Africa Media Review for May 8, 2023

Fighting Continues in Khartoum as Sudan Envoys, Mediators Meet in Saudi Arabia
Fighting could be heard in south Khartoum on Sunday as envoys from Sudan’s warring parties met in Saudi Arabia for talks that international mediators hope will bring an end to a three-week-old conflict that has killed hundreds and triggered an exodus. The US-Saudi initiative is the first serious attempt to end fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that has turned parts of the Sudanese capital into war zones, derailed an internationally backed plan to usher in civilian rule following years of unrest, and created a humanitarian crisis. “Pre-negotiation” talks began on Saturday and “will continue in the coming days in the expectation of reaching an effective short-term ceasefire to facilitate humanitarian assistance,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Saudi Arabia will allocate $100 million in humanitarian aid to Sudan, Saudi state-run Al Ekhbariya television said earlier on Sunday. Battles since mid-April have killed hundreds of people and wounded thousands of others, disrupted aid supplies and sent 100,000 refugees fleeing abroad. Reuters

A Digital Campaign to Save the People of Sudan
… To mitigate the crisis, and with little support, local organizations had to move quickly. Resistance committees, informal neighborhood-wide networks that had organized nationwide protests during the revolution in 2019, began administering aid through the support of digital platforms. Volunteers surveyed and recruited doctors to open makeshift clinics, explains Ismat. They began orchestrating evacuations of the sick and the elderly, women and children caught in the crossfire. They used Twitter as a way to warn residents of the presence of armed forces and began to outline safe zones and routes for those who were looking to escape but could not be reached. “We’re seeing the fruits of the Sudanese revolution; what we’re doing now could have never been done had we not had the background of, not just the 2020 election, but the uprisings before that,” says Sara Elhassan in a phone interview with New Lines. … On the ground, the infrastructure for quick action is a by-product of the revolution, when volunteers organized covertly. As instrumental as they were in overthrowing the country’s longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019, members of the resistance committees and most civilian voices were sidelined by international actors who emboldened the military regime through a policy of appeasement. New Lines

Deaths from Congo Floods Approach 400 as Search Continues
The death toll from floods in eastern Congo has almost doubled, reaching close to 400 people as of Sunday, according to a local official. The administrator of the worst-affected area, the Kalehe territory of South Kivu province, told The Associated Press by phone that more bodies were recovered Sunday, including many found floating in Lake Kivu. … Delphin Birimbi, a civic leader in Kalehe, said he understood that thousands of people remained missing. He told the AP that some doctors arrived to treat the injured but communities were pleading for more emergency assistance. The Congolese government declared Monday as a national day of mourning, with flags to fly at half-staff in memory of the victims. … Heavy rains in recent days have brought misery to thousands in East Africa, including in parts of Uganda and Kenya. Flooding and landslides in Rwanda, which borders Congo, left 129 people dead earlier in the week. AP

Visits by World Leaders Show President Ruto’s Rising Star
Last week … Kenya’s President William Ruto] walked in the sun as high profile visitors came calling, elevating his profile and, some say, helping him to also dodge a domestic political bullet. In one week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly all toured Nairobi. Days earlier, Kenya had also hosted a governance forum hosted by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. State House said the power men and women came to talk business, trade, peace and security. President Ruto himself told a press conference on Wednesday, after hosting the Japanese PM that he emphasised the need to refocus attention on the forgotten conflicts in Africa. “I expressed agreement with the recent G7 ministerial statement, which noted the urgent need to reinforce peace and security in the Horn of Africa, meet serious humanitarian needs, and build resilience in the region,” he said. EastAfrican

Mali’s Junta Releases Timeline for Constitutional Referendum
Mali’s military junta said Friday that it’s organizing a referendum on a new constitution for June 18 … The referendum, in which voters can choose to either accept or reject a draft already contested by political opponents, was due to have taken place in March, but was postponed. The announcement of the new date was made on national television by the government spokesman, Minister Abdoulaye Maiga. The draft constitution released by the junta in March of this year would considerably strengthen the power of the president. The head of state, rather than the government “determines the policy of the nation,” appoints the prime minister and ministers, and has the right to terminate their functions, according to the proposal. … Mali has been ruled by a military junta since a 2020 coup against an elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. AP

Chadian Media Begin Two-Day Strike Over Jailed Colleague
On the Facebook page of one of Chad’s leading media,, is a note titled “information” printed in red. The note carries a message addressed to its audience, apologising for the blackout on Monday and Tuesday. The blackout is in solidarity with other pressmen and jailed journalist, Eric Ngarlem Toldé. Toldé, a blogger and journalist with print media, Abba Garde, received a summons from the National Directorate of Judicial Research on May 3. He was finally jailed on May 6, three days after he took part in activities marking World Press Freedom Day. Although it is unclear why he was arrested, colleagues say his arrest may be linked to comments he made on the current fuel crisis the country is facing. They also say the complaint came from the Prime Minister in transition, Saleh Kebzabo. In a statement issued on Sunday by the Chadian Employers Network (PPT), all radio and newspapers will stop activities to denounce the shortage of gas and fuel and push for the immediate release of Eric Ngarlem Toldé. HumAngle

Gunmen Kill Journalist in Restive Northwest Cameroon, Says Union
Gunmen shot dead a journalist late on Sunday in Bamenda, a city in Cameroon’s troubled northwest region, the local journalists’ union said, in at least the third killing of a media worker in the country this year. Anye Nde Nsoh, the west and northwest region bureau chief for weekly newspaper the Advocate, was in a pub in Bamenda’s Ntarikon neighborhood when unidentified assailants opened fire on him, said colleague Melanie Ndefru, who was close to the scene of the attack. Earlier this year, a radio presenter and a journalist were killed in two separate attacks in or near the capital Yaounde, prompting the United Nations to express concern about the media environment. The Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ) confirmed Nsoh’s death and called for an investigation. “This latest attack on a journalist is one too many. The long-drawn conflict in the northwest and southwest regions has pitched journalists into grave danger,” said CAMASEJ President Jude Viban. Reuters

How a Free Press Can Tame Violent Extremism in Eastern Africa
Journalists in the wider Eastern Africa region are using the press freedom week to vow maximum support against violent extremism and terrorism, but want authorities to back up their work with a safe environment. The deliberations emerged from a two-day conference in Nairobi last week, bringing together press freedom lobbies, journalists and representatives of various organisations from the region. The practitioners from Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda issued the first-ever declaration on Saturday to commit to work in the interest of thousands of journalists facing threats of violence, targeted attacks and other reprisals in their line of duty. The journalists say that terror merchants in the region have often targeted reporters and that authorities should be more protective of the media as it can aid weed out extremism. Zubeidah Kananu, the new President of the Kenya Editors Guild told the audience the changing dynamics in the media landscape require journalists to be up to date with their responsibilities. … While authorities have often used security challenge to restrict reporting, Mr Erick Oduor, Secretary-General of the KUJ said adequate training will be necessary to ensure the media and journalists earn the skills to report safely and effectively in a region that was increasingly vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Nation

Nigeria Begins Hearing Presidential Election Challenge
Nigeria’s election tribunal will on Monday start hearing opposition petitions challenging president-elect Bola Tinubu’s victory in the disputed February presidential vote, court records showed on Friday. Tinubu, from the ruling All Progressives Congress party, defeated his closest rivals Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party and Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who alleged fraud and have launched a court challenge. There have been numerous legal challenges to the outcome of previous Nigerian presidential elections but none has succeeded. The hearing will be before Court of Appeal judges, who constitute the tribunal. Under Nigeria’s electoral laws, the first day of the hearing will see candidates’ lawyers agree on the witnesses and evidence to be used during the proceedings. Atiku and Obi want the tribunal to invalidate Tinubu’s victory, arguing the vote was fraught with irregularities, among other criticisms. Tinubu, who is set to be sworn in on May 29, says he won fairly and wants the petitions dismissed. Reuters

Nigeria Police Free 58 Hostages Held by Gangs
Nigeria’s police said Sunday they had freed 58 hostages held by gangs in the central state of Kogi in an operation that left one of the abductees dead. The kidnappings are one of the challenges facing President-elect Bola Tinubu, who is due to be sworn in in May after February’s presidential election, the result of which was disputed by the opposition. … The rescue operation was conducted with other security agencies and hunters from several local communities,” she said. After a shootout, the hostage-takers fled, leaving the hostages behind, according to the police. Kidnapping has become a very lucrative business in Nigeria with ransom payments. To counter the scourge, the Central Bank of Nigeria last year changed bank notes and imposed restrictions on weekly cash withdrawals. AfricaNews with AFP

Tweets by Uganda President’s Son Spark ‘Concern’ over Succession Question
Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the son of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has attracted international attention with a range of striking tweets in recent months – starting with a veiled threat to invade Kenya in October and most recently last week, when he offered to deploy Ugandan troops to defend Moscow from “imperialists.” But the running theme in his tweets is the suggestion that he will soon take over from his father. … Indeed, analysts suggest Muhoozi’s most consequential tweets are those about domestic Ugandan politics. The same day he tweeted about Russia, Muhoozi announced the creation of TV and radio channels devoted to his “MK Movement”, an organisation named after himself. This came after a series of tweets hinting that Muhoozi, a general who was educated at Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, should take over from his father sooner rather than later. Over the past month, he twice tweeted – and deleted – his desire to stand at the next presidential elections in 2026. Muhoozi said that, by that point, “it will be 40 years of the old generation in charge”, suggesting he represents the Ugandan youth. … “The Museveni regime’s biggest fear is an ‘Arab Spring’ scenario [taking] place among the youth,” Titeca continued. “Part of the way the regime has built legitimacy is through corruption and patronage – but that undermines economic growth and public services, and providing them is key to winning legitimacy among the youth. So coercion has become crucial for the regime.” France24

Uganda Minister’s Killing Sparks Talk on Security Agents’ Welfare
Ugandans were this week in a debate of the welfare of VIP bodyguards in the wake of the shooting of a minister by a frustrated aide. Col Charles Okello Engola, the State Minister for Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations was on Tuesday morning felled by a man assigned to protect him. Private Wilson Sabiiti would then kill himself moments after he shot dead the minister at his home in Kyanja, a Kampala suburb as the minister prepared to set off for a Cabinet meeting at State House in Entebbe. Yet, even as there won’t be a case on the killing, it sparked a debate on just how settled or frustrated are security details of VIPs in the country. President Yoweri Museveni, has over time said remuneration for soldiers was not a priority in the army, but stabilising the country, acquiring weapons and peace. He recently encouraged the army to serve beyond self and attach little attention to pay and welfare, noting that past armies worked for almost nothing, but they succeeded in the struggle. …recent salary enhancement seems to have favoured only the higher ranks. … Sabiiti reportedly told colleagues days before the murder-suicide that he had not been paid for months. In March, the General Court Martial in Kampala jailed two soldiers after they were found guilty of spreading harmful propaganda in a recorded video which they shared on social media and with mainstream news outlets. EastAfrican

UN Panel Accuses South Sudan of Breaching Arms Embargo
A new report by a UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan has accused Juba of a potential breach of an arms embargo imposed on it in 2018 after it appeared to have recently procured new armoured personnel carriers. The report says at least 10 armoured personnel carriers, distinct in both design and colour from those purchased in violation of the arms embargo in late 2021 or early 2022, were flagged off by President Salva Kiir for a regional peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. “They are also distinct from those known to have been purchased by the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces before the imposition of the arms embargo by the Security Council with a resolution,” the report said. … The UN expert report also noted that continued delay by South Sudan authorities to implement provisions of a post-war peace agreement could plunge the country into further chaos since many nationals are losing hope in the transition process. The report says that while some progress has been made towards the implementation of the peace agreement, delays are threatening the peace of the country as many South Sudanese, whose patience, trust in the process, and ability to survive continue to be tested since the signing of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan in 2018. EastAfrican

Sudan Crisis Forces South Sudanese Refugees Back to Troubled Home
The fighting has turned the humanitarian situation on its head. Up to last month, more than 800,000 South Sudanese refugees lived in Sudan, refugees from decades of conflict. Since the fighting erupted in Khartoum, the UNHCR has registered more than 30,000 people crossing into South Sudan, more than 90% of them South Sudanese. The true number is likely much higher, it says. Aid agencies fear the influx will worsen an already dire humanitarian crisis in South Sudan where more than 2 million people are displaced and three quarters of the 11-million-strong population need aid. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after two decades of north-south conflict. Civil war broke out there barely two years later, killing an estimated 400,000 people. “South Sudan is one of UNHCR’s most underfunded crises already and we are now mobilising to support this new influx,” agency spokesperson Charlotte Hallqvist said. “We urge the international community not to forget about South Sudan.” Reuters

Inflation, IMF Austerity and Grandiose Military Plans Edge More Egyptians into Poverty
The Egyptian pound has halved against the dollar over the past year, as the financial authorities in Cairo attempt to negotiate a heavily managed devaluation of the currency. People are also struggling to deal with inflation rates of almost 33% and even higher rates of inflation for basic goods. The cost-of-living crisis in Egypt, which is likely to see an influx of Sudanese refugees in the coming days, has followed years of state-led austerity measures, collapsing a formerly large middle class in the most populous Arab state. Egypt’s poverty rate hovers close to 30%, according to the most recent government statistics, although the true figure is expected to be higher. … Even as poverty has risen, the Egyptian state has spent heavily on megaprojects such as a sparkling new administrative capital 30 miles east of Cairo, which will boast Africa’s tallest building and a lavish mosque. “In 2019, the World Bank estimated that 60% of Egyptians lived near or below the poverty line,” said Timothy E Kaldas, of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a US-based think tank. … Military financing underpins the expensive government megaprojects that are the key policies of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who swept to power in a military coup in 2013. “The military and the public sector are supposed to be reined in under the IMF programme, but we’re seeing the military expand its economic activities at odds with the agreement,” said Kaldas. Guardian

Eritrea Accused of Forcibly Repatriating Civilians Caught Up in Sudan Fighting
When fighting broke out between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group in Khartoum in mid-April, Eritrean brothers Abdel and Dahlak* said goodbye to each other in the Sudanese capital. Dahlak, the younger of the two, had some savings, so could afford to flee the city on a bus with other Eritreans. He headed east towards refugee camps in the vicinity of Kassala, a town near the Eritrean border that is home to a large Eritrean community. According to an Eritrean human rights activist based in Khartoum who asked to remain anonymous for their safety, Dahlak and the other Eritreans on the bus were turned away from the refugee camp. They were sent to an area called Gate 13 near the border, from where they were ordered by Eritrean security officials to cross into Eritrea. What happened to Dahlak next remains a mystery. Dahlak had deserted the Eritrean army and fled to Sudan a year and a half earlier from the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, where he and thousands of other Eritrean troops had been sent to fight alongside Ethiopian forces during the federal government’s war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Eritrea is one of the world’s most authoritarian states, and like thousands of young men before him, Dahlak had been forced to join the army under the country’s policy of universal, indefinite conscription. Guardian

‘Only Word for Them Is Heroes’: How Two Students Rescued Dozens in Sudan
In the first days of Sudan’s war, the two university students felt helpless. They locked themselves into their apartment in the capital, Khartoum, glued to Twitter as the battle unfolded. They winced as the walls shuddered from blasts and gunfire, taking shelter in the corridor. They wondered where Sudan was going. On the fifth day, April 19, the phone rang: Someone needed a taxi. … The students, Hassan Tibwa and Sami al-Gada, in their final year of mechanical engineering, had a side gig driving a taxi. But this call wasn’t a paying job — it was a mercy run. Mr. Tibwa phoned the woman. “She was screaming,” he recalled. “We had only a few minutes before her phone died. She was on her own.” … Over the following week, Mr. Tibwa, 25, and Mr. al-Gada, 23, rescued dozens of desperate people from one of Khartoum’s fiercest battle zones, according to interviews with the students, those they extracted and hundreds of text messages. Along the way they were robbed, handcuffed and threatened with execution. New York Times