Africa Media Review for November 9, 2023

Sudan: Darfur Refugees Report New Spate of Ethnically Driven Killings
People fleeing to Chad have reported a new surge in ethnically-driven killings in Sudan’s West Darfur as the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took over the main army base in the state capital, El Geneina. On Tuesday, a Reuters reporter saw a trail of men crossing from Darfur into Chad at Adre, about 27 km (17 miles) west of El Geneina. Three of those who fled said they had witnessed killings by Arab militias and RSF forces targeting the Masalit ethnic group in Ardamata, an outlying district in El Geneina that is home to the army base and to a camp for internally displaced people (IDP). … Reuters has reported that between April and June this year, the RSF and allied Arab militias conducted weeks of systematic attacks targeting the Masalit, El Geneina’s majority ethnic African tribe, as war flared in the country between the RSF and Sudan’s army…The attack on the army base in Ardamata started early last week, when militiamen also started shelling homes in the IDP camp, said Nabil Meccia, a nurse who said he had crossed into Chad after being detained by the RSF at the border and paying to secure his release. … He said he had seen RSF forces killing civilians as they sprayed gunfire during raids in the Ardamata camp, and lining men up and executing them. Reuters

Sudan: Prominent Darfur Leader and His Family ‘Killed by RSF’ in El Geneina
The Sultanate of the Masalit announced that Farsha Mohamed Arbab, his son, and eight grandchildren were allegedly killed by members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the Ardamata neighbourhood in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, on Saturday. People who fled the fighting to Chad said the RSF also committed atrocities against the residents of the former Ardamata camp for the displaced. The Faroushiya [one of the levels of native administration in the Sultanate of Dar Masalit] Eish Barra said in a statement yesterday that Arbab was “one of West Darfur’s prominent native administration leaders, and one of the oldest pillars in the Darfur region and the Sultanate of Dar Masalit in particular. He was appointed farsha of Misterei in 1959.” The Sovereignty Council, Sudan’s highest government body, condemned the killing of Arbab, accusing the RSF of committing the crime. In a statement yesterday, it claimed that the farsha was killed along with his son and eight grandchildren when the RSF stormed homes in Ardamata. An RSF commander claimed to have captured more than 700 prisoners. Activists who remained in El Geneina confirmed that several SAF officers and soldiers were captured by the RSF, with some loss of life. Dabanga

Mali: UN Convoy Concludes Treacherous 350 Kilometre Journey
A convoy from the UN Mission in Mali arrived in the northeastern city of Gao on Tuesday night after a dangerous week-long journey, marking the departure of peacekeepers from the volatile Kidal region. The development is the latest step in the accelerated withdrawal process of the Mission, known as MINUSMA, which is due to leave the West African country by the end of the year after a decade in operation. The 143 vehicles left Kidal on 31 October and travelled nearly 350 kilometres, transporting 848 peacekeepers from Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, Guinea and Nepal, as well as equipment. The convoy – which was reportedly approximately nine kilometres long – encountered six improvised explosive devices along the way. Thirty-seven “blue helmets” required medical attention, though all have since been discharged or are in stable condition. Speaking in New York on Wednesday, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the convoy also had to depart without air support due to a lack of flight clearance from the Malian authorities – a situation that increased the safety risk of the peacekeepers. … The departure from Kidal marks the closure of MINUSMA’s eighth base out of a total of 13. In the coming weeks, the Mission will end its presence in Ansango, located in the Gao region, followed by Mopti, thus completing the second and final phase of the withdrawal plan. UN News

Malian Army Drones Strike Kidal, Northern Rebel Stronghold
The ruling junta in Bamako has rekindled its conflict with politico-military groups in an attempt to militarily reconquer the north of the country. The former are supported by Wagner mercenaries, the latter by jihadists affiliated to Al-Qaeda. … The Malian army, which went on the offensive in August, effectively breaking the Algiers peace agreement signed between the two groups in 2015, has only acknowledged “air strikes” were carried out “against terrorist targets.” “They targeted children,” maintained Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane, spokesperson for the CSP-PSD. “They had come to recover equipment abandoned by the MINUSMA [United Nations mission in Mali] in the camp it had left.” Expelled by the ruling military in Bamako, MINUSMA, deployed in the country since 2013 to promote the return of the state after the war unleashed a year earlier by a coalition of armed independence and jihadist groups, began the accelerated withdrawal of its 13 bases in August, mainly in the north and center of the country. At the end of October, the Blue Helmet base at Tessalit in the Kidal region was taken over by the Malian armed forces, while the base at Aguelhok came under the control of the CSP-PSD. Le Monde

Mozambique: The New IED War
In July this year, insurgents appeared to successfully use a remote-detonated explosive for the first time, destroying a Mozambican armored personnel carrier. Most of the recent IEDs seem to be pressure-activated but insurgents have demonstrated they possess a new breadth of expertise. IEDs represent a decidedly new strategy for the insurgency, which has typically favored small arms assaults on military and civilian targets. They allow insurgents to minimize casualties on their own side while inflicting chaos on the other and preventing them from effectively responding to incidents. The invisible but ever-present threat of driving over a hidden bomb is already taking a psychological toll on Mozambican troops who have had no training in this kind of warfare, a local source told Cabo Ligado. Insurgents have usually shied away from direct confrontations with the better-trained and heavily-armed RSF and Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), but IEDs have evened the odds. International troops have been the main targets of roadside bombs this month, putting them more on the frontline than they have been since the offensive to recapture Mocímboa da Praia in August 2021. Relying on IEDs is likely borne out of necessity. A United Nations Security Council report estimated in February 2023 that there were around 280 adult male fighters left in the field, down from around 2,500 prior to the intervention of RSF and SAMIM in July 2022. … Without the manpower to assault FDS positions, the insurgents will struggle to resupply. IEDs enable the insurgency to keep up the fight without putting its men in the line of fire. Zitamar

Ethiopian Troops Force Armed Group Out of Orthodox Holy Site of Lalibela
The Ethiopian army on Thursday regained control of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site, following a pullout by a regional armed group whose fighters had overrun much of the historic town a day earlier. Fierce fighting broke out on Wednesday morning with Fano fighters taking control of much of Lalibela and pushing the army back to a base on the town’s outskirts. But the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) regained control on Thursday, residents said. “Until early morning, Fano controlled most of the town. When we woke up, Fano were finishing leaving the town,” a resident told AFP news agency by phone on condition of anonymity, “I can see ENDF deployed in the streets.” Other details about the attack remain unclear as media access to the region is severely restricted and government officials are yet to comment on the matter. Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu had disputed the reports of violence on Wednesday, telling Reuters news agency that the city and its surroundings were peaceful. … Designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations in 1978, Lalibela’s 11 medieval cave churches were carved out of monolithic blocks to form a “New Jerusalem”, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. On Sunday, Ethiopian soldiers fired heavy weapons 11 times from locations near the churches, a deacon said, sending damaging shockwaves through one of the subterranean places of worship. Al Jazeera

Much Like Zimbabwe, Arab Spring Birthplace Tunisia Proposes Shutting Down Civil Society
Apparently taking a leaf from Zimbabwe, Tunisia intends to effectively ban civil society as President Kais Saied continues with a crackdown on free speech in the birthplace of the Arab Spring. Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, at the end of his first term in office last year, signed the Patriotic Bill, viewed by human rights defenders and political rivals as “a brutal assault on civic space”. It was to be followed by its infamous cousin, the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill, giving the government power to regulate or ban non-governmental organisations deemed hostile to the regime. The law was not passed. However, in the current parliament, Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu PF intend to pass it into law. Further north, Tunisia has similar plans. Ten parliamentarians loyal to Saied proposed Basic Law No. 027/2023 relating to the organisation of associations. The law is at the office level, and moves to the committee stage next, before finally heading to the plenary session level. The law won’t face any opposition because Saied granted himself executive powers two years after his election. He then dissolved parliament and drafted a tailor-made constitution that Tunisia adopted a year later through a referendum. Saied remains unpopular. News24

Liberia’s Election: Surprise Third-Place Finisher, Appleton, Backs Boakai in Runoff
Edward Appleton, the surprising 3rd place finisher in the first round of the October 10 polls, has thrown his support behind former Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is set to face off against President George Weah during the November 14 runoff elections. Appleton’s endorsement, which marks a significant shift in the political landscape, makes him the third of the top-six presidential candidates from the initial round to back Boakai against Weah in the highly anticipated runoff rematch. … Appleton’s endorsement comes after he had previously held meetings with Weah and top campaign officials who were also seeking his support for the upcoming runoff elections. Their discussions were held behind closed doors and generated significant speculation about potential alignment. However, his endorsement of Boakai, along with his party—the Grassroots Development Movement—came as a surprise, even though he had held meetings with the former Vice President and confidants as well. … The tight race indicates that every endorsement and additional vote is crucial in the race to the presidency. The President, who like Boakai, has received significant endorsements from various prominent individuals and legislative candidates, both elected and defeated, has missed out on the endorsement of the top-six presidential candidates from the initial round of voting. Liberian Observer

Congo’s Kamerhe Says Detained Reuters Journalist Has His Support
Democratic Republic of Congo Deputy Prime Minister Vital Kamerhe on Wednesday said he supported Congolese journalist Stanis Bujakera, who has been detained in Kinshasa, but could not speak about the judicial process currently under way. Kamerhe, who said he had been jailed in the past himself, said the head of state and authorities would speak about the rights of the journalist, who was detained on suspicion of spreading false information about the killing of a prominent opposition politician in an article published by Jeune Afrique. … As well as working for Jeune Afrique, Bujakera contributes to Reuters. He has been in detention since Sept. 8 in connection with the article about the circumstances of the death of Cherubin Okende, a former transport minister whose body was found in Kinshasa on July 13. Kamerhe said he was confident that Bujakera would be released, but he could not interfere in a legal process. Later, he told Reuters journalists that he thought that Bujakera would be free by the election, slated to be held on Dec. 20. Congo is set to vote in a general election in which President Felix Tshisekedi will seek a second term. Reuters

Journalist’s Trial Renews Concern About Nigeria’s Cybercrime Law
It’s been nearly a month since Nigerian authorities detained journalist Saint Mienpamo Onitsha. … The officers detained Mienpamo overnight before flying him out of his hometown to Abuja and charged him with cyberstalking and defamation. … Mienpamo had spoken out against the Presidential Amnesty Program, or PAP, a government-sponsored program that offers monthly stipends to former oil militants as part of efforts to end violence in the Niger Delta. Authorities said the journalist in September deliberately published a false and unverified report on Facebook, accusing PAP officials of beating a beneficiary to death. Officials deny that anyone was killed. They say that when a beneficiary tried to force his way into the office, security resisted him. The person went to a hospital and was later discharged. At Nigeria’s federal high court in Abuja, hearings in the case of the journalist are underway. Anande Terungwa, Mienpamo’s attorney, said that the journalist had pleaded not guilty, pulled down his report, published a corrected story and issued an apology. … Nigerian lawmakers enacted the cybercrime law in 2015 to protect the nation’s economy and prevent fraud and cyberattacks. But analysts say the legislation is used too often by authorities to prosecute journalists and citizens who often criticize the government or politicians. Analysts say Nigerian media are often targeted with arrest or lawsuits over their work. VOA

Senegal: President Orders Emergency Measures to Combat Illegal Emigration
Senegal’s President Macky Sall has ordered emergency measures to be taken to stem the growing flow of migrants taking to canoes to reach Europe, his office said on Wednesday evening. Mr. Sall asked the government on Wednesday “to take emergency security, economic, financial and social measures to neutralize the departure of emigrants from the national territory”, said a communiqué issued after the Council of Ministers. The effort will involve the Ministers of the Interior, the Armed Forces, Youth and Fisheries, according to the communiqué, which also refers to the national strategy to combat irregular migration presented by the government in July. Senegal, a West African country that President Sall is striving to put on the road to emergence, is facing a flood of departures by sea bound for the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago and gateway to Europe. Several times a week, the press reports arrivals of pirogues in the Canaries, interceptions or rescues in the Atlantic, off Senegal or in the waters approaching the Canaries. This dangerous migration has led to a series of tragedies. AfricaNews/AFP

‘Act urgently’: French Lawmakers Push for New Approach on Africa
France must “act urgently” and conduct reforms to restore its ties with Africa as Russia and China’s influence is rising on the continent, according to a parliamentary report published on Wednesday. The report was issued amid growing alarm in Paris over strong anti-French sentiment in some former colonies. Penned by Bruno Fuchs of the centre-right Democratic Movement party and Michele Tabarot of the right-wing Republicans party, it said that France was struggling to “adapt” to change in Africa. Africans, the report says, “are demanding a different policy from France.” “We must act urgently to avoid a risk of contagion and loss of trust.” The 170-page report was released after months of work that included dozens of interviews with African and French politicians, military personnel, representatives of civil society and journalists. “Eager to renew its ties with Africa and avoid mistakes of the past, deprived of detailed knowledge of the continent and dependent on uncertain political choices, (France) now refuses to adopt a genuine ‘African policy’,” lamented the authors. France has ended anti-jihadist military missions in Mali and Burkina Faso and more recently began to withdraw its 1,400-strong contingent from Niger after the ouster of president Mohamed Bazoum, a key ally of Paris. In all three countries, Paris was pushed out by military regimes that came to power after coups. RFI

Can Kenyan Police End Gang Violence in Haiti?
Kenya’s High Court is expected on Thursday to make a judgement on the deployment of police officers to a UN Security Council-approved mission to combat gang violence in Haiti. The Kenyan court in October extended an order preventing the Kenyan government from deploying 1,000 officers to Haiti. In July this year, the UN Security Council approved a Kenya-led, multination mission aimed at bringing stability to Haiti where violent criminal gangs have largely overrun the capital. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry had requested the deployment of a foreign armed force a year ago to battle the gangs. But the decision was challenged by petitioners who claim that the East African nation’s constitution lacks provisions for deploying police officers outside of Kenya. The petition was brought forward by Thirdway Alliance party leader and lawyer Ekuru Aukot who argued that the deployment was unconstitutional. Other opposition members also share Aukot’s dissenting views. … Kenya’s defense minister, Aden Duale, asserts that the government is well prepared to take on the challenges in Haiti, drawing upon the nation’s extensive experience in peacekeeping missions. … The United States concurs that Kenya is the ideal leader for the Haiti mission as affirmed by the US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during his recent visit to Kenya. … The situation in Haiti has become increasingly dire as the spike in gang violence has displaced more than 200,000 people, many of whom were forced to live in informal settlements and were having to survive on limited means. DW

Two Months after Morocco Quake, Little Support for Hard-Hit Amazigh Women
Two months after one of the strongest earthquakes in Morocco’s history killed nearly 3,000 people and destroyed entire villages in the High Atlas Mountains, women in Indigenous Amazigh communities are finding it particularly hard to recover. Of the 500,000 people displaced and the many more impacted by the 8 September earthquake, most are Amazigh – an Indigenous group that traces its presence in Morocco back to before the Arab and Islamic conquest in the 7th century. For many Amazigh women, the loss of homes and workshops in the 8 September disaster meant they also lost their livelihoods, as this is where they produce the rugs and crafts they sell to support themselves and their families. In early October, the government said it had started disbursing 2,500 dirhams ($245) in monthly assistance to each affected household as part of a year-long cash relief programme. It also promised up to 140,000 Moroccan dirhams ($13,700) for each destroyed home and 30,000 dirhams ($3,000) to 50,000 households affected by the quake. However, none of the survivors The New Humanitarian spoke to in early October said they had received any compensation, and the aid and support that has arrived has been insufficient, especially for women. … Amazigh culture was often repressed, and didn’t gain official state recognition until 2001. … Amazigh communities remain marginalised, and their homes in the Atlas and the Rif mountains are plagued by poverty and poor infrastructure. The New Humanitarian

Power Ship Company That Cut Electricity in African Cities Eyes Expansion
A Turkish company whose floating power ships switched off the electricity supply to two of Africa’s poorest cities in recent months says it is in talks with six more countries to expand across the continent. But critics argue it only provides a short term solution to chronic underinvestment. Karpowership, which operates floating power plants, supplies electricity to eight African countries including Ghana, Senegal, Mozambique, and Côte d’Ivoire. The company has in recent months cut off electricity in Freetown and Bissau, the capitals of Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, after authorities failed to pay bills reportedly totalling $40 million and $15 million respectively. The company’s chief commercial officer, Zeynep Harezi, told Semafor Africa the company is in talks with a number of African countries as part of its expansion plans. “We are in constant communication with Tanzania, Kenya, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, [and] Liberia,” Harezi said. … Harezi said the company’s ships, which use natural gas to generate electricity which is then sent to the grid, offered a “permanent solution” to power problems in many African countries because they were “cleaner” than other fossil fuel energy sources. … Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest access to electricity in the world. Around half a billion people lack access to electricity. The failure to develop and maintain the infrastructure needed to provide reliable power has stymied the economic development of countries across the continent, including its biggest economies — Nigeria and South Africa. … The country’s reliance on power ships is emblematic of a broader failure in many African countries to develop or maintain power facilities. Semafor