Africa Media Review for March 25, 2024

Senegalese Await the Outcome of a Peaceful Presidential Vote, Following Months of Unrest
Senegalese anxiously awaited the results of a presidential election Monday, following months of uncertainty and unrest that tested the country’s reputation as a stable democracy in a region rife with coups. The vote Sunday was largely peaceful with a high turnout, observers said. Results from polling stations that had completed counting were posted overnight on social media with official announcements expected later this week. More than 7 million people were registered to vote in a country of roughly 17 million. To win in the first round, a candidate must gain more than 50% or it goes to a runoff…This is Senegal’s fourth democratic transfer of power since gaining independence from France more than six decades ago. It took place one month later than initially scheduled after President Macky Sall tried to delay it until the end of the year. Sall is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term and is expected to step down on April 2 when his mandate ends. AP

Senegal Opposition’s Faye Leads Early Presidential Election Results
Early results in Senegal’s presidential polls suggested opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye may have clinched an outright majority, though his rival in the ruling coalition said a run-off vote would be needed to determine the winner. Opposition supporters celebrated in the streets of the capital Dakar on Sunday after local media channels started announcing polling station tallies that put Faye, 44, comfortably ahead of his main rival, Amadou Ba. Several other opposition contenders in Sunday’s election conceded defeat to Faye during the night. Official results are expected to be announced by the Dakar appeals court on Friday. Many hope the delayed vote will bring stability and an economic boost to the West African nation after three years of unprecedented political turbulence. Ba is the candidate backed by outgoing President Macky Sall, who is stepping down amid a drop in popularity after two terms in office marred by economic hardship and violent anti-government protests. Reuters

Chad Interim President Deby and PM Cleared for Presidential Election
Chad’s Constitutional Council on Sunday cleared 10 candidates for this year’s long-awaited presidential election, including interim President Mahamat Idriss Deby and the country’s recently-appointed prime minister…Deby initially promised an 18-month transition to elections after he seized power in 2021, when his long-ruling father was killed in clashes with rebels. But his government later adopted resolutions that postponed elections until 2024 and allowed him to run for president, triggering protests that were violently quelled by security forces…The candidate list released on Sunday included opposition leader Succes Masra, appointed as prime minister of the transitional government in January. It is the first time is Chad’s history that a president and a prime minister will face each other in a presidential poll…The first round of voting is scheduled to take place on May 6 and the second round on June 22, with provisional results due on July 7. Chad’s military government is one of several juntas currently ruling in West and Central Africa. There have been eight coups in the region since 2020, sparking concerns of a democratic backslide. It is the first of those transitional authorities to organise elections. Reuters

Kuriga Kidnap: Nigerian Pupils Taken in Mass Abduction Freed
Nigerian pupils taken by gunmen in a mass abduction in the north-western town of Kuriga earlier this month have been freed “unharmed”, officials say. Kaduna state governor Uba Sani said they had been rescued thanks to the courage of the security forces. The school authorities had said more than 280 children were taken, but the army said 137 hostages had been freed. It said the operation took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, days before a ransom deadline. Officials have not yet commented on the discrepancy in numbers. A security source told Reuters news agency the students had been freed in a forest and were being taken to Kaduna for medical tests before being allowed to see their families. The mass abduction occurred on the morning of 7 March during assembly in a compound housing a junior and senior school. BBC

Two Nigerian Students Are Killed and 23 Injured in a Stampede to Get Donated Rice
Hundreds of students in northern Nigeria rushed to get food donated to their school by the government to help ease hardship, resulting in a stampede that left two dead and 23 others injured, school authorities said Friday. Africa’s most populous country is facing one of its worst economic crises in decades, triggered by surging inflation and a declining local currency. They followed the introduction of new monetary policies by President Bola Tinubu, who since his election last year has set out to stabilize the economy and attract foreign investment. The students of Nasarawa State University near the nation’s capital, Abuja, had gathered to receive bags of rice donated by the state government. The situation got out of control following a crowd surge, university spokesperson Abraham Habu Ekpo said…It is not the first time this year that distribution of food has triggered a deadly stampede, as citizens in the country of more than 210 million people are becoming more desperate because of growing hunger and job losses. AP

Nigeria Food Banks Cut Back on Handouts as Prices Soar
The Lagos Food Bank is a crucial lifeline to residents…, but has seen supplies from private and other donors fall as inflation soars in Africa’s biggest economy…In the past, the imposing warehouse of Lagos Food Bank would be fully stocked with bags of Nigerian staples like rice, beans and vegetable oil. Not anymore. Founder Michael Sunbola said the facility’s major donor had cut supplies by 93%, citing the high cost of food. The food bank has now dialled back on quantities, providing families with enough supplies for a few days at a time when once their parcels would have lasted two weeks. The facility is also having to “narrow down the number of people we want to reach out to”, said Sunbola of the people invited to use the service. Reuters

Malawi Follows Zambia in Declaring Drought Disaster as El Niño Brings Hunger to Southern Africa
The southern African nation of Malawi has declared a state of disaster over drought in 23 of its 28 districts and the president says it urgently needs more than $200 million in humanitarian assistance, less than a month after neighboring Zambia also appealed for help. Malawi is the latest country in the region to have its food supply crippled by a severe dry spell that’s been linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon. A third country, Zimbabwe, has also seen much of its crops decimated and is considering following suit and declaring a drought disaster, underlining concerns raised by the U.N. World Food Programme late last year that numerous nations in southern Africa were on the brink of a hunger crisis because of the impact of El Niño. The WFP said there were already nearly 50 million people in southern and parts of central Africa facing food insecurity even before one of the driest spells in decades hit…Last month was the driest February in 40 years for Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to the WFP’s seasonal monitor, while Malawi, Mozambique and parts of Angola had “severe rainfall deficits.” AP

Mass Grave with Bodies of at Least 65 Migrants Found in the Deserts of Western Libya
The U.N.’s migration agency expressed alarm Friday over the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of at least 65 migrants in the deserts of western Libya. Earlier [last] week, Libya’s criminal investigations authority reported the grave had been found in the Shuayrif region, 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of the capital, Tripoli. On its Facebook page, it said 65 bodies of unidentified migrants had been unearthed from the grave, samples were taken for DNA testing and the bodies were reburied in a specified graveyard for later investigation. The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration said the nationalities of the discovered migrants and the circumstances of their deaths was not known, but that they likely died while being smuggled through the desert…Human traffickers have benefited from the political chaos in Libya to smuggle migrants across its long, desert borders, often a deadly route. Once at the coast, migrants are crowded onto ill-equipped vessels, including rubber boats, and set off on risky sea voyages. AP

3 People Are Dead, Several Missing after Migrant Boat Runs into Trouble off Southeastern Spain
A boat carrying a group of migrants ran into trouble off the coast of southeastern Spain killing at least three people and several others were believed missing, authorities said Friday. Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service said in a statement that two survivors and three bodies were found on a partially sunken boat off the coast near the town of Motril. The two survivors said the boat had been carrying 12 people when it set sail from Algeria six days ago, leading authorities to suspect seven others may have fallen into the sea. The two survivors and three bodies were taken by helicopter to the mainland. Tens of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan countries fleeing poverty, conflict and instability in West Africa try to reach Spain each year in large open boats. Most go to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, while others from Morocco, Algeria and Middle Eastern countries try to cross the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean to mainland Spain. Several thousand die making the hazardous journey. AP

Al Shabaab Launches Deadly Attack on Military Base in Somalia
At least 17 people were killed in Somalia on Saturday after Islamist group al Shabaab attacked a military base. The Busley base, in the Lower Shabelle region in the country’s southwest, was briefly occupied by the attackers, security officials and the group said. Armed fighters from al Shabaab battled their way to the facility using suicide car bombs, a Somalia military officer told Reuters. He declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media…Seven Somalia soldiers, including the commander of the base, and 10 al Shabaab fighters were killed in the fighting, he said. Some residents in the area told Reuters al Shabaab also burned military vehicles and took others during the assault. Al Shabaab issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack. It said it had killed 57 government soldiers. The group frequently gives casualty figures that are higher than those of the government. Reuters

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Attack on Niger Army That Killed Dozens
The Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for an attack on Niger’s army that it said had killed 30 soldiers on Wednesday. The group said in a statement carried by its AMAQ news agency and posted on its Telegram channel that the soldiers were killed in an ambush on a convoy near the town of Teguey in the Tillaberi region in the west of the country. Niger’s defence ministry said late on Thursday that 23 soldiers were killed in the attack, which also wounded 17 more. Around 30 attackers were killed, it added. Niger is one of several West African countries battling an Islamist insurgency that has spread outwards from Mali over the past 12 years, killing thousands and uprooting millions of people. Reuters

Southern African Bloc Renews Commitment to Fight Armed Groups in Eastern Congo
Southern African regional leaders on Saturday reiterated their commitment to their peacekeeping mission in restive eastern Congo and condemned a letter of protest by Rwanda written last month opposing United Nations support for the mission. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) deployed its Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC) on Dec. 15 to assist the Congolese government in restoring peace and security in the east, where violent clashes have escalated. Leaders meeting at a summit in Zambia’s capital Lusaka on Saturday reiterated a commitment from SADC’s mutual defence pact stating that “an armed attack against one shall be deemed a threat to regional peace and security,” they said in a statement. Congo is one of the bloc’s 16 members. SADC’s members approved the mission in eastern Congo in May 2023 with a mandate to support the Congolese army in its fight against armed rebel groups. Reuters

Tunisia Detains Prominent Journalist Mohamed Boughalleb
The Tunisia public prosecutor detained prominent journalist Mohamed Boughalleb on Friday on suspicion of insulting a public official…The detention of Boughalleb, who has been a critic of President Kais Saied, reinforces activists’ fears that the government was increasingly restricting freedoms ahead of presidential elections expected this year…The police on Friday began questioning Boughalleb, an independent journalist, amid a broad campaign of support from journalists and activists who called on Saied to stop restricting freedom of speech. Saied seized extra powers in 2021 when he shut down the elected parliament and moved to rule by decree before assuming authority over the judiciary. Since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, press freedom has been a key gain for Tunisians and its media has become one of the most open of any Arab state. However, politicians, journalists and unions say that freedom of the press faces a serious threat under the rule of Saied, who came to power in 2019 in free elections. Reuters

Egypt Frees Last of Al Jazeera Journalists It Had Detained
Egypt has freed the last two Al Jazeera journalists who remained in detention in the North African country following a thaw in relations with Qatar, the Doha-based network said on Friday. One of the journalists, Bahaa Eldin Ibrahim, had returned home after being freed, his wife Mona Gamal Eldin confirmed. The head of Egypt’s journalism syndicate posted a photo on Facebook of the second journalist, Rabie el-Sheikh, at his home. The journalists, both Egyptian, had been held in pre-trial detention for about four years. Ties between Egypt and Qatar deteriorated after Egypt’s then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi led the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi in 2013, rising to the presidency the following year. Egypt accused Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for the Islamist group, banning the broadcaster and arresting a number of its journalists. In 2017, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain launched a boycott of Qatar over charges it supported terrorism, an accusation Qatar denied. An agreement to end the row was struck early in 2021, and Qatar and Egypt have moved quickly to rebuild relations. The release of Ibrahim and Sheikh follows Egypt’s freeing of Al Jazeera journalists Hisham Abdelaziz in May 2023, and Ahmed Al Nagdy in September 2022. Reuters