Africa Media Review for December 26, 2023

Calls for Congo Vote to Be Annulled Mount Amid Fraud Accusations
Opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo have called for the annulment of the results of the recent general election over accusations of fraud, in a dispute that risks plunging the vast and mineral-rich Central African nation into new political turmoil. Five opposition leaders, including the president’s main challenger, published a statement late Saturday accusing the country’s electoral commission of “massive fraud,” including ballot stuffing, delaying opening polling stations and falsely declaring President Felix Tshisekedi the winner in areas where they say he did not win any votes. The five leaders — who include Moïse Katumbi, a business tycoon and the president’s closest rival — also called on the head of the commission to resign for “having planned and orchestrated the worst electoral fraud that our country has ever known.” … The commission is expected to release the full provisional results of the election by Dec. 31. Mr. Tshisekedi, who is seeking a new five-year term, has so far been leading in the ballot count. New York Times

At Least 160 Dead and 300 Wounded After Attacks by Armed Gangs in Nigeria
Armed groups have killed at least 160 people in central Nigeria in a series of attacks on villages, local government officials said on Monday. The toll marked a sharp rise from the initial figure reported by the army on Sunday evening of just 16 dead in a region plagued for several years by religious and ethnic tensions. “As many as 113 persons have been confirmed killed as Saturday hostilities persisted to early hours of Monday,” Monday Kassah, head of the local government in Bokkos, Plateau State, told AFP. Armed groups, locally called “bandits”, launched “well-coordinated” attacks in “not fewer than 20 different communities” and torched houses, Kassah said. AFP

Chad Referendum Vote: New Constitution That Critics Say Could Help Cement the Power of Junta Leader Mahamat Idriss Déby.
Chad’s military authorities have called the vote a vital stepping-stone to elections next year. But many opposition leaders say it is just a show to prepare the way for the eventual election of the current military leader, who assumed power in 2021 following the death of his father, Idriss Déby, who himself took power in a coup 33 years ago. The junta promised a return to democratic rule after they seized power in 2021. … Several opposition groups had called for a boycott of the vote, saying the junta had too much control over the referendum process. “The participation was much less than what the officials announced,” said Max Kemkoye, head of an opposition group. “Everyone saw on voting day that the boycott was respected. “They have fiddled with the results, raising them over time to make them public today,” said Yoyana Banyara, head of the Federal Bloc, which had called for a “No” vote. “It’s a disgrace for the country.” … “Today, the people’s opinion is simply hijacked, ” [Brice Mbaïmon Guedmabaye, president of the Movement of Chadian Patriots for the Republic (MPRT)] told RFI. RFI

France Completes Military Withdrawal From Niger, Leaves Gap in Terror Fight
France on Friday completed the withdrawal of its troops after they were asked to leave Niger by the country’s new junta, ending years of on-the-ground military support and raising concerns from analysts about a gap in the fight against jihadi violence across the Sahel region of Africa. The last French military aircraft and troops departed Niger by the December 22 deadline set by the junta which severed ties with Paris after the coup in July, the French Army General Staff told The Associated Press by email. France already announced this week that it would close its diplomatic mission in Niger for “an indefinite period.” … The withdrawal of foreign military missions is already affecting security in Niger, where the number of attacks has surged, according to Oluwole Ojewale with the Dakar-based Institute for Security Studies. “The country has not demonstrated sufficient military capabilities to fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal. Strategic attacks are being launched by the various armed groups who now roam freely in the ungoverned spaces in the country and incidents have remained on the rise,” said Ojewale. AP

Mali Recalls Its Envoy in Algeria After Alleging Interference, Deepening Tensions Over Peace Efforts
Mali recalled its ambassador in Algeria after accusing it of interference in its internal affairs by meeting rebel leaders, officials said Friday, deepening diplomatic tensions between the two neighbors over efforts to end the armed rebellion in northern Mali. Mali’s junta said it was withdrawing Ambassador Mahamane Amadou Maiga from Algeria “for consultation with immediate effect,” according to a letter from the Malian embassy to the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Algeria has been the main mediator in peace efforts between Mali and the local Tuareg rebels, whose separatist campaign in the north has thrown the country into a violent conflict for over a decade. In 2012, they dislodged the Malian military from the town, setting into motion a series of events that destabilized the country. Algeria was key to the signing of a 2015 peace deal between Mali and the rebels — a deal that collapsed after both parties accused each other of failing to comply with it. AP

Sudan in ‘Total Panic’ as Paramilitaries Move South
Recently … the paramilitaries, who control most of the capital, have been advancing along the motorway linking the capital to Wad Madani, taking village after village and terrorising its inhabitants. On 15 December, they attacked Wad Madani, forcing more than 300,000 people to flee again, within the state of Al-Jazira but also towards the neighbouring states of Sennar and Gedaref, according to the UN. Since then, the paramilitaries have continued their relentless descent southwards. On Saturday, they were spotted “15 kilometres north of Sennar”, 140 kilometres south of Wad Madani, witnesses told AFP. “Army planes bombed Rapid Support Forces gatherings to the north of the town, causing panic among residents”, other witnesses reported.Since the surprise start of the conflict on 15 April, the army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane has mainly played its air trump card: it is the only army with fighter jets.General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo’s FSR, on the other hand, favours mobile troops perched on pick-ups. AFP

Sudan: Despite Violence, Pro-Democracy Groups Won’t Give Up
…Sudanese civil society activists have not given up. They played a major role during the democratic transition period after the country’s popular uprising ousted long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Following Bashir’s ouster — a combined effort from civilian pro-democracy protesters and the Sudanese military — the army agreed to share power with civilians until real elections could be held. But the transition toward democracy ended in late 2021 when the Sudanese military took control in a coup. Since then, the two military forces have been jousting for power. When that power struggle turned into ongoing violence earlier this year, Sudanese civil society was effectively excluded from national politics. … “We founded the Sudanese Youth Network in Uganda’s capital Kampala in October,” Abdel Basit, a lawyer and activist, told DW. Since then, around 200 young Sudanese activists have joined from Chad, Nairobi, Ethiopia and Sudan. On Facebook, they come together to discuss topics like how to end the war, make peace and establish a democratic government under civilian rule. “Most Sudanese are young and well connected,” Basit told DW. “All of them are frustrated about what is happening now and they believe that their only chance is to come up with an idea of how to build our new Sudan.” DW

At Least 20 Villagers Are Killed During a Rebel Attack in Northern Central African Republic
At least 21 people, including children and a soldier, were killed by rebels during attacks targeting a security outpost and a village in northern Central African Republic, according to local authorities. “The rebels first attacked the army checkpoints, killing one person and wounding several others, before attacking the civilian population, killing about 20 people,” Ernest Bonang, a federal lawmaker who represents Nzakoundou, the village attacked Thursday. The assailants burned down houses in the village, which has been “emptied of its population,” Bonang said. … No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attack, but locals blamed the 3R, or Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation group, one of many militia groups in northern CAR. The group claims to be fighting to protect the minority Peuhl population but has been accused of mass killings and looting of villages since it emerged in 2015. AP

Rebel Attack in West Burundi Kills 20, State Says
An attack by rebels in Western Burundi has killed 20 people, all but one of them civilians, the government said on Saturday. The attack was claimed by the RED-Tabara rebel group, which in its own statement said it had killed 10 members of the security forces. The attack occurred on Friday evening in the town of Vugizo, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo where the rebels have a base. … The attack marked the second one in two weeks inside Burundi by the rebels, who have not been active since September 2021, when they carried out a series of attacks, including on the Bujumbura airport. Since then, their activities have been taking place in DR Congo’s South Kivu Province. AFP

Chocolate Farmers Are Moving Into Protected Areas of a Forest Reserve in Nigeria, Harvesting Its Cocoa for Some of the World’s Largest Suppliers.
Habitat for a dwindling population of critically endangered African forest elephants is under threat, a casualty of the world’s appetite for chocolate. Deforestation driven by planting cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, is whittling down Omo Forest Reserve, a protected rainforest in southwestern Nigeria that helps combat climate change and is one of Africa’s oldest and largest UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. Farmers are expanding into conservation areas where cocoa farming is banned, conservation officials say. The Associated Press spoke to 20 farmers, two brokers and five licensed buying agents who are growing and selling cocoa from the reserve to figure out where cocoa beans used in holiday sweets are heading. The AP visited plantations and warehouses of farmers and licensed buying agents who acknowledge that they operate illegally in the reserve’s conservation area. AP also spoke with brokers working in the forest and visited facilities belonging to major cocoa trading companies just outside the reserve. … The Ogun state government acknowledged “the menace” of “illegal” cocoa farming in the forest and told the AP that it had forcibly evicted the farmers in 2007 before they came back. AP

Yacouba Sawadogo, African Farmer Who Held Back the Desert, Dies at 77
Yacouba Sawadogo, a farmer known as “the man who beat the desert” in Burkina Faso for revolutionizing agricultural methods and creating a 75-acre forest on barren land, died on Dec. 3 in Ouahigouya, a northern provincial capital in that West African country. He was 77. … Mr. Sawadogo, a lean, taciturn man who never learned to read or write, received a hero’s welcome when he returned home to landlocked Burkina Faso in 2018 after winning the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm, created in 1980 to honor social and environmental activists. A throng greeted him at the airport in Ouagadougou, the country’s capital, and he was received by the country’s president. Years before, fellow villagers in his arid, windswept country in the north had called him a madman for implementing a simple improvement to an age-old water-conservation technique. But Mr. Sawadogo had the last laugh: Forestry experts said the forest he created, with more than 60 species of trees and shrubs, had no equal in the Sahel, the semidesert region stretching across Africa’s upper third. The Sahara’s encroachment, abetted by decades of indiscriminate tree-cutting and now by climate change, with decreased rainfall, is a major threat to an already fragile region. Large swaths of land have been stripped of trees, from the Gulf of Guinea right up to the desert. New York Times

Uganda Opposition Unite to Demand Justice for Political Prisoners
Leaders from Uganda’s mainstream opposition political parties on Thursday called out the failure to get justice for persons who have been arrested, abducted or killed for their political views… During joint end of year prayers held at National Unity Platform (NUP) headquarters in Kampala, leaders from the Katonga faction of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC); Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and Conservative Party (CP) committed to back NUP’s pursuit of justice for victims of political persecution. Among these victims are the missing 18 NUP supporters; those in prison without trial and the more than 54, who lost their lives during the violent November 18, 2020 protests against the arrest of NUP presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi. … “We want to tell all Ugandans that the issue of human rights violations is not a NUP affair. Human rights violations have been [going through] a vicious cycle for decades and it’s up to us to either break this cycle or allow the regime to legalise the abnormal into normal,” [ANT leader Maj Gen (rtd) Mugisha Muntu] said. Monitor

Tunisians Vote for New Chamber With Little Enthusiasm
Tunisians trickled into polling stations on Sunday in the first elections for a new second chamber of parliament under a constitution pushed through last year by President Kais Saied. Opponents of Saied argue the election is the latest step in the president’s “authoritarian” agenda. Saied, a former law professor who was elected president in 2019, seized executive powers two years later, sacking the government, dissolving parliament and declaring he would rule by decree. On Sunday, the nine million strong electorate has been asked to choose more than 2,000 councilors from around 7,000 candidates, according to the Independent High Authority for Elections. Opponents of Saied had called for a boycott of the election, which they said was “illegal” and had been “imposed.” A feeble turnout had been widely expected. AFP

Former Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam Elected to Lead Ivory Coast Opposition
Thiam, a former boss of banking giant Credit Suisse, won very comfortably with 96.5 percent of the vote against 3.2 percent for his rival Jean-Marc Yace, the mayor of a commune in the economic hub Abidjan, according to the results announced late Friday. “It is with great humility that I accept the responsibility that you have decided to entrust to me,” Thiam said. More than 6,000 delegates took part in the vote at a party congress in the capital Yamoussoukro. Thiam was the favourite and had the support of a large majority of the party’s lawmakers. With this election, the Democratic Party (PDCI) hopes to rejuvenate its image following the death of its former leader Henri Konan Bedie, in early August at the age of 89. It was once the sole legal party in Ivory Coast and ruled for decades following the country’s 1960 independence from France, but lost power after a 1999 coup. At 61, Thiam is a relatively young top political figure in the West African nation and is returning after more than 20 years abroad. AFP

Ethiopia Becomes Africa’s Latest Sovereign Default
Ethiopia became Africa’s third default in as many years on Tuesday after it failed to make a $33 million “coupon” payment on its only international government bond. Africa’s second most populous country announced earlier this month that it intended to formally go into default, having been under severe financial strain in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and a two-year civil war that ended in November 2022. It had been supposed to make the payment on Dec. 11, but technically had up until Tuesday to provide the money due to a 14-day ‘grace period’ clause written into the $1 billion bond. … Ethiopian government officials did not respond to requests for comment on Friday or over the weekend, but the widely-expected default will see it join two other African nations, Zambia and Ghana, in a full-scale “Common Framework” restructuring. … On Dec. 8, the government said parallel negotiations it had been having with pension funds and other private sector creditors that hold its bond had broken down. Reuters

A Thriving Border Town Undercuts South Africa’s Anti-Immigrant Mood
By 7 a.m., lines of customers snake down the block outside stores on the main commercial strip in Musina, a bustling South African border town where thousands of people arrive daily from neighboring Zimbabwe to buy food, clothes and other necessities that are hard to get back home. A few miles away, at the border, pickup trucks bearing the seal of South Africa’s newly formed border patrol inspect the razor-wire fence, looking to arrest people who cross illegally — braving bandits, crocodiles and the rushing Limpopo River. The border force represents an effort by the government, months ahead of crucial national elections, to respond to popular demand and clamp down on migrants sneaking into the country. Musina, surrounded by farms and a copper mine, is where the government’s muscular immigration policy collides with a tricky reality that many South Africans are loath to concede: that even people who cross the border illegally may be good for the country. … As in much of the world, migrants to South Africa tend to be young, driven and entrepreneurial, adding far more to the economy than just competition for jobs, experts say.A study by the World Bank found that one immigrant worker typically produces two jobs for South Africans. Another by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that immigrants contribute 9 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product. New York Times