Africa Media Review for November 2, 2023

One Year On, Peace Holds in Tigray but Ethiopia Still Fractured
In November 2022, Ethiopia’s federal government and the rebellious authorities of Tigray agreed in South Africa to a ceasefire after two years of bloodshed and atrocities that left hundreds of thousands dead. The guns at last silent, the northern region of six million has begun the huge task of rebuilding…The war which also drew in Eritrean forces inflicted terrible damage on the region: Ethiopian Finance Minister Ahmed Shide recently estimated the cost of reconstruction in the battle-scarred north at $20 billion…Close to 90 percent of Tigray’s health facilities were totally or partially destroyed in the conflict, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report…Salaries for civil servants resumed in December 2022, but 18 months of wages frozen during the war remain unpaid. The suspension of food aid to Tigray by the US government and the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) in May following allegations of misappropriation slowed efforts to address chronic hunger in the region…[N]early 16 percent of children under the age of five in Tigray suffer from acute malnutrition, above the critical threshold defined by WHO and UNICEF…Many [people] were driven out of territory still under control of security forces from neighbouring Amhara, Tigray’s rival region, which sided with the national army during the conflict. In defiance of the Pretoria peace accord, these forces have refused to leave western Tigray and part of the region’s south that the Amhara have long considered ancestral homeland, raising tensions with their former allies in Addis Ababa…The end of fighting in Tigray has only served to spotlight the many other hotspots raging in Ethiopia, often along ethnic lines, troubling a vast and diverse country of 120 million people. France 24

Egypt: What Is the Rafah Crossing and Who Can Now Use It?
The Rafah border crossing from Gaza into Egypt is the only one of the Gaza crossing points that does not communicate with Israel. While it was intended to be a significant crossing, since the Hamas takeover in 2007 it has only intermittently been open to Palestinians, most notably during the brief period when the Muslim Brotherhood governed Egypt until 2013. Israel and Egypt’s joint blockade of Gaza under Hamas has made the crossing highly politically sensitive in Cairo – a situation that was exacerbated by an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai, which led to Egypt imposing controls on who was allowed to travel to towns and cities close to the Rafah crossing, not least the city of Arish. Rafah, once a smuggling hub, is split between Egyptian Rafah and Palestinian Rafah, with the border running through it. Egypt’s deliberate flooding of the border area in 2015 was designed to close smuggling tunnels that connected the two, which at one time allowed people and goods to pass from Gaza to Egypt. Despite international pressure to open the crossing since the beginning of Israel’s latest conflict with Hamas in Gaza, Rafah has been closed, apart from a small number of aid trucks. Now, after international intervention and the mediation of Qatar, which has close contacts with Hamas’s leadership, the crossing has been opened to hundreds of dual nationals living in Gaza who have foreign passports, as well as people who are injured and need treatment outside Gaza and its collapsing health system. The Guardian

Mali Rebels Claim Takeover of Vacated UN Base Near Strategic Town of Kidal
The Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP) – a Tuareg-dominated alliance of armed groups that recently relaunched a rebellion against the state – said in a statement Tuesday that it was “now taking control of the areas abandoned by MINUSMA in Kidal.” A convoy of peacekeepers made up of more than a hundred vehicles had earlier left the camp in a column of more than a hundred vehicles, heading for Gao, another key town in the north about 330 kilometres (200 miles) away, MINUSMA officials told AFP. It was the third and last camp to be evacuated by the mission in the Kidal region of Mali’s volatile north, which has been wracked by jihadist and separatist violence…Questions will now be raised about whether the Malian army will try to regain control of the region – the stronghold of the Tuareg rebellion and a major sovereignty issue for Mali’s junta-led government…The army suffered humiliating defeats between 2012 and 2014 in the region. The separatist groups, which had agreed to a ceasefire and a peace deal with authorities in 2014 and 2015, have recently resumed hostilities in the lead-up to MINUSMA withdrawal. They do not want the peacekeepers to hand over their camps to the Malian army…While the final departure from Kidal was initially planned for the second half of November, a deterioration in security has pushed MINUSMA to accelerate its withdrawal from all bases, which has irritated the junta. The army on October 2 dispatched a large convoy towards Kidal in anticipation of the UN’s departure. The column is believed to still be in Anefis, approximately 110 kilometres south of the town of Kidal. It also sent reinforcements to Tessalit, about 200 kilometres away. Kidal is the eighth camp that MINUSMA has left since August in northern and central Mali. Four remain. AFP

Boko Haram Suspected in Attacks That Kill at Least 40 in Nigeria, Police Say
At least 40 people were killed in Nigeria’s Yobe state from Monday into Tuesday after suspected Boko Haram militants shot at villagers and set off a land mine, in the first major attack on the northeastern state in 18 months, the police said on Wednesday. The attack happened about 8:30 p.m. Monday, at Gurokayeya village, Gaidam local government in Yobe, the state’s police spokesperson Abdulkarim Dungus said. He said that gunmen opened fire on villagers, killing at least 17 people, and that on Tuesday a land mine exploded, killing at least 20 villagers who were returning from burying victims of the previous attack. The Islamist group has been killing and abducting villagers in Borno state, a hotbed for militancy that has been the epicenter of a 14-year war on insurgency in Nigeria. President Bola Tinubu and his Cabinet on Monday approved a $2.8 billion supplementary budget to fund “urgent issues,” including defense and security. Tinubu, preoccupied with the economy, has yet to disclose how he would tackle insurgency in the north and widespread insecurity in other parts of the country. The Yobe community had been at peace for over a year before this attack, residents said. The last time a bomb exploded in Yobe state was in April 2022. Lawan Ahmed, a resident, told Reuters the militants shot at villagers sporadically from motorbikes, killing about 17 people on Monday. Ahmed said that the same insurgents on Tuesday attempted to eliminate those who had gone to the burial on Monday, killing more than 20 people. Reuters

Aid Delivery in Sudan Faces Bureaucracy, Security Challenges
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan sheds light on difficulties faced in August and September in its Humanitarian Access Situation Report issued on Monday. OCHA reports that there were about 200 pending visa applications for international staff during these two months, hampering the swift deployment of aid personnel. This delay exacerbates an already critical situation as half of Sudan’s population, some 25 million people, require humanitarian assistance and protection. Despite these hurdles, access and civil-military negotiations did yield some success, the report says. In August, 62,546 metric tonnes (equivalent to 1,381 lorries) of relief items were delivered to displaced communities. September saw an additional 36,988 metric tonnes (840 lorries) of aid reaching those in need. However, these achievements were not without setbacks, as a planned trip to deliver 786 metric tons (21 lorries) to Kordofan and Darfur had to be cancelled due to insecurity concerns…A conference on the humanitarian situation in Sudan, the Sudan Humanitarian Crisis Conference, is scheduled to be held in Cairo on November 18-20. According to the announcement, the conference will tackle the issues of social protection, food security, the impact of the conflict on the health system, gender-based violence, and issues of “coordination, localisation, and logistics of humanitarian work, including access and administrative difficulties.” Radio Dabanga

South Sudan, CAR Agree to Implement Border Security Pact
South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) have agreed to implement a cooperation pact which permits control and monitoring of illegal activities along the common border crossing points between the two countries. The CAR president, Faustin-Archange Toudera witnessed the signing of the agreement in the country’s capital, Bangui on Wednesday. South Sudan’s deputy Interior minister, Marial Gumke represented President Salva Kiir during discussions that preceded the signing of the pact at the high-level security event. If implemented, the security pact will enhance security cooperation and is earmarked to strengthen the promotion of economic, social and political relations in joint border areas. The conference that culminated into the signing of the pact follows a visit by CAR’s president for a meeting with his South Sudan counterpart, Salva Kiir in September. The two leaders, during a meeting held in South Sudan’s capital, Juba signed a deal to strengthen border security cooperation to facilitate trade and free movement of people. The heads of states also agreed to deploy a joint security force to control and monitor the illegal activities of negative forces. The leadership of the two countries further announced their intention to expand the deployment of the joint force to include illegal border crossing for illegal military activities on either side of the border of each country. Sudan Tribune

Gambia Court Sentences Soldier to 12 Years in Prison for Leading Foiled Coup
Gambia’s high court on Tuesday sentenced a soldier to 12 years in prison for leading a foiled coup last year against President Adama Barrow’s administration. Eight soldiers were charged with treason and conspiracy in January for their role in a Dec. 21, 2022 coup attempt in the West African nation of 2.5 million people almost entirely surrounded by Senegal. Two civilians and a police officer were also charged with concealment of treason and conspiracy to commit a felony. Seven, including the two civilians and the officer, were acquitted and released mid-trial. The soldier accused of being the ringleader, Sanna Fadera, was found guilty of treason, the court ruled on Tuesday. Three other accused soldiers were acquitted of all charges. Coup attempts are not uncommon in Gambia, which is still reeling from over two decades under former president Yahya Jammeh that were marked by authoritarianism and alleged abuses. Jammeh himself seized power in 1994 and foiled several attempts to overthrow him before he lost an election in late 2016 to Barrow. Fadera has denied all charges. He has 30 days to appeal the verdict. Reuters

Zambia: Why Is Organizing a Protest So Difficult?
Protestors in Zambia were last month prevented from demonstrating against the high cost of living amid soaring inflation and a severe economic crisis in the southern African country. Zambia’s constitution recognizes its citizens’ entitlement to freedom of assembly. But youth activist Nawa Sitali told DW that when his group of 500 people wrote to the police informing them of their intent to protest, they received a reply stating that their group was too big to stage a protest. Despite this, Sitali’s group gathered for the demo, but police officers cornered them on private property and prevented them from protesting…Permits for political rallies and protests are usually withheld by police who often give the excuse of not having enough officers to maintain peace. Protesters have even accused authorities of using lethal force to disperse certain groups, such as opposition political parties — and even ordinary citizens who express anti-government views…For some Zambians, the country’s Public Order Act has long been one of the most contentious pieces of legislation. The act states that authorities may stop a procession for which a permit has not been issued. However, some activists argue that it is frequently used as a political tool to prevent opposition supporters and citizens with dissenting views from gathering. Zambians have in the past advocated for repealing the act. The current government has indicated its intention to replace the legislation with the Public Gatherings Bill, a friendlier alternative…It remains to be seen when these legal and practical obstacles will be dealt with. For now, activists say that as long as this the public order law remains intact, protests and other political gatherings in Zambia could continue being thwarted. DW

SA Likely to Secure Trade Status Extension with US, Say Officials – but for How Much Longer?
Officials are “cautiously optimistic” that South Africa can maintain its African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) status with the US, as the Agoa Forum kicks off in Johannesburg on Thursday, 2 November. This week the US cut Uganda, Gabon, Niger and the Central African Republic out of Agoa, which gives eligible African countries duty-free access to the US for most of their exports. The Biden White House did not put SA on the chopping block in its annual eligibility report to Congress. This was good news after all the earlier threats to SA’s Agoa privileges emanating largely from the US Congress because of Pretoria’s perceived palliness with Russian President Vladimir Putin…As Daily Maverick reported at the weekend, South Africa wants to increase exports to the US under Agoa, from the current $2.7-billion annually (about R50-billion on 1 November). This represents a significant 30% of its total exports to the US. With low growth and cuts in spending, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana needs a fiscal boost from increased trade. The US is South Africa’s second-largest trading partner and still the source of a significant proportion of foreign direct investment (FDI). Six hundred US companies host their regional headquarters in the country. The Lady R debacle and the jetting in of a sanctioned Russian plane caused Democratic US Senator Chris Coons and three other congressional leaders to lobby President Joe Biden to move the Agoa Forum away from SA and possibly strip SA of its benefits. They argued that Pretoria’s cosiness with Russia violated one of the Agoa eligibility requirements, that a country should not jeopardise US national security or foreign policy interests…The forum will not decide on Agoa’s extension, but will recommend to Congress whether the trade deal as a whole should continue or whether it has run its course after more than two decades. Daily Maverick

U.S. to Restore Mauritania’s AGOA Trade Preferences after Worker Rights Progress
Mauritania’s trade preference benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act will be reinstated on Jan. 1, 2024 after the northwest African country made “substantial and measurable progress on worker rights and eliminating forced labor,” the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said on Tuesday. The reinstatement of Mauritania’s trade benefits suspended in 2019 was announced after U.S. President Joe Biden also announced his intention to terminate AGOA benefits for Gabon, Niger, Uganda and the Central African Republic. USTR said Gabon and Niger’s AGOA eligibility were terminated because of unconstitutional government changes after coups, while Uganda’s and Central African Republic’s benefits were terminated based on human rights violations perpetrated by those governments. Reuters

AU Commission, US State Department Emphasize Commitment to Working Together
The African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat was on Wednesday received by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The meeting in Washington at the US state department opened the Ninth Annual U.S.-AU Commission High-Level Dialogue and focused on the relationship between the United States and African Union members states. The secretary re-emphasized the United States’ support for greater African representation in international institutions and congratulated the African Union on achieving permanent membership in the G20. “I think this reflects the vital and increasingly close partnership between the United States and the AU, and it also reflects the critical role of the AU plays not only regionally but around the world. That was further reflected in the fact that the AU was welcomed into the G20 just this year” Blinken said. AU Chairperson Faki and Blinken agreed to enhance mutual support for sustainable democratic transitions and work together to promote stability, food security, climate mitigation, pandemic preparedness, and good governance within the African region…Both diplomatic envoys emphasized their commitment to working together to advance shared priorities under the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Africanews

China Has Belt and Road, Now the US Has the Lobito Corridor from Angola to Zambia
In about five years, the Group of Seven (G7) countries aim to have completed what is arguably a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investments in Africa. The G7’s flagship in Africa is the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGI) project, the Lobito Corridor. The feasibility study for the project is expected to start by year-end, but construction should be done within the next five years, said the acting special co-ordinator for the Partnership on Global Infrastructure Investment, Helaina Matza…The Lobito Corridor and the Zambia-Lobito rail line will stretch from southern Africa to central Africa. It will cut across Zambia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The project involves building 260km of primary feeder roads and about 550km of rail line in Zambia, spanning from the Jimbe border to Chingola in the country’s copper region…In July this year, Zambia, the DRC, and Angola came together to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on how to revive the corridor that is set to be the shortest and fastest way to port from the major mining districts. A consortium led by multinational commodities trader Trafigura will run the R10.5 billion railway project. This presented an opportunity for the United States and its partners (G7) to be part of a promising project…This is a direct challenge to China’s BRI, largely viewed as an unsettling extension of China’s rising power. It will be impossible to avoid working with China on the Lobito project since Mota-Engil, partly owned by China Communications Construction Corporation (CCCC), signed an agreement to run the Lobito Corridor as part of a consortium led by Trafigura. News 24

‘More Than Just Rugby’: Championship Generates Harmony in South Africa
South Africa became the winningest country in the Rugby World Cup’s relatively brief history last week, claiming its second consecutive crown and fourth overall. This nation of 60 million has been going wild ever since. The revelry will reach a raucous peak over the next four days as the team begins a tour of the country, starting with parades through Pretoria, the executive capital, and Johannesburg on Thursday…That sort of rallying together, especially around race, was similar to 1995…Back then, many South Africans were bubbling with hope that under a new democracy and a new president, Nelson Mandela, they could achieve shared success…Now, though, the population has had time to soak in the many failures of the democratic promise over the past decades. Corruption, poor leadership and entrenched apartheid-era disparities have left the country battling many crises. Electricity is unreliable. Unemployment and crime rates are high. Race continues to determine where many people live and their experiences in school. The country’s troubles are so enormous that, for many, this Springboks victory feels like a much-needed escape, and has inspired celebrations that many believe are more intense than ever…The governing African National Congress…wasted no time trying to get political mileage from the win before next year’s national elections…Mr. Ramaphosa held a nationally televised, prime time address on Monday in which he congratulated the Springboks before going through a laundry list of the accomplishments of his government…No amount of excitement or backslapping, though, can mask the cold reality of South Africa’s challenges. The day after the finals, power cuts to relieve the overburdened electricity grid returned for the first time in 10 days and have come every day since. Four days after the game, the country’s finance minister delivered a grim budget report that portended difficult spending cuts. The New York Times