Africa Media Review for February 28, 2024

Regime Capture of the Courts in Africa
The widespread politicization, corruption, and co-option of courts, electoral commissions, and other institutions is one reason why more than half of Africa’s 19 elections this year are likely to be largely perfunctory formalities where election results are known in advance. Only 5 of these 19 countries are ranked “free” on Freedom House’s annual index. Courts are vitally important owing to their power to interpret the law and issue binding orders. When properly employed, they are the tip of the spear in the fight against illegality and extraconstitutional threats to democracy. Their independence is also critical to maintaining the impartiality and integrity of electoral commissions. When courts are co-opted, however, they can rubber-stamp illegalities, entrench impunity, and weaken other oversight institutions. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Senegal Dialogue Panel Proposes June Elections after Court Rejects President’s 10 Month Delay
President Macky Sall who faces term limits at the end of his second terms, said in early February he was postponing an election for 10 months, just weeks before it was set to take place on Feb. 25. But Senegal’s highest election authority, the Constitutional Council, rejected that move and ordered the government to set a new election date as soon as possible. Sall called for a two-day national dialogue earlier this week, aiming at fostering trust among the candidates and the population. Civil, political and religious leaders attended, but almost all of the candidates on the ballot refused to participate. On Tuesday, the panel proposed holding the vote on June 2. Sall has said that he will step down by April 2, which is the end of his current term, but it’s unclear who will take over if elections are not held before that. AP

Zimbabwe Court Sentences Opposition Leader for Insulting Russian Businesswoman
A court in Zimbabwe has sentenced an opposition leader to six months in prison or a $300 fine for verbally assaulting a Russian businesswoman. Magistrate Vongai Guwuriro ruled that Tendai Biti, a former Zimbabwean finance minister, must pay the fine or go to prison, ending a four-year legal battle between Biti and Tatiana Aleshina, who court papers said was a Russian investor. Biti paid the fine…The state prosecutors accused Biti of calling Aleshina “stupid” and pointing at her in 2020. Biti denies the charge of verbal assault…Aleshina’s supporters outside the court said Biti should have been given a no-fine option and sent to prison, while Biti’s supporters said the punishment for calling someone “stupid” was unfair…Biti is vice president of Citizens’ Coalition for Change, Zimbabwe’s main opposition party. His colleague Job Sikhala, who spent nearly two years in jail, was given a nine-month suspended sentence if he pays a $500 fine by March 4. He was convicted of publishing falsehoods. VOA

Guinea Names Former Opposition Leader Mamadou Oury Bah as Prime Minister
Transitional authorities in junta-led Guinea have appointed one-time opposition leader and economist Mamadou Oury Bah to the role of prime minister, according to a decree read on national television on Tuesday…Bah, commonly know as Bah Oury, has been a prominent figure on the Guinean political scene since the early nineties. He served as minister of reconciliation in a consensus government in the wake of a political crisis triggered by the killing of at least 130 people in union-led protests in 2007. The founder and vice president of the UFDG party later spent four years in exile in France, during which time he was convicted in absentia for a 2011 assassination attempt against Conde. He returned to Guinea in 2016 following a presidential pardon, but was later pushed out of UFDG. In recent years, he has faced criticism for his support of the junta. Reuters

Intercommunal Conflicts Undermine Peaceful Elections in South Sudan: Haysom
Persistent intercommunal fighting in South Sudan will undermine the ability to hold peaceful elections in December this year, the head of the United Nations Mission in the country (UNMISS) Nicholas Haysom warned on Monday. Briefing the African Union Peace and Security Council, Haysom urged the government to urgently finalize and implement transitional security arrangements to settle this issue. The UN mission said it set up a new team site in Unity State in line with its mandate to protect civilians and improve security in areas bordering Warrap state and Abyei region. Peacekeepers, according to UNMISS, have begun deploying to the site to also mitigate any spillover effects of the recent clashes in the disputed Abyei region into South Sudan. Sudan Tribune

Chad to Hold Presidential Election in May-June
Chad’s election agency confirmed dates for a presidential election on Tuesday, committing to hold two rounds over May and June with provisional results due on July 7 under a promised transition back to democracy from junta rule. The military authorities who seized power in 2021 initially said they would hold elections within 18 months, but later extended the transition period to Oct. 10, 2024. The first round of the presidential poll will take place on May 6 and the second one on June 22, it said. The agency said it would publish the lists of candidates selected by the Constitutional Council on March 24…[Junta leader Mahamat Idriss Deby] has not yet officially declared he will run…His military government is one of several juntas currently ruling in West and Central Africa, where there have been eight coups since 2020, sparking concerns of a democratic backslide in the region. Reuters

Jihadist Attacks Displace Tens of Thousands in Mozambique
Mozambique’s government confirmed on Tuesday that tens of thousands have been driven from their homes by a wave of jihadist attacks in the restive north, but rejected calls for a state of emergency…The IOM has put the numbers fleeing attacks from Macomia, Chiure, Mecufi, Mocimboa da Praia and Muidumbe at 71,681 between December 22 and February 25. Between last Wednesday and Thursday alone the IOM recorded over 30,000 displaced people arriving in Namapa town, in the Nampula province, by bus, boat or foot…Since July 2021, thousands of troops from Rwanda and the SADC regional bloc have deployed to shore up the Mozambican military and have since helped retake control of much of Cabo Delgado. The SADC mission is to come to an end by mid-July, according to the bloc…Almost 5,000 people have been killed and almost a million have been forced to flee their homes since IS-linked militants launched the insurgency [in 2017]. AFP

Nigeria: Officer, 16 Soldiers Face Court Martial over Alleged Offences
One officer and 16 other soldiers in the 3 Division of the Nigerian Army, Jos have been arraigned before a general court martial over their suspected involvement in various offences…The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the division and Commander, Operation SAFE HAVEN (OPSH), AE Abubakar…stressed the significance of the court in enforcing discipline, professionalism, and regimentation in the execution of military duties. In his remarks, the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association in Plateau State, Azi Aware, commended the Nigerian Army for using internal mechanisms such as the General Court Martial to check its erring personnel. He said this would boost the confidence of the public in the ability of the military to professionally protect law-abiding citizens. Premium Times

Congo Joins LNG-Exporting Nations under a New Project with Italian Energy Company ENI
The African nation of Congo became the latest exporter of liquified natural gas on Tuesday as it launched production of the first cargo load a year after Italian energy company ENI launched the Congo LNG project with local partners. The first cargo ship laden with LNG will head to the Italian regassification plant in the Tuscan city of Piombino in the coming days, ENI said in a statement…The project will have an annual capacity of 4.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which is used to heat homes and businesses. It is formed when gas is cooled to about -260 F (-162 C) to be stored and shipped safely aboard specially designed vessels. Europe has been in search of new energy sources since moving to cut off Russian supplies following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago. AP

South Africa Says Climate Targets on Track If Coal Switch Not Delayed Again
South Africa’s delay in taking coal-fired power stations offline will only harm its commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 if the plants continue to burn well into the 2030s, the head of its donor-funded green energy plan said on Tuesday. Officials admitted privately in November that South Africa will miss its binding 2030 carbon emissions targets under the Paris climate agreement, as Africa’s most industrialised country will run eight coal-fired power plants for longer than planned. Countries around the world, including Canada, Britain and Germany have delayed or watered down energy transition plans. South Africa is the 15th biggest emitter in the world, according to the Global Carbon Atlas, a significant drop from previous years. This is mostly owing to power shortages at state power provider Eskom. Reuters

Persistent Dry, Hot Weather Worries Ivory Coast Cocoa Farmers
Dry weather and high temperatures continued last week in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions, raising concerns for the size and quality of the April-to-September mid-crop, farmers said on Monday. Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is in its dry season which runs from mid-November to March, when rain is usually scarce. Farmers blamed a recent heat wave for weakening some cocoa trees and slowing the growth of small pods. They said abundant rainfall was needed in the next two weeks to limit damage on plantations…Average temperatures ranged from 28.8 to 33 degrees Celsius in Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions last week. Reuters

Ghana Aims to Complete External Debt Restructuring as Soon as Possible – President
Ghana aims to finish restructuring its external debt as soon as possible so it can emerge from its worst economic crisis in a generation, President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Tuesday. The West African country, which defaulted on most of its overseas debt in December 2022 after servicing costs soared, restructured most of its local debt and is pushing for a deal with holders of about $13 billion in international bonds…Ghana’s economy has started to recover since the government last year secured a $3 billion loan programme with the IMF, and in January reached a deal to restructure $5.4 billion of loans with its official creditors. Reuters

Uganda: Theatre of Violence Review – Questions of Culpability as Lord’s Resistance Army Killer Comes to Trial
Dominic Ongwen was nine when he was abducted from his village in northern Uganda and conscripted as a child soldier by the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group led by Joseph Kony. As a boy, Ongwen was a victim, brutalised and brainwashed; in adulthood, he progressed up the ranks, becoming a feared LRA commander. This film follows his trial at the international criminal court, where he was convicted of 61 individual charges of murder, rape, sexual slavery, abduction and torture. Ongwen is the first former child soldier to be convicted by the court and one question raised by this documentary is how far is he morally responsible for his crimes?…Elsewhere, people in Uganda ask why it’s only the Lord’s Resistance Army in court: what about atrocities committed by the army? The Guardian