Africa Media Review for May 26, 2023

Battles Rage in Sudan’s Darfur on Fourth Day of Truce
Fighting between forces loyal to Sudan’s rival generals on Friday rocked the western region of Darfur, witnesses said, on the fourth day of a fragile US-Saudi-brokered ceasefire. The one-week truce, the latest in a series of agreements that have all been systematically violated, was breached only minutes after it took effect on Monday night. There have since been further violations of the ceasefire, which is meant to allow for much-needed humanitarian aid to reach war-ravaged parts of the country, with the warring sides blaming each other. In El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, residents reported “battles with all types of weapons”, six weeks into a war between the regular army, led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). AFP

Sudan: UN and Partners Scramble to Supply Aid as Fragile Ceasefire Holds
The UN and humanitarian partners are mobilizing to reach as many people as possible while the stuttering ceasefire between warring military factions is being respected, said the UN Spokesperson on Thursday. Stéphane Dujarric told correspondents at the regular noon briefing that the opportunity to provide services and support to the millions of Sudanese who are suffering due to the six weeks of fighting between national army forces and their powerful rival militia, the RSF, was only feasible in areas where the ceasefire holds. Relative calm has prevailed since the truce was reached between the feuding generals, in Jeddah, a week ago, but news reports suggest that flare ups in recent days are threating the continuation of the United States and Saudi-monitored ceasefire. “The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that some 20 trucks carrying supplies from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are now on their way to different parts of Sudan today”, he said. UN News

Explosions as Ugandan Forces Battle Militants in Somalia
The militant al-Shabab group on Friday morning carried out an attack on a Ugandan troops’ base of the African Union Transition Mission (ATMIS) in Bulla Mareer district, in Lower Shabelle region in Somalia. The attack began shortly after morning prayers. It started with a large explosion, believed to be an explosives-laden vehicle. Buulo Mareer is about 110km (68 miles) from the capital, Mogadishu. Residents reported that after the big explosion, two more explosions occurred in the camp, before a fight started between the Ugandan troops and the attackers. Al-Shabab said they captured the camp and killed dozens of ATMIS soldiers, but there has been no independent confirmation of the group’s claim. ATMIS says its forces are currently assessing the security situation in the area but no word yet from the Somali government regarding the attack. BBC

US Sanctions 5 Al-Shabab Commanders, 4 Charcoal Smugglers
The United States has targeted mid-level al-Shabab commanders and multiple junior finance officers with new sanctions. The U.S. State Department designated five commanders of the Somali militant group as global terrorists, while the U.S. Treasury designated 26 individuals and entities, including charcoal smugglers. Four of the five sanctioned are accused of involvement in collecting taxes for al-Shabab and attacks on civilians and Somali forces. The U.S. reported that al-Shabab generates an estimated $100 million annually that is collected through illicit taxations, mandatory donations and extortions. Among the operatives newly sanctioned is Mohamed Siidow, who is described as a finance emir and a commander in the group’s armed wing, the Jabha. He is accused of overseeing illicit taxation operations in Aliyow Barrow village in the Lower Shabelle region. … Also designated were Ali Yare, Mohamed Dauud Gaabane, and Suleiman Abdi Daoud, all finance emirs in separate towns and villages in Lower Shabelle – possibly al-Shabab’s most lucrative region, through which many vehicles carrying commercial goods from Mogadishu pass. VOA

Libya: Air Strikes against Smugglers’ Sites – Government
The UN-recognised government of national unity, based in the Libyan capital Tripoli, announced on Thursday that it had carried out air strikes against smugglers’ sites in the west of the country. “Our national air force carried out (Thursday) morning precise and targeted air strikes against the hideouts of gangs of traffickers in fuel, drugs and human beings in the western coastal region”, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Thursday. The strikes carried out on the “orders of the head of government”, Abdelhamid Dbeibah, “successfully hit their targets”, it added in the text published on the Facebook page of the ministry’s press office, which gave no further details of the locations targeted. According to local media, the sites affected are on the outskirts of Zawiya, a coastal town 45 km west of the capital, which for several weeks has been the scene of clashes between armed groups engaged in human trafficking and other activities such as fuel smuggling. AfricaNews/AFP

Women Kidnapped by Separatists in Anglophone Cameroon Released
The women were released on Wednesday, having been captured days earlier in the country’s restive English-speaking region. The Cameroonian authorities said they had been abducted by “heavily armed terrorists” in the village of Kedjom Keku, in the North-West region, then “severely tortured”. The region has been racked for more than six years by a conflict between separatists from the English-speaking minority and the national security forces. According to the authorities, the women had been protesting against violence and illegal taxes levied by separatists. Local sources told RFI that the hostages had been released, several of them badly injured. Some were wounded by gunfire, they said, and one of them may have to undergo amputation. … In a statement published on Tuesday, the prefecture of the region said that armed separatist groups frequently kidnap civilians in the area, mainly for ransom. … The rebels, however, demand independence for the area they call “Ambazonia”, which is populated mainly by an English-speaking minority of the predominantly French-speaking country. RFI

Zimbabwe: Election Watchdogs Call for Reforms Before August Polls
Local election watchdogs have implored government to support the ratification of the African Charter with key electoral reforms necessary to achieve free, fair and credible elections. Zimbabwe is set to hold harmonised elections in August. In statements commemorating Africa Day, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) urged the government to implement electoral reforms to avoid another disputed election. “The government must implement electoral reforms in line with the dictates of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) which it ratified in 2022. “The implementation of electoral reforms in the spirit of the ACDEG is essential for improving and consolidating the quality of democracy, elections and governance in Zimbabwe,” ZESN said. … It also speaks strongly against ‘unconstitutional changes of governments’ and encourages ‘change of power based on the holding of regular, free, fair and transparent elections conducted by competent, independent, and impartial national electoral bodies’, most of which have been ignored by African leaders. New Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans Turn Towards Black Market as Inflation Rises
Zimbabweans are feeling the wrath of high inflation. The rate of inflation in the southern African country now stands at 131.7 percent in the month of May. Locals are now helpless as they are now forced to search for cheaper products as a way to survive the overpriced goods at major supermarkets. In these shops they call trucks, lie the solution to their demise as they can buy cheaper products compared top large supermarkets. “We buy at the truck shop because they are cheap, their price is not even expensive because there, in the big shops these days, they are expensive. Even their rate is less (than in supermarkets, ed.), at the truck shop they give us the good rates, that’s why we prefer to buy at the truck shop because they are cheap,” a customer said. Zimbabwe has endure years of fluctuating value of currencies worsened by adoption of US dollar. Many Zimbabweans are now shunning away from major stores that experience frequent fluctuating currency rates when converting to the local Zim Dollar. AfricaNews

Puntland Holds Municipal Elections as Opponents Cry Foul
Puntland, one of Somalia’s five Federal Member States, started local municipal council elections across the region in the northeastern portion of Somalia on Thursday, in spite of calls to delay them to build consensus. On Thursday, people started queuing for voting in 30 of the planned 37 districts while voting in three districts, including Garowe town, the capital of Puntland State, some 1000 km northeast of the Somali capital Mogadishu, was postponed. Officials cited security reasons. … The municipal elections here have been controversial and their planning was clothed in controversy. … A coalition of politicians known as Madasha Siyaasadda Puntland (Puntland Political Forum or the Forum) issued a statement on May 17, criticising the manner in which the election process is being handled, including the government of Puntland deciding to amend the state constitution’s article 46 so that the number of political organisations becoming official political parties rises from three to five. Nation

Security Council Urged to Step Up on Financing for AU Peace Operations
The UN political affairs chief on Thursday appealed for the Security Council to ensure reliable funding for African Union (AU) efforts towards greater peace and security on the continent. Briefing ambassadors on Africa Day, Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo presented the latest UN report on securing predictable, sustainable and flexible resources for AU-led peace support operations mandated by the Council. The changing nature of conflict in Africa has forced the partners to adapt their operations in response to new and evolving challenges. “The case for adequately financing AU-led peace support operations is beyond solid. We are therefore hopeful that the Security Council will agree to provide its backing, including allowing access to UN assessed contributions,” she said. The report lists the joint mission model and support packages delivered by the UN as the two most practical financing options, which would be authorized on a case-by-case basis. … Ms. DiCarlo gave an overview of AU and UN cooperation, noting that it has grown significantly since the signing of a 2017 joint framework on enhanced partnership in peace and security. UN News

Is the AU Failing in its Role as a Mediator?
Sixty years ago, the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the African Union, was established. Observers criticize that the organization has become a paper tiger. It was an era of awakening 60 years ago: Many African countries had just gained their independence, while others were about to. “When the Organization of African Unity was founded on May 25, 1963, it was a symbol of the liberation of African peoples and their hope for a happy future,” Adriano Nuvunga, a human rights activist and chairman of the Mozambican non-governmental organization CDD (Center for Democracy and Development), told DW. … Putting an end to foreign interference – this was the main message being shared; a unified Africa was supposed to help make that happen, with a strong voice on the international stage. The organization was designed to help safeguard peace and stability on the continent. Sixty years later, however, its successor organization, the African Union (AU), has repeatedly come under fire for failing to achieve that objective. Nuvunga agrees, saying that “(t)oday, the African Union is an organization that primarily represents the interests of the powerful. It is toothless and ineffective, and it repeatedly proves itself incapable of ensuring prosperity, security, and peace for all Africans.” Many in Africa share this criticism: Various civil society groups have attacked the AU on a regular basis for failing to fulfill its chief objective of ensuring peace and security on the continent. DW

Women Decision-Makers Can Improve Conservation and Agriculture, Study Shows
A new study shows that conservation and agricultural production can improve when women farmers widely participate in group decisions about sustainable practices. The report, published in February in Communications Earth & Environment, highlights that agricultural production and conservation outcomes improved among a study group when gender diversity was increased. The findings complement a growing body of research that highlights the important influence women can have in effective and efficient management of both natural resources and agricultural pursuits. The results were somewhat unexpected for the researchers, who had initially designed the study to examine the effectiveness of paying farmers monetary incentives to protect the environment. Their goal was to look at how farmers behave when confronted with conservation dilemmas. But they found that such payments are not necessarily reliable and may not translate to a “win-win” situation. … [T]he research showed both production (yield) and environmental preservation outcomes fared better in more educated groups, more gender diverse and that better-represented women. Premium Times

Sierra Leone’s Symbolic ‘Cotton Tree’ Destroyed in Rain Storm
A centuries-old, towerintree that served as a historic symbol in Sierra Leone has been felled during a wind and rain storm in the capital Freetown, the government said on Thursday. The 70-metre (230-foot) Ceiba pentandra — lovingly known by Sierra Leoneans as “Cotton Tree” — lost all of its branches late Wednesday, with only the base of its enormous trunk still standing, a government statement said, citing “torrential rains and high winds”. It estimated the tree to be around 400 years old. “All Sierra Leoneans will pause for thought at the loss of such a prestigious national symbol as Cotton Tree,” President Julius Maada Bio said. “For centuries it has been a proud emblem of our nation, a symbol of a nation that has grown to provide shelter for many.” According to legend, slaves who won their freedom fighting on the British side of the American War of Independence prayed under the tree when they arrived in West Africa. AfricaNews/AFP