Africa Media Review for October 5, 2023

UN Rights Office Concerned over Pre-election Violence in Liberia
A senior UN human rights official on Wednesday called on authorities in Liberia to take all necessary measures to ensure that the upcoming elections can take place in a fully inclusive manner. “We are concerned by reported instances of election-related violence, use of language that could amount to hate speech, and attacks on journalists in Liberia ahead of the general election on 10 October,” said UN Human Rights Office Spokesperson in the country, Seif Magango. Violent clashes between supporters of the opposition Unity Party and the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) last month left at least two people dead and 20 others injured in Foya, Lofa County. According to the Spokesperson, there have also been outbreaks of electoral violence in Nimba, Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount counties. The UN has also documented eight attacks on journalists by various political actors, two of which led to injuries. … Calls have been made for Former Vice President Joseph Boakai, representing the Unity Party, and President George Weah, leader of the Coalition for Democratic Change, to personally condemn the violence and urge restraint by their supporters, according to news reports. UN News

Kenya Helps World Get Second Malaria Vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a new vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, for the prevention of malaria in children. It is the world’s second malaria vaccine. This follows Phase III trials involving 4,800 children aged five months to three years in four countries: Mali, Burkina Faso, Tanzania and Kilifi in Kenya. In Kenya, where 600 children were recruited, the trials were led by Prof Mainga Hamaluba, the head of clinical research and clinical trials at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP). According to the WHO, the R21 vaccine was shown to reduce symptomatic cases of malaria by 75 per cent in areas with highly seasonal malaria transmission (where malaria transmission is largely limited to four or five months of the year) in the 12 months following a three-dose series. … In its 2022 report, WHO noted that while malaria deaths have declined to just over 600,000 in 2020, Africa still accounts for more than 95 percent of the global burden and 96 percent of malaria deaths. East African

War Resumes in Northern Mali between the Army and Former Independence Rebels
[…] While war has not officially been declared between the two parties who signed the Algiers Peace Agreement in 2015, on the ground, the guns have been talking since August. Concern is growing: is the Malian army preparing to attack Kidal this time? This town close to the Algerian border is a symbol, a major sovereignty issue for Bamako: it has been the stronghold of four Tuareg rebellions launched against the state since the end of French colonization in 1960, aiming to proclaim the independence of Azawad, a territory roughly corresponding to northern Mali. Since Monday, October 2, this desire to regain this territory took the form of a column of over a hundred Malian Armed Forces (FAMA) vehicles. It set off from Gao, in the north-east of the country, on Monday, October 2, and was continuing northward on Wednesday. Groups of former Tuareg and Arab rebels from the CSP-PSD (Cadre Stratégique Pour la Paix, la Sécurité et le Développement, a permanent strategic framework for peace, security and development) were fighting back to prevent the advance of soldiers into this territory they considered to be under their control. Various security and diplomatic sources reported that there were clashes with the FAMA on Wednesday near Tarkint, 200 kilometers south of Kidal. According to a number of experts on conflicts in the Sahel, before attempting to retake Kidal, the FAMA are looking to retake the Aguelhok and Tessalit bases located to the north of the rebels’ former stronghold, which the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is preparing to leave, the UN forces having been ousted by the junta in June. Le Monde

Fierce Forest Combat Kills Dozens of Somali Forces and Militants
At least 30 pro-government fighters and dozens of al Shabaab militants were killed in Somalia in some of the bloodiest fighting of a year-long offensive against the al Qaeda-linked group, an army officer and clan elder said on Thursday. The clashes on Wednesday in the Shabellow forest were the latest demonstration of the uphill task Somali troops and allied militiamen face in their effort to root out al Shabaab, which has been waging an insurgency since 2006. … The Somali forces initially drove back the al Shabaab fighters in the Shabellow forest on Wednesday but were then surprised by sniper fire, Major Ahmed Nur told Reuters. … He said 30 government soldiers and allied militiamen were killed, while 55 al Shabaab fighters died. A local clan elder, Abdullahi Mohamed, said 33 pro-government fighters and “dozens” of al Shabaab were killed. … The current phase of the offensive against al Shabaab has focused on central Somalia. The government has promised a second phase that will go after the group in its strongholds in the country’s south, where analysts say the group will be even harder to defeat. Reuters

Egypt Presidential Bid Protests ‘Led to 400 Arrests’
Around 400 people in Egypt have been arrested over “riot incidents” after President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi announced that he would run for a third term, according to local media. President Sisi’s remarks on Tuesday sparked a rare display of public anger – viral social media videos captured protests in the north-western city of Marsa Matrouh. In the footage, people can be heard chanting “Sisi out” and calling for his decade-long regime to fall. Other videos showed clashes between demonstrators and the police. The privately owned Al-Manassa news website quoted Saleh Abou-Attiya, the secretary-general of the Marsa Matrouh Bar Association, as saying that 400 people, mostly “young men”, had been detained. The former army chief has been in power since he helped oust Mohammed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2013 amid mass protests against his rule. Activists say Mr Sisi’s term in office has been marked by the brutal suppression of all opposition and the collapse of the Egyptian economy. Egypt’s presidential elections are scheduled to take place in December. BBC

Egypt’s Presidential Elections Offer Little Hope for Change
Just days after the announcement that presidential elections would take place from December 10 to 12, and not in 2024 as initially planned, billboards and posters featuring Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi started to replace sale advertisements along popular streets. Observers do not doubt that the 68-year-old will remain in power, even though seven other candidates have announced their intention to run, and the deadline for further candidates to enter the race is not until October 14. “Other candidates have no chance of winning the election, because there’s no opportunity for them to compete,” Timothy E. Kaldas, deputy director of the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, told DW. … The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a Cairo-based think tank, confirmed that the crackdown on Altantawy’s supporters “has intensified, with at least 73 campaign members detained in connection to charges of joining a subversive or terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media.” “They were interrogated simply for filling out volunteer forms in Altantawy’s presidential campaign, while others just liked the campaign’s Facebook page,” the think tank added. … Meanwhile, Mada Masr, Egypt’s last non-state-controlled news site, reported that the phone of [oppositional candidate Ahmed] Altantawy was hacked multiple times in the past months. DW

Sudan Lawyers: ‘Starvation Sieges’ in Khartoum Violate International Humanitarian Law
Fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) persisted across Khartoum state yesterday. Sudan’s Emergency Lawyers strongly condemned the blocking of food transport to the besieged residential areas of Tuti Island, Ombadda in Omdurman, and El Kalaklat in Khartoum. Shells hit the Ethiopian Embassy in El Amarat, Khartoum, prompting the warring parties to swap accusations. Emergency Lawyers said in a press statement on Monday that it received reports of the death of three people in Tuti, a large island in Khartoum where the Blue Nile and the White Nile meet, as a result of the continued RSF siege. The three victims, among them a child suffering from diabetes, died because of the depletion of medicines. … The RSF closed off the Tuti Bridge, the only land road linking the island with the capital, since the early days of the war, the lawyers said. This has led to restrictions on the movement of people, consumer goods, and life-saving medicines, resulting in starvation and several deaths resulting from the lack of medical supplies. The crisis is compounded by two months of power outages, interrupted water supply, and unsafe drinking water, contributing to the spread of diseases. Dabanga

AI: Voice Cloning Tech Emerges in Sudan Civil War
A campaign using artificial intelligence to impersonate Omar al-Bashir, the former leader of Sudan, has received hundreds of thousands of views on TikTok, adding online confusion to a country torn apart by civil war. An anonymous account has been posting what it says are “leaked recordings” of the ex-president since late August. The channel has posted dozens of clips—but the voice is fake. Bashir, who has been accused of organising war crimes and was toppled by the military in 2019, hasn’t been seen in public for a year and is believed to be seriously ill. He denies the war crimes accusations. … Campaigns like this are significant as they show how new tools can distribute fake content quickly and cheaply through social media, experts say. “It is the democratisation of access to sophisticated audio and video manipulation technology that has me most worried,” says Hany Farid, who researches digital forensics at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US. “Sophisticated actors have been able to distort reality for decades, but now the average person with little to no technical expertise can quickly and easily create fake content.” The recordings are posted on a channel called The Voice of Sudan. The posts appear to be a mixture of old clips from press conferences during coups attempts, news reports and several “leaked recordings” attributed to Bashir. The posts often pretend to be taken from a meeting or phone conversation, and sound grainy as you might expect from a bad telephone line.

Two Decades after Darfur, Sudan Cries Out Again. Is Anyone Listening?
Torched villages and croplands. Executions of men and boys based on their ethnicity. Sniper fire targeting fleeing civilians. Rampant rape and other forms of sexual violence terrorizing women and girls. When these atrocities were committed in Sudan two decades ago, an outraged world took notice and took action. International sanctions were slapped on the Sudanese government. The United States determined that genocide was taking place in Darfur, the western province where the violence was occurring. That designation set in motion a number of actions. … Today a similar array and intensity of violence is again striking Sudan, which is entering a sixth month of fighting between the military and a powerful paramilitary force that has its origins in the Darfur conflict. Some experts maintain that a genocidal campaign has resumed in the state of West Darfur. And yet this time a different international community—overwhelmed by mounting conflicts and natural disasters, and navigating a distracting rise of big-power competition—seems to be taking only passing notice. … “it’s all the more alarming to hear the stories of violence and ethnic cleansing that are so similar to the worst of those bad days,” says Avril Benoît, executive director of Doctors Without Borders USA. “And in some ways this is worse because we’re seeing unrelenting violence in so many parts of the country all at once.” CSM

UN’s Ethiopia Atrocities Probe Will Now End Next Week, Even as Fresh Crimes Expected
The United Nations’ probe into human rights atrocities in Ethiopia will end next week despite investigators warning of an “overwhelming risk” of further abuses being committed in the war-ravaged country. Countries had until Wednesday to put forward a draft resolution to extend their mandate, or seek a further 24 hours in which to do so at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council. But the international community made no attempt to prolong the investigation’s mandate, the spokesman for the UN’s top rights body told AFP. … [S]erious rights violations are still being committed in Ethiopia, the investigation team has concluded. They fear the conflict is spreading across the country and putting regional stability at risk in the Horn of Africa. For several weeks, non-governmental organisations have therefore been calling on the international community to renew the investigation’s mandate. … The commission found that all eight of the common risk factors are now present in Ethiopia, plus the majority of the specific risk factors, which include ongoing serious violations, widespread violence and instability, and deeply entrenched impunity. “There is an overwhelming risk that human rights atrocities will continue,” the commission warned Tuesday as they flagged their new report. News24/AFP

Uganda Opposition Says Leader Bobi Wine Detained; Police Say Escorted Him Home
Uganda’s main opposition party has said leader Bobi Wine was detained upon returning to the country from a trip abroad, but police later said they had accompanied him to his residence. The singer-turned-politician arrived at Entebbe International Airport on Thursday morning after a tour of several countries, including South Africa. “Our President [Bobi Wine] picked up by regime operatives as soon as he landed at the airport,” David Lewis Rubongoya, the general secretary of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party, said on X, formerly Twitter. The post was accompanied by a photo appearing to show two men seizing him by the arms on the tarmac. Later on Thursday, police said Bobi Wine “was successfully escorted by our security team from Entebbe to his home in Magere. He reached his home around 11.20am.” … Bobi Wine’s supporters had planned to accompany him en masse to his home north of the capital, Kampala, to welcome him back, but police had said such gatherings were illegal. … Ugandan authorities have a long history of using so-called “preventative arrest” to detain opposition leaders, often holding them for several hours before returning them to their homes so as to stymie mass demonstrations. Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is a prominent critic of President Yoweri Museveni’s government and has faced numerous arrests and alleged human rights abuses in the past. Al Jazeera

Chad President Promises Transition to Civilian Rule as Opposition Voices Doubt
Chad President Mahamat Idriss Deby is touring the nation, touting his efforts to maintain peace and restore civilian rule, in accordance with resolutions set forth in October 2022 at the Inclusive and Sovereign National Dialogue. But Chad’s political opposition says the central African state remains plagued by hunger, poverty and armed conflict since the military leader took power in April 2021. … Deby was named head of an 18-month transitional council on April 21, 2021, following the death of his 68-year-old father from injuries sustained while visiting troops on the front line. The junta’s transition to democracy expired in October 2022. However, the Inclusive and Sovereign National Dialogue, initiated by military leaders and held August 2022 to October 2022 in N’djamena, extended that transition by 24 months. The dialogue also determined Deby will be eligible to run for the presidency when elections are held in November 2024. Timan Erdimi leads the Union of Resistance Forces, or UFR, a Chadian Rebel Group. He … told reporters Monday in Keoura, his hometown, that Deby has failed to put in place a committee to follow up on resolutions of the Doha peace talks and is not implementing resolutions of the national dialogue. … France, the European Union and the African Union have asked Deby to meet the November 2024 election deadline. VOA

‘Kids Whose Insides are Destroyed’: The Return of Drug Abuse to Mauritius
Until early 2022, Gaetan (real name withheld) was earning a decent living as a construction worker, helping on sites around Mauritius, when he made a snap decision that would turn his life upside down. While smoking a cigarette with colleagues during his lunch break one day, the 35-year-old was offered the opportunity to buy some heroin. Within weeks, he was taking it daily to stave off the aches and pains of withdrawal. … Heroin addiction, which peaked in the ‘90s, has made a roaring comeback in the country, the drug rerouted to its shores through Madagascar on its journey from Afghanistan to East and Southern Africa. In parallel, synthetics have taken hold—drugs like “Black Mamba”, “Rambo” and “Murder” made with chemicals from China, which are mixed with thinner or pesticides and sprayed onto tea, tobacco or herbs, providing highly toxic hits to youngsters. “The advantage of synthetics is that they are cheap,” says Imran Dhanoo, director of the centre. Schoolkids club together to buy a hit for 100 Mauritian rupees ($2), he says. … “There’s no political will to fight the drugs mafia,” says Nando Bodha, former secretary-general of the ruling MSM, who left the party after witnessing its lurch towards autocracy close up. Now with Linion Moris, a multi-party alliance, he wants to overhaul a system he believes is corruption-ridden. “More and more, we’re turning into a narco economy.” Al Jazeera

Experts Say Tackling Corruption Key to Stopping Nigerian Crude Theft
Nigerian authorities are investigating the deaths of at least 15 people in the explosion of an illegally tapped oil pipeline on Sunday, an often-deadly practice that has been going on for decades. Police in the Rivers state, which is in the West African nation’s southern delta region, told VOA by phone Wednesday that Iba community locals were scooping crude oil and refining it at an illegal site late Sunday when the explosion occurred. Police spokesperson Grace Iringe-Koko said authorities removed 15 bodies, including that of a pregnant woman, from the site. Twenty survivors, including the owner of the illegal refinery, were taken to a local hospital with burns. … Crude oil theft is a perennial problem in Nigeria—one of the Africa’s largest producers. The illegal refining of crude, known as “oil bunkering,” is rampant in oil-rich regions. In April, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative said Nigeria lost about 620 million barrels of crude oil valued at $46 billion between 2009 and 2020. Nigerian authorities have been trying to address the problem without much success. VOA

Cholera Spreading Fast in Zimbabwe, with Funeral Restrictions, Calls to Close Schools
A resurgent cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has seen the government restricting some gatherings, banning cooking at funerals in hotspot areas, and activating diarrhoea surveillance countrywide. Since February this year, 4 500 cases have been recorded, resulting in almost 100 deaths. The latest series of outbreaks was first recorded in five suburbs of Harare on Monday. In a statement, the Harare City Council said three of the five known cases were linked to people who had recently visited Buhera District, which is a cholera hotspot in Manicaland Province. Harare has gone for days without running water and there are fears the disease could spread fast in the city which has a population of almost two million people. … Cholera is now present in 41 districts across the country’s 10 provinces. News24

Moroccans ‘Proud’ to Co-host the 2030 FIFA World Cup
Morocco will become the second African country to host a FIFA football world cup after South Africa in 2010. The footabll’s world governing body announced on Wednesday (Oct. 04) that the north African kingdom together with Portugal and Spain will be joint hosts for the 2030 World Cup. This comes one week after Morocco was awarded the hosting of the 2025 AFCON. Morrocans in the streets of Rabat welcomed the news. “As a Moroccan, I’m very happy and proud to host the 2030 World Cup with the help of Portugal and Spain,” football fan Janate said. … Even though the bulk of games will be played in the three host countries, fixtures will also be played in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay as the footballing showpiece celebrates its centenary. 48 teams will be featured starting from the 2026 World Cup in North America. The FIFA Council’s acceptance of a unified 2030 candidacy still needs formal approval next year at a meeting of the 211 member federations. That should be just a formality. … The 48-team tournament scheduled for June-July 2030 is set to start in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay—which FIFA branded as “Centenary Celebration Matches”—before the action moves to the core host nations Spain, Portugal and Morocco. The 2030 decision marks a victory for Morocco, which has invested heavily in infrastructure in its largest cities and was last week chosen to host the 2025 African Cup of Nations. The men’s national team helped push its case by reaching the World Cup semifinals in Qatar, eliminating Spain and Portugal in the previous rounds. AfricaNews/Agencies