Africa Media Review for May 20, 2024

Sudan: El Fasher Women’s and Children’s Hospital Shelled, Multiple Injured
The specialized Women’s, Maternity, and Neonatal Hospital in El Fasher, North Darfur, was struck by heavy artillery fire from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on Sunday, injuring nine people and inflicting substantial damage to the facility. This attack comes amidst escalating violence in El Fasher, where fierce clashes between the Sudanese army, its allied armed movements, and the RSF have resulted in over 40 civilian deaths and 500 injuries in the past week. The RSF, aiming to seize control of the last remaining city in Darfur not under their control, have been accused of deliberately targeting populated areas in the town. A medical source reported that the shelling damaged the hospital’s water and power systems, as well as several wards and offices. They condemned the attack as a violation of international law and accused the RSF of intentionally targeting civilian areas to displace residents. Sudan Tribune

Sudan: Rights Bodies Urge Extension of Fact-Finding Mission’s Mandate
Rights groups have called for support towards a resolution that would allow the United Nations Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of its fact finding mission on Sudan for a year. The move, a statement noted, would allow the mission to pursue its work with regular updates to and interactive dialogues at the Human Rights Council…In October last year, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution establishing an independent fact-finding mission with a mandate to investigate abuses committed in the context of the war in Sudan and identify their perpetrators. Put forward by the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and Norway, the resolution was vehemently denounced by Sudan’s representatives before it was accepted. Sudan Tribune

Pentagon: U.S. Forces to Leave Niger by Mid-september
U.S. forces will withdraw from Niger by mid-September, officials from both nations announced Sunday…Instead of an agreement to extend the U.S. presence, four days of talks concluded with a deadline — Sept. 15 — for the exit of U.S. troops in accordance with the demands of Niger’s military junta, which came to power by coup last summer. U.S. officials suggested in a call with reporters Sunday that close military-to-military relations could weather the rupture and that they could eventually restore an American security presence in Niger, which has served as an important hub in the fight against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other militant groups in the region. The Washington Post

Turkey Sends Syrian Mercenaries to Niger to Secure Strategic Interests
Hundreds of Syrian mercenaries have been sent by Turkey to Niger in recent months to protect Ankara’s economic and military interests in the West African nation, a rights group and experts said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has researchers throughout Syria, reports that recruitment of Syrian fighters for deployment to Niger has been going on for several months…Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), a France-based advocacy group, said it has also documented such recruitments…Experts say Niger’s junta recognizes a continued need for security support, so they are increasingly relying on mercenaries deployed by Russia and Turkey…[Daniel Eizenga, a research fellow at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies] said the number of fatalities linked to attacks by Islamist militant groups in Niger has increased significantly since the junta took power in July 2023, arguing that coup leaders’ interests are not aligned with national interests in Niger. “The fact that they are inviting and courting these mercenary groups to come in is another example of exactly that,” he said. VOA

Mali Rebels Accuse Army, Wagner of Killing Civilians
An alliance of separatist rebel groups fighting Malian government forces on Saturday accused the army and Russian paramilitary group Wagner of killing 11 civilians earlier in the week. The Malian authorities did not respond to a request for comment from AFP about the allegations posed in a statement from the Permanent Strategic Framework for the Defense of the People of Azawad (CSP-DPA), an alliance of predominantly Tuareg armed rebel groups. The CSP-DPA said that Wednesday, the village of Tassik in the northern Kidal region “was targeted by a patrol of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group and the Malian army, who committed serious violations against the population.” The separatist alliance put the death toll at 11 civilians, whose bodies were discovered “burned,” with two more civilians reported missing. It added that the patrol had ransacked several stores and vehicles. AFP

It Was Once a Center of Islamic Learning. Now Mali’s Historic City of Djenné Mourns Lack of Visitors
The Grand Mosque of Djenné — the world’s largest mud-brick building — used to draw tens of thousands of tourists to central Mali every year. Now it’s threatened by conflict between jihadi rebels, government forces and other groups…Djenné is one of the oldest towns in sub-Saharan Africa and served as a market center and an important link in the trans-Saharan gold trade. Almost 2,000 of its traditional houses still survive in the old town…Mali’s conflict erupted following a coup in 2012 that created a power vacuum, allowing jihadi groups to seize control of key northern cities…The militants proclaimed allegiance to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Sidi Keita, the director of Mali’s national tourism agency in the capital of Bamako, says the drop in tourism was sharp following the violence. AP

Uganda Captures Bomb Expert of Islamic State-Allied Rebel Group
Uganda’s military has captured a commander of an Islamic State-allied rebel group who is an expert in making improvised explosive devices, or bombs, that the group has used to carry out deadly attacks in the past, the army said on Sunday. The insurgent, Anywari Al Iraq, a Ugandan, was captured in the jungles of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces is based, the military, Uganda People’s Defence Forces, said in a statement. During the operation, nine people including children were also rescued from an area in Ituri province in Congo’s east, the military said…The rebel ADF began as an uprising in Uganda but has been based in Congo since the late 1990s. It pledged allegiance to Islamic State in mid-2019 and is accused of killing hundreds of villagers in frequent raids over recent years. Reuters

Congolese Army Says It Has Foiled a Coup Attempt. Self-Exiled Opposition Figure Threatens President
Congo’s army said it foiled a coup attempt early Sunday and arrested the perpetrators, including several foreigners, following attacks on the presidential palace and the residence of a close ally of Congo’s president that left three people dead in the capital, Kinshasa. At first, local media identified the armed men as Congolese soldiers but then reported they were linked to self-exiled opposition figure Christian Malanga, who later posted a video on Facebook threatening President Felix Tshisekedi. Malanga was killed at the presidential palace after he resisted arrest by guards, Congolese army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Sylvain Ekenge told The Associated Press…[T]he self-exiled Malanga appeared in the live-streamed video at the presidential palace surrounded by several people in military uniform and said: “Felix, you’re out. We are coming for you.” AP

‘Bullet wounds are common’: crime rife in DRC’s rebel-besieged city of Goma
The rising insecurity in Goma follows the advance of the Rwandan-backed M23 rebels, which has trapped many thousands of Congolese soldiers as well as irregular pro-government fighters known as Wazalendo (“patriots” in Swahili) inside a radius of about 20 kilometres around the city…An offensive in February saw the militia cut off Goma’s last remaining overland supply route, which runs from the Rwandan border along the shore of Lake Kivu. Behind the frontlines, armed men – who are often unpaid by the militias they serve – have turned to robberies, extortion and rape, both inside the city limits and in the lawless tent cities that harbour about 700,000 displaced people outside…The authorities have attempted to crack down on the crime wave…[b]ut the measure means little in the crowded displacement camps on Goma’s periphery, where state control is almost absent. The Guardian

UN Experts Say South Sudan Is Close to Securing a $13 Billion Oil-Backed Loan from a UAE Company
U.N. experts say South Sudan is close to securing a $13 billion loan from a company in the United Arab Emirates, despite the oil-rich country’s difficulties in managing debts backed by its oil reserves. The panel of experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council that loan documents it has seen indicate the deal with the company, Hamad Bin Khalifa Department of Projects, would be South Sudan’s largest-ever oil-backed loan. The experts, who monitor an arms embargo against South Sudan, said in the oil section of the report obtained by The Associated Press this week that “servicing this loan would likely tie up most of South Sudan’s revenue (for) many years, depending on oil prices”…The panel of experts raised serious questions about South Sudan’s oil-based debts. AP

Tunisia Recovers Bodies of Four Migrants off Its Coast, Rescues Dozens
Tunisia recovered the bodies of four migrants off the country’s coast on Saturday, the national guard said, amid an increase in migrant boats heading from Tunisia toward Italy in recent weeks. The force said the coast guard separately rescued 52 migrants. The national guard arrested nine smugglers, and boats were seized. At least 23 Tunisian migrants were missing after setting off in a boat for Italy, the national guard said earlier on Saturday. Tunisia is facing a migration crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe. Reuters

Tunisian Rights Groups Say Freedoms Threatened under Saied’s Rule
Freedoms in Tunisia are being threatened under the rule of President Kais Saied and the authorities are using the judiciary and police to punish their opponents, 10 local rights groups said at a joint conference on Saturday. Police this month arrested 10 people, including lawyers, activists, journalists and officials of civil society groups, in what was described as a crackdown by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who called on the authorities to respect Tunisians’ right to free speech and civil liberties…Marking the 47th anniversary of the formation of the Tunisian Human Rights League, the 10 rights groups called at the conference in Tunis for a united front against what they called an unprecedented attack on freedoms. Reuters

Sub-Saharan Africa Is a Hotbed of Illicit Trade, UN Says
In the shadowy realm of wildlife trafficking, Sub-Saharan Africa emerges as a hotbed for illicit trade routes and clandestine operations fueling the multi-billion-dollar industry. Recent data contained in the World Wildlife Crime Report 2024 reveals this region accounts for a staggering 19 percent share of seizures of wildlife materials worldwide, underscoring its status as one of the most common sources of trafficked wildlife…Among the species groups targeted, pangolins bore the brunt with a staggering 32 percent share, highlighting the dire plight of these endangered creatures. Additionally, elephants, carnivores and pangolins illegally traded as scales, meat, bodies and also as live specimens; ranked among the top five species groups seized during this period, exposing the breadth and depth of the crisis. The EastAfrican

South Africa: Jacob Zuma Not Eligible to Stand for Parliament, ConCourt Rules
The Constitutional Court has ruled that former president Jacob Zuma is not eligible to stand for office in the National Assembly, just a day after he led the uMkhonto Wesizwe party’s official election manifesto launch…The court also ruled that the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) was empowered to make the decision to exclude Zuma, ahead of the elections. The IEC brought the case before the ConCourt on appeal from the Electoral Court. The main case relates to whether Zuma is eligible to appear as a National Assembly candidate for the party after the IEC initially ruled that he was barred from doing so due to an 18-month conviction for contempt of court. Section 47 of the Constitution states that a person who is convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment without an option of a fine is not eligible to be a member of the National Assembly. Daily Maverick

A Man Is Convicted in Malawi over a TikTok Video Showing a Caricature of the President Dancing
A man in Malawi was convicted of insulting President Lazarus Chakwera after posting a TikTok video that shows an animated figure with Chakwera’s face superimposed on it doing some wacky dance moves. Sainani Nkhoma was found guilty by a court on Thursday, which said he had posted the video and insulting comments about Chakwera in a community WhatsApp group…Chakwera, 69, was elected president of the southern African nation in 2020 after its Constitutional Court ordered an unprecedented rerun of the 2019 presidential election. Incumbent Peter Mutharika had initially been declared the winner of the 2019 vote but the Constitutional Court said there was evidence of widespread irregularities. AP