Africa This Week: Over 1,000 Burundian troops secretly deployed in eastern DRC; Zambia aims to finalize crucial terms for restructuring $3 billion bonds by first quarter of 2024; Israel to contest South Africa’s genocide accusation; France officially closed embassy in Niger; Somalia rejects Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement on sea access, and others

Over 1,000 Burundian troops have been secretly deployed in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo since October, as revealed by an unpublished U.N. report. The troops, disguised in Congolese uniforms, were reportedly transported by Congolese army planes from Burundi to eastern Congo. The mission involves collaboration with Congolese troops in the fight against M23 rebels in North Kivu province. The report, shared with U.N. Security Council members on Dec. 15, is set for public release in January. Both the Burundian and Congolese governments, as well as the Congolese army, have not responded to requests for comment. The revelation adds complexity to the region’s security dynamics amid the worsening crisis caused by the M23 offensive since 2022. The rebel group’s alleged support from Rwanda has heightened tensions in the area.

Zambia stated on Thursday that it aims to finalize crucial terms for restructuring its $3 billion bonds by the first quarter of 2024, according to Felix Nkulukusa, the Secretary to the Treasury. The G20’s Common Framework requires debtor nations to reach comparable restructuring agreements with official and commercial creditors. Before involving the bondholder steering committee, Zambia seeks consensus on the comparability of treatment, anticipating completion by early 2024. Zambia faced a setback in November when its official creditors, including China and Paris Club members, rejected a preliminary restructuring deal, contending it lacked parity with the relief offered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-approved bondholder agreement. The country, a major copper producer, defaulted on its debts three years ago, with restructuring efforts plagued by persistent delays.

Israel on Tuesday announced its intention to contest South Africa’s genocide accusations over the conflict with Hamas in Gaza at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. South Africa sought an urgent order from the ICJ, alleging Israel’s violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention in its actions against Hamas. Israel’s government spokesman, Eylon Levy, dismissed the accusations as “absurd blood libel” and pledged to present its case at the ICJ. South Africa, historically supporting Palestinian statehood, draws parallels between the Palestinian situation and apartheid-era South Africa, a comparison vehemently denied by Israel. The ICJ, a UN venue for state disputes, will hear the case on January 11 and 12. Israel contends the suit is “baseless,” while South Africa’s lawyers prepare for the hearing.

France officially closed its embassy in Niger on Tuesday, as announced earlier, citing severe hindrance to embassy functions for the past five months. The closure follows strained relations between France and Niger after a military coup in the African nation. The French foreign ministry’s spokeswoman emphasized the challenges faced by the embassy, making it impractical to fulfill its duties during this period.

News brief in another language:

أفريقيا في أسبوع: نشر ألف جندي بوروندي في شرق الكونغو الديمقراطية سرّا؛ إسرائيل تطعن في اتهامات جنوب أفريقيا بالإبادة الجماعية في غزة؛ فرنسا تغلق سفارتها في النيجر؛ دعوة للجلوس على طاولة المفاوضات في مالي؛ فوز الرئيس تشيسكيدي برئاسة جديدة للكونغو الديمقراطية؛ إنتاج غاز مشترك بين السنغال وموريتانيا, و”حميدتي” في شرق افريقيا

Moroccan police on Tuesday announced the seizure of 1.488 tons of cocaine hidden in banana boxes at the northern Tanger Med port. The illicit substance was discovered in a container aboard a Turkey-bound ship flying a European flag from South America. Moroccan authorities conducted the operation in collaboration with Spanish security services, and investigations are ongoing. This incident follows a previous discovery in October, when Moroccan police found 1.37 tons of cocaine in Casablanca.

Local protests on Tuesday compelled a complete shutdown of production at Libya’s Sharara oilfield, capable of producing 300,000 barrels per day. A video circulating online showed protesters from the Fezzan region in southern Libya declaring the Sharara field’s closure until their demands were met. Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC) has not responded to requests for comment. An engineer had previously noted a partial production reduction, with protesters at the oilfield’s gate. The Sharara field, a frequent target for protests, is operated by NOC through Acacus, involving Repsol, Total, OMV, and Equinor. Libya’s oil output has faced disruptions amid political unrest since the 2011 uprising.

Somalia on Tuesday rejected an agreement between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland, allowing Ethiopia access to the Red Sea through the port of Berbera in exchange for recognizing Somaliland’s independence. Somalia, asserting Somaliland as part of its territory, deemed the pact legally invalid and summoned its ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations. The deal permits Ethiopia, largely reliant on Djibouti for maritime trade, to lease a 20-kilometer area around the port for 50 years. In return, Somaliland expects recognition as an independent nation from Ethiopia, potentially triggering regional tensions. Ethiopia’s pursuit of Red Sea access has heightened concerns about conflicts in the Horn of Africa.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday that it aims to provide food assistance to 270,000 Zimbabweans over the next three months amid concerns of a poor harvest due to an El Nino-induced drought. Zimbabwe has grappled with food shortages since 2000, and the 2024 crop yields are expected to be impacted by El Nino, causing a forecasted halving of the staple maize harvest to 1.1 million tons. The government collaborates with aid agencies to assist 2.7 million people facing food insecurity, with WFP focusing on the southern region, where poor rains will have a significant impact. However, WFP’s budget of $39 million for humanitarian programs in Zimbabwe is only 40% funded, necessitating efforts to secure additional resources. Due to funding shortages, WFP will prioritize the most vulnerable communities, offering maize grain, beans, and cooking oil per household.

Sudan’s army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has rejected peace efforts and vowed to continue the nine-month war with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo had earlier agreed to a ceasefire proposed by civilian groups, subject to the military’s agreement. However, Burhan, also Sudan’s head of state, dismissed reconciliation, accusing the RSF of war crimes and crimes against humanity, specifically mentioning ethnic cleansing in West Darfur. The conflict, ongoing since April 15, has displaced over 7.5 million people. Despite international concerns and accusations of war crimes, Burhan rejected a ceasefire deal signed by Dagalo and criticized African leaders who received him during recent visits.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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