Africa Media Review for December 27, 2023

Congo Opposition Plans Wednesday Election Protest despite Ban
Opposition candidates in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s chaotic presidential election plan to march in the capital on Wednesday, despite authorities banning the protest and early results showing the incumbent with a large lead. Martin Fayulu, one of the main challengers to President Felix Tshisekedi in the Dec. 20 election, said in an interview that the opposition candidates who had called the joint demonstration over alleged election irregularities would proceed with the march because they were convinced the vote was a fraud. “We are going to protest because we can’t accept another electoral coup d’etat,” Fayulu told Reuters by telephone. … Election disputes often fuel unrest in Congo and risk further destabilising Africa’s second-largest country, a major cobalt and copper producer plagued by widespread poverty and insecurity in its eastern region. After a violent campaign, the vote itself was messy, with delayed election kit deliveries, malfunctioning equipment and disorganised voting registers. The protest organisers have heavily criticised the decision of the election commission known as CENI to extend voting at polling stations that failed to open on election day, calling it unconstitutional and demanding a full re-run of the election. Reuters

New Constitution, Old Playbook: Chad’s Deby Continues Power Play in Sahel
Since his ascension to power in April 2021, the Chadian leader has been accused of perpetuating himself in power. His critics say the referendum confirms this. … Experts say the referendum committee comprised mostly Deby allies and offered the opposition no real chance of success or a compromise. When the vote happened last Sunday, the options were simply “yes” or “no” for a unitary constitution. … “When you look at how the referendum process has been conducted, there are a lot of signs that indicate the transition authority intends to keep hold on power as this has always been the case,” Remadji Hoinathy, a Chad-based expert at the Institute of Security Studies, told Al Jazeera. … According to the World Bank, extreme poverty has been on the rise yearly and 42.3 percent of the country’s 18 million people live below the national poverty line. The country is also beset by conflicts, primarily driven by multiple armed groups. Experts say the referendum had a predetermined outcome as part of a plan for Deby to stay longer in power. Al Jazeera

Nigerian Governor Vows Justice After Deadly Attacks Claim Over 100 Lives
In Nigeria, a day after a series of attacks on villages claimed over 100 lives, Plateau state Governor Caleb Mutfwang affirmed that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. … The attacks, which started in the Bokkos area, spilled into the neighboring Barkin Ladi, where 30 people were found dead, according to local chairman Danjuma Dakil. … Aggravated by climate change and the demographic explosion in this country of 215 million inhabitants, the sporadic violence has led to a serious security crisis, with attacks by heavily armed bandits and endless reprisals between communities, as well as a humanitarian crisis. The governor criticized security agencies for their reactionary strategy instead of proactive measures. … The governor highlighted the lack of arrests and prosecutions as a contributing factor to the ongoing crisis, noting that some citizens of the states feel their attackers are being protected. Nigeria’s new president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who took office last May, has made the fight against insecurity one of the priorities of his mandate. Africanews

Anatomy of a Deadly Mistake: How Nigerian Military Strikes Have Killed Civilians
Since 2017 alone, there have been several instances of the military carrying out similar attacks that hit innocent citizens, killing more than 400 people, according to Beacon Consulting, a security and risk management firm. Analysts worry these deadly attacks will further erode trust in the capacity of the Nigerian state to protect its citizens, a situation that could be exploited by armed groups hoping to expand their reach in the region. Even though bandits in the North West are generally not ideologically driven like the jihadist groups in the North East, they have used propaganda exploiting existing social divisions to gain support among locals. Across the multiple instances where similar mishaps by the military have led to the loss of civilian lives, no one has ever been punished. In some cases, the incident may never be acknowledged and in others, such probes take up to six months. Inkstick Media

Police Confirm Killing of Nigerian Journalist
The police in Edo State have confirmed the killing of a journalist in the state. The journalist, Hillary Odia, was shot dead on Christmas Eve by suspected cultists at a drinking joint near a police station in Benin City, the state capital. He was a staff member of Independent Television and Radio, Benin City. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that there has been a surge in cult clashes and killings in Benin City, and that the police in the state have acknowledged the ugly trend in the state…A police officer who took part in an anti-cult operation was shot dead on 24 December in the Ugbowo axis of Benin City, Mr Nwabuzor, a superintendent of police, said. He said the loss of the operative underscored the police determination to combat cultism in Edo State. Premium Times

Congo Reaffirms Commitment to OPEC, Oil Minister Says
Congo on Saturday reaffirmed its commitment to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), days after neighbor Angola decided to leave the organization. “The Republic of Congo reaffirms its steadfast commitment to the strategic policy defined by the Secretary-General of OPEC and OPEC+,” Congo’s hydrocarbons minister Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua said in a LinkedIn post. The development comes after Nigeria on Friday reaffirmed its commitment to OPEC, with minister of state for petroleum Heineken Lokpobiri saying that his country’s position remained unwavering. Congo, which became a full member of OPEC in 2018, has been set a target of 277,000 barrels per day (bpd) for 2024 by the Saudi-led oil producer group. Nigeria, which is Africa’s biggest oil producer, and Angola were among several countries given lower output targets for 2024 after years of failing to meet previous ones. Angola’s Oil Minister Diamantino Azevedo said on Thursday that OPEC no longer served the country’s interests. It joins other mid-sized producers Ecuador and Qatar that have left the organization in the last decade. Reuters

A British Sea Monitoring Agency Says Another Vessel Has Been Hijacked Near Somalia
Another vessel has been hijacked near the coast of Somalia, a British sea trade monitoring agency said Friday, raising more concerns that Somali pirates are active again, nearly a decade after they caused chaos for international shipping. A dhow trading vessel was seized by heavily armed people near the town of Eyl off the coast of Somalia, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said…The European Union’s Naval Force reported that a Maltese-flagged merchant vessel was hijacked in the nearby Arabian Sea last week and moved to the same area off Somalia’s coast. The bulk carrier Ruen had 18 crew onboard when it was hijacked near the Yemeni island of Socotra, around 240 kilometers (150 miles) off Somalia. One crew member was evacuated to an Indian navy ship for medical care, the EU Naval Force said. Suspicion has also fallen on Somali pirates for that hijacking, although the EU force said the hijackers and their demands were unknown. There has been a recent surge in attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen, disrupting a major global trade route. AP

Ships Rerouted by Red Sea Crisis Face Overwhelmed African Ports
Shipping companies sailing around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid Houthi attacks on the Red Sea face tough choices over where to refuel and restock, as African ports struggle with red tape, congestion and poor facilities, companies and analysts say. Hundreds of large vessels are rerouting around the southern tip of Africa, a longer route adding 10-14 days of travel, to escape drone and missile attacks by Yemeni Houthis that have pushed up oil prices and freight rates. The attacks by Iranian-backed militants have disrupted international trade through the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia, which accounts for about a sixth of global traffic. South Africa’s major ports, including Durban, one of Africa’s largest in terms of container volumes handled, as well as Cape Town and Ngqura ports are among the worst performing globally, a World Bank 2022 index released in May found…Other large African deep-water ports along the Cape route, such as Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania are too ill-equipped to handle the expected traffic over the next couple of weeks, [Alessio Lencioni, a logistics and supply chain consultant,] said…Rough weather with high seas, common at the ‘Cape of Storms’ as well as the cyclone-prone Mozambique Channel, mean ships could burn through their fuel quicker, making refuelling services crucial, shippers said. Reuters

Senegalese Navy Seizes 690 kg of Cocaine
The Senegalese navy has seized 690kg of cocaine being transported to Europe in an ultra-fast go-fast boat and arrested the five Spaniards on board, the army announced in a statement on Sunday (December 24). An ocean-going patrol boat intercepted the boat on Friday 220 km off the coast of Senegal. The patrol boat had to issue verbal warnings and fire warning shots to stop the boat, which had released its cargo before the intervention; 690 kg of cocaine were recovered, the statement said. On 28 November and 16 December, the Senegalese army announced seizures at sea of nearly three tonnes of cocaine on each occasion. More than 800 kg of cocaine were also seized in January this year from a ship off Dakar by the Senegalese navy. Long regarded as a simple transit area for drugs produced in Latin America on their way to Europe, West and Central Africa has also become a region of heavy drug consumption, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Africanews

Senegal’s Jailed Opposition Leader Ousmane Sonko Files to Run for Presidency
Jailed Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has submitted his candidacy to contest a February presidential election with the constitutional council despite the state’s refusal to provide him the necessary documents. Sonko’s back-up Bassirou Diomaye Faye has also filed to run, Ousseynou Ly, an official in their dissolved party Pastef said Tuesday. Like other candidates, Sonko had until December 26 to submit his candidacy and show he has collected enough signatures. Last week, the national entity that runs elections in Senegal, did not provide Sonko’s representative with the documents needed to file. His lawyers then said they would file anyway, hoping the justice system would be more receptive…Sonko was condemned to two years in prison on June 1 on charges of corrupting minors. He refused to attend his trial and was tried in absentia. The 49-year-old has been jailed since the end of July on other charges, including calling for insurrection, conspiracy with terrorist groups, and endangering state security. He has denied the charges, saying they are intended to prevent him challenging President Macky Sall in the February 25 election. In mid-December, a judge ordered that he be re-installed on the list of candidates, confirming a lower court order that had been overturned on first appeal. Faye, who is also in prison, is the back-up candidate for the Pastef party, which authorities ordered in July to be dissolved. AFP

Senegalese PM Amadou Ba Named as Ruling Party’s Presidential Candidate
Although [President Macky] Sall had already designated Ba as his preferred successor, his endorsement was officially confirmed by Alliance for the Republic party delegates on Thursday, as they named him their candidate for the February 2024 elections. Sall took power in 2012 and is not standing for a third term as the constitution prevents it. Ba – a former tax inspector – has served as prime minister since September 2022 and previously held the key ministries of foreign affairs and finance. The 62-year-old has been tipped by analysts as a favourite to win the West African nation’s election, but faces a crowded playing field…According to press reports, over 200 candidates have declared an interest in running for the ruling party, including former prime minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne and former interior minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye…Contenders have until 26 December to register for the election, with the Constitutional Council expected to make decisions on eligibility by the end of the month. RFI

MCC Returns to Tanzania after 7-Year Absence
After losing development support from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in the past seven years, Tanzania has convinced Washington to review its earlier decision to suspend funding to key social and economic projects in the country. The MCC Board has put Tanzania among African countries to get financial and institutional support after closing its offices in Dar es Salaam in 2016 in protest against the general election results in Zanzibar. The MCC had invested $700 million in electricity production and supply to urban and rural areas between 2008 and 2013. Other key projects were roads, water supply in rural areas, education and health services. The US embassy in Dar es Salaam said this week that Tanzania had demonstrated renewed commitment to advancing critical reforms to strengthen democracy, protect human rights and fight corruption. The MCC Board has, therefore, decided to partner with Dodoma to focus on policy and institutional reforms aimed at reducing poverty and promoting economic growth. Established in 2004, MCC is an independent US government agency working to reduce global poverty through economic growth through grants and assistance to countries that execute good governance, fight corruption and respect democratic rights. The East African

France’s New Immigration Law Raises New Barriers for African Students
There is growing concern among African students following the adoption of the immigration law by France’s Parliament on Tuesday, December 19. The bill introduces stricter conditions for arriving and staying in France, and provides for an increase in tuition fees for foreign students, who will have to pay a “return deposit” and will be subject to quotas. These measures have been deemed “discriminatory” by unions and NGOs. In 2020, France was the sixth-largest host country for foreign students globally, with 400,000 students. Morocco was the most represented country with nearly 46,000 nationals enrolled in a French higher education institution, followed by Algeria with 31,000 students. Around 15,000 Senegalese, 13,000 Tunisian and 10,000 Ivorian students were also enrolled in schools and universities in France. Le Monde

How Mama Octopus and Her Female Fishing Crew Make Waves Saving Kenya’s Reefs
[Amina] Ahmed is known as “Mama Pweza” (Mama octopus), and leads a team of women…who have taken to the water as a means of improving their families’ livelihoods. Crucially, they have also been preserving stretches of the ocean from over-exploitation and coral degradation by closing off an octopus fishery – a critical source of food and income – for four months. The women have defied the local custom that only men fish while they stay at home and look after the children. “We faced ridicule from society when we started,” says Ahmed. “The men have now accepted our new lifestyles because they know the economic benefits of octopus fishing.” Illegal and destructive fishing methods that have over-exploited nearshore reefs and damaged nesting sites have led to a decline in fish populations, with negative impacts on local people. The women, who live within the Pate Marine Community Conservancy, are working to ensure their fishing sites remain out of bounds to those using unsustainable methods…The Pate conservancy is part of the locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) – regions supported by the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), an umbrella body that manages several conservation projects in Kenya…For every octopus sold, 30 shillings are saved by the women’s association, which has now collected enough to build a nursery school. They have also bought two fishing boats to access fishing grounds farther offshore. The Guardian