Africa Media Review for October 26, 2023

Senegal’s Main Opposition Leader Sonko Slips into Coma during Hunger Strike
Senegal’s main opposition leader has been under arrest since July, and imprisoned in Dakar’s hospital. His health first started deteriorating when he started a hunger strike in August to protest against what he calls harassment by the state. But Sonko, 49, resumed his hunger strike mid-October to support the opponents to President Macky Sall, and to call for freedom for political prisoners ahead of next year’s elections. His state of health is now “alarming” and “worsening” one of Sonko’s lawyers, Ciré Cledor Ly, said. He entered a deep coma on Monday…PASTEF, Sonko’s party, which has officially been dissolved by the authorities, launched an “urgent appeal” to the president and to the religious authorities, “to not remain indifferent to this situation” and to use their influence to demand the immediate release of Sonko. Sonko was jailed in July on charges including fomenting insurrection, criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise and undermining state security over incidents dating back to 2021. This should render him eligible according to the authorities but a court in his stronghold of Ziguinchor ordered his reinstatement to electoral lists, a decision which paved the way for him to be a presidential candidate. Sonko and his supporters continue to accuse President Sall of attempting to prevent him from running in the 2024 presidential elections. RFI

Nigerian Supreme Court Upholds President Tinubu’s Election Win
Nigeria’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld President Bola Tinubu’s election win, bringing to an end a legal challenge brought by his two main rivals, who argued that his victory was marred by irregularities. The ruling will give the 71-year-old Tinubu a clear mandate to govern Africa’s most populous nation, which is grappling with double-digit inflation, foreign currency shortages and a weakening naira, widespread insecurity and crude oil theft. The judgment by seven Supreme Court judges, which is final, follows a pattern seen in previous presidential elections that have been challenged in court. None of the attempts to overturn results through the courts has been successful. Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party came second and third respectively in the February vote, but rejected the result and called for Tinubu’s win to be annulled. The two opposition leaders had appealed a Sept. 6 tribunal judgment that endorsed Tinubu’s victory. Reuters

Why It’s Difficult to Track Terrorism Financing in Nigeria – Experts
Nigeria’s largely cash-based and informal economy has made it difficult for security agencies to trace the movement of illicit funds, especially those meant for funding terror activities, a panel of experts said…during a panel session at a symposium organised by the Center for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity in Abuja on Wednesday. [Ademola Lawal, a retired colonel in the Nigerian Army,] said security agencies have focused too much on tracing funds within the radar, noting that most of the terrorists and funds mostly move outside the radar of the financial intelligence units…[Ibrahim Adeyemi, Deputy Investigations Editor, Humangle media,] said journalistic investigations have revealed how terrorists source funds locally without hindrance by holding local communities hostage, imposing levies on them, forcefully taking their farm produce and forcing them to work on the terrorists’ farms…[Sa’ad Hannafi, former director of military intelligence,]…said: “Terrorism financing is the centre of gravity of terrorism. There’s an adage that says follow the money trail. Once you can identify the money trail then you are more than halfway towards countering terrorism”…“There are a lot of legal activities that terrorists engage in to fund their activities. There’s a lot of farming, they own NGOs, they are sometimes in the civil services, they fish and do a lot of animal husbandry and whatnot,” [Tobi Oluwatolahe, the Executive Director of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development,] said. Premium Times

Sudan: Deadly Attack on Central Darfur Camp as RSF Siege Enters Its Third Week
On Monday, a Rapid Support Forces (RSF) attack on Block 8 of El Hasahisa camp for the displaced in Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur, reportedly resulted in the death of at least two people and left two others injured. A camp resident confirmed to Radio Dabanga that the RSF continued shelling the Sudanese army headquarters in Zalingei on Tuesday, with shells “landing in close proximity to the command centre”. The RSF siege, which began on October 4, has led to a deteriorating humanitarian and health crisis, leaving the residents grappling with severe shortages of food, water, and basic necessities. On September 1, Radio Dabanga reported that some 3,000 families had fled to the northern neighbourhoods of Zalingei and to El Hasahisa and El Hamidiya camps on the outskirts of the city, fleeing SAF-RSF clashes. Renewed fighting has prompted 300 more families to flee the Unity neighbourhood of Zalingei to the city’s El Hamidiya camp, as reported by Radio Dabanga on Monday. In a separate development, the Central Darfur State Teachers’ Committee reported that six teachers have been killed in Zalingei since the outbreak of the conflict on April 15. Radio Dabanga

Women Conference Calls for Peace in War-Torn Sudan
[S]hortly after the conflict passed its six-month mark, UN Women in partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), African Union, and International Women’s Peace Center organized a conference with Sudanese women peacebuilders in Kampala, Uganda. The conference included consultations with more than 400 women across 14 Sudanese states about their priorities and demands, and aimed to build bridges between women in Sudan and in countries across the region. Women joined online from Sudan and in-person, with many refugees and exiles attending. The conference also aimed to enhance women’s leadership and highlighted the leading role Sudanese women and young women are playing in mobilizing the peace movement…In 2019, many women joined the revolution in Sudan, which saw the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power. Women were able to organize protests and support young people throughout the upheaval, and their activism was highlighted by alternative media outlets that arose after the revolution…“For me, this conference means a platform and a [form of] resistance,”…[Suzan Hussein, a Sudanese woman activist living as a refugee in Uganda said], adding that she hoped the conference could link “different groups of women in order to create a feminist agenda” and resist violence against women. Sudan Tribune

Surging Conflict in DRC Drives Sexual Assault against Displaced Women
Hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been displaced over the past year in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo amid fighting by more than 130 armed groups. As drawn-out conflicts continue to spiral, instances of sexual violence by armed men against displaced women, many living in camps, are climbing rapidly, according to French aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors without Borders). MSF says more than twice as many women in recent months have sought treatment for sexual assault in some displacement camps outside the eastern city of Goma, where shelters are little more than plastic sheets…More than four million people were displaced within Congo because of conflict in 2022, the most in Africa and second in the world only to Ukraine, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. And of the nearly 100,000 people who arrived at displacement sites near the northeastern city of Goma in July, nearly 60% were women and girls, according to the International Organization for Migration. Sexual violence has long been used as a weapon of war by armed fighters in the region and in Bulengo and nearby displacement sites, an average of 70 sexual assault victims each day visit clinics run by MSF. MSF treated 1,500 female victims of sexual violence in July across just three displacement camps outside Goma, which is more than double the number in May, the organization said in a report released on September 18. Africanews

Al-Shabaab Front Leader Surrenders in Somalia
A senior Al-Shabaab frontline leader surrendered to the Somali National Army [SNA] forces on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence confirmed, just as the military prepares for the second phase of operations against the group in Jubaland and Southwest states, where the militants have camped for ages. Muqtar Mohamed Ishaq Rabani, who is an active Al-Shabaab member, surrendered in the Bakool region within Southwest…The Al-Shabaab militants are still trying to topple the fragile UN-backed federal government of Somalia…[but they] are facing onslaught across the country, with the Somali National Army working closely with US Africa Command and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS]. Also in the picture are local militia who have helped the military to navigate several areas. Al-Shabaab militants have continued to wreak havoc on innocent civilians across the country. The government of Somalia announced that at least 3,500 militants have since been killed in the last 12 months after the army launched operations against the militants. Garowe Online

At Least 50 People Are Kidnapped over Two Days in Northern Cameroon by Unknown Gunmen
At least 50 people were kidnapped in two separate incidents over two days in northern Cameroon, local authorities said Tuesday. The kidnappings occurred Sunday and Monday afternoons by an unknown armed group near the border with Chad, the mayor of Touboro town, Celestin Yandal, told The Associated Press. Seven people have been released so far. Abductions in this area happen often, but locals say the scale of these attacks is rare. The first kidnapping took place between Touboro and Koutere towns, where mostly Chadians were taken as well as some people from Cameroon including students and shopkeepers, the mayor said. The second abduction occurred while people were traveling on a bus from Ngaoundere city to Touboro, he said. Cameroon has been plagued by fighting since English-speaking separatists launched a rebellion in the Central African nation in 2017 with the stated goal of breaking away from the area dominated by the French-speaking majority and setting up an independent, English-speaking state…The country also faces a threat from Islamic extremists in the region. AP

Coastal Waters Turning into ‘World’s Biggest Transnational Crime Scene’
Africa’s coastal nations are fighting a rising tide of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, piracy, and drug smuggling. A recent report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) says local, regional and international criminals are taking advantage of poverty and corruption to transform African waters into “the world’s biggest transnational crime scene”…West Africa, for example, is the word’s epicenter for IUU fishing. The scourge costs the region $10 billion a year, according to the Stimson Center, a think tank. China is by far the worst IUU fishing offender in the region and across the globe. In West Africa, Chinese illegal fishing thrives due to inadequate fisheries enforcement capacity and official corruption, according to the Stimson Center…In South Africa, abalone poaching is linked to the spread of crystal methamphetamine and other drugs. Chinese criminal networks typically poach and smuggle abalone to Hong Kong, which imports about 90% of all dried South African abalone…62 of the 75 seafarers taken hostage onboard or kidnapped for ransom worldwide were abducted off the coasts of Benin, Cameroon, Guinea, Nigeria and Togo. As in Somalia, international efforts led to years of declining pirate attacks…but the threat is resurging. Officials reported five incidents in the first quarter of 2023 and nine in the second quarter…Many of the region’s pirates come from the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, where the two most important economic sectors — fishing and farming — have been destroyed and many people are looking for other sources of income, according to Kamal-Deen Ali, executive director of the Center for Maritime Law and Security Africa in Accra, Ghana. Africa Defense Forum

Kenya’s Mau Mau Veterans Seek Royal Redress from Charles III
More than six decades after Gitu Wa Kahengeri was jailed, tortured and denied food in a British-run labour camp in Kenya, the anti-colonial fighter says he is still waiting for justice…Gitu left school as a teenager after a disagreement with the principal over his anti-colonial beliefs, later joining the feared Mau Mau rebels as a young man…The rolling green hills and lush forests of central Kenya…were especially prized by colonial settlers, sparking bitter resentment from Gitu’s ethnic Kikuyu people who were forced off the land. Months after the rebellion kicked off in 1952, then British prime minister Winston Churchill declared a state of emergency, paving the way for a brutal crackdown…More than 10,000 people died in the Mau Mau uprising, a figure some historians claim is a low estimate. Tens of thousands of Kenyans — many with no links to the Mau Mau — endured harrowing treatment including torture and appalling sexual mutilation at the hands of security forces. Buckingham Palace said Charles and his wife Queen Camilla will “acknowledge the more painful aspects” of colonial history during their four-day state visit from October 31…In 2013 Britain agreed to compensate more than 5,000 Kenyans who had suffered abuses during the revolt, in an out-of-court settlement worth nearly 20 million pounds (almost $25 million at today’s exchange rates)…But Gitu said the “small settlement” had done little to alleviate the poverty endured by most Mau Mau veterans and urged the British government “to do more to cultivate the reconciliation we are looking for.” Africanews with AFP

Ethiopian Scientist Gebisa Ejeta Receives National Medal of Science from US
Ethiopian-born scientist Gebisa Ejeta has received the National Medal of Science, the highest state honour attainable by scientists in the United States. US President Joe Biden said he awarded Mr Ejeta the medal for his “outstanding contributions to the science of plant genetics.” Mr Ejeta is acclaimed as one of the world’s leading plant geneticists. He specialises in the study of sorghum, a popular source of food in Africa. In 2009, Mr Ejeta won the prestigious World Food Prize for developing a sorghum hybrid that is resistant to both drought and the parasitic weed Striga, which commonly invades farms in Africa. Sorghum is the fifth-most important cereal crop globally – after maize, wheat, rice and barley. It is also the second-most important cereal in Africa and has been embraced as a staple by several countries on the continent, particularly those prone to drought…His childhood, which was plagued by hunger and food scarcity, has heavily influenced his scientific research over the years, fuelling him in his pursuit to improve food security…Mr Ejeta also received the National Hero Award from the Ethiopian government shortly after he won the World Food Prize in 2009, the highest national honour bestowed on Ethiopian citizens. He was also appointed to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development in 2011 by then US President Barack Obama. BBC