Africa Media Review for January 17, 2024

Comoros’ President Extends Rule after Latest Poll Victory
Comoros’ President Azali Assoumani won a fourth five-year term after being declared by the country’s electoral body on Tuesday as the winner of Sunday’s election in which he contested against five opponents. Assoumani has been ruling the Indian Ocean archipelago nation since 1999 when he first came to power through a coup. He has since won three elections. Critics accuse his government of cracking down on dissent, which it denies. Results published by the national electoral commission late Tuesday showed Assoumani garnered 62.97% of the vote. The country of about 800,000 people 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…On Sunday other opposition leaders said there were instances of ballot stuffing. They had called for a boycott of the poll, accusing the election commission of favouring the ruling party. The commission denies the charges. Reuters

Congo Police Break Up Small Protest over Parliamentary Election Results
Police in Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday dispersed a small protest in the capital Kinshasa against the provisional results of the December legislative election, the latest flare-up in tensions over the disputed poll. Around 50 supporters of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) party briefly took to the streets on Tuesday morning to dispute the number of seats the party won. They set tyres on fire and chanted slogans critical of the electoral commission before police moved in, beating some participants and arresting others, a Reuters reporter said. The police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The protesters said the make-up of the National Assembly does not reflect the MLC’s true election performance. The party is led by Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba – an ally of re-elected President Felix Tshisekedi – and a member of the ruling coalition. Tshisekedi’s UDPS party won 69 seats in the December parliamentary election, up from 35 in the 2018 election, placing it ahead of more than 40 other parties. The MLC won 19 seats, compared to 17 in 2018, according to the provisional results announced this week…The results of the legislative vote followed the Constitutional Court’s confirmation of Tshisekedi’s landslide re-election in the disputed Dec. 20-24 general election. Voting was marred by allegations of fraud, widespread logistical setbacks and other irregularities. Reuters

Sudan Suspends Ties with East African Bloc for Inviting Paramilitary Leader to Summit
The Sudanese government suspended ties Tuesday with the east African regional bloc trying to mediate between the country’s army and a rival powerful paramilitary force, accusing the body of violating Sudan’s sovereignty by inviting the paramilitary leader to an upcoming summit…In a statement, The Sudanese foreign ministry — which is aligned with the army — said the move is a response to IGAD for inviting Dagalo without previous consultation, which it said was a “violation of Sudan’s sovereignty.” The 42nd IGAD summit is set to take place in Kampala, Uganda, on Thursday…The eight-member bloc is part of mediation efforts to end the conflict, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States which facilitated rounds of unsuccessful, indirect talks between the warring parties as recently as early November. The two military leaders are yet to meet in person since the war broke out. Tuesday’s announcement comes one week after Dagalo finished a tour of Africa, where he met with government officials in Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda. AP

Agencies Consider New Aid Route into Sudan as Humanitarian Crisis Worsens
Aid agencies are looking at delivering aid to Sudan on a new route from South Sudan as they struggle to access much of the country, a senior U.N. official said on Monday, nine months into a war that has caused a major humanitarian crisis. The war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has left nearly half of Sudan’s 49 million people requiring aid. More than 7.5 million people have fled their homes, making Sudan the biggest displacement crisis globally, and hunger is rising. Aid supplies have been looted and humanitarian workers attacked, while international agencies and NGOs have long complained about bureaucratic obstacles to get into the army-controlled hub of Port Sudan and obtain travel permits for access to other parts of the country…Aid agencies lost access to Wad Madani, a former aid hub in the important El Gezira agricultural region southeast of Khartoum, after the RSF seized it from the army last month…U.N. and other agencies have been largely restricted to operating out of Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast, and delivering aid from Chad into the western region of Darfur, where there have been waves of ethnically-driven killings. Reuters

Sudan Fighting Spreads to UNESCO World Heritage Site
Sudan’s devastating nine-month war between two rival generals is spreading to a Unesco World Heritage Site, an NGO reported late Tuesday, sounding the alarm for the remains of the ancient Kingdom of Kush. [The Regional Network for Cultural Rights] said the incident, which took place on Sunday, marked the second time since December that fighting had broken out at the religious sites, located in the northern River Nile state…The cultural rights group said it had consulted “reliable sources, images and videos posted on social networks showing fighting between the army and the RSF, which probably exposed the sites to vandalism, destruction, looting and theft”. According to UNESCO, the archaeological sites of the Island of Meroe, located about 220 kilometres (137 miles) from Khartoum, was “the heartland of the Kingdom of Kush” and is home to pyramids, temples and dwellings dating back thousands of years. The ancient civilisations of Sudan built more pyramids than those of Egypt, but remain largely unknown. The Island of Meroe, which lies between the Nile and Atbara rivers, is a World Heritage Site whose ancient civilisation borrowed cultural traits from Pharaonic Egypt, Greece and Rome. AFP

Ethiopia Hunger: About 225 Starve to Death in Tigray – Officials
More than 200 people have starved to death since July in Edaga Arbi town, in Ethiopia’s drought-hit and war-scarred Tigray region, local authorities say. Another 16 have died in nearby Adwa town. Officials in Tigray warn the region is on the brink of famine on a scale last seen in 1984, prompting the global fundraising music event Live Aid the following year. But famine is a highly sensitive word in Ethiopia. The central government in Addis Ababa denies famine is looming and says it is working to provide aid. Yet medics and humanitarians say aid is not coming fast enough, leaving them helpless to save lives…When alleged looting of food aid was uncovered by the World Food programme and USAid last Spring, they halted aid to Ethiopia for months on end until resuming at a more cautious rate in December. Close to 1,500 people reportedly died of starvation during that time in Tigray. At present an estimated 20 million people require food assistance in Ethiopia due to conflicts, drought, and flooding, according to the UN. By mid-2024, the Early Famine Warning Systems Network predicts that the food crisis will be a near-nationwide emergency. Currently the food crisis affects the northern region of Amhara which is at war, parts of the south of Ethiopia, and Tigray. BBC

2 Killed and 77 Injured in a Massive Blast Caused by Explosives in a Southern Nigerian City
Two people died and 77 others were injured after a massive blast rocked more than a dozen buildings in one of Nigeria’s largest cities Tuesday night, the governor said Wednesday, as rescue workers dug through the rubble in search of those feared trapped. Residents in the southwestern state of Oyo’s densely populated Ibadan city heard a loud blast at about 7:45 p.m., causing panic as many fled their homes. By Wednesday morning, security forces cordoned off the area while medical personnel and ambulances were on standby as rescue efforts intensified. Preliminary investigations showed the blast was caused by explosives stored for use in illegal mining operations, Oyo Gov. Seyi Makinde told reporters after visiting the site in the Bodija area of Ibadan…Illegal mining in mineral-rich Nigeria is common and has been a major concern for authorities. However, it is mostly done in remote areas where arrests are difficult and where safety procedures are rarely followed. It was not immediately clear who stored the explosives, and no arrest has been announced. “The investigations are ongoing (and) all those found culpable for this will be brought to book,” Gov. Makinde said. Most of the 77 injured were already discharged, the governor said, promising to cover the medical bills of others still being admitted and to provide temporary accommodation for those whose houses were affected. AP

Somalia: Mogadishu Suicide Bomber Kills Four People, Self
Police in Somalia say a suicide bomber killed four people and himself and injured seven others Tuesday when he detonated an explosives-laden vest in a crowded area near Mogadishu’s regional administration headquarters. Major Sadiq Aden Ali, a police spokesman, confirmed the attack and casualties in an interview with VOA Somali…Ali said people sitting outside the restaurant saw a suspicious-looking man and alerted police. Ali said the security forces tried to apprehend the bomber, but he ran away and detonated his explosives. A video clip of the incident from a closed-circuit TV feed shows a security officer chasing the would-be bomber before the explosion. The soldier chasing the bomber was among the injured, Ali said. “The police did not fire because it is a crowded market,” he said. “They tried to keep people away and apprehend him alive but he detonated [the vest].” The explosion was near the Mogadishu regional headquarters, which was targeted by al-Shabab in July 2019 when the city’s former mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman, was fatally injured, and again in January 2023…Militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement posted on the Telegram channel, the group said it was targeting intelligence operatives and other government employees. VOA

Forty Tunisian Migrants Missing after Setting Off in a Boat toward Italy Coast
About 40 Tunisian migrants were missing after setting off in a boat toward the Italy coast last week, the national guard said on Tuesday. Tunisia is facing a migration crisis and has replaced Libya as a main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe. National Guard video footage showed coast guard ships supported by aircraft searching for the missing people. Reuters

Rather Than Looking for Scapegoats, Morocco Is Cashing In on South-South Migration
Unlike Maghreb countries that have adopted more hostile policies, like Tunisia, where the government has stoked a climate of xenophobia, Morocco has positioned itself as a pro-migrant destination – a strategic decision motivated by both geo-political and economic interests. Yet tensions remain in a country that is itself a significant generator of migration to Europe. Moreover, although Morocco officially embraces its multi-ethnic heritage, there can be local animosity, especially towards undocumented transiting African migrants who are forced to settle in urban squatter camps before attempting the difficult journey to Europe. Since the ascension of King Mohammed VI to the throne more than two decades ago, Morocco has cultivated links with African countries to its south, boosted by Rabat’s targeted provision of aid, university opportunities, and investments. Senegal, for one, is a prime ally based on historical religious ties to its influential Sufi brotherhoods. As a result, Senegalese citizens enter Morocco visa-free, and represent the largest slice of African migrants registered in the country. The centrepiece of Morocco’s migration policy is its 2014 National Strategy on Integration and Asylum. This guarantees access to public services for all regular migrants, and even some benefits for the unregistered. Morocco has also run two large-scale “regularisation campaigns”, in 2014 and 2017, to register irregular and undocumented migrants. These resulted in more than 50,000 people – mainly from Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso – achieving formal status. Nevertheless, Morocco retains strict security-driven migration laws on its statute books, only tempered by more liberal ad hoc edicts. The New Humanitarian

Africa Creates 15m Jobs but Working Poor Grow
[The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO)] World Employment and Social Outlook 2024 report shows that while 15.8 million more Africans secured employment last year, 3.5 million — or 22 percent of them — were earning less money per day than the global average hourly pay. In Sub-Saharan Africa, such workers, categorised as extremely working poor people, constituted 32.8 percent of all those currently employed, more than four times the global average of 6.9 percent, highlighting a stark difference between the working conditions globally. Globally, the report shows that the number of extremely working poor people increased by only one million, from 240.1 million in 2022, an indication that the number dropped in other regions around the globe as it rose in Africa…Unemployment rate also improved for the better globally, but in Africa, the vast majority of employees remained in the informal sector even as more workers entered formal employment across the globe. In 2023, 86.5 percent of all those in employment in Africa were working in the informal sector, while globally, only 58 percent were informally employed…Based on the ILO statistics, at least 63 million young Africans, aged between 14 and 24, were out of employment, education, or training last year, representing about 22.2 percent of the youth population in Africa. The East African

Jailed Burundi Journalist Awaits Verdict on Appeal
A Burundi journalist is appealing her 10-year prison term at the country’s Supreme Court. Floriane Irangabiye, who was convicted of undermining the integrity of Burundi’s national territory, has been detained since August 2022. After a brief hearing last week in the capital, Bujumbura, Irangabiye was returned to prison to await the court’s verdict. The case against Irangabiye is connected to her work as a commentator and host at Radio Igicaniro, a diaspora-based online outlet that is often critical of the government…When a court first convicted Irangabiye, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, both warned of the chilling effect the jailing could have. Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s sub-Saharan African bureau, said in a statement last year that the case is intended to silence all critical voices in Burundi…Shortly after the court convicted Irangabiye last year, Muthoki Mumo, the sub-Saharan Africa representative at the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that “sentencing [her] to a decade behind bars demonstrates the state’s capacity for cruelty and its deep intolerance for politically critical commentators”…Burundi’s media landscape was once vibrant, but it has deteriorated following a failed coup in 2015 and increased government repression, according to RSF. Out of 180 countries, the press freedom group ranks the African country 114th in terms of press freedom. VOA

China: The ‘Other Player’ in 2024 Afcon Tournament
[The Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidja] was designed by the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design and built by the Beijing Construction Engineering Group. Both of these are Chinese state entities. China was heavily involved in building other tournament venues too. In San Pedro, the Laurent Pokou Stadium was built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (again, state-owned). And the China National Building Material group served as general contractor on the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo. All of this is part of a long-term policy of “stadium diplomacy” which China has been deploying across the continent. Linked to the belt and road initiative, which is intended to promote trade and foster interdependence between China and other nations, stadiums have frequently been gifted to African nations (or else paid for using relatively cheap loans). For instance, when Gabon co-hosted (with Equatorial Guinea) the Cup of Nations in 2012, China was involved in building both of its stadiums. Five years later, when Gabon hosted the tournament again, China built another two. Gabon now sends around 15 per cent of its exports – mostly crude petroleum and manganese – to China. And just as construction of the Alassane Ouattara Stadium got underway, Ivory Coast’s president – who happens to be named Alassane Ouattara – visited Beijing to finalise a strategic cooperative partnership. By 2020, China had invested US$1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) in Ivory Coast. Now the African nation exports US$700 million worth of natural resources and goods to China, up from US$100 million in 2016…Stadium diplomacy enables the country to extend its sphere of influence in Africa, often creating a political imbalance which leaves African nations at the behest of Beijing. At the same time, Africa has become a source of raw materials that help sustain China’s economic growth and global dominance in sectors such as battery manufacturing and telecommunications. The Conversation