Africa Media Review for May 6, 2024

Chad Votes in First Sahel Presidential Poll since Wave of Coups
Chadians lined up on Monday to vote three years after military leader Mahamat Idris Deby seized power, in the first presidential election in Africa’s Sahel region since a wave of coups…Some 8.5 million people registered to vote. Provisional results are expected by May 21 and final results by June 5. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the votes, a run-off will be held on June 22…Some opposition members and civil society groups have called for a boycott, citing concerns about possible vote-rigging. That has raised fears of potential violence…Some observers did not get their accreditations before the vote and were not given any reason for the refusal, Citizens’ Alliance for Elections (ACET), a platform that monitors the poll, said in a statement on Sunday. Reuters

What’s at Stake in Chad’s Presidential Election?
Major opposition leaders have been harassed, or in worse cases, killed, like Yaya Dillo, who was a cousin of [General Mahamat Deby]…[Prime Minister Succes Masra] was the strongest opposition figure until his appointment in January 2024, campaigning under the Transformers Party…Some experts say the elections are merely a formality to help Deby assure his hold on power. Since the killing of Dillo and the co-option of Masra, there has not been enough time for another strong opposition figure to emerge…“I suspect that we can look back at the last six years or so and get a good idea of what the next six years will look like: essentially, a heavily tilted economy [and] high levels of corruption that benefit more or less the same networks of politically connected folks,” [Dan Eizenga, a researcher with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies] said. Al Jazeera

Military Regimes Have Turned the Sahel into a ‘Black Hole’ of Information
Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger have been turned into “information deserts”, observers warned, following the suspension or closure of over a dozen media outlets – including RFI and France 24 – over the past three years…The space for press freedom has shrunk considerably in the face of pressure, arrests or – as in Burkina Faso – forced conscription into the army. As a result of the swathe of coups across West Africa, most coverage of the region comes from abroad – not least by journalists from Sahel countries who are now in exile…Due to increased surveillance, investigative reporting on armies and their auxiliaries – as well as on conflicts – is generally avoided by colleagues working in the central Sahel. RFI

Trafficking in the Sahel: Cracking Down on Illicit Drugs
According to a new report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drug trafficking in the Sahel continues to hinder security, economic development and the rule of law while jeopardising public health…The region’s geographical location makes it a “natural stopover point” for the increasing amount of cocaine produced in South America en route to Europe…Recent seizures, arrests, and detentions in the Sahel region reveal how drug trafficking is facilitated by a wide range of individuals, which can include members of the political elite, community leaders and heads of armed groups…The report also…found that terrorist organisation affiliates are likely to benefit indirectly through exacting zakat, a form of wealth tax, from traffickers and taxing convoys that cross areas under their control. UN News

Togo’s Ruling Party Wins a Majority in Parliament, Likely Keeping a Dynasty in Power
Togo’s ruling party has won a majority of seats in the West African nation’s parliament, the election commission said as it announced provisional results of last week’s vote that was rejected by the opposition as part of a move to extend President Faure Gnassingbe’s tenure…The new constitutional provision provides for a presidential tenure of four years with a two-term limit. It makes it likely that 57-year-old Gnassingbe — in power since 2005 — would be reelected by the new parliament when his mandate expires in 2025, and could stay in power until 2033…In some places like the capital of Lome, turnout was as low as 33% while it was up to 97% in the ruling party’s strongholds in the north. AP

Sudanese Refugees Flee UN Camp in Ethiopia Following Attacks
At least 1,000 Sudanese refugees have fled a camp run by the United Nations in northern Ethiopia following a series of shootings and robberies, three of the refugees and the United Nations said. The refugees said [they] left on foot early on Wednesday morning after they were attacked and robbed by local militiamen. They said they were detained by the police shortly after leaving the camp, which is 70 km (43 miles) from the Sudanese border in Ethiopia’s Amhara region…Sudanese refugees in Kumer told UNHCR in a recent letter that they have been facing rampant insecurity for months, including kidnappings for ransom, killings and armed robberies. Reuters

The UN Warns Sudan’s Warring Parties That Darfur Risks Starvation and Death If Aid Isn’t Allowed In
Leni Kinzli, the World Food Program’s regional spokesperson, said at least 1.7 million people in Darfur were experiencing emergency levels of hunger in December, and the number “is expected to be much higher today.”…She said the violence in El Fasher and surrounding North Darfur is exacerbating the critical humanitarian needs in the entire Darfur region, where crop production for staple cereals like wheat, sorghum and millet is 78% less than the five-year average…Kinzli said the fighting “and endless bureaucratic hurdles” have prevented WFP from delivering aid to over 700,000 people in Darfur ahead of the rainy season when many roads become impassable. AP

Journalists under Attack, Media Devastated amidst Sudanese Conflict
[Iman Fadl Al-Sayed, Secretary of Freedoms at the Sudanese Journalists Syndicate] revealed that the Sudanese government is targeting journalists, with 20 facing arrest based on accusations of belonging to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF)…The Syndicate estimated that 90% of media infrastructure has been destroyed or looted, leading to closures and “the absence of professional media and the assassination of truth due to a lack of credible information and news.”…This attack on journalists and the media is silencing independent reporting and replacing it with propaganda. The Sudanese people are left in the dark, unable to rely on a free press for accurate information about the ongoing conflict, she emphasized. Sudan Tribune

South Sudan Removes Newly Imposed Taxes That Had Triggered Suspension of UN Food Airdrops
Following an appeal from the United Nations, South Sudan removed recently imposed taxes and fees that had triggered suspension of U.N. food airdrops. Thousands of people in the country depend on aid from the outside. The U.N. [last] week urged South Sudanese authorities to remove the new taxes, introduced in February. The measures applied to charges for electronic cargo tracking, security escort fees and fuel. In its announcement on Friday, the government said it was keeping charges on services rendered by firms contracted by the U.N peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. AP

Africa States Still Abet Abuse of Human Rights, Report Says
In its report, “State of the World’s Human Rights,” Amnesty International says African governments remained largely indifferent to calls to tackle impunity, thereby allowing it to flourish, fuelling the cycle of violations and abuses, and disregard for the rule of law. Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Kenya have all been fingered for official human rights abuses. Country-specific instances cite Eritrean Defence Forces, sexual violence in the DRC and Mali targeting women and girls. Besides conflict-related abuses, the repression of dissent and freedom of assembly in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal and Somalia. The EastAfrican

Nigeria Gunmen Kill 25 in Raids on Northwest Villages
Gunmen from criminal gangs killed 25 people when they raided four villages in northwestern Nigeria in reprisals over military offensives on their hideouts, a local security official said Friday. The attacks on Thursday took place in Katsina State, one of the regions in northwest Nigeria hit by armed gangs known locally as bandits who carry out mass kidnappings for ransom and looting raids on villages…Many communities in northwest Nigeria have formed self-defense vigilante forces to fight off bandits in remote areas with little state presence, and the two sides are locked in a spiral of tit-for-tat killings and reprisals. AFP

A Military Court Sentences 8 Congolese Army Soldiers to Death for Cowardice, Other Crimes
A military court in eastern Congo on Friday sentenced eight soldiers to death for cowardice and other crimes linked to fleeing the battlefield, as the government struggles to contain violence and attacks in the mineral-rich area where many armed groups operate. In March, Congo lifted a more than 20-year moratorium on the death penalty, stating that those guilty of treason and espionage were able to get away without proper punishment. Human rights organizations criticized the decision…Moïse Hangi, a civil society activist, told the AP that “instead of repairing our security apparatus, these kinds of decisions will increasingly weaken our army and make those on the lines of defense more fearful.” AP

US Blames Rwanda and Rebels for Deadly Camp Strike
The US has blamed the Rwandan army and M23 rebel group for the deadly bombing of a displacement camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At least nine people, including seven children, were killed in the strike on the Mugunga camp in the eastern city of Goma on Friday. The Congolese army and M23 blamed each other for the attack…The US State Department said Friday’s attack came from positions held by the RDF and the M23 group…Images circulating on social media showed bodies lying on the ground at the camp on Friday. Most residents had fled there to escape fighting in their home towns and villages. BBC

South Africa’s 2024 Election: What You Need to Know
South Africans vote in national and provincial elections on May 29 that could test the African National Congress 30-year rule. After the vote, held every five years, the new National Assembly will choose the country’s next president from among its members…Voting is under a proportional system where parties and candidates are competing for 400 seats in the National Assembly. Parties on the national ballot will contest 200 of those seats while the other 200 are divided between the nine regions and contested by parties and independent candidates…For the first time, independent candidates are allowed to compete for seats in the National Assembly and in provincial legislatures. Reuters

Oil Majors Offered Faster Nigerian Exit If They Pay for Cleanup
Exxon, Shell, TotalEnergies, and Eni have all sought to leave Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger delta in recent years citing security concerns, including theft and sabotage, to focus on deepwater drilling. However, their exits have been delayed by regulatory hurdles. At a meeting with the companies in Abuja, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) chief Gbenga Komolafe offered a short-term option with faster approval if the companies commit to cleaning up spills and compensating communities…The second long-term option involves waiting for NURPC to identify and assign all liabilities, potentially delaying the final approval until August. Reuters