Africa Media Review for February 1, 2023

Africa’s 2023 Elections: Democratic Resiliency in the Face of Trials
Spanning West, Central, and Southern Africa, the seven elections in Africa this year comprise some of the most populous countries on the continent. This includes Nigeria, which kicks off the electoral calendar in February, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with elections slated for late December. Collectively, the countries selecting national leaders in 2023 represent roughly a third of the continent’s population. In five of the elections (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe), incumbents are seeking a second term. There is only one open seat, in Nigeria, as President Muhammadu Buhari steps down after his constitutionally mandated second term. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Nigeria’s Triple Crises as Elections Approach
The West Africa nation is beset with three crises joined at the hip and Africa’s largest economy is staring at a possible grind to a halt. During the day, most of the country’s 213 million people spend their time queuing at teller machines and bank counters for new currency notes, and at petrol stations for fuel. When the night comes, they head home, a majority empty-handed, only to be confronted by pitch darkness due to Nigeria’s epileptic electricity supply. All this while, well-heeled politicians in their swanky cars and helicopters are crisscrossing cities and the countryside, canvassing for votes…The crises have become major campaign issues, with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) grappling with the situation as the opposition capitalises on it in its bid to vanquish President Muhammadu Buhari’s party from power. Nation

Russia’s Footprint Grows in Africa as France Leaves Burkina Faso
Western governments have for years warned about the threat of Russian disinformation campaigns in the Sahel, spearheaded by companies linked to Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. “Through companies that exploit Africa’s natural resources, political operatives who undermine democratic actors, front companies posing as NGOs, and social media manipulation, Prigozhin spreads disinformation to influence African politics in Russia’s favor,” the US State Department warned last May…France has maintained outsized influence over the politics, economies and security of Sahelian countries in the decades since they claimed their independence from the former colonial power in the 1960s. That history, alongside French troops’ failure to stop the spread of extremist activity in the region, has contributed to a growing sense of resentment. Bloomberg

Cameroon’s ‘Disappeared’ Later Found Dead
Last Sunday, popular radio journalist Mbani Zogo Arsène Salomon, better known as Martinez Zogo, was found dead on the outskirts of Cameroon’s capital Yaounde. Zogo was kidnapped by unknown people five days earlier. His decomposing body showed signs that he had been tortured prior to his death. The murder is the latest in an escalating trend of forced and sometimes fatal disappearances in Cameroon…Disappearances have been a key part of the struggle, with all sides taking people. The families are left with no closure.  “It’s been over four years today. I cannot tell where my father is nor if he is alive or dead,” said Abedine Akweton Abilitu, whose father was arrested in 2018 on suspicion of collaborating with the rebels. “I had to drop out of school to assist my mother in searching for dad.” His mother died last May without ever knowing what happened to her husband. Secessionist groups have also been accused of “disappearing” people. Their main targets are civil servants in the conflict areas. Mail & Guardian

UN Experts Urge Probe into Possible War Crimes in Mali by Wagner
United Nations experts on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Mali by government forces and Russian private military contractor the Wagner Group. Mali, whose government took power in a 2021 military coup, has previously said Russian forces in the West African country are not mercenaries but trainers helping local troops with equipment bought from Moscow…Tuesday’s statement mentioned the Wagner Group by name, and described credible reports of the involvement of military personnel believed to belong to the group in a massacre of hundreds of people in March. Survivors have said that white mercenaries suspected to be Russians took part in the massacre in Moura, a market town in central Mali. The incident sparked international uproar and prompted the UN to open an earlier investigation. Al Jazeera

Jihadi Violence Intesifies in Burkina as Militants Kill Nearly 30 in 2 Days
Twenty-eight people have died in new attacks by suspected jihadists in Burkina Faso, including 15 who had been abducted at the weekend, the authorities said Tuesday (Jan. 31). Fifteen bodies bearing bullet impacts were found on Monday (Jan. 30) near Linguekoro, a village in the western province of Comoe, regional governor Colonel Jean-Charles Some said in a statement… Separately, 10 military police officers, two members of an auxiliary force supporting the army, and a civilian died in northern Burkina Faso from a “terrorist attack on Monday” in the locality of Falangoutou, the army said. The attacks mark a further escalation in an insurgency that has beset Burkina for more than seven years. AfricaNews with AP

Equatorial Guinea Appoints First Woman PM
Equatorial Guinea has appointed Manuela Roka Botey as prime minister, becoming the first woman in the country to hold the position. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled the country since 1979, made the announcement on Tuesday in a decree read on state television. The country’s vice-president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is also the president’s son, congratulated the new prime minister. “For the first time in Equatorial Guinea, a woman is appointed prime minister,” he tweeted. “This is further proof of the commitment to gender equality and opportunities in the country. Congratulations, Manuela Roka Botey!” Ms Rotey was previously the education minister and joined the government in 2020. She replaces former premier Francisco Pascual Obama Asue, who has been in the position since 2016. BBC

Pope, in Africa, Urges an End to Congo’s Cycle of Violence
But Francis’ words would have to stop troubling momentum. Both Congo and Rwanda have accused each other of shelling the other’s territory. Last month, Rwanda said it had fired at a Congolese jet that had violated its airspace, an accusation that Congo denied. Last year, Rwanda killed a Congolese soldier who it said had shot at its officers at a border area, pushing Congo to close its border. Congolese officials have accused Rwanda of wanting to plunder their nation’s mineral resources. Protests have broken out in cities across the east, with many citizens castigating Rwandan aggression. The rise in hostilities in eastern Congo has also led to an increase in hate speech and discrimination against Kinyarwanda speakers in Congo, the United Nations has warned. Several rounds of peace talks have been held in Angola and Kenya, but with no reported advancement toward settling the conflict yet. Francis sought on Wednesday to give momentum to those peace efforts. New York Times

Pope Francis Tells Rich World to Stop Stifling Africa’s Progress
Pope Francis on Tuesday criticised those he said have been keen on stifling progress in Africa, and especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, telling the rich world that the people in the continent are more precious than the minerals in the earth beneath them. Speaking shortly after he arrived in Kinshasa, the Catholic pontiff said the region is not only suffering internally with conflict but also from what he called “a terrible form of exploitation.”…According to him, after “political colonialism, an “equally enslaving economic colonialism has been unleashed.” East African

South African Bloc Says Tension in Eswatini After Lawyer Slain
Southern Africa’s regional bloc SADC on Tuesday acknowledged that political tensions were rising in the tiny kingdom of Eswatini, where a top rights lawyer and activist has been murdered. Thulani Maseko Maseko was shot dead on January 21, sparking alarm over political violence in Africa’s last absolute monarchy. His murder came hours after King Mswati III had warned activists who defied him not to “shed tears” about “mercenaries killing them.” There have been no arrests as yet…Maseko, 52, had relentlessly fought state repression in the kingdom, where opposition parties are banned. He led a coalition of political and civic rights and religious groups, created in November 2021 to foster dialogue with the king and seek a way out of the crisis. Arise News

Protesters Say Russian Ship Bound for Antarctica Unwelcome at South African Port
Climate activists in South Africa are protesting a refueling stop by a Russian ship that they say is ignoring a ban on exploring oil and gas in Antarctica. Protest organizers Greenpeace Africa and Extinction Rebellion say the seismic tests the Akademik Alexander Karpinsky has been conducting in Antarctica for the past 25 years are harmful to marine life like dolphins and whales. They also say that fossil fuels should stay in the ground if the world is to prevent catastrophic global warming…South African environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan isn’t convinced and says it’s vital everyone sees the importance of fighting global warming. “It’s incredibly Important from a climate change perspective because the oceans there absorb a lot of the Co2 from the atmosphere but it’s also part of regulating the world’s climate and, also the currents and the weather system. But it’s also very much affected by climate change because the ice is melting,” he said. Voice of America

Somalia Gathers Neighbours to Pore over Al-Shabaab Menace
Somalia is gathering neighbouring countries in a bid to work on a concerted policy against Al-Shabaab militants, the first such meeting under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Kenya’s President William Ruto, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Djibouti’s Ismael Ghuelleh were expected in Mogadishu anytime from Wednesday for a high-level summit amid tight security…Somalia’s Minister for Information Daud Aweys said that the meeting is meant to initiate a unified strategy among the Horn of Africa frontline states. “Somalia hosts defence ministers and army commanders of the frontline states from Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia focusing on adopting of common regional security position, especially in the fight against Al-Shabaab,” Minister Aweys stated. “This meeting is momentous because the current security situation of Somalia also affects Somalia’s neighbouring countries,” he added. East African

In Drought-Stricken Ethiopia, Herders Suffer Heartache
Mohammed Hassan Gureh has made up his mind: he’s going to sell the last of his goats and leave his village to find a new life.  Like many herders in the east of Ethiopia, he has been forced to give up his nomadic existence after seeing his livestock decimated by drought…The last five rainy seasons since the end of 2020 have failed, triggering the worst drought in four decades in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.  And the next rainy season, from March to May, is also expected to be below average.  According to the UN, drought has plunged 12 million people into “acute food insecurity” in Ethiopia alone, where a deadly conflict has also ravaged the north of the country. AFP