Africa Media Review for May 7, 2024

Chad Vote Counting Begins after Tense First Sahel Presidential Poll since Coups
Chad deployed dozens of security forces in the capital amid rising tensions on Monday as polls closed and vote counting began in the first presidential election in Africa’s Sahel region since a wave of coups. Soldiers and riot police patrolled the streets alongside at least 30 armoured and other military vehicles in the opposition-friendly southern neighbourhoods of the capital N’Djamena, according to Reuters reporters. The streets, normally bustling in the final hours of voting, were quiet…Some 8.5 million people were 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. Reuters

The Bleak Life of a Deposed President and His Wife, Held Captive
Nine months since he was toppled in one of the coups that have recently wracked West Africa, Mohamed Bazoum is lingering in detention with no end in sight. The military junta that deposed him is seeking to strip him of presidential immunity, paving the way for him to be prosecuted on charges such as treason, for which the penalty could be life imprisonment, his lawyers said…Trapped with his wife, Hadiza, and two domestic workers, he has no access to a phone and is not allowed to see his lawyers, other family members or friends, according to members of his inner circle who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the precariousness of the situation. His only visitor is a doctor, who brings him food once a week…After the junta accused Mr. Bazoum of trying to escape in October, it curtailed his movement even further, trapping him, his family and his domestic workers into a wing of the residence. Soldiers are now stationed inside and have removed keys from the doors inside the residence, so that Mr. Bazoum cannot lock them for privacy…Mr. Bazoum spends his days exercising on an indoor bike and reading Marxist theory, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” The New York Times

Nigerian Journalist’s Arrest Last Week Triggers Criticism of Worsening Press Freedoms
Daniel Ojukwu with the Foundation for Investigative Journalism went missing last Wednesday in the economic hub of Lagos. His family and employer found out on Friday that he was detained and held in a police station for allegedly violating the country’s Cybercrime Act, often criticized as a tool for censorship. The arrest of Ojukwu, who was later transferred to the Nigerian capital of Abuja, follows his report about alleged financial mismanagement of over 147 million naira ($104,600) involving a senior government official, according to his employer, the foundation…The Cybercrime Act was amended this year to remove some harsh provisions but the police still use it to “silence journalists and critics,” Amnesty International’s Nigeria office said. AP

Nigeria Cuts Back Electricity Sales to Overseas Customers to Boost Domestic Supply
Nigeria’s electricity regulator has ordered the grid operator to cut back supplies to customers overseas to boost domestic supply. In a directive issued last Friday, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) said the grid operator’s current approach in managing supply has caused significant hardship for Nigerians because supply under bilateral contracts, including export to international customers, takes priority over supply to domestic customers. The regulator said it was placing a cap of 6% on the total available grid generation to international off-takers for the next six months, effective from May 1. Nigerian power firms have contracts with neighbouring African countries to deliver energy, which gives them foreign currency to support revenue from sub-economic tariffs. However, these companies have not always paid their bills on time. Reuters

Nigeria to Charge Levy on Domestic Transfers to Fund Cybersecurity
Nigeria’s central bank plans to charge a levy on domestic money transfers to help fund cybersecurity, it said. In a circular published late on Monday, the central bank told all banks and mobile money operators to charge 0.5% of the value of electronic transfers as a cybersecurity levy, starting in two weeks.
The bank said the funds will be managed by the country’s security adviser’s office and that non-compliance will attract a charge of 2% of the institution’s annual turnover. The new levy follows a clampdown on cryptocurrency, which officials have blamed for Nigeria’s currency weakness. The naira has hit record lows due to dollar shortages as crypto transactions in the country have flourished. Reuters

Ethiopia’s Amhara Militia Says Resettlement Plan ‘Beats War Drum’
The future of the disputed territories in northern Ethiopia has remained a flashpoint between Tigray and Amhara since the end of a 2020-2022 civil war…Some of the worst violence was in the two territories, which constitute the southern and western parts of Tigray under the federal constitution. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tigrayans fled, and Amhara fighters set up their own governing administration. The vice president of Tigray’s interim administration, General Tadesse Worede, said on Wednesday that Tigrayan officials had agreed with the federal government to finalise plans for the return of displaced people…Amhara nationalists say they have a historical right to the land, and leaders of an Amhara militia known as Fano described Tadesse’s comments as provocation. Reuters

Is Zimbabwe Zigzagging into Further Currency Chaos?
Known as the Zig, which stands for “Zimbabwe gold”, [Zimbabwe’s new currency] was introduced a month ago and replaces the digital RTGS currency and cash “bond notes”. The move is supposed to help tackle inflation and hyperinflation – a disease that has plagued Zimbabwe for the last two decades. This led the government to abolish the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009 and ever since, most people have been using the US dollar…Many citizens, desperate to escape this mess, cross illegally into South Africa in search of an elusive economically sustainable future. [However,] there are two economic realities at play in Zimbabwe – in the wealthier northern suburbs of the capital, you will find shopping malls with Belgian chocolates, international wines and very large cheese burgers, where local currency is not needed. For everyone else, the Zig notes will become a reality. BBC

Malawi Court Drops Corruption Charges against Vice President
A court in Malawi has dropped corruption charges against the country’s Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima, clearing a legal hurdle over his potential candidacy in next year’s presidential election. Chilima was arrested in 2022 over graft allegations after the country’s corruption watchdog alleged he was rewarded for assisting Xaviar Ltd and Malachitte FZE, two companies connected to British businessman Zuneth Sattar, to be awarded contracts by the Malawi Government…In a notice seen by Reuters, Judge Redson Kapindu said the decision to drop the charges was after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) filed a notice for the case to be discontinued. Kapindu ordered the DPP to provide reasons for discontinuing the case to the legal affairs committee of parliament within 10 days as required by the country’s constitution. Reuters

Mozambique’s Ruling Party Announces Chapo as Presidential Candidate
Mozambique’s ruling FRELIMO party has announced Daniel Chapo will be its presidential candidate in an election scheduled for October. FRELIMO has governed the southern African country since gaining independence in 1975 and hopes Chapo will lead the party to another victory in the Oct. 9 election…A relatively unknown figure in national politics, Chapo is the governor of the southern Mozambican province of Inhambane…A former radio announcer, Chapo was born in 1977, making him the first FRELIMO candidate born after the country’s independence. He holds a law degree and a Master’s degree in development management and has filled a string of political roles including as an administrator of the districts of Nacala and Palma. Reuters

At Least 107 Migrants Freed from Captivity in Southeast Libya, Spokesman Says
At least 107 migrants including women and children have been freed from captivity in a town in southeast Libya, a security force spokesman said on Monday. Walid Alorafi, spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Benghazi, said according to some migrants, they were held in captivity for up to seven months and “they wanted to go to Europe.” The migrants are from a variety of sub-Saharan countries but mainly from Somalia, Alorafi said…CID posted video footage of their force demolishing the house where the migrants were held. Other footage included shots of migrants with torture marks on their bodies…Libya has become a transit route for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty to Europe via the dangerous route across the desert and over the Mediterranean…Its oil-based economy is also a draw for migrants seeking work. Reuters

Call for Port Extension to Be Halted as Genocide Remains Are Found on Namibia’s Shark Island
Forensic Architecture, a non-profit research agency, said it had located sites of executions, forced labour, imprisonment and sexual violence that occurred when [Shark Island] was used by the German empire as a concentration camp between 1905 and 1907. More than 65,000 Herero people and 10,000 Nama were killed by German troops between 1904 and 1908 in what is widely acknowledged as the first genocide of the 20th century…Many were killed in the camp on the island, which is now a peninsula. Researchers said there was a “credible” risk that human remains could be found in the waters around the peninsula’s port, which the authorities want to expand to support green hydrogen production along the country’s south coast…Researchers have called for a moratorium on all development projects in the area and for wider investigations into potential underwater graves. The Guardian

Four EAC Partners Join the Kenya-Uganda SGR Project
Four East African Community member states [Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan last] week joined the Kenya and Uganda joint project to develop a modern railway on the Northern Corridor. But lack of funds continues to haunt the joint standard gauge railway (SGR), which terminated in Naivasha, in Kenya’s Central Rift region…The two governments hoped to finalise joint resource mobilisation before December 2023 to fund the line from Naivasha to Malaba, then onwards to Kampala, and from Kampala to Kasese-Mpondwe with a branch line from Bihanga to Mirama hills to ferry goods from Mombasa to Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. To ensure the connection between Mombasa and Kinshasa, the ministers committed to assent and ratify the existing SGR Protocol and the SGR Tripartite Agreement by the DRC. The five partner states agreed to establish a framework that facilitates cross-border maintenance of the SGR assets and facilities. The EastAfrican

Burkina Faso: In the Village, It’s Too Dangerous to Dance. But a Bigger Stage Awaited.
[A traditional dance troupe from Burkina Faso’s Sahel administrative region, one of the most dangerous areas in a country racked in recent years by violence committed by Islamist extremists,] traveled in a military convoy to reach the competition, moving in armored cars with soldiers at the ready through parts of the country where Islamist extremists have banned their violins, drums and dance moves…At this national festival, the troupe would face off against teams from across Burkina Faso. At stake was pride and money. For the Sahel team, it was also about resistance…The week-long festival in Bobo-Dioulasso, typically held every two years, is intended to promote the diversity of cultures across Burkina Faso’s 13 regions, celebrating everything from traditional dance to wrestling to cooking, with competitions, fairs and exhibitions…Aïssatou Maiga, 24, whose cousin was killed last year by militants when he refused to join them, said she never hesitated when thinking about the nearly 400-mile journey from the Sahel region to the festival. “Because when I am dancing,” she said, “it is the only time I am at ease.” The Washington Post