Africa Media Review for March 22, 2021

Congo’s Opposition Candidate Kolelas Dies a Day after Elections
Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, leading opposition presidential candidate in Republic of Congo’s election, died on Sunday, a day after the country went to the polls. Kolelas was hospitalised on the eve of the elections and died of COVID-19 as he was being taken to France for treatment, his campaign director Christian Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda told AFP news agency on Monday. Kolelas “died in the medical aircraft which came to get him from Brazzaville on Sunday afternoon,” added Mayanda. … Kolelas skipped his final campaign event on Friday after telling some reporters a day earlier that he feared he had malaria. … Kolelas finished runner-up to leader Denis Sassou Nguesso in the 2016 presidential election with about 15 percent of the vote. His father, Bernard Kolelas, was briefly Congo’s prime minister in 1997 during the country’s civil war. The opposition figure has been particularly critical of the incumbent leader in recent days, declaring that the Republic of Congo had become “a police state.” Kolelas was seen as the main rival to Nguesso, who has lead the central African country for a total of 36 years. Al Jazeera

Niger’s Top Court Confirms Mohamed Bazoum’s Election Win
Niger’s top court has confirmed Mohamed Bazoum’s victory in last month’s presidential runoff, allowing the ruling party candidate to be sworn into office next month. Bazoum’s inauguration on April 2 will mark the West African country’s first transfer of power from one democratically elected leader to another. … The results were contested by the opposition and two people died during violence that broke out in the capital Niamey during opposition protests. More than 400 people were arrested during the protests. The court said Mahamane Ousmane, a former president, garnered 44.34 percent of the votes cast. The court said in a statement that it had cancelled the results from 73 polling stations, without saying why. That very slightly reduced Bazoum’s vote tally which had stood at 55.75 percent to Ousmane’s initial 44.25 percent. … President Mahamadou Issoufou is stepping down after two five-year terms. Al Jazeera

Former CAR President Bozizé Takes over Rebel Alliance
Central African Republic former president François Bozizé has taken charge of a rebel alliance aiming to overthrow the central government, the group’s spokesman said Sunday. Bozizé seized power in the former French colony in 2003 and was ousted a decade later, an act that sparked a civil war along sectarian lines. The government has accused him of being behind a failed offensive against President Faustin Archange Touadera in December. Bozizé’s spokesman Serge Bozanga confirmed to AFP on Sunday that he had agreed in February to become “general coordinator” of the so-called Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), which attempted to block Touadera’s reelection, only to see their offensive repulsed. Bozanga confirmed the authenticity of a document dated February 18 stating that Bozizé had accepted the CPC’s leadership “call.” The coalition brought together six of the armed groups that control much of the country in mid-December to launch the offensive against Touadera, just over a week before presidential and legislative elections. AFP

UN: Armed Group [ADF] in Northeastern DRC Goes on Killing Rampage
[T]he Allied Democratic Forces or ADF, has become especially violent of late, killing nearly 200 civilians and displacing an estimated 40,000 in the DRC’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces over the past two and a half months. In less than three months, said U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Babar Baloch, the ADF allegedly has raided 25 villages, set fire to dozens of houses and kidnapped more than 70 people. “It seems that since the beginning of the year they have gone on a rampage in terms of raiding villages, killing civilians, kidnapping people, leaving people injured behind and the consequences are really, really clear on the desperate population who have to flee, in cases many times from each location to another.” Baloch said the main reasons given for the attacks reportedly include retaliation against military operations, search for food and medicine, and allegations that communities shared information on ADF positions. He said women and children constitute the majority of those fleeing their homes. The men, he said, stay behind to protect their property. VOA

Protests in Eastern DR Congo Cities over Militia Killings
Three cities in eastern DR Congo were brought to a near-standstill on Friday, and one person died, in protests over a surge in killings by a notorious armed group, local sources said. Beni, Oicha and Butembo in North Kivu province were virtually paralysed in response to protests called by an organisation called Veranda Mutchanga, they said. In Beni, shops were closed, the schools failed to open and streets were deserted, an AFP reporter said. Angry youths placed barricades across some streets, which were later removed by police. In Oicha, the chief town in the territory of Beni, “a demonstrator died of gunshot wounds, and two others were injured,” the local mayor, Nicolas Kikuku, told AFP. The shooting happened as police were trying to remove a barricade, witnesses said. In Butembo, a commercial hub of a million people, normal activity ceased, several residents said. The protests were called after at least 15 people were killed in nearby Bulongo on March 15 — the latest in a string of killings blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). AFP

Somalia’s Leaders Plan to Move Forward with Polls Following US Call
Somalia’s government says it is making a commitment to conduct delayed presidential and parliamentary polls after the U.S. urged the leadership to hold transparent elections. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said leaders should set aside “narrow political objectives” and “uphold their responsibilities to the people of Somalia.” Somalia’s Minister of Information Osman Dubbe confirmed the announcement about the elections after the U.S. call for leaders to end disagreements among the political class and move forward with the democratic process. Dubbe says the federal government of Somalia is ready to conduct the elections as quickly as possible according to the September 17, 2020 agreement approved by the two houses of parliament. The Minister added that the outcome of the technical committee on elections on 16th February will soon be put in place. President Mohamed Abdullahi, popularly known as Farmajo, whose term in office expired on February convened a two-day election summit between the leadership of the federal government and regional state leaders. VOA

Ethiopia’s FM, US Envoy Hold Talks over Renaissance Dam
US Senator Chris Coons and Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen have held talks at a time of increased tensions between Ethiopia and its Nile Valley neighbours, Sudan and Egypt, over Addis Ababa continuing to fill its Renaissance Dam for a second year. The talks in Addis Ababa on Sunday also come against the backdrop of US concern regarding border tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan stemming from Ethiopian army operations in the Tigray region that sent refugees streaming into Sudan and raised alarm in the international community. Mekonnen said he assured the US official of his country’s commitment to the African Union’s sponsorship of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam negotiations. Ethiopia has held several rounds of talks with Sudan and Egypt, who fear the construction of the GERD will lead to water shortages in their countries. … Earlier this month, Ethiopia rejected a Sudanese proposal to have an international quartet mediate the dispute, which would include the United Nations, the US, the European Union and the African Union to solve the stalled negotiations. Al Jazeera

All Sudan’s Armed Groups Will Be Merged into One National Army: Al-Burhan
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, Commander in Chief of the Sudanese Army reiterated on Sunday that all the armed groups will merge with the reformed national army at the end of the transition. In his speech to the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) officers of the Khartoum North Military Region, al-Burhan spoke at length about reforming the armed forces and the need to rebuilding it on new foundations without favouring any component of the Sudanese people. He said that these forces are the backbone around which all other political and social forces are organized and grow in Sudan. “These forces are the safety valve of national unity,” and they must represent all components of the country on an equal basis, he said. He further said that by the end of the transitional period, all the armed forces will be merged in line with the DDR process. Sudan Tribune

Hamdok Advocates ‘Democracy at the Local Level’ in Sudan
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok said the “main issue in this transition towards democracy and good governance is the issue of local government, which seeks a real and broad participation of citizens in decision-making,” on Thursday. In a Facebook post following the closing session of the Forum of State Governors, Hamdok said that local government also brings the administration closer to Sudanese people and allows them to “govern themselves by themselves.” “Democracy at the local level, in addition to bringing issues of governance closer to health, education and other services, also contributes to refining the expertise and experiences of those working in public affairs and consolidating the democratic process and linking it directly to sustainable development issues.” The outcomes of the forum will be coordinated between governors and federal state institutions to develop a roadmap for its implementation. Radio Dabanga

Libyan Women Reach High Office but Activists Say Long Road Ahead
Libya’s new government includes five women, with two in key portfolios — a first for the country nonetheless criticised by activists as insufficient and as not living up to a UN commitment. Libya descended into conflict after dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, with an array of forces battling to fill the void. The transitional Government of National Unity (GNU), which took office this week, faces daunting challenges, including unifying the country’s institutions, ending a decade of fighting marked by international interference and preparing for December elections. The Cabinet is comprised of 26 ministers and six ministers of state, with women assigned to five posts, including the key foreign affairs and justice portfolios. The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, has called it a “historic time for Libyan women”, while UN Women hailed the appointments as “a major step for advancing women’s rights.” AFP

Survivors of Liberia’s Civil War Massacre React to News of US Trial
Lawyers representing victims of one of the deadliest massacres in Liberia presented evidence to a judge in the United States this week for the prosecution of Colonel Moses Thomas, the former head of an elite unit within the Armed Forces of Liberia. Thomas is accused of being responsible for the Lutheran Church massacres in 1990. Lawyers from the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) for four of the victims are asking the court in the US state of Philadelphia to find Thomas liable for crimes against humanity. They also want the victims to be awarded damages. … The associate pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church where the massacre occurred welcomes the legal proceedings. “Our God is a just God, so we are thankful to those who continue to push this and to bring those perpetrators to justice,” Rev. Kenety S. Gee told RFI. RFI

The ‘Secret’ Health of Our Presidents
Robert Mugabe died at least once a year. It usually happened in January, when he was on his annual leave, and the news travelled via whispers and rumour. The Zimbabwean president, who ended up becoming Africa’s oldest head of state, was pronounced dead so frequently that he was moved to comment on it himself. “I have died many times. That’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once. I have died and resurrected and I don’t know how many times I will die and resurrect,” he said in 2012. Dumisani Muleya, the former editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, wasn’t buying the gossip. He was always sceptical about the reports of Mugabe’s death — which often originated in anonymous reports on websites — because Mugabe had a funny habit of turning up shortly afterwards, looking very much alive. … Muleya, who now runs the investigative news platform The News Hawks, said that his publication never carried stories that referenced the rumours directly. Instead, they would write stories about what Mugabe had actually been doing, so that readers would know the truth. Mail & Guardian

Glimpses of Sudan’s Forgotten Pyramids
Desecrated by plunderers, threatened by floodwaters and largely overshadowed by their Egyptian counterparts, Sudan’s ancient archaeological sites may finally be poised to receive broader recognition. … Situated on the east bank of the Nile, some 150 miles by car northeast of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, the Meroe pyramids — around 200 in total, many of them in ruins — seemed to be in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape, as if the wind had smoothed their edges to accommodate them among the dunes. Throughout the 30-year dictatorship of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who led Sudan through a long series of wars and famines, the pyramids of Meroe saw few international visitors and remained relatively unknown.But among the many consequences of the revolution that led to Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster in 2019 — along with the removal of Sudan in 2020 from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism — was the hope that the country’s archaeological sites might receive broader attention and protections, not simply from researchers and international visitors but also from Sudanese citizens themselves. The New York Times



Photo: Adam Jones