Africa Media Review for January 3, 2024

Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A Persistent Crisis of Legitimacy
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Independent National Election Commission (CENI) has declared incumbent President Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the country’s December 20 election with 72 percent of the vote. The resounding figure would seem implausible given the strong following of leading opposition candidates and pre-election polling showing no candidate gaining a majority. …Congolese churches documented 5,402 reports of serious incidents, 60 percent of which interrupted voting…Roughly 43 percent of these reports cited missing voter lists, ballot papers, indelible ink, and ineligible voter cards…Three quarters of the reports identified malfunctioning voting devises, failure to open polling stations, vote-buying, ransacking of polling material, torn electoral lists, ballot stuffing, and denial of access to local observers. The Constitutional Court has until January 10 to receive complaints, examine the illegalities, and confirm or reject the results. It also has the authority to direct the government to institute legally binding reforms to address deficiencies. There are serious doubts about this Court’s independence given its composition and history of subservience to the executive. This, however, does not absolve it of its duty to examine the entire electoral process and execute its mandate professionally, impartially, and without fear. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Two More Congo Presidential Candidates Do Not Plan Court Challenge
A large group of opposition candidates says the election was fraudulent and has urged people to protest. However, the government has rejected calls for a rerun of the vote and the deadline to challenge the outcome of the presidential election expires on Wednesday. Former energy executive Martin Fayulu, who stood in the election, told Reuters he would not file a legal challenge because he did not trust the Constitutional Court, which would rule on it…The chief of staff of another of Tshisekedi’s challengers in the election, Nobel Peace Prize-winning gynecologist Denis Mukwege, said Mukwege would also not take his case to the Constitutional Court, likening the current political climate to a caricature…A month before the election, Fayulu, Mukwege, and other opposition leaders lodged a case before the Constitutional Court seeking to compel the election commission to address potential irregularities and fraud, but the case failed. Before the release of the provisional results on Sunday, Katumbi had ruled out a legal challenge, alleging state institutions were not independent. Reuters

Why a Port Deal Has the Horn of Africa on Edge
In a memorandum of understanding signed with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia on Monday, the leader of Somaliland, Muse Bihi Abdi, said he would lease more than 12 miles of sea access for 50 years to the Ethiopian Navy. In return, Ethiopia would formally recognize Somaliland as an independent nation…Observers say the agreement could also provoke further tensions in the Red Sea, a vital global shipping route that has become increasingly dangerous amid the Israel-Hamas war. The biggest objection has come from Somalia, where Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre’s cabinet held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the deal…Just days earlier, he and Mr. Abdi had met in neighboring Djibouti to chart a path forward — talks that experts say are now likely to be in shambles. Eritrea and Egypt will also be concerned with Ethiopia’s having a major naval presence in the strategic Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, observers say. And in Djibouti, which charges Ethiopia about $1.5 billion a year to use its ports, observers say that the loss of such income could lead to instability for President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who has benefited from that cash inflow during his more than two decades in office. The New York Times

Tuareg Separatists Reject Proposed ‘Inter-Malian’ Peace Dialogue
Separatist Tuareg forces on Tuesday rejected the idea of a direct inter-Malian dialogue for peace and reconciliation put forward by the country’s military rulers, after months of hostilities between rebels and the army. Fighting between the separatists and Mali government troops broke out again in August after eight years of calm as both sides scrambled to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers. During his New Year’s address on Sunday, Mali’s military ruler, Colonel Assimi Goita, announced the establishment of a “direct inter-Malian dialogue for peace and reconciliation, in order to eliminate the roots of community and intercommunity conflicts”…An Algiers-brokered peace agreement between Bamako and predominantly Tuareg armed groups was signed in 2015. Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane, a spokesman for the Tuareg rebellion, told Agence France-Presse that Goita’s announcement of an inter-Malian peace dialogue was “a way of pronouncing the [2015] agreement definitively null and void and kicking out the international mediation.” AFP

France Embassy in Niger Closed ‘Until Further Notice’: Ministry
France has closed down its embassy in Niger until further notice, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, barely two weeks after the last French troops left the country in the wake of a coup that ousted a key Paris ally. The closure of the embassy in Niamey represents one of the final chapters in the winding down of a French presence in its former colony following the July coup that left the country in the hands of military leaders. “The French embassy in Niger is now closed until further notice,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding the mission would continue activities from Paris. It said that for the five months since the coup “our embassy has suffered serious obstacles making it impossible to carry out its missions” including a blockade around the mission. Most staff, including the ambassador who was expelled by the new military leaders, left some time ago…The last contingent of what was once 1,500 French troops deployed in the country to fight a jihadist insurgency left Niger on December 22. AFP

Sudan’s RSF Open to Talks on Immediate Ceasefire with Army
Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said on Tuesday it was open to an immediate, unconditional ceasefire through talks with the Sudanese army as it signed a declaration with the Taqadum civilian coalition and invited the army to do the same…By signing the so-called Addis Ababa Declaration, which is intended to serve as the basis for further negotiations and a political settlement, the RSF has made its clearest commitment to ending the war so far…But with the RSF, which is accused by the U.S. of crimes against humanity, gaining an upper hand in recent weeks, it is unclear to what extent Dagalo will implement the declaration’s commitments…Although the RSF has publicized the return of police and markets in some areas under its control, residents and human rights monitors say soldiers have occupied and looted homes and detained and sometimes killed civilians. Meanwhile, artillery fire between the two sides in the capital Khartoum has intensified in recent days. The army, which has launched extensive air strikes, has also been accused of war crimes by Washington, which it denies. It was not immediately clear whether the army, much of which is hostile to Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and accuses it of being allied with the RSF, would welcome the declaration. Reuters

Sudanese Authorities Arrest Anti-War Political Leaders
Military Intelligence in Sudan apprehended the head of the Nasserist Party, Sattea al-Haj, on Monday. This arrest coincides with the detention of two leaders of the Sudanese Congress Party. These arrests fall under a broader pattern of mass detentions initiated by Sudanese military authorities over the past month, targeting members of resistance committees, prominent figures opposing the war, and volunteers providing emergency services…Al-Haj is a renowned member of the Sudanese Bar Association’s steering committee and was actively involved in drafting the constitutional declaration establishing the transitional government signed by the military and political forces that led the protests against al-Bashir in 2019. In a separate development, the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) in Red Sea State disclosed that a security force raided the party’s headquarters in Port Sudan late on December 30, arresting two cadres and two individuals…The Sudanese authorities have launched a crackdown on the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and other civilian groups opposed to the war, accusing them of collaborating with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group waging war against the government for more than eight months. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan: Five Killed, Several Wounded in Twic-Abyei Fresh Skirmishes
Five people have been killed in fresh fighting in Athony Ayuok and Ayuok villages in Twic, Warrap State and Abyei Special Administrative Area…The fighting in Twic-Abyei is a conflict that erupted in February 2022 between the Twic Dinka and the Ngok Dinka, two sub-groups of the Dinka people tribe in South Sudan. The dispute is over the ownership of land in the Abyei area, which is rich in oil and has been contested by Sudan and South Sudan since in 2011. The Twic Dinka, who live in the neighboring Warrap state, claim that some parts of Abyei belong to them and accuse the Ngok Dinka of encroaching on their land. The Ngok Dinka, who are the majority inhabitants of Abyei, reject the Twic claims and demand that Abyei be integrated into South Sudan…In April 2023, the Twic Dinka and the Ngok Dinka signed a ceasefire agreement, but the situation remains tense and unstable. Radio Tamazuj

Kampala Sues Nairobi as Fuel Import Row Escalates
Uganda has taken Kenya to the East African Court of Justice after Nairobi denied the neighbouring country’s government-owned oil marketer a licence to operate locally, and handle fuel imports headed to Kampala. The Yoweri Museveni administration filed the case against Kenya on December 28, highlighting the shaky diplomatic ties between the two neigbours and trade partners. In November, Kenya declined to issue Uganda National Oil Corporation (Unoc) with licence to operate as a local oil marketer, prompting Uganda to go to the regional court last month in a bid to compel Kenya to issue the greenlight. Uganda says that Kenya has reneged on an earlier commitment, made in April last year, to support Kampala’s quest to directly import its fuel starting this month…The continued impasse raises questions on the state of the diplomatic relations between Kampala and Nairobi, given that this is the first time that countries have dragged each other to the regional court…The impasse also amplifies the spat between the two countries less than two months after President Museveni accused Kenyan middlemen of being behind the high pump prices in Kampala even as global prices of the commodity continue to fall. The East African

Millions Will Stream to the Polls around Africa in 2024
More than a third of Africa’s 54 countries are holding elections this year to choose new presidents or new governments – but whether the millions of votes cast will lead to meaningful change remains to be seen…The first round of voting starts in the tiny island state of the Comoros later this month and 2024’s elections will wrap up in Ghana (and possibly Mali) in December…Further north, 78-year-old Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune appears to be preparing to run for a second term in the 2024 elections, if he can keep the support of the army…Much further to the south, further elections are also scheduled in Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, and Namibia. Daily Maverick

Niger, Uganda, CAR, and Gabon Kicked Out of AGOA, as Mauritania Is Welcomed Back
On New Year’s Day, US President Joe Biden issued a proclamation banning the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger and Uganda from participating in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), while at the same time bringing Mauritania back into the fold. The decisions were already made ahead of the 20th AGOA Forum meeting in Johannesburg in November last year. Mauritania was removed from AGOA in 2008, a year after its admission. This was after the coup that led to the removal of President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi from office…The Central African Republic was removed from AGOA because of growing human rights abuses. …Gabon and Niger were both kicked out of AGOA because they now fall under military rule…AGOA is set to expire in 2025, but there are calls from African governments for its extension. The US is also optimistic that AGOA will get bipartisan support from Congress for its extension, since it’s one of the US’s strongest ties with the continent. News 24

Inside the ‘Zombie’ Drug Epidemic Sweeping West Africa
Kush first emerged in Sierra Leone half a dozen or so years ago…The composition of the drug varies from place to place. Fentanyl and tramadol are said to be ingredients, as is formalin, a disinfectant…The drug has become commonplace across Sierra Leone, with whole neighbourhoods and communities addicted to the narcotic. But putting a precise figure on usage rates is difficult…The [Sierra Leone Psychiatric] Teaching Hospital provides isolation treatment, which lasts between three to six weeks, and antipsychotic drugs to help wean patients off their addiction. But it is the only facility of its kind offering active care to kush patients in Sierra Leone. Indeed, there are just five psychiatrists in the entire country, home to roughly 8.4 million, according to the World Health Organisation, making it impossible to tackle the spiralling epidemic. Sierra Leone’s youth unemployment rate – which stands at 60 per cent, one of the highest in the world – is further compounding the issue, experts say…There is no official data available for deaths related to the drug, but health experts estimate around a dozen kush users die weekly in Sierra Leone…But it’s not just Sierra Leone which is grappling with the fallout from kush. A wave of addiction is slowly moving across West Africa, with the horrors of Freetown now being repeated in the urban centres of Liberia and Guinea. Estimates suggest more than a million people from the region are now addicted. The Telegraph

Interview: AI Expert Warns of ‘Digital Colonization’ in Africa
Artificial intelligence (AI) is ripe to help resolve certain major problems in Africa, from farming to the health sector, but Senegalese expert Seydina Moussa Ndiaye is warning of a new “colonization” of the continent by this new technology if foreign companies continue to feed on African data without involving local actors. UN News: How could AI help Africa? Seydina Moussa Ndiaye:…In the health sector, AI could in fact solve a lot of problems, especially the problem of a lack of personnel. The other element that is also very important is the development of cultural identity…With the development of AI, we could use this channel so that African cultural identities are better known and better valued. UN News: Are there bad sides of AI threatening Africa? Seydina Moussa Ndiaye: The biggest threat for me is colonization. We may end up with large multinationals in AI that will impose their solutions throughout the continent, leaving no room for creating local solutions. Most of the data currently generated in Africa is owned by multinationals whose infrastructure is developed outside the continent, where most African AI experts also operate. It’s a loss of African talent. UN News