Africa Media Review for May 4, 2023

Kenyan President: Regional Bloc Won’t Allow Military Rule in Sudan
[L]eaders in East Africa say they will bar military rule in the region. Speaking in Nairobi on Tuesday, Kenyan President William Ruto said … “we are determined to stop our continent from sliding into military rule. The continent is ready, and we are prepared to build our democratic institutions and get the people of this continent to choose the government they want.” Experts such as Macharia Munene, an analyst on international relations in Kenya, say that despite its failure to end conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the East African Community regional bloc stands a chance to persuade Sudan’s military to end fighting because it is in the military’s interest, as the country itself hopes to become an EAC member. “Concerted effort is what is needed,” he said, urging anyone with connections to Sudanese army chief General Abdel Fattah Burhan or General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, to “use those avenues to point out that it is in their interest to stop killing each other, and to convince the leaders that they do not want to be perpetual pariahs in the region.” VOA

Sudan’s Warring Generals Closely Matched Ahead of Latest Cease-Fire
The two generals fighting for power in Sudan battled on Wednesday to seize more strategic positions controlling oil infrastructure, military factories and prominent landmarks ahead of the latest attempt at a cease-fire scheduled for the next day. The division of key sites and towns between the two sides means that both forces are digging in and neither has gained a definitive upper hand in the fighting yet. That risks prolonging the conflict since neither side sees a reason to negotiate and both still believe they might win, said Alan Boswell, Horn of Africa director for the International Crisis Group. “Both sides have their own reasons for confidence, which is one reason we haven’t gotten to peace talks,” he said. Analysts say the military’s ability to resupply means it may benefit from a longer war. The paramilitary Rapid Support Force has spent years building up its weapons stockpiles but does not have the same logistics capabilities for needs like food or treating the wounded — instead, it has looted supplies and taken over hospitals. The RSF’s advantage, however, lies in its battle experience and maneuverability. … Control of the nation’s oil export infrastructure and weapons manufacturing factories is also split. Washington Post

Sudan: Region’s Political Islamist Movement Plays Key Role in Conflict
While the war in Sudan has been going on since April 15 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General “Hemedti,” some 15 former senior officials of the regime of Omar al-Bashir, who has been imprisoned since his fall in 2019, have managed to escape from Kober prison, in the heart of Khartoum, which is surrounded by fighting. The news of this highly political escape was confirmed on Tuesday, April 25, by one of the Islamist regime’s top lieutenants, Ahmed Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed in Darfur when he was minister of the interior in the early 2000s. Following his escape, this former National Congress Party (NCP) executive announced on Sudanese television that he would provide “his own protection” and called on the population to support the SAF in their fight to the death against the RSF. “The risk of Islamists manipulating the conflict has been confirmed with the release of their leaders. This is not an accident, it is no longer speculation: They are ready to do anything to return to power,” said Suliman Baldo, founder of the think tank Sudan Transparency and Policy Tracker. Le Monde

Benin Orders Investigation after Attacks That Killed 15 Civilians in North
Benin’s President Patrice Talon has ordered an investigation after attacks that killed some 15 people in the north of the country, the government announced, denouncing “criminal” acts. Beninese authorities rarely communicate on attacks in the northern part of the country, where the army is trying to repel incursions by jihadist groups based in neighboring Burkina Faso. According to local and security sources, contacted by AFP, seven villagers in the Kerou commune had their throats slit by armed men on Monday night, and many others disappeared following this attack. The next day, the commune of Banikoara, also in the north, was attacked and three civilians were killed, according to the same sources. … The northern regions of Benin, Togo, and Ghana are under attack and incursion by jihadist groups that thrive in the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso, and seek to move south. AfricaNews with AFP

German Troops Deployed to UN Mission Begin Withdrawal from Mali
German troops have started to withdraw from Mali as Berlin aims to wind up by May 2024 a mission that has been hampered by disputes with Bamako and the arrival of Russian forces. Berlin has deployed some 1,000 troops to Mali, most near the northern town of Gao where their main task is to gather reconnaissance for the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA. … on Wednesday, the government in Berlin paved the way for a last one-year extension of the decade-old mission until May 2024, a decision that is still subject to approval by the lower house of parliament. MINUSMA, officially known as United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, was established in 2013 to support foreign and local troops battling armed groups. But in recent months, there have been repeated instances of friction between the Malian military government and the mission. The mission has about 12,000 military personnel deployed in the country. The three largest contributors are Chad, Bangladesh and Egypt. Al Jazeera

The UN’s Mission in Mali Is on Tenterhooks
The conflict’s epicenter is in Mali’s north, a remote, vast desert corner of the country that has dropped off the news radar as few journalists are granted visas from Mali’s military government. Even those who make the journey tend to stay in the capital Bamako for security reasons. … Fears are growing among locals and the shrinking expatriate community in Bamako that the capital will soon fall prey to criminals and, eventually, to Islamist insurgents. A German priest disappeared in Bamako in November 2022, apparently kidnapped — nobody wants to talk about it. Several attacks were staged outside Bamako in January 2023, forcing many foreigners to stay indoors since then. … a large U.N. peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, in place since the French intervention, has helped stabilize the main cities in the north and center, but its future is uncertain. MINUSMA’s contract expires June 30, and the U.N. Security Council must decide whether to renew it. Almost all Western and several African contingents have left following a dispute with Mali’s military government, which has allied itself with Russia and sought to curtail the mission. … Following repeated accusations of human rights violations, the government does not want the peacekeepers operating in areas where the army and Wagner are fighting jihadists. New Lines

Floods and Landslides Kill More Than 120 in Rwanda
More than 120 people were killed in devastating floods and landslides caused by heavy rains in Rwanda, the government said on Wednesday, the highest death toll from a flood reported in a single day in the country’s recent history. Entire families were killed, injured or left homeless and in desperate need of assistance. “I wanted to cry but couldn’t in front of my children,” said Martine Nsanimana, 40, a resident of a small village in Western Rwanda whose home and farmland were destroyed by the floods. “If you saw how the farmland was washed away, you would want to cry,” said Mr. Nsanimana, a father of three. The rains started on Tuesday, but residents said that some people were still trapped in their homes on Wednesday, suggesting that the number of deaths could rise. Local officials also warned that more homes could fall down. … Mouhamadou Bamba Sylla, a Rwandan climate change scientist at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and an author with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that he could not say with certainty that Tuesday’s rainfalls were associated with climate change. But in general, he noted, climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfalls. New York Times

Kenya Opposition Suspends Protest after Agreement with Government
Kenya’s opposition has suspended the latest anti-government protests planned for Thursday after reaching an agreement with the government of President William Ruto. The opposition Azimio La Umoja (Declaration of Unity) alliance, led by veteran opposition politician Raila Odinga, said in a statement on Wednesday that its leadership had met and “agreed to once more suspend the mass protests.” The decision was taken after Ruto’s ruling Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) alliance agreed “to one of our demands,” the statement said. The opposition did not provide details of the agreement. … Thousands of Kenyans heeded Odinga’s calls for anti-government protests on Mondays and Thursdays and held three rallies despite a government ban on demonstrations. Violence broke out, including fighting between police and protesters, torching of property and the use of tear gas. Al Jazeera

Zimbabwe Opposition Figure Fined for Slain Activist Comments
A prominent opposition leader and lawmaker in Zimbabwe was convicted Wednesday of obstructing the course of justice for recording a video of himself accusing ruling party supporters of killing and dismembering an activist and posting the video to social media. Job Sikhala, a Parliament member and senior official in the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change party, was detained nearly 10 months ago. He must pay a $600 fine by Friday or face an additional six months in jail, according to the verdict by a magistrate. Sikhala was repeatedly denied bail after his arrest in July. Critics have cited his case as another example of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s attempts to silence the opposition ahead of Zimbabwe’s presidential and parliamentary elections this year. The 80-year-old Mnangagwa became president in 2017 after a coup ended the 37-year rule of autocratic leader Robert Mugabe. … in recent months, dozens of opposition supporters, political activists, journalists, church leaders, trade union members and student leaders have been arrested on various charges that legal experts say amount to harassment. AP

Farms, Properties, Luxury Cars: Zimbabwe’s High Profile Divorce Sheds Light on Mugabe Millions
The divorce of the daughter of Zimbabwe’s late ruler Robert Mugabe has lifted the lid on the massive wealth amassed by the ex-president’s family, with court papers listing properties worth almost $80 million. Bona Mugabe, 33, filed for divorce from her husband of nine years, Simbarashe Mutsahuni (also called Chikore), a former airline pilot, earlier this year. In court papers seen by AFP, Chikore lists numerous assets owned solely by Mugabe or jointly by the couple including dozens of residential properties, farms, luxury cars and almost $1 million in cash. … The variety and value of the assets listed in the counterclaim is likely to upset many Zimbabweans, as the country struggles with entrenched poverty, chronic power cuts and extreme inflation. … Mugabe’s father, who ruled Zimbabwe from the country’s independence from British colonial rule in 1980 until being ousted in November 2017, died in 2019 in Singapore aged 95. During his presidency, Mugabe, who styled himself as a left-wing radical, was reported to own several farms that were seized during his controversial land reforms, but the exact extent of the family’s wealth remains unclear. AFP

First Round of Peace Talks between Ethiopia and Oromo Rebels Ends without Deal
A first round of peace talks between the Ethiopian government and rebels from the Oromiya region ended with no deal, both parties said on Wednesday, amid a conflict in which hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands displaced. Rebel groups in Oromiya, which is home to the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromos, have fought the federal government for decades and accused it of marginalisation and neglect. “While the talks have been largely constructive, it was not possible to reach an agreement on some issues during this round of the talks,” the government said in a statement, adding that the parties had agreed to continue to talk. The talks, mediated by the regional Africa group IGAD, started last week in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. The violence in Oromiya, which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, is a major security headache for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed following a two-year civil war in the northern Tigray region which ended when the two parties signed a peace deal last November. Reuters

In Western Libya, Deforestation, Drought and Urbanization ‘Have Destroyed Everything’
Sitting in the shade of young eucalyptus and laurel trees, Khalifa Ramadan is preparing with agronomist friends a volunteer mission to preserve the forest cover of western Libya, threatened with extinction by years of drought, deforestation and rampant urbanization. Every week, the 50-something brings together a dozen or so agronomists and horticulturists to launch awareness campaigns in the media or actions in the field. … Thanks to the oil windfall, Libya launched a vast campaign to plant forests and reclaim land for agriculture in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly around Tripoli. This was accompanied by strict regulation of urban expansion and a fight against erosion and the advancing desert. Despite low rainfall and a lack of permanent waterways, Libya is characterized by diverse natural vegetation. But the green belt running along the Mediterranean coast and covering 200 kilometers between Tripoli and Misrata, further east, has almost disappeared. Today, it has been replaced by a sandy, dusty landscape. … The “green belt has been the target of many violations in recent years,” General Faouzi Aboughalia, agricultural police spokesman, told AFP, reporting 1,700 criminal cases. Le Monde with AFP

Why China Is Investing in Africa’s Green Energy Future
A wind farm in Namibia and a floating solar farm on Zimbabwe’s massive Kariba Dam are among the new green energy projects Chinese companies are looking at investing in this year after Beijing pledged to help African countries address their energy problems with renewable sources rather than fossil fuels. “Chinese overseas renewable energy investments aim to deliver China’s international climate commitments of accelerating the energy transition away from fossil fuels in Africa, China’s largest trading partner,” Lei Bian, a policy fellow at The London School of Economics and Political Science, told VOA. … analysts noted, Chinese companies also benefit financially from Africa’s need for such projects. African countries contribute the least to global warming, and only about half of the continent’s population has access to electricity. Many countries also have huge power deficits. … Many of the latest green energy projects China has announced in Africa are relatively small investments, analysts noted, compared with the large Belt and Road infrastructure initiatives (BRI) of the past, such as ports and railways. This is in keeping with Beijing’s shift to what leader Xi Jinping described as “small is beautiful” projects, which in part focus on China’s so-called Green Silk Road. VOA

Ideas, and Coffee, Robust Enough for the Climate Crisis
As a climate journalist, I get asked a perennial question by my fellow Americans: What do I do in the face of a crisis so big and complicated? The answer I witnessed on a recent reporting trip to East and Southern Africa: everything. In Malawi, subsistence farmers are resurrecting old crops, planting trees to nourish their soils, sharing manure with their neighbors, experimenting with different sowing techniques, all in an effort to cope with the droughts, floods and cyclones hitting them left and right. In Uganda, coffee farmers are beginning to switch away from robusta, the coffee species they’ve grown and shipped abroad for decades but that is falling prey to droughts and diseases aggravated by climate change. Instead, they’re growing a totally different and tougher coffee called excelsa, a variety of the native species Liberica. In both countries, I was struck by how aggressively people were adapting. They were creative, they were pragmatic. They put one foot in front of the other and kept going. They were trying to be less poor, because being less poor is the best way to be more resilient to climate shocks. New York Times