Africa Media Review for December 29, 2023

Congo Rules Out Election Re-run as Observers Flag Irregularities
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Thursday refused opposition calls for a re-run of disputed elections, as the main observer mission reported “numerous irregularities” that could undermine some results. Provisional results issued so far from the Dec. 20 general election show President Felix Tshisekedi with a commanding lead, but his opponents have demanded they be annulled, citing widespread issues with the roll-out and tabulation of the vote…In a new report on the presidential and legislative elections based on feedback from thousands of observers, the independent joint vote-monitoring mission of Congo’s powerful Catholic Church and its Protestant Church said it had received 5,402 reports of incidents at polling stations, over 60% of which interrupted voting. The CENCO-ECC mission “documented numerous irregularities likely to affect the integrity of the results,” it said. In particular, it questioned the legality of the CENI election commission’s decision to extend some voting beyond Dec. 20 and reported that voting was not wrapped up fully until Dec. 27. The team of Moise Katumbi, one of Tshisekedi’s main challengers, has ruled out using legal channels to contest results, asserting that state institutions were committed to tipping the vote in the president’s favour…The CENI is due to release further provisional presidential results ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline.  Reuters

Burkina Faso: Criticize This African Country’s Army and You Might Be Drafted
[Dr. Daouda Diallo, a pharmacist-turned-rights-activist, and Ablassé Ouedraogo, a former foreign affairs minister and an opposition leader,] have been among at least 15 people who have recently either disappeared or been forcibly conscripted, according to human rights groups and lawyers. The list includes journalists, civil society activists, an anesthesiologist and an imam, all of whom had criticized the junta for its failure to defeat the insurgents, and for abuses against the populations it is meant to protect…Confronted with a lack of resources, the military-led government issued a broad appeal for civilians to join volunteer defense forces, promising them a stipend and two weeks of military training. It also announced an emergency “general mobilization” law, which gave the president sweeping powers, including conscripting people, requisitioning goods and restraining civil liberties…While the emergency decree enables the government to conscript civilians over the age of 18, rights groups said that targeted application of the law breaches fundamental human rights…Those who disappeared had mostly been making criticisms confirmed by data on how the government’s reliance on an exclusively military strategy to defeat insurgents has backfired, analysts and aid workers said. The New York Times

Sudan Civilians Rush for Arms as Paramilitaries Advance
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have seized most of Sudan’s southern Al-Jazira state including its capital Wad Madani and begun pushing further south into Sennar state in their war against the army. Amid growing claims of abuses by RSF fighters, groups of civilians have called for “armed popular resistance” across the Sudanese states of White Nile, River Nile, Gedaref, North, Kassala and Red Sea. The RSF meanwhile has ordered inhabitants of areas brought under its control to provide the paramilitary force with volunteers who would be armed to “protect their territory”…Last week at a thousands-strong rally in the northern city of Shendi, River Nile state governor Mohammed Badawi said: “We are going to train young people on weapons, so that they can defend their lands and their honour, and protect the families from the rebellion” of the RSF…The proliferation of arms has spurred fears that the conflict might spill over beyond the ranks of the army and the RSF. According to the Small Arms Survey project, 6.6 percent of Sudan’s 48 million people have weapons. The risks are particularly grave in the vast western region of Darfur, already scarred by bloody violence in the 2000s that killed about 300,000 people. Darfur as well as Kordofan in the south and the capital Khartoum have borne much of the brunt of the current war. The United Nations in May warned that armed civilians, tribal fighters and rebel groups had already taken up arms in Darfur. RFI

Sudan: 253 Children Safely Evacuated from War-Affected Wad-Madani
253 babies and children have been carefully evacuated from transit centres in Wad Madani, in central Sudan, to a safer location in the country following the recent eruption of fighting in Al Jazirah state. For many of these children, this is the second time they have been displaced, having been evacuated from Mygoma orphanages in Khartoum earlier in the year due to the war’s devastating impact. The recent fighting in Al Jazirah state has made Wad Madani unsafe, and the children have been forced to evacuate once again…The evacuation, conducted over two days, was coordinated by the Ministry of Social Development and supported by UNICEF and partners. The children who were evacuated from Khartoum to Wad Madani in June continue to receive care and protection under the Ministry’s watchful eye…The war in Sudan has resulted in the largest child displacement crisis globally, with over 3.5 million children forced to flee their homes as a consequence of the fighting. This crisis has placed over 14 million children in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian aid, the highest number ever recorded in the country. Sudan Tribune

Central African Republic: Peacekeepers Deployed in the Area of a Massacre of 23 Civilians
UN peacekeepers are deploying to the north-west of the Central African Republic, where 23 civilians were killed on December 21 in a massacre attributed to the 3R armed group, the UN force said on Wednesday. “The village of Nzakoundou was the target of a deadly attack attributed to 3R armed elements on December 21, killing 23 civilians”, announced the UN in a press release, adding that the village had been burnt down and the rest of the population “fled into the bush”…The 3R armed group (Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation) is one of the most powerful of a multitude of rebel groups and criminal gangs terrorizing the population in this vast Central African country. An umpteenth civil war broke out in the Central African Republic in 2013, when a Muslim-dominated rebellion, the Séléka, overthrew President François Bozizé, and the deposed head of state’s camp launched a retaliatory Christian and animist-majority self-defense militia, the anti-balaka. Fighting between these groups, in which civilians were the main victims, peaked in 2018 before the civil war, which had previously been very deadly, eased in intensity…The 3R, ex-Sélékas, joined the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (CPC) rebellion, which launched a vast offensive against Bangui in December 2020 in an attempt to overthrow the power of President Faustin Archange Touadéra. Africanews with AFP

UAE Concludes Trade Talks with Republic of Congo
The United Arab Emirates has completed negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement with the Republic of Congo, the second such deal announced with an African state in a week…Since 2021, the UAE has initiated a raft of bilateral trade, investment and cooperation deals on its own – called Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements – to bolster efforts aimed at diversifying income sources and economic sectors. Last week, the UAE, a major global oil exporter and OPEC member, completed talks for a trade deal with Mauritius, its first with an African country. Reuters

A Christmas Rush to Get Passports to Leave Zimbabwe Is Fed by Economic Gloom and a Price Hike
[P]eople are flooding the passport office this holiday season ahead of a price hike planned in the New Year…At $120, passports were already pricey for many in a country where the majority struggle to put food on the table. The finance minister’s budget proposals for 2024 said passport fees would rise to $200 in January, sparking an outcry. The hike was then reduced to $150. Several million Zimbabweans are estimated to have left the southern African country over the past two decades when its economy began collapsing. The migration has taken renewed vigor in recent years as hopes of a better life following the 2017 ouster of longtime president Robert Mugabe fade. The late president was accused of running down the country…According to figures released by the U.K.’s immigration department in November, 21,130 Zimbabweans were issued visas to work in the health and care sector from September last year to September this year, up from 7,846 the previous year. Only India and Nigeria, countries with significantly larger populations than Zimbabwe, have more people issued such work visas. Many more Zimbabweans choose to settle in neighboring South Africa. According to South Africa’s statistics agency, just over 1 million Zimbabweans are living in that country, up from more than 600,000 during its last census in 2011, although some believe the figure could be much higher as many cross the porous border illegally. AP

Ivory Coast Will Deliver 50 Million Liters of Gasoline Monthly to Guinea
Ivory Coast will deliver 50 million liters of gasoline per month to Guinea, following the explosion and fire at the country’s main fuel depot, Ivorian national television announced Wednesday evening. “Côte d’Ivoire is committed to delivering 50 million liters of gasoline per month to Guinea,” said a journalist from Radiotélévision Ivoirienne (RTI), without specifying the duration of this aid…The Guinean Minister of the Economy, Moussa Cissé, met on Wednesday in Abidjan with the Ivorian Minister of Mines, Oil and Energy, Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly. Saturday, five days after the explosion and fire in Conakry of the country’s main fuel depot which left 24 dead and 454 injured, according to a new report, the Guinean government announced the resumption of gasoline distribution, in rationing it. Twenty-five liters per vehicle and five liters per motorcycle and tricycle were authorized, with the use of cans prohibited. The population was deprived of gasoline throughout the territory since the explosion and fire, leading to the paralysis of a large part of the economy. Demonstrations in several localities last week sometimes turned into clashes between groups of young people demanding the return of gasoline to service stations and the security forces. Africanews with AFP

French Departure From Niger Underscores Fading Influence
France’s reduced influence in the Sahel contrasts sharply with a decade ago, when Paris launched its Barkhane counterinsurgency operation, aimed at working alongside the five most affected countries in pushing back jihadist threats. At its height, some 5,500 French troops were stationed in the region. The cascade of coups, first in Mali, then in Burkina Faso last year and finally in Niger in July…has sharply shrunk those numbers. Just 1,000 French troops now remain in Chad, where France currently bases its anti-jihadist operation in the region…A succession of French leaders has promised to reboot French ties to Africa…[A] November report by France’s National Assembly calls for bigger changes: from creating more Africa specialists within the foreign ministry and appointing ambassadors with roots in the African diaspora, to rehauling French development aid and adopting a more transparent and pragmatic Africa policy. For his part, [Bakery Sambe, director of the Dakar-based Timbuktu Institute-African Center for Peace, said he does not believe the Sahel’s new generation is necessarily moving toward Russia but rather away from France. To offer an attractive alternative, he believes Paris and other Western governments need to consider policies that emphasize development along with security and consider coastal West African nations that are increasingly at risk of jihadist attacks. “There has to be a vision of a broader Sahel,” he said, “that addresses the region’s weaknesses and especially fights against disinformation.” VOA

UN, Rights Group Urge Ethiopia to Adopt Victim-Centered Approach in Transitional Justice
The UN Human Rights Office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have released a report urging the Ethiopian government to anchor its transitional justice policies in international human rights law, prioritizing the rights and needs of victims and their families. Spanning 90 pages, the report documents the outcomes of 15 community consultations conducted from July 2022 through March of the current year. These sessions involved over 800 individuals, 319 of whom were women, from the Afar, Amhara, Harari, Oromia, Somali, and Tigray regions, as well as the Dire Dawa city administration. The collective feedback underscores the critical need for a comprehensive approach to transitional justice that encompasses criminal accountability, truth-seeking, reparations, and measures to prevent recurrence. The participants unanimously agreed on the imperative of holding perpetrators accountable for crimes, including those that violate international law, to break the cycle of violence and ensure such actions face prosecution. Furthermore, the report stresses the need for peaceful resolution of conflicts and the safe, dignified return of internally displaced people to their homes. It also notes the community’s readiness to back the transitional justice process, contingent on the independence and integrity of the institutions involved… The transitional justice program was launched in Ethiopia following the signing of the Pretoria Peace Agreement in November 2022. Addis Standard

Liberia: Tanker Explosion Death Toll Rises to 40
The death toll from the recent gas tanker explosion in Totota, Lower Bong County, has risen to over 40, according to Liberia’s Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Minister for Health Services, Dr. Francis Kateh. The incident occurred when the gas tanker reportedly fell off the road and caught fire late Tuesday evening. Tragically, citizens had rushed to the scene to collect gas that was pouring out from the fallen tanker when it suddenly exploded, resulting in numerous fatalities and severe injuries. During an interview at Phebe Hospital on December 27, 2023, Dr. Kateh stated that 83 patients were admitted to the hospital, with three confirmed deaths at that time. The blast of the tanker, labeled “God’s Willing”, left many dead and several severely injured in Totota, Lower Bong County during the late evening hours of Tuesday, December 26. The tanker truck, reportedly conveying gasoline to Ganta, Nimba County, overturned near the Upper Room Church in Totota and caught fire. Eyewitnesses state that some people from the community were attempting to collect the spilled gasoline when the explosion took place, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. Liberian Observer

Mbongeni Ngema, South African Playwright and Creator of ‘Sarafina!’, Is Killed in a Car Crash at 68
Renowned South African playwright, producer and composer Mbongeni Ngema, the creator of the Broadway hit “Sarafina!”, has died in a car crash at the age of 68, his family said. Ngema was killed in a head-on accident while returning from a funeral in a rural town in Eastern Cape province, the family said in a statement Wednesday. The celebrated playwright was a passenger in the vehicle. He was best known for writing “Sarafina!”, which premiered on Broadway in 1988. It was adapted into a musical drama starring Whoopi Goldberg in 1992 and became an international success, being nominated for Tony and Grammy awards. “Sarafina!” told the story of a student and how she inspired her peers to fight against racial segregation in apartheid South Africa after her favorite teacher, played by Goldberg, was thrown in jail for protesting against the system. The story was based on the events of the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa, when thousands of students took part in protests against the apartheid government. Ngema’s body of work also included the lauded theater production “Woza Albert,” which premiered in 1981 and won more than 20 awards around the world. The political satire explored the second coming of Jesus Christ as a black man in South Africa during apartheid. AP