Africa Media Review for June 29, 2023

Sierra Leone Election Observers Flag ‘Statistical Inconsistencies’
European election observers in Sierra Leone said there were “statistical inconsistencies” in the presidential results published by the electoral commission, which declared President Julius Maada Bio the winner of Saturday’s vote. The European Union Election Observation Mission called on the commission on Wednesday to promptly publish disaggregated results data per polling station to allow for public scrutiny of the results, without which it said transparency was compromised. … The EU observation mission said in a statement that there were inconsistencies between the first and second batch of presidential results, including “notable discrepancies in the number of average valid votes per polling state.” It said the results also showed a strikingly low number of invalid ballots nationwide and a very high turnout exceeding 95% in at least three districts. The United States, Britain, Ireland, Germany, France and the EU said on Wednesday they shared the concerns about lack of transparency in the tabulation process, and that significant logistical problems had hampered voting in certain areas. Reuters

As UN Peacekeepers Prepare to Leave Mali, It Now Hangs in the Kremlin’s Balance
As the United Nations Security Council plans to vote this week on the future of Minusma, its peacekeeping mission in Mali, the military officers in charge in Bamako will have their eyes on developments in Moscow, Minsk and the front line in eastern Ukraine. After the weekend mutiny by the Wagner Group militia in Russia, the only certainty in the country now is uncertainty. The instability casts a long shadow over Mali as its own leaders are playing one of the riskiest cards in their hand by forcing the departure of the UN peacekeeping mission. … In West Africa, Wagner’s rebellion has thrown a wrench into the Malian military’s plans as they were consolidating their power for potentially the next decade. … Malian officials have always insisted the Wagner troops were regular Russian soldiers, even as Russian officials stated otherwise. It’s unclear who the Russian soldiers in Mali will answer to now, given that Peskov said that Wagner troops would be incorporated into the regular army. … A constitutional referendum passed on June 23 — Kremlin style — has consolidated the power of the presidency and paved the way for the military to contest next year’s scheduled elections. This will allow the Malian leaders to stay in power and avoid regional sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States on unelected regimes. Pass Blue

UN Vote on Maintaining Its Peace Force in Mali Is Postponed until Friday
The vote at the UN was originally scheduled for Thursday, but it has now been postponed to Friday as discussions between members of the Council, the UN, and Mali continue. On Tuesday evening, Reuters news agency revealed that France has proposed a draft resolution to the UN to end its peacekeeping mission in Mali. The draft also calls for the withdrawal of all personnel within six months. The tensions between the UN and Mali’s military junta over the presence of the UN force have deepened in the past few months. Earlier this month, Mali’s foreign minister, Abdoulaye Diop, asked Minusma to leave without delay. French troops have already left. The US State Department has also expressed its concern about the effects this decision will have on the security and humanitarian crises. RFI

At Least 13 Mali Civilians Killed by ‘Jihadists’: Local Politicians
At least 13 civilians have been killed by suspected jihadists in chronically unstable northern Mali, elected officials who requested anonymity said on Wednesday. “The provisional toll is now 13 dead, a dozen wounded and hundreds of people fleeing several villages in the Gabero area” in the Gao region, said a local official, who added that the Malian army was not present in the area. “All the young people have left. Usually, they take the animals. It’s the first time they (the jihadists) have killed like this,” he said. To the east of Gabero, Gao and Menaka have been the location of a major Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) offensive since early 2022. The violence has left hundreds of civilians dead, and many people in the area have moved to towns or camps, including across the border with Niger. … Jihadist groups are continuing to fight against the Malian state, plunging the country into a major security and political crisis. Defense Post with AFP

Islamists Wield Hidden Hand in Sudan Conflict, Military Sources Say
Thousands of men who worked as intelligence operatives under former president Omar al-Bashir and have ties to his Islamist movement are fighting alongside the army in Sudan’s war, three military sources and one intelligence source said, complicating efforts to end the bloodshed. … “Around 6,000 members of the intelligence agency joined the army several weeks before the conflict,” said a military official familiar with the army’s operations, speaking on condition on anonymity. … Former officials of the country’s now-disbanded National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), a powerful institution composed mainly of Islamists, confirmed these numbers. … An Islamist resurgence in Sudan could complicate how regional powers deal with the army, hamper any move towards civilian rule and ultimately set the country, which once hosted al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, on a path for more internal conflict and international isolation. Reuters

Eid Brings Another Failed Ceasefire to Sudan’s Warring Parties
Residents reported heavy gunfire in parts of the capital Khartoum as well as artillery strikes and air strikes launched by the Sudanese army on RSF positions. Negotiations between the warring parties to the conflict are currently on hold despite generals on both sides announcing “unilateral” ceasefires over the religious holiday. In a televised address, Sudan’s army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also called on young men to defend the country either at home or by joining the armed forces. … Multiple ceasefire deals have failed to stick in the conflict that began April 15, including several brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States at talks in Jeddah that were suspended last week. The Eid truce is the 17th to be announced since the start of the conflict. … Almost 2.8 million people have been uprooted by the fighting, with more than 2.15 million internally displaced and nearly 650,000 fleeing into neighbouring countries, according to estimates from the International Organisation for Migration. RFI

Ethiopia: Social Media Ban Brings Challenges
Four months into a social media ban, communications businesses and civil rights groups in Ethiopia are feeling the impact. Strict regulations are making it harder for them to reach audiences or verify information. In March, the country blocked access to Facebook, TikTok, Telegram and YouTube nationwide following a disagreement with the country’s Orthodox Church, where some religious leaders called for protests. But human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have said the ban violates freedom of expression and goes against Ethiopia’s constitution, laws and international treaties. … The ban was imposed following tensions in February, when three archbishops in Ethiopia’s Oromia region broke away from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and announced a new structure. The move resulted in clashes where at least three people were killed in Shashamene, over 200 kilometers south of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Church leaders and supporters then staged a protest and blacked out their social media pages to express solidarity. … Abiy’s government has also imposed similar bans since coming to power in 2018, including during the war in Tigray. VOA

China Affords Nigeria ‘Super’ Target Status
The dream of establishing smartphone “super apps” that can operate across Africa’s markets is galvanising Chinese investment into Nigeria. Nigeria, with about 220mn people, is the continent’s most populous country and its biggest economy. So, when two Chinese-backed fintech companies hatched ambitions to build African versions of Chinese mobile payment giants Alipay or WeChat Pay, they decided to start in Lagos. “[We are building] a very, very super app,” says Chika Nwosu, managing director of PalmPay, one of the Chinese-backed mobile payments start-ups. “Nigeria is the hub for business in Africa.” Also open for business in Ghana, PalmPay has seen its active users grow fivefold to 25mn over the past year and plans to expand to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, Nwosu says. So-called super apps aim to be one-stop shops for a range of services, and PalmPay’s offering through its smartphone app is increasingly comprehensive. … “We always need to be pragmatic to balance Chinese influence,” says one government official, who declined to be identified. “Chinese loans to the government have been growing and there is always secrecy. We need to be careful.” FT

Humanitarian, Security Crises in Northeastern Nigeria Reach New Heights
U.N. agencies are warning that the food security and nutrition crises in northeastern Nigeria have reached alarming new heights and that swift global action is needed to head off a catastrophic outcome. Matthias Schmale, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, last briefed international donors a year ago on the critical situation in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. “Unfortunately, one year on, the situation has in many respects worsened,” he said Wednesday in Geneva. He said in just one year, the estimated number of people needing humanitarian assistance has increased by 500,000 to 6 million and the number of people facing severe hunger also climbed, to 4.3 million, with more than half a million living on the verge of famine. VOA

South African Court Rules against Government over Ending Permits for Nearly 200,000 Zimbabweans
A South African court on Wednesday ruled against the government and ordered it to reconsider its decision to terminate the special permits allowing nearly 200,000 Zimbabwe nationals to live and work in the country. The government’s decision was set to force Zimbabweans to return home if they didn’t obtain regular work visas, even if they have children who were born in South Africa and are South African citizens. In its ruling, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria said the Department of Home Affairs’ decision in 2022 to end the special exemption for citizens from neighboring Zimbabwe was “unlawful” and “unconstitutional” because it didn’t follow “a fair process” of consultation. The permits were extended until at least June 28 next year under the court ruling. AP

Ex-Rwandan Military Policeman Found Guilty of Genocide by Paris Court
A Paris court has found a former Rwandan military policeman guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 slaughter in his home country and sentenced him to life in prison. The court found Philippe Hategekimana, 66, guilty of nearly all the charges against him. He fled to France after the genocide, obtaining refugee status and then French nationality under the name Philippe Manier. The trial of Hategekimana, which began last month, was the fifth such trial in France of an alleged participant in the massacres. More than 800,000 people were killed between April and July 1994, according to UN figures, most of them from the Tutsi minority. Hategekimana was charged with involvement in the murder of dozens of Tutsis and also setting up roadblocks to stop Tutsis who would then be killed in and around the southern provincial capital of Nyanza, where he worked as a senior police official. Guardian

U.K. Plan to Send Asylum Seekers to Rwanda Is Unlawful, Court Rules
The British government’s highly contested plan to fly some asylum seekers to Rwanda suffered a significant setback on Thursday when one of the country’s top courts ruled against the move to deport would-be refugees before their claims are assessed. In a judgment delivered in London, the Court of Appeal said that Rwanda was not a safe country for asylum seekers. In doing so, the judges reversed a ruling in December by the High Court, which dismissed most legal challenges to the plan. … “The result is that the High Court’s decision that Rwanda was a safe third country is reversed and that unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum processes are corrected, removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful,” said Ian Burnett, the lord chief justice. … Advocacy groups say that flying asylum seekers to Rwanda, whose human rights record has been criticized, would violate international law and would not necessarily deter those risking the perilous journey across the English Channel. New York Times

Nearly 2,000 Migrants Have Died Crossing the Mediterranean This Year.
According to IOM data, at least 1,999 migrants died between January 1 and June 26 of this year, mostly from drowning. In the same period last year, 1,358 died. These tallies include those who died in the three major routes across the Mediterranean, as well as at the Atlantic route from West Africa. One enormous tragedy accounts for a large portion of the uptick: the capsizing of the fishing boat Adriana two weeks ago in deep waters off the coast of Greece. The boat had departed Libya crammed with hundreds of people. When it capsized, it took the lives of most of the migrants on board, and IOM estimates the number who perished at 596. … Smugglers overload people onto flimsy fishing boats that are not seaworthy, “putting people in boats that really do not give them a good chance of getting into Europe,” says Dhingra. “But that’s often not the goal for the smugglers. They don’t necessarily care if people reach their destination. They just care that they’re paid for it.” NPR