Africa Media Review for May 10, 2023

Sudan: Strong Explosions in Khartoum on the 26th Day of the War
Strong explosions rock Khartoum on Wednesday morning, on the 26th day of the war for power in Sudan between soldiers and paramilitaries, without any humanitarian corridor having so far been approved by the negotiators of the two camps. “We were awakened by explosions and heavy artillery fire,” a resident of Omdurman, a city on the outskirts of Khartoum, told AFP. Overnight, other witnesses in different neighbourhoods of Khartoum reported two huge explosions heard across the capital, which has a population of five million. Residents of El-Obeid, 350 km west of the capital, also reported fighting and explosions in their town. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane ‘s army and General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo ‘s dreaded paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) sent negotiators to Saudi Arabia on Saturday for only ” technical” ” pre-discussions ” on corridors secured for humanitarian aid. But so far no announcement has been made in Jeddah, on the Red Sea, where the talks are taking place. … Since its beginning on April 15, the conflict has left more than 750 dead and 5,000 injured. AfricaNewsAFP

How the Sudan Crisis Threatens the Entire Sahel
The ongoing fighting in Sudan is forcing thousands to flee. The humanitarian emergency is spreading, creating a dangerous security situation in the Sahel region, experts warn. … Tens of thousands of civilians have fled, and the United Nations has warned of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, which could spill over into neighboring countries. “There is currently no regional consensus on how to stop the violence — making matters more difficult,” explained Henrik Maihack of the Friedrich Ebert Institute (FES). “In the Horn of Africa region, there is no functioning collective security system among neighboring countries. Security is often organized against each other,” Maihack told DW. UN Special Representative Volker Perthes also recently told DW that the fighting in Sudan attracts “opportunists and mercenaries,” who seek to enrich themselves. Another danger is proliferation of small arms, which cross Sudan’s over porous borders and may even reach as far afield as Mali and Burkina Faso, Maihack fears. Armed groups already operate in those countries, and new weapons would lead to worse security situation in the Sahel, according to Maihack. He warns the Sudan crisis could fuel “two crisis regions:” in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. DW

South Sudanese Flee Sudan’s Conflict Yet Return to Crisis
Moments after gunshots and explosions rang out in Khartoum, killing civilians and damaging buildings, Nyarok Gach grabbed her eight children and reluctantly began the treacherous journey home. Four years ago she had crossed into Sudan, fleeing civil war in her native South Sudan, but the place she hoped would be a refuge turned out to be anything but. Now she’s back in South Sudan, but it’s a country still in turmoil. “The suffering we fled in Sudan is the same suffering we have now,” said Gach. Sitting on a straw mat in the impoverished village of Wunlueth in South Sudan’s Canal-Pigi County, the 35-year-old said she has come home to misery. Her village has been plagued by floods, people don’t have access to clean water or food, and violence in parts of the country persists despite a fragile peace deal signed in 2018 to end fighting that killed nearly 400,000 people. … Earlier this month, the United Nations warned that 180,000 South Sudanese could return by August and called for more than $95 million in urgent assistance. AP

Niger: More Than 13,000 Women and Children Have Fled “Exactions”
More than 13,000 women and children have fled the islands of the Niger River, after “exactions” by armed men in these territories of the Tillabéri region (west), where clashes between communities have left several dead, said Tuesday the Nigerien public radio station Voix du Sahel. “In Ayorou, it’s desolation (…) More than 13,000 women and children from 46 islands (in the Niger River) have fled the abuses of armed bandits” to take refuge in this town located 200 km from Niamey, according to the radio. The communes of Dessa and Kandadji, where the site of the country’s first hydroelectric dam is located, “have been facing abuses” committed by “armed bandits” (an expression used in Niger to designate suspected jihadists ) for several days, added the radio. … According to local sources, “violent clashes” had opposed in late April and early May sedentary Djerma and nomadic Fulani herders in villages and hamlets bordering the Niger River, causing ” several deaths, injuries” and “many displaced” towards Ayorou. A local journalist explained that these clashes followed “several assassinations” of villagers by suspected jihadists who also steal cattle and “demand taxes”. AfricaNews/AFP

A deadly Shooting Takes Place Near One of Africa’s Oldest Synagogues
A Tunisian naval guard shot and killed a colleague and two civilians Tuesday as he tried to reach a synagogue on the Mediterranean island of Djerba during an annual Jewish pilgrimage, the Tunisian Interior Ministry said. The attacker was slain by security guards, and 10 people were injured. The motive for the attack was under investigation. It came as Tunisia, once a prized tourist destination and birthplace of the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings, has fallen into political and economic crisis. Djerba, a picturesque island off the southern coast of Tunisia, is home to the North African country’s main Jewish community. The assailant, a guard affiliated with the National Guard naval center in the port town of Aghir on Djerba, first killed a colleague with his service weapon and then seized ammunition and headed toward the Ghriba synagogue, the ministry said. … It occurred during an annual pilgrimage that attracts thousands of visitors from around the world to Djerba. AP

DRC: Around Goma, “48 Victims of Sexual Violence per Day”
During the last two weeks of April, “more than 670 victims of sexual violence were taken care of” in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, alerted the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Tuesday evening. From April 17 to 30, “48 new victims of sexual violence per day” were cared for by MSF teams in sites for displaced people around Goma, capital of the troubled province of North Kivu. Nearly 60% of them had been assaulted in the previous 72 hours, says MSF. The vast majority of victims are women and more than half of them report having been attacked by armed men. This happens most of the time “when they travel outside the sites of the displaced, in search of firewood and food”, specifies the medical organization. The advance of the M23 rebellion (for “Mouvement du 23 mars” ) and the Rwandan army in eastern DRC for a year, and the clashes between the Congolese army and local armed groups have pushed more one million people to flee their villages. More than 600,000 people live crammed together in “disastrous” conditions in informal camps around Goma. AfricaNews/AFP

In Somalia, Spike in Gender-Based Attacks Compounds Plight of Displaced Women, Girls
Somali humanitarian workers and United Nations officials said women and girls in displaced camps are facing gender-based violence and rape amid the recurring droughts in the country. Physical violence, intimate partner violence (IPV) and rape are the most common types of violence that women and girls are subjected to in displaced communities, according to data gathered by the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA. In an interview with VOA Somali, UNFPA Country Representative Niyi Ojuolape said data gathered in 2021 shows that 52% of reported gender-based violence, or GBV, incidents are from physical assault, 11% are due to rape, 10% percent from other forms of sexual assault. There are lesser incidents, including denial of resources (7%), psychological or emotional abuse (6%), and forced or early marriages, Ojuolape added. UNFPA officials said GBV attacks have worsened in 2022 and during the first quarter of 2023. VOA

Senegal Opposition Calls for Protests over Alleged Threat to Bar Sonko from Vote
Senegal’s opposition coalition said Tuesday it would stage rallies over a threat to bar one of its leaders, Ousmane Sonko, from presidential elections after he was convicted in a defamation case. Sonko was on Monday handed a six-month suspended term that could jeopardise his bid for the 2024 elections. His possible elimination would significantly alter the contest, and could also lead to violence from his supporters. Sonko claims the judiciary is being used to sideline him from the vote. … Senegal is traditionally a beacon of stability in troubled West Africa, but in recent years has been buffeted by turbulence that has at times turned deadly. Sonko, 48, came third in the 2019 election against incumbent Macky Sall, and intends to stand again next year. But his candidacy has been clouded by Monday’s conviction, which saw an appeal court increase a sentence of two months suspended, handed down in March, for defaming Tourism Minister Mame Mbaye Niangtou. AfricaNews

Conflict in Disputed Las Anod Dims Somaliland’s Diplomatic Dreams
Since February 6, there has been fighting in the disputed city of Las Anod between forces in the self-declared state of Somaliland and local militia from the Dhulbahante clan in northern Somalia. The city, also known as Laascaanood, is located between Somaliland and Puntland, a nearby semi-autonomous region in Somalia’s northeast. Both regions are laying claim to the city. According to data received from hospitals in Las Anod, the death toll stands at 299, with 1,913 injured and more than 200,000 displaced since the conflict began. Somaliland’s forces have retreated approximately 50km (31 miles) further westwards from its military base in Tukaraq, to military bases on the outskirts of Las Anod, reportedly launching attacks from there. … The region sees itself as a successor state to the State of Somaliland which existed for five days in June 1960 on today’s territory and had relations with 35 countries, including China, Ethiopia and Israel. On July 1, 1960, the State of Somaliland voluntarily united with the Italian-ruled south to form the Somali Republic. Three decades later – in May 1991 – Somaliland declared secession from Somalia, reclaiming the borders of the old British Somaliland protectorate. Al Jazeera

Côte d’Ivoire: Guillaume Soro Does Not Rule Out Running for President in 2025
On Monday, the ex-rebel leader and former Ivorian Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who has been in exile since 2019, said on his YouTube channel that there was no “reason” why he could not run for president in 2025. “There is no reason” not to be a candidate in the next presidential election, Guillaume Soro said after several months of silence, in an interview of more than an hour by his communications director. Guillaume Soro urged the leaders of his party, Generations and People’s Solidarity (GPS), to “work on the ground to consolidate” their “organization”, “capable of taking up the presidential challenge”. … Already in exile, Guillaume Soro had been sentenced in Côte d’Ivoire in June 2021 to life imprisonment for “undermining state security”, accused of having fomented a “civil and military insurgency” aimed at overthrowing the regime of current President Alassane Ouattara, in 2019. The dissolution of his movement had also been requested by the court. AfricaNews/AFP

Popular Zimbabwean Writer Acquitted over Anti-Government Protest
Acclaimed Zimbabwean filmmaker and novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga has been acquitted by the country’s High Court of staging an anti-government protest in 2020, for which she had initially received a six-month suspended jail sentence and a fine. … In 2022, Dangarembga was found guilty by a lower court of participating in a public gathering with intent to incite public violence while breaking COVID-19 protocols. She was tried alongside her friend and fellow protester Julie Barnes, who was also found guilty. … Dangarembga, 64, is a fierce critic of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government. She has been fighting for years against corruption and demanding reforms and maintained during the trial that Zimbabweans have the right to demonstrate. Not all protesters have been treated with leniency. Zimbabwean courts have handed down a wave of harsh sentences against political activists before general elections this year. Activists and opposition figures also say the police have embarked on a clampdown on dissidents. Al Jazeera

Burundi: Former Prime Minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni Indicted
A former all-powerful prime minister of Burundi, Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, appeared in court on Monday, where he is accused of undermining national security and insulting the president, witnesses and a judicial source reported. … During the hearing, his pre-trial detention in Ngozi prison, in the north of the country, was extended, a judicial source told AFP, requesting anonymity to discuss the case. The former prime minister, arrested last month in the capital Bujumbura, was formally charged on Friday by three high court judges sitting behind closed doors, the source said. He is accused of “undermining the internal security of the state, undermining the proper functioning of the national economy, and personal enrichment”, according to court documents that AFP was able to consult. He is also accused of illegal possession of weapons and insulting the president. … Mr Bunyoni had long been seen as the regime’s true number two since the political crisis of 2015 and the leader of the hardliners among the generals working behind the scenes of power. AfricaNews/AFP

Eswatini Civil Society Groups Want African Rights Body to Put Pressure on King Mswati
The Swaziland Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) has tabled eight demands that it wants the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to take up with the government of Eswatini. The wish list was presented at the 75th ACHPR session currently underway in Banjul, Gambia. The demands were presented by Tanele Maseko, the wife of slain human rights activist Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down in front of his family on 21 January this year. The demands are: The government should immediately allow for an internationally supported panel to conduct a thorough, independent, and expeditious investigation into Maseko’s murder. Uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of the country. This includes the rights to freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression, and access to information, including refraining from interfering with access to the internet and social media. … Create an enabling political climate for negotiation and dialogue; to immediately recall the army and security forces that are deployed throughout the country and in communities. … “Intimidation and harassment of activists is on the rise and the levels of suppression of freedoms of expression, association and assembly are at an alarming level, never before seen in the country,” Maseko said. News24

Nigeria Benin Bronzes: Buhari Declaration ‘Blindsides’ Museum Officials
Nigeria’s outgoing president has issued a declaration over the Benin Bronzes that could have significant consequences in the campaign for the return of these great cultural treasures, as Barnaby Phillips has been finding out. In the dying weeks of his administration, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari made a decision which has caused a mixture of delight, concern and confusion. His declaration of 23 March, made public last month, unequivocally recognises the Oba, or king, of Benin, Ewuare II, as the owner of the famous Benin Bronzes. These are thousands of metal castings and ivory carvings which were looted by a British military expedition in 1897 from the Benin kingdom in what is today southern Nigeria, and are now mainly in museums in Europe and the United States. … The Nigerian president’s declaration says any repatriated Bronzes must be “handed over to the Oba”, who is “responsible for the management of all places” where they will be kept. … In other words, Ewuare II has been given sweeping powers. These appear to come at the expense of the Nigerian government’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, (NCMM), which has handled many of the negotiations over the return of colonial-looted artefacts. BBC