Africa Media Review for May 24, 2024

Kenya’s Ruto Visits Washington: A New Era of Diplomacy?
Kenyan President William Ruto’s visit to the White House…is the first state visit by an African leader to the US in 15 years, highlighting Kenya’s growing significance in East Africa’s geopolitical landscape. “Kenya has always been a strong ally of the US back to the period right before independence,” Ken Opalo, an Africa specialist and professor at Georgetown University told DW. However, he noted that the “low levels of trade between the two countries” have proven a weak link — a gap the proposed Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) aims to bridge by enhancing commercial relations and laying the groundwork for stronger economic engagement…Security cooperation has also emerged as a cornerstone of Nairobi-Washington relations. In a joint press conference, US President Joe Biden announced that he is “working with Congress to make Kenya a major non-NATO ally”…Kenya plays a crucial role in countering terrorism in the region, especially in the fight against al-Shabab in Somalia. The US in turn provides substantial security assistance to Kenya, including military equipment and intelligence support, while also addressing its own broader strategic goals for East Africa…Last year, both countries signed an agreement that will guide defense relations for the next five years as al-Shabab continues to drive violence in the region…”Kenya continues to face security threats from al-Shabab. American assistance would go a long way in helping security forces tackle these threats,” Opalo said. DW

Kenyan Police Arrival in Haiti Delayed, Kenya’s President Ruto Affirms Commitment
The deployment of the first Kenyan police officers to Haiti to lead an international anti-gang force has been delayed after a planned flight from Nairobi was postponed on Tuesday, two sources briefed on the matter told Reuters. U.S. officials had previously indicated that the officers would be in Port-au-Prince by Thursday to coincide with Kenyan President William Ruto’s state visit to the White House. Speaking at a joint news conference with U.S. President Joe Biden, Ruto reiterated Kenya’s commitment to sending the officers to Haiti…The mission, which will comprise up to 2,500 personnel, is intended to counter gangs who control most of Port-au-Prince and have carried out widespread killings, kidnappings and sexual violence. Reuters

Sudan: Mass Exodus from Abu Shouk Camp as Violence Escalates in El-Fasher
Amidst escalating violence and widespread abuses by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an estimated 60% of residents have fled the Abu Shouk camp in El-Fasher, North Darfur. The camp, home to approximately 400,000 displaced persons, was overrun by the RSF on Wednesday, triggering a wave of killings, lootings, arrests, and arson…Adam Rijal, spokesperson for the Coordination of Displaced Persons and Refugees in Darfur, told Sudan Tribune that the exodus began early Thursday morning, with thousands fleeing the northern sections of the camp “to unknown areas”…El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, has been engulfed in bloody conflict for two weeks between the army, allied armed movements, and the RSF, resulting in a significant civilian death toll. In a surprising development, an army position in northern El-Fasher abruptly withdrew, citing ammunition shortages, inadvertently allowing the RSF to infiltrate the Abu Shouk camp. Sudan Tribune

Chad’s Deby Sworn In as President as Allamaye Halina Named New PM
Mahamat Idriss Deby, has been sworn in to succeed his late father after three years as an interim leader under military rule in the northcentral African country. Shortly after, the country announced that Allamaye Halina would assume the post of prime minister after Succes Masra announced his resignation from the position this week…Deby won a sweeping 61 percent of the May 6 vote that international NGOs said was neither credible nor free. He was proclaimed transitional president in April 2021 after rebels killed his father, Idriss Deby, who had himself ruled Chad since a coup in the early 1990s. Deby was quickly endorsed as transitional leader by an international community led by France, whose forces in recent years have been removed by military regimes in former colonies Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. France currently has 1000 soldiers in Chad. The swearing-in on Thursday…[made] official what the opposition has denounced as a Deby dynasty, accusing the clan and its allies of controlling the main institutions of power…Eight African heads of state and foreign dignitaries, including Franck Riester, France’s minister for foreign trade and Francophonie, attended Deby’s swearing-in ceremony. Al Jazeera

Zuma Says He Will Fight for His Rights over South Africa Election Disqualification
South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that he will fight for his rights, after the country’s top court ruled that he was not eligible to run for parliament in next week’s election. The constitutional court ruled on Monday that Zuma’s 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court in 2021 disqualified him from standing in the May 29 vote, as the constitution prohibits anyone given a prison sentence of 12 months or longer from holding a parliamentary seat. Decisions of the constitutional court cannot be overruled. “Judges of the constitutional court have taken a decision that I can’t exercise my freedom, my democracy,” Zuma said in a YouTube video shared by his uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party. “I am going to fight for my rights until this country agrees that freedom must be a complete freedom, not for some and oppression for others.” While Zuma’s name will be removed from MK’s list of parliamentary candidates, his face will remain on the election’s ballot papers as he is the registered leader of the party. Reuters

South Africa’s Democracy Is Turning 30 – but a Silent Crisis Threatens Its Hard-Fought Gains
Despite substantial education funding, South African students consistently rank among the lowest in global assessments of literacy and numeracy skills. Out of the 50 countries of a well-respected assessment of fourth graders, South African students ranked last – more than 80% of 9- to-10-year-olds in the country cannot read for meaning…The apartheid education system was a convoluted and racist bureaucracy that had to be undone. There were not enough trained teachers and certainly not enough classrooms. Now, more than 98% of children aged seven to 14 are in school, according to government statistics…But education experts say that ignores falling standards and high dropout rates… [Ann Bernstein, the executive director of the Centre of Development and Enterprise, an independent think tank] says that South Africa has made meaningful progress in education, but that those gains have slipped in recent years due to corruption, politics, and a lack of political will. CNN

In South Africa, a Community Struggling for Clean Water Reflects Wider Discontent Ahead of Election
On days when a municipal truck comes to Hammanskraal to deliver drinking water, a queue of South Africans starts forming early in the morning to fill their buckets. This is not a distant, rural community, but a township on the edge of the administrative capital city of Africa’s most advanced economy…Hammanskraal’s problems — a lack of clean water, a shortage of proper housing and high unemployment — are a snapshot of the issues affecting millions and driving a mood of discontent in South Africa that might force its biggest political change in 30 years in next week’s national election. AP

‘Now Is the Time to Unleash Africa’s Peace Power’ Guterres Tells Security Council
“Now is the time to unleash Africa’s peace power,” [UN Secretary-General António Guterres] said, opening a debate on its critical role in addressing global security and development challenges, convened by Mozambique, the Council president for May…Mr. Guterres outlined three steps to strengthen Africa’s peace leadership, both on the continent and on the global stage…Secondly, African participation and leadership must be embedded across “the global peace and security architecture”. He stressed the need to reform the UN Security Council and other global institutions that were established following the Second World War, which are now outdated. Structural inequalities have resulted in African states suffering disproportionately from the effects of conflicts, an unjust global financial system, and the climate crisis…The Secretary-General insisted that Africa deserves a voice in the global peace and security architecture. UN News

With No Flights before Election, UK’s Rwanda Migrant Scheme May Never Get Off Ground
The controversial plan to fly thousands of asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda may never get off the ground, after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Thursday that there would be no deportations before a national election in July. After taking office in October 2022, Sunak made the plan to send migrants who arrived in Britain without permission to the East African nation one of his flagship policies, saying it would put an end to thousands of asylum seekers coming on small boats across the Channel. In April, Sunak promised the first flights would take off in the next 10 to 12 weeks, after parliament finally passed a law designed to get round legal obstacles that had held up the plan for more than two years. But, after announcing on Wednesday that Britain would go to the polls on July 4, he said there would be no departures before the vote. Instead, his message was that only by re-electing him would the Rwanda scheme – popular with some voters whose support the Conservatives need in order to win – get up and running…The opposition Labour Party, currently about 20 points ahead in opinion polls and seen as likely to defeat Sunak’s Conservatives, has promised to scrap the scheme if it wins. Reuters

EU Anti-piracy Force Frees Ship from Suspected Pirates off Somalia
The European Union’s anti-piracy force in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea said on Friday the Liberian-flagged merchant vessel Basilisk had been freed from suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia and its 17 crew members were safe. The ship was attacked by suspected pirates on Thursday around 380 nautical miles east of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu while sailing north, the EU Naval Force said in a statement. The EU said its forces boarded the Basilisk from a helicopter on Thursday night, having sent one of its Operation Atalanta warships to respond earlier in the day…Somali pirates caused chaos in the waters off the east African country’s long coastline between 2008 and 2018, but had been dormant until late last year when pirate activity started to pick up again. Reuters

Ivory Coast’s Regulator Weighs Options against Fraudulent Cocoa Certification
Ivory Coast’s market regulator is planning to introduce measures aimed at curbing fraud related to fairtrade certified cocoa contracts, its managing director, Yves Brahima Kone, said on Thursday. The Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) suspended sales of fairtrade certified contracts last month after recording an exponential increase in certified cocoa. “This year, we have found that 97% of our cocoa is Fairtrade certified. That’s not possible, and you can’t make me believe otherwise,” Kone said at a meeting with cooperatives and buyers at the regulator’s headquarters in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan. He said around 50% of cocoa was usually getting certification in the recent years and that buyers and cooperatives were using this program to push multinational companies into overpaying. If their cocoa is certified, buyers can receive a premium of 200 CFA francs on top of 80 CFA francs per kg guaranteed by the regulator. To put an end to fraudulent contracts, the regulator is considering an option to limit the number of cocoa buyers to 30 from more than a thousand. Buyers and cooperatives told the regulator the solution would be to raise the buyers’ margin from the current 80 CFA francs per kg to 200 CFA francs. Reuters

‘Our Green Is Brown’: The Eco-Friendly Sahel Golf Club Avoiding the Water Hazard
Golf Club Naba Gninbolbo was constructed and conceived in 1975 by the village chief of Balkuy along with a German friend…“Burkina is a Sahelian country, water is a scarce commodity, we cannot afford a club with grass. We want to play golf, but in our reality,” [says Salif Samaké, the president of the Burkinabé golf federation]. Golf courses are famously incredibly hungry for water…In Burkina Faso only 47% of the population has access to clean drinking water close to home, according to the NGO WaterAid West Africa. There is rain, about 700mm to 800mm of rain a year, but the infrastructure for storage is poor…The greens at the golf course are not lawns, but are made instead from a mixture of sand and used motor oil, which prevents the sand from being blown away by the wind, making it more compact. The wildlife is all welcome. Cows, sheep and goats wander through the course as if it is their home, and during the rainy season (from June to September), they are responsible for eating the grass. They belong to a small fula village (an ethnic group historically known for their nomadic lifestyle and close relationship with cattle) that has become integrated into the golf club circuit…The club has about 60 players, most of them Burkinabé, but it also employs a large number of local young people as caddies…”[W]e…coexist with the animals that sleep on the greens at night,” says Samaké, adding: “We play with the earth, the dust, with the nature we have, we haven’t cut down a single tree.” The Guardian