Africa Media Review for May 3, 2024

Russian Troops Enter Base Housing US Military in Niger, US Official Says
Russian military personnel have entered an air base in Niger that is hosting U.S. troops, a senior U.S. defense official told Reuters, a move that follows a decision by Niger’s junta to expel U.S. forces. The military officers ruling the West African nation have told the U.S. to withdraw its nearly 1,000 military personnel from the country, which until a coup last year had been a key partner for Washington’s fight against insurgents who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more. A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russian forces were not mingling with U.S. troops but were using a separate hangar at Airbase 101, which is next to Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger’s capital. Reuters

Armed Groups Besieging Towns in Northeastern Mali Driving Residents, Many Children, to Hunger
A humanitarian crisis is worsening in northeastern Mali where armed groups linked to Islamic State have besieged major towns leaving residents including some 80,000 children vulnerable to malnutrition…The town of Ménaka has been under siege for four months, driving up the prices of food. Other essential goods like medication are increasingly hard to find, residents and aid groups say…Col. Assimi Goita, who took charge in Mali after a second coup in 2021, promised to beat back the armed groups, but the United Nations and other analysts say the government has rapidly lost ground. AP

M23 Rebels Seize Key Smartphone Mineral Mining Town in Eastern Congo
[M23, a rebel group] with alleged links to Rwanda this week seized Rubaya, a mining town in eastern Congo known for producing a key mineral used in smartphones…The decades-long conflict in eastern Congo has produced one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with over 100 armed groups fighting for control of the mineral-rich area near the border with Rwanda…The town of Rubaya holds deposits of tantalum, which is extracted from coltan, a key component in the production of smartphones. It is among the minerals that was named last month in a letter from Congo’s government questioning Apple about the tech company’s knowledge of “blood minerals” being smuggled in its supply chain. AP

2 Nigerian Military Officers to Face Court Martial over Drone Strike That Killed Civilians
Two Nigerian military officers will face a court martial over a December drone strike that killed at least 85 civilians, the Defense Headquarters said on Thursday. The December 3 attack was one of the country’s worst airstrike errors. The Nigerian military acknowledged the drone accidentally struck a village in northwest Kaduna State, killing residents as they celebrated a Muslim festival. The military depends on aerial assaults to combat Islamic militants in the northeast and armed kidnapping gangs in the northwest…The United Nations human rights office said the drone strike was the latest of at least four airstrikes since 2017 that caused significant civilian fatalities. It called on the government to take steps to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. VOA

Egypt, Kuwait Call for End to External Interference in Sudan
In a diplomatic move aimed at ending the conflict, Egypt and Kuwait announced their rejection of foreign interference in the ongoing conflict in Sudan and called on the warring parties to stop the fighting that has been raging in the country for a year. This rejection came in a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the visit of the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to Egypt on Wednesday…The joint statement marks the first time two Arab countries have publicly condemned regional interference in the conflict. There are strong accusations against the UAE and Iran for supporting both sides. Sudan Tribune

Saudi Arabia Presses Sudanese Military for Ceasefire as War Worsens
On Wednesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan held separate phone calls with the President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemetti”. The Saudi Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Bin Farhan discussed the repercussions of the current situation on the Sudanese people with both military commanders. He urged them to commit to a ceasefire to prevent further civilian suffering and limit the aggravation of the devastating humanitarian situation…Saudi Arabia, alongside the United States, is leading mediation efforts to urge the two military commanders to end the war, which has been ongoing for over a year. Sudan Tribune

Attack on ICRC Convoy in Sudan’s South Darfur Kills Two Drivers, Injures Three
An attack by gunmen on a humanitarian convoy of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sudan’s South Darfur killed two drivers and injured three other staff on Thursday, the ICRC said in a statement. The team was on its way back from Layba to assess the humanitarian situation of communities affected by armed violence in the region when the incident occurred, the ICRC said. More than a year of war between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has driven at least 8.5 million people from their homes. Fighting tore through the capital and has unleashed waves of ethnically-driven violence in the western region of Darfur. Reuters

Sudan: Under Siege, El Fasher Teeters on the Brink of Famine
UN News’s Abdelmonem Makki spoke to Toby Harward, the UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, who described the deteriorating situation in the city, where he just returned from a recent mission. UN News: What is the significance of El Fasher? Toby Harward: El Fasher, or Fasher al-Sultan, as it is known, is the only city in Darfur that has not been captured by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and has a population of around 1.5 million, including about 800,000 internally displaced persons who fled to the city from across the five Darfur states during the earlier 2003 to 2005 Darfur war and during the latest war since April 2023. If the warring parties choose to fight for control of the city, it will have devastating repercussions on the resident civilians. Large numbers of civilians are going to lose their lives…There would be victims from every Darfur community, Arab and African, if the warring parties battle for control of El Fasher. Massive bloodshed of innocent civilians in El Fasher would lead to revenge attacks across the five Darfur states and beyond Darfur’s borders. UN News

South Sudan Peace Talks Looks Set to Start as Kenya Play Host
South Sudan’s peace talks between the government and the hold-out groups will begin on May 10 in Nairobi, signaling a new step to end perennial disruptions to the country’s rebuilding. A series of behind-the-scenes consultations that have been going on in the Kenyan capital to bring the government of South Sudan and the hold-out groups to the negotiation table, seems to have broken the impasse…Kenya’s mediation is led by former army commander Lazurus Sumbeiywo, the man who also successfully mediated the 2005 Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that helped set the stage for South Sudan’s later independence in 2011…These groups are called hold-outs because they refused to sign on the 2018 peace deal mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), that helped end a civil war between President Salva Kiir’s government and various armed groups that splintered continually since 2013. The EastAfrican

Kenya Appoints First Woman Air Force Head
Kenya’s President William Ruto has appointed the first female commander of the air force. Maj Gen Fatuma Gaiti Ahmed becomes the first woman in Kenya’s history to head one of the military services. She was appointed alongside other leaders including a new head of the armed forces, following the death of the military chief and others in a helicopter crash last month…Maj Gen Ahmed has previously held other firsts in the military leadership that is dominated by men – she was the first woman to rise to the rank of brigadier and major general…Her rise has been seen as an achievement in promoting gender equality in the armed forces. BBC

President Ruto Appoints Gen Charles Kahariri as New Military Chief
Kenya’s President William Ruto has promoted Lieutenant General Charles Muriu Kahariri to the rank of General and appointed him Chief of Defence Forces (CDF). He now takes over the post left vacant following the death of Gen Francis Ogolla in a helicopter crash…Before his promotion to the second highest rank in the military, Lt-Gen Kahariri was deputy commandant National Defence College. Only the Kenya Army Commander is in the rank of a Lt-Gen, with his counterparts commanding their units in the rank of major-general. The EastAfrican

South Africa: ANC National Disciplinary Committee Summons Zuma over MK Party Support
The ANC’s National Disciplinary Committee (NDC), chaired by former Public Service Commission chairperson Ralph Mgijima, has requested former president Jacob Zuma to appear for his disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, 7 May at Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg. According to a letter sent to Zuma by the ANC’s chief national presenter, Uriel Abrahamse, the former party leader faces two charges. The first is for contravening rule of the ANC’s constitution, which states that he acted “on behalf of or in collaboration with a political organisation or party other than an organisation or party in the alliance of the ANC in a manner contrary to the aims, policies and objectives of the ANC”. The second charge is that Zuma contravened rule 25.17.13 for “joining or supporting a political organisation or party other than an organisation in alliance with the ANC, in a manner contrary to the aims, objectives and policy of the ANC”.  Daily Maverick

Liberia Passes a Law Setting Up a Long-Awaited War Crimes Court
President Joseph Boakai on Thursday signed an executive order to create a long-awaited war crimes court to deliver justice to the victims of Liberia’s two civil wars, characterized by widespread mass killings, torture and sexual violence. Human rights groups have described how girls were subjected to gang rapes, while children were recruited to fight, often after witnessing the killing of their parents. The back-to-back civil wars killed an estimated 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. The legislation was passed by both the parliament and the senate, and signed off by a majority of lawmakers, including some who would face prosecution…Justice was a key issue in the presidential election last year, helping Boakai defeat soccer great and then President George Weah. AP

A New Form of Mpox That May Spread More Easily Found in Congo’s Biggest Outbreak
Congo is struggling to contain its biggest mpox outbreak, and scientists say a new form of the disease detected in a mining town might more easily spread among people. Since January, Congo has reported more than 4,500 suspected mpox cases and nearly 300 deaths, numbers that have roughly tripled from the same period last year, according to the World Health Organization. Congo recently declared the outbreak across the country a health emergency. An analysis of patients hospitalized between October and January in Kamituga, eastern Congo, suggests recent genetic mutations in mpox are the result of its continued transmission in humans; it’s happening in a town where people have little contact with the wild animals thought to naturally carry the disease. AP

KitKat Programme: African Farmers Earn More, but Not Nearly Enough for a Living Income
Nestle is expanding a programme that boosts the income of poor African farmers supplying cocoa for its KitKat bars, but which still leaves pay well short of growers’ needs. The Swiss food giant has enrolled 11 000 farming households in top grower Ivory Coast in a programme that pays a bonus of up to €500 a year to families which fulfill obligations such as putting their children in school and adopting high-quality pruning…Yet those in the programme still earn almost $3 000 a year below the amount of just over $7 500 that’s needed to live a decent life — a gap highlighting a systemic challenge for the cocoa industry. A legacy of low farmer pay has hindered West African growers from investing in plantations. That’s making it harder to cope with extreme weather and crop disease, risking supply crunches like the one that has sent prices soaring to a record high this year. Bloomberg News

Island Nation of Sao Tome and Principe to Ask Portugal for Colonial Reparations
The government of the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe will ask Portugal to repair the moral damages caused by colonialism, the country’s education and cultural minister said on Thursday. Speaking to Portugal’s Lusa news agency, minister Isabel Abreu said the Sao Tome and Principe government would draw up a plan to negotiate reparations with Portugal, adding the process would take time…It comes after Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, questioned by Reuters, said last week his country was responsible for crimes committed during transatlantic slavery and the colonial era, and suggested there was a need for reparations…For over four centuries, nearly 6 million Africans were kidnapped and forcibly transported across the Atlantic by Portuguese vessels and sold into slavery, primarily in Brazil. Reuters