Africa Media Review for March 30, 2023

DR Congo: Security Council Warned of ‘Considerable’ Deterioration in Restive East
The UN envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) warned the Security Council on Wednesday that the security situation in eastern Congo has “deteriorated considerably” in recent months and that the humanitarian situation has become “increasingly dramatic”. Aware of the worsening situation involving multiple armed groups clashing with Government forces, and each other, a Security Council delegation visited the DRC earlier this month in solidarity with the people of DRC, and to mobilize the United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in the face of security, electoral and structural challenges. “The intensification of the conflict with the M23 and the persistent activism of other armed groups, including the ADF, Zaire and CODECO, to name a few, continue to inflict intolerable suffering on the civilian population,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC, Bintou Keita, told the 15-member Council. Ms. Keita, who is also the head of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), pointed out that in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, hundreds of thousands of people have fled abuses by armed groups and clashes between the M23 and the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) but also between CODECO and militants from the Zaire group – which have clashed often over the control of gold mines in the region. In North Kivu in particular, fighting between M23 rebels and the FARDC have displaced 900,000 people. Humanitarian needs, already immense, “continue to increase.” UN News

UN Refugee Agency in Mozambique Appeals for Help to Deal with DRC Refugees
The representative of the U.N. refugee agency in Mozambique said refugees fleeing war-torn parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo are making an already complicated humanitarian crisis in northern Mozambique even worse. Samuel Chakwera told VOA in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that the agency now needs additional resources to cater to the arriving asylum seekers, on top of already settled refugees and Mozambique’s own internally displaced persons. “They are coming from Kivu north and Kivu south which is still in conflict as we speak. So, their situation is far from the best solution,” Chakwera said. “We have others integrated, we have quite a few in Maputo, in Beira and Tete.” Violent clashes between non-state armed groups and government forces periodically drive hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC. … According to the U.N official, Mozambique hosts close to 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers, of which around 9,500 reside in Maratane settlement camp in Nampula province, while the remaining 19,000 reside in urban areas with host families. VOA

VP Harris Stresses Democracy during Africa Visit
On the eve of her meeting with Africa’s only female head of state, Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday that having more women in power is a key ingredient for a healthy democracy. Her meeting comes as the White House hosts its second-ever Summit for Democracy in Washington. Harris said that in a vibrant democracy, women winning positions of power should be a common occurrence, not a rare and newsworthy one, as her ascension was. … “When it comes specifically to this continent and the correlation between that and women’s empowerment, there’s no question when you have transparency in systems, when you have accountability in systems, when you create a system where rule of law is important, equal rights are defended and protected, you will see greater empowerment of all people including women — especially if they have been behind or you see extreme disparities,” she said. “So, there’s a correlation there, and we’re going to continue to work on it knowing that they’re interconnected.” That’s one of the aims of the largely virtual summit in Washington, which is co-hosted by Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia. VOA

Ethiopia’s New Struggle over War Crimes Accountability
Ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Ethiopia this month, there was widespread speculation that President Joe Biden’s administration might ease restrictions on economic assistance slapped on the country during its war in northern Tigray. Instead, while Blinken announced a large package of humanitarian funds for aid agencies working in the country, he also said Ethiopia’s government must do more to set up a “credible” transitional justice process that ensures accountability for human rights abuses committed during the two-year conflict. “Then our own ability to move forward on our engagement with Ethiopia, to include economic engagement, will also move forward,” Blinken said in the capital, Addis Ababa, shortly after holding talks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. … [T]he UN’s International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) believes Ethiopia’s government used “starvation as a method of warfare” by blocking aid to Tigray and sealing off its borders. In 2021, the US estimated that these restrictions had pushed 900,000 of the six million population to the brink of famine. Despite their seriousness, these atrocities are “only the tip of the iceberg”, said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s deputy director for east and southern Africa. A communication blackout imposed on Tigray for much of the war and restrictions on access to the region mean many human rights abuses may remain hidden, making further investigations vital. New Humanitarian.

Burkina Faso: Civil Society Concerned after Cases of “Forced Recruitment”
A group of civil society organisations in Burkina Faso have expressed concern over cases of “abduction” and “forced recruitment” of citizens as army auxiliaries in the fight against jihadism, and denounced the “recurrent and systematic denial of freedom of opinion”. The Burkinabe Movement for Human and Peoples’ Rights (MBDHP) “learned with dismay of the kidnapping and forced enlistment of Boukaré Ouédraogo, president of the “Appel de Kaya” movement, as a VDP. (Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland, civilian auxiliaries to the army)”, which occurred on 22 March, the organisation wrote in a statement sent to AFP on Wednesday. Another organisation, the Collective against Impunity and Stigmatisation of Communities (CISC), confirmed the abduction and recruitment in a separate statement. … According to other civil society organisations, on Saturday, two of their representatives were also arrested and registered as VDPs after criticising the management of the transition at a press conference. AfricaNews/AFP

South Sudan President Appoints own Defence Minister, Breaching Peace Deal
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has appointed a member of his own party as defence minister, according to a decree read on state media, breaching a peace deal in which the role should be selected by the party of opposition leader Riek Machar. Kiir fired defence minister Angelina Teny, who is also First Vice President Machar’s wife, along with the interior minister this month, re-igniting long-standing disagreements over how the two war veterans share power. Kiir and Machar’s forces signed a peace agreement in 2018 that ended five years of civil war that killed 400,000 people and triggered Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Implementation of the deal has been slow, and bouts of fighting have continued to kill and displace large numbers of civilians. According to the decree read on state TV late on Wednesday, Kiir replaced Teny with Chol Thon Balok, a loyal general and former governor of Upper Nile state. The stalemate is likely to cause paralysis in the implementation of the peace deal, which is meant to culminate in a national election at the end of 2024, said Boboya James, a policy analyst at the Juba-based Institute of Social Policy and Research. “(Kiir) wants to have all the powerful institutions,” James said. “What he is doing is to consolidate that level of power between now and towards the elections.” Reuters

EU Envoy Urges South Sudan to Fast-Track Constitution-Making Ahead of Polls
A visiting European Union envoy to South Sudan on Wednesday urged the country’s political leaders to rapidly expedite work on drafting a new constitution ahead of elections scheduled for next year. Addressing reporters during a press conference held in Juba on Wednesday, Timo Olkkonen, EU Ambassador to South Sudan urged the parties to renew efforts to complete different chapters of the peace agreement including the constitution-making process to prepare the country for elections in December 2024. “We also underlined our concern about the delays in the implementation of the peace agreement that even in terms of the roadmap we are already missing some important deadlines, and we encourage that the prevailing disagreements at the political level wouldn’t delay further the extremely important processes on constitution-making and also preparing for elections,” Timo said. In August 2022, President Kiir announced the extension of his transitional government’s time in office for another two years, meaning elections would be held in December 2024. Radio Tamazuj

Senegal’s Opposition Says Protests Will Continue as Leader Sonko’s Trial Set to Resume
The Senegalese opposition announced on Tuesday that it would push ahead with demonstrations in Dakar on Wednesday and Thursday despite a ban, while authorities said they had arrested four members of a group seeking to prevent the resumption of the trial of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko by “sowing chaos and insurrection”. Attorney General Ibrahima Bakhoum said the group had produced explosives and “put the stability of the country at stake”. Tensions are rising ahead of Sonko’s trial later this week, in a defamation case that could make him ineligible to contest next year’s presidential election. Sonko and his supporters accuse the government of using the justice system to prevent him from running in February 2024. The opposition says it will push ahead with demonstrations on Wednesday and Thursday despite a ban by the authorities. France24

Jailbreak in Mauritania Leads to Internet Shutdown
Late on Sunday 5 March, four prisoners escaped from the central prison in Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania, killing two soldiers in the process. Authorities described the prisoners as jihadist terrorists. The next day, internet connectivity was cut for customers of all three major mobile providers — Mattel, Chinguitel and Moov Mauritel — supposedly to prevent the escapees from communicating. “There was a lot of incomprehension,” recalls Abdou Biye, a comedian and online content creator. A week later, the government said three escapees had been killed and the fourth recaptured. On 13 March, internet connectivity was restored. The government justified the internet shutdown by saying “safety comes first”. National security is among the most frequently cited justifications for internet disruptions globally — although human rights organisations are sceptical. “Mauritania is a serial perpetrator of internet shutdowns,” explained Kassem Mnejja, a regional campaigner for Access Now, a global organisation that aims to protect digital human rights. In June 2019, a near-total shutdown was imposed after a contested presidential election. The internet is also routinely blocked during national exams. Mail & Guardian

In Niger, Poorest of the Poor Protect Refugees on the Run
Yacouba Aboubacar has an unusual way to measure the welcome he received as a refugee in Niger. His razor blade. It takes a certain amount of trust, after all, to let a stranger cut your hair – and a good deal more to allow him to circumcise your baby. But since Mr. Aboubacar fled here from neighboring Nigeria in December, he has found his services as a barber and circumciser constantly in demand. Some of that work comes from other refugees, with whom he lives in a sea of white tents huddled on the edge of this small village. But much of it comes from the locals who inhabit the mud-brick houses in town. … Mr. Aboubacar is one of some 200,000 Nigerians who have fled rising violence in recent years to seek refuge in neighboring Niger. Chadakori’s population has doubled to 16,000 since 2020 – a refugee intake on a scale almost unimaginable in the West. Yet the response from Chadakori and other villages like it has largely not been one of resentment or rejection. Instead, in one of the world’s poorest countries – beset by its own problems with violent extremism – locals have made visitors feel welcome, even when there is little to share. CSM

Climate Change Sees Zimbabweans Shift to Hilltop Farming
His forefathers farmed downhill, but three generations later, after droughts and repeated crop failures, Gibson Mudarikwa broke with the tradition. He and his family clambered up a nearby mountain, chopped down its magnificent trees, and turned the peak into a maize field. Home is still downhill, in the district of Bocha, about 200km east of the capital Harare. Mudarikwa is not alone. His neighbour, Ashton Mujenya, says repeated heavy rains washed away the fertile soil in his old field, “leaving sand soils only”. And with fertiliser costs increasing, hilltops come with the bonus of soil that is fertile. So he moved up the mountain and things have turned around. … The government says farmers are moving to mountains and hills to escape the droughts, floods, unpredictable seasons and all the other effects of climate change. … The local agriculture ministry says as many as 1 200 farmers have begun farming uphill in the past decade. And that creates a whole new set of problems. Mail & Guardian

Vatican Repudiates Colonial-Era ‘Doctrine of Discovery’
The Vatican on Thursday formally repudiated the colonial-era “doctrine of discovery”, used centuries ago to justify European conquests of Africa and the Americas, saying “it is not part of Catholic Church teaching”. The Vatican acknowledged in a statement from its culture and human development departments that papal documents from the 15th century were used by colonial powers to give legitimacy to their actions, which included slavery. The departments specifically mentioned the papal bulls Dum Diversas (Until Different) from 1452, Romanus Pontifex (The Roman Pontiff) from 1455, and Inter Caetera (Among Other Things) from 1493. … The Vatican departments admitted that the bulls, which gave political cover to Spanish and Portuguese conquests in Africa and the Americas, “did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples”. “It is only just to recognise these errors, acknowledge the terrible effects of the assimilation policies and the pain experienced by indigenous peoples, and ask for pardon,” they said. … In 2007, Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, published a book that condemned rich countries for having mercilessly “plundered and sacked” Africa and other poor regions, and for exporting to them the “cynicism of a world without God”. Reuters