Africa Media Review for January 9, 2023

Benin Holds Parliamentary Election Set to Test Democracy
Voters in Benin went to the polls on Sunday for a parliamentary election seen as a test of democracy as opposition parties are back on the ballot after boycotting or being excluded from the most recent presidential and legislative votes. Benin’s image as a bastion of democracy and stability in West Africa has been dented under President Patrice Talon, who went back on a pledge not to run for another term and oversaw an opposition crackdown since coming to power in 2016…Polling stations were quiet in the commercial capital Cotonou on Sunday morning, and there was no sign of unrest. Reuters

Ivory Coast’s President Ouattara Welcomes Home Troops ‘Pardoned’ by Mali
Ivory Coast’s president has welcomed home 46 soldiers who were detained in Mali, saying he hopes ties between the two countries can now return to normal. The Ivorian soldiers were pardoned by Mali’s junta leader Assimi Goïta A court had sentenced them to 20 years in prison for undermining state security. Ivory Coast denied the allegation, saying they had been sent to Mali to be part of a UN mission fighting militant Islamists. Their detention, since their arrival in July 2022, caused a diplomatic row between the two nations. Relations between Mali and the West African regional bloc, Ecowas, have been strained since the military staged a coup, overthrowing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020. BBC

South Africa’s Ruling ANC Party Fetes 111th Anniversary
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was re-elected as the ANC party leader at a national conference in December last year, addressed a large crowd of supporters at a stadium outlining how the party plans to address the country’s many challenges. The ANC is the oldest liberation movement against colonialism in Africa and led South Africa’s transition from white minority rule to democracy after it was unbanned in 1990. Its leader and struggle icon, Nelson Mandela, became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison alongside other ANC leaders for their anti-apartheid activities. The anniversary comes amid a decline in electoral support for the party due to, among other things, rising levels of poverty and unemployment, failure to provide basic services to poor communities and lack of economic growth. AP

South Africa to Use BRICS Chair Role to Advance Africa Interests
South Africa will use its role as the 2023 chair of the BRICS grouping of nations to advance the interest of Africa as a whole, President Cyril Ramaphosa said. Other African nations will be invited to the BRICS summit in South Africa later this year, he said at a press event in Johannesburg on Monday. Bloomberg

Somali Government, Al-Shabab Deny Peace Talks
The Somali government and the al-Shabab militant group have each denied having peace talks. The denial came Saturday after Abdulfatah Kasim Mohamud, a deputy defense minister and member of the parliament, said the militant group had requested talks with the government. A senior government official later officially denied receiving a request from the militant group. “We have not received any requests from the group,” National Security Adviser Hussein Sheikh Ali told Voice of America Somali. “The minister said he was misquoted.” Ali said the Somali government’s position on al-Shabab has not changed. “Our policy towards talks with Alshabab remains the same,” he wrote in a message via WhatsApp. “We aren’t negotiating with them as a group. However, individuals who wish to leave the group will undergo a thorough process to defect and be eligible for government amnesty formally,” he added. Voice of America

South Sudan Revives Law-Making Process amid Fresh Leadership Wrangles
South Sudan has relaunched its bid to write a new constitution, a decade since the first attempt was scuttled by civil war. But the attempt could be marred by bickering by top unity government leaders over appointments. President Salva Kiir signed the Constitution Making Process Bill, 2022 into law in December, paving the way for the establishment of a team of drafters who are to put up a proposed supreme law within two years. The new law allows restructuring of the National Constitutional Review Commission, the team set up 10 years ago but which must be re-trooped to reflect current realities. East African

6 Journalists Detained in South Sudan over Viral Video of President Kiir
Six journalists have been detained in South Sudan over the leaked video of President Salva Kiir that went viral, the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS) has said. Local station Radio Tamazuj cited an anonymous journalist from the SSBC as saying that the footage came from the public broadcaster, “yet we as SSBC did not broadcast any news related to that video.” The CPJ called for the immediate and unconditional release of the scribes. As of Friday evening, CPJ said the six remained in detention at the National Security Service headquarters known as Blue House. Nation

Kenya: Police to Hold Five Accused of Killing Activist Edwin Chiloba
Five suspects linked to the murder and disposal of the body of LGBTQ Activist Edwin Kiptoo Chiloba will remain in police custody for 21 more days as police complete investigations. The court in Eldoret directed that the five persons led by prime suspect Jackton Odhiambo remain in custody to allow police to carry out more investigations and arrest more suspects linked to the murder. Standard

Trilateral Announces Launch of Final Stage of Sudan Political Process
The signatories of the political framework agreement will begin the second and final phase of the political process to end Sudan’s political crisis, said the tripartite facilitation panel, on Saturday. In line with the two-step process, the civil forces and the military component have to reach a consensus over five issues before forming an apolitical government to achieve transitional reforms paving the way for the general election. The pending issues are the security forms, transitional justice, review of the peace agreement, the eastern Sudan crisis, and the dismantlement of the former regime. Sudan Tribune

Nigeria: Over 7.28m Registered Voters Are Young, Says INEC Commissioner
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that the youth population constitutes the greatest number of registered voters for the 2023 general elections in Nigeria…Festus Okoye, explained that analysis of registered voters from June 28, 2021, to July 31, 2022, by INEC, indicates dominance of young voters, stressing that the youth have numerical potentials to drive the electoral process to decide election contests…Noting that Nigeria is a country with a growing youth population, Okoye stated: “Of more than 9.5 million Nigerians, who completed their registration process, 7.28 million or 76 per cent of new registrants, who are within 18 to 34 years of age, are young people. “Similarly, the youth constitute 51 per cent of 84 million Nigerians, who registered for 2019 general elections. The young men and women with these statistics constitute a critical mass whose participation in public life vis-a-vis electoral space cannot be ignored.” Okoye noted that since the demography of Nigeria has changed, and youths constitute a formidable block of this demography, politically engaged and conscious youths must assist others with lax disposition to national issues to become more focused. Guardian Nigeria

Bola Tinubu: Nigeria’s Kingmaker Eyes Chance to Become King
Bola Tinubu, the political veteran credited as kingmaker to Nigeria’s outgoing government, has never hidden his desire to become president. His ambition is evident in the Yoruba catchphrase he has adopted during the election campaign that culminates with next month’s vote: “Emi lokan”, he likes to say, which translates as “It’s my turn”…
He starts as favourite against serial hopeful Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition People’s Democratic party and the upstart campaign of Labour’s Peter Obi, as well as a handful of lesser-known aspirants…Analysts still expect a tight contest, partly due to the head of steam developing for Obi. He has tapped into the disaffection that grew during outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari’s two terms and demands by Nigerians for change amid high unemployment and insecurity. This was evident in the 2020 youth-led protests against police brutality that turned into broader calls for Nigeria’s governing elite to be more accountable. Financial Times

Nigeria: Lagos Gets a New Elevated Rail Network
The first phase of a light rail system that is set to transform commuting in Nigeria’s economic capital, has been commissioned. The Blue Line project in Lagos is a 27 km rail system that upon completion is expected to carry more than 500,000 passengers…“Over the last two decades, that masterplan has been faithfully implemented by successive administrations. Today, we are making history with the completion of the historic rail line, which is the first phase of the Blue Line,” Lagos State Governor, Sanwo-Olu told media representatives during the test ride aboard the electric-powered rail infrastructure earlier in December. Quartz Africa

New Chinese Foreign Minister Heads to Africa for First Trip
China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang is starting his term with a weeklong trip to five African countries, its foreign ministry announced. Qin, who until recently was ambassador to the United States, will visit Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin and Egypt from January 9 to 16, spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily media briefing on Monday. In Egypt, Qin will also meet the secretary-general of the Arab League. The new foreign minister is following in the footsteps of his predecessors, who have for more than 30 years started each year with a trip to Africa. “It shows that China attaches great importance to the traditional friendship with Africa and the development of China-Africa relations,” Wang said. Al Jazeera



Photo: Adam Jones