Africa Media Review for November 8, 2023

China’s First Political School in Africa
Named after Tanzania’s revered founding father, [the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School in Kibaha, Tanzania] is a joint project of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and six Southern African ruling liberation movements … These parties are part of the Former Liberation Movements of Southern Africa (FLMSA) coalition, which analyzes geostrategic trends, domestic and global challenges to their rule, and plans to provide one another support. … China has been an ideological and military supporter of the six liberation movements and is now the sole external partner of FLMSA. China also provides more professional military education (PME) opportunities to SADC than other African regions. … This School has prompted widespread debate in Southern Africa and beyond. While its members led their countries to independence, they have also exhibited tendencies that undermined democracy and constitutionalism. While they all ostensibly adhere to multiparty political systems, many have been largely intolerant of opposition challenges and have employed wide ranging measures to stifle, constrain, and even dismantle opposition parties. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Sudanese Belligerents Fail to Reach Ceasefire Agreement: Mediators
Mediators from Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the African Union declared the failure of the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to reach a ceasefire agreement, even though they did agree to facilitate humanitarian access and implement confidence-building measures. Saudi Arabia, the United States, the African Union, and IGAD have been actively involved in mediating an end to the ongoing conflict between the army and the Rapid Support Forces, which has raged since April 15 of this year, affecting significant areas in Khartoum, Darfur, and Kordofan states. … This round of negotiations, which commenced on October 29, has primarily focused on the delivery of relief, a ceasefire agreement, and implementing confidence-building measures in preparation for a permanent cessation of hostilities. The quadripartite mediation has unveiled the commitment of both conflicting parties to engage in a collaborative humanitarian mechanism led by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This initiative aims to address obstacles hindering the delivery of relief and establish contact points to facilitate the transit of humanitarian workers. In addition, both parties have agreed to establish a communication mechanism between the leadership of the Sudanese army and the RSF, reduce confrontational rhetoric, and take action against groups inciting escalation and exacerbating the conflict as part of the prerequisites for building trust. Sudan Tribune

Conflict in Sudan Growing in Scope, Brutality as World Remains Silent
A senior U.N. refugee official Tuesday warned that “an unimaginable humanitarian crisis” was unfolding in Sudan, with millions of people being forcibly displaced from their homes by an increasingly vicious conflict … “This is a war that erupted without warning and turned previously peaceful Sudanese homes into cemeteries,” [said Dominique Hyde, UNHCR Director of External Relations]. Hyde has just returned from a week-long visit to Sudan’s White Nile State as well as border and other areas in South Sudan. She said the fighting was growing in scope and brutality while the world remained “scandalously silent, though violations of international humanitarian law persist with impunity.” Recent fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region has caused even more displacement, with thousands of people struggling to find shelter and many sleeping under trees by the roadside, said Hyde, adding that most of the refugees are women and children … “It is shameful the atrocities that were committed 20 years ago in Darfur can still be happening again today with such little attention,” she added, referring to shocking accounts of widespread rape and sexual violence in Darfur, Khartoum, and other parts of Sudan … [O]nly 39% of the $1 billion needed to provide humanitarian assistance for Sudanese refugees in five countries has been received, and … only one third of a separate $2.6 billion appeal to help 18.1 million people inside Sudan has been funded … At the end of each year, she said, U.N. officials are usually hopeful of receiving any remaining funds left over for such an emergency. But, she added, “because of what is happening in Gaza … the funds that were intended or that could have gone to Africa or Afghanistan or to any of the many other humanitarian crises” are now being redirected to the Middle East. VOA

Mali Army Airstrikes Blamed for Civilian Deaths in Rebel-Held Town
Mali’s army said Tuesday it carried out airstrikes on what it called terrorist targets in the rebel stronghold of Kidal, where witnesses and separatists said civilians, including children, died in the attack. … The Permanent Strategic Framework, an alliance of predominantly Tuareg armed groups, said 14 people died, including eight children gathered in front of a school. It said they were killed by Turkish-made drones belonging to Mali’s army. … Tuesday’s incident marked the first killings in Kidal since the Tuareg-dominated rebel groups resumed hostilities in August. Fears of a confrontation in the town—long a center of defiance and a launching point for independence rebellions—have been building for some time. The insubordination of the town and of the Kidal region, where the army suffered humiliating defeats between 2012 and 2014, poses a major sovereignty issue for the junta-led government. … Kidal is controlled by separatist rebel groups. They launched an insurgency in 2012 and agreed to a cease-fire in 2014 and a peace deal in 2015, before taking up arms again in August. The independence uprising in 2012 coincided with insurgencies by radical Islamist groups … Violence has escalated in the north since August, with the military, rebels and jihadis vying for control as the U.N. mission evacuates its camps, triggering a race to seize territory. The rebels do not want the peacekeepers to hand their camps back to the Malian army, saying it would contravene the cease-fire and peace deals struck with the government in 2014 and 2015. AFP

Burkina Faso, Russia Discuss Military Cooperation
The Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs of Burkina Faso Kassoum Coulibaly was in Moscow Tuesday (Nov. 07). He met with the Defence minister of the Russian federation, and they agreed to strengthen defence ties. Burkina’s military rulers have been looking to diversify the country’s international allies. “Russian-Burkinabé relations are based solely on the principles of mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests, and in recent years they have acquired positive dynamics,” Russia’s Sergey Shoigu said. … On October 5 Coulibaly hosted Russia’s vice-minister of Defense Iounous-Bek Evkourov in Ouagadougou. Both men held what Burkina Faso presidency called “working meetings and experience-sharing between ministers on the one hand, and specific officials from the General Staffs of the Armies of the two countries on the other, with the aim of strengthening the skills and capabilities of the National Armed Forces.” They also touched on cooperation in the “in the operational, economic, logistical, technological and training fields”. AfricaNews/AFP-EBU

Groups Linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State Take Root on the Coast of West Africa
Groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have been spreading for years from the vast arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert—the Sahel—into wealthier West African coastal states like Benin. Militants once were believed to want to use coastal nations like Benin, Togo and Ghana as bases for attacks on Sahel governments. Now militancy is taking root. Benin has been the hardest hit. This year it had more than ten times the number of violent incidents involving jihadis than Togo did, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Attacks by jihadis against civilians in Benin nearly tripled from last year, from more than 30 to approximately 80. The overall number of incidents involving jihadi groups rose by more than 70%. “There’s full expansion, regular preaching. They’re establishing cells, they have a lot of presence,” said Kars de Bruijne, senior research fellow and head of the Sahel program at the Clingendael Institute. The jihadis’ activity in Benin is concentrated in the north of the country, where they try to recruit people or get them to be informants, creating division within local populations. Residents of one small town tucked behind lush hills and windy unpaved roads told The Associated Press last month that civilians can no longer move freely. … While Benin’s government is shoring up its borders, it’s also trying to conceal the scale of the crisis to maintain its image, say residents in the north. It’s cracked down on freedom of speech and arrested journalists who report on insecurity. AP

Gunmen Kill at Least 20 in One of Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions
Cameroon’s government has blamed separatist rebels for an attack on Monday in which at least 20 people were killed, including women and children. It occurred in a village in one of the country’s restive anglophone regions. The overnight attack occurred in Egbekaw village, in southwest Cameroon, the scene of deadly clashes between rebels and government forces for the past seven years. Although there had been no claim of responsibility, state media attributed the attack to separatist rebels routinely called “terrorists” by authorities. “There were men, women and children, more than 20 killed,” minister at the presidency Mengot Victor Arrey-Nkongho told public radio. “It’s intolerable.” Cameroon’s primarily English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017. … President Paul Biya, 90, who has ruled the central African nation for 41 years to the day, has resisted calls for wider autonomy and responded with a crackdown. The conflict has claimed more than 6,000 lives and forced more than a million people to flee their homes, according to the International Crisis Group. RFI

Al-Shabaab Loses Control of Strategic Stronghold in Central Somalia
The efforts by the Somali National Army [SNA] to dislodge Al-Shabaab militants have paid off, with the group losing a strategic region in central Somalia, just as the military continues with operations across the country, targeting some of the areas the militants have dominated for over a decade. According to the state media, Al-Shabaab lost Barag Mohamed Daud area within Mudug in central Somalia, following an operation by the Somali National Army which has been combing the area. The multi-agency security teams played a key role in the first phase of operations against Al-Shabaab… The Somali National Army has been concentrating on central regions where Al-Shabaab is dominant, with the military keen on combing exercises. The first phase of operations left at least 3000 Al-Shabaab fighters dead in Galmadug and Hirshabelle states, the government said. Once operations in central Somalia are over, the military, along with the US Africa Command and the African UnionTransition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS], will move to southern parts where they will face the militants in Jubaland and Southwest states. The operations in Jubaland and Southwest states are set to be the last with the foreign troops set to leave the country after handing over security responsibilities to the national army.  Garowe Online

Rebel Fighting Cuts Power Lines to Congolese City of Goma
The main power lines to the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have been cut due to an escalation in rebel fighting nearby, leaving hospitals and water systems without power, the electricity network operator said on Tuesday. Virunga National Park, which operates the network that supplies about 80% of Goma’s electricity, said on Monday that clashes between Congo’s army and the M23 rebels had severed the main power lines to Goma, a city of over 2 million people and the capital of North Kivu province. … A spokesperson for the park said on Tuesday that engineers had managed to access the site to begin repairing the main line, but that bombing continued around them. Clashes with the M23 rebels have moved closer to Goma in recent weeks, causing the U.N. peacekeeping mission MONUSCO and the Congolese army to launch a new operation to reinforce its security perimeter, the United Nations said last Friday. The latest fighting has forced around 300,000 people to flee their homes, bringing to about 1 million the number of people displaced by the M23 conflict to date, the U.N. estimates. On the outskirts of Goma are huge camps for displaced persons that get their clean water from pumping stations which cannot function without electricity, Virunga National Park said. Reuters

US Pushes, Again, for Revived Rwanda-DRC Talks, as SADC Force Prepares to Enter the Fray
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, and his DRC counterpart Felix Tshisekedi on Tuesday…After the call with Blinken, the Rwandan presidency said it was firmly in agreement with “the need for de-escalation of hostilities and a political resolution to the conflict.” The Rwandan presidency said Kagame was in support of the ongoing regional processes to bring peace and stability to the DRC and the region. There are two processes that seek to find a solution for the crisis in the eastern part of the DRC. The Nairobi process is an East African Community (EAC)-led roadmap for ending inter-DRC hostilities involving more than a hundred militia groups known as the “mai mai” as well as the bigger M23 rebels. … There’s also the Luanda Process, which seeks to end the hostility between Rwanda and the DRC. Rwanda is accused, not only by the DRC but by numerous rights groups and the United Nations, of sponsoring the M23 rebels. Meanwhile, Rwanda also accuses the DRC of working with the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), made up of mostly people who took part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and then fled to the eastern DRC. Blinken’s revived interest in finding a solution between Kagame and Tshisekedi comes against the backdrop of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) likely arrival in the DRC on a peacekeeping mission after the complete withdrawal of the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC’s projected end-of-year departure. News 24

Ethiopia’s Unfinished Peace Deal Leaves Hundreds of Thousands of Ex-fighters in Limbo
Across Tigray, there are 270,000 young men and women … members of the self-styled Tigray Defence Forces (TDF), the rebel army that for two years fought the federal military—who are still waiting to be demobilised and reintegrated into society. Tens of thousands more combatants from other parts of Ethiopia are also due to be disarmed under a nationwide process. … Involving an initial total of at least 371,971 fighters, this demobilisation process will be the largest in the world and is currently expected to cost $849 million over a four to five year period. The government has created a National Rehabilitation Commission to oversee the process. It has drawn up a framework to guide it and enlisted the help of the UN, but the process itself has not started yet—mainly because there is no money to fund it. The Ethiopian government plans to meet around 15% of the cost, with donors expected to pick up the rest of the bill, according to a copy of the demobilisation framework seen by The New Humanitarian. But so far, not a single dollar has been received. … As the process drags on, observers fear the disgruntlement of hundreds of thousands of former fighters—many still with ready access to small arms—could destabilise Tigray’s fragile peace. The New Humanitarian

Fighting Erupts in Ethiopia’s Lalibela, Residents Say, as Amhara Remains Volatile
Heavy fighting erupted Wednesday in the historic Ethiopian town of Lalibela between federal government forces and a regional militia, local residents said. It is not the first time the UNESCO World Heritage site has been caught up in clashes in the Amhara region between the Ethiopia National Defence Force and the armed group known as Fano. “Fighting began this morning around 8:00, we can still hear gunfighting. It looks like Fano are in control of parts of the city. I can see small groups on the main road,” a Lalibela church deacon told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “The ENDF are still in control of the airport,” he said, adding that the fighting was ongoing and that some civilians had been wounded. … It is impossible to verify the situation on the ground in Amhara independently as media access to the region is heavily restricted. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government imposed a six-month state of emergency in early August after fighting erupted in Amhara earlier this year, raising concerns about Ethiopia’s stability just months after a peace deal ended a brutal two-year war in neighbouring Tigray. News24/AFP

Madagascar: Opposition Protests, Candidate Briefly Arrested
Madagascar’s opposition once again attempted to protest on Monday, but demonstrators were dispersed and one of the candidates in the presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for November 16, was briefly arrested, police said. After an upsurge in tension on Saturday, when the police prevented an opposition demonstration in the capital Antananarivo using tear gas, a small procession of opponents tried once again to reach the emblematic Place du 13-Mai, despite a prefectoral ban. But the center was cordoned off by the forces of law and order, AFP noted. Madagascar has been shaken for weeks by a fierce electoral battle between the government and a dozen candidates who will oppose incumbent president Andry Rajoelina at the ballot box. Gathered in a collective in which each candidate is nevertheless running individually for the supreme office, the opponents, who have been calling regularly for over a month to take to the streets, denounce “an institutional coup d’état” orchestrated by Rajoelina in view of the election, and are calling for a “free and fair” election. AfricaNews

‘We Are Living in Absolute Fear’: Call to Stop Indigenous Evictions in Rift Valley
Human rights groups are calling for the Kenyan government to halt forced evictions of the Indigenous Ogiek community from their ancestral land in the Rift Valley. … Long-running tensions between the community and the Kenyan government resurfaced this month when rangers from Kenya’s wildlife and forest services began forcing the Ogiek out of their homes in the Mau forest. Community leaders estimate roughly 400 houses have been demolished, leaving families displaced or seeking shelter from recent rains in makeshift structures. …Community leaders fear that houses of cultural significance may be destroyed. “This kind of destruction can bring the extinction of a community,” said Kobei. The community has faced systemic evictions from the Mau forest – Kenya’s largest water tower – for decades. After a prolonged court battle between the Ogiek and the Kenyan government, the African court on Human and Peoples’ Rights found in 2017 that the Ogiek had ancestral land rights to the Mau forest and could rightfully occupy it. In a 2022 reparations judgment, the court ordered the Kenyan government to delimit, demarcate and offer the Ogiek titles to the territory they traditionally lived in. The Guardian

Africa Shifts to Genetic Modification to Boost Food Security
The designation of Ghana as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) collaborating centre for Africa, focusing on plant breeding and associated technologies for food and nutrition, is seen as important for the application of genetic modification in Africa. In a recent press statement, the IAEA announced its collaboration with the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, in a four-year commitment “to promote research and development on mutation breeding in West and sub-Saharan Africa”. … BNARI is set to become Africa’s first IAEA Collaborating Centre in the field of plant breeding and genetics, one of only six such centres globally, and was chosen for its strategic location and expertise in radiation-induced mutation…Ghana is one of a small but growing number of African countries that have embraced genetic modification technology to bolster agricultural productivity and resilience. … Africa’s food crisis cannot be understated, and it extends beyond hunger, encompassing nutrition gaps that have been exacerbated by erratic climate conditions resulting from local and global human-induced climate change and logistics challenges. … A substantial portion of [the growth in global hunger] is occurring in Africa, where nearly 20% of the population faces hunger. … With extreme weather patterns disrupting agricultural patterns, recent genetic modifications have focused on indigenous crops such as cassava and sweet potato, which are more climate change-resistant. Mail & Guardian/bird

The Startup Working to Teach AI about African History
In a country like Nigeria, where history is no longer taught in schools, Fu’ad Lawal and his team of volunteers have created a valuable resource with The project is a digital archive and search engine for every important news story published since Nigeria’s independence in 1960. … Rest of World [RoW]: Why did you decide to start archiving Nigeria’s history? Lawal: As a journalist, it was frustrating to write about a particular place but not find any information online. It’s hard to build context, which is very crucial in creating deep reporting. … [W]e decided to scan old newspapers that were only available in hard copy and make them readily accessible online. Then, we realized how much this will help Africa’s advancement in AI. Now, we will be a point of sourcing for most generative AI, which currently lacks African context. RoW: How does archiving fit into the AI narrative? Lawal: Every large language model is built on data, and Africa is grossly underrepresented. In this context, where data is a major raw material, we need to bring our historical data online to have a maximum and accurate representation in this era of generative modeling. RoW: What does the process of sourcing, scanning, and platforming look like? Lawal: We source from everywhere—but most importantly, from newspaper companies. They give us access to archive their papers, or we find other sources. … After collecting the papers, we tag them manually, scan them, and then upload them on the platform with keywords. When people search for a particular keyword, scanned papers relevant to the search pop up. Rest of World