Africa Media Review for March 22, 2023

Nigeria’s Obi, Atiku Challenge Presidential Election Results
Nigeria’s two main opposition leaders on Tuesday filed petitions seeking to cancel results from last month’s disputed presidential election, court papers showed, to begin what could be a legal battle lasting several months. There have been numerous legal challenges to the outcome of previous Nigerian presidential elections, but none have succeeded. Atiku Abubakar from the biggest opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party’s Peter Obi asked the Appeals Court to invalidate the election won by Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Party. The opposition leaders said in separate affidavits the election was fraught with irregularities and accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of breaching the law by failing to use electronic machines to upload polling station results, among other criticisms. … The Appeals Court has 180 days to hear and make a ruling on Obi’s challenge. If a candidate is not satisfied with the outcome of the tribunal, they can approach the supreme court, which will deliberate on an appeal within 60 days. Nigeria’s next president will be sworn in on May 29. Violence and voter intimidation marred last month’s presidential vote as well as last weekend’s governorship polls. Turnout was low, despite the highest number of registered voters, at 93 million. Reuters

Libya Wants Elections but Needs More Than a Ballot Box
[R]egional experts warn that … elections won’t fix many of the country’s underlying sources of political instability, deep-seated corruption, and economic malaise. The debate underscores how Libya has devolved into a political quagmire and left its population of nearly 7 million with little hope for a fix to the country’s decade of violence. … Russia, which backs Haftar, has maintained a military footprint in Libya through the shadowy mercenary Wagner Group. Western officials have warned that Russia could play a spoiler role in Libyan elections if it doesn’t throw its support behind the U.N.-brokered election plan. Al-Lafi echoed those fears. … For the entrenched elite, the tenuous present is more profitable than a renewed war, especially without the prospect of large-scale foreign support, Gazzini suggested. “They’re—cynically speaking—happier now doing business than war.” But for the bulk of ordinary Libyans, the political stasis is hardly an oasis, Salah said. Electricity is unreliable at best. Libyans wait hours in line to fill their cars up with gasoline. And parents fear that their children may face shellings while at school. “The loser here really is ordinary Libyans who just want to go about their daily lives and have a normal life,” Salah said. “People really want the situation to normalize. People want to have a dignified existence.” FP

Chad Jails More Than 400 Rebels for Life After Death of Former Ruler
The trial opened last month behind closed doors at Klessoum prison, 20 kilometres (12 miles) southeast of the capital. In early 2021, the country’s main rebel group, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), launched an offensive on the north of the country from bases in Libya. On April 20, the army announced that Marshal Deby, Chad’s iron-fisted ruler for the previous three decades, had died from wounds sustained in the fighting. His death was announced just a day after he had been declared victor of a presidential election that gave him a sixth term in office. He was immediately succeeded by one of his sons, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, who took the helm at the head of a 15-member military junta. … Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno had promised to hold free elections within 18 months, but that deadline was extended for another two years. Protests last October to mark the initially promised end to military rule met with a deadly crackdown. The Chadian authorities first put the death toll in the capital at around 50, before updating that figure to 73 deaths. Opposition groups say the number is higher. … Human Rights Watch not only denounced the mass trial but also the murders, forced disappearances, and torture that preceded it. The main leaders of Chad’s opposition now live in hiding or in exile, even though the junta lifted a suspension of several opposition parties in January. AFP

Ugandan MPs Pass Bill Imposing Death Penalty for Homosexuality
MPs in Uganda have passed a controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill, which would make homosexual acts punishable by death, attracting strong condemnation from rights campaigners. … “The bill is ill-conceived, it contains provisions that are unconstitutional, reverses the gains registered in the fight against gender-based violence, and criminalises individuals instead of conduct that contravenes all known legal norms,” said Odoi-Oywelowo [one of two MPs from the ruling party who opposed the new legislation]. “The bill doesn’t introduce any value addition to the statute book and available legislative framework,” he said. An earlier version of the bill prompted widespread international criticism and was later nullified by Uganda’s constitutional court on procedural grounds. The bill will now go to President Yoweri Museveni, who can veto or sign it into law. In a recent speech he appeared to express support for the bill. … More than 110 LGBTQ+ people in Uganda reported incidents including arrests, sexual violence, evictions and public undressing to advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) in February alone. Transgender people were disproportionately affected, said the group. … “This just opens the door for more regressive laws and for people’s rights to be violated across the board. President Museveni shouldn’t assent to it,” he said. Guardian

African Nations Consider Swapping Debt for Climate Funding
African countries saddled with debt and ravaged by losses and damages from weather events like cyclones, drought and extreme temperatures have agreed to consider swapping debt to invest in climate action in a meeting of finance ministers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The “debt-for-climate swap” option is an economic tool that allows a country’s debt to be reduced in exchange for commitments on green investments. It was among several alternative green financing models discussed at the ongoing United Nations conference for finance and economic ministers that supporters say would boost funds to adapt to climate harms, protect nature and finance local communities. It comes as many African nations are battling with the effects of costly climate change-fueled events like the ongoing drought in eastern Africa that has killed thousands and decimated livelihoods reliant on rain-fed agriculture and the aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Freddy in the south that’s left hundreds dead and thousands of others displaced. AP

Death Toll From Cyclone Freddy Passes 500 in Malawi
The death toll from tropical cyclone Freddy has risen to 507 in Malawi with 1,332 injuries, the government announced Tuesday as rescue and recovery teams continued their operations. “As of today, 21st March 2023, the number of displaced people is at 553,614 with 543 camps set to accommodate the displaced,” the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) said in a statement. “The death toll has risen from 499 to 507 with 1,332 injuries. The number of reported missing persons is at 537 from 427,” the DoDMA statement said, adding that the Malawi Defence Force (MDF), the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the United Kingdom search and rescue and recovery teams are continuing with their operations. … “The next two days will be crucial in the response efforts around Cyclone Freddy as I am conducting a number of bilateral meetings with various international partners who have already started helping us to provide support to disaster-stricken people,” President Lazarus Chakwera said on Monday. EastAfrican

First Official Estimate of Somalia’s Drought Shows 43,000 Dead
About 43,000 people died last year from the drought in Somalia, according to international agencies and the government, which on Monday released the first official death toll about the record drought devastating the Horn of Africa nation. At least half of those deaths were children under the age of 5 who had been living in south-central Somalia, the center of the drought crisis. … The researchers warned that in the first six months of this year, too, between 18,000 and 34,000 people are likely to succumb to the drought. … The drought is ravaging Somalia even as the country faces deepening insecurity and political instability. The central government in the capital, Mogadishu, is engaged in an all-out offensive against the Qaeda-linked group Al Shabab, and has received backing from local militias, African Union troops and nations including the United States. Al Shabab has viciously retaliated as it lost territory and soldiers, targeting security forces and civilians, destroying wells and blowing up trucks carrying food relief. New York Times

Somalia to Hold Elections by Universal Suffrage, President Says
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the country will organise the next national elections by universal suffrage, a departure from an indirect voting system that has often triggered crises. The fragile Horn of Africa nation has not held a one-person, one-vote election in more than 50 years. Instead, polls follow a complex indirect model, where state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president. “The next election… God willing… will be one-person-one vote that is based on a political party system,” Mohamud said late Monday. “Party platforms will be the market for selling political ideas,” he told legislators gathered in his palace in the capital Mogadishu. The country’s next polls are planned for May 2026. Clans have been the organising principle of Somalia’s politics with influential roles such as speaker, prime minister and president divided among the main clans. But rivalries between the clans have provided fertile ground for years of strife and political wrangling, that have been exploited by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants. AFP

Tunisia’s President Gives Life to a Zionism Conspiracy Theory
Ben Sghaier was catapulted into the national spotlight on the night of Feb. 21, when President Kais Saied grabbed hold of the obscure politician’s racialized theories about Black migrants in Tunisia and elevated them to central planks of state policy. In an incendiary speech that has drawn condemnation from across the globe, Saied claimed that in the years following the 2011 revolution, Tunisia’s pro-democratic political parties orchestrated a “criminal arrangement” to change the country’s “demographic composition” by importing “hordes” of Black African migrants. This conspiracy, Saied alleged, threatened to make Tunisia “an African country with no link to the Arab and Islamic nations.” … For months, the president and his closest advisers had been ingesting the bizarre musings circulated by Ben Sghaier and the TNP on Facebook, with one particularly pernicious theory gripping his attention: that Black migrants are pawns in a Zionist settler movement designed to strip Tunisia of its land and identity. The shockwaves from Saied’s speech have destabilized Tunisia, spurring pogroms of physical and sexual violence committed against Black economic migrants, card-carrying UNHCR-registered refugees and even Black Tunisians. Many were evicted from their homes or lost jobs. New Lines

Assassinations Push South Africa Toward Mafia-State Status
One of South Africa’s leading business liquidators, Cloete Murray, and his son, Thomas, were gunned down in their car on Saturday in a brazen daylight attack on the busy highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The killings sent shock waves through the country’s business and political circles, where Mr. Murray was known for recovering assets in high-profile corruption cases. In January, a bodyguard was killed during an assassination attempt against a senior official who had been fighting corruption at the University of Fort Hare. In the same month, the chief executive of South Africa’s national electricity utility reported that someone had laced his coffee with cyanide in a murder plot, and another business liquidator quit a high-profile case after receiving death threats. … After the latest assassination on Saturday, many South African political commentators said the country is becoming a mafia state, where criminal networks are deeply embedded in state-owned corporations, government departments and business sectors. South Africa has endured a series of high-profile corruption scandals involving top politicians over the past 15 years, but violence is increasingly becoming a routine method of settling political battles and winning control of government contracts and business revenue, analysts say. Globe and Mail

Artificial Intelligence Institute Set Up in South Africa
Africa is improving the way it solves problems through self-designed and self-managed artificial intelligence. This week, Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Mondli Gungubele, in partnership with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the University of Johannesburg, launched the Artificial Intelligence Institute of South Africa (AIISA). AIISA will focus on three sectors of the economy: the fourth industrial revolution in manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture and food processing. Other entities are also stepping forward to develop AI, such as Lelapa AI, which two weeks ago launched as an Africa-centric research and product laboratory. The future Lelapa AI envisions “is one in which AI helps people to solve contemporary challenges”, said chief executive Pelonomi Moiloa. Lelapa AI focuses on natural language processing, which allows the user to engage with services in their home language. Mail & Guardian

Cabo Verde Hosting First African Maritime Forces Summit
African maritime leaders along with their international counterparts are attending the first-of-its-kind African Maritime Forces Summit (AMFS) in Sal Island, Cabo Verde, this week, where they are discussing African-led solutions and areas for cooperation to improve maritime security in Africa’s waters. The US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US Sixth Fleet said the symposium is the largest maritime security-focused conference in Africa, replacing the three annual exercise related Senior Leadership Symposia (SLSs). … The Summit is designed to allow the heads of African maritime departments to review challenges African countries say they are facing in their ocean waters, and dialogue. The primary focus being “Africa-led solutions.” It is expected that participants will aim to steer progress towards increased cooperation and strengthened partnerships, all hallmarks of Biden’s US Strategy towards Africa, in effect since its launch in Pretoria last August. defenceWeb

How an Underwater Film Inspired a Marine Protected Area Off Kenya’s Coast
Famous for its sprawling nature reserves that are home to all “Big Five” animals, Kenya’s 882 miles of coastline along the Indian Ocean are often overlooked. It’s a place where people go to “chill out,” but not to observe and connect with the wild and unique ecosystem, says Kenyan filmmaker, photographer and conservationist Jahawi Bertolli. … But this rich biodiversity is increasingly under threat. Bertolli says that harmful fishing practices, such as drag netting, coupled with habitat degradation due, in part, to coastal development, pollution and an increasing human population have caused a reduction in fish populations. … In 2020, Bertolli made a short film about Lamu’s sea life and the conservation traditions of the local fishers. He called it “Bahari Yetu” – “Our Ocean” in Swahili – and began showing it the local community. The screenings were a gamechanger, he says: “When you bring back that imagery, all of a sudden people are like, ‘Oh my God. Wow, this is ours … this is our heritage, these are our reefs, this is what’s happening underwater in our ocean.’” CNN

How Will Rising Prices Hurt Ramadan Celebrations?
As the holy month of Ramadan kicks off this week, millions of Muslims around the world are feeling the pinch of inflation. Food and energy prices have been soaring around the world as Russia’s war in Ukraine, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change-related events weigh on the global economy. … Over in Kenya, Sheikh Juma Ngao is preparing for an unusual Ramadan. As it is, 17 percent of the country’s population lives in extreme poverty. But an inflation rate that has stubbornly persisted above 9 percent since last September is adding to the woes of most Kenyans. Demonstrators took to the streets of the capital, Nairobi, and several other cities on Monday to protest against the high cost of living in the first major outbreak of political violence in the East African nation since President William Ruto took office six months ago. Additionally, a severe drought means that an estimated 5.4 million Kenyans are likely to have to go without adequate food and water between March and June. Staples like ugali, a stiff wheat porridge, are now costlier, because of disruptions to the country’s food imports caused by the war in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine together supplied African countries with more than 40 percent (PDF) of all its wheat imports before the Kremlin’s invasion last year, according to United Nations figures. Al Jazeera

Young Poets Lend Their Talents to Promote Peace, Marking the 75th Anniversary of UN Peacekeeping
“Across identities and differences… over countries and continents… it is not hard to choose peace.” These lines are from a new poem created to mark the 75th anniversary of UN peacekeeping operations. Called “Peace begins with me” the poem pays tribute to the strength and resilience of communities affected by conflict as well as those who help them rebuild their lives and livelihoods. It is a reminder of our responsibility to promote peace in our communities, countries and across the world – a conviction that has driven more than two million men and women to serve in over 70 peacekeeping operations since 1948. “Peace means everything to me” says Pacifique Akilimali, who penned the poem with Nigerian peace activist and poet Maryam Abu Hassan. “The only thing I know since I was born is war… peace has been a dream for a long time now.” … Over the last 75 years, UN Peacekeeping, a critical global instrument for maintaining peace, security, and stability, has evolved to adapt to the changing political landscape and nature of conflicts. UN News