Africa Media Review for November 15, 2023

Historic Nail-Biter: Liberia Awaits Results of Pivotal Election Showdown
As Liberia anxiously awaits the final results of its historical first election, preliminary data suggests a nail-biting contest between incumbent President George Weah and former Vice President Joseph Boakai. The National Elections Commission is set to announce the official results tomorrow, adding to the suspense gripping the nation. Both candidates have so far demonstrated strong performances in their respective strongholds, making it a closely contested race. Analysts are now emphasizing that each candidate’s performance in areas traditionally loyal to their opponent could determine the outcome of the race. If Weah were to lose the election, it would mark a historic moment in Liberian politics, making him the first president in the nation’s history to be denied a second term. Boakai, on the other hand, would become the second presidential candidate to return a former ruling party to power since 1878 when the True Whig Party achieved this feat. A potential victory for Weah would be groundbreaking, with him becoming the first candidate in Liberian history to defeat the same political opponent twice. In the 2017 runoff, Weah secured a decisive win against Boakai, with a 61.5% to 38.5% margin. Liberian Observer

Madagascar’s President Seeks Reelection. Most Challengers Are Boycotting and Hope Voters Do, To
Madagascar’s Andry Rajoelina is pushing ahead with a presidential election that could give him a second term, even as opposition protests roil the island nation and the majority of candidates have announced a boycott. Rajoelina, a 49-year-old former DJ, initially faced 12 competitors for Thursday’s election. But a collective of 10 candidates on Monday said they would not take part, claiming the electoral process is full of flaws. They encouraged people to stay away from polling booths…They have organized peaceful marches across the capital almost every day since late September but security forces have violently put them down, leading to serious injuries and dozens of arrests. The protests on the the Indian Ocean island intensified in recent weeks as the opposition, some churches and civil society pushed for a postponement. The election was postponed by a week from Nov. 9 by the country’s highest court after one candidate was injured during protests when security forces fired tear gas. Many in Madagascar and in the international community had hoped this election would break with the past of disputed votes, coups and political instability that have characterized the country since gaining independence from France in 1960.  AP

Congo Opposition Parties Discuss Joint Election Candidate, Fair Vote
Representatives of Congo’s main opposition parties began talks this week in Pretoria on how to ensure the general election on Dec. 20 will be fair and to decide on a potential joint candidate to challenge President Felix Tshisekedi. A crowded opposition field of 25 candidates has been officially approved by the electoral commission in Democratic Republic of Congo to face Tshisekedi who is seeking a second term. Campaigning for the election in Congo…will start on Nov. 20. Opposition candidates include Tshisekedi’s old rivals such as Martin Fayulu, a 66-year-old former Exxon Mobil executive who came second in the disputed 2018 presidential vote which he claimed to have won, and first-timers such as Congo’s renowned Nobel Peace Prize-winning gynaecologist Denis Mukwege. Fayulu told Reuters that discussions were to ensure that the elections were transparent. “The question of a joint candidacy will certainly be discussed in due course,” Fayulu said, adding that the main concern was to agree ground rules for holding peaceful elections. A divided opposition field could be an advantage for Tshisekedi in a single round election that requires a simple majority of the vote to win. Reuters

Death of Political Activist in Zimbabwe Increases Fears of Crisis
An activist with Zimbabwe’s main opposition party was found dead on the side of a road in the capital, Harare, the police said on Tuesday. A party spokesman said he had been abducted while campaigning in a local election over the weekend. The death of the activist, Tapfumanei Masaya, is the latest in what opposition and civil society leaders say has been a string of violent episodes fueling a growing political crisis in the southern African nation since national elections were held in August…Mr. Masaya’s death has raised alarm in a nation where, officials with Citizens Coalition for Change say, at least four of their members have been killed since last year. Mr. Masaya was the fourth party member to have been abducted and tortured over the past two months — though the other three survived, according to a post on X, formerly Twitter, by David Coltart, a senator with the party…The lack of police intervention or other efforts by the state to curb the violence “creates a culture of impunity in the country, and those behind the abductions and rights abuses would continue doing it, knowing that nothing would happen to them,” said Rawlings Magede, spokesman for Heal Zimbabwe Trust, a nonprofit peace-building organization. The New York Times

M23 Rebels Retake DRC Village Where They’re Accused of Massacre
The M23 rebel group has retaken the village of Kishishe in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it is accused of having committed a massacre late last year, local sources said Tuesday. The rebels, who are backed by Rwanda according to numerous sources, had withdrawn from the village at the beginning of April, at the same time as they left other localities in the North Kivu Province, which they had seized the previous year. But after six months of relative calm, violent fighting resumed in early October between the rebels and the army, allied with so-called “patriot” armed groups. Since then, the M23 appears to have gradually reoccupied positions they had vacated. Kishishe has been largely deserted by its inhabitants, but fighting nonetheless took place there for two days, before the army stepped in, according to sources interviewed by telephone from Goma, the provincial capital…The hills around Kishishe are historic strongholds of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a militia created by Rwandan Hutu leaders who carried out the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. In November 2022, M23 rebels killed 171 people in Kishishe, according to the UN, mainly boys and men they accused of being militiamen…The Tutsi-led M23 rebels (“March 23 Movement”) was defeated in 2013, but took up arms again in November 2021 in North Kivu, bordering Rwanda and Uganda. AFP

Sudan: The Battle over Khartoum’s Bridges
Khartoum state is home to 10 bridges that connect various neighbourhoods across the twin rivers in the cities: the Blue Nile, the White Nile, and the main Nile rivers in which they merge. These bridges connect the cities of Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North (Bahri). They are not only important crossings for those within the city but also for the wider region. Up north, you will not find another bridge over the Nile until you reach Shendi or Atbara in River Nile state and down south, you will find the first opportunity to cross the White Nile in Kosti, White Nile state, more than 300km south of Khartoum. Both are hours away from Sudan’s capital, even if an unhindered drive would be possible, which it is not in wartime. Khartoum has been a key battleground since war broke out between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in mid-April, and both parties control parts of the cities…If the army manages to prevent the RSF from gaining a passage to the west of the Nile rivers, that will change the power dynamics in the next weeks…If the RSF in Khartoum is denied any contact with the west and thus deprived of supply lines, it could also lead to a de facto split in the country between east and west…This would be a nightmare for many Sudanese people because it would split the country in half. Radio Dabanga

Sudanese Women Meet in Cairo to Coordinate Peace Efforts
Calls for peace filled the air as representatives from over 20 existing and newly emerging women’s anti-war initiatives from various civic and political backgrounds and geographical locations within Sudan gathered in Cairo, Egypt…The United Nations Women, UN Integrated Transition Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), Crisis Management Initiative and Inclusive Peace organized the three-day meeting entitled “Strategy Meeting: Towards Enhancing Coordination among Women’s Groups.” After the conflict erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in mid-April), various Sudanese women’s groups mobilized to address the situation by actively promoting peace and strongly denouncing hostilities. They also advocated for participation of women in humanitarian and peace initiatives. Women are credited for formulating political, relief and rights initiatives that aim to end the war through enhancing the delivery of humanitarian assistance, coordinating, and arranging shelters and hosting internally displaced persons, formation of emergency rooms to help with the distribution of relief and respond to women’s special needs. They continue to monitor and document human rights violations, gender-based violence and sexual violence women and girls suffer on a daily basis in various States in Sudan. Sudan Tribune

Translators for German UN Troops in Mali Fear Taliban-Style Fate
Translators who work for German peacekeepers in Mali have told the BBC they fear for their lives as the UN mission winds up its mission in the West African country. The 19 interpreters wrote to the German government on 7 August asking for protection as the jihadist groups that operate in northern Mali regard those who work with the UN as traitors. “The terrorists have been openly saying that any person working for international forces is considered an enemy,” a translator for the UN’s German military contingent, whose name has been withheld for safety reasons, told the BBC…[The UN mission (Minusma)] is made up of military personnel from nearly 60 countries, with Germany, along with Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt and Senegal, among the main contributors. UN agreements with these nations do not offer protection to Malians employed by them on temporary contracts – something that the group Interpreters in Conflict Zones at the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) has been campaigning to change since 2009. About 900 Malians have been employed to work with Minusma as translators, drivers and other support roles across the 12 UN bases nationwide…After the withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan in 2021, thousands of translators were left behind. Some have been executed by the Taliban and many more are in hiding. BBC

UK Supreme Court Terms Rwanda Migrant Deal ‘Unlawful’
The UK Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled an asylum arrangement with Rwanda was unlawful, citing possibility that refugees sent to Kigali could be at risk of being returned to countries from which they have fled, and hence be resubjected to more inhumane treatment. In a unanimous decision, the five judges of the apex court on Wednesday said the Court of Appeal was right to conclude in June that there had not been a proper assessment of whether Rwanda was safe. Reversing an earlier decision that had deemed it safe, a UK High Court of Appeal had said Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers due to deficiencies in its asylum processes. The latest decision is a major setback for both the UK and Rwanda which are actively promoting the arrangement to UN agencies and other countries as an innovative solution for a “broken” international refugee protection regime…For Rwanda, while the deal doesn’t create any legal obligations between the parties, it says it remains committed to implementing the memorandum of understanding signed in April 2022. The East African

News: USAID to Resume Vital Food Assistance in Ethiopia Following Reforms to Prevent Aid Diversion
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced [yesterday] that it will resume essential food assistance in Ethiopia next month. This decision follows comprehensive reforms implemented by the Ethiopian government and humanitarian partners. USAID had to suspend all food aid six months ago due to evidence of widespread diversion, which was depriving vulnerable communities in Tigray of crucial relief. Along with USAID, the World Food Program (WFP) also halted the provision of humanitarian assistance in May 2023 due to alleged reports of aid diversion. Later in June, both organizations announced the suspension of food aid distribution across Ethiopia after a country-wide review. An investigation by USAID’s Inspector General revealed that food supplies intended for famine-affected populations in Tigray were being diverted and sold for profit. As a result, USAID immediately halted all assistance to the region and conducted a thorough program review to establish rigorous oversight of aid distributions. Food distributions were temporarily suspended until accountability mechanisms could be strengthened…Key changes agreed upon include improved monitoring of distributions from their source to destination, enhanced commodity tracking, reformed beneficiary identification processes, and strengthened vulnerability assessment standards. Addis Standard

It Is Time To Debunk the “Nigerian Prince” Stereotype
When the Internet came to Nigeria, the scams went online. It was just a few years after Nigeria had gained independence and a crash in global oil prices had sent the country into an economic crisis. Many Nigerians started taking odd jobs, often working in manual labor to make ends meet. Others turned to cybercrime, updating the advanced fee scam format of the “African magicians” to fit the digital age…At first, the “yahoo boys” would pose as Nigerian princes who were willing to share their riches with someone, as long as the would-be recipient could send them some money in advance. Today, their stories have expanded into everything from a stranded soldier in need of money to the classic romance scam, encompassing everything from advance fee fraud to identity theft. All of them, however, are unofficially classified as variations of the “Nigerian prince” scam and the scammers are referred to as Nigerian princes…Meanwhile, the idea of a “Nigerian prince” has expanded to refer to everything from advance fee fraud to identity theft, wire fraud, or even social security fraud. It pushes the narrative that whatever the crime, the social engineering required is rooted in the methods of the “Nigerian princes” from the early days of the Internet…Even though these cybercrimes can be traced to countries around the world, it is Nigerians who pay the price of disproportional discrimination… For example, Nigerians were banned from using PayPal for years due to fraud concerns. Inkstick Media

In Abidjan, Ivorians Want to ‘Decolonize’ Chocolate
Although Côte d’Ivoire supplies 45% of the world cocoa market, it has just 24 chocolate makers. Among them is Alain Kablan Porquet, who wants to usher in a new era of influence and power for cocoa-producing countries…To expand the market – Porquet aims to increase their numbers tenfold over the next few years – he brought together Ghanaian and Ivorian players in the cocoa industry from November 2 to 4, just as the Salon du Chocolat was coming to a close in Paris. The immediate goal was to create a new, specifically African chocolate competition, the World Chocolate Initiative Competition, which is scheduled to be held for the first time in mid-2024. Ultimately, the aim is to launch a debate on the chocolate production standards set by European markets and to usher in a new era of cocoa production, in which power would return to producer countries. This comes at a time when the price of brown gold broke new records on the London and New York stock exchanges on October 30, thanks to the current quarter’s poor harvest, which could turn out to be almost 30% less than last year’s…Beyond the competition, the aim is to establish national certification for cocoa production. Le Monde