Africa Media Review for May 24, 2023

Chinese Hackers Attacked Kenya State Agencies
Chinese hackers targeted Kenya’s government in a widespread, years-long series of digital intrusions against key ministries and state institutions, according to three sources, cybersecurity research reports and Reuters’ own analysis of technical data related to the hackings. Two of the sources assessed the hacks to be aimed, at least in part, at gaining information on debt owed to Beijing by the East African nation which is a strategic link in the Belt and Road Initiative – President Xi Jinping’s plan for a global infrastructure network. “Further compromises may occur as the requirement for understanding upcoming repayment strategies becomes needed,” a July 2021 research report written by a defence contractor for private clients stated. … China’s influence in Africa has grown rapidly over the past two decades. But, like several African nations, Kenya’s finances are being strained by the growing cost of servicing external debt – much of it owed to China. “The hacking campaign demonstrates China’s willingness to leverage its espionage capabilities to monitor and protect economic and strategic interests abroad,” two of the sources said. The hacks constitute a three-year campaign that targeted eight of Kenya’s ministries and government departments, including the presidential office, according to an intelligence analyst in the region. Reuters

‘A Day without Press’ in Guinea as the Media Snubs Ruling Junta
Several private media and online outlets in Guinea launched a one-day boycott of news in protest at press and internet restrictions by the authorities. The protest was announced Monday after the ruling military shut down two radio stations owned by the Afric Vision group, limited access to popular websites and social media, and threatened to close any media that “undermines national unity.” “From 5AM, until now when I’m talking with you, there is no radio being broadcast, at least in FM band, and therefore TV is 100% down, except RTG (ed: Radio Television Guineenne), national television. And also, TV is the programs, the programs are down, it’s just the music, so for us it’s satisfying,” said Kemo Mansaré, President of ATPAG (Association of Professional Media and Audiovisual Technicians of Guinea). … The state has been run by the military since 2021, when President Alpha Conde was overthrown. The opposition has called for fresh demonstrations in the capital Conakry on Wednesday and Thursday. AFP

Russia’s Wagner Group Accused of Using Rape and Mass-Murder to Control an African Gold Mining Town
… long before the Wagner Group rose to global infamy in Ukraine, the mercenaries were active in parts of Africa, and they stand accused of committing similar atrocities there. Our CBS News investigation previously revealed how Wagner — designated a “transnational criminal organization” by the U.S. government — plunders mineral-rich nations including the Central African Republic (CAR) to fund its criminal and paramilitary activities, such as its role in the Ukraine war. To maintain control over lucrative gold mines and timber forests, the Wagner Group virtually runs the Central African Republic through fear and violence. … Faustin-Archange Toudéra has been the president of CAR since 2016. He’s protected by Wagner gunmen and, in exchange, the Russian company gets contracts to mine gold in the country. … CBS News has pieced together an account of the February 2021 massacre in the gold mining town of Bambari through eyewitnesses, whose names have all been changed to protect their identities. … “With the Wagner Group, there is no difference between civilians or army, male or female. There was a woman shot dead on the road and my brother was running to my mother to raise the alarm,” Usman told CBS News. “A sniper shot him as he was running. He was a civilian.” CBS News

Russia Criticised at UN as More Civilians Killed in War Zones
The number of civilians killed in armed conflict and their humanitarian aftershocks has skyrocketed, with the United Nations calculating nearly 17,000 recorded deaths last year in war zones — including almost 8,000 people killed in Ukraine alone — marking a steep 53 percent increase in civilian killings compared with 2021. Citing the number of people killed in the war in Ukraine and Sudan, schools destroyed in Ethiopia, and damage to water infrastructure in Syria, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that “the world is failing” to protect civilians. … French Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Riviere singled out alleged rights violations committed by Russia in Ukraine and by the Russian mercenary Wagner force in the Central African Republic and Mali. … United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the increase in civilian deaths shows the human toll of the war in Ukraine. The ambassador also accused Russia of pushing millions of people in Africa and the Middle East into food insecurity by using “food as a weapon of war in Ukraine,” including blocking Ukrainian grain shipments for months. Al Jazeera

Niger: France Is Testing Its New Military Approach in Africa
“In Niger and even globally everywhere in Africa, the philosophical position is different from what was done in Mali. Today our aid starts first from the need of the partner,” summarizes the commander of the French Forces in the Sahel ( FFS ), General Bruno Baratz. A change of paradigm necessary after the departure from Mali of the French soldiers of Operation Barkhane, under the pressure of a hostile junta which appealed to the Russian mercenaries of Wagner… “Niger serves as a laboratory for the French army for its renewed approach” , sums up Michael Shurkin, an American expert specializing in the tricolor military world. “France was waging its own war in parallel with what the Malian armed forces were doing. Today it wants to do things differently.” … “Today the command is Nigerien, master of the terrain and of the needs. We can only congratulate ourselves on this. The French bring us the military training, equipment, intelligence, and air resources that we lack”, underlines to AFP the former Nigerien Minister of Defense (2016-2019), Kalla Moutari. “We must leverage their presence and that of other partners, as the threat is increasingly rooted in central Mali and to the east and spills over into Niger.” … Cooperation works all the better because “Niger has a particularly effective counter-insurgency strategy”, which aims to “secure populations and allow the return of the State to areas contested by terrorist groups”, adds General Baratz. AfricaNews with AFP

Relative Calm in Sudan as Ceasefire Brings Some Respite from Fighting
Night-time airstrikes were reported in at least one area after the ceasefire started late on Monday, but residents otherwise reported relative calm. The truce was agreed at talks in Jeddah on Saturday after five weeks of fierce battles between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). It is being tracked by Saudi Arabia and the United States and is meant to allow for the delivery of humanitarian relief. The two countries said in a joint statement late on Tuesday that preparations had begun for urgently needed humanitarian relief operations. Sudanese activists wrote to the United Nations envoy to Sudan welcoming the ceasefire agreement but complaining of severe human rights abuses against civilians that they said took place as the fighting raged and should be investigated. … “The Jeddah talks have had a narrow focus. Ending violence and bringing assistance to the Sudanese people. A permanent resolution of this conflict will require much more,” Blinken said in a video message. The US-Saudi joint statement said the two Sudanese factions had failed to abide by commitments not to seek military advantage in the days before the truce began, and the monitoring committee was seeking to verify reported violations since it went into effect on Monday. Reuters

Eritrean Refugees Caught between Crisis at Home, Sudan Conflict
Bilal Hashem last heard from his friend, a fellow Eritrean, on April 19 in Kassala, a city in eastern Sudan near the Eritrean border. He was fleeing Sudan’s war-torn capital, Khartoum, to a refugee camp and to access aid from the United Nations. Then Hashem received an anxious call from his friend. “He said, ‘They grabbed me and took me off the bus.’ The line was then cut off,” Hashem, 26, told Al Jazeera from Sudan. “If he was in a refugee camp, then I would have heard news from him. But he’s not there.” Hashem’s friend could be among a number of Eritreans who have reportedly disappeared on the road to Kassala, raising fears that they have either been captured by Eritrea’s authoritarian government or by human traffickers after fleeing the fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). … With the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) confining its assistance to Eritreans in camps in Kassala, many are being forced to choose between accessing aid in an area where they risked being kidnapped or relocating where help is not available. Al Jazeera

Race against Time to Stop ‘Humanitarian Disaster’ among Sudan Refugees in Chad
Tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees, many of them children, who have crossed the border into Chad risk a “major humanitarian disaster” when the rainy season begins within weeks, a Red Cross official has warned. About 80,000 people have sought refuge in the country to the west of Sudan as weeks of fighting between two warring generals forces hundreds of thousands from their homes. But the refugees, mostly women and children, are arriving at such speed that the humanitarian operation on the ground will struggle to move them all to places of safety before the rains come in late June, potentially cutting off much of the remote border region. … The UNHCR wants to move refugees gathering in border areas to one of Chad’s 13 existing refugee camps and establish five new ones. Before the most recent conflict in Sudan, Chad was already hosting about 600,000 refugees, the largest refugee population in central Africa, including 400,000 from Sudan. Guardian

Cameroon: 30 Women Kidnapped by Anglophone Separatists
A group of 30 women were kidnapped by pro-independence rebels nearly four days ago in western Cameroon, which has been bloodied for more than six years by a conflict between separatists from the English-speaking minority and the security forces, according to authorities. They were “severely tortured and abducted by armed terrorists” in the village of Kedjom Keku, in the North West region, where armed separatist groups frequently kidnap civilians, mainly for ransom, the prefecture of the Mezam department said in a statement Tuesday. The authorities always use the word “terrorists” to refer to armed rebels demanding independence for the North-West and South-West regions, which they call “Ambazonia”, populated mainly by the English-speaking minority of this predominantly French-speaking central African country. … The day before their abduction, these “elderly” women were organising a “peaceful march to protest (…) against the exactions and criminal activities of the terrorists”, the Mezam prefecture said. AFP

Congo Files New Complaint to ICC against Rwanda’s Military and M23 Rebels
Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday made another formal referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure the court will focus on what it calls the systematic pillaging of its natural resources in eastern Congo by the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and the M23 rebel group. The ICC already has an ongoing investigation into eastern Congo since 2004 and it is not clear if the new referral would shift the court’s focus. “The government of the DRC remains deeply concerned about the suffering of the populations in the part of its territory affected by the acts referred to in this case,” Congo’s Justice Ministry said in a statement. The referral’s goal would be to investigate and prosecute any person involved in human rights violations between 2022 and 2023, it added. The Tutsi-led M23 rebel group launched a fresh offensive in eastern Congo in March last year, seizing towns and villages in the area that borders with Uganda. The fighting forced more than 1 million people to flee. Congo has accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the M23. Reuters

Ugandan Activists Say Future of Media Uncertain
A report in Uganda shows journalists there face a difficult present and uncertain future. Activists say while abuses and human rights violations against journalists decreased slightly last year, the media space remains hostile. The Human Rights Network for Journalists documented 94 cases of rights violations and abuses against Ugandan journalists and media practitioners in 2022. The reported cases involved assault, unlawful arrests and detention, denial of information, and sexual harassment of female journalists. The 2022 Press Freedom report, released Tuesday, says the Ugandan media is dealing with “an increased deterioration of democracy and the rule of law that has made it very difficult for journalists and media practitioners to thrive.” Robert Sempala, the national coordinator of the Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda, said many journalists practice self-censorship due to the fear of being arrested or harassed. VOA

US Says Al-Shabab Leader Injured in Airstrike in Somalia
Al-Shabab’s head of external operations was the target of the latest U.S. airstrike against the militant group, two sources, including an al-Shabab defector, told VOA Somali. Former al-Shabab official Omar Mohamed Abu Ayan told VOA that veteran military commander Osman Mohamed Abdi, known as Moallim Osman, was the target. The name of the target and his position was also confirmed by Somalia’s Ministry of Information in a statement issued Tuesday. The ministry said Moallim Osman oversees bringing foreign fighters into Somalia to help al-Shabab. He appears to have survived the airstrike, a spokesperson for U.S. Africa Command said. … Moallim Osman is a veteran commander who has held several positions within al-Shabab, including defense chief, according to a Somali official who requested anonymity because he does not have authorization to speak to the media. Somali officials also say he was involved in planning the group’s January 2016 attack against an African Union military base manned by Kenyan forces in El Adde. It remains the deadliest militant attack on peacekeepers in Somalia and is the hometown of Moallim Osman, according to Somali security sources. VOA

Trial for Senegal’s Main Opposition Leader Ends, Verdict Expected Next Week
A highly-anticipated trial of Senegal’s main opposition leader ended Tuesday evening with a verdict expected next week, a court said Wednesday. Ousmane Sonko is being tried for rape and death threats and could face up to 10 years in prison. If convicted, Sonko would be barred from running in next year’s presidential elections. The 20-hour hearing included testimonies from Sonko’s accuser, a woman working at a massage parlor, and a dozen witnesses. Sonko did not attend, remaining home in the southern city of Ziguinchor where he is the mayor. He will be sentenced in absentia. Sonko said he was protesting against injustice. He recently received a 6-month suspended prison sentence in a defamation case and declared he would no longer respond to court summonses. His supporters have called for demonstrations against the trial, which they say aim to prevent him from running for office. AP

Free Movement of People Still a Big Thorn as African Union Celebrates 60 Years
As the African Union celebrates its 60th anniversary on May 25, the noble idea of the free movement of people, goods and services is yet to be achieved. The continent started a week-long celebration from May 22 that will go on till May 28 but so far 46 out of the 55 member states have deposited the instruments of ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) launched in 2018 to promote the free movement of goods and services within the continent, The intra-Africa trade still remains at a meagre 15 percent. … Also known as “Africa Day”, May 25 has always been celebrated in what the release from the AU Secretariat says, “In recognition of the vision and milestone achieved towards an Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” … “It is also important that more countries ratify the free movement protocol because it is the people who move with their labour, skills, and services. We cannot be advocating the free movement of goods without commentary free movement of persons,” said Mr Yakubu. Nation