Africa Media Review for November 7, 2023

UN Retreat from Mali in Disarray as Violence Surges
MINUSMA has accelerated its departure in recent weeks as northern Mali has been engulfed in fighting between the rebels and government forces vying for control over areas it vacates…Bloody confrontations have surrounded at least two U.N. bases, and two have also been looted, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the withdrawal…MINUSMA said in statements that it has been forced to destroy equipment including vehicles, ammunition and generators that its forces couldn’t evacuate after the government imposed restrictions on moving them…Security analysts have warned that the Malian state could collapse altogether, further destabilising a region where insurgents with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State are gaining ground…The equipment that was destroyed there and at two other northern bases could have been removed by U.N. trucks earlier, but Mali’s junta blocked access, the U.N. said…The Tuareg rebels signed a 2015 peace agreement brokered by MINUSMA but maintained control of much of the north from Kidal. That accord has fallen apart since the mission began moving out. The first sign of trouble came in early August, when fighting broke out between Mali’s army and Tuareg rebels around the U.N.’s camp in Ber in the north…Three security analysts told Reuters that Kidal, a Tuareg stronghold from which rebels have long fought for autonomy of the desert region they call Azawad, was a potential flash point now that the U.N. has left. It is not clear how well positioned the Malian army is to take back the base…”If the base in Kidal falls into the rebels’ hands, this will cause an outcry in Bamako,” said Yvan Guichaoua, senior lecturer at the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies. “A nasty war may eventually erupt.” Reuters

Dozens of UN Peacekeepers Injured during Mali Withdrawal
A convoy of United Nations peacekeepers was hit by two improvised explosive devices in northern Mali, injuring 22 people, the UN said on Monday. The MINUSMA peacekeepers were withdrawing from the military base in the rebel stronghold of Kidal over the weekend…It was the sixth such incident since the peacekeepers began leaving their base in Kidal on October 31, bringing the total number of peacekeeprs injured in the convoy to 39. JNIM, an extremist group with links to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for…two earlier attacks. The military junta that took power in Mali in 2021 ordered the UN peacekeeping mission to leave the country in June this year. After this, the UN Security Council terminated the mission’s mandate on June 30 and the UN began what Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called an “unprecedented” six-month exit from Mali by December 31. An alliance of largely Tuareg rebels in northern Mali recently resumed attacks against the Malian state. The rebels claim to have taken over the Kidal camp shortly after MINUSMA left. The peacekeepers’ final departure had originally been scheduled for late November but this was pushed forward after a deterioration in the security situation. The UN mission’s accelerated withdrawal reportedly angered the Malian junta, whose forces had not yet reached the camp. DW/AFP/AP

Jihadists Kill at Least 11 Farmers in Northeast Nigeria
Farmers are often targeted by Islamist militants waging a 14-year conflict in Nigeria’s northeast, where 40,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced since 2009. Suspected Boko Haram jihadists stormed rice fields in Zabarmari district outside the regional capital Maiduguri late on Sunday, seizing farmers and slitting their throats while abducting others, the sources told the French press agency AFP. The farmers were staying in their fields overnight in Karkut village to guard their harvested paddy against theft before transporting it home the following morning…Boko Haram and rival IS-linked Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have increasingly targeted farmers, loggers, herders and fishermen, accusing them of spying and passing information to the military and militia fighting them. In 2020, Boko Haram killed 76 farmers from Zabarmari in nearby Koshobe village – a massacre that set a new standard of brutality. RFI with news agencies

Lawyers for Niger’s Ousted President Ask Regional Court to Reinstate Him
Lawyers for Niger’s ousted president Mohamed Bazoum asked a West African regional court on Monday to order that he be reinstated, arguing that his detention and overthrow violated his rights. Bazoum has been held since soldiers seized power on July 26, accusing him of failing to contain mounting insecurity in the region – one of eight such takeovers in West and Central Africa in the past three years. His lawyers took his case to the Community Court of Justice, set up to rule on cases across the regional bloc ECOWAS – though member states do not have to follow its orders and there is no framework to make its decisions binding. One of Bazoum’s legal team, Seydou Diagne, asked the court based in Nigeria’s capital Abuja to rule that “the brutal end of Bazoum’s government was a violation of his political rights.” Diagne, speaking over video link from Senegal’s capital Dakar, said Bazoum should be freed without condition and reinstated as president…Bazoum’s lawyers said they have not been able to speak with him since the Oct. 20, after the junta accused the former president of attempting to escape with the help of accomplices. The court is set to rule on the case on Nov. 30. Reuters

Why Does France Have Military Bases in Africa?
French troops have recently been expelled from Niger and Mali and others are considering scrapping independence-era deals that led to at least 30 French direct military interventions between 1964 and 1995. Since independence, France wanted to “perpetuate and safeguard the stability and durability of certain regimes”, says Dr Bakary Sambe, director of the Timbuktu Institute. The former colonial power regarded West Africa and the Sahel as a “space of natural deployment and influence”, he says…Although their numbers have been cut in recent years, several thousand French troops are still deployed in the following countries: Chad, Djibouti, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Senegal. Last month, the 1,300-1,500 soldiers deployed to Niger…began their withdraw from three bases at the request of the leaders of July’s coup…France has carefully guarded its economic and diplomatic links with Africa too. These persist notably with the CFA franc currencies, that are tethered to the French treasury, and via cultivating close bonds with ruling elites…French soldiers withdrew from Mali last year on Bamako’s orders, and UN peacekeepers have recently been told to do the same…Since the withdrawals, human rights violations have worsened and Malians are now even less safe…Mali’s army has meanwhile turned to the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, as a new ally…Subcontractors, self-defence militias and paramilitary groups, like Wagner, are not the answer, says Dr Sambe, also pointing to Mali as an example. He wants to see a pooling of forces from Ecowas, the African Union and the continent’s other standby forces. “It’s time to move to towards an Africanisation of these forces,” he argues. BBC

Somalia Announces Candidacy for UN Security Seat
The Federal Republic of Somalia has announced candidacy for the United Nations Security Council non-permanent seat, a move which comes two years after Kenya battled out with Djibouti, in a contest which was closely monitored. According to the state media, Somalia is keen to battle out for the 2025/26 slot, terming the move as “critical” and “timely” for the country…Presently, Somalia is involved in coordinated operations against the Al-Shabaab, a group which is fighting to topple the government. Also supportive of the course is the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS], working under the African Union peacekeeping mission. Africa is campaigning for more representation at the UNSC with a permanent seat as well as more non-permanent seats. Currently, the continent has three non-permanent seats occupied by Mozambique, Algeria and Sierra Leone. The five permanent nations – the US, Russia, China, the UK, and France have the “right” to veto any resolution regardless of how many others are in favour of the decision. The organ makes important decisions on matters of security and should Somalia manage to win, it will be one of its historic achievements. Last week, Somalia withdrew candidature from the Inter-Parliamentary Union in favour of Tanzania, noting that “this will help us to ask them to support our bid to join East Africa Community [EAC] and any other mission we might be interested in.” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged to stabilize the country on security and economic fronts when he took over from Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed better known as Farmajo in 2022. Throughout this time, he has been a crusader of anti-Al-Shabaab war in the country. Garowe Online

At Least 29 Dead as Floods Devastate Somalia, Kenya
At least 29 people have been killed and more than 113,000 displaced following heavy rains and flash flooding in Kenya and Somalia. The Somali federal government declared a state of emergency Monday after floods caused the deaths of 14 people. Emergency rescuers were working to reach an estimated 2,400 people still trapped by flood waters in the Luuq district of southern Somalia’s Jubaland state. The U.N. had called for the evacuation of people living along the entire stretch of the Juba River, warning of a high risk of flooding there and along the Shabelle River. In Kenya, the Red Cross said 15 people had died as a result of flooding. It said floods also destroyed 97 hectares of agricultural farmland and killed 1,067 animals. Kenyan weather forecasters have been warning the country since September to expect heavy precipitation between October and December, the country’s rainy season. Weather experts were contradicted by Kenyan President William Ruto, who predicted “there would be no devastating El Nino flooding.” El Nino, a naturally occurring weather phenomenon, causes surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific to warm, affecting weather patterns around the world. VOA

Ethiopia Says Disputed Western Tigray Will Be Settled in a Referendum and Displaced People Returned
Ethiopia’s federal government says the future of contested land in its northern Tigray region will be settled by a referendum, and hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced people will be returned. Monday’s announcement came one year after a cease-fire ended a devastating civil war there. The disputed status of western Tigray, a patch of fertile land bordering Sudan, was a key flashpoint in the two-year conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, and the federal government. Western Tigray belongs to Tigray under Ethiopia’s constitution. But it was occupied by forces from neighboring Amhara province, which claims the area as its own. Hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans were forcibly expelled, prompting accusations of ethnic cleansing…In late July, fighting erupted in Amhara over a plan to absorb regional paramilitary groups into the federal military and police, with local militias known as Fano briefly seizing control of some of the region’s towns. Suggestions that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed might return western Tigray and other disputed land to Tigray helped fuel the violence, which has turned into a rumbling insurgency in the countryside. At least 183 people were killed in the first month of the Amhara conflict, according to the United Nations. Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission said last week that dozens of civilians had been killed in airstrikes and extrajudicial killings. In one incident documented by the rights body, security forces killed 12 civilians, including several religious students, on Oct. 10 while searching a house in the Amhara town of Adet. AP

Electoral ‘Manipulation’ – Madagascar’s Opposition Asks for French Intervention
Madagascar’s Collectif des 10 – 10 of the 13 contenders for the presidential election – wrote a two-page letter condemning the alleged manipulation of the electoral process by President Andry Rajoelina, calling directly on France to put pressure on Rajoelina, Le Monde reports. The letter reportedly asks several parliamentary bodies and global organisations if “we have to wait for bloodshed in the streets of Antananarivo for foreign governments to come out of the woodwork” as Rajoelina seeks re-election. The opposition parties are opposed to Madagascar’s November 16 election date. This weekend thousands of opposition supporters gathered at rallying points, but were forced away from the city centre with teargas and rubber bullets, reports Midi Madagasikara. In Andravoahangy, Antaninandro, Ankadifotsy and Rasalama, there were confrontations between police and demonstrators which left several people injured and 11 arrested. The same scenes were reported in other neighborhoods around Analakely. In Tsaralalana, Antanimena, Antsahavola and Ambodin’Isotry, the police protected the entrances to the Place du 13 Mai, leading to injuries and arrests. Opposition candidates Jean-Jacques Ratsietison, Hajo Andrianainarivelo, Roland Ratsiraka and Tahina Razafinjoelina took part in these demonstrations. All Africa

Sudan Crisis Has ‘Effectively Put on Hold’ Political Dispute over Abyei
The war between rival militaries in Sudan has interrupted encouraging signs of dialogue between Sudan and neighbouring South Sudan and “effectively put on hold” talks over disputed Abyei, senior UN officials told the Security Council on Monday. “With the conflict in Sudan, the conditions are not conducive for talks on the final status of Abyei. The progress that was made [earlier this year] unfortunately was not something that we could build upon,” Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Horn of Africa, told ambassadors…The Abyei area, which is rich in oil resources, straddles the border between Sudan and South Sudan, and is claimed by both sides. The Security Council first authorized a peacekeeping force there in June 2011, a few weeks before South Sudan became the world’s youngest independent nation. Ms. Tetteh noted that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which is fighting the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in Sudan, is now getting closer to Abyei, controlling parts of the border with South Sudan…Also briefing, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said the Sudan crisis compounds the challenges in Abyei, including an influx of civilians fleeing the fighting…The presence of approximately 200 South Sudan People’s Defence Force and South Sudan National Police Service personnel in southern Abyei, and an estimated 60 Sudanese police officers protecting oil assets in northern Abyei, pose a continuing challenge for the UNISFA, Mr. Lacroix said. UN News

Children on the Brink as War in Sudan Continues: UNICEF
According to the agency, Sudan is now the largest child displacement crisis in the world, with a recorded 3 million children fleeing widespread violence in search of safety, food, shelter and health care most within the country. Hundred of thousand of children are sheltering in sprawling make-shift camps in neighboring countries, it said. “Children continue to bear the heaviest brunt of the violence. Some 14 million children in Sudan are in urgent need of life-saving humanitarian assistance. Many of them are living in a state of perpetual fear—fear of being killed, injured, recruited or used by armed actors,” stressed UNICEF. It added, reports of conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, have been rampant, and with fighting only intensifying in recent weeks in places like Khartoum, Darfur, and Kordofans, the very real worry is that child rights violations will continue to spike. So far, UNICEF has received allegations of over 3,100 severe violations, including the killing and maiming of children. There are concerns that 19 million children in Sudan are unable to return to classrooms, making it one of the worst education crises in the whole world. UNICEF and partners are reportedly providing life-saving assistance to millions of children inside Sudan and in neighboring countries, including water, health, nutrition, safe spaces and learning. But with needs outpacing resources, time is running out…The looming threat of deadly diseases – such as cholera, dengue, measles and malaria – is also on the rise, with outbreaks already expanding. Today, around 7.4 million children lack safe drinking water. Sudan Tribune

Egypt Moves to Shore Up Tourism Sector in Shadow of Gaza War
Egypt is offering incentives to shore up its tourism industry in southern Sinai on the Red Sea, with fallout from the conflict in the Gaza Strip so far contained to under 10% of bookings in the country, the Egyptian tourism minister said on Monday…Ratings firm S&P Global warned on Monday that a fall in tourism due to the Gaza war could cause significant problems in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Some travellers are cancelling or postponing holidays to the Middle East and North Africa…Ahmed Issa said Egypt was offering an extra $500 of incentives per flight landing in Sharm el-Sheikh, because this is where customers were asking “the largest number of questions”, and working very closely with wholesalers, retailers and airliners to keep them committed to Egypt. Sharm el-Sheikh is about 360 km (225 miles) south of Sinai’s northern, Mediterranean coast, which borders with the Gaza Strip…As part of a plan to expand the tourism sector by 30% annually, Egypt is trying to increase private sector participation, including to run services at tourist sites and airports. “There are several private sector groups, local and international, who have expressed interest in partnering with the Egyptian government in managing the airports,” said Issa. Egypt is also hoping for a boost from the vast, delayed Grand Egyptian Museum next to the Giza pyramids, which Issa said was expected to open officially between February and May next year. “We’re installing about 200 pieces a day today in the showcases, we’re finishing the last touches of the audio guides,” Issa said. Reuters

Kenya Manufacturer Is First in Africa to Get WHO Approval for Malaria Drug
A Kenyan pharmaceutical company, Universal Corporation Limited, has become the first manufacturer in Africa to receive World Health Organization (WHO) approval to produce a lifesaving malaria drug. The antimalarial drug, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine plus amodiaquine (Spaq), is frequently used to prevent seasonal malaria in children during months of peak transmission periods such as rainy seasons. Previously, demand for drugs such as Spaq in Africa has been met through the importation of generic versions of the medicine from India and China…Some of the barriers to quality local production of drugs include high operation costs, inadequate technical expertise, lack of investment in the pharmaceutical industry, and drug regulation and quality issues…Local production and equitable distribution of drugs will speed up efforts to eliminate malaria, said the anti-malaria research group Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)…Africa has experienced renewed urgency to step up its local production capacity in recent years, after distribution disruptions and vaccine protectionism during the Covid pandemic exposed its vulnerabilities. Malaria experts have stressed the need for “a drug that’s closer to market” in Africa, where more than 95% of global malaria cases and deaths occur…MMV and Africa CDC have pushed for African countries to implement free trade agreements like the African Continental Free Trade Area to allow for manufactured medicines to be traded within the region without tariff barriers. The Guardian