Africa Media Review for January 22, 2024

Tshisekedi Sworn In for Second Term as DRC President after Disputed Poll
Félix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been sworn in for a second five-year term after a landslide victory his opponents have refused to recognise owing to widespread irregularities in the December general election. Authorities have acknowledged there were problems but dismissed allegations the vote was stolen. The fractious standoff echoes previous electoral disputes that fuelled unrest in Africa’s second-largest country, with protests breaking out on Saturday in two eastern cities. Tshisekedi took the oath of office in the capital, Kinshasa, at a stadium packed with flag-waving supporters, government officials, African heads of state and foreign envoys including from the US, China and France…With armed military police deployed throughout the capital, there was no immediate sign that opposition supporters had heeded a call from two of Tshisekedi’s main opponents to protest against his re-election. In the eastern city of Beni, protesters set up makeshift barricades in the early hours and burned tyres – a demonstration that police dispersed without major incident. Similar small-scale protests broke out in the eastern city of Goma and other urban centres, but were contained by the mass deployment of security forces. Congo’s largest election-monitoring group, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), this week called the presidential and legislative polls an “electoral catastrophe”, citing its own observations of fraud, mishandling of election materials, parallel voting and other issues…Many African and western countries, wary that the dispute could further destabilise a globally important mineral exporter, have recognised Tshisekedi’s victory since the DRC’s highest court dismissed official challenges. The Guardian

Comoros Opposition Candidate Daoudou Abdallah Seeks Vote Annulment
An opposition candidate in the Comoros on Saturday filed a suit seeking the annulment of the Indian Ocean nation’s recent vote in which the president was controversially re-elected, sparking deadly protests. The opposition had urged people across the island chain to block roads after Friday prayers to denounce President Azali Assoumani’s “electoral masquerade”, but the protest call went unheeded. Assoumani’s victory is expected to be confirmed by the Supreme Court at the weekend after the electoral commission declared he had won more than 60 percent of the ballots in Sunday’s first-round vote. Speaking outside the Supreme Court Daoudou Abdallah Mohamed, a former interior minister and a candidate from the Orange opposition party, said the election commission had “published fabricated results”. “I have proof of ballot box stuffing,” he said. “My plea is for the results to be annulled and for new elections to be held.” The Comoros capital Moroni had been paralysed by two days of running street-battles between stone-throwing youths and armed soldiers after the vote. The government spokesman, contacted by AFP, welcomed the move. “One cannot transform the street into a court,” spokesman Houmed Msaidie said. “If the court says we haven’t won, then we haven’t.” AFP

Two Opposition Leaders in Senegal Are Excluded from the Final List of Presidential Candidates
Senegal’s highest election authority has excluded two top opposition leaders from the final list of candidates for the West African nation’s presidential election next month. The party of the main challenger called the move a “dangerous precedent” on Sunday. The list published Saturday by Senegal’s Constitutional Council named 20 candidates, including Prime Minister Amadou Ba, who has the backing of outgoing President Macky Sall and is seen as a major contender. Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who finished third in the country’s 2019 presidential election, was disqualified from the ballot because he faces a six-month suspended sentence following his conviction for defamation, the Constitutional Council said. “This conviction renders him ineligible for a period of five years,” the council said. Sonko, who currently is imprisoned on a different charge, was widely seen as the politician with the best chance of defeating Sall’s ruling party…The council also deemed Karim Wade, another opposition leader and the son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, as ineligible for the ballot. It said Wade had dual citizenship at the time he formally declared his presidential candidacy, although he had renounced his French nationality three days earlier…The Constitutional Council’s decision could further complicate preparations for the Feb. 25 election. Opposition supporters accused Sall’s government last year of clamping down on their activities, and some protests in support of Sonko turned deadly. AP

The Islamist Insurgents Threatening West Africa
Governments across west Africa and their international allies are seriously discussing whether the Islamist groups wreaking havoc in the Sahel, the semi-arid strip south of the Sahara, would expand into the relatively peaceful countries on the coast such as Benin, Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast…[P]erhaps the greatest risk factor for a jihadist incursion is the absence of the state in many northern regions of the coastal countries, where insurgent groups can flourish, and a chronic unemployment crisis. There is a stark north-south divide across much of west Africa where people in southern regions are far more educated and prosperous than those in the hinterlands of the north. The young men drawn to insurgent groups do not all sign up because they believe in the ideology but rather as a matter of economic survival…Individual countries have started mass recruitment and deployment of law enforcement officers to their fragile northern regions. Benin has struck a military co-operation agreement for Rwanda, whose troops have fought insurgents in Mozambique, to assist its armed forces. A troop deployment is planned, but it is unclear when Rwandan boots will be on the ground in Benin…Governments across the littoral states — in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin and Togo — are increasing investment in public services in their northernmost extremes. Financial Times

Kidnapping of 5 Sisters Raises Outcry in Nigeria
The abduction of five young Nigerian sisters near Abuja has sparked a national outcry and raised fears about insecurity in the country’s capital. The sisters were seized at the start of the year by armed men who burst into their home 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the Abuja city center, a family member told AFP. She said the attackers killed one of the sisters, 21-year-old Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, when a ransom deadline passed. Negotiations were ongoing for the release of the others. Kidnapping for ransom has been a major problem in Nigeria, with criminal gangs targeting highways and apartments and even snatching pupils from schools…Nigerian law bans paying ransom to kidnappers, but many families have little faith in the authorities and feel they have no choice. On the night the sisters were abducted, they were at home in Bwari inside the Federal Capital Territory, according to a cousin. Asiya Adamu, 23, described how the attackers, known as bandits in Nigeria, struck around 9 p.m. on January 2. They demanded cash, but the sisters’ father, Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, had nothing to give and offered his belongings instead. The attackers rounded up his daughters along with a cousin and tied their hands. They also took Mansoor Al-Kadriyar captive and beat the seven family members before leading them away, Adamu said. They shot to death Mansoor Al-Kadriyar’s brother when he tried to help, and several police officers were killed in a gunbattle, she said. Mansoor Al-Kadriyar was released on condition he raise a large ransom within days, but the struggling family could not meet the deadline and the bandits killed Nabeeha, returned her body and increased the fee, Adamu said. The family is still trying to negotiate, even after raising the new total thanks to an online crowdfunding campaign and the intervention of a former minister. Adamu said the youngest of the sisters is just 14. Her account has been confirmed by politicians. Police acknowledged the “abduction of six young girls” and said a rescue was underway but told AFP they could not provide details for security reasons. AFP

Egypt’s Leader El-Sissi Slams Ethiopia-Somaliland Coastline Deal and Vows Support for Somalia
Egypt’s leader said Sunday his country stands shoulder to shoulder with Somalia in its dispute with landlocked Ethiopia, which struck a deal with Somaliland to obtain access to the sea and establish a marine force base. President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi slammed Ethiopia’s agreement with the breakaway region. He called on Ethiopia to seek benefits from seaports in Somalia and Djibouti “through transitional means,” rather than through attempts to “control another (country’s) territory”…Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed earlier this month to allow Ethiopia to lease a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) stretch of coastline to establish a marine force base. Sheikh Mohamud, the Somali president, rejected the deal as a violation of international law…Egypt is at odds with Ethiopia over a controversial hydroelectric dam Ethiopia has built on the Nile river’s main tributary. The two countries — along with Sudan — have been trying for over a decade to reach a negotiated agreement on the filling and operation of the $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam…The dam is on the Blue Nile near the Sudan border and Egypt fears it will have a devastating effect on its water and irrigation supply downstream unless Ethiopia takes its needs into account. AP

AfDB to Resume Ethiopia Work after Assurance on Security, Probe into Funds
The African Development Bank (AfDB) said on Friday that all its international staff would return to Ethiopia a month after it withdrew the employees following an assault on staff members by government security forces. The bank will resume normal operations in the country after receiving an assurance of security from the authorities, an AfDB statement said. In a meeting between AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed late last month Abiy issued an apology to AfDB and assured the bank and its staff of safety and security, the statement said. It added that the Ethiopian government had committed to cooperate on investigations into missing funds that were to have been transferred to the bank. It is the first time the bank has commented on circumstances that led to the assault on its staff. Ethiopia had not issued any statement about the incident. Reuters

Sudan, Iran to Reopen Embassies Following Diplomatic Rapprochement
The Sudanese and Iranian governments have agreed to expedite the process of restoring diplomatic representation and reopening embassies in their respective countries. This decision follows the resumption of diplomatic relations between Sudan and Iran on October 9, 2023, after a seven-year hiatus. In a press statement issued on Saturday, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Foreign Minister-designate Ali Al-Sadiq met with Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber on the sidelines of the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Uganda. The two officials discussed strategies for revitalizing bilateral ties between their nations. The meeting reviewed recent developments in the relations between Sudan and Iran, exploring ways to strengthen and enhance cooperation and coordination at bilateral, regional, and international levels, said the statement. Al-Sadiq also briefed Mokhber on the current situation in Sudan and the government’s ongoing efforts to establish security and stability…In 2016, Sudan’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Iran stemmed from Tehran’s alleged interference in regional affairs and the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Sudan subsequently closed its embassy in Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from Khartoum. Before the diplomatic rift, Iran had provided significant military support to the Sudanese government under former President Omer al-Bashir. Sudan Tribune

Ethnic Killings in One Sudan City Left up to 15,000 Dead, UN Report Says
Between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed in one city in Sudan’s West Darfur region last year in ethnic violence by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied Arab militia, according to a United Nations report seen by Reuters on Friday. In the report to the U.N. Security Council, independent U.N. sanctions monitors attributed the toll in El Geneina to intelligence sources and contrasted it with the U.N. estimate that about 12,000 people have been killed across Sudan since war erupted on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and the RSF…[The monitors]…said that between June 14 and 17, some 12,000 people fled El Geneina on foot for Adre in Chad. The Masalit were the majority in El Geneina until the attacks forced their mass exodus. “When reaching RSF checkpoints women and men were separated, harassed, searched, robbed, and physically assaulted. RSF and allied militias indiscriminately shot hundreds of people in the legs to prevent them from fleeing,” the monitors said. “Young men were particularly targeted and interrogated about their ethnicity. If identified as Masalit, many were summarily executed with a shot to the head. Women were physically and sexually assaulted. Indiscriminate shootings also injured and killed women and children,” according to the report. Everyone who spoke to the monitors mentioned “many dead bodies along the road, including those of women, children and young men.” The monitors also reported “widespread” conflict-related sexual violence committed by RSF and allied militia. The monitors said the RSF takeover of most of Darfur relied on three lines of support – Arab allied communities, dynamic and complex financial networks, and new military supply lines running through Chad, Libya, and South Sudan. Reuters

Blinken Launching Four-Nation Africa Trip
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet Monday with Cape Verde Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva, as the top U.S. diplomat begins a four-nation tour in Africa. Blinken’s itinerary also includes a visit to Porto da Praia, which received funding for modernization efforts from the U.S. government’s Millenium Challenge Corporation, and attending an Africa Cup of Nations football match between Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea. U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said ahead of the trip that Blinken would emphasize U.S. infrastructure investment in Africa as a way to “boost two-way trade, create jobs at home and on the continent, and help Africa compete in the global marketplace.” Molly Phee, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, praised Cape Verde ahead of Blinken’s visit, calling the country “a terrific democracy.” Blinken’s trip also includes stops in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Angola. Phee said in Ivory Coast, Blinken’s agenda will include discussing the security situation in the region. VOA

Cameroon Starts World’s First Malaria Vaccine Program for Children
Cameroon will be the first country to routinely give children a new malaria vaccine as the shots are rolled out in Africa. The campaign due to start Monday was described by officials as a milestone in the decades-long effort to curb the mosquito-spread disease on the continent, which accounts for 95% of the world’s malaria deaths…The Central Africa nation hopes to vaccinate about 250,000 children this year and next year. Gavi said it is working with 20 other African countries to help them get the vaccine and that those countries will hopefully immunize more than 6 million children through 2025…Cameroon will use the first of two recently approved malaria vaccines, known as Mosquirix. The World Health Organization endorsed the vaccine two years ago, acknowledging that that even though it is imperfect, its use would still dramatically reduce severe infections and hospitalizations. The GlaxoSmithKline-produced shot is only about 30% effective, requires four doses and protection begins to fade after several months. The vaccine was tested in Africa and used in pilot programs in three countries. GSK has said it can only produce about 15 million doses of Mosquirix a year and some experts believe a second malaria vaccine developed by Oxford University and approved by WHO in October might be a more practical solution. That vaccine is cheaper, requires three doses and India’s Serum Institute said they could make up to 200 million doses a year. Neither of the malaria vaccines stop transmission, so other tools like bed nets and insecticidal spraying will still be critical. AP

How Spotify Helped Turn Afrobeats into a Global Phenomenon
Afrobeats has become one of the most popular music genres globally over the past few years. Several artists have sold out big arenas — including stadiums — in the U.S., the U.K., and Europe…Much of this success is due to the growth of digital music-streaming platforms, especially Spotify. Between 2017 and 2022, there was a 550% increase in the number of times Afrobeats songs were streamed on Spotify, according to data released by the company. In 2023 alone, Afrobeats was streamed more than 14 billion times on the app, with London, Paris, and Nairobi ranking among the top five cities…The success of Afrobeats on Spotify is the result of years of on-the-ground work that the company has done in Nigeria, including hiring local staff, according to Nigerian pop culture analyst and consultant Ayomide Tayo. “Spotify has boots on the ground [and] don’t have a standoffish approach,” Tayo told Rest of World. “It doesn’t feel like you are talking to somebody from Berlin, New York, or London. They’ve made Nigerian hires of people with authority, prestige, [and] influence. They’ve also shown that they’re ready to put their money where their mouth is.” The company’s interest in the genre is evident from the fact that in 2022, revenue generated by Nigerian artists from Spotify alone reached over $27 million, according to Jocelyne Muhutu-Remy, Spotify’s managing director for sub-Saharan Africa…Spotify has benefited from the groundwork laid by older music-streaming apps — such as Audiomack, Soundcloud, Boomplay, and the now-defunct Spinlet — before it launched in Africa in 2018, Oyinkansola Fawehinmi, a lawyer and entertainment executive, told Rest of World.  Rest of World