Africa Media Review for May 9, 2023

Zambia’s President Hichilema Says Security Requires Whole of Society Effort
His Excellency Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema delivered the keynote address for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ program on “Managing Security Resources in Africa,” held this year in Lusaka, Zambia. Premised on the recognition that the efficient management of resources is a pillar to effective security, the program brought together over 60 African civilian and uniformed security sector professionals from 16 countries. President Hichilema declared that security is essential for “citizens’ livelihoods, access to goods and services, as well as the free exercise of civil, political, social, and economic rights.” Acknowledging the growing complexity of security threats and megatrends, President Hichilema stated that for Africa to realize its enormous potential, citizens must feel safe and secure. [Video] Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Air Strikes Rock Sudan as Truce Talks Yield No Breakthrough
The warring generals have sent representatives to Saudi Arabia for talks on establishing a humanitarian truce in an effort also backed by the United States. Washington and Riyadh have labeled these “pre-negotiation talks.” By Monday, the discussions had yielded “no major progress,” a Saudi diplomat told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “A permanent ceasefire isn’t on the table… Every side believes it is capable of winning the battle,” the diplomat added. … The fighting has sparked a mass exodus of foreigners and of Sudanese, in land, air and sea evacuations. “It’s very dangerous everywhere,” said Rawaa Hamad, who escaped from Port Sudan on an evacuation flight carrying 71 people to Qatar on Monday. In Sudan, she said, people endure “a lack of everything — a lack of water, lack of fuel, lack of medicine, lack of even hospitals and doctors.” The battles in the capital and in other parts of the country have killed more than 750 people and injured over 5,000, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. … Heavyweights in the pan-Arab bloc are divided on Sudan, with Egypt supporting Burhan and the United Arab Emirates seen to be backing the RSF, according to experts. The absence of Cairo and Abu Dhabi from the Jeddah talks, according to Sudanese analyst Khair, further dampens hopes for an agreement. Defense Post with AFP

Sudan’s Cyber War
Most of the coverage of the conflict has focused almost exclusively on physical combat — necessarily so — but in addition to conventional military tactics, there’s an equally messy, more subtle, war in Sudan’s cyber and information space, one that was going on long before April. … Sudan has a history of surveillance, censorship, and information manipulation. The government frequently blocks social media platforms and other websites to suppress dissent and the opposition. … Researchers at Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab have also recorded “suspicious” inorganic traffic and engagements around content produced by the RSF account and that of its leader. … “There’s a habit of not paying attention to the cyberwarfare of conflicts until months after the physical conflict,” said Nate Allen of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “And cyber warfare also transcends the hard timing of the actual conflict.” Allen draws a parallel with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine where cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns had occurred far before the actual invasion, and the use of internet blackouts in Ethiopia to prevent communication and cut off the international community. Inkstick Media

Could Uganda End Up in Sudan-Like Crisis?
[P]oliticians and analysts are worried that Uganda’s Special Forces Command (SFC), which is charged with protecting the First Family and other key installations, could sooner or later face off with Uganda‘s regular army, just like [the paramilitary organisation called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)] has done [with the regular Sudanese army] in Sudan. “Al-Bashir stayed in power and sought to become a life president,” says Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kira Municipality Member of Parliament (MP), adding that with President Museveni now looking to be in power beyond 2026, having used the power of the gun to gain it in 1986, the Sudanese situation exists here. … Just like Sudan’s RSF, Uganda’s SFC isn’t recognised under the UPDF Act, but the UPDF’s organogram puts it at the same level as the Air and Land Forces. … “When you ask the military leadership, they want to regularise it because they know it wasn’t created through a statutory arrangement. When you look at those who have been recruited [in SFC] they have been entered thereby Museveni and his son.” Museveni’s son whom Ssemujju is referring to is Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba who has twice led the SFC. … Museveni used the SFC to crush resistance the Opposition MP had managed to put up during the debate that led to the lifting of presidential age limits that ensured that he rules as long as he wishes. Daily Monitor

Malian Political Coalition Opposes Constitutional Referendum
A number of political associations in Mali have joined forces to oppose the military government’s decision to hold a referendum on a new constitution on June 18. … The referendum had been previously scheduled for March 19 but was postponed. The coalition is demanding the cancellation of the decree to convene the electoral bodies because it considers the ruling authorities illegitimate, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported. Al Jazeera

Mali’s UN Peacekeepers Fear They Are Becoming ‘An Instrument of the Junta’
Should United Nations peacekeepers stay in Mali, even if this means not being able to work, or leave the country, at the risk of abandoning civilians and leaving them exposed to jihadist groups? At the UN headquarters in New York, the question is being asked as discussions on the future of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) begin. The Security Council will have to decide in June whether to extend its presence in the Sahelian country. … Since the military coups of August 2020 and May 2021 and the arrival of the military at the helm of Mali, [MINUSMA] has been struggling to fulfill its mission. The peacekeepers face open hostility from the junta led by Colonel Assimi Goïta. The Malian colonels are targeting MINUSMA division responsible for investigating human rights issues and UN personnel has encountered difficulties in carrying out their duties, as recently evidenced by tensions surrounding the report of the investigation into the Moura massacre. The central Mali village was the scene of one of the worst massacres since the war began. Nearly 300 civilians were “summarily executed” between March 27 and 31, 2022, according to the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, which blames the Malian armed forces (FAMa) and “foreign soldiers – identified by several sources as Russians.” MINUSMA succeeded in investigating the tragedy despite many obstacles. Its lead investigator was “arrested in Mopti [central Mali] by the intelligence services and the military while he was interviewing survivors of the massacre,” an internal source said. Its report, however, has still not been made public, more than a year after the killings. Le Monde

Nigeria Court Hears Opposition’s Presidential Vote Challenge
A Nigerian court on Monday began its hearing on separate suits filed by the opposition to challenge the incumbent party’s victory in the country’s presidential election. The presidential tribunal at the Court of Appeal in the capital, Abuja, heard the opening statements of lawyers representing opposition parties, which are challenging the outcome of the February vote won by Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress. … In Nigeria, an election can be invalidated only if it’s proven that the national electoral body largely didn’t follow the law and acted in ways that could have changed the result. None of Nigeria’s presidential election results has ever been overturned by the country’s Supreme Court… The main opposition party has said without evidence that the ruling party is plotting to interfere with the court process, adding to tensions as the country awaits the judgment of the court while preparing for the inauguration of Tinubu as president. The court challenge though is usually a lengthy process and is expected to last for months, beyond May 29 when Tinubu is due to take over from incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. AP

Gunmen Abduct 25 from Church in Northwest Nigeria
Gunmen attacked a Baptist church in northwest Nigeria, kidnapping 25 worshippers from a Sunday service, a senior church leader said on Monday. The attack was the latest mass abduction in Nigeria, where insecurity is one of the top challenges facing incoming president Bola Tinubu who takes office at the end of the month. Attackers on Sunday burst into the Bege Baptist Church in Chikun area of Kaduna State, initially abducting 40 people, though 15 later managed to get away, Reverend Joseph Hayab, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kaduna State said. … A Kaduna police spokesman confirmed Sunday’s attack but could not immediately give any details. Heavily armed gangs known locally as bandits frequently carry out mass abductions for ransom in northwest and central Nigeria, holding their captives in camps hidden in vast forests that stretch across the region. Abductions for ransom and intercommunal attacks have been on the rise again after a lull during elections in February and March for the presidency and governorship posts. AFP

Senegal Opposition Leader’s Presidential Bid in Doubt after Appeal Court Ruling
The presidential bid of a popular Senegalese opposition politician was thrown into doubt on Monday after a court of appeal handed him a heavier suspended sentence in a libel case, triggering a small protest in Dakar that riot police quelled with tear gas. The ruling against Ousmane Sonko is the latest twist in a long-running legal saga that he has denounced as politically motivated… In March, Sonko received a two-month suspended prison sentence in the libel case involving the tourism minister, a ruling that still allowed him to compete for the presidency in the February 2024 election. But Monday’s appeal hearing extended the suspended sentence to six months, said lawyer Boubacar Cissé, who represents the minister. … The earlier lighter sentence had been interpreted as an effort by authorities to defuse tensions with Sonko’s supporters, who have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest. Their anger has added to rising discontent in some quarters with President Macky Sall’s failure to rule out running for a third term in office. … Sonko, who came third in the 2019 election, has clout among Senegal’s youth, many of whom struggle with under-employment and poor economic prospects. … Aside from the latest ruling, Sonko is also charged with raping a beauty salon employee in 2021 and making deaths threats against her. Reuters

Southern African Forces Set to Deploy in Eastern DRC to Quell M23 Rebel Militia
A summit of the 16-member Southern African Development Community – which includes South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania – has backed the deployment “to restore peace and security in eastern DRC.” Monday’s statement from SADC – released from the Namibian capital Windhoek – was reached following talks attended by several heads of states, including DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi, his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa and ministers from the regional group. However, the meeting did not give the numbers to be deployed nor a timeline for the deployment. SADC troops will add to an East African regional military force that has taken over some areas previously occupied by the M23 militia since December 2022, but has so far failed to put a stop to the insurgency. The Tutsi-led rebels are still present in the DRC’s North Kivu province and occasionally clash with rival militia. The East African Community force draws on troops from Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan. RFI

20 Bodies Found in Congo Mass Grave, ADF Rebels Suspected
The remains of at least 20 people were found buried in a mass grave in an area used to cultivate cacao in Ndoma village in Congo’s North Kivu province this weekend, according to local authorities and a military spokesperson. A team of forensic and security officers exhumed the bodies after residents of villages in Beni territory found bones and clothing and alerted officials. … Eastern Congo has been plagued by violence for decades as more than 120 armed groups fight for power, influence and resources and some to protect their communities. The ADF attacks have concentrated on North Kivu province, but the group has recently extended its operations into neighboring Ituri province and to areas near the regional capital, Goma, in South Kivu. … Earlier this year, the United States offered a reward of up to $5 million for information that could lead to the capture of the group’s leader, Seka Musa Baluku. AP

Tunisia’s Fresh Water Reserves Are Dwindling, Leading to Rationing
There is no water at night now in Mégrine, a southern suburb of Tunis. Rationing has been going on for weeks, but Chiheb Bin Brahim and his family have come to terms with it. “We got into the habit of putting a bucket in the toilet that I fill in the afternoon, and we each get a bottle for the night. It’s more than enough,” said the retired tourism worker, who lives with his wife, children and mother-in-law. Greater Tunis is not the only region to be impacted by rationing. Responding “to the imbalance between supply and demand (…) because of the shortage of water resources and the persistence of drought for consecutive years,” the National Company for the Exploitation and Distribution of Water (Sonede) introduced a widespread system of quotas and cuts on March 31. According to the company, these rationing measures are justified by the low levels – no more than 30% on average – of the country’s 30 or so dams. Located 70 kilometers from Mégrine and Bin Brahim’s faucet, the Sidi Salem dam held what used to be the largest reserve of fresh water in Tunisia. This concrete megastructure, built at the start of the 1980s, was constructed on the Medjerda river, which rises in the Algerian Atlas mountains and flows into the Mediterranean north of the Tunisian capital. At the beginning of spring, its level had fallen to a historic low of 16%. Le Monde

BRICS Expansion Plan Could Create New Rival for U.S. Dollar
The BRICS bloc of countries, with China and Russia playing prominent roles, is pushing ahead with plans this year to expand its membership and tackle the dominance of the U.S. dollar in global trade. … As the bloc’s current chair, South Africa is responsible for drafting criteria to be used for deciding on new BRICS members. The applicants so far include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Mexico, Argentina, Nigeria, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. … This year, Chinese officials and state media have linked BRICS to [President Xi Jinping’s] global development and global civilization initiatives, intended as alternatives to the Western-led international order. … Russia is also promoting the currency idea and the expansion of BRICS, which would help it to bypass Western sanctions linked to the Ukraine war. … With vastly different political systems and economies, the BRICS countries are a “less coherent group than one might think,” [Stephen Nagy, an expert on Chinese foreign policy at Tokyo’s International Christian University, ] added. China and India, the two largest BRICS economies, have a long-standing border dispute that has threatened to spill over into conflict several times in the past decade. The Globe and Mail