Africa Media Review for February 15, 2023

Nigerian Election 2023: What to Know
The Giant of Africa, as Nigeria is known, is at an inflection point. Nearly eight years of rule by an ailing president, Muhammadu Buhari — a military dictator turned reformed democrat — has seen the country lurch from one economic shock to the next. Over 60 percent of the people live in poverty, while security crises — including kidnapping, terrorism, militancy in oil-rich areas and clashes between herdsmen and farmers — have multiplied. Young, middle-class Nigerians are leaving the country in droves. Many Nigerians see the 2023 election as a chance to change course, and are planning to break with the two traditional parties to vote for a third candidate. Not since the rebirth of Nigeria’s democracy in 1999 has the country faced an election as nail-biting — and as wide open — as this one. New York Times

Kenyatta to Head AU Observer Mission in Nigeria Elections
Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta will lead the African Union’s Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, the continental body announced on Tuesday, granting him his second regional role since he retired in September 2022. Mr Kenyatta, president of Kenya between 2013 and 2022, will lead a team of 90 observers to the Nigerian elections due on February 25. This is the second assignment for Mr Kenyatta by the African Union. Soon after he retired, the AU appointed him as a member of the troika of negotiators in the conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The team also had former Nigerian President Olusegun Obadanjo and former South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. East African

Political Aides Hacked by ‘Team Jorge’ in Run-Up to Kenyan Election
An Israeli disinformation specialist hired to run covert dirty tricks campaigns in African elections hacked political advisers close to Kenya’s president, William Ruto, in the run-up to last year’s election, an investigation can reveal. The interference did not prevent Ruto winning the poll, nor the peaceful transfer of power in Kenya, but the revelation highlights the growing risks posed by the involvement of bad actors and paid operatives in the relatively new democratic systems and institutions across Africa…Documents leaked to the Guardian confirm Team Jorge was involved in the 2015 elections in Nigeria. An analysis of thousands of bots associated with his disinformation software also suggests the team was involved in spreading disinformation in the 2019 presidential election in Senegal. Hanan also showed the undercover reporters screenshots that suggested he could access the email inboxes of senior government officials elsewhere on the continent, and described employees posing as journalists to gather useful information during election campaigns in Africa. Guardian

Survey Paints Bleak Picture of Ethiopia’s State of Mind After Two Years of War
As Ethiopians emerge from two years of conflict, a new Gallup survey paints a bleak picture of people suffering economically and emotionally. The survey conducted in the fall of 2022, found that a record-high 65% of Ethiopians are struggling to afford food, with food prices rising 43% in 2022 compared to 2021, and certain staple items soaring by more than 80%. Opinion researchers had not been able to enter the country in 2021 and saw a significant change when they returned the following year. Zach Bikus, regional director-Africa at Gallup said the team interviewed about 1,000 people but were not able to travel to the conflict areas…The situation has had a profound effect on Ethiopians’ mental and emotional well-being. When asked to rate their quality of life from 1 to 10, the average rating dropped from 4.5 in 2020 to just 3.6 in 2022, the lowest since 2012. The survey also found significant increases in people reporting they feel “worry,” “physical pain,” “anger,” and “stress.” Voice of America

UK Accused of Crimes Against Humanity over Chagos
The UK has been accused of crimes against humanity in its refusal to allow a group of islanders to return to the Chagos archipelago, half a century after they were forced off the island by British troops. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said reparations should be paid to generations of people affected by the decision to depopulate the remote islands, deep in the Indian Ocean. The UK’s Foreign Office has responded by repeating its “deep regret” about the manner in which people were removed from the islands in the late 1960s and early 70s. But it stressed that “we categorically reject the characterisation of events” as crimes against humanity. The HRW report comes as the UK is facing growing international condemnation for holding on to what it calls the “British Indian Ocean Territory,” with the UN’s International Court of Justice ruling that the continuing British occupation of the archipelago is illegal. The UN General Assembly has also voted, overwhelmingly, in favour of the islands being returned to Mauritius. BBC

IFAD Ups Investment in Somalia
Support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for drought-stricken Somalia is set to resume after a three decade-long suspension. Now that the country has cleared its debt with IFAD through member state support, direct investments would resume, according to IFAD president Alvaro Lario, while support would be strengthened “substantially”. The historic drought in the country continues to push millions into acute food insecurity, he said, demanding long-term solutions in the form of rural development. Fruitnet

Tunisia: President Kais Saied’s Critics Arrested in Crackdown
On Monday, officers raided the house of Noureddine Boutar of Mosaïque FM, which has criticised President Kais Saied. Since Saturday, numerous public figures – including an opposition politician, a prominent businessman, two judges and a former diplomat – have been held. Mr Saied says he wants to save the north African nation from chaos. The country’s biggest opposition party Ennahda has described the detentions as the “kidnapping of Saied’s opponents.” Many Tunisians who supported Mr Saied when he came to power in 2019 have recently turned against the president. In 2021, Mr Saied sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and pushed through a constitution enshrining his one-man rule. BBC

Economists Accuse Sudan Authorities of ‘Secrecy’ over National 2023 Budget
Economists are accusing the Sudanese authorities of a “lack of transparency” for failing to publish the 2023 national budget after it was approved by the Sovereignty Council and Council of Ministers on February 1. Economist Sidgi Kaballo told Radio Dabanga that he made a great effort to obtain a copy of the budget and laws that were passed at the beginning of the month, to no avail. He described this as “secretive, especially in the absence of a parliament.” He explained that the obfuscation is deliberate, to pass things without public control. He also accused the military junta of failing to manage the country. The military agreed to the Framework Agreement because of the economic impasse, he said. “They hope to benefit from the agreement to solve the government’s direct financial problems, rather than address ongoing economic crises.” Dabanga

Women journalists harassed, abused by global scourge of online attacks
Aryee Davis, 35, a Liberian journalist, faced a crushing backlash after she reported that a powerful lawmaker had lied about his university degree. The lawmaker claimed to have attended a university in Nigeria that had no record of him as a student. Since the incident, most of her stories no longer carry bylines. For safety reasons, they describe Davis, instead, as a “contributing writer.”…The attacks against Davis and threats against her family became so intense after her scoop on the politician’s university degree that she pulled her children out of school for several weeks for their safety. The Committee to Protect Journalists, which researched her claims, condemned the attacks. Women journalists around the world report that their employers punish them for speaking about their experiences of online abuse or engaging with those attacking them. The women who are targeted are told to avoid posting on social media, thereby silencing them and taking away their platform, career opportunities and ability to define their own narrative, interviews show. Washington Post

UK Troops Contributing to Malian Security
The United Kingdom (UK) is the 59th country to contribute troops and equipment to the United Nations (UN) mission in Mali – MINUSMA. A 350-strong British battle group comprising infantry, light cavalry, explosives experts, remotely piloted air systems (RPAS) pilots and medical personnel touched down in the landlocked West African country late last year. The group will, according to the mission, provide the MINUSMA force with additional capacity to fulfil its civilian protection mandate. Following compliance with a COVID-19 quarantine period, the group is ready to commence on the ground operations in Sector East (Gao). DefenceWeb

WHO Deploys Experts to Equatorial Guinea to Combat Marburg Outbreak
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has deployed experts to Equatorial Guinea following confirmation of the first-ever outbreak of Marburg virus disease in the country this week. The country has so far reported nine deaths as well as 16 suspected cases of Marburg virus disease, with symptoms including fever, fatigue and blood-stained vomit and diarrhea. The rare yet severe viral haemorrhagic fever is similar to Ebola and has a fatality rate of up to 88 per cent. “Marburg is highly infectious. Thanks to the rapid and decisive action by the Equatorial Guinean authorities in confirming the disease, emergency response can get to full steam quickly. NAN

Witnesses Begin Testifying in Guinea Stadium Massacre Trial
During his testimony Tuesday, Oury Bailo Bah described the chaos and heartbreak that confronted victims’ families that day. After learning about the massacre on television, he went from hospital to hospital visiting morgues in hope of finding his brother’s body. “Trucks came, three trucks full of bodies and wounded. I had never seen so much blood from a human being. Human blood was flowing as if we were at a butcher shop,” he recalled. It would take five more days before the families would be allowed to come and collect the bodies, he said. Dozens of corpses, though, were not there. Oury Bailo Bah says he knows his brother died that day — he held up a picture of his body in court on Tuesday that was taken in the aftermath of the violence at the stadium. But the family was never able to locate his remains. AP

Ghana Closes Domestic Debt Programme as International Creditors Discuss Next Steps
After five extensions of a December deadline, Ghana closed its domestic debt exchange programme (DDEP) on 10 February with more than 80 percent participation of eligible bonds, the finance ministry said on Tuesday. Addressing domestic debt means the country is getting closer to securing a $3 billion (2.8 billion euro) International Monetary Fund bailout. Ghana decided to suspend foreign debt payments in December, and in January it became the fourth country to apply to the ‘Common Framework’ platform, an initiative launched in 2020 by the Group of 20 major economies to help streamline debt restructuring for poorer countries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. RFI

UN Chief Says Rising Seas a ‘Death Sentence’ for Some Countries
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of the threat posed by rising sea levels to hundreds of millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas and small island states as new data reveals seas have risen rapidly since 1900. In a stark address to the first UN Security Council debate on the implications of rising sea levels for international peace and security, Guterres said countries such as Bangladesh, China, India and the Netherlands were threatened as were big cities such as Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Jakarta, Lagos, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Maputo, New York and Shanghai…Climate change is heating the planet and melting glaciers and ice sheets which, according to NASA, has resulted in Antarctica shedding some 150 billion tonnes of ice mass each year on average, Guterres said. Greenland’s ice cap is shrinking even faster and losing 270 billion tonnes per year. “The global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than at any time in the past 11,000 years,” the UN chief said. Al Jazeera