Africa Media Review for May 15, 2023

China’s Influence on African Media
China media expert Bob Wekesa reflects on the Chinese Communist Party’s model of total state control of information and its export to Africa. Chinese disinformation practices in Africa are not new and until recently have been explicitly described by the Chinese government as propaganda campaigns, according to leading media scholar Dr. Bob Wekesa with the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Speaking from his experiences working in Kenyan media houses and researching Chinese media, Dr. Wekesa defines China’s approach to the media sector as the “total state control of information.” This conceptualization views information as capital to be exploited by the state rather than a public good grounded in journalistic standards. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Sudan War: Church Attacked, Mosques Bombed, and More Hospitals Raided
More violent incidents were reported in greater Khartoum over the weekend. A Coptic Church was attacked on Sunday morning. Four people were hit by bullets and a priest was assaulted. Mosques were bombed. Two hospitals were raided, reportedly by members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The Democratic Lawyers Front reported yesterday that the Mar Girgis (St George) Church in El Musalama in old Omdurman was attacked at dawn on Sunday. The lawyers said in a statement that the attack was carried out by an armed group riding in an ordinary vehicle. They shot at the people present. Three worshippers were hit in the leg, the church guard was shot in his abdomen. The priest, assistant bishop Anba Sarabamon was assaulted. He sustained several fractures. His residence at the church premises was destroyed and his car was stolen. … The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused the RSF of attacking Jabra Hospital for Emergency and Injuries in Khartoum and the Ahmed Gasim Cardiac Surgery and Kidney Transplant Hospital in Khartoum North over the weekend. Dabanga

Neighbouring Countries Too Poorly Funded to Absorb Sudanese Humanitarian Crisis
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says underwhelming support from the global private sector and already stretched budgets in neighbouring countries’ humanitarian needs make it difficult for those fleeing war-torn Sudan to receive support after the exodus. UNHCR spokesperson Olga Sarrado was speaking at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. “Support from the private sector has been slow compared to other emergencies, despite the urgency and severity of the crisis for refugees and internally displaced people,” she said. … The fighting in Sudan began as countries such as Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, where most are fleeing to, were already faced with budgetary constraints for their humanitarian needs. Most operations in those countries were only funded for up to 15% of their requirements. News24

Sudan’s Military Chief Freezes Bank Accounts of Rival Paramilitary Group amid Truce Attempts
Sudan’s military chief has ordered the freezing of all bank accounts belonging to a rival paramilitary force. The two sides have battled for weeks across Sudan, pushing the troubled country to the brink of all-out war. The decree, issued on Sunday by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, will target the official accounts of the Rapid Support Forces in Sudanese bank, as well as the accounts of all companies belonging to the group, the state news agency SUNA reported. It remains unclear what immediate effect the freezing would have on the RSF and how Burhan’s orders are to be enforced. The military chief also announced the replacement of the governor of Sudan’s Central Bank, a move likely tied to the freezing decree. Over the past decade, the RSF amassed great wealth through the gradual acquisition of Sudanese financial institutions and gold reserves. AfricaNews/AP

33 Civilians Killed in Burkina Faso ‘Terrorist’ Attack
At least 33 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on vegetable farmers in a jihadist-hit region of Burkina Faso, the governor said Saturday, as the country struggles to stem an insurgency. A state of emergency has been in force in eight of Burkina Faso’s 13 regions since March, including in western Boucle du Mouhoun. The attack on the farmers happened on Thursday evening around 17:00, Governor Babo Pierre Bassinga said in a statement. “The village of Youlou in the department of Cheriba, Mouhoun province suffered a cowardly and barbaric terrorist attack,” he said. “The gunmen targeted peaceful civilians” who were farming along the river, he said, adding that the “provisional death toll” included 33 people. … Burkina Faso, which saw two military coups in 2022, has been battling a jihadist insurgency that crossed from Mali in 2015. News24

Libyan Forces Deploy in Western City after Deadly Fighting
A Libyan interposition force deployed in the country’s western city of Zawiya after battles between armed groups left three people dead. Rival factions in the city had been fighting on and off for weeks before the cease-fire deal. The spokesperson of the Defence and Security Council said Sunday, Mediation efforts had been spearheaded by notables and community leaders. “Several points were agreed on. Most importantly, it was agreed to deploy forces from the Security Committee in the place of conflict to be a separation force and to guarantee the cease-fire agreement,” Akram Douwa, the spokesperson of the Defence and Security Council, the Joint Operations Room detailed. It was agreed to refer the case and the cause of the dispute to the relevant authorities for the purpose of investigation, finding out what happened and determining the facts.” The force that was deployed operates under the UN-backed government based in Tripoli. AfricaNews/AFP

DRC: EACRF Struggles With a Belligerent Host Already Seeking Plan B
Countries contributing troops to the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) have found themselves arguing for a need to have the mission stay in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), amid a move by Kinshasa to seek a Plan B – a force with combat capabilities against rebel groups. The frustrations from Kinshasa, which could signal an imminent command structure chaos, emerged this week as DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, seeking to buttress his political campaign for re-election, embarked on a shuttle diplomacy in Southern Africa for backup. He was seeking an alternative regional force that will specifically target rebel groups, such as the M23, Kinshasa wants neutralised. With elections due in December 2023, Tshisekedi must woo his voters in eastern parts of the country, whom he promised four years ago to end the menace of armed rebels. He had initially banked on the EACRF, deployed in November last year, but the troops have stuck to their buffer role, much to his chagrin. East African

Flooding In Somalia Displaces 200,000 People
Around 200,000 people have been displaced due to flash flooding in central Somalia, a regional official told AFP Saturday, as the Shabelle River burst its banks and submerged roads. Inhabitants of Beledweyne town in the Hiran region were forced out of their homes as heavy rainfall caused water levels to rise sharply, with residents carrying their belongings on top of their heads as they waded through flooded streets in search of refuge. … The region’s deputy governor Hassan Ibrahim Abdulle said Friday that three people were killed by the floods. The disaster comes on the heels of a record drought that has left millions of Somalis on the brink of famine, with the troubled nation also battling an Islamist insurgency for decades. … Fartun Ali — not her real name — said it was her fifth time fleeing flash flooding in Beledweyne. … Experts say extreme weather events are happening with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change — and Africa, which contributes the least to global warming, is bearing the brunt. Goobjoog

Amnesty Report Concludes Russian Wagner Involvement in Moura Killings in Mali
Amnesty International has welcomed a UN report accusing the Malian army and “foreign” fighters of having executed over 500 people in 2022 during anti-jihadi operations in the Moura region. The figures by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) amount to the worst atrocity the Sahel country has experienced since a jihadist insurgency flared in 2012. It is also the most damning document yet against Mali’s armed forces and their foreign allies. … Around 20 women and seven children were among those killed, while evidence suggests 58 women and girls were victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence. … Moura, in the Mopti region of central Mali, has been known as a stronghold of the Katiba Macina, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda. On March 27 2022, the Malian army took control of the area and rounded up around 3,000 people. On April 1, 2022, the junta described the events in Moura as a successful anti-jihadist operation that had put 203 “terrorists” out of action. But five days later, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said 300 civilian men, some of them suspected jihadists, were summarily killed. White foreigners, identified by several sources as Russian, took part, it said. AfricaNews/AFP

Acute Hunger an ‘Immediate Threat’ To Over a Quarter of a Billion People
According to the latest Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC), the number of people experiencing acute hunger, meaning their food insecurity is so bad it is an immediate threat to their lives or livelihoods, rose to around 258 million people in 58 countries and territories in 2022. … It said that people in seven countries experienced the worst level of acute hunger, Phase 5, at some point during 2022, meaning they faced starvation or destitution. More than half of those people were in Somalia (57%), while such extreme circumstances also occurred in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. The report said that around 35 million people experienced the next-most-severe level of acute hunger (emergency level, Phase 4) in 39 countries, with more than half of those located in just four – Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. IPS

Senegal: Faction of Casamance Rebellion Inks Peace Deal
A new step on the road to peace for Casamance. A historic handshake on May 13 gathered the head of the Diakaye fighters, the governor of the Ziguinchor region and the representative of Senegal’s government. In Senegal’s southern region of Casamance, a rebellion has killed over 5000 people, forcing thousands to displace. Fighters from the Diakaye faction have now agreed to lay down arms. … The breakthrough comes after several years of negotiations. It also follows last march’s signature of the Act II of the peace agreement signed between the state of Senegal and the Initiative for the reunification of the political and military wing of the Movement of the Democratic forces of Casamance. The state’s negotiator was hopeful for lasting peace. AfricaNews

Ghana Opposition Chooses Ex-President Mahama for 2024 Race
Ghana’s largest opposition party chose the country’s ex-president John Dramani Mahama as its flagbearer Sunday for the 2024 presidential election. Delegates of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) voted in primaries on Saturday through Sunday to choose a candidate for both the presidential and parliamentary polls. Mahama was declared the overwhelming winner after polling 297,603, or 98.9 percent, of the votes while his challenger former Kumasi mayor Kojo Bonsu scored 3,181, or 1.1 percent. … Despite defeats in 2016 and 2020 elections by incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo, 64-year-old Mahama had been eyeing a return and had faced off with former central bank governor Kwabena Duffuor and Bonsu. But Duffuor withdrew from the race late on Friday, saying the party was not ready to conduct a “free and fair election”. … The ruling New Patriotic Party will hold its own primaries in November 2023 while the presidential election is scheduled for December 7 next year. Mahama will likely look to capitalise on the economic crisis facing the West African country in the presidential campaign. AFP

South Africa to Investigate Gold Mafia Uncovered by Al Jazeera
South Africa has launched an investigation into several people involved in a gold smuggling and money laundering scheme exposed by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit. In a speech to the Parliament of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa said this week the investigation was in the “inquiry stage”. … The investigation is the direct result of Gold Mafia, a four-part series by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) into gold smuggling and money laundering in southern Africa. In it, Al Jazeera revealed how a group of money launderers and gold smugglers had effectively taken over several South African banks by bribing key members, allowing the criminals to send large amounts of illegally obtained money overseas without raising the suspicions of the authorities. Al Jazeera

Chinese, African Lenders to Cover $1.8b Eacop Funding Shortfall
Sponsors of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) are looking for only $1.8 billion, which is expected to come from several Chinese lenders and two African banks, top officials of Uganda’s Ministry of Energy said on Friday. “We are looking for $1.8 billion for the remainder on debt financing,” said Ugandan Energy Minister Ruth Nankabirwa. “So far two companies from two African countries are offering,” the minister said, declining to name the companies or where they are domiciled. … However, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Energy Irene Batebe told TheEastAfrican that most of the money required to complete the project’s debt financing will come from the “main Chinese banks”, Afriexim Bank and other African “funders that we cannot mention for now.” … Industry analysts say that the growing number of Chinese companies getting project contracts for upstream production and Eacop suggests that China is the source of loans, and Beijing is leveraging on this to influence its firms’ getting business. East African

Azizou Chehou Saves Migrants Stranded in the Sahara
With a 30-year career in education, a small family house in a suburb of the Nigerian city of Agadez and a dusty Toyota Corolla that he has been driving for the past 11 years, Azizou Chehou’s life seems to be quite ordinary. However, every year, the 56-year-old man who comes to the aid of people stranded in the desert saves almost as many lives as a doctor. Week after week, hundreds of people wander the sands, turned away by the Algerian authorities across the border with Niger. They are men from West Africa, thrown out of the backs of the trucks they were crammed into, men who have no choice but to walk to the village of Assamaka by traveling across 15 kilometers of desert. This is where Chehou’s organization Alarme Phone Sahara’s (APS) three-wheelers go. With these vehicles, volunteers come to the aid of those who can no longer walk, taking them to the village where a UN transit center will receive them. In this part of the desert, there are many enemies of the migrants, including bandits on the Niger side and military patrols on the Algerian side. … While about 20,000 people were turned back in the whole of 2022, APS has already counted nearly 15,000 thrown back into the Sahara in the first four months of 2023. Le Monde

Last Known Speaker Fights to Preserve South African Indigenous Language
When she was a girl in South Africa’s Northern Cape, Katrina Esau stopped speaking her mother tongue, N|uu, after being mocked by other people and told it was an “ugly language.” Now at age 90, she is the last known speaker of N|uu, one of a group of indigenous languages in South Africa that have been all but stamped out by the impacts of colonialism and apartheid. “We became ashamed when we were young girls, and we stopped speaking the language,” Esau told Reuters. Instead she spoke Afrikaans, the language promoted by South Africa’s white minority rulers. Later, as an adult, Esau realized the importance of preserving her mother tongue and founded a school in her home town of Upington to try to pass it on. N|uu was spoken by one of many hunter-gatherer groups that populated Southern Africa before the arrival of European colonizers. These indigenous people spoke dozens of languages in the San family, many of which have gone extinct. VOA