Africa Media Review for May 31, 2023

Sudan Army Suspends Truce Talks with Paramilitary Rivals, Says Official
US and Saudi mediators said late Monday that the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had agreed to extend by five days a humanitarian truce they had frequently violated over the previous week. But despite their pledges, fighting flared again on Tuesday both in greater Khartoum and in the flashpoint western region of Darfur. “The army is ready to fight until victory,” army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan declared during a visit to troops in the capital Tuesday. The RSF, led by Burhan’s deputy-turned-foe Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, said they will “exercise their right to defend themselves” and accused the army of violating the truce. … Sudan could descend into “total civil war,” warned the Forces for Freedom and Change, the main civilian bloc ousted from power by Burhan and Daglo in a 2021 coup before the two men fell out. AFP

As New Conflict Unleashes Darfur’s Old Demons, Those Who Can Flee to Chad
As clashes continue between the military forces vying for political power in Khartoum, some of Sudan’s worst violence has taken place in the western region of Darfur, with those fleeing to Chad describing desperate civilians cut off from help and struggling to escape fighting between rival militias. In El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, hundreds have died in urban battles between Arab and non-Arab militias in a city largely vacated by the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – the main rivals battling each other in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan. The fighting has cut power and water supplies, with markets, hospitals, government buildings, and humanitarian offices all looted. Camps for internally displaced – set up after bouts of conflict in the early 2000s – have been burnt to the ground by militia aligned with the RSF. “All hospitals and clinics are closed; civilians are dying for lack of care,” said Abdulazim Malik Adam, who until recently was a medical student at the University of El Geneina. New Humanitarian

Burkina Faso: Nearly 40 Dead in 2 Jihadist Attacks
About 40 people, including army auxiliaries, were killed last weekend in western Burkina Faso, during two attacks by suspected jihadists, security and local sources told AFP on Tuesday. On Saturday, “a secure convoy” was “the target of an attack by armed men” near Bourasso, informs a press release from the governorate of the Boucle du Mouhoun region, near Mali. “This attack caused the death of about twenty people, mainly VDP (Volunteers for the defense of the homeland, civilian auxiliaries of the army),” said a local official who requested anonymity. … On Sunday, “another group (of presumed jihadists) attacked the populations of Ouakara, still in the Boucle du Mouhoun region, causing innocent victims among the inhabitants”, continued this same source, specifying that ” operations are underway to secure the populations.” “We recorded about twenty people killed by the attackers who burst into the village of Ouakara,” located about 100 km from Bourasso, a resident told AFP, adding that “the balance sheet is provisional.” AfricaNews with AFP

DRC Accuses Rwanda and M23 of Planning Attack on Goma
The Congolese army spokesman, General Sylvain Ekenge, affirms that movements of the Rwandan army and the M23 rebellion are underway in the province of North Kivu with a view, according to him, “to attack the city of Goma.” … The army spokesman specifies that recruits have just “completed their training in Rwanda and at Tchanzu (hill near the Rwandan border)” and are deployed at the exit of Goma, in Kibumba and Rugari, areas supposed to be “under control of EAC force.” The main sticking point between the DRC and its neighbors is the mandate of this force, which the Congolese authorities accuse of complacency towards the rebellion. In early May, at a summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi condemned the “observed cohabitation” between EAC troops and “M23 terrorists.” Following the announcement of possible troop dispatch by SADC countries, President Tshisekedi said the East African force could be asked to leave the country at the end of June – just three months after its full deployment – because “the mission assigned to this force is not fulfilled.” AfricaNews with AFP

Central African Republic Plans Referendum on Scrapping Presidential Term Limits
Central African Republic’s President Faustin-Archange Touadera said on Tuesday he would hold a referendum in July on his intention to change the constitution and remove term limits. Touadera’s allies proposed the change in May last year, arguing that presidential term limits were uncommon in many neighbouring countries. Critics and opposition parties held protests last year as the reform would allow Touadera to run again in 2025 for a third term. The president installed a commission to draft the proposed changes in September. But the country’s top court ruled the committee unconstitutional and annulled it. In an address to the nation on Tuesday, Touadera said a draft of the new charter would be submitted to a referendum. … A presidential decree issued later on Tuesday said the referendum would start on July 15 and end on July 28. … The proposed reform echoes constitutional and other legal changes that have allowed presidents in several other African countries – including Rwanda, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast and Guinea – to stay in office. Reuters

Opposition Sues South Africa Government to Force Putin Arrest
South Africa’s leading opposition party said on Tuesday it had taken legal action to force the government to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he were to attend a planned summit in the country. In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin – over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children – who is to visit Cape Town for a Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) bloc meeting in August. On Tuesday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) party said it launched a court application to ensure the government detains the Russian leader and hands him over to the ICC “should President Putin set foot in South Africa.” “This pre-emptory court action aims to ensure that South Africa upholds its obligations,” DA shadow justice minister Glynnis Breytenbach said in a statement. … Breytenbach said the DA was seeking a “declaratory order” to avoid a repeat of 2015 when Pretoria failed to arrest then-Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was similarly wanted by the ICC. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov on Tuesday declined to say whether Putin will travel to South Africa for the summit. Al Jazeera

Lavrov’s Nairobi Visit: How Russia Is Drawing in Africa
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday received Nairobi’s audience on Moscow’s war in Ukraine, after first presenting the goodies needed in Kenya. Mr Lavrov’s one-day official trip saw him meet with Kenya leaders, including President William Ruto, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula. President Ruto said, after the meeting, that Kenya would work to “deepen relations” with Moscow. A dispatch from State House said the two countries would sign a trade pact before the end of the year to “give business the necessary impetus.” … Nairobi was critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with its envoy to the United Nations, Dr Martin Kimani, in a February 2022 speech condemning it and terming it as one that could strengthen dying empires of the world. However, Nairobi has adopted African Union’s call for dialogue since then. EastAfrican

Kenya Revives Push by African Nations to Ditch the Dollar
Kenya’s President William Ruto has asked African leaders to take first steps towards ditching the globally-bullish US dollar by signing up to a pan-African payments system to facilitate trade within the continent. Dr Ruto has urged his peers in Africa to mobilise central and commercial banks to join Pan-African Payments and Settlement System (PAPSS) which was launched in January 2022. The system for intra-African trade was developed by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat. The initiative was backed by the African Union and African central banks. … African traders and their local banks are using correspondent banks, usually in the US and Europe, to complete payments between two African currencies largely in dollars, and sometimes the Euro. It takes about three to five days for the payment to get to the recipient’s bank with charges at every stage. Importers such as oil marketers and manufacturers have since last year complained of a gaping mismatch in demand and supply of the US dollars, prompting them to buy it in batches and levels way above the official rate. Business Daily

Zimbabwe’s Opposition Decries ‘Shambolic’ Voters’ Roll
Zimbabwe’s opposition cried foul on Monday after many voters, including some senior politicians, said their names had been removed or misplaced on the voters’ roll ahead of national elections. Zimbabweans head to the polls in what is predicted to be a tense general vote later this year, with the ruling party accused of cracking down on opposition voices. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said a date for the elections – expected to be in August – would be announced this week. Meanwhile the leading opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), said the voters’ roll made available for public inspection by election authorities seemed to be riddled with “errors.” Some voters’ names were missing while others had – unknowingly to them – been registered to vote in places other than their ward of residence, it said. CCC lawmaker David Coltart, a former education minister, said he was among those who could not find their name on the list at his local polling station. “Whether it is chaos or whether it is deliberately targeting CCC members, we cannot say at the moment, but one can only describe the voters’ roll as shambolic,” Coltart told AFP. AFP

UN Special Rapporteur Concerned About Zimbabwe’s Rights Situation Ahead of Elections
A U.N. special rapporteur has voiced concern about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, where a number of human rights defenders and opposition activists are facing charges, with some being jailed. The call comes as the country prepares for elections in August and as the nation is waiting for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to announce a date for the polls. … Obert Masaraure is the president of the Amalgamated Rural Teacher’s Union of Zimbabwe, which fights for rights of educators that work in rural areas. He is facing charges of inciting public violence, obstructing justice, subversion and murder but has been released on bail. He says that despite the charges, he will not budge. “It’s not proper for Emmerson Mnangagwa to continue persecuting people through prosecution,” Masaraure said. “The ongoing lawfare against citizens who are viewed as enemies of Mnangagwa should stop now. Zimbabwe is not Mnangagwa’s tuck-shop. Mnangagwa should learn to respect our fundamental rights as defined in the constitution. All the four charges I face today they violate my basic rights. They violate my freedom of expression: the one on posting on Twitter, they violate my freedom to petition duty bearers. They are ridiculous charges meant to silence us. And we demand an end to this persecution and full observance of the people’s rights as defined in our bill of rights.” VOA

Drivers Line Up for Gasoline across Nigeria after New President Scraps Fuel Subsidy
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has scrapped a decades long government-funded subsidy that has helped reduce the price of gasoline, leading to long lines at fuel stations Tuesday as drivers scrambled to stock up before costs rise. As people rushed to buy gas in major cities like Abuja and Lagos, marketers have more than doubled the price at the pump from the usual 40 cents per liter, resulting in a surge in the price of transport. Tinubu announced the removal of the subsidy moments after his inauguration as president on Monday, signaling his administration’s plan to finally end an initiative that officials said cost the Nigerian government an estimated 18.39 billion naira ($39.8 million) daily in 2022. He did not say when it would take effect, but the immediate past government had planned to end the initiative by June 30. Nigeria’s oil refineries are struggling, with production sinking to multidecade lows amid massive oil theft, meaning Africa’s top oil producer depends on imported refined petroleum products. AP

Deadly Battle Underway in Central Somalia After Al-Shabab Attack
Heavy fighting has been reported in central Somalia after al-Shabab militants stormed a government military camp in the town of Masagaway on Tuesday, the second attack in days. Security sources who are following the situation say deadly fighting ensued between government forces and al-Shabab following the militant attack. According to one security official involved in the efforts against al-Shabab, the militants raided a military camp at dawn. The camp is manned by troops trained in Eritrea and local fighters. He said the militants managed to enter the camp and remove three vehicles. As the militants exited the town, reinforcements from the town of el-Dheer just north of Masagaway ambushed al-Shabab militants sparking a fierce gun battle. … Dozens of fatalities have been reported on both sides. In a press statement, the Somali government said government troops and local fighters have repulsed militants who attempted to storm the town. The statement said that 30 were killed in the attack and three vehicles were captured and three soldiers were injured. VOA

UN Extends Arms Embargo on South Sudan over Protests from World’s Newest Nation and 5 Abstentions
A divided U.N. Security Council extended an arms embargo on South Sudan Tuesday over protests from the world’s newest nation and abstentions from Russia, China and the council’s three African nations… The 10-0 vote with five abstentions on the U.S.-drafted resolution was the same as the vote on the previous sanctions resolution adopted last May. In a report to the Security Council earlier this month, U.N. experts monitoring the arms embargo and a travel ban and asset freeze on targeted individuals said South Sudan is facing violent clashes and increasing disillusionment and frustration as it struggles to implement the most challenging provisions of a fragile 2018 power-sharing agreement. They pointed to difficulties integrating rival military forces, drafting a new constitution and preparing for the country’s first election as an independent nation in December 2024, they said. AP

South Sudan Struggles to Clear Mines after Decades of War as People Start Returning Home
For the first time since fleeing South Sudan’s civil war eight years ago, Jacob Wani returned home excited to rebuild his life. But when the 45-year-old farmer tried to access his land in Eastern Equatoria state’s Magwi County, he was banned, told that it had been labeled hazardous and contaminated with mines. “My area is dangerous,” Wani said, standing in his shop in Moli village where he now lives, a few miles from the farm. “I do not have the capacity to rebuild in this place and I am also afraid (of explosives). If I go, maybe something can hurt me.” As South Sudanese trickle back into the country after a peace deal was signed in 2018 to end a five-year civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced millions, many are returning to areas riddled with mines left from decades of conflict. More than 5,000 South Sudanese have been killed or injured by land mines and unexploded ordnance since 2004, according to the U.N. Mine Action Service (UNMAS). South Sudan is trying to clear all anti-personnel minefields and cluster munitions in the country by 2026. AP

Anti-LGBTQ Disinformation Surges Online in East Africa
Social media platforms have been rife with false claims, including one alleging that Kenya’s president called for the killing of gay people and another that the United States ordered Uganda to legalise homosexuality. “Politicians (in Kenya and Uganda) have tapped into populist homophobia to keep themselves relevant to the masses,” said Nairobi-based political analyst and journalist Patrick Gathara. “An anti-LGBTQ stance translates into one being accepted by voters.” … The brutal murder in January of prominent Kenyan LGBTQ campaigner Edwin Chiloba sparked national and global outcry. … In the aftermath of Chiloba’s death, several false reports began to circulate online, such as claims that Ruto called for the killing of people in same-sex relationships. The claim was shared via a graphic made to look like it came from local news site, which rejected it as fake. “We did not publish the graphic calling for the killing of gay people, that information is false,” the outlet told AFP. AFP

Noted Thinkers, Writers and Filmmakers Call on Algeria to Free Jailed Journalist Seen as Independent
Ten noted thinkers, writers and filmmakers, including director Ken Loach and Nobel literature laureate Annie Ernaux, signed an open letter published Tuesday, calling on the president of Algeria to free a jailed journalist they said was punished for refusing to bow to the government line. In the letter to President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, published in the French daily Le Monde, the luminaries said that prominent journalist Ihsane El Kadi was in prison “because he refuses to submit to the pressures of those who govern the country and wanted to make him a counterfeit journalist.” An Algiers court sentenced the 64-year-old El Kadi on April 2 to five years in prison with two years suspended after his conviction on charges of receiving foreign funding for his two media outlets, Radio M and the online news site Maghreb Emergent. The outspoken El Kadi is widely considered a rare independent voice within the press, and his outlets the lone spaces to defy a tightening noose around press freedom in Algeria. His media outlets were ordered shut down. … “More than a country, Algeria is an idea. A stubborn idea of liberation … It is the proof that victory over injustice is possible,” the letter said. “Today, this great country is closing like a redoubtable trap on political opponents and citizens who dare dream of a veritable state of law.” AP