nine to 12 months and can provoke extreme weather such as tropical cyclones, prolonged drought and subsequent wildfires…Zimbabwe’s staple maize harvest is expected to halve to 1.1 million tons this year. Reuters

President Samia Hosts Meeting in Zanzibar to Find EAC Integration Bearing
The three leaders [of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda] met in an unannounced meeting [Thursday] and the agenda was largely vague. Tanzania’s State House said the trio’s talks touched on issues to do with East African integration, especially around the need to fast-track public participation on the model of EAC Political Confederation, the fourth pillar of integration. This was President Ruto’s second time this year meeting with Uganda’s Museveni, with whom he had appeared to have fallen out over oil importation and other trade matters…Thursday was important because it signalled President Ruto’s desire for rapprochement, a government official told The EastAfrican…Three things have driven President Ruto’s back-into-the-fold moves, the official added: Raila Odinga’s candidature for the African Union Chairperson, which needs a unified regional support, the fact that the economies rely more on one another and the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which may hurt all countries. The EastAfrican

Damaged Undersea Cables Disrupting Africa’s Internet Will Take Weeks to Repair
Undersea cable companies that extend internet services to West and Central Africa estimate that it could take five weeks to repair damages to their facilities noticed last week. Widespread internet outages in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire were reported on Mar. 14, making many websites unavailable and disrupting online banking operations. Some of the difficulties have eased in the days since but a weeks-long timeline for fixing the cause means internet access will remain spotty…Cables laid deep in the ocean underpin the wireless internet world, carrying data across continents through connected landing stations and data centers…Faults along undersea cable lines serving Africa are not new. The WACS cable reported two breaks in the first half of 2020, while the ACE line’s break in 2018 resulted in a total internet blackout in Mauritania for two days. ACE had been Mauritania’s sole submarine cable connection but plans have since been launched for a second connection. The European Investment Bank is providing majority funding for a new €35 million cable. Semafor