Africa Media Review for November 16, 2023

Liberia: Boakai Leads, but Can He Defeat Pres. Weah?
Former Vice President Joseph Boakai has taken a slim lead over President George Weah, the National Elections Commission disclosed as it began releasing results from the November 14 runoff election. Boakai has secured a vote of 193,041, accounting for 50.71% of the tally, while President Weah closely follows with 187,615 votes, representing 49.29%, according to initial results released by the electoral body on November 15. These figures encompass 22.33% of the tallied results from 1,315 polling places out of 5,890 nationwide. Both candidates are, however, performing relatively well in their respective strongholds, as they lead in seven counties, respectively. However, results from Grand Kru, a traditional stronghold of President Weah, are yet to be announced, as Boakai is performing strongly in four out of the country’s top vote-rich counties: Montserrado, Nimba, Margibi, and Lofa. According to analysts, if the former Vice President can establish a compelling lead in these counties, it would strengthen his prospects for the presidency, as the vote share of these counties combined is larger than the others. For Weah or Boakai to win, analysts noted it would depend on who performs better in areas traditionally loyal to their opponent. Liberian Observer

Madagascar Votes in Presidential Election Boycotted by Opposition
Madagascar is holding presidential elections despite an opposition boycott following weeks of protests. A curfew was declared overnight in the capital to prevent any trouble. Political tensions have been running high, with the opposition saying that the incumbent, Andry Rajoelina, should be disqualified. There have been six weeks of demonstrations, which have seen opposition supporters clash with police…Opposition leaders have complained of an “institutional coup” in favour of Mr Rajoelina, saying he should be disqualified because he acquired French nationality in 2014. However, people have been seen lining up at polling stations in areas supporting him and his party. Polling stations in opposition areas were mostly empty, with a low-key security presence across Antananarivo. This comes after 10 out of 12 opposition candidates raised their concerns about the election’s credibility and called on voters to boycott it…Despite this being accepted by the Constitutional Court, many are angered by Mr Rajoelina’s candidacy because of his dual French nationality. After taking power in 2009, Mr Rajoelina became Africa’s youngest head of state. He did not contest the 2013 election but was voted back into power in 2018. BBC

Sudan’s Al-Burhan Holds Talks with Ethiopian PM and African Union Chief
Sudan’s Sovereign Council Chairman Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan travelled to Ethiopia on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing crisis in his country with Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy and African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki. Al-Burhan’s visit to Addis Ababa follows his recent trip to Nairobi, where he met with Kenyan President William Ruto, who is also the Chairman of the IGAD Quartet Committee on the Sudanese crisis. The two leaders agreed to hold a summit of IGAD leaders to address the situation in Sudan. In a statement after his return from Addis Ababa, Sudan’s Sovereign Council said that Al-Burhan and Abiy discussed the repercussions of the conflict between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces, which erupted last April…Al-Burhan was accompanied by Darfur Governor Minni Minawi and the head of Sudan’s General Intelligence Service…The African Union is working with IGAD to launch an inclusive process to resolve Sudan’s crisis once a durable ceasefire agreement is reached under the Jeddah platform. Al-Burhan’s visits to Nairobi and Addis Ababa have been met with positive reactions from many Sudanese, who see them as a sign of progress towards ending the war. Sudan Tribune

UN Warns That Food Aid Running Out for Sudanese Refugees in Chad
Food aid for more than half a million refugees who have fled from Sudan to Chad will run out next month without extra funding, a World Food Programme official said on Wednesday. “By December, there will be no assistance,” Pierre Honnorat, Chad country director for the U.N. agency, told Reuters. “We are calling for urgent, urgent funding now.” More than 540,000 refugees have crossed from Sudan into Chad since war erupted seven months ago between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), according to the International Organization for Migration. Many have fled from West Darfur, where ethnically driven violence and mass killings erupted again this month in the state capital El Geneina, pushing thousands more people to flee. Reuters has reported that between April and June this year the RSF and allied Arab militias conducted weeks of systematic attacks targeting the Masalit, El Geneina’s majority ethnic African tribe. Reuters

UN Extends AU Troops’ Stay in Somalia
The United Nations [UN] Security Council has approved an extension of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS] stay in Somalia, following a request by both the peacekeepers and the federal government of the Horn of Africa nation. Wednesday’s extension means ATMIS will continue helping the Somali National Army [SNA] and regional security forces in the fight against Al-Shabaab for the next six months. The next review will be carried out on June 30th, 2024, just six months before the intended exit from the country. The government of Somalia had requested the technical pause of withdrawal of 3,000 soldiers in September, a move which was approved by the African Union and Security Council…By December 2024, it is anticipated that ATMIS will have handed over security responsibilities to the Somali National Army. By March 2024, both the federal government of Somalia and the African Union are required to do a technical assessment of evaluating phase II of the withdrawal of soldiers from the country before further deliberations are undertaken. The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, the US Africa Command, and local militia have been instrumental in dislodging Al-Shabaab from strategic hideouts in the country. Somalia is currently embroiled in the second phase of operations against Al-Shabaab which would target Jubaland and Southwest. Garowe Online

Extremist-Linked Rebels Kill at Least 44 Villagers in Separate Attacks in Congo’s Volatile East
Extremist-linked rebels have killed at least 44 villagers in separate attacks in Congo’s volatile east, local authorities and civil society leaders said Tuesday. The Allied Democratic Forces rebels with ties to the Islamic State group attacked Kishanga village in North Kivu province on Sunday night and killed 33 people including a member of the Congolese army, said a delegate of the provincial governor, Samson Simara…The rebels killed 11 other villagers in the province of Ituri on Tuesday, according to Samuel Ngunjolo, a civil society leader…Six of the rebels were killed by the army, according to Capt. Anthony Mulushayi, spokesman for the Congolese army in North Kivu. Some hostages were freed, Mulushayi said. Eastern Congo has been ravaged by conflict for decades as more than 120 armed groups fight for control of valuable mineral resources and some try to protect their communities. Mass killings by rebels are frequent. The violence has sent nearly seven million people fleeing their homes. Deadly attacks have intensified in recent weeks as authorities and security forces struggle to regain control and deploy adequate personnel in communities where mostly women and children are targeted. AP

Ethiopia and Eritrea: Is a New War Looming?
Ethiopia and Eritrea made peace in 2018, formally ending their border conflict. But control of the Assab port, which serves both countries, has sparked new tensions and led to fears of a fresh dispute…Since 1998, Ethiopia’s access to the port of Assab has been truncated due to a 20-year border war between the neighboring nations that killed tens of thousands of people. The conflict forced Ethiopia to channel its goods and other port-related trades through neighboring country of Djibouti, which borders both Ethiopia and Eritrea…Prime Minister Abiy said Ethiopia deserves a port of its own, which shouldn’t come at a huge cost, and has signaled his country’s readiness to regain access to the Assab port…Eritrea has already condemned Abiy’s comments and posturing, expressing worry. A government statement said “discourses — both actual and presumed — on water, access to the sea, and related topics floated in the recent times are numerous and excessive indeed. The affair has perplexed all concerned observers.” DW

Senegalese Opposition Leader Sonko Sent Back to Prison after Weeks in Hospital during Hunger Strike
Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko has returned to prison after weeks of undergoing medical treatment in the hospital during a hunger strike to protest his detention on charges he says are politically motivated. The announcement comes just days before Senegal’s Supreme Court is due to rule on whether Sonko can take part in the upcoming February election despite being struck from the country’s voter rolls after his conviction on charges of corrupting youth earlier this year…Sonko finished third in the last presidential election, and his supporters believe that the slew of criminal allegations brought against him since 2021 are part of an orchestrated campaign to derail his political aspirations ahead of a presidential election in February…In late July, Senegalese authorities formally dissolved Sonko’s political party and placed him in detention. He is now facing charges of calling for insurrection, conspiracy against the state and other alleged crimes. Senegal’s Interior Ministry removed Sonko from the voter rolls after his conviction earlier this year on charges of corrupting youth. However, the decision was later overturned by a judge in the southern city of Ziguinchor, where Sonko serves as mayor. AP

Kenya: Parliament Approves Deployment of Police to Haiti
The Kenyan parliament on Thursday approved the deployment of a thousand police officers to Haiti, plunged into chaos and gang violence, as part of a UN-backed mission, despite widespread criticism. The small Caribbean state is plagued by gang violence, which controls 80% of the capital, with the number of serious crimes reaching record levels, according to the UN representative in the country…However, the deployment remains suspended by the Nairobi High Court, which has yet to examine an appeal lodged by an opponent arguing that the mission is unconstitutional. The Kenyan government has been strongly criticized for its decision to send police officers to Haiti, a highly unstable and dangerous country. Human rights NGOs point out that the Kenyan police are accustomed to using force, sometimes lethal, against civilians, which constitutes a major risk in a country where previous foreign interventions have been marked by human rights violations. Africanews with AFP

Togo: Two Journalists Jailed for Defaming a Minister
Two Togolese journalists were indicted and jailed in Lomé on Wednesday, accused of “defamation” after claiming on social networks that a minister had had the equivalent of 600,000 euros stolen from his home, their relatives said…They are being prosecuted for “defamation and attack on the honor of the Minister and incitement to revolt”, for having claimed on social networks that the Minister of Urban Planning, Housing and Land Reform, Kodjo Adedze, had had 400 million FCFA (604,875 euros) stolen from his home. The Minister, who had indeed reported the burglary to the police without the amount being made public, had complained about them. On Monday, the journalists retracted their claims, explaining on Facebook that “extensive investigations” had shown that “the amount communicated was overestimated and would not reach the sum of 400 million FCFA”…In Togo, social networks are excluded from the scope of the law on the press and communication code, which came into force this year. In the event of infringement, prosecution is based on the penal code. Last March, two Togolese journalists were sentenced in absentia to three years imprisonment by the Lomé High Court, notably for “insulting authority” and “spreading false information on social networks”, following complaints from two ministers, including Mr. Adedze. Africanews with AFP

Malawi’s President Chakwera Bans Himself and His Cabinet from Foreign Travel
Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera has suspended with immediate effect all international travel for himself and his government in a bid to save money. The measure follows a huge devaluation of the currency as Malawi secures a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to boost its ailing economy. Mr Chakwera has also ordered all ministers currently abroad to return home. Fuel allowances for senior government officials have been cut by 50%. Malawi’s economy has been undergoing turbulent times, characterised by an acute shortage of petrol and diesel, as well as high inflation. In a televised address, Mr Chakwera said the measures would remain in place until the end of the financial year in March 2024. Some similar austerity measures were announced during the Covid-19 pandemic but had limited impact as they were not strictly enforced. As part of moves to ease the cost-of-living crisis, the president has asked the finance minister to make provisions for a reasonable wage increase for all civil servants in the next budget review. He has also ordered a lowering of income tax on individuals in the upcoming budget, to help workers whose incomes have lost value. BBC

How Chinese E-commerce Fuels Counterfeit Fashion in Nigeria
In Nigeria…knockoffs or counterfeits are known as “fake originals.” Modeled on popular sports or luxury brands, they cost a fraction of the price of an original. And before reaching Nigerian customers like those at Balogun Market, they often start their journey on Chinese shopping platforms. Despite years of legal wrestling and promises of crackdowns and embedded anti-counterfeiting tools, many Chinese e-commerce platforms are rife with imitations of beloved global apparel brands. Nigerian lawmakers have discussed clamping down on counterfeit products, including fake apparel. But the lack of specific laws and robust enforcement mechanisms makes it difficult…The boom in Chinese e-commerce in Nigeria has also created a ripple effect in other parts of the supply chain. Logistics companies like Sky Cargo Ltd., Grace Logistics’ Ocean Freight, AAA Cargo International, Weight and Carry Express Cargo Limited, and Choice Airways offer logistics via air or ship. Sky Cargo has a warehouse in the heart of the Lagos Island market. This makes it easier to clear the goods, said a salesperson, who asked to remain anonymous…There is now little barrier to entry when it comes to buying from Chinese e-commerce platforms, with some existing traders also selling courses on how to navigate the sites. Rest of World