Africa Media Review for January 2, 2024

Congo’s President Declared Victor in Election Marred by Delays and Protests
The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, was declared the winner on Sunday of the December presidential vote in an election marred by severe logistical problems, protests, and calls for its annulment from several opposition candidates…The announcement was a critical moment in an election dogged by acute problems, some because of Congo’s vast size, and many fear the outcome could plunge the Central African nation into a new round of political turmoil and even violent unrest that has followed other electoral contests in recent years…Unofficial tallies in the previous contest compiled by Catholic and other observers found that Mr. Fayulu, a former oil executive, had probably won three times as many votes as Mr. Tshisekedi. But after several weeks of political turmoil, Mr. Tshisekedi struck a power-sharing deal with the departing president, Joseph Kabila, who had led for 18 years. That deal crumbled within a year, and since then Mr. Tshisekedi has effectively consolidated his power, gaining popular support by providing free primary education to millions of Congolese children. But he has not delivered on two key promises: to bring peace to eastern Congo, where conflict has raged since 1996, and to tackle the country’s notorious reputation for corruption. The New York Times

UN Mission Ends Decade of Deployment in Mali
The U.N. mission in Mali ended a decade of deployment in the crisis-wracked country on Sunday, meeting a December 31 deadline agreed after Mali’s military leaders ordered it to leave. The U.N. stabilization mission (MINUSMA) had been in place since 2013, and its withdrawal is igniting fears that fighting will intensify between troops and armed factions. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement published Sunday that MINUSMA had completed its agreed withdrawal by December 31, 2023…Mali’s ruling junta, which seized power in 2020, in June demanded the departure of the mission, which for the past decade has maintained around 15,000 soldiers and police in the country…A “liquidation phase” will begin from January 1, involving activities such as handing over equipment to the authorities with smaller teams at sites in Gao and Bamako. AFP

Sudanese Paramilitary Leader Hemedti Meets Civilian Leaders on Tour
The leader of Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo met on Monday with civilian pro-democracy politicians in Addis Ababa, the latest stop in a foreign tour as his troops take the upper-hand in a devastating nine-month war. The meeting comes as General Dagalo, known as Hemedti, has appeared to present himself as a possible leader of a country now home to the world’s largest displacement crisis, with little aid reaching millions in need amid threats of famine. He has also been received by leaders in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, which army head and Sudan’s head of state Abdel Fattah al-Burhan described as “acts of hostility.” The threat of further expansion of the RSF, which has taken hold of the center and most of the west of the country, has prompted calls for civilians to take up arms, with observers warning of all-out civil war. The local pro-democracy, anti-military resistance committee has accused the RSF of killing hundreds of civilians, kidnapping, and looting in Wad Madani, capital of Gezira State, which it took over late last month. Reuters

Sudan: ‘They Told Us – You Are Slaves’: Survivors Give Harrowing Testimony of Darfur’s Year of Hell
[Between mid-April and mid-June Rapid Support Forces (RSF)] fighters carried out almost daily raids against areas of [El Geneina] populated by the Masalit, an African ethnic group, according to former residents…The scale of the tragedy unfolding in Darfur, a region ravaged by 20 years of genocidal violence, would only begin to emerge weeks later. Sometimes the attacks were targeted, as the militiamen hunted down educated Masalits on kill lists. Mostly they were not. Masalit men and boys were accused of being fighters and summarily shot. Women and girls were killed. Women were raped near corpses…The attacks started on 24 April, according to residents, just over a week after nationwide fighting erupted between the Sudanese military and the RSF. They culminated in mid-June, after the killing of the governor of West Darfur, a Masalit, which prompted a panicked evacuation of El Geneina’s Masalit residents to neighboring Chad and the outlying district of Ardamata, home to a large military base…El Geneina once had a mixed population of more than half a million. Today, its Masalit neighborhoods are deserted…The cycle of violence would repeat itself in early November after the RSF captured the military base in Ardamata, a few miles from El Geneina. The garrison fell amid days of killings and looting. Last month, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the UN’s genocide prevention adviser, warned that Darfur risked becoming a “forgotten crisis.” The Guardian

Chad Ex-Opposition Figure Succes Masra Appointed PM
Chad’s transitional president General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno on Monday appointed a former leading opposition leader, who recently returned from exile, as prime minister. Succes Masra, president of The Transformers party, was a long-time opponent of the Deby dynasty but returned to Chad in November after reaching an agreement with its military leaders. Days before last month’s referendum on a new constitution … Masra publicly urged supporters to vote in favor, with the outcome now expected to pave the way to elections…Masra went into exile shortly after October 20, 2022, protests against the military regime, which had just extended by two years an 18-month transition supposed to culminate in elections and the return of power to a civilian government. Authorities say some 50 people were killed that day. The opposition and local and international NGOs put the toll between 100 and 300. Almost all of the victims were shot dead by the military and the police, mainly in the capital N’Djamena. Masra only returned from exile on November 3 following a reconciliation agreement signed in Kinshasa on October 31 which guaranteed him free exercise of political activities. AFP

‘Dozens’ Killed in Week of Burkina Faso Attacks: Security Sources
At least four suspected jihadi attacks in Burkina Faso have killed dozens of soldiers and civilians in a week, security and local sources told AFP on Sunday. They said the attacks have targeted military contingents since last Sunday, leaving “dozens dead” mostly in the restive north of the country. A security source contacted by AFP confirmed an attack that was repelled and added that “another almost simultaneous attack targeted another northern detachment” but had likewise been beaten back. The sources said two other attacks on military bases took place on December 24…Also on December 24, according to a security source, a gendarmerie base was hit at Gorgadji in the northern Sahel region by a sizeable group of fighters who arrived on motorcycles…On Saturday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it was concerned about “a deterioration of the security situation in Burkina Faso,” while also urging the “immediate release” of political and civil society leaders detained in recent weeks. AFP

Military-Led Sahel States Rally Thousands to Support Alliance
The prime ministers of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali on Saturday affirmed their commitment to a shared future under an alliance that has seen the three junta-led countries distance themselves from the larger West African political bloc since their coups. The three neighbouring states are all ruled by military officers who have seized power in coups since 2020. This has put them at odds with the rest of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is urging them to return to democratic rule…A day earlier the three premiers appeared in front of a crowd of thousands celebrating the recent full withdrawal of French troops from Niger. The juntas have all severed long-standing military ties with former colonial ruler France, dealing a blow to France’s influence in the region and complicating international efforts to curb a decade-old Islamist insurgency that has destabilised the Sahel region. In a show of independence from France and ECOWAS, the three countries have sought to forge closer security, political and economic ties through a new union called the Alliance of Sahel States (AES)…In August, data from U.S.-based crisis-monitoring group ACLED showed violence had soared in Mali and Burkina Faso since their militaries took power. Reuters

Over 1,000 Burundian Soldiers Covertly Deploy in Eastern Congo, Internal UN Report Says
Over 1,000 Burundian troops have been covertly deployed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since October, wearing the uniform of Congolese troops and working alongside them in the fight against M23 rebels, an unpublished U.N. report seen by Reuters showed. Citing security and intelligence sources and sources close to Congolese army command, the report by the U.N. Group of Experts in Congo said the troops were airlifted from Burundi to eastern Congo by Congolese army planes starting from Sept. 21…The report was shared internally with U.N. Security Council members on Dec. 15 and seen by Reuters on Saturday. It is due to be published in January. It sheds light on Congo’s security strategy in the east beyond the known deployment of U.N. peacekeepers and Congolese troops, who were backed up by an East African Community (EAC) regional force until earlier in December. The report said the Burundian government had denied to the U.N experts any Burundian troop deployment outside the EAC arrangement. It also said Congolese military authorities had told the group they were unaware of the cooperation with Burundian troops highlighted in the report. Citing its sources, the report said the Burundian troops were deployed outside the EAC arrangement and alongside Congolese troops and allied armed groups fighting M23 in North Kivu province. Reuters

Somalia, Breakaway Somaliland Agree to Resume Dialogue
Somalia and the breakaway region of Somaliland have agreed to resume dialogue to resolve outstanding issues, after long-running political tensions and years of deadlock. The deal signed on Friday followed two days of talks mediated by Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, the first of their kind since 2020 when similar negotiations stalled…The northern region has been seeking full statehood since claiming independence from Somalia in 1991, a move fiercely opposed by Mogadishu and not recognised internationally. Somaliland has often been seen as a beacon of stability in the chaotic Horn of Africa region, although political tensions surfaced there earlier this year, spilling over into deadly violence. Under the Djibouti pact, the two sides agreed on a roadmap for talks in 30 days as well as collaboration on security and the fight against organised crime and pledged to work together on peace and stability in conflict zones. The signing of the deal was overseen by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi. Previous rounds of talks between the two sides have been held on and off between 2012 and 2020 but failed to make any headway. AFP

Ethiopia ‘Secures’ Access to Sea After Deal With Somaliland
Ethiopia and the self-declared republic of Somaliland have signed a “historic” initial agreement that will allow landlocked Ethiopia to have access to the Red Sea, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office announced Monday. The announcement was made in Addis Ababa where Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi is visiting. According to Ethiopia, Ahmed and Abdi signed the “Memorandum of Understanding,” or MoU, for the partnership in the Ethiopian capital…Abdi arrived in Addis Ababa on Sunday and was welcomed by Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister. The office of the spokesperson of Somaliland’s president posted a purported recording of Abdi saying that Somaliland has agreed to lease 20 kilometers of coastline along the Red Sea in Somaliland to Ethiopia. Without specifying the location of the piece of land, Abdi said Ethiopia will have a marine force base on the leased land. In return, the recording claims, Ethiopia will officially recognize Somaliland once the final deal is signed. He did not say when the deal will be signed. VOA Somali has not verified the authenticity of the recording…Ethiopia has not officially said it will recognize Somaliland. But Ahmed, who was sitting next to Abdi, did not contradict the remarks made by the president of Somaliland. VOA

Senegal’s Authorities Prohibit Nomination Meeting Planned for Opposition Leader Sonko
Senegalese authorities have banned a nomination meeting for jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to run in the 2024 presidential election, a local official confirmed on Friday, December 29. The 49-year-old has been at the center of a stand-off with the state that has lasted more than two years and sparked several episodes of deadly unrest. Authorities said Saturday’s meeting was banned due to “threats of disturbance to public order, hindrance to the free movement of people and goods and risk of infiltration by ill-intentioned people,” according to a decree seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP). It was signed by Dakar prefect Cherif Mouhamadou Blondin Ndiaye, who confirmed its authenticity…Although the state refused to provide Sonko with the necessary documents to run for election, his lawyers said they had filed anyway, hoping the justice system would be more receptive. Sonko’s candidacy was filed on December 12, lawyer Cire Cledor Ly said in a statement sent to AFP late Friday…Sonko was struck off Senegal’s electoral register after being sentenced in June to two years’ imprisonment for morally corrupting a young person. He has been jailed since the end of July on other charges, including calling for insurrection, conspiracy with terrorist groups, and endangering state security. He has denied the charges, saying they are intended to prevent him from running in the February 25 election. Le Monde

South Africa’s Opposition Splinters in Battle against ANC
The fragmentation of the opposition into a host of smaller groups will see them fighting each other as well as the ANC, despite the main opposition Democratic Alliance joining several rivals in a “charter” aimed at pursuing a post-ANC coalition government…The pledge by charter members to rule out a deal with the ANC or the radical left Economic Freedom Fighters, the third largest party, had further complicated the election mathematics…Recent polling suggested the charter parties would fall short of the majority they needed for their own governing coalition. This would mean that if the ANC fell below 50 per cent, but avoided a rout, it could do its own deals with other non-charter parties to stay in power. The DA, the biggest charter member which won a fifth of the vote in the last national elections in 2019 against the ANC’s 57 per cent, has also struggled to shake off a perception that it is primarily a party for white people and other ethnic minorities in the country. Some traditional DA donors are also reported to be looking to split their money among the emerging contenders. Even Jacob Zuma, the former president, is backing a new party to eject Ramaphosa, who ousted him in 2018 after years of misrule. Borrowing the name of the movement’s former armed wing, Zuma said his new Umkhonto we Sizwe would “rescue the ANC” from his successor. Financial Times

Tunisian Journalist Detained After Criticizing Minister, Lawyer Says
Tunisian judicial authorities on Monday ordered that prominent journalist Zeid El-Heni should be detained and tried on charges of defamation, days after he criticized the trade minister, his lawyer said. El-Heni will have his first court hearing on January 10 on the charge of “defaming others on social media,” his lawyer Ayachi Hammami told reporters. Police first arrested him on Thursday after he made comments about the minister on local radio in an interview that was posted on Facebook, Tunisia’s state news agency said. Tunisia’s journalists union demanded his immediate release, calling his detention a “violation of legal provisions governing the trial of reporters.” Freedom of speech and media were key gains for Tunisians after the 2011 revolution that ousted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and triggered the “Arab Spring” protests. But activists and journalists say freedom of speech has been deteriorating since President Kais Saied seized wide powers in 2021. Reuters

Peter Magubane, 91, Who Fought Apartheid With His Camera, Is Dead
Peter Magubane, a Black South African photographer whose images documenting the cruelties and violence of apartheid drew global acclaim but punishment at home, including beatings, imprisonment and 586 consecutive days of solitary confinement, died on Monday. He was 91. His death was confirmed by family members speaking to South African television news broadcasts. No other details were provided. Such were the challenges and perils facing Black photographers in South Africa’s apartheid-era segregated townships, Mr. Magubane liked to say, that he took to hiding his camera in hollowed-out bread loaves, empty milk cartons or even the Bible, enabling him to shoot pictures clandestinely. “I did not want to leave the country to find another life,” he told The Guardian in 2015. “I was going to stay and fight with my camera as my gun. I did not want to kill anyone, though. I wanted to kill apartheid.” New York Times