Africa Media Review for May 15, 2024

‘They Shot at Us All’: Burkina Faso Accused of Massacring Civilians
[Burkina Faso’s military] has been accused by survivors and human rights groups of repeatedly targeting civilians who are suspected of cooperating with — or simply living in the vicinity of — jihadists…Islamist militants have killed more civilians in Burkina Faso than the military or militias have by far. They have also killed scores of soldiers and cut access to food convoys and humanitarian aid. But as the ranks of the civilian militias have swelled over the past 18 months, so have reports of mass killings. And the authorities in Burkina Faso have mostly ignored calls by the European Union, the United Nations and others to properly investigate them. They have muzzled local journalists, expelled foreign reporters and forcibly conscripted critics, including human rights activists. Reporters Without Borders has labeled Burkina Faso and other countries in the region led by military juntas as “no-news” zones. The New York Times

The Illicit Trade with China Fuelling Mozambique’s Insurgency
Timber smuggling, estimated to be worth $23m a year, from Mozambique’s ancient forests into China is helping to fund a brutal Islamist insurgency as well as a large criminal network in the north of the Southern African country. This illicit trade in rosewood is linked to the financing of Mozambique’s violent militants with links to Islamic State in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, according to data seen by the BBC from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an NGO that campaigns against alleged environmental crime. Rosewood is a catch-all trade term for a wide range of tropical hardwoods that are highly prized for luxury furniture in China…[A] four-year undercover investigation by the EIA in both countries has revealed that poor management of officially sanctioned forest concessions, illegal logging and corruption among port officials is allowing the trade to expand unchecked in insurgent controlled areas…In terms of value, it now far out paces trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. BBC

Sudan: Dire Situation in Darfur Likely to Spur Revenge
Since the outbreak of the war in Sudan in April 2023, El Fasher has turned into Darfur’s largest humanitarian hub…An informal peace deal between the warring parties — the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, under General Abdel Fattah Burhan, and his rival, the head of the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo — has so far granted relative safety for the city’s growing population. This situation, however, changed last month when two armed groups in El Fasher, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, announced plans to side with the Sudanese Armed Forces…”An all-out battle for control of the city causing massive civilian bloodshed would lead to revenge attacks across the five Darfur states and beyond Darfur’s borders,” said [Toby Harward, the UN’s deputy humanitarian coordinator for Sudan]. This view was echoed by Constantin Grund, head of the Khartoum office of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation. “An attack would provoke more local armed groups to join the fighting, with disastrous consequences for the civil population,” he told DW. DW

Congo: Can SADC Troops Defeat M23 Rebels?
The SADC Mission in Congo, known as SAMIDRC, started deploying in December after Congo…sought support under the bloc’s mutual defense pact…According to analysts, a lack of funding for foreign soldiers is hampering the success of the mission in eastern Congo. At the end of the day, the problem is “that these big, very expensive missions are not sustainable by the troop contibuting countries,” said Stephanie Wolters, a senior research fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg. Woters pointed at similar financial difficulties compromising the SADC’s Military Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), which has been assisting local forces since mid-2021 in their fight against Islamist terrorism in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. The SAMIM operation…will leave in July due to a lack of funds, according to a recent announcement by Mozambican Foreign Minister Veronica Macamo. DW

Conflict, Violence Push Global Internal Displacement to Record High Levels
Conflicts and violence have pushed the number of internally displaced people around the world to a record-breaking high of 75.9 million, with nearly half living in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. The report finds conflicts in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Palestinian territories accounted for nearly two-thirds of new displacements due to violence, which in total spanned 66 countries in 2023… The war in Sudan resulted in 6 million internal displacements last year, which was “more than its previous 14 years combined”…Sudan topped last year’s list of 66 countries with 9.1 million people displaced internally because of conflict, followed by Syria with more than 7 million, the DRC, Colombia and Yemen. VOA

South Africa: The Volunteer Crime Fighters Using Whistles, Whips and Guns
South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world…In the face of this, [Abel Rapelego, the leader of a team of volunteers who patrol the streets of Diepsloot after dark] says the only way to keep their families safe is for volunteers to patrol the communities themselves, even if it means risking their own lives…The team of volunteers works closely with the municipal police. It is an unofficial arrangement, as some of what they do is not legally sanctioned. No-one is paid and they do not carry guns. But they do have a sjambok, a traditional leather whip…Sixty kilometres north-west of Diepsloot, another volunteer patrol group sets off in Brits, a town in North West province. This one is organised by farmers from a group called Afriforum. They say they represent the interests of mainly white Afrikaners and have more than 300,000 members nationwide…Many of them…are armed. BBC

Nigerian Gunmen Seek Talks after Abducting Dozens, Families Say
Gunmen who abducted 105 people in northwest Nigeria last week are not after ransom payments but negotiations with the Zamfara state government, five families of the victims who were contacted by the armed men said on Monday. Armed gangs continue to terrorise northern Nigeria, abducting villagers, students and motorists for ransom. The gunmen attacked the villages of Gora, Madomawa and Jambuzu in Zamfara’s Birnin-Magaji local government area on Friday night, seizing dozens of residents…The abductors did not state the nature of the negotiations they want but several families told Reuters they had received calls. Reuters

Kidnapped Nigerian University Students Rescued
Nigerian security forces have rescued students kidnapped from a university in northern Kogi state, along with other victims held by the abductors, the army and state government said on Sunday. Kogi information commissioner Kingsley Femi Fanwo said security forces were involved in a shootout with the armed gang that carried out Thursday’s abduction at Confluence University of Science and Technology. Nigerian security forces have rescued students kidnapped from a university in northern Kogi state, along with other victims held by the abductors, the army and state government said on Sunday.
Kogi information commissioner Kingsley Femi Fanwo said security forces were involved in a shootout with the armed gang that carried out Thursday’s abduction at Confluence University of Science and Technology. Reuters

Cameroon Military Frees 300 Boko Haram Captives along Northern Border
Cameroon’s military has moved over 300 civilians rescued from Boko Haram terrorist captivity along the central African states border with Nigeria and Chad this week to a northern Cameroon military post. The country’s army says scores of militants of the Nigeria-based insurgent group were neutralized in a border operation called Alpha…The Cameroon military said most of the freed hostages are women and children…Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria report that Boko Haram militants have been returning to towns and villages where government troops had withdrawn after claiming that fighters’ firepower had greatly reduced, indicating a return to peace. The three countries say Boko Haram is recruiting new militants and attacking villages for supplies. VOA

International Court Reassures Uganda LRA Victims on Reparations
An official of the International Criminal Court has promised victims of Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army that the court will provide reparations that were promised after the conviction of a top LRA leader. However, the Tribunal Trust Fund does not have enough money to make the payments, and now some victims worry other world conflicts are drawing down donor funds…In February, ICC judges ordered $56 million in reparations to recognize the harm suffered by 50,000 victims of war crimes for which Dominic Ongwen has been convicted. Those include murder, rape, forced marriage, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Giler’s commitment comes despite Ongwen’s appeal of his conviction. Giler said while the appeal is still pending, the ICC will continue efforts to raise funds to pay the reparations and comply with the court order. VOA

Africa’s Internet Vulnerability and How to Fix It
A severe internet outage that has hit several African countries – the third disruption in four months – is a stark reminder of how vulnerable the service is on the continent…A cut to two of the undersea cables, which carry the data around the continent, early on Sunday morning, led to the recent disruption. In March, damage to four cables off the West African coast caused similar problems. And in February, the vital links were damaged in the Red Sea after the anchor of a stricken ship dragged through three cables…Anchor dragging from ships close to shore is one of the most common causes of damage, but underwater rockfalls, as was believed to be the case in West Africa in March, and seismic activity can also affect the cables…Repairing the damage, which requires specialised equipment and expertise, can take days or weeks, depending on the weather, sea conditions and the extent of the problem. BBC

Communities in Kenya Fight Carbon Project That Sold Credits to Meta, Netflix
Members of Kenya’s Maasai pastoralist community are clashing with managers of a major carbon project, raising new concerns that international demand for carbon credits generated in Africa could have damaging consequences for local communities. The Northern Kenya Rangelands Carbon Project (NKRCP), which describes itself as the world’s largest soil carbon removal project, has sold carbon credits to corporations including Meta, Netflix and UK bank NatWest. It restores and maintains grasslands to absorb carbon, including by managing grazing patterns of livestock herds on the 4.7 million acres it covers. Absorbing carbon allows it to generate carbon credits which can be purchased by corporations to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions. The project, however, continues to face significant opposition from many members of affected local communities, who say it is disrupting their ways of life and denying them access to their ancestral land. Many also say it puts women at risk due to harsh work conditions in some areas. Semafor

‘When He Is Older There Will Be No Rain’: How Southern Madagascar Is Coping in a Climate Crisis
More than 1.6. million people in Madagascar rely on food aid and half of children under five are chronically malnourished, the result of severe drought since 2019. The climate crisis has made the timing of the rainy season unpredictable. When the rains do arrive, they can be accompanied by strong winds and cyclones, which have wiped out harvests…In 2021, severe drought left more than 1 million people in southern Madagascar facing acute hunger…The few roads that exist in this region are poorly maintained so heavy rains and cyclones make it difficult to distribute aid. The Guardian

South Africa: In a Surprise Move, Ramaphosa to Sign NHI Bill into Law before 29 May Elections
Fourteen days before the elections, President Cyril Ramaphosa will sign the country’s biggest health policy overhaul into law, effectively consigning medical schemes to providing options only for small private elective procedures once implemented. In a surprise move, Ramaphosa announced that he will sign the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law on Wednesday, 15 May, at 2pm. It is likely to immediately be taken to court by opposition parties and the organised private health industry…The Bill completely overhauls health and will mean all South Africans will have to sign up to the NHI to allow a pooling of private and public spending on health. It effectively makes private medical insurance moot…The NHI announcement by Ramaphosa shows that he is a president feeling the heat of a campaign that is difficult for the ANC. Daily Maverick