Africa Media Review for December 20, 2023

DR Congo Elections: Voting Marred by Lengthy Delays
Voting in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s high-stakes presidential election has been marred by lengthy delays at polling stations. Voters waited in long queues at many polling stations in the capital, Kinshasa, and other cities as they opened about two hours late. Ballot papers were delivered at the last minute in an election that has proved to be a logistical nightmare. … Some 44 million people are registered to vote, following a campaign dominated by worsening insecurity in the mineral-rich east. In the north-eastern town of Bunia, people who had previously fled the violence and couldn’t travel back to their home villages to vote expressed their anger by attacking a polling station and destroying voting machines before police restored order. … Among those challenging President Tshisekedi are wealthy mining magnate Moïse Katumbi and former oil executive Martin Fayulu, who believes that he won the last election in 2018, the result of which was questioned by several international observers. … For the first time, Congolese nationals living in five other countries – including South Africa and former colonial power Belgium – will be able to cast their ballots. … In the east, insecurity has dominated the run-up to the polls. Dozens of armed groups have been competing to control parts of the region, home to much of the country’s vast mineral wealth. … There are some places where voting will not take place at all because of rebel activity. … On the eve of the vote, the European Union said it was worried about “the hate speech, violence and incidents that have marked the last few days”. BBC

UN Security Council Agrees to Early Withdrawal of Peacekeepers From DR Congo
The U.N. Security Council voted Tuesday to accede to a demand from Democratic Republic of Congo and launch a gradual withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers starting this month, a year earlier than originally planned. The resolution, which renews the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in DRC for a further year, includes plans for the departure of peacekeepers from South Kivu province by the end of April. The drawdown comes despite United Nations concern about violence in the eastern part of the country. Ravaged by conflict, the vast and impoverished DR Congo will host high-risk presidential and parliamentary elections on Wednesday, a vote that coincides with the expiry of the annual mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO. Despite a volatile domestic situation, the Congolese government has for months been calling for an accelerated withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers, from the end of 2023 rather than the end of 2024. It considers the U.N. force to be ineffective in protecting civilians from the armed groups and militias that have plagued the eastern DRC for three decades … In recent months, several Council members, notably the United States, have expressed doubts as to whether DRC forces are ready to replace MONUSCO to ensure the security of the population … For several years, the Security Council has been cautiously disengaging, setting broad parameters for the transfer of responsibilities to Congolese forces, with an aim to begin withdrawing by 2024. AFP

The ‘Wazalendo’: Patriots at War in Eastern DRC
In November 2022, Félix Thisekedi called for the formation of “vigilance groups against the expansionist ambitions” of the M23, which at the time was threatening to take Goma. The country’s youth were also encouraged to take up the uniform. Since then, according to Kinshasa, 40,000 new recruits have joined the ranks of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). Other inhabitants of North Kivu, however, have preferred to join the 100 or so militias that already existed in the east of the country … The alliance between the military and armed groups, who have often fought each other for years and some of whose leaders are accused of war crimes, was formalized in May 2022, at a meeting in Pinga, a remote village between the Walikalé and Masisi territories. A secret coalition was formed. It is now official and has a legal basis. On September 3, a decree legalized the presence of militias within the FARDC. The promise of integration has not yet materialized but it has already had a political impact: Several wazalendo groups have called for votes in favor of Tshisekedi’s re-election … Since October and the intensification of fighting, anything goes for the militiamen who claim to be wazalendo. On the outskirts of Goma, sometimes in mismatched fatigues, sometimes in simple civilian clothes, they blend in with the population, whom they do not hesitate to hold to ransom or “hassle,” to use the local expression. Le Monde

Uganda Scraps Visa Requirement for DR Congo Nationals
With an eye toward regional integration and cross-border trade, Uganda on Monday announced that Congolese nationals would no longer need visas to enter its territory, as of January 1, 2024. This concludes a process that has been marred by multiple negotiations since the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) joined the East African Community (EAC) in July 2022. With the waiver, the DRC is now able to enjoy the benefits of the region, including free movement of people among member states as specified in the EAC Common Market Protocol … DRC is Uganda’s top trade surplus market, with main exports including cement, palm oil, rice, sugar, baked goods, and iron materials. Uganda now seeks to increase its trade surplus with the DRC. … Along with this, Kampala and Kinshasa are working together to build three road projects inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that will facilitate the transportation of perishable goods across borders without incurring losses and provide access to profitable mining concessions in the Congo … Several EAC member states have been opening their borders; Kenya was the last nation to announce open borders before Uganda’s waiver on the DRC. The East African

Zimbabwe Opposition Cries Foul Over By-Election Chicanery
The by-election this month was one of several called in controversial circumstances, which [Nelson] Chamisa supporters say is the latest attempt to weaken their support in parliament as Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF seeks to shore up its grip on power. … The opposition believes it is part of a drive by Mnangagwa to ensure he can remain in office indefinitely. The 81-year-old served as spy chief under President Robert Mugabe before overthrowing his mentor in a 2017 coup and winning the first of two disputed elections. But staying in power would require an amendment to Zimbabwe’s constitution to abolish the two-term limit. Zanu-PF needs about 10 more parliamentary votes to give it the two-thirds majority required for constitutional changes, having won 177 of the 280 seats in the August general election…Any move to abolish the president’s two-term limit would damage already flagging hopes for political reform as Mnangagwa makes another bid to restructure $14bn in longstanding international debts to the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other creditors that would restore financing for a regime grappling with triple-digit inflation and the collapse of the revived Zimbabwe dollar. Talks between the government, development banks and lenders are due to resume in the coming months. Financial Times

UN Rights Body Appoints Members of Fact-Finding Mission for Sudan
The president of the UN Human Rights Council, Václav Bálek has announced the appointment of Mohamed Chande Othman of Tanzania, Joy Ezeilo of Nigeria and Mona Rishmawi of Jordan/Switzerland to serve as the three independent members of the new Independent International Fact-Finding Mission for the Sudan. Mr. Othman will serve as Chair of the Mission. The Human Rights Council established the Fact-Finding Mission in October, “to investigate and establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of all alleged human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including those committed against refugees, and related crimes in the context of the ongoing armed conflict that began on 15 April 2023, between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, as well as other warring parties.” The Mission, which was established for an initial duration of one year, was further requested to collect and analyse evidence in view of any future legal proceedings; to identify, where possible, individuals and entities responsible; and to make recommendations with a view to ending impunity and ensuring accountability and access to justice for victims. … The Council requested the Fact-Finding Mission to provide an oral update on their findings followed by an interactive dialogue at the Council’s fifty-sixth session, in June-July 2024. Radio Tamazuj

South Sudan: No Basis for Free and Fair 2024 Elections, Warns Haysom
South Sudan is in no position to hold free, fair, or secure elections slated for December next year, the head of the UN Mission in the country (UNMISS) said on Thursday, stressing that there’s still time to catch up. Briefing ambassadors at the UN Security Council, Nicholas Haysom outlined key conditions required by April 2024 for moving ahead, according to the agreed timeline. These include a new permanent constitutional framework; voter registration details; an election security plan; well trained, equipped, and unified security forces; and a mechanism for resolving disputes over results…The head of UNMISS said the dire economic situation, compounded by climate shocks and fragile political environment, suggest that elections will be taking place in an environment of elevated tensions. “If these risks are not mitigated, then the threat to civilians remains real,” he warned…These include maintaining a robust presence in potential hotspots through existing and new temporary operating bases and team sites; fortifying rapidly deployable reserves of peacekeepers, extensive patrolling, and boosting political and civil engagement at the community and national levels. UN News

Nigeria: Gunmen Attack Taraba Community, Kidnap Monarch, 22 Others
Gunmen attacked a community in Taraba State on Tuesday and kidnapped a traditional ruler and 22 others, residents have told PREMIUM TIMES. Umaru Nyala, the chief of Yorro chiefdom in Pupule, Yoro Local Government Area, was kidnapped alongside the 22 others in the early hours of Tuesday. Amongst those kidnapped are two police officers – a sergeant attached to the monarch and an inspector who was on casual leave, residents said…PREMIUM TIMES also gathered that in the same Pupule axis, around Apawa, an 18-seater Toyota bus was found abandoned with no passengers inside last Saturday. A police source said they suspect that the occupants were kidnapped by bandits on Friday night and evacuated to the bush. The state’s Police Public Relations Officer, Usman Abdullahi, while confirming the latest incident to PREMIUM TIMES, said armed police officers have been deployed to the area to ensure the victims are rescued unhurt…Kidnapping for ransom is rampant in parts of Taraba and many other parts of Nigeria. The kidnapping is carried out by different armed groups with hardly any link to one another. Premium Times

How a WFP Food Aid Revamp Has Gone Wrong for Refugees in Uganda
A World Food Programme (WFP) policy shift to prioritise aid for the most needy in the midst of global budget cuts has left many of the 1.4 million refugees it assists in Uganda considering desperate measures as they scramble to feed themselves and their families, The New Humanitarian has found. Refugees say crime, child marriage, prostitution, and sexual abuse are all on the rise, as families try to fill the gaps left by reductions in rations and cash assistance. … Spurred by continuous funding shortfalls, the prioritisation scheme – billed as a “needs-based” policy to assist the most vulnerable and wean others off assistance – began in 2021, with the last and most controversial phase being rolled out since July. Last year, overall ration cuts meant refugees were receiving less than 40% of their basic survival rations. Now, as the scheme is fully rolled out, some are receiving even less or nothing at all, with several refugees and aid officials describing the impacts as disastrous. … In the new prioritisation policy, refugees are assigned different vulnerability levels – from Category 1 for the most vulnerable to Category 3 for those considered self-sufficient. The 4% of refugees in Category 3 now get nothing. The 82% deemed “moderately vulnerable” (Category 2) receive about 30% of WFP’s standard rations, and the 14% considered “highly vulnerable” receive 60%. … Many of the refugees now receiving less assistance said they haven’t been able to appeal the changes, reporters found…Out of nearly 22,000 appeal claims, WFP said roughly 1,200 have been recategorised, but added that the number of people who can be recategorised depends on available funding. The New Humanitarian

French Court Jails Rwandan Ex-doctor 24 Years over 1994 Genocide
After a deliberation lasting nearly 15 hours, the 68-year-old former gynaecologist was found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and participation in a conspiracy to prepare those crimes. He is the sixth suspect to have faced trial in France over the 1994 massacres in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in 100 days of mass killings. The six-week-long trial at the Assize Court in Paris came nearly three decades after a complaint was filed against Munyemana in the southwestern French city of Bordeaux in 1995. Munyemana, who was impassive as the verdict was handed down, was immediately incarcerated. … Munyemana was accused of helping draft a letter of support for the then interim government, which encouraged the massacre of the Tutsis. He was also accused of helping set up roadblocks to round people up and keeping them in inhumane conditions in local government offices before they were killed in the southern Rwandan prefecture of Butare, where he lived at the time. During the trial, Munyemana repeatedly disputed the accusations, claiming he had been a moderate Hutu who had tried to “save” Tutsis by offering them “refuge” in local government offices. Reading the verdict, the judge said Munyemana was part of a group that “prepared, organised and steered the genocide of the Tutsis … on a daily basis.” AFP

Senegal: 36 Days
As the number of people leaving Senegal for Spain this year surged to record levels, the AP spoke to dozens of survivors, rescuers, aid workers and officials to understand what the men endured at sea, and why, despite their traumatic experience, many are willing to risk their lives again. … Years of overfishing by larger industrial vessels from Europe, China and Russia had wiped out Senegalese fishermen’s livelihoods, reducing their previously abundant catch to a few small crates of fish — if they were lucky — and pushing them to take desperate measures. … Their boat, like so many that left Senegal this year, had taken a longer and more dangerous route in an attempt to evade authorities patrolling the West African coast. That risky strategy has proved successful for many: Migrant arrivals to the Canaries hit a record 36,000 people this year, more than double the previous year. For others, the migration journey has ended in tragedy…Unlike in the Mediterranean, no humanitarian boats or planes monitor this vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Migrants are left to their own luck. … It had been 36 days. Now these men — who were fleeing for Europe because industrial overfishing had made their livelihoods untenable — were being rescued by a European fishing vessel. … A generation of young men, and some women and children too, were dying at sea or capsizing along the northwest African coast. AP

TotalEnergies Pledges $6 Billion in Nigeria Oil, Gas Investments
TotalEnergies said it had signed a co-operation agreement with Nigeria’s state oil firm NNPC Ltd to carry out methane detection and measurement campaigns using its advanced drone-based AUSEA technology on oil and gas facilities in Nigeria. TotalEnergies pledged to “invest $6 billion in the coming years,” with focus on offshore oil projects and gas production across all terrain, Tinubu’s office said in a statement, citing Pouyanne. Tinubu’s meeting with Pouyanne follows similar talks with oil majors Shell (SHEL.L) and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) as part of moves to attract capital to Africa’s top energy producer. Oil output from Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, has been in decline for years, hobbled by large-scale theft and sabotage. It has picked up in recent months, helped by offshore production that is less prone to attacks. Reuters

Nearly 300 Firefighters Battle Wild Blaze near SA Navy Base
Nearly 300 firefighters and three helicopters are battling a wildfire that broke out on Tuesday on a mountain overlooking Simon’s Town, about 40km (24 miles) south of Cape Town, South Africa. The town hosts the country’s main and largest naval base. The fire started on Tuesday morning and was spread by winds overnight, local media say. “Only a single derelict building was damaged last night at around 8pm on the grounds of the SA Navy,” Cape Town’s emergency services spokesperson Jermaine Carelse was quoted as saying by IOL news website. Several homes in the town’s Harbour Heights neighbourhood were evacuated minutes after midnight on Wednesday as a precautionary measure, Mr Carelse told the Eyewitness news site. Five firefighters have been injured in the operation and two taken to hospital. BBC