Africa Media Review for October 17, 2023

Unresolved Conflicts Continue to Drive Africa’s Food Crisis
An estimated 149 million Africans are facing acute food insecurity—an increase of 12 million people from a year ago. This equates to a risk category of 3 or higher (Crisis, Emergency, and Catastrophe) on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale of 1 to 5. Some 122 million of those facing acute food insecurity are in countries experiencing conflict—82 percent of the total—accentuating that conflict is the primary driver of acute food insecurity in Africa…The 149-million-person figure represents a 150-percent increase in the number of Africans facing acute food insecurity since 2019 when 61 million people were in this category…While 38 African countries are experiencing some level of acute food insecurity, roughly two-thirds of this threat is concentrated in five countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Sudan—all of which are conflict-affected…Four of the top 10 countries facing the most acute food insecurity are in East Africa—Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia…Conflict compounds the impacts of other external shocks like climate change, inflation, and the disruption to global grain supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Why Egypt Remains Reluctant to Open Rafah Crossing to Gaza
Egypt has long played a role as a mediator in the conflict not just between Israel and the Palestinians, but also between the main Palestinian factions themselves…Now, the focus is on Egypt’s control of one of the two land routes out of the Gaza Strip – the Rafah crossing. Thousands of Palestinians are waiting on the Gaza side of the border, while hundreds of lorries carrying desperately needed aid are parked up on the Egyptian side…Cairo has kept tight restrictions on movement through the Rafah crossing for many years…The restrictions have mostly been about security concerns in North Sinai where the Egyptian authorities have long been involved in a deadly conflict with jihadists linked to Al Qaeda. But Egypt’s current reluctance to open the crossing without clear conditions and guarantees may be more about trying to avoid a mass exodus of Palestinians from Gaza. The UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, says the Egyptian authorities fear a great influx of Gazans – for whom they would then be responsible, for an indefinite period. In addition, Egypt does not want to play any role in what could amount to a permanent resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza. It seems prepared to allow foreigners and Palestinians with dual nationality to leave, but it wants this to be dependent on allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza. A further stumbling block is that Israel seems to want pretty much the opposite – to allow more Palestinians to leave than Egypt is prepared to accept, while limiting the amount of aid that could go in. BBC

Liberia’s Election: Runoff Imminent
Liberia’s presidential elections, it is now clear, will proceed to a runoff as President George Weah and former Vice President Joseph Boakai remain in a neck-and-neck race that’s too close to call and too far from an outright victory. With 92.82% of votes counted, Boakai closed a 3,581-vote deficit to overtake Weah with just 800 votes, according to data from the National Elections Commission as of October 16. The former Vice President is leading with 748,463 votes, constituting 43.70%, while Weah closely trails with 747,578 votes, which make up 43.65%. This comes after he had trailed Weah for the past three days — significantly reducing the President’s vote margin from the highest of 13,758 on Oct. 14 — which now paved his narrowed lead as 5,467 polling places out of a total of 5,890 have been tallied. The nail-biting contest between the two has produced one of the slimmest margins in post-war Liberian history, keeping the nation on tenterhooks as they await the final outcome. The competitive trend of the results has raised the likelihood of a runoff, as neither candidate might reach the required threshold of 50.1% of the vote, which would secure an outright victory…According to analysts, the failure of Boakai or Weah to have significantly dominated Montserrado County, which has the national largest share of votes around one million, has been the main reason for their seesaw battle since. Liberian Observer

Sudanese Face ‘No Respite from Bloodshed and Terror’ as Conflict Drags On: UN
Six months of war have plunged Sudan into one of the worst humanitarian nightmares in recent history, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said on Sunday, calling on the parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law. In a statement marking the grim milestone, Martin Griffiths, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that for half a year, civilians “have known no respite from bloodshed and terror,” with horrific reports of rape and sexual violence emerging continuously, particularly in the capital Khartoum, and in the states of Darfur and Kordofan. Up to 9,000 people have been reportedly killed, according to the UN, more than 5.6 million displaced from their homes, and 25 million people need aid, because of the conflict that erupted in mid-April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other armed groups…The healthcare situation in Sudan is dire: as more than 70 per cent of health care facilities in conflict areas are out of service, cholera is already stalking the country, with more than 1,000 suspected cases. Basic services are crumbling and the conflict has kept 19 million children are out of school, significantly setting back their education and the country’s future. RFI

Sudan: UN Expert Warns of Child Recruitment by Armed Forces
An independent UN human rights expert on Monday expressed concern about the increased risk of recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups in Sudan, as the months-long war between rival militaries continues. Siobhán Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said unaccompanied children and children from poor families have reportedly been targeted by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia in the outskirts of the capital Khartoum and elsewhere. They’ve forcibly recruited women and children especially, she warned. Girls have also reportedly been abducted from Khartoum to Darfur for sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery…“The deteriorating humanitarian situation and lack of access to food and other basic services make children, especially unaccompanied and separated children on the streets, easy targets for recruitment by armed groups,” Ms. Mullally said. The UN Human Rights Council-appointed expert stressed that recruitment of children by armed groups for any form of exploitation, including in combat roles, is a gross violation of human rights, a serious crime and a violation of international humanitarian law. Addressing reports that children might be joining armed groups as a means of survival, Ms. Mullally emphasized that the consent of a child – defined as any person below the age of 18 – is legally irrelevant, and it is not necessary to prove the use of force. UN News

UN Peacekeepers Begin Sensitive Pull Out of Camps in Northern Mali
The UN stabilisation mission in Mali known as MINUSMA announced Monday (Oct. 16) their pullout has started from two camps in the tense Kidal region. The peacekeeping mission kicked off its withdrawal from Mali’s northern region with the Tessalit and Aguelhok camps. Anticipating the UN disengagement, the Malian army landed two aircrafts at one of the camps at Tessalit…The MINUSMA has transferred 4 camps to Malian authorities since August. However, it is the withdrawal from camps in the region of Kidal and in the eponymous city, which is the fief of separatists’ fighters, that could be the most sensitive. Northern Mali is the theatre of fighting between the Malian authorities, an alliance of groups seeking independence known as CMA and Al-Qaeda-linked group GSIM. The UN withdrawal from northern Mali is supposed to end by December 31 after 10 years of presence. Africanews and AFP

Chad’s Exiled Opposition Leader Delays Return Home
Chad’s exiled pro-democracy opposition leader Succes Masra said increasing threats to civil liberties by Chad’s Transitional Military Council make it impossible for him to return from exile on October 18 as announced. He said hundreds of citizens arrested for protesting against the military should be released as an indication of good faith before his return. Masra, president of Chad’s main opposition party, The Transformers, said the political and security situation in his country remains tense and he plans to delay his trip to Chad until November to avoid any risk to those who were preparing to greet him on his arrival. On Monday, Masra said he has asked Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi to tell Chad’s Transitional Military Council to stop human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of opponents. Central Africa’s regional bloc, the 11-member Economic Community of Central African States, or CEEAC, appointed Tshisekedi as a facilitator for the political transition process in Chad in October 2022 after scores of civilians were killed in protests against Chad’s military leader Mahamat Idriss Deby…Masra fled Chad to the United States in October of last year, through neighboring Cameroon. He fled after the central African state’s security forces killed 50 people, injured 300 and arrested several hundred during pro-democracy protesters. VOA

Ghana Navy Rescues over 8,000 as Dams Overflow
Ghana has deployed its navy and other teams to rescue thousands of people affected by the spillage of excess water from some of the major dams amid heavy rains. More than 8,000 people have been rescued in the Volta region after heavy flooding caused by the overflow of Akosombo and Kpong hydro-electric dams. A navy official told local media that they had “evacuated over 8,000 flood-stricken people to safe havens.” Commodore EA Kwafo said they were also responding to distress calls as well as keeping watch on critical infrastructure. He said they had taken “more boats downstream and experienced divers and lifesavers to assist in the rescue efforts” and more resources would be made available depending on the situation. The “controlled spillage” of the dams began about a month ago and is still ongoing, the Volta River Authority said. It says the flooding has created a humanitarian challenge downstream in several communities in parts of the Volta, Eastern and Greater Accra regions. At least 12,000 people are reported to have been displaced by the floods so far. BBC

Somali TV Journalist Killed in Mogadishu Suicide Bombing
A Somali television journalist was killed Monday evening in a suicide bombing at a restaurant in Mogadishu, police said. Abdifatah Moalim Nur Qeys, who worked for Somali Cable Television, was fatally injured in the explosion at Blue Sky restaurant near the national museum…In a Telegram message, the al-Shabab militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. In the message, al-Shabab said a suicide bomber was behind the blast. The local media watchdog, Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) condemned the violence…The attack comes as Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed home new troops who had been training in Eritrea. Speaking at Mogadishu airport, Mohamud told the soldiers to take one-month leave before returning to join other soldiers engaged in the military operations against al-Shabab. VOA

At Least 12 Journalists Arrested at Censorship Protest in Guinea
Guinean security forces on Monday arrested at least 12 journalists who were demonstrating against censorship, using tear gas to disperse the protest, according to organisers and local media. The Private Press Union of Guinea (SPPG) had called a march in the capital Conakry to demand authorities lift restrictions placed on the popular Guinee Matin news site. Since August, the site has only been accessible in Guinea with the use of a VPN. Reporters Without Borders has created a mirror site to allow people inside the West African country to read its content. Guinea’s ruling junta, which seized power in September 2021, has not provided any explanation for the blockage…The junta has banned protests since 2022…”The press associations call on the national and international community to witness the serious decline in freedom of expression and democracy,” [four press associations said in a joint statement]. AFP

Kenyan Facebook Moderators Accuse Meta of Not Negotiating Sincerely
The lawyer representing 184 former Facebook content moderators based in Kenya who sued the site’s parent company, Meta, over working conditions and pay told the judge Monday that Meta has not been sincere in trying to reach an out-of-court settlement as agreed in the last court session…The moderators were employed via Sama, a San Francisco subcontractor that describes itself as an ethical AI company, to work in its hub in the capital, Nairobi. Their job entailed screening user content in 12 African languages and removing any uploads deemed to breach Facebook’s community standards and terms of service. Some of the petitioners have told The Associated Press that their job required them to watch horrific content for eight hours a day that overwhelmed many of them while being paid 60,000 Kenyan shillings, or $414 a month. They accused Sama of doing little to ensure post-traumatic professional counseling was offered. They are seeking $1.6 billion in compensation…The lawsuit is the first known court challenge of its kind against Facebook outside the United States. AP

Algeria Agrees to Host Palestine National Team Matches
Algeria says it has agreed to host the Palestine national team’s forthcoming football matches following a request from the Palestinian FA. Palestine is scheduled to start its 2026 World Cup campaign in the Asian section next month. Their first qualifier, away to Lebanon on 16 November, will be played in the United Arab Emirates. A ‘home’ match against Australia five days later looks set to be played in north Africa…[The Algerian Football Federation said] that the decision to host “all official and unofficial matches as part of the Palestinian football team’s preparation for the 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup qualifiers” was taken “in accordance with Algeria’s leading authorities.” The Algerian federation added that it will pay all costs, such as transport and accommodation, related to Palestine’s stay. The early rounds of 2026 World Cup qualifying in Asia also double up as qualifiers for the continent’s main football competition, the Asian Cup. The Palestinian Football Association, whose national stadium is based in the West Bank, has sought external help as the regional conflict intensifies, stating that the Asian Football Confederation has asked it to stage the Australia match in a neutral venue. Algeria’s agreement to host Palestine internationals will require approval from football’s world governing body, Fifa, and the Asian Football Confederation. Last week, Palestine’s preparations for next month’s qualifiers were hit after the team withdrew from the Merdeka Cup tournament in Malaysia at two days’ notice owing to the escalating conflict with Israel. BBC