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Africa This Week

  NIAS Africa Team

News Brief: New wave of kidnappings in Nigeria and Libya's step towards unifying rival governments
Anu Maria Joseph, Narmatha S and Vetriselvi Baskaran

The Africa this week (8-15 March) discuss the following three issues.

1. Nigeria: New wave of kidnappings
In Africa, the major development this week is the resurgence of the kidnapping series in Nigeria. Followed by the abduction of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Borno state on 3 March, bandits attacked a school and abducted 280 students in Kaduna state on 7 March. On 10 March, 15 students were abducted from a boarding school in Sokoto state.

On 8 March, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu stated that his government would ensure “justice is served against the perpetrators of these abominable acts.” Meanwhile, UNICEF's Nigeria’s director, Christian Munduate, stated: “Schools are supposed to be sanctuaries of learning and growth, not sites of fear and violence." He added: “This latest abduction, as any previously, is highly condemnable and part of a worrying trend of attacks on educational institutions in Nigeria, particularly in the northwest, where armed groups have intensified their campaign of violence and kidnappings.”

The new wave of kidnappings has raised concerns across the country of a potential resurgence of the bandits, a local group of armed men who carry out ransom kidnapping in Nigeria. Recently there were reports of separatists in neighboring Cameroon adopting similar tactics. On 8 March, separatist fighters abducted and killed four government workers in Cameroon. The incident has alarmed a spillover effect of the kidnapping trend.

2. Libya: Steps towards unifying rival governments
In Libya, on 11 March, the President of the Libyan Presidential Council and the leader of the Benghazi-based administration had agreed to form a new unified government to supervise the long-delayed elections and “unify sovereign positions.” The talks between these rival governments were held under the leadership of the Secretary of the Arab League, General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in Cairo. Libya was engulfed by a civil war in 2014 after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The civil war split the country between the internationally recognised government in the west, led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Tripoli, and the administration in the east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi. The new developments imply positive steps toward the unification of Libyan rival authorities. 

3. Sudan: UN's call for ceasefire ahead of Ramdan
Meanwhile, in Sudan, the UN had demanded a ceasefire ahead of Ramadan. However, on the contrary, the fighting between the rival factions has taken a new turn with the Sudanese Armed Forces recapturing the state broadcaster in Omdurman, which was under the control of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Besides, the humanitarian crisis is deteriorating with the UN warning of a hunger crisis that Sudan has never seen and sexual atrocities against women and girls in Darfur states.

AFRICA IN BRIEF (8-15 March)
To boost renewable energy sources

On 14 March, Algeria, a major oil and gas exporter, signed contracts with local and international companies in a bid to develop two solar energy projects with a capacity of 3,000 MW. The country aims to reach a renewable energy capacity of 15,000 MW by 2035 by producing 27 per cent of its energy requirements from wind, solar and hydro. The major objective is to reduce reliance on oil and gas. Currently, only three per cent of the country’s energy production depends on renewable sources.

UNSC demands ceasefire during Ramadan

On 8 March, while the delegates to the UN Security Council were debating a British-drafted resolution, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded with the parties at odds to put an end to hostilities ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He asserted that this move would bring a road to peace. In addition, he cautioned about the spiralling humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

US special envoy kicked off his diplomatic tour
On 11 March, BBC reported that the newly appointed US special envoy to Sudan, Tom Perriello, began his diplomatic tour to East Africa and the Gulf. He would visit Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The development came ahead of the one-year completion of the civil war in Sudan and the UN’s proposal for a ceasefire during Ramadan. 

SAF regains state headquarters in Omdurman
On 12 March, BBC reported on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) regaining the headquarters of the state broadcaster in Omdurman. Since the war broke out, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had the upper hand in Omdurman. Despite the UN's calls for a ceasefire ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, fighting continues. 

Darfur women are the rape victims, reports Guardian
On 14 March, the BBC quoted a report by UK's Guardian that Darfur women are rape victims. According to the report, in Geneina, women are sexually exploited by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The most targeted victims are the women of the Masalit community. They identify the perpetrators as dark-skinned ethnic African tribes alleged to be Arab fighters. The war, which is nearly a year, has caused large humanitarian crises and the world's largest displacement crisis. 

Discussion over ending Tigray conflict’s peace agreement delayed 

On 11 March, the federal government and the Tigrayan regional state-initiated talks to end the Pretoria peace agreement which was brokered in November 2022. The delay in implementation escalated further tensions in the country. The agreement tries to look at power-sharing, regional autonomy and resource control. 

US’s action to destroy Somali Islamists 

On 11 March, the US Department of the Treasury announced that it would support Somalia in its "campaign to degrade this deadly terrorist group,” referring to Al Shabab. The department added that the Al Shabab militant group, which controls vast regions of Somalia, has been renamed as a "transnational money-laundering network.” The move is to reduce attention given to the group as an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group. 

Cargo ship hijacked at the coast of Somalia
On 12 March, the armed pirates attacked a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean, which is 600 nautical miles off the Somalian coast. The cargo travelling from Mozambique to the UAE was attacked by nearly 20 armed men. No group has taken responsibility. The Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin have become hotspots of piracy, where nearly 20 hijackings have taken place since November 2023. 

Builds concrete wall to block Mozambicans

On 8 March, BBC reported that South Africa has allocated USD 2.7 million to build a concrete wall along its border with Mozambique to prevent people crossing to steal and smuggle vehicles. The barriers are being set up in three sectors. An eight-kilometre barrier near Tembe Elephant Park which is under construction; an eight-kilometre-long stretch near iSimangaliso Wetland Park; a nine-kilometre wall from the western boundary of Tembe Elephant Park towards Pongolo River. The project received positive responses from the people and the South African National Defense Force.

UN out of funds to help terror victims

On 8 March, the UNHCR Chief, Filippo Grandi, appealed to the World Bank and other partners to aid Mozambique in development and the humanitarian crisis. The UN provides only 17 per cent of the funding in relief to Mozambique. Cabo Delgado, a mineral-rich province of Mozambique is plunged into frequent Islamist attacks that destroy its peace and stability. Grandi stated: "As a United Nations organisation, [we] are committed to providing a large-scale response to the humanitarian drama in Cabo Delgado, but unfortunately, without sufficient resources, we will have no alternative but to do less of what we should do."

Storm Filipo kills four people
On 12 March, the BBC reported on the storm Filipo that hit the Inhambane province in southern Mozambique. Four people were killed and one was injured in the violent storm. The roads, schools and houses have been reportedly damaged. The storm hit the tourist spots of Tofo and Barra, where several tourist boats were damaged. The communication lines, electricity, and internet facilities have been adversely affected by the storm. 

Opposition leader Ousame Sonko released

On 15 March, Al Jazeera reported that Senegal’s main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, was released from prison following the political crisis triggered by President Macky Sall’s announcement of election postponement. Macky Sall’s government abruptly passed a bill postponing the elections scheduled for 24 February to December. The postponement sparked violent protests. Later, the Constitutional Council annulled the postponement and is now due to take place on 24 March. The arrest of Sonko in June 2023 sparked similar violent protests. He was arrested on the charges of misleading the youth. Sonko's release ahead of the elections was celebrated by the youth who supported his anti-corruption stance.

60 migrants die in the Mediterranean Sea

On 15 March, BBC reported that at least 60 migrants died after a rubber dinghy broke down in the Mediterranean Sea. The survivors claimed that they had departed from Zawiya, near the Libyan coast. The engine of the dinghy broke and was deserted in the sea for three days without food and water. Several of the migrants died of dehydration and hunger and not of drowning.

About the authors
Anu Maria Joseph is a Research Associate at NIAS. Narmatha S and Vetriselvi Baskaran are Postgraduate Scholars at the University of Madras.

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