Africa Media Review for January 12, 2024

Comoros Election Exercise Promises More of the Same
In Africa’s first presidential election of the year on January 14, Comoros President Azali Assoumani is running for a fourth term, enabled by a controversial 2018 referendum that has enabled him to sidestep presidential term limits. The ensuing Constitution dismantled the 2001 Fomboni Agreement, which had ushered in over 15 years of political stability in the archipelago of 880,000 people. The Agreement enshrined a power-sharing formula that saw the presidency rotate after a single presidential term among the three main islands: Grand Comore, Anjouan, and Moheli…The 2018 Constitution, furthermore, consolidated power under the executive by removing the offices of three vice presidents, each representing one of the three islands…Assoumani’s latest term has been marked by crackdowns on dissent and curtailments of press freedoms…[His] growing authoritarianism fits a pattern of African leaders who gain power through extraconstitutional means, then subsequently violate legal constraints on their time in power. These actions do not occur in isolation but are part of a broader deterioration of democratic checks and balances. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Burundi Closes Its Border with Rwanda and Deports Rwandans, Accusing the Country of Backing Rebels
Burundi’s internal affairs minister on Thursday announced the country was suspending diplomatic ties with Rwanda, closing their border and deporting Rwandan citizens, claiming it was a response to its neighbor’s alleged support for a rebel group that has been attacking Burundi…The minister said Burundi’s government had started deporting Rwandan nationals…The suspension of relations comes after a speech last month by Burundi’s President Évariste Ndayishimiye, who accused Rwanda of backing Burundian rebels known as RED-Tabara, which Burundi considers a terror group. The rebels claimed responsibility for a Dec. 22 attack that it said killed 10 security officials. The government said 20 people were killed, the majority of them civilians…This is not the first time Burundi has closed its border with Rwanda. It closed them in 2015 during political violence in Burundi that followed the disputed reelection of then-President Pierre Nkurunziza. Burundian authorities accused Rwanda of supporting the protesters and welcoming the perpetrators of a failed coup. The border reopened in 2022. The RED-Tabara rebel group first appeared in 2011 and has been accused of a string of attacks in Burundi since 2015. It is believed to be based in eastern Congo. AP

Somalia Says It’s Working to Rescue Hostages from UN Helicopter
Somalia’s government is working to rescue the passengers of a U.N. helicopter that was captured by al Shabaab militants, a spokesperson said on Thursday, but military officers said it would be difficult to access the area where they were taken. The U.N.-contracted helicopter was conducting an air medical evacuation when a technical problem forced it to make an emergency landing near Hindhere village in central Somalia, an area controlled by the militants…Colonel Abdullahi Isse, who is based in the town of Adado, about 100 km (60 miles) north of Hindhere, told Reuters that troops in the area had no plans to launch a rescue mission…Major Hassan Ali, who is based in the city of Beledweyne, from where the helicopter took off, said a land-based operation was not feasible…The United Nations said in a brief statement on Wednesday that “response efforts” were underway. Reuters

Somaliland Port Pact Puts Moribund Lapsset in the Spotlight
Ethiopia’s determination to gain direct passage to the Red Sea to be used as a military base and for commercial purposes for the next 50 years has once more thrust the $25 billion Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) into the spotlight…Kenya was looking to Ethiopia as one of its main clients after South Sudan, which was at the forefront during the initiation of the project backed off due to the delayed implementation of key projects and lack of funding. Lapsset is stuck on the starting blocks due to lack of funding and increasing insecurity on the corridor. Kenya and its landlocked neighbours Ethiopia and South Sudan committed to raise funds to build infrastructure linking their economies on the Lapsset Corridor but not much has happened with each country opting to fund its own projects…Kenya has so far used up $1.39 billion in the construction of roads and other infrastructure and only three Lamu port berths have been completed. Lapsset is meant to link the three states via rail, airports, roads and oil pipelines. The East African

IGAD to Address Sudan’s Conflict, Ethiopia-Somalia Dispute Next Thursday
Djibouti President and IGAD Chair Ismail Omar Guelleh has invited the member states of the East African bloc to an extraordinary summit in Uganda next week to discuss the ongoing conflict in Sudan and the recent dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia. In a letter sent to IGAD countries, the Djibouti foreign ministry announced that the summit will be held on January 18, 2024, in Uganda…The African Union and international partners will also be invited to participate, according to the letter seen by Sudan Tribune. The extraordinary meeting is expected to focus on the conflict in Sudan…There is an urgent need for a ceasefire paving the way for a negotiated political settlement to end the violence and restore a civilian-led government. At the summit, the Sudanese army commander-in-chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the RSF leader agreed to meet directly to discuss an unconditional cessation of hostilities. The meeting will be attended by the IGAD heads of state and government. The participants will also discuss the Ethiopia-Somalia dispute and try to find a way to resolve it peacefully. Sudan Tribune

DRC: Kinshasa in Tumult as River Bursts Banks
Burst riverbanks are causing turmoil in DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa, with dark and foul-smelling water pouring into homes across working-class neighbourhoods in the central African megacity. The metropolis of some 15 million people sits on the Congo River — the second largest in Africa after the Nile — which has swollen to near-record levels over the past several weeks. Kinshasa is crisscrossed with small rivers and waterways, which often double as open sewers. Many have now overflown…Flooding is common in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, but locals say that this year is the worst. In late December, the agency that manages the DRC’s waterways, the RVF, warned of “exceptional flooding” along the Congo River and its tributaries…[RVF director Daniel Lwaboshi]said that heavier downpours, linked to climate change, in part led to the exceptionally high river. But “the hand of man” is also involved, he said, explaining that deforestation hardens the earth and makes it less absorbent of water. Runaway construction in floodplains in overcrowded cities such as Kinshasa also play a role, Lwaboshi added. AFP

Nigeria: Heavy Security as Supreme Court Delivers Judgment on Kano, Lagos, Six Governorship Disputes
The Supreme Court is expected to deliver judgment on seven states – Lagos, Plateau, Bauchi, Abia, Ebonyi Zamfara, and Cross River state. The Judgments in the Kano and Plateau appeals are the most anticipated because the lower courts had sacked the incumbent governors. The Guardian observed that security operatives from regular and plain-clothed police units have been deployed to the Court’s main entrance to block unauthorized movements of humans and vehicles into the complex premises. The Kano state governor, Abba Yusuf, and his party NNPP, had filed an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which had affirmed his sacking as earlier pronounced by the Kano State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal. The tribunal had sacked Yusuf and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw his certificate of return and instead issue the same to Nasir Yusuf Gawuna, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 18, 2023 governorship election. However, not satisfied with the Tribunal’s judgment, Yusuf approached the Appeal Court. But the appellate court had, while affirming his sack, further held that the governor was not a member of the party as of the time of the election and could not have been said to have been properly sponsored for the election. The Guardian Nigeria

African Migration to the U.S. Soars as Europe Cracks Down
According to government data obtained by The Times, the number of Africans apprehended at the southern border jumped to 58,462 in the fiscal year 2023 from 13,406 in 2022. The top African countries in 2023 were Mauritania, at 15,263; Senegal, at 13,526; and Angola and Guinea, which each had more than 4,000. Nonprofits that work on the border said that the trend has continued, with the absolute number and share of migrants from Africa climbing in recent months as potential destinations in Europe narrow…The Nicaraguan government, led by longtime president Daniel Ortega, does not restrict entry of Africans, and by starting their overland journey there, migrants are spared the perilous trek through the Darien Gap, a dense jungle between Colombia and Panama. The African migrants continue through Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico until they arrive at the southern U.S. border. Between January and September, nearly 28,000 Africans passed through Honduras, a sixfold increase over the corresponding period in 2022, according to the Honduran government…The route from West Africa and through Central America emerged a few years ago, according to Aly Tandian, a professor specializing in migration studies at the University Gaston Berger in Senegal. But departures soared in 2023 as more migrants began flying through Morocco and Turkey en route to Nicaragua. The New York Times

Cape Verde Reaches Malaria-Free Milestone
A sub-Saharan African nation has been declared malaria-free for the first time in 50 years. Cape Verde was given the status by the World Health Organization (WHO) as it has not reported a single case of local transmission in three years…Cape Verde, a small island nation off the coast of West Africa, has taken years to reach this point by strengthening its health systems and increasing access to diagnosis and treatment of all cases. Surveillance officers have been detecting cases early, as well as controlling mosquitoes. Cape Verde’s plan for malaria control has also ensured free care and diagnostic services for international travellers and migrants, with the aim of stemming the tide of cases imported from mainland Africa…Malaria was once detected on all of Cape Verde’s nine inhabited islands, but in recent years could only be found on one, Sáo Tiago – where the final efforts were concentrated. The WHO’s Dr Achu said the fact that the country is an archipelago is also an important factor in its success. On an island, it is easier to map out the areas most affected by the disease and see how it is being transferred from one island to another, compared to a continuous land mass. In badly affected countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is a highly mobile population regularly crossing borders, making it difficult for one country to eradicate the disease on its own. BBC

Malawi’s Maize Import Ban Forces WFP to Mill Grain From Tanzania
Despite ongoing food shortages, the government of Malawi last month banned the import of unmilled maize from Kenya and Tanzania, citing concerns about the spread of maize lethal necrosis disease, or MLN. To help keep Malawians fed, the World Food Program has started milling 30,000 metric tons of relief maize. Authorities say the first consignment of the milled grain is expected next week. [T]he WFP country director in Malawi, Paul Turnbul, told local media that in the interests of time, it was agreed that no tests would be done and instead, the WFP would just mill the maize and import flour to Malawi. Charles Kalemba, the commissioner for Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs, told the state broadcaster Tuesday importing flour is safe. “We are getting maize flour from Tanzania because the agriculture ministry did not say we cannot get maize, but what we call full grain maize, which can be planted, [that’s] where the problem is,” he said. “But getting food in the form of maize flour, that’s okay”…Authorities in Malawi estimated that 4.4 million people, about a quarter of Malawi’s population, will face food shortages over the next three months. The food shortages are largely because of the impact of Cyclone Freddy, which washed away thousands of hectares of crops nearly a year ago. VOA

Afcon 2023: From Civil War in Ivory Coast to $1Bn Spend on Hosting Tournament
Some $79m, external $84m, external and $113m, external has been spent respectively on building new stadiums in Yamoussoukro, Korhogo and Abidjan, namely the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium, while the refurbishment of Abidjan’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny venue cost another $109m…Hospitals in Korhogo and San Pedro have been respectively upgraded and built, with the two cities’ airports – and Bouake’s – also refurbished, while highways from Abidjan – both west to coastal San Pedro, and north to Korhogo – have been modified (among other road improvements elsewhere)…Having already hosted the Women’s African Champions League in November (in Bouake and San Pedro), the Ivorians want to become a regional hosting centre – particularly for those countries whose national stadiums are unable to host internationals on safety grounds…Since the end of the civil wars, which displaced more than a million people, Ivory Coast has surged financially…With the 2016 terror attack when militants killed 16 people at the beach resort of Grand Bassam, about 40km (25 miles) from Abidjan, still fresh, [Professor Seraphin of Bouake’s Alassane Ouattara University] believes failproof security as well as reduced congestion and matches without any complication will be key to any success. BBC

AI Ads Are Sweeping across Africa
Businesses are increasingly using AI-generated images, models and voices for their advertising campaigns across TV and digital platforms, lowering their advertising budgets…The surge in AI-use, propelled by the popularity of generative AI over the last year, has coincided with a downturn in many of Africa’s biggest economies. In Nigeria and Kenya, businesses are grappling with depressed earnings due to difficult macroeconomic conditions including weakening local currencies and high inflation…African countries aren’t working together to impose restrictions on the uses of AI, unlike governments elsewhere in the world. And industry insiders lack the strong trade unions that enabled members of the U.S. film and TV industry to secure a deal limiting the use of AI. Many professionals in Kenya’s creative industries are justifiably worried about the long term impact of AI, particularly as corporate contracts are among the most important income streams for the likes of designers, models, photographers, copy writers and more. Semafor

South Africa: ‘To fight with my camera, to kill apartheid’: Peter Magubane – a life in pictures
[Photo essay] Born in Johannesburg in 1932, Peter Magubane documented the brutality of apartheid and suffered from banning orders, solitary confinement and beatings as a result. From teaching himself as a boy with a Brownie camera, he went on to work for the influential magazine Drum and became Nelson Mandela’s official photographer. He died on New Year’s Day aged 91. The Guardian