Africa Media Review for December 22, 2023

Questions over DRC Election Remain as Voting Is Extended into Second Day
Voters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been left with more questions over the credibility of this week’s presidential election, amid fresh accusations of irregularities, as voting came to an end on an unplanned second day of balloting. An observer mission formed by two church bodies, the Episcopal Conference of the Congo and the Church of Christ in the Congo, reported that 11% of voting machines had been set up at military schools, contrary to election law, according to reports from the local news site The “chaos” described by voters and opposition candidates during Wednesday’s voting – when many polling stations did not open at all and 45% of voting machines malfunctioned – meant voting was extended in some areas until the end of Thursday. … Wednesday’s voting was plagued by administrative problems, with voting materials not delivered, machines malfunctioning and problems with voter ID cards and registration lists. … While five opposition candidates have demanded a rerun of the election, the two frontrunners – the incumbent president, Félix Tshisekedi, and his main rival, Moïse Katumbi – have not joined them. Katumbi said on Thursday that despite the problems – including alleged violence against his supporters – the results collected so far showed he was in the lead. Remadji Hoinathy, a senior researcher at the Insitute of Security Studies, said that while there was not much momentum in the call for a rerun at the moment, that could change if there were unexpected results. Referring to the problems voters had faced, Hoinathy said: “This has all affected the view of the reliability of the votes and whether we can be sure everyone has been able to vote by the end of today. The Guardian

DRC Elections: RSF Condemns Attack on RFI Correspondent
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Thursday condemned the attack on a correspondent of the French radio station RFI in Kinshasa by “presidential party militants” during the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. General elections (presidential, legislative, provincial and local) were held on Wednesday and continued on Thursday in the DRC, in a highly tense political and security climate. President Félix Tshisekedi is standing for a second five-year term. Pascal Mulegwa, RFI’s correspondent, “was beaten by militants of the presidential party (UDPS) in a voting centre in the capital”, while covering the elections, RSF said in a statement. “They dragged me along the ground and took my belongings, accusing me of working for RFI, which they say they hate”, said the journalist, quoted in a statement by the Association of International Press Correspondents in the DRC (ACPI-RDC). RFI’s management “strongly condemns” the attack on Pascal Mulegwa, who was “attacked and roughed up by supporters of a presidential candidate”, the radio station said. RFI “will continue to cover the elections” in the DRC “with the professionalism and balance that characterise the work of its journalists”, it added. … In addition to this presidential campaign punctuated by press freedom violations, “President Tshisekedi’s term in office has been marked by many other abuses against journalists”, notably the arrest on 8 September of Stanis Bujakera, correspondent for Jeune Afrique and Reuters. AfricaNews/AFP

EACRF Completes Withdrawal from Eastern DR Congo
The East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) on Thursday completed its exit from Goma, citing a mixture of successes and drawbacks during its stay in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)…EACRF was deployed in Eastern DRC in November last year at a time when the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels had made large gains by capturing areas bordering Rwanda and Uganda namely Bunagana, Rutshuru, and Rumangabo in North Kivu Province posing a threat to Goma and its surroundings. Its mandate duration was initially six months, but was subsequently extended to September 8, 2023 and later on to December 8, 2023, after which the government of DRC made a decision not to renew it any further. The mandate required the force to jointly plan and conduct operations with FARDC to defeat armed groups, support DRC in collaboration with humanitarian agencies, to continue humanitarian relief to population affected by armed groups and activities and support in the P-DDRCS…The force further helped in the opening of the main supply routes preventing direct threat on Goma and Sake towns resulting in the gradual return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their rural homes especially in Sake, Kirolirwe, Kitchanga and Mweso, within Masisi territory and in Kibumba, Rumangabo, Kiwanja and Bunagana in Nyiragongo and Rutshuru territories…[EACRF Commander] Major General Kiugu said the exit was to coincide with the handover of the mandate to Southern African Development Community (SADC) troops’ arrival in Goma but that has not happened. The East African

‘Kagame’s Agents Are Looking for Me’: Dissidents in UK Say Rwanda Is Not Safe
Rwandan dissidents living in the UK who have received police warnings about assassination attempts from the African country’s agents have spoken of their shock and dismay at Rishi Sunak’s insistence that it is a safe country. The president, Paul Kagame’s former bodyguard and a key political opponent are among at least eight people who have been told by special branch or the security services that there are “imminent threats” to their lives from the government in Kigali. Their comments come after the prime minister’s Rwanda bill passed the initial hurdle with a majority of 44 last week, opening the way for people seeking asylum in the UK to be deported without any right of return. Kagame’s government has been accused of being behind dozens of extraterritorial killings and kidnappings since rising to power in 2000. Sunak has repeated the bill’s claim that Rwanda is a safe country for asylum seekers, contradicting the November ruling of the supreme court…Jonathan Musonera, a political opponent of Kagame, lives in Greater London with his family under strict security measures after receiving a Metropolitan police warning of an assassination attempt. He said Sunak’s claim that Rwanda is safe was “unbelievable.” The Guardian

UN Says up to 300,000 Sudanese Fled Their Homes after a Notorious Group Seized Their Safe Haven
Fighting between Sudan’s military and a notorious paramilitary group forced up to 300,000 people to flee their homes in a province that had been a safe haven for families displaced by the devastating conflict in the northeastern African country, the U.N. said Thursday. The fighting erupted in the city of Wad Medani, the provincial capital of Jazeera province, after the Rapid Support Forces attacked the city earlier this month. The RSF said that it took over Wad Medani earlier this week, and the military said that its troops withdrew from the city, and an investigation was opened…The U.N. agency International Organization for Migration said that between 250,000 and 300,000 people fled the province — many reportedly on foot — to safer areas in the provinces of al-Qadarif, Sinnar and the White Nile. Some sheltered in camps for displaced people and many sought shelter in local communities, it said…Jazeera, Sudan’s breadbasket, was home to about 6 million Sudanese. Since the war, about 500,000 displaced fled to the province, mostly from the capital, Khartoum, which has been the center of fighting, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Medani, which is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Khartoum, had hosted more than 86,000 of the displaced, OCHA said. AP

UN Food Agency Pauses Sudan Aid to 800,000 People as Fighting Spreads
The United Nations World Food Programme has temporarily suspended assistance in some parts of Sudan’s Al-Jazirah state, where it was supporting more than 800,000 people, as fighting spreads. About 300,000 people have fled Al-Jazirah since December 15th, when clashes erupted, the WFP said in an emailed statement. “Ongoing fighting makes it extremely challenging for humanitarian agencies to safely deliver assistance, especially with more and more people on the move, fleeing for their lives,” it said. The decision was taken after clashes and air strikes engulfed locations around Wad Madani city over the course of the past week, with the US urging the Rapid Support Forces militia that’s battling Sudan’s army to halt its attack. The army has now withdrawn from the city and launched an investigation into why the RSF was allowed to take the territory following the removal of troops. The UN on Thursday said people displaced from Wad Madani have fled to the Gedaref, Sennar and White Nile states. The eruption of a new front in central Sudan also threatens to derail fragile international efforts to broker a new ceasefire in a conflict that has killed more than 12,000 people and forced 6.7 million from their homes. Bloomberg

Tensions Rise between Sudan Army, United Arab Emirates
For months, Sudan’s army kept silent amid alleged Emirati interference in the country’s civil war, but its anger has finally boiled over, leading to harsh exchanges between Khartoum and Abu Dhabi. The brutal conflict broke out in mid-April between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), killing more than 12,000 people and displacing millions. In November, General Yasser al-Atta, second-in-command to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, openly denounced the United Arab Emirates, calling it a “state mafia” that had “taken the path of evil” by supporting the RSF and its leader Mohamed Hamdan Daglo. Atta accused Abu Dhabi of funnelling weapons through Chad, Uganda and the Central African Republic to the RSF with the help of the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenaries who once enjoyed a foothold in Bangui. … Experts have warned of the existence of such a supply line since the start of the war, but until November Sudan’s army had not made the accusation publicly. AFP

US-Somali Operation Kills a Top Al-Shabab Commander
The Somali government has reported that a senior al-Shabab commander involved in the militant group’s attacks in Somalia and Kenya was killed in a U.S. airstrike Sunday near the city of Jilib. The government said the operation that led to the killing of Maalim Ayman was the result of collaboration between the Somali Armed Forces and U.S. military…The U.S. military command in Africa, AFRICOM, confirmed that the strike near Jilib killed one al-Shabab militant and said there were no civilian casualties…Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice program offered a reward of up to $10 million “for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of Maalim Ayman or any individual who committed, attempted or conspired to commit, or aided or abetted in the commission of the January 5, 2020, terrorist attack on U.S. and Kenyan personnel at the Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya.” The U.S. accused Ayman of being responsible for preparing the Manda Bay Airfield attack, which killed a U.S. soldier and two U.S. Defense Department contractors. It wounded two other U.S. service members and a third Defense contractor. The Manda Bay Airfield is part of a Kenyan Defense Forces military base used by U.S. armed forces to provide training and counterterrorism support to East African partners, respond to crises and protect U.S. interests in the region, according to the State Department. VOA

Military Liberates Strategic Town in Somalia from Al-Shabaab
The Somali National Army (SNA) has liberated the strategic town of Masagawa in central Somalia, marking a major milestone in the fight against the group which has been causing havoc in different parts of the country. Masagawa is in Galgaduud, the central part of the country, and at one point, the national army suffered immense losses on the battlefield, triggering a massive walkout from the military. The government has massively invested in dislodging the militants from central regions…Elsewhere, dozens of Alshabaab militants were killed in an operation conducted by the Somalia National Army backed by local forces near Caad, Mudug region. In the process, many bases were destroyed as forces pursued fleeing remnants…This comes when the Somali National Army takes over security responsibilities in several parts of the country due to the ongoing withdrawal of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) which has handed over some bases. Somalia had the United Nations lifting the arms embargo, further giving the country a chance to procure sophisticated weapons that can be used to restore sanity in the country. The US Army has also been working hard to help the country secure some bases. Garowe Online

Russia’s Foreign Minister Tours North Africa as Anger toward the West Swells across the Region
With deep trade ties and large diaspora populations in western Europe, North African countries have long maintained close, albeit complicated, relations with the European Union. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia also enjoy close relations with the United States. But since October the region has been convulsed by protests about Israel’s latest war with Hamas, including in Tunis, where demonstrators have rallied in front of the United States and French embassies, chanting for a free Palestine…In the vacuum created by western powers’ diminishing popularity, Moscow has doubled down on efforts to strengthen its ties to North Africa and spread its narrative about issues including Ukraine and Gaza. Russian officials are exchanging visits with North African leaders, seeking new trade agreements and signing joint memorandums that cover issues ranging from Ukraine to Syria. … Marrakech was the first destination on [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov’s tour through North Africa. He arrived in Tunis on Wednesday evening to meet with President Kais Saied and Tunisia’s foreign minister, who visited Moscow in September, when the two countries announced a new grain deal. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Tunisia received roughly half of its total wheat imports from Ukraine. AP

Angola Leaves OPEC in Blow to Oil Producer Group
Angola said on Thursday it would leave OPEC in a blow to the Saudi-led oil producer group that has sought in recent months to rally support for further output cuts to prop up oil prices. Angola’s Oil Minister Diamantino Azevedo said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries no longer served the country’s interests. It joins other mid-sized producers Ecuador and Qatar that have left OPEC in the last decade. … International oil prices dropped by as much as 2.4% on Thursday as analysts said the departure raised questions about the unity of OPEC and OPEC+, the wider group that includes Russia and other OPEC allies. … Angola’s announced departure follows a protest from Angola about OPEC+’s decision to cut its output quota for 2024. The dispute helped to delay OPEC+’s last policy meeting in November and its agreement on new output curbs. … Nigeria is another African OPEC member that has been trying to boost output and has been struggling to meet its quota. At the November meeting, it received a higher OPEC+ target for 2024, although lower than it had sought, restricting its ability to increase production should it be able to do so. … Angola, which joined OPEC in 2007, produces about 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, compared with 28 million bpd for the whole group. … Angola has been unable to produce enough oil to meet its OPEC+ quota in recent years, because of falling investment and a lack of big new oilfield developments. … For Angola, oil and gas accounts for around 90% of total exports, an over-reliance the government has been seeking to reduce after the COVID-19 pandemic and lower global fuel prices hit the country’s economy hard. Reuters

WHO Prequalifies Second Malaria Vaccine
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has added the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine to its list of “prequalified vaccines.” The global health body had in October, recommended the use of the vaccine for prevention of malaria in children following the advice of its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunisation and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group. The prequalification means larger access to vaccines as a key tool to preventing malaria in children. The prequalification isa prerequisite for vaccine procurement by UNICEF and funding support for deployment by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The WHO in a statement issued on Thursday said the prequalification of the malaria vaccine, developed by Oxford University and manufactured by Serum Institute of India, is poised to expand access to malaria prevention through vaccination. The R21/Matrix-M vaccine is the second vaccine against malaria to be approved, after the RTS,S vaccine which was approved in 2021. Premium Times

AP Photos: Young Kenyan Ballet Dancers Stage Early Christmas Performance for Their Community
As the sun sets on the narrow streets of Africa’s largest informal settlement, children hurry to change from daily clothes into pointe shoes and other ballet gear. Fifteen-year-old Brenda Branice is among the dancers and can’t hide her joy. It’s time for the Christmas performance in Kibera, one of the busiest neighborhoods of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Instead of a stage, there is dust-covered plastic sheeting in an open field. The holidays have come early for residents as more than 100 local ballet students perform. They have been practicing every day after school…The mother of another ballerina, Monica Aoko, smiles as she watches the performance. Hundreds of residents, young and old, have come to the annual holiday event. “This dance has given me a Christmas mood. Now I know Christmas is here,” Aoko said. She said she’s impressed knowing that when her daughter steps outside their home, she’s engaged in something meaningful. The ballet project is run by Project Elimu, a community-driven nonprofit that offers after-school arts education and a safe space to children in Kibera. “Dance has the ability of triggering resilience, creativity and also calmness in you as an individual,” said founder Michael Wamaya. “I want to use dance for emotional well-being of children here in Kibera.” AP