Africa Media Review for October 27, 2023

UN Calls for Peaceful Swap of Prisoners in Somalia after Deadly Battle
The United Nations [UN] has called for a peaceful swap of prisoners in Somalia, following a war at Las Anod within the Sool region, which put Somaliland at loggerheads with the SSC-Khatumo, which is fighting to be governed from Mogadishu. For about 10 months, authorities in Somaliland state engaged in a fierce gunfight with the SSC Khatumo leaders in Las Anod, who rejected the secession idea and opted to remain in greater Somalia as a Federal State. Catriona Laing, the representative of the UN Secretary-General to Somalia, now wants the SSC-Khatumo administration to swap prisoners of war with Somaliland…In her speech, Catriona Laing called for order in Las Anod which has been the epicenter of violence for 8 months, leaving hundreds of people dead and forcing thousands to flee their houses due to Somaliland shelling…SSC-Khatumo region has been a center of contention between Somaliland and Puntland states. Statistics given by Red Cross International show that over 300 people were captured during the clashes between SSC-Khatumo and the Somaliland regional troops fighting to control Las Anod town, which is strategically situated along the Somaliland and Puntland border. Garowe Online

Democratic Republic of Congo Rocked by New M23 Rebel Offensive
M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, October 26, launched a new offensive north of the provincial capital Goma, an Agence France-Presse team observed, as fighting with pro-government armed groups continued further south. The M23, which has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu province since 2021, is one of several militias holding sway over much of the region despite the presence of peacekeepers. On Wednesday evening, mortar fire and rounds of automatic weapons were heard on the southern outskirts of the town of Bambo, some 60 kilometers north of Goma. At midday on Thursday, shells hit the town center and thousands of panic-stricken residents began running north to reach government-controlled areas. “We are in Bambo which has just fallen, we are continuing to fight but there are lots of rebels in the city,” said a security source interviewed by telephone. Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and militiamen were seen joining the population as they tried to escape the fighting…Bambo was taken by the M23 in November 2022, notably the nearby village of Kishishe, where it was accused of massacring 171 civilians. The rebel group withdrew in April and had since remained some 20 kilometers away. Le Monde with AFP

Sudan: Major South Darfur Army Base Falls to RSF
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) claim to have taken full control of the major base of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) 16th Infantry Division in Nyala, capital of South Darfur, [yesterday], after fierce clashes that lasted for three days. The occupation, reportedly under the leadership of RSF Deputy Commander Abdelrahim Dagalo, the brother of RSF commander ‘Hemedti’, has been confirmed by witnesses, including the Darfur Bar Association (DBA)…The RSF also claims to have “inflicted heavy losses on the army, destroyed many military vehicles, and seized military equipment.” Speaking to Radio Dabanga from Nyala, one of the RSF field commanders reported that his forces stormed the Division HQ, after having besieged it for three days…RSF control of Nyala potentially has deep implications for the balance of power in the ongoing conflict, as it is the largest city in the Darfur region, and the largest city and commercial centre in Sudan after Khartoum. The RSF occupation of the base seems to be corroborated in a statement by the DBA that says that the Nyala garrison “is in the grip of RSF deputy commander, and brother of RSF commander ‘Hemedti’, Abdelrahim Dagalo. The DBA “continue to warn all parties of the devastating consequences of the situation.” The DBA especially cites “parallels with the Libyan model of governance with Khalifa Haftar.” Radio Dabanga

Sudanese Civil Forces Agree to Form Leadership Body Headed by Hamdok
The Preparatory Committee for the Meeting to Unite Civil Forces to End the War has agreed to form a leadership body headed by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to oversee the preparations for a founding conference scheduled to take place in eight weeks. The Sudanese political and civil forces, which met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for three days from October 23 to 26, concluded their work by agreeing on an organizational structure, including a leadership body for the “Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces” (CCDF) consisting of 60 representatives of political and civil forces, in addition to a 30-member executive office to prepare for the founding meeting of the coordination. The gathering also resolved to allocate 70% of the leadership body to non-partisan forces, encompassing Resistance Committees, unions, civil society organizations, new initiatives, and independent figures. In contrast, political parties, alliances, and armed factions were granted 30%. About 100 people, representing political, civil, union and armed groups, resistance committees as well as local tribal and religious leaders, met in Addis Ababa to unite pro-democratic forces. After extensive discussions that covered the political, economic, humanitarian, and media aspects, the meeting successfully developed drafts of working papers to be presented to the Founding Conference. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan, Sudan: Oil-Rich and Extremely Poor: Inside the Forgotten ‘Abyei Box’ – a Photo Essay
The Abyei region, rich in oilfields and lush pastures, has long been disputed. Its contentious status, exacerbated since South Sudan’s independence in 2011, has brought conflict and insecurity. The once-promised referendum in Abyei to decide if it would remain a part of Sudan, or restored to South Sudan, first included in the peace agreement that ended Sudan’s civil war in 2005, remains a distant dream, delayed by disputes over residency qualifications, leaving the region in perpetual limbo. A UN-backed interim security force for Abyei (Unisfa) was deployed in 2011 and sought to maintain order until a referendum could be held, but political entanglements have stymied progress. With attention focused on the outbreak of war in Sudan this year, Abyei continues to be overlooked. But as the Unisfa mandate nears renewal on 15 November at the UN security council, the hope persists that the international community will recognise Abyei’s plight and work toward a resolution…Suspected fighters from Twic county in South Sudan recently struck an Abyei town market, leaving 14 dead and 17 injured, just 1km from Unisfa’s main base. Before that, three villages south of Abyei town fell victim to alleged Twic attacks, resulting in four fatalities and seven injuries. Unisfa peacekeepers were engaged, with three sustaining injuries. An influx of people escaping war-torn Sudan, many without support, has introduced new challenges. Measles has surged within these communities, and malaria’s impact on vulnerable children is devastating. Makeshift shelters, cobbled together from sticks, leaves and cloth, offer little respite from harsh conditions, while food shortages persist. The Guardian

Senegalese Opposition Leader Sonko Regains Consciousness but Remains on Hunger Strike, Lawyer Says
A lawyer for Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko said Thursday that the detained politician had regained consciousness but remains “in a very precarious condition” on hunger strike. Sonko, a popular figure with young Senegalese who placed third in the last presidential election, first began refusing food after he was placed in detention in late July. He later suspended the protest measure following mediation but resumed a hunger strike on Oct. 17, according to lawyer Juan Branco…Sonko’s supporters said earlier this week he had lapsed into a coma…In June, Sonko was acquitted on charges of raping a woman who worked at a massage parlor and making death threats against her. But he was convicted of corrupting youth and sentenced to two years in prison, which ignited deadly protests across the country…Sonko was removed from the electoral roll by the Interior Ministry following his conviction. But this decision was overturned by a judge in the southern city of Ziguinchor, who ordered that he be allowed to have sponsorship forms for the presidential election in the same way as other candidates. Sonko’s chances of taking part in the upcoming election are uncertain, as the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the decision taken by the judge of the Ziguinchor district court. In late July, Senegalese authorities formally dissolved Sonko’s political party and placed him in detention. He is now facing charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy against the state and other alleged crimes. AP

Zimbabwe Journalists Ordered to Delete Photos of VP Collapsing at Rally
Media watchdogs and journalists in Zimbabwe are fuming after members of the vice presidential security detail ordered journalists to delete photos and video of Second Vice President Kembo Mohadi collapsing at a campaign rally Saturday. As Mohadi was airlifted to an unknown destination for medical attention, the security detail rounded up journalists and ordered them to wipe out recordings of the event. Journalists from private and government-controlled media who were covering the Zanu-PF rally where Mohadi collapsed refused to speak openly about the dramatic event in Gutu province, which is about a three-hour drive south of Harare. One journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that soon after Mohadi collapsed at the podium, security agents and some Zanu-PF officials rushed to where journalists were gathered. “We were asked to delete our footage,” the journalist said. “Some phones of some journalists were taken for further checks, especially from those from the private media. The phones were taken for 10 to 15 minutes. “Soon after then, the security was always on journalists … checking the stories that they are going to write,” he said. The journalist criticized the security officials’ actions. “We have the right to our phones for privacy,” he said, “and also we have the right to inform the nation.” VOA

Republic of Congo: As Rainforests Worldwide Disappear, Summit to Protect Them Opens in Brazzaville
Delegates from Brazil, Indonesia, Republic of Congo and dozens of other countries at the Three Basins Summit in Brazzaville are hoping to form a coalition of leaders from the basins of the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo-Mekong in Southeast Asia to discuss how to finance the protection of their wildlife-rich regions, which are also major sites for storing planet-warming carbon dioxide. The countries in the three basins have 80% of the world’s tropical forests and two-thirds of the Earth’s biodiversity, according to the World Wildlife Fund. But logging, forest degradation, loss of native species and extreme weather events fueled by climate change have the forests under enormous pressure that’s putting local economies and food security at risk…The three basins have experienced different trends over the years. The Amazon, the world’s largest tropical forest basin, saw an 18% increase in forest loss from 2021 to 2022, much of that driven by Brazil – where deforestation has since reduced in the first six months of this year. Forest loss has decreased significantly in Indonesia and Malaysia in recent years and remained relatively consistent in the Congo, according to analysis by the World Resources Institute…The gathering is the second Three Basins Summit, building on the first meeting held 12 years ago, when governments and other parties in the basin regions agreed to work together to protect resources. AP

Tunisian Parliament Committee Proposes Bill Criminalizing Normalization with Israel
The Freedoms Committee in the Tunisian Parliament on Tuesday approved a draft law criminalizing the normalization of relations with Israel, amid ongoing protests in solidarity with Palestinians in the country. The move paves the way for hearings on the bill followed by a public session for discussion and vote. The draft comes as Israeli reprisal strikes on blockaded Gaza have killed more than 5,000 people in response to Hamas militants who killed at least 1,400 Israelis in a rampage after breaching the fence enclosing Gaza on Oct 7. “The draft law includes seven chapters, in which penalties reach life imprisonment sentence,” Hela Jaballah, head of the freedoms Committee, said. She added that normalization, communication in trade, commercial and cultural activities, services, military or intelligence with Israel will be punished…In recent years, Morocco, Bahrain, and the Emirates have normalized relations with Israel. Reuters

Africa Court Judge Slams Member Countries for Ignoring Human Rights Verdicts
A judge of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights…has criticised government commitments to safeguarding human rights across the continent, pointing out a very poor trend of adherence by member states to court rulings on human rights issues. According to the African Court’s incumbent President Judge Imani Aboud, less than 10 percent of hundreds of decisions handed down by the African Court during its 17 years of operation have so far been implemented by respondent states. Aboud told the 77th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in Arusha that most African governments still appeared to lack the political will to accept basic weaknesses discerned by courts in their enforcement of human rights protocols. “Many of these governments are not even ready to accept charges brought against them by citizens of their own countries, let alone judgments that go against them,” she noted in her October 20 address which was delivered by the court’s registrar Robert Eno…The court was established in 1998 but did not start formal operations until 2006…A total of 34 African states have so far ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights under which it operates, but only eight have assented to the protocol’s controversial Article 34(6) which gives the court jurisdiction to accept cases directly from individuals and non-governmental organisations. Rwanda withdrew its initial assent to the clause in 2017, followed by Tanzania in 2019 and Côte d’Ivoire and Benin in 2020. The East African

Rugby World Cup Final 2023: South Africa v New Zealand
New Zealand and South Africa have consistently reigned supreme at the very top of rugby for decades. Since 2007, either the All Blacks or South Africa have won the Rugby World Cup. And with three titles each, and the last four between them, no side has won more than these two powerhouses of world rugby. On Saturday, one of them will become the first nation to reach a coveted fourth title, with South Africa aiming to join their rivals in being the only sides to win it back-to-back…Despite their recent domination, the sides have only met each other once in a final back in 1995…South Africa won the game on home soil in Johannesburg, with a Joel Stransky drop-goal in extra time securing an iconic win that helped unite the nation following the end of the apartheid era…Nelson Mandela, the former political prisoner turned unifying president of a nation, presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar – an image which went down in history because of the lives it changed. BBC