Africa Media Review for April 12, 2021

Benin’s Patrice Talon Favored for Re-Election after Vote
Benin President Patrice Talon looked set to win re-election on Sunday after a tense ballot, with critics accusing him of rigging the race in his favour by sidelining opposition leaders. A cotton tycoon first elected in 2016, Talon faced off against two little-known rivals while some of the West African country’s key opposition leaders boycotted the election. Benin was once praised as a vibrant democracy in an often troubled region, but most opposition figures are now exiled, disqualified by electoral reforms or have been targeted for investigation by a special court. Tensions rose ahead of the vote, with protests breaking out in several cities in opposition strongholds though voting went ahead mostly peacefully on Sunday. … But Joel Aivo, one of the opposition leaders disqualified from running, said he would not vote and had urged others to boycott the poll. “The president has chosen to run against himself in this unprecedented election,” the FRD opposition movement said, adding that candidates had been “driven into exile, arrested, thrown in prison.” Voter turnout was low compared to with past elections, according to initial data collected by a group of civil society organisations that deployed 1,400 observers. AFP

Chad Count Votes as Deby Seeks Sixth Term after 30 Years in Power
Vote counting has started in Chad after a tense presidential election on Sunday that is likely to see President Idriss Deby extend his three-decade rule, despite signs of growing discontent over his handling of the nation’s oil wealth. … Deby seized power in 1990 in an armed rebellion, and in 2018 pushed through a new constitution that could let him stay in power until 2033 – even as it reinstated term limits. He has relied on a firm grip over state institutions and one of the region’s most capable militaries to maintain power. Deby said recently he knew in advance that he would win again “as I have done for the last 30 years.” … Among Deby’s six rivals is former prime minister Albert Pahimi Padacke, but several leading opponents are boycotting the race, including the 2016 runner-up Saleh Kebzabo, who has vowed to make Chad “ungovernable” if Deby wins. … Yacine Abderaman Sakine, leader of the Reformist Party, who joined the call for a boycott, said Chadians were tired of pretending that elections are free and fair. “The lack of enthusiasm in polling stations today is a strong message to those who confiscate power by force,” Sakine told Reuters. Reuters

Djibouti’s Veteran Ruler Guelleh Re-Elected For Fifth Term
Djibouti’s veteran ruler Ismail Omar Guelleh was re-elected for a fifth term as president with more than 98 percent of the vote, according to provisional results announced early Saturday, after the election in the tiny but strategically important country was boycotted by the main opposition. … Guelleh was the handpicked successor to his relative Hassan Gouled Aptidon, the country’s first president after independence from France in 1977. He faced just one challenger — political newcomer Zakaria Ismail Farah — after Djibouti’s main opposition parties boycotted the election. Farah, a 56-year-old cleaning products importer, ended up with under 5,000 votes, according to the provisional results. Farah cast doubt on the transparency of the voting process, saying his delegates were not present at polling stations. “My vote is of no use, nor are the votes of 80 percent of the Djiboutian people,” the opposition candidate told AFP in a text message. … Guelleh, and his extended family, have controlled Djibouti with an iron fist since he was handed power. A rare wave of opposition protests in 2020 were brutally suppressed. AFP

‘Tell Us if He’s Dead’: Abductions and Torture Rattle Uganda
Armed men in white minivans without license plates picked up people off the streets or from their homes. Those snatched were taken to prisons, police stations and military barracks where they say they were hooded, drugged and beaten — some left to stand in cellars filled with water up to their chests. The fear is still so palpable in the capital, Kampala, that many others have gone into hiding or left the country. Three months after Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, won a sixth five-year term in office in the most fiercely contested election in years, his government appears to be intent on breaking the back of the political opposition. … His principal challenger, Bobi Wine, a magnetic musician-turned-lawmaker who galvanized youthful crowds of supporters, is now largely confined to his house in Kampala. Mr. Wine’s party said on Friday that 623 members, supporters and elected officials have been seized from the streets and arrested in recent weeks, many of them tortured. … Ugandans now say they worry that President Museveni, after 35 years in power, is adopting some of the harsh tactics used by the autocrats he railed against decades ago. The New York Times

Several Dead as Suicide Bombing Targets Somali Regional Governor
A regional governor in Somalia has escaped a suicide bombing that killed at least three people, including two of his bodyguards, according to officials. Five more people were wounded on Saturday when a suicide bomber detonated himself outside a hotel in Baidoa, the capital of Somalia’s Bay region and administrative capital of the South West State. … Al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-linked armed group, claimed responsibility for the attack. Baidoa is one of Somalia’s major cities and is located some 240km (around 150 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu. Also on Saturday, an IED targeted a security forces convoy in Mogadishu’s Yaqshiid district killing two officers and wounding another. Al Jazeera

Inside Somalia’s Impasse: Election Talks Collapse Amid Mistrust and Blame
For nearly a month, men from the militias of at least two of Somalia’s five federal member states have been stationed inside Mogadishu’s high-security international airport compound as their leaders attend a circuit of meetings to end the electoral impasse. The huge complex bristles with barbed wire and armed men in and out of uniforms. … Last weekend, for the first time in more than a month, all five state presidents, the president of the federal government, and the governor of Benadir, the capital metropolis, agreed to meet. The aim was to set an agenda for talks about the national election. The politicians were talking about what they would talk about later. Even after a venue was agreed, the meeting was fraught. … On Wednesday, talks collapsed. … The UN security council may now take a more active mediation role. The Guardian

Aid Group Facilities Targeted in Northeast Nigeria
Suspected Islamic extremists attacked the offices of several international aid groups, setting them ablaze and renewing concerns Sunday about the safety of humanitarian workers in Nigeria’s embattled northeast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in Damasak town late Saturday, but suspicion immediately fell on a faction of extremists aligned with the Islamic State group. Last year the militants warned Nigerians they would become targets along with foreigners if they assisted international aid groups or the military. Edward Kallon, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, expressed concern for civilians and aid workers Sunday in the wake of the overnight attack. “Humanitarian operations in Damasak will be reduced due to the violent attack, which will affect the support to 8,800 internally displaced people and 76,000 people in the host community receiving humanitarian assistance and protection there,” Kallon said in a statement. The Norwegian Refugee Council said the attack “jeopardized our work and threatened the lives of many aid workers.” AP

African Troops Free Dozens of Boko Haram Victims
About 60 former fighters and civilians rescued from Boko Haram by Nigerian, Chadian and Cameroonian troops have been rushed to a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration center in northern Cameroon. Most of the civilians are women and children, some with fresh scars and amputated body parts, an indication of torture by the terror group. Thirty-five children, 12 men and 11 women, most of them looking exhausted, rushed for food and water at the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration center in Meri, a Cameroonian town on the border with Nigeria and Chad. … Cameroon said Thursday the Multinational Joint Task Force, of the Lake Chad Basin Commission freed civilians from the terrorist group. The task force, based in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena, is made up of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. Oumar Bichair, coordinator of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration center in Meri, said 11 of those sent there are Boko Haram fighters who disarmed and surrendered to the military. He said some of the former fighters and civilians had wounds and amputations, indicating they were tortured in Boko Haram captivity. VOA

Two Killed During Anti-UN Protests in Eastern Congo Protests, Officials Say
At least two people were killed during violent protests Friday against the United Nations peacekeeping mission in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials said. Troops attached to the U.N. mission, known as MONUSCO, killed one person during a protest in the rural area of Oicha, its mayor Nicolas Kikuku told Reuters. “They [the protesters] set fire to two bridges that lead to the [peacekeepers’] base,” Kikuku said. “The MONUSCO peacekeepers did not accept that and opened fire directly on the demonstrators.” Rosette Kavula, the deputy administrator of Beni territory, where Oicha is located, and Philippe Bonane, a local activist, also said peacekeepers had killed a protester. The incident came after days of protests in several eastern Congo cities by young people angered over the 12,000-strong U.N. Mission’s failure to prevent a wave of civilian killings by armed groups. MONUSCO spokesman Mathias Gillmann said the mission was investigating what had happened in Oicha. Reuters

South Sudan’s President Appoints New Army Chief
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has appointed General Santino Deng Wol as the new head of the army, Kiir’s spokesman said on Sunday, as part of a wider reshuffle within the government. Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar formed a government of national unity in February last year following a 2018 peace accord that ended a bloody civil war, but the oil-rich nation remains racked by violence. The director general of the security services and the deputy minister of defense were also replaced in the reshuffle, Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek told Reuters. “It was a routine reshuffle,” Wek said, adding that the president had also fired the minister for presidential affairs and replaced him with a former adviser. … Despite the formation of a government of national unity in 2020, implementation of the 2018 peace accord has stalled, and authorities have blocked humanitarian access to areas where conflict has restarted, a recent U.N. report said. Reuters

Sudan, South Sudan Agree to Discuss Border Insecurity
Sudan and South Sudan agreed, on Sunday, to hold a conference to address the security situation on the borders between the Kordofan region and the neighbouring states in Southern Sudan. The border areas in Sudan’s Kordofan region and South Sudanese states of Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Bentiu witness disputes and clashes between the Misseriya herders and the residents of these areas every year in the autumn. The Sudanese herders complain of cattle rustling while the tensions with the South Sudanese farmers are the result of disputes over pastures. On Sunday, the head of the Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, received South Sudan’s Vice President, Hussein Abdel-Baqi who is visiting Khartoum [currently]. Following the meeting, the Sovereign Council issued a statement pointing out that al-Burhan stressed the need to make concerted efforts to end insecurity in border areas. During the meeting, Al-Burhan called for the formation of bilateral committees to prepare for a comprehensive conference to address border issues, further said the statement. Sudan Tribune

Sudan to Deploy Joint Force in Darfur
Sudan decided to deploy a joint force including former rebels in the Darfur region to maintain security and protect civilians. The decision came in the wake of the recent deadly tribal violence in El Geneina, West Darfur state, which killed 137 people and injured 221 others. The Security and Defence Council (SDC) held a meeting on Saturday to discuss the security situation in the country and recent developments in West and East Darfur. Speaking after the meeting, the Minister of Defence Lt-Gen Yassin Ibrahim said that the Security and Defence Council decided to “form a joint force made up of regular forces and all parties signatory of the peace agreement, a flexible force capable of rapid intervention to maintain security in Darfur.” Ibrahim who is the SDC’s official spokesman further said the meeting decided, to expedite the preparation of the joint force and to deploy it in the potential conflict areas in Darfur. Also, the minister announced the reactivation of the weapons collection campaign and taking “the necessary measures to prevent the manifestations of armed presence in the cities.” Sudan Tribune

Libya’s New PM to Visit Turkey, Hold Talks with Erdogan on Monday
Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh and a delegation of ministers will make their first visit to Turkey on Monday since taking office last month, the Turkish presidency said on Sunday. Libya’s new unity government was sworn in on March 15 from two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions, completing a smooth transition of power after a decade of violent chaos. Turkey had backed the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which was supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France. Turkey’s presidency said Dbeibeh will hold a two-day visit upon President Tayyip Erdogan’s invitation, adding that he and Erdogan would chair the first meeting of the Turkey-Libya High Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Ankara. Reuters

Has Morocco Carried Out Its First Drone Strike In the Western Sahara?
Morocco’s reported use of a drone strike to kill a senior Western Sahara independence fighter would, if confirmed, mark a turning point in the decades-long conflict, experts say. The Polisario Front announced on Wednesday that its police chief Addah al-Bendir had been killed “on the field of honor” in a separatist-controlled part of the disputed desert territory. A Polisario official later told AFP that Bendir had been killed by a Moroccan drone after taking part in a military operation near a sand barrier separating Moroccan and Polisario-controlled zones. The location and circumstances of his death are murky, and the North African kingdom has not released any details. But Moroccan and Algerian press outlets have carried reports that a drone was involved. The Defense Post with AFP

COVID Response Deflates Project Spending Across Eastern Africa
Eastern African countries cut $68.3 billion spending on infrastructure projects last year, the largest decline in number of projects and value of projects in sub-Saharan Africa in a year. This is as a result of the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping across the region, hitting public finances and pushing governments into massive indebtedness. The Africa Construction Trends Report (2020) by consultancy firm Deloitte released last week shows that the number of infrastructure projects in the region covering Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda dropped by 35 per cent to 118 in 2020 from 182 in 2019 while the total value of the projects declined by 47 per cent to $77.7 billion from $146 billion in the same period. Infrastructure projects in the transport sector accounted for 51.5 per cent ($40 billion) of the region’s total projects, followed by energy and power (23.5 per cent) and the shipping and ports (21.5 per cent) sectors. The EastAfrican