Africa Media Review for May 16, 2024

US Slaps Sanctions on Sudan Paramilitary Commanders over Darfur Offensive
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two commanders of Sudan’s paramilitary force, vowing pressure to stop the unit from an offensive on the Darfur city of el-Fasher. The Treasury Department said it was freezing any U.S. assets and criminalizing transactions with Ali Yagoub Gibril, Central Darfur commander of the Rapid Support Forces, and an RSF major general involved in operational planning, Osman Mohamed Hamid Mohamed…”We stand ready to take additional measures against those individuals and institutions that actively escalate the war — including any offensive actions on el-Fasher,” [State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement] said. AFP

Sudanese Military Intelligence Arrests Journalist
The Sudanese Journalists Syndicate stated that military intelligence arrested journalist Siddiq Dalay in the city of Damazin, Blue Nile region, on Monday. The syndicate strongly condemned Dalay’s arrest, holding military intelligence responsible for his safety and security, and demanded his immediate unconditional release. The syndicate warned both sides of the armed conflict in Sudan about the dangers of escalating violations of journalists’ rights, targeting them, and using arrest as a method to silence, intimidate, and terrorize them…An increase in violations of various and multiple levels against journalists has been observed, with 39 journalists, including five female journalists, arrested or stopped by both sides of the armed conflict in Sudan. Sudan Tribune

2 Journalists in Detention in Tunisia as Authorities Launch Wave of Arrests against Critics
Authorities in [Tunisia] this week unleashed a new campaign of repression against perceived opponents of President Kais Saied ‘s government. Migration activist Saadia Mosbah, France 24 cameraman Hamdi Tlili and lawyer Sonia Dahmani were among those detained or arrested in recent days. Tlili was subsequently released without being charged, according to the North Africa Foreign Correspondents’ Club. On Wednesday, radio journalist Borhen Bsaies and opinion columnist Mourad Zeghidi were kept under pre-trial detention four days after they were apprehended. They were accused of violating a cybercrime law barring fake news and undermining state security…Political arrests have grown increasingly common since President Kais Saied took power five years ago but the frequency of developments this week sparked renewed fear in Tunisia and alarmed the country’s international allies. AP

Ousted Gabon President Ali Bongo Begins Hunger Strike
Gabon’s deposed President Ali Bongo and his two sons have begun a hunger strike, claiming they are being subjected to “acts of torture and barbarity,” according to the family’s lawyers. Bongo was ousted in a military coup last year. On August 30th, Minutes after the state electoral commission declared President Ali Bongo had won a third term, a group of top Gabonese military officials came on national television early on Wednesday and said they had taken power. They dissolved state institutions, including the Senate, National Assembly and Constitutional Court. Since then, he and his sons, Jalil and Bilal, have been confined to their home in the capital, Libreville. The junta has also imprisoned Ali Bongo’s wife, Sylvia Bongo, and their eldest son, Noureddin, who are awaiting trial on corruption charges. In a statement, their lawyers claimed that both Sylvia and Noureddin were beaten and strangled while in detention, BBC reported. They further alleged that Noureddin was tortured, whipped, and “even electrocuted with a taser”…The family’s lawyers have also filed a complaint with the Paris judicial court, just a week before Gabon’s junta leader, Gen Brice Oligui Nguema, is scheduled to visit France. Business Insider

Ranking Al-Shabaab Leader Surrenders in Somalia
A ranking member of the Al-Shabaab group [Sidow Ali Ibrahim] has surrendered in Somalia, with the Somali National Army (SNA) intensifying operations against the group, which is fighting to topple the fragile UN-backed federal government of Somalia…Within Southwest and Galmudug states, the number of al-Shabaab members renouncing violent extremism has increased, further confirming the positive impact made in the fight against the group…The al-Shabaab militants have been carrying out retaliatory attacks in different parts of the country but they seem to be overwhelmed following activation of military operations against them. The government has granted amnesty to those willing to surrender. Garowe Online

An Islamist Group Used Child Soldiers in Mozambique Attacks, Says Human Rights Watch
An Islamist group operating in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province used boys as young as 13 in attacks on a town last week and residents who were forced to flee the fighting recognized some of the child soldiers as their missing relatives, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. Al-Shabab, which is affiliated with the Islamic State group, has previously been accused by UN agencies of kidnapping children and using them as soldiers in its insurgency in the region, which began in 2017. A surge of attacks by insurgents in March left at least 70 children missing, according to local authorities and a group of aid agencies. Witnesses told the rights group that dozens of child soldiers were used in the attacks and were seen carrying AK-style assault rifles and ammunition belts…Recruiting children under the age of 15 as soldiers is a war crime under international law. AP

SA-Led SAMIM Leaves Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado after Some Success, but a Job Not Yet Completed
The SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) will formally leave the oil-rich Cabo Delgado province in July, three years after being deployed and after fighting militants 67 times between August 2021 and December 2023. But with only South African troops now left, the mission had not done enough, both analysts and recent events suggested…The Botswana and Lesotho contingents departed from Cabo Delgado in April, Namibia and Angola departed at the beginning of May, leaving only the SANDF. The SANDF contributed two-thirds of the force and funded the whole operation. With SAMIM disbanded, SANDF troops were due to remain until at least March next year, while the regional focus shifted to the SADC Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, SADC executive secretary Elias Magosi said. The SANDF force to remain in Mozambique, estimated to be about 200 down from about 1 400, will be dealing with illegal maritime activities. News24

Uganda, China Firm in Talks Over Power Line to South Sudan
Uganda is currently in talks with Sinohydro Corporation Limited, a Chinese firm, for the development of a $180 million power transmission line to allow Uganda export power to South Sudan. As part of the talks, a delegation led by Yang Yi Xin, Sinohydro Corporation’s vice president, met Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Monday, the office of the president said in a statement. The project will involve the construction of a 138-km (85.75 miles) high-voltage transmission line to take power to South Sudan, the expansion of two substations and construction of a new one…Museveni pledged his support for Sinohydro’s offer to develop the project…The Chinese firm is completing a $1.5 billion, 600 megawatt hydropower project on River Nile meant to be the source for the electricity exports to South Sudan. Sudan Tribune

A Swiss Court Sentences a Former Gambian Interior Minister to 20 Years for Crimes against Humanity
Switzerland’s top criminal court on Wednesday convicted a former interior minister of Gambia for crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 20 years over his role in murder, torture and other repression committed by the West African country’s security forces under its longtime dictator. Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Ousman Sonko, Gambia’s interior minister from 2006 to 2016 under then-President Yahya Jammeh. But legal rights groups, led by TRIAL International, which helped bring the case, hailed what they called a landmark decision involving a former government official for crimes against humanity, saying it could set a precedent for international justice…It cited repression of political opponents, journalists and suspected coup plotters under Jammeh’s 22-year rule. AP

Benin Provisionally Reverses Ban on Oil Exports from Niger
Benin has provisionally reversed its decision to block exports of crude oil from Niger via its port and agreed to hold a meeting between the two countries, the West African nation’s mines minister said on Wednesday. Last week in an escalation of tensions with its neighbour, Benin said it had blocked exports from landlocked Niger, demanding the junta-led country reopen its border to goods and normalise relations before crude shipments can restart…Relations between Benin and Niger have been strained since a July 2023 coup in Niger led the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to impose strict sanctions for more than six months. Trade flows in the region were expected to normalise after the West African regional bloc lifted sanctions to dissuade Niger from withdrawing from the political and economic union. But Niger has kept its borders closed to goods from Benin and not formally told Benin why it has done so, President Patrice Talon said in a statement last week. Reuters

In Post-coup Niger, Migration Becomes Legal Again
Since deposing the elected government last July, Niger’s ruling military government…expelled French soldiers from the country, repealed a 2015 law that had been a cornerstone of EU efforts to curb migration, and then cancelled two EU missions working with Nigerien security forces on a number of issues, including fighting jihadist militants and stopping the movement of people from West Africa toward Europe…In the northern Nigerien city of Agadez – long a waypoint for asylum seekers and migrants hoping to reach North Africa and Europe – last November’s repeal of the 2015 migration law is having a tangible effect…A report from the UN’s migration agency, IOM, recorded a combined 50% increase in movement across Niger’s northern borders with Algeria and Libya between December 2023 – when the anti-migration law was repealed – and January 2024, including a 94% increase in the number of people crossing to Libya. According to the IOM report, 75% of those making the journey were Nigeriens who were searching for work in North Africa. The New Humanitarian

Ethiopia, Qatar Senior Commanders Discuss Cooperation in Military Technology
A delegation led by Qatar’s Military Attaché to Ethiopia, Brigadier General Mohammed Ali Al Hajri met on Tuesday and discussed with Brigadier General Kebede Regasa, Ethiopian Defense University Commander, various issues including enhancing cooperation in military technology excellence between the two countries, according to Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF). During a visit to the Ethiopian Defense University, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ali Al Hajri saw the military academic activities being carried out by the university, including study and research areas, and commented that the activities were vital in increasing the country’s future modern military technological excellence in various military fields, according to ENDF’s readout of the event. The Commander further explained that by fostering a close relationship between the two countries, it was possible to create links in the military educational institutions in many areas of military technology, training, study, and research, among other fields. Addis Standard

UN Envoy Decries Continued Political Stalemate in Libya
The outgoing head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) urged leaders to end their stalemate and bring the country back on the path to peace and stability. UN News: What are the latest efforts by UNSMIL to reverse the intentional defiance to engage in earnest and a tenacity to delay elections in Libya? Abdoulaye Bathily: The High State Council, Presidential Council, Government of National Unity and the Libyan National Army are the structures today that can make peace or make war in Libya, who are at the heart of problem in the country. This is why, for us, this was seen as an inclusive mechanism which could bring a peaceful settlement, if they are willing to do so. Unfortunately, some of them have put conditions or preconditions. Also, they have been unfortunately supported by some outside players who have taken parallel initiatives which tended to neutralise our initiatives. As long as those same players are supported in one way or the other by outside players, we cannot have a solution…UN News: You also voiced concern over the presence of armed actors and heavy weaponry in the capital, Tripoli. Can you tell us more about the security situation there and in Libya in general? Abdoulaye Bathily: We all know that Libya today is almost an open supermarket of arms, which are used for internal political competition among armed groups, but also used in the arms deals, in the arms race and in the arms trade with their neighbours and beyond. The security situation is more and more concerning for the citizens because all these groups are competing for more power and more access to the wealth of the country, and therefore, their rivalries heighten the tensions throughout Libya and particularly in western Libya. UN News

More than Half of Zimbabwean Population Will Need Food Aid, Cabinet Says
More than half of Zimbabwe’s population will need food aid this year following a devastating drought that led to widespread crop failure as humanitarian organisations seek funding to save many from hunger, the country’s cabinet heard late on Tuesday…Zimbabwe is among the worst hit countries by the El Nino induced drought in Southern Africa, with Zambia and Malawi also facing food shortages this year. This is Zimbabwe’s worst drought in 40 years, according to the government. The latest crop assessment presented to the Cabinet of Zimbabwe also revised upwards Zimbabwe’s maize production deficit to 77% from last week’s predictions. Reuters

Communities in Kenya Fight Carbon Project That Sold Credits to Meta, Netflix
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