Africa Media Review for May 14, 2024

Niger Coup Reversing Hard-Earned Gains
The military coup in Niger has impacted every sector of Nigerien society, demonstrating the centrality of governance to security, economic, and social outcomes. A snapshot of an array of these outcomes reveals a marked shift in Niger’s trajectory since the coup. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, Niger had realized discernable progress in the decade prior to the coup under democratically elected Presidents Mahamadou Issoufou and Mohamed Bazoum. Many of those gains have since been upended. With tightening restrictions on the media and information space under the junta, the full extent of this deterioration is difficult to ascertain. This reversal in trajectory will have wider ramifications for the region given that this historically peaceful, landlocked country of 25 million people shares borders with seven neighbors. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Countless Lives at Stake in Sudan’s El Fasher, Warn UN Aid Teams
Reports have been coming in that a hospital in Sudan’s North Darfur has been damaged in a heavy uptick of hostilities, leaving two youngsters dead and fanning renewed famine fears, UN aid teams have said. According to UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths, a “strike” damaged the roof of the intensive care unit at Southern Hospital in El Fasher Town – the only working hospital in North Darfur state – where medical supplies are running dangerously low. Some 800,000 people live in and around El Fasher Town where “countless lives are at stake. Sudan is at a tipping point,” Mr. Griffiths said in a message on X late Sunday. In an update on the hostilities, the UN aid coordination office (OCHA) reported that dozens of civilians had been killed in renewed heavy fighting last Friday between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Force (RSF) soldiers in and around the city – the last one in North Darfur not yet under RSF control, it has been reported. UN

Fires Used as Weapon of War in Sudan Destroyed or Damaged 72 Villages Last Month, Study Says
Fires resulting from the fighting in Sudan destroyed or damaged 72 villages and settlements last month, a U.K.-based rights group said Monday, highlighting the use of fire as a weapon of war in the conflict in the African country. Investigators from Sudan Witness, an open-source project run by the nonprofit Center for Information Resilience, say that more blazes than in any other month since the war started in mid-April 2023. The number also brings to 201 the total number of fires in Sudan since fighting broke out between Sudan’s military and the rival paramilitary force…In its analysis, the Center for Information Resilience estimated that 31 settlements — villages and towns — were affected by fires in April, with an over 50% destruction rate. AP

After Mahamat Idriss Déby’s Disputed Victory in Chad, N’Djamena Is under Heavy Surveillance
On the evening of Thursday, May 9, about 10 days before the legal deadline and when the Constitutional Court had only just received copies of the polling stations’ reports, Chad’s National Agency for Election Management (ANGE) proclaimed Mahamat Idriss Déby’s victory in the first round of the presidential election, with 61.03% of the vote…”Everyone knows that these figures have been fabricated,” stated an irritated executive from Succès Masra’s Transformers party, who described the results as a “masquerade” and “witchcraft”…The announcement of the results was followed by automatic gunfire from all over the city. In the city center, vehicles sped off to the joyful sounds of car horns and ululations. In the southern districts of N’Djamena, reputed to be pro-opposition, these celebrations were seen as a sign of intimidation…[Déby’s] first three years at the head of the country have been marked by several episodes of bloody repression…Today, many fear that a political crisis could trigger a new bloodbath. Le Monde

Death Toll in Bombings at Displacement Camps in Eastern Congo Rises to at Least 35
The death toll in the bombings of two camps for displaced people in eastern Congo last week rose to at least 35 Friday, with an additional two in very critical condition, a local official told The Associated Press. Éric Bwanapuwa, a lawmaker who represents Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu state, where the attacks took place, provided the updated figure in an interview Friday. The Congolese army and a rebel group known as M23 have blamed each other for the bombings at the Mugunga and Lac Vert displacement camps in eastern Congo. The U.S. State Department accused M23 and the army of neighboring Rwanda. AP

Somalia Wants to Terminate the UN Political Mission Assisting Peace Efforts in the Country
Somalia is asking the United Nations to terminate its political mission in the country, which has been assisting the government to bring peace and stability in the face of attacks by the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab…The current mandate of the mission, known as UNSOM, expires Oct. 31 and [Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Moalim Fiqi] asked for “the swift conclusion of the necessary procedures for the termination of the mission by the end of the mandate.” The U.N. mission has worked closely with African Union peacekeepers, whose current transitional mission, ATMIS, has been scaling back its presence and is expected to turn over security responsibilities to Somali forces at the end of the year. In November, the Security Council suspended the AU pullout for three months at Somalia’s request because of fighting with al-Shabab. AP

Egypt to Intervene in ICJ Case as Israel Tensions Rise
Egypt on Sunday said it would intervene in support of South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, citing the growing scale of Israel’s operations in Gaza and their impact on civilians. The move highlights growing tensions between the two neighbours as the Israeli operation in border town Rafah tests long-term agreements and security cooperation…Egypt has in the past presented arguments in the case. South Africa asked the court on Friday to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah as part of additional emergency measures in an ongoing case that accuses Israel of acts of genocide. Egyptian security sources told Reuters that Egyptian officials had relayed to Israel that they blamed its actions for the strained bilateral relations and the breakdown of ceasefire talks delegations from Hamas, Israel, the U.S., Egypt and Qatar have held in Cairo. Reuters

Nigeria’s Senate Proposes Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking
Nigeria’s Senate on Thursday proposed significantly toughening penalties for drug trafficking, making the death penalty the new maximum sentence through a law amendment. The amendment, which is not yet law, replaces life imprisonment, which was previously the harshest punishment. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country of more than 200 million people, has in recent years gone from being a transit point for illegal drugs to a full-blown producer, consumer and distributor…While cannabis is cultivated locally, cocaine, methamphetamine and other narcotics are trafficked through the country alongside opioids to feed a growing addiction problem. The legislation stemmed from a report by the Senate committees on judiciary, human rights and legal matters, and drugs and narcotics, which Senator Mohammed Monguno presented during Thursday’s plenary session. Reuters

Tunisia Officials Arrested in Dispute over Flag Display
Prosecutors in Tunisia have arrested seven more sport officials over the failure to display the national flag at a swimming competition on Friday. The heads of the Tunisian swimming federation and the national anti-doping agency were detained on Saturday after President Kais Saied reacted with fury to its absence. Seven other officials were summoned on Monday. In response to sanctions by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), which had banned the Tunisian flag from competitions, it was covered on Friday during a championship organised by the national swimming federation at the Radès Olympic pool. Hours after the incident, Mr Saied visited the pool, raised the flag and sang the national anthem. Calling the flag-covering an “act of aggression”, he declared: “Tunisia cannot tolerate this”…In a statement issued in the early hours of Saturday, the Tunisian youth and sports ministry announced the dissolution of the swimming federation board, as well as the dismissal of the head of the Tunisian anti-doping agency Anad and a sports official based in Ben Arous, near Tunis. The decision followed “instructions” by President Saied “to take immediate measures… against those responsible for the incident of hiding the national flag”, the statement said. Mr Saied controls almost all levers of power in Tunisia. BBC

Lesotho Makes Another Stab at Fixing Its Constitution, Civil Society Not Impressed
Last week, [Lesotho’s] Law and Justice Minister Richard Ramoeletsi introduced the long-awaited Tenth Amendment to the Constitution Bill and the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution Bill that the government of then Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro failed to pass ahead of 2022 elections. But while the government wants to amend the existing constitution, some civil society organisations want to write a new one…Lesotho became a crisis spot in the SADC region in 2014 when, under Prime Minister Tom Thabane, there were two coup attempts. On the last attempt, he fled to South Africa, leaving the country under the care of his deputy, Mothetjoa Metsing. Hard-pressed to maintain peace in the region, SADC pushed for early elections in Lesotho, slated for February 2015. Under the guidance of South Africa, Lesotho was to come up with a roadmap known as “The Lesotho We Want”. This project, spearheaded by the National Reforms Authority (NRA), provided a table for Basotho to participate in the kingdom’s change through persistent public discussions about reforms, national healing, reconciliation, and hope restorations. News24

In Mali, Thousands Replaster the Great Mosque of Djenne, under Threat from Conflict
Thousands of Malians carrying buckets and jugs of mud joined the annual replastering of the world’s largest mud-brick building this weekend, a key ritual that maintains the integrity of the Great Mosque of Djenne in the center of the country. The building has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage in Danger list since 2016. The mosque and surrounding town, a historical center of Islamic learning, have been threatened by conflict between Islamist rebels, government forces and other groups. Djenne’s mosque requires a new layer of mud each year before the start of the rainy season in June, or the building will fall into disrepair. The replastering event once drew tens of thousands of tourists each year. As with the rest of Mali, Djenne’s tourism industry has all but completely disappeared…Moussa Moriba Diakité, head of Djenne’s cultural mission, said that security has threatened the annual event. AP

Senegal Buys Back Library of Poet-President Léopold Senghor from France
More than 300 books collected by the first president of independent Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, will be transferred to Dakar after the Senegalese government stepped in to stop them being auctioned off in France. In total, 344 volumes will leave the house in Normandy where Senghor spent the final 20 years of his life, several of them personally inscribed by authors including Martinican poet Aimé Césaire. Along with Césaire and other African and Caribbean intellectuals, Senghor was one of the founders of the Négritude black consciousness movement born in 1930s Paris. On the instructions of Senghor’s heirs, his library was to go under the hammer at an auction house in the city of Caen in mid-April, divided into nearly 200 separate lots. But the newly elected president of Senegal, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, asked for the sale to be suspended while his government negotiated to buy the complete collection. That deal was finalised earlier this month. RFI