Africa Media Review for March 5, 2024

US Sanctions Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa over Human Rights Abuses
The United States on Monday sanctioned Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, its first lady and other government officials for their alleged involvement in corruption and human rights abuses. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on three entities and 11 people, including the Mnangagwas, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and retired Brig. Gen. Walter Tapfumaneyi. Mnangagwa is accused of protecting gold and diamond smugglers who operate in Zimbabwe, directing government officials to facilitate the sale of gold and diamonds in illicit markets and taking bribes in exchange for his services, among other offenses. President Joe Biden also Monday signed an executive order that terminates Zimbabwe’s national emergency and revokes Zimbabwe-specific sanctions. Now, the administration is using a Trump-era executive order that implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act as its authority to issue the sanctions. AP

Sudan’s Al-Burhan Conditions Acceptance of AU Role on Membership Reinstatement
The African Union (AU) suspended Sudan’s membership following the October 25, 2021, military takeover, which eventually led to conflict between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Subsequently, the AU formed a high-level mediation group to facilitate a return to stability. On Sunday, Sudan’s de facto leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met with the members of the AU High-Level Panel on the Resolution of the Conflict in Sudan led by Mohamed Ibn Chambas…According to a statement from the Sovereignty Council, al-Burhan expressed “Sudan’s confidence in the AU’s potential solutions, but only if the state regains its full membership and the organization treats it as such”…Chambas, according to the statement, reiterated the organization’s commitment to ending the conflict and achieving stability in Sudan. He emphasized that the delegation has engaged with all relevant stakeholders, including various political forces. The three-member mechanism was established by the AU Commission in January 2024 to facilitate dialogue, restore constitutional order, and work collaboratively with Sudanese stakeholders and the international community towards lasting peace. Sudan Tribune

Sudan: ‘We Are on the Edge’: Communication Blackout Thwarts Mutual Aid Efforts in Besieged Khartoum
A communication blackout across Sudan is having a particularly harmful impact on the besieged capital city, Khartoum, where some mutual aid groups have suspended their life-saving humanitarian work even amid growing levels of catastrophic hunger…The communication outage began in early February and has been blamed on the RSF. The group is accused of cutting the network to force engineers to restore internet to their stronghold in Darfur, where services have been absent for several months…Volunteers from Khartoum’s emergency response rooms – the main humanitarian actors in the city – said their food banks, which feed hundreds of thousands of people, are collapsing because they don’t have access to their mobile banking applications. The volunteers told The New Humanitarian that the absence of a telephone network also means they are struggling to connect people with chronic diseases to pharmacies and health clinics that have the right medicine in stock…To get back online, emergency response room volunteers said they are increasingly using Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite communication network, which has also been used in other conflict zones where internet connections have been severed. Volunteers said soldiers from the RSF are the main providers of the Starlink devices – reportedly importing them via supply corridors that run through neighbouring countries – and charge around $5 for one hour’s use in local coffee shops. The New Humanitarian

Hundreds Protest in Senegal to Demand Elections before President’s Term Ends
Several hundred people rallied in the Senegalese capital Dakar on Saturday calling for the country’s postponed presidential elections to be held before April 2, the date when incumbent Macky Sall’s term is set to end. The protesters gathered at a sandy lot in a working-class neighbourhood for the protest, called by the “Resistance Front”, an alliance of opposition parties and campaigning groups. Many brandished Senegalese flags and portraits of the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, jailed since July for “incitement to insurrection” and barred from running in the presidential vote. Sonko has endorsed Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who is also in jail but who was cleared to be on the ballot…Several speakers representing some of the election candidates addressed the crowd, including former prime minister Aminata Toure, a member of the “Bassirou President” coalition…A national dialogue, organised at the start of the week by the president but boycotted by the opposition, had recommended holding the elections on June 2. Sall indicated that he would ask the constitutional council for its opinion on the request. RFI

Gambian Parliament to Discuss Bill to Decriminalise Female Genital Mutilation
A bill seeking to repeal Gambia’s ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) was presented in the West African country’s parliament on Monday and will be discussed by lawmakers later this month. Former president Yahya Jammeh banned the practice in 2015 and introduced steep fines and jail sentences for perpetrators. However, many Gambians still believe that FGM is a requirement of Islam and the bill — introduced by lawmaker Almameh Gibba — argues that the current ban violates citizens’ rights to practice their culture and religion. The bill has divided public opinion. Anti-FGM advocates point to the harmful physical and psychological effects of the practice on girls and women and say a lifting of the ban would be a huge step back.The practice has no health benefits and can lead to a host of serious medical problems, according to the World Health Organization. The second reading of the bill is scheduled for March 18. Reuters

Ghana’s President Says Anti-LGBTQ Bill Has Not Reached His Desk
An anti-LGBTQ bill passed by Ghana’s parliament last week, which could derail international aid for the West African country if it becomes law according to an internal government memo, has not yet reached the desk of President Nana Akufo-Addo, he said on Monday. In his first comments on the bill’s passage, he said Ghana will not backslide on its human rights record, and added that the bill had been challenged in the Supreme Court…The bill could lead to a loss of $3.8 billion in World Bank financing over the next five to six years if it becomes law, derailing a $3 billion IMF loan package, the finance ministry said in a document seen by Reuters earlier on Monday. Akufo-Addo would need to sign the bill in order for it to become law. Lawmakers on Feb. 28 unanimously passed the legislation that will intensify a crackdown on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and those accused of promoting LGBTQ identities. Reuters

International Criminal Court to Hold First Ever in Absentia Hearing over Ugandan Rebel Leader Kony
International Criminal Court prosecutors will present evidence to back up charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against notorious fugitive Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony at the global court’s first ever in absentia hearing later this year. The court announced Monday it will hold a so-called confirmation of charges hearing starting Oct. 15 against Kony, the alleged leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel group, nearly two decades after first seeking his arrest. Kony faces 12 counts of crimes against humanity including murder, sexual enslavement and rape, and 21 counts of war crimes including cruel treatment of civilians, pillaging and enlisting child soldiers allegedly committed in 2003 and 2004 in northern Uganda. The hearing is not a trial, but allows prosecutors to outline their case in court. Kony – if he is not arrested before the hearing — will be represented in his absence by a defense lawyer. If he is captured after the hearing, Kony will face trial at the court based in The Hague. The LRA began its attacks in Uganda in the 1980s, when Kony sought to overthrow the government. AP

Hunger, Terrorism and the Threat of War: Somalia’s Year of Crises
The latest challenges for Somalia and how they are resolved will likely shape the presidency — and legacy — of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Since taking office in May 2022, Mr. Mohamud has continued to improve stability in Somalia, a nation of 18 million people that has been decimated by decades of civil war, hunger and terrorism…But Mr. Mohamud’s term has also been hampered by a severe drought, followed by heavy rains and floods, that left millions facing a dire humanitarian crisis. Increased inflation, rising food prices and decreasing exports have also hurt the country’s economic growth…Amid the multiplying problems, Mr. Mohamud now faces a major challenge from Ethiopia, one of Africa’s largest nations. On Jan. 1., landlocked Ethiopia signed a preliminary deal with Somaliland allowing it commercial and naval access to its territory as part of Ethiopia’s goal to gain access to the sea. In return, Somaliland, a self-declared breakaway republic in northwest Somalia, said Ethiopia would become the first country to formally recognize it as an independent nation. The agreement angered Somalia, which still considers Somaliland part of its territory, with Mr. Mohamud accusing Ethiopia of trying to “annex” part of his nation…Beyond Ethiopia, the threat of [Al] Shabab, which seeks to establish an Islamic state, also looms large for Somalia. The group remains a threat, targeting civilians and officials. The New York Times

Liberia’s Civil War Refugees Left Destitute after Decades-Old Ghana Camp Demolished
More than 200,000 people were killed and thousands more were mutilated and raped in brutal civil wars in Liberia between 1989 and 2003. Though the U.N. ruled in 2006 that it was safe for refugees to return home, many, traumatised and without connections, remained in the so-called Liberia Camp in Buduburam, about 45 km west of Ghana’s capital, Accra. But last week, under the orders of traditional authorities who own the land, demolition of the camp began. By Monday, a large part of the site where the once bustling Liberia Camp had stood for 34 years was reduced to concrete rubble…A spokesman for the Gomoa Fetteh Stool, the traditional chieftaincy that owns the land, said the operation would continue until the entire site is cleared. Liberia Camp ceased to be classified as a refugee shelter in 2012. Since then, the landowners have made several attempts at demolition. Tetteh Padi, executive secretary of the Ghana Refugee Board, a government body, said the board had lobbied to delay its demolition. Only about 3,000 of the estimated 15,000 Liberians in the camp hold valid refugee status, Padi said, but efforts were underway to re-register the others for potential relocation to another camp in Ghana. Reuters

Suez Canal Head Says Egypt Studying Further Expansion of Waterway
Egypt is studying further expansions of the Suez Canal to extend and complete a second channel of the waterway, the canal’s head said on Monday, a move that could allow for higher volumes of shipping and prevent blockages from halting traffic. The comments come as the canal is seeing a sharp fall in revenue due to shipping companies diverting away from the waterway, the shortest route between Europe and Asia, because of attacks by Houthi militants in Yemen against ships in the Red Sea. Any new extension would come on top of current work to extend the second channel by 10 kilometres, and to deepen and widen a section of the canal. That work was expedited after the Ever Given, a giant container ship, ran aground in a single lane section of the canal in March 2021, stopping traffic for six days. The canal is a key source of scarce foreign currency for indebted Egypt, which spent an estimated $8.2 billion on an expansion of the canal that opened in 2015 and included the creation of a 35-km (22-mile) parallel waterway. Canal revenues have increased gradually but by less than officials had forecast, reaching a record $9.4 billion in the financial year ending in June 2023, before dipping by at least 40% at the beginning of this year due to the Houthi attacks. Reuters

17 Suspects in Journalist’s Murder to Stand Trial in Cameroon
The badly mutilated corpse of Arsene Salomon Mbani Zogo, known as “Martinez”, was found a few days after his abduction in front of a police station outside the capital Yaounde on 17 January, 2023. The 50-year-old radio reporter and former director of radio Amplitude FM hosted a popular daily programme, Embouteillage (Gridlock). An outspoken critic of alleged corruption and cronyism in Cameroon, he would often single out government officials by name. The Yaoundé military court in Cameroon on Friday closed its judicial investigation, saying “sufficient charges against the indicted” justified ending the judicial enquiry and setting a trial. The date has yet to be confirmed. The suspects include Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga, an influential businessman and owner of Anecdote media group, who was arrested two weeks after Martinez’s murder…Maxime Leopold Eko Eko, former head of Cameroon’s DGRE counter-espionage agency, must also stand trial on charges of complicity in torture. The DGRE’s operations director, Justin Danwe, faces charges of complicity in murder. After both Belinga and Eko Eko were freed from detention without formal explanation in December, a new investigative judge – the third – was named to handle the case. Rights group Human Rights Watch says freedom of expression continues to be restricted in Cameroon, noting that three independent journalists were killed there last year. RFI with AFP

Displaced Mozambicans Recall the Terror of New Jihadist Attacks as They Flee South
When gunmen arrived in her village for the second time, Alexandrina Calisto realised it was time to take her terrified family to join the latest wave of people fleeing Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. The lawless region has been prey to a jihadist insurgency for more than six years, but in recent weeks there has been a surge in violence that has sent more than 70 000 people fleeing on foot, by bus and boat…UN agencies have begun to register the displaced people for emergency food supplies. But NGO leaders warn that after months of conflict and disaster, the terror of the attacks has begun to take a mental toll on the population. On 20 February, the 30-year-old Calisto fled with her mother, sister and three children after armed men entered their home. Mozambican soldiers arriving at the scene told her it would be safe to return, but when she tried, the gunmen launched an attack. The men were armed with “knives, rifles, pistols, and weapons to kill people”, Calisto said, describing how the gang burned vehicles. “We began to defend each other’s lives, and then we had to flee,” she told AFP. AFP

An Online Protest Movement Exposes Corruption in Uganda. Officials and Others Are Rattled
Abuse of public funds. Failing hospitals. Potholes in the streets of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. These and other issues feature in an online protest campaign that is rattling government officials and others in this East African country where street protests are practically outlawed — and where corruption is widespread and often deadly. The campaign has been trending on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, as #UgandaParliamentExhibition. It relies on leaks of official documents and has been cast as an “exhibition” — in a sequence of postings — about controversial issues…The online protest movement has become significant for its ability to name and shame specific individuals before an attentive audience, said Marlon Agaba, head of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda watchdog. “In a country where civic space has been shrinking, citizens are finding alternative and innovative ways to express their displeasure in terms of how the country is being governed,” he said. AP