Africa Media Review for January 16, 2024

Comoros Holds Presidential Election, Opposition Say Vote Had Irregularities
Voting took place in Comoros on Sunday in an election widely expected to hand a fourth five-year term to President Azali Assoumani, while his five opponents said the vote was tainted by accusations of pre-marked ballots in favour of the incumbent. Comoros has experienced around 20 coups or attempted coups since winning independence from France in 1975 and is a major source of irregular migration to the nearby French island of Mayotte. Some opposition leaders had called for a boycott, accusing the election commission of favouring the ruling party. The commission denies this, saying the process will be transparent. Five opposition candidates who participated said on Sunday there had been instances of ballot stuffing and of voting ending before the official closing time…The former army officer came to power in a coup in 1999. He has since won three elections and has served as the chair of the African Union for the past year. He won the 2019 election with 60% of the vote, breaching the 50% mark required to avoid a run-off. Critics say since then his government has cracked down on dissent, an accusation it denies. Comoros changed its constitution in June 2018 to remove a requirement that the presidency rotate among its three main islands every five years. This allowed Assoumani to seek re-election. Provisional results are expected on Friday, according to the election commission. Reuters

UN Sets December Deadline for Its Peacekeepers in Congo to Completely Withdraw
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, which helped in the fight against rebels for more than two decades before being asked by the Congolese government to leave, will complete its withdrawal from the Central African nation by the end of 2024, the mission said Saturday. A three-phased withdrawal of the 15,000-force will begin in the South Kivu province where at least 2,000 security personnel will leave by the end of April in the first phase, according to Bintou Keita, head of the mission known as MONUSCO, after which forces in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces will also leave…The MONUSCO force arrived in Congo in 2010 after taking over from an earlier U.N. peacekeeping mission to protect civilians and humanitarian personnel and to support the Congolese government in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts…Over the years of its existence, eastern Congo continues to be ravaged by more than 120 armed groups seeking a share of the region’s resources such as gold and trying to protect their communities, some of them quietly backed by Congo’s neighbors. The violence is occasioned by rampant mass killings and has displaced nearly 7 million people. AP

Uganda: Kampala Hosts Non-aligned Movement Summit
Leaders from about 120 countries across the world have converged in the Ugandan capital Kampala for the 19th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that kicked off on Monday. About 4,000 guests from different member states are expected to attend the weeklong summit that seeks to address pressing global issues and foster cooperation among member states. The delegates will form two committees – political, and the economic and social – whose negotiations will shape the Kampala Outcome Document that will be adopted by the Foreign Affairs ministers and declared at the Heads of State summit on Saturday…NAM is the second-largest group of countries after the United Nations, founded in 1961 at the height of the Cold War between the West and East. But, unlike other regional and international organisations, it neither has a formal founding Charter, Act, or Treaty, nor a permanent secretariat. The country holding the rotational chairmanship is responsible for coordinating and managing the affairs of the Movement. Uganda is taking over as chair from Azerbaijan, to run until 2027. NAM membership consists of 120 countries — 53 from Africa, 39 from Asia, 26 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and two from Europe. It also includes the non-UN member state of Palestine, 17 other observer countries and 10 observer organisations. The summit is one of the biggest global meetings Uganda is hosting after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007. The East African

Sudan’s Government Pulls Out of IGAD Summit, Demands Prior Direct Talks
The Sudanese government has withdrawn from the upcoming IGAD extraordinary summit, scheduled for January 18, citing the need for a crucial face-to-face meeting between Sudan’s top military leaders, President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemetti), to address pressing issues before broader discussions can take place. In a December 9 meeting, IGAD leaders agreed to organize a direct meeting between Burhan and Hemetti on December 28. However, Hemetti later cancelled the meeting, attributing the decision to scheduling conflicts related to his regional tour…On Saturday, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement expressing dissatisfaction with IGAD’s handling of the situation, stating that the organization failed to provide a convincing explanation for Hemetti’s cancellation and did not commit to rescheduling the meeting…Separately, Hemetti confirmed his intention to attend the IGAD summit next Thursday, following an invitation from the IGAD Secretariat. Sudan Tribune

Nigeria: Incessant Kidnappings Unsettle Abuja Residents
For the umpteenth time, residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, are highly unsettled following widespread insecurity around the outskirts, characterized by frequent and indiscriminate kidnapping of persons. Meanwhile, kidnappers, who abducted 10 persons from Sagwari Estate Layout at Dutse in Bwari Area Council on January 7, 2024, have reportedly killed two more of the victims to send a strong warning to their relatives negotiating ransom payment…Residents said the victims were allegedly killed over the delay in raising the ransom demanded by the kidnappers. It was also gathered that a 13-year-old secondary school pupil was among those killed. On Friday, reports emerged that the kidnappers, who also operated in some villages in Bwari, had killed one of the six abducted persons, Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, to force the family into quickly raising the demanded ransom…Due to the rising insecurity, kidnapping and incessant attacks on Abuja residents, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner for Public Complaint, Dalhatu Ezekiel, has asked the Federal Government to prioritise the area’s security situation and immediately declare a state of emergency. The Guardian Nigeria

Armed Gang Attack Military Camp, Village in Nigeria’s Northwest
Armed men stormed a military camp in Nahuta village, northwest Nigeria, sending troops fleeing and setting vehicles ablaze before proceeding to loot shops and homes, a resident and two sources said on Monday. The attack on the military base, which hosts soldiers, police and other security forces, in the Batsari local government area of Katsina state, occurred late on Sunday, resident Isa Bello told Reuters…Gangs of heavily armed men, referred to as bandits by locals, have wreaked havoc across Nigeria’s northwest in the past three years, kidnapping thousands, killing hundreds and making it unsafe to travel by road or to farm in some areas. Bello said the bandits, who arrived on motorcycles and a truck at approximately 2200 GMT, overwhelmed the military forces after a three-hour exchange of gunfire. A security source said the attackers set fire to vehicles and other properties in the camp and proceeded to Nahuta village where they looted shops and homes, stealing goods and livestock worth millions of naira. A Katsina state government official confirmed there were no casualties in the village. Reuters

Opposition Condemns Designation of Chad’s Military Ruler as Presidential Candidate
Opposition parties in Chad are condemning the entry of the country’s military ruler into the 2024 presidential race. General Mahamat Idriss Deby seized power after his father’s death, declared himself interim president, and pushed through a new constitution which enables him to run for president in this year’s delayed elections. In the nationally televised broadcast Saturday, Mahamat Zene Bada, secretary of Chad’s former ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement or MPS party, said that military ruler Mahamat Idriss Deby is the party’s candidate for the central African state’s presidential elections expected later this year…The opposition and civil society groups say Chad is not a Deby dynasty that can be ruled only by a single family. Albert Pahimi Padacke, opposition leader of Chad’s National Rally for Democracy, contested and lost Chad’s 2006 presidential election…He says Deby, who wants to conserve power and continue his late father Idriss Deby Itno’s three decades iron fisted rule, should save Chad from descending into violence by not single handedly appointing people loyal to the military ruler to manage elections, instead of people who are independent, neutral and have the confidence of all Chad’s political actors. VOA

Congo Election Commission Overspent, Awarded Opaque Contracts- Report
Congo’s national election commission failed to account for $400 million of funds it received from the state, and awarded opaque procurement contracts ahead of the disputed December general election, an EU-funded civil society report said Monday. The report said the electoral commission, known as CENI, was also blighted by budget overruns, an issue that has plagued President Felix Tshisekedi’s administration. It urged Congo’s justice department to open investigations into the management of the funds allocated to CENI for the electoral process. Technical mishaps, missing materials and a last-minute extension of voting have stoked disputes over the December poll, leading main opposition candidates to allege fraud and call for a re-run. The report, based on studies by the Centre for Research on Public Finance and Local Development (CREFDL) with funding from the European Union, said the election commission received nearly $1.1 billion in public funding between 2021 and 2023. But only $711 million had been approved in the national budgets, leaving about $400 million unaccounted for…The report also said that 45 of the 54 public contracts the commission signed between 2021 and 2023 were awarded by mutual agreement, with only nine awarded through tenders…It added that around 14 million more ballots and electoral cards had been bought than necessary, and more than 80% of the warehouses the commission rented were privately owned, raising concerns about the security of sensitive electoral materials. Reuters

Dozens of Kenyan Lawyers Protest What They Say Is Judicial Interference by President Ruto
Kenyan lawyers Friday demonstrated peacefully in Nairobi against what they say is judicial interference by President William Ruto, who has said he will disregard court orders from allegedly corrupt judges blocking his key development projects. In recent days, Ruto has also repeatedly threatened to remove judges he accuses of teaming up with his political rivals to frustrate his attempts to address unemployment in Kenya and provide affordable housing and universal health care. But the head of state has not produced any evidence to back his claims that some judges are corrupt. Ruto’s projects have become unpopular partly due to the fact the government is levying more taxes to fund them at a time when Kenyans are experiencing increases in the cost of living. An increase in fuel taxes that Ruto says is necessary for the country not to default on paying public debt has been particularly painful…The High Court ruled that a housing fund meant to finance the building of 200,000 affordable homes a year is unconstitutional and stopped the government from charging 1.5% from each salaried worker to fund it. The courts have also put on hold the Social Health Insurance Act the government planned to fund by taxing salaried employees 2.75%…Since the institution of the 2010 Constitution, which strengthened its independence, the Kenyan judiciary has restored a lot of the public trust it had lost in successive governments since independence in 1963.  AP

Kenya/Uganda: Ruto, Museveni to Meet over Fuel Import Dispute
[Kenyan] President William Ruto plans to meet his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni to resolve the fuel import dispute that saw Kampala take Nairobi to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ). East African Community and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary (CS) Peninah Malonza confirmed that the two leaders had scheduled a meeting to diplomatically mend fences over Kenya’s decision to block Uganda’s use of its pipeline to transport fuel. Uganda had applied to use Kenya’s pipeline to transport its fuel from the port of Mombasa directly to the capital, Kampala, but Kenya rejected the request, arguing that such a move would affect its local oil marketing companies…Malonza, however, did not disclose the date and venue of the high-level meeting, while State House is yet to release President Ruto’s itinerary in the coming days…In an apparent softening of stance, Malonza praised President Museveni for actively engaging the Kenyan authorities on trade matters as the two countries look forward to resolving their recent dispute…The case to compel Kenya to allow Uganda to use the pipeline was seen as the ultimate sign that relations between President Museveni and President Ruto had broken down for good. Uganda filed the case largely out of frustration that Nairobi was denying it an import route. Kenya’s energy regulators, however, have a court injunction blocking the approval. Nation Africa

Closed Skies: Tanzania, Kenya Seek Peace after Flights-Ban Fight
The foreign affairs ministers of Tanzania and Kenya have agreed to solve the impasse between the two countries’ aviation companies in the next three days. This after Tanzania declared it would stop Kenyan Airways (KQ) from flying between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam with effect from 22 January. The decision was in direct response to Kenya declining a request by Tanzania to operate cargo flights between Nairobi and third countries. Tanzania claimed Kenya violated “fifth freedom” rights, which allow an airline to carry traffic between two countries outside its own if the flight originates or terminates in its own country. This means a flight originating from Tanzania should be permitted to ply a route from Kenya to other countries if the flight originated from or ends in Tanzania. Tanzania said the decision by Kenya violated Section 4 of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both countries on 24 November 2016. The MOU for the rectification of bilateral air services between the two countries was reached since Kenya Airways, Astral Aviation, Jambojet, and Fly 540 – all Kenyan companies – operated scheduled flights into Tanzania. On the other hand, Precision Air and Air Tanzania operated flights into Kenya…There are 33 weekly flights between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam but the sudden decision by Tanzania could disrupt them. News24

Zambia: ‘I Never Dreamed I Would Carry a Gun’: The Zambian Women Keeping Poachers at Bay
It was the stark gender imbalance in wildlife conservation that prompted Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ) to form Kufadza [an all-female conservation unit] in 2021. The NGO supports the Department of National Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to curtail poaching and other illegal activities in the Lower Zambezi national park in south-eastern Zambia, but also works with communities to manage human-wildlife conflict in the two game management areas that surround the park – buffer zones where people live and work, mostly in subsistence farming…The organisation put up posters in local villages and in the town of Chirundu, on the border with Zimbabwe, inviting women to apply to join Kufadza; 500 women responded…The 500 were whittled down to 96, who were put through fitness tests, including a 5km run, sits-ups and press-ups…Numbers fluctuate year to year but in 2023 there were 13 members of Kufadza out of a total of 46 community scouts, all of whom were recruited from the two game management areas…CLZ was established in 1994 by safari lodge owners to address rampant poaching in the area…CLZ’s primary goal in setting up Kufadza was to address the gender imbalance in conservation, but women have proved to be often better at challenging poachers and miners, and resolving human-animal conflict. [Stella Siansuna, one of the first members of Kufadza,] says: “They are more likely to listen to you.” Like all parks in Zambia, the Lower Zambezi is unfenced, meaning animals are free to roam into local villages, causing havoc, and Kufadza scouts help to calm angry residents and communicate the need to protect wildlife. The Guardian

Afcon 2023: How Senegal Came to Dominate African Football
The Teranga Lions are defending their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) title in Ivory Coast this month, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Senegal are also reigning continental champions at Under-17 and Under-20 level, and even won the African Nations Championship (CHAN), the competition for domestic-based players for the first time last year. Aliou Cisse’s men began their Group C campaign with a 3-0 win over The Gambia on Monday as they look to become the first side to register back-to-back Afcon triumphs since Egypt won their third in a row in 2010…Former international team-mate El Hadji Diouf believes Senegal’s recent success is the result of both a strong partnership between the government and the country’s football federation (FSF) and critical investment in facilities. “Everywhere you go in Senegal, all the cities have academies,” Diouf told BBC Sport Africa. “They start young, at Under-10, and have tournaments every year. We want to improve that and have the same organisation like in England and France…Senegal’s hold over the African game even stretches to beach soccer, with the country winning the past four continental titles and finishing fourth at the last Beach Soccer World Cup in Russia in 2021. Alongside the establishment of local academies and infrastructure, Souleymane Diallo, a part-time coach of national age groups and a research professor at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, says a pathway has been created to move talent from youth international level to the senior side…Another big factor in Senegal’s long-term strategy has been to ensure stability in the dugout. Cisse has been in charge of the Teranga Lions since March 2015, and has slowly built towards success. BBC