Africa Media Review for May 22, 2023

Sudan’s Warring Groups Agree to 7-Day Cease-Fire
Sudan’s warring parties have agreed to a seven-day cease-fire beginning on Monday, Saudi Arabia and the United States announced late Saturday, the first truce to be signed by both parties in a conflict that has raged for over a month, leaving millions of people across the northeast African nation in a dire humanitarian crisis. The truce was announced more than two weeks after representatives of the rival factions — the Sudanese Army controlled by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan — began talks in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. On Saturday, the sides promised to stop their forces from occupying new areas; to refrain from detaining or threatening civilians; and not to impede aid groups and workers from providing lifesaving assistance. The warring groups also agreed not to loot civilian properties or humanitarian supplies, nor to seize critical infrastructure such as electricity, fuel and water installations. … Previous cease-fire announcements, including one brokered by the United States and another by South Sudan, have faltered, leading to a mounting death toll and a vast displacement of people. To ensure that the latest cease-fire holds, a monitoring committee consisting of representatives from Saudi Arabia, the United States and the warring factions will be established. New York Times

Rebel or Bandit? His Life Illuminates Ethiopia’s Hidden Insurgency.
Nothing illustrates the violence and intrigue that has engulfed southern Ethiopia like the life of Fekade Abdisa. A rebel and former prisoner, Fekade has also been called a bandit chief and double agent. Residents say that bloodshed follows in his wake and that his fighters have frequently killed civilians belonging to the Amhara ethnic group, triggering reprisal attacks. Although he is only one player in a much larger story, his life illuminates the emergence of Ethiopian fighters with shifting, and even unclear, allegiances whose violence continues to roil Oromiya, the country’s largest and most populous region. The long-running insurgency in Oromiya has been largely overshadowed by the civil war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, which came to an end with a November peace deal. But the conflict in Oromiya has claimed thousands of civilian lives and fueled an explosive growth in ethnic militias, representing a far greater long-term threat to Ethiopia’s integrity and stability. Washington Post

AU Gears Up for 60th Bash
The African Union celebrates its 60th anniversary on May 25, commemorating its achievements in the last six decades, from the time it was known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU). … “It is important for us to work assiduously to ensure that these guns are silenced. One of the reasons we are failing to achieve the targets is that some of these things are still within isolated individual countries’ perspectives, and the only way to deal with insecurity is to work together. There is no single African country that can deal with the issue of insecurity on its own,” said [Hardi Yakubu, a Ghanaian who is the coordinator of “Africa Rising]. … In 2013, while marking the 50th Anniversary, African leaders came up with the Silencing of the Gun initiative as part of the African Agenda 2063 with the leaders resolving not to pass the burden of conflict to future generations. The objective was to free the African continent of wars, civil conflicts, humanitarian crises, human rights violations, gender-based violence, and genocide. … Retired Ugandan diplomat, Harold Acemah, said that he is not surprised that the Au failed to meet the 2020 target because trends show that just like in the 1970s and 1980s, Africa is reverting to a situation where power comes from the barrel of the gun, not the ballot. “What is happening in Sudan now and what happened in Ethiopia not long ago show that the struggle for democracy in Africa has fallen on hard times and instead of marching forward, Africans appear to be marching back to the era of military coups and countercoups,” said Mr Acemah. The EastAfrican

Trafficking in the Sahel – Guns, Gas, and Gold
Chili peppers, fake medicine, fuel, gold, guns, humans, and more are being trafficked via millennia-old trade routes crisscrossing the Sahel, and the UN and partners are trying out new, collaborative ways to thwart those attempting the illegal practice, a growing problem in this fragile African region. In the first of a series of features exploring the fight against trafficking in the Sahel, UN News takes a closer look at what’s behind the growth of the phenomenon. … The Sahel is described by the UN as a region in crisis: those living there are prey to chronic insecurity, climate shocks, conflict, coups, and the rise of criminal and terrorist networks. UN agencies expect that more than 37 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2023, about 3 million more than in 2022. UN News

Mauritania’s Ruling Party Wins Local and Legislative Polls Ahead of Presidential Contest
The elections were the first since 2019, when President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani came to power. He has overseen the West African country’s relative stability in the increasingly violent Sahel region and is widely expected to seek re-election in 2024, although he has not confirmed his plans. Ghazouani’s El Insaf party was the favourite to win among the 25 parties vying for the backing of the country’s 1.8 million voters. El Insaf took 80 of the 176 seats in parliament, announced the head of the independent electoral commission (CENI), Dah Abdel Jelil. Thirty-six other seats went to parties allied to the president and 24 to the opposition, nine of them to the Islamist Tewassoul movement. … Ghazouani, 66, is a general considered one of the main architects of Mauritania’s success against jihadism, in his former role as army chief. His party was the only one to field candidates in all constituencies in this month’s parliamentary and local polls. This was forecast to give him a boost in next year’s presidential ballot, in particular with the vast, arid country’s rural electorate. AFP

Russian Mercenaries Behind Slaughter of 500 in Mali Village, UN Report Finds
Published last week after an extensive human rights fact-finding mission conducted over several months by UN staff in Mali, the report gives an hour by hour account of events during a five-day military operation in Moura in March 2022, giving details of the worst single atrocity associated with the Kremlin-linked Wagner group outside Ukraine. Investigators from the UN human rights office concluded that there are strong indications that more than 500 people were killed – the majority in extrajudicial killings – by Malian troops and foreign military personnel believed to be from Wagner, a mercenary outfit run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, which was linked to the massacre by internal messages obtained by the Guardian last year. The new allegations again underline the extent of human rights abuses blamed on Wagner, which has also operated in at least six other African countries as well as Libya and Syria. … Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s regional director for west and central Africa, said what happened in Moura could constitute crimes under international law. Guardian

Peace, Food, and Fertilizer: African Leaders’ Challenge Heading to Talks with Moscow, Kyiv
A delegation of six African leaders set to hold talks with Kyiv and Moscow aim to “initiate a peace process,” but also broach the thorny issue of how a heavily-sanctioned Russia can be paid for the fertilizer exports Africa desperately needs, a key mediator who helped broker the talks said in an interview with The Associated Press. Jean-Yves Ollivier, an international negotiator who has been working for six months to put the talks together, said the African leaders would also discuss the related issue of easing the passage of more grain shipments out of Ukraine amid the war and the possibility of more prisoner swaps when they travel to both countries on what they’ve characterized as a peace mission. The talks will likely be next month, Ollivier said. … Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have both agreed to separately host the delegation of presidents from South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zambia. AP

South Africa Looking at Options to Avoid Vladimir Putin Arrest Warrant
Mr. Putin’s planned visit to the August summit of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has thrown the host country into a quandary. Most experts say the South African government is obliged to enforce ICC arrest warrants on its territory, since it signed the court’s treaty, the Rome Statute, and incorporated it into domestic law. Court rulings in South Africa and at the ICC’s appeals chamber have reached the same conclusion. … Legal rights groups are planning court action to force South Africa to execute the arrest warrant. But the government is desperate to avoid taking any steps against the Russian President, in order to preserve its cherished role in BRICS and its increasingly warm relationship with Moscow. … Mark Kersten, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of the Fraser Valley who has written extensively on ICC issues, said a Putin visit to South Africa would damage both the ICC and the rule of law in South Africa itself. “Rightly or wrongly, every time a wanted person travels in defiance of the warrant, it saps the real and perceived legitimacy of the ICC,” he told The Globe. “A visit would sap the ICC’s credibility, but perhaps the more significant impact would be on the credibility of South Africa’s courts.” Globe and Mail

Ghana IMF Loan: Will $3Bn Solve the Economic Crisis?
Ghana, one of the world’s biggest producers of both gold and cocoa, is suffering its worst economic crisis in a generation, with the price of goods rising at an average of 41% over the past year. It has just signed a new bailout programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) worth $3bn (£2.4bn) over three years to help ease the problems and is expected to receive the first tranche of $600m soon, but how much difference will that make? Ghana, long seen as one of Africa’s best run countries, has been struggling to recover from the combined effects of the global Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine. President Nana Akufo Addo himself admitted last October that the country was “in crisis” citing “malevolent forces [that] have come together at the same time.” … The rate at which the price of goods is rising, or inflation, is on a downward path, but it is still very high at 41% and many families are battling to make ends meet. The size of Ghana’s debt is now almost 90% of the total annual value of its economy. The government had defaulted in the payment of its loans, and it had to restructure its debt with creditors to qualify for the IMF bailout. BBC

Global Carbon Market in Turmoil After Zimbabwe Grabs Offset Money
A government claiming half the revenue from privately-backed efforts to protect forests and cut emissions might throw carbon credit projects around the world into doubt. … The global market for carbon offsets is worth about $2 billion today and projected to grow to as much as $1 trillion in 15 years even as it faces fundamental questions about credibility and effectiveness. Add government appropriation to the list of risks for this climate solution. A shock announcement this week that Zimbabwe will take half of all revenues generated from offsets projects developed on its territory is a harbinger of an uncertain future in the carbon trade. The African nation is the world’s 12th largest creator of offsets, with 4.2 million credits from 30 registered projects last year, according to BloombergNEF. Bloomberg

‘You Can’t Unsee It’: The Content Moderators Taking On Facebook
By his own estimate, Trevin Brownie has seen more than 1,000 people being beheaded. In his job, he had to watch a new Facebook video roughly every 55 seconds, he says, removing and categorising the most harmful and graphic content. On his first day, he recalls vomiting in revulsion after watching a video of a man killing himself in front of his three-year-old child. After that things got worse. … “You don’t see that on Facebook as a user. It is my job as a moderator to make sure you don’t see it.” … Brownie is one of several hundred young people, most in their 20s, who were recruited by Sama, a San Francisco-based outsourcing company, to work in its Nairobi hub moderating Facebook content. A South African, he is now part of a group of 184 petitioners in a lawsuit against both Sama and Facebook owner Meta for alleged human rights violations and wrongful termination of contracts. The case is one of the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, but one of three being pursued against Meta in Kenya. Together, they have potentially global implications for the employment conditions of a hidden army of tens of thousands of moderators employed to filter out the most toxic material from the world’s social media networks, lawyers say. … Should they succeed, they could lead to many more in places where Meta and other social media providers screen content through third-party providers, potentially improving conditions for thousands of workers paid comparatively little to expose themselves to the worst of humanity. Just as toiling on factory floors or inhaling coal dust destroyed the bodies of workers in the industrial age, say the moderators’ lawyers, so do those working on the digital shop floor of social media risk having their minds ruined. FT