Africa Media Review for February 16, 2024

Delay of Senegal’s Feb. 25 Presidential Election Is Ruled Illegal, Leaving Date Uncertain
Senegal’s top election authority on Thursday voided the government’s postponement of a presidential election scheduled for Feb. 25 and its rescheduling for December, ruling that the moves were unconstitutional. Senegal’s Constitutional Council cancelled the decree signed by President Macky Sall that postponed the election, according to a judgement approved by seven members of the body, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. The National Assembly’s decision on Feb. 5 to reschedule the vote for Dec. 15 also was “contrary to the constitution,” the judgement said. “The constitutional council, noting the impossibility of organizing the presidential election on the date initially planned, invites the competent authorities to hold it as soon as possible,” it added. AP

Senegal Factions Should Consult over Election Timing, Government Says
Senegal’s government said on Friday the country’s political factions would need to consult to find a way forward after a constitutional council ruled that an unprecedented postponement of a presidential election was unlawful…Early on Friday, spokesperson Abdou Karim Fofana said on a private radio station that the government took note of the council’s ruling, but did not specify if this meant it would accept the judgment. He said the different political factions would need to talk with one another to find a way forward. The presidency has also not yet said whether it will abide by the decision, but a spokesperson responded on Friday to a question about when the elections might now be held. “The answer lies in the Constitutional Council’s decision, which calls on the competent authorities to set a new date for organising the elections as soon as possible,” Sall’s spokesperson told journalists. Reuters

Ethiopia Rejects Allegations Its Forces Massacred Civilians as the West Urges an Investigation
Ethiopia’s government on Thursday dismissed allegations its soldiers massacred scores of civilians last month in the country’s restive Amhara region as the West is demanding an investigation into the killings…Rights monitors have documented a range of human rights abuses by government forces during the conflict, including alleged extra-judicial killings…Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu on Thursday told the local language service of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that there was fighting in Merawi but insisted the military “did not target any civilians”…On Wednesday, the United Kingdom urged a full investigation into events in Merawi, a day after the European Union called for a probe and dialogue to resolve the conflict in Amhara. AP

US to Build 5 New Military Bases for Somali Army, Which Faces a Rebellion by an Extremist Group
The U.S. will build up to five military bases for the Somali army in a project that seeks to bolster the Somalian national army’s capabilities amid ongoing threats from an extremist group. Somalia’s defense minister and the U.S. charge d’affaires signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. The agreement comes at a time when the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as ATMIS, is scaling back its presence in Somalia. The new bases will be associated with the Somali military’s Danab Brigade, established in 2017 following an agreement between the U.S. and Somalia to recruit, train, equip and mentor 3,000 men and women from across Somalia to build a strong infantry capability within the Somali army. AP

Rebels Attack a Gold Mine in Eastern Congo, Killing at Least 12 People
At least a dozen people were killed and 16 kidnapped by rebels at a mining site in eastern Congo, said a civil society organization on Thursday. Rebels from the CODECO armed group attacked a gold mine Wednesday near Djugu district in Ituri province, said Vital Tungulo, the head of Mabendi, a local rights group…Violence has been surging across eastern Congo, where conflict has flared for decades. More than 120 armed groups are fighting in the region, most for land and control of mines with valuable minerals, while some groups are trying to protect their communities. CODECO is a loose association of militia groups mainly from the ethnic Lendu farming community. Since 2017, it has been fighting with Zaire, a self-defense group mainly drawn from the ethnic Hema herding community. AP

France to Host Humanitarian Conference on Sudan in April
France will hold a ministerial meeting in mid-April to help Sudan and neighbouring countries cope with the fallout of a civil war that has seen millions displaced and prompted warnings of famine, officials said. Last week, the United Nations urged countries not to forget the civilians caught up in the war in Sudan, appealing for $4.1 billion to meet their humanitarian needs and support those who have fled to neighbouring countries…Ministers from neighbouring nations, regional actors, western states, UN agencies and non-profit organisations working in the area will attend the conference. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan: UNISFA Intervenes to End Intercommunal Tension in Abyei
The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) said it is continuing enhanced levels of patrolling as intercommunal tensions persist in Abyei, a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan. Stephane Dujarric, the Secretary General’s spokesperson said UN peacekeepers had responded to gunfire between two groups in Rumamier in southern Abyei. “Two civilians were reportedly killed during the violence. The Mission patrolled and maintained a presence in the area to protect civilians,” he said on Thursday…This renewed violence comes amid broader security concerns in South Sudan, with recent clashes reported in Warrap, Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Central Equatoria states. The proliferation of arms among civilians and the ongoing war in Sudan further raises concern on potential fuel for local conflicts. Sudan Tribune

The Islamic State Group Poses Rising Threat in Africa despite Progress, UN Experts Say
The Islamic State extremist group poses a rising threat amid political instability in West Africa and the Sahel and remains intent on carrying out attacks abroad, [Vladimir Voronkov,] the U.N. counter-terrorism chief said Thursday…Natalia Gherman, executive director of the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, said: “They are exploiting the political instability and expanding their radius of influence, their operations and territorial control in the Sahel, with growing concerns for coastal West Africa.”  “The African continent now accounts for almost half of terrorist acts worldwide, with central Sahel accounting for about 25% of such attacks,” she told the council. AP

After Record Year, Tunisia Reports Migrant Deaths from Shipwreck Near Libyan Waters
Tunisia’s coast guard retrieved the bodies of nine people who died after their boat sank on Thursday, marking the latest disaster for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. The coast guard also retrieved 45 people from the boat after it started to fill with water four miles (about six kilometers) off the coast of Zarzis, a common departure point near Tunisia’s border with Libya. Coast guard spokesman Houssameddine Jbabli said the boat, which was carrying non-Tunisian passengers, likely embarked from Libya and that survivors were transported to a local hospital in Tunisia. AP

Khaled Nezzar, Who Led Algeria’s Crackdowns on Islamists, Dies at 86
Khaled Nezzar, an Algerian general and defense minister who as part of a ruling junta in the 1990s escalated an iron-fisted campaign of repression and bloodshed against Islamist opponents that claimed at least 100,000 lives during an era called the “Black Decade,” died Dec. 29 in Algiers. He was 86. He received a state funeral in Algiers with mourners including the prime minister, Nadir Larbaoui. In Switzerland, prosecutors just days earlier had set a June date for his trial on allegations that included crimes against humanity. The country’s “Black Decade” marked one of the most violent chapters in North Africa in recent decades…Under the crackdowns, Algerian authorities canceled elections that put Islamist factions on the cusp of power in Parliament and then began systematic attacks to crush the Islamists and intimidate their supporters. The Washington Post

Kenyan Delegate to Meetings on Haiti Security Found Dead in Washington Hotel
A Kenyan official who had been in Washington for talks on a planned international security force to help Haitian police fight gangs was found dead in his hotel room this week, police in the U.S. capital said on Thursday. Washington police said they found 39-year-old Nyamato Walter unconscious in a hotel room in downtown Washington on Tuesday morning, and pronounced him dead at the scene. The police statement did not give a cause of death but noted that the investigation was being handled by a squad specializing in natural deaths and suicides. Walter, a police commissioner who was part of an official Kenyan delegation, was in the U.S. capital for talks over a planned U.N.-ratified force to help Haiti’s out-gunned police fight gangs, according to U.S. and Kenyan media outlets. Reuters

Ghana’s New Finance Minister Pledges to Keep IMF Programme on Track
Ghana’s new finance minister, Mohammed Amin Adam, pledged on Thursday to keep its $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme on track as it aims to finish restructuring its overseas debt before an election in December.
President Nana Akufo-Addo replaced Ken Ofori-Atta with Adam, a petroleum economist who was minister of state at the finance ministry, in a cabinet reshuffle after criticism of the ex-banker’s leadership during the West African country’s worst economic crisis in a generation. Ofori-Atta negotiated the IMF bailout loan to address the crisis, which saw inflation and debt servicing costs spiral upwards in 2022. He was, alongside Adam, seeking relief on about $13 billion owed to private bondholders when he was removed. Reuters

Africa’s Economic Growth Fell to 3.2% in 2023, Says African Devt Bank
Africa’s economic growth fell to 3.2% last year from 4.1% in 2022, the African Development Bank said on Friday, but it projected higher growth this year for all regions except central Africa. The AfDB said political instability and China’s economic slowdown were compounding the shocks of COVID-19 and Russia’s war in Ukraine. The final figure for 2023 was below the 3.4% growth the AfDB had forecast in November. It also cut its regional growth estimates for central and north Africa, amid a recession in oil producer Equatorial Guinea and the aftermath of devastating flooding in Libya…Despite the shocks buffeting the region, 15 African countries posted economic growth of more than 5% last year, the AfDB said. Reuters

Ill-Judged Tree Planting in Africa Threatens Ecosystems, Scientists Warn
Research [published in the journal Science]…found that 52% of tree-planting projects in Africa are occurring in savannahs, with almost 60% using non-native tree species, which also brings the risk of introducing invasive species. The researchers say the misclassification of grassy ecosystems including savannahs as “forests” could lead to misplaced reforestation and destruction of these ancient grasslands…The addition of more trees to these areas creates more canopy cover and decreases the amount of light that can reach the ground below, which can change the grassy environment of the savannah. This could be a risk to wildlife such as rhinos and wildebeest, as well as people who depend on these ecosystems. The Guardian

How an African Streaming Service Dethroned Netflix
Showmax…had 2.1 million subscribers on the continent at the end of November 2023, as compared to 1.8 million for Netflix, according to market research firm Omdia…The company stood out among competitors due to its deep understanding of local preferences and a carefully curated mix of content suited to African interests…In 2020, Showmax acquired exclusive licensing rights to stream HBO’s content in Africa…In March 2023, Comcast — the parent company of Universal Pictures, NBC, Peacock, Sky, DreamWorks Animation, and Telemundo — bought a 30% stake in Showmax through NBCUniversal. This gave the African company access to advanced technology, the funds to survive in a competitive market, and blockbuster English-language content, including titles from the BBC, Lionsgate, ITV, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros. Rest of World