Africa Media Review for November 27, 2023

Sierra Leone’s Capital Quiet after Attack on Barracks
The streets of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown were still mostly empty early on Monday despite the government lifting a curfew imposed because of an attack on a military barracks. The government said security forces had repelled “renegade soldiers” who attempted to break into a military armoury in Freetown during the early hours of Sunday. Unidentified assailants also attacked a police station and released inmates from a major prison on Sunday. Sierra Leone has been tense since President Julius Maada Bio was re-elected in June, a result rejected by the main opposition candidate and questioned by international partners including the United States and the European Union. In an address to the nation on Sunday, Bio called on the West African country’s political and traditional leaders, and civil society to work to preserve peace. He said most of the leaders of the attack on the barracks had been arrested and that an investigation was ongoing. A government statement encouraged people to return to their normal activities from 0600 GMT on Monday. Reuters

Madagascar: Rajoelina’s Re-election amid Opposition Boycotts and Skepticism
Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina secured re-election in the initial round of a contested ballot, marked by opposition boycotts, as confirmed by the election commission on Saturday. An opposition candidate has appealed to the High Constitutional Court, to demand the annulment of the ballot…The turnout, at just over 46%, decreased from the 2018 election, attributed to a challenging political climate…Opponents accused Rajoelina of corruption and neglecting the country’s resources. The joint opposition response to his victory was skepticism and a refusal to recognize the results. While the opposition highlighted irregularities, they have not yet indicated if they will formally contest the outcome or call for further demonstrations…Despite concerns raised by eight countries and organizations, including the EU and the US, about the use of force and irregularities, the national electoral commission insisted the election occurred under regular and transparent conditions. However, the impartiality of the commission’s president, Arsene Dama, has been questioned by the opposition. Africanews with AFP

A Newly Formed Alliance between Coup-Hit Countries in Africa’s Sahel Is Seen as Tool for Legitimacy
Three West African nations led by military juntas met [last] week to strengthen a newly formed alliance described by some analysts on Friday as an attempt to legitimize their military governments amid coup-related sanctions and strained relations with neighbors…During their meetings, the leaders pledged security and political collaborations under the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), a partnership the three countries announced in September as a measure to help fight the extremist violence they each struggle with and across the Sahel, the vast arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert…In reality, though, the partnership “is in part an effort to entrench and legitimize (their) military governments” more than to tackle the violent extremism which they have limited capacity to fight, said Nate Allen, an associate professor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The violence across the Sahel has contributed to a recent surge of coups in the region and militaries that claimed they took over power to help tackle their country’s security challenges have struggled to do so. AP

Dozens Kidnapped by Motorcycle Gunmen in North Nigeria
At least 100 people have been abducted by gunmen in Nigeria’s northwest, residents have said. Locals told the BBC that armed men on motorcycles stormed villages in Zamfara state. The residents were kidnapped after the villages failed to pay a “tax” imposed on them by the gunmen, witnesses said. In recent years, kidnapping for ransom has become rife in north-western Nigeria. Armed gangs, referred to locally as bandits, target villages, schools, and travellers, demanding millions of naira in ransom. According to the Reuters news agency, a local village head said one resident was killed in Friday’s attack…Nigeria faces multiple security challenges: the jihadist insurgency in the north, deadly clashes between animal herders and farmers, a separatist insurgency in the southeast as well as militants in the Niger Delta demanding a greater share of oil profits. BBC

Battle for Influence Rages in Heart of Wagner’s Operations in Africa
[The death of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner group,] in August has rattled the mercenary group’s once-cozy relations with the Central African Republic, which is now weighing offers from Russia and Western countries, including the United States, to replace Wagner as its primary security guarantor…For years, the Wagner group has protected the leadership of the Central African Republic with bare-knuckle security enforcement, weaponry and propaganda campaigns. In return, it has gained lucrative mining concessions for gold, diamonds and timber, while also committing egregious human rights abuses against civilians and in clashes with rebel groups. But in interviews with more than a dozen officials and diplomats, as well as analysts and human rights defenders, over several weeks, a new narrative seems to be emerging. Wagner, many say, has been a difficult partner that many officials would like to bid good riddance…As the shadowy fight over its future plays out, more than 1,000 Wagner mercenaries and some of the group’s top operatives remain in the country.  The New York Times

Clashes in Eastern DR Congo Displace 450,000 in Six Weeks
Violent clashes between non-state armed groups and government forces have displaced more than 450,000 people in the last six weeks in Rutshuru and Masisi territories in North Kivu province. People arriving in the town of Sake, located near the provincial capital Goma, spoke of having to make harrowing choices, with men risking death to feed starving children and women risking rape to collect firewood. UNHCR said its monitoring in the region has showed over 3,000 reported human rights violations in October, nearly double the figure from the previous month…The intensification of violence is also having a devastating impact on the lives of children, with protection partners reporting a sharp increase in the number of overall violations against them. The UN agencies said the severity of the crisis is further exacerbated by the limited humanitarian access to those in dire need, mainly due to the obstruction of major routes, with some 200,000 displaced people cut off from aid. The disruption also increases the vulnerability of displaced populations, leaving them without essential resources and protection. UN News

Accession Hands EAC Mandate to Fix Somalia’s Security
Somalia’s admission to the East African Community now hands the mandate to the bloc to fix the Horn of Africa country’s fluid and volatile security under the region’s strategy that seeks to guide regional level interventions in the peace and security sector, to respond to the nature and form of the ever-evolving security threats…Somalia comes to the EAC with its baggage of security concerns, which includes Al Shabaab terrorism, proliferation of small arms and smuggling related insecurity via the open 3,000km shoreline – Africa’s longest – which could present new security headache for the region. However, under the EAC Peace and Security Strategy, the bloc would deploy a regional force to provide the much-needed support to the Somali National Army, similar to the one it sent to Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last year…For more than a decade, the EAC rejected Somalia’s application to join the bloc, saying it did not meet eligibility criteria due to governance, security, rule of law and social justice challenges – which experts say still exist – but have now been waived as the region seeks a mandate to fix the troubled country. The East African

Raped during Ethiopia’s War, Survivors Now Rejected by Their Families
More than 100,000 women may have been raped during the two-year civil war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, according to the most comprehensive study so far of these attacks in research conducted by the Columbia University biostatistician Kiros Berhane. And countless women who gave birth as a result are struggling with a hidden agony, often ostracized even by their families. They have been victimized twice, once during the conflict that pitted Ethiopia’s military and allied soldiers from Eritrea against Tigrayan rebels, and a second time by their own communities, even after a cease-fire a year ago quieted the hostilities…During the war, all sides committed rapes, human rights groups and victims report, but the most sustained and organized violence was committed against Tigrayan women, who said they were raped by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers and by militiamen from Ethiopia’s Amhara region. The Washington Post

SA’s Crime Rate Exacts a Huge Toll on the Economy, Says World Bank
Crime costs South Africa’s economy the equivalent of about 10% of its GDP each year, according to a new World Bank report titled Safety First: The Economic Cost of Crime in South Africa. And that, the report admits, is a “conservative estimate”…This assessment dovetails with other estimates, but it is backed by the expertise and research capabilities of the World Bank, which frames the issue as a burdensome additional tax on SA’s slow-growth economy…By global standards, crime in SA — similar to unemployment and inequality — is off the charts…If just some of the capital allocated to security by business could be put to more productive use, the GDP growth rate would more than double. Crime takes its greatest toll on small and medium-sized businesses, the report notes, because they cannot absorb the costs…Crime also undermines the public sector — a case of state failure corroding the state’s capacity to deal with the problem in a vicious cycle. Daily Maverick

Ahead of COP28, Horn of Africa Floods Are a Reminder of Africa’s Climate Change Crises
Going into the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) Summit, the Horn of Africa is experiencing multiple meteorological disasters, including a catastrophic drought in the east and record floods in the west. El Nino flooding since early November has resulted in fatalities, property destruction, and a growing humanitarian crisis in the region. This further reminds world leaders of what is at stake, particularly in Africa, a continent that contributes the least greenhouse gas emissions. The region’s torrential rains impacted mostly Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. But South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania are also on the radar, prompting a large-scale humanitarian response…Floods and excessive rains have aggravated Somalia’s famine problem…The hardest-hit parts of Ethiopia are Tigray and Amhara, two regions still trying to recover from the negative impacts of the two-year civil war that ended in November 2022…In recent years, South Sudan has become the case study for climate-related stresses such as record-breaking droughts, floods, and extreme heat – the major driver of internal displacement in the global south. News 24

Kenyan Parliamentary Committee Call for Reforms to Electoral Body
A committee set up by the Kenyan parliament has called for reforms to the country’s electoral body and a review of tax policy, public spending and social security, a copy of their report seen by Reuters on Sunday shows. The bipartisan committee formed to study opposition grievances wants the electoral commission reconstituted and an audit of the last presidential election. Kenya was gripped by violent protests early this year triggered by complaints by opposition leaders and supporters about electoral malpractices, the high cost of living and rising taxes. As a result, the committee was formed in August with the backing of a parliamentary resolution and was mandated to study the grievances and propose necessary policy reforms to the government. In its report, the committee recommended the “restructuring and reconstitution” of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the country’s electoral body…In its report, the committee also recommended “establishment and entrenchment of the office of the prime minister in the constitution as a means of improving governance and coordination of functions of the executive arm of government.” Reuters

‘I Felt Extreme Anger’: The FGM Survivor Ending Abuse and Giving a Voice to Girls in Senegal
When Woppa Diallo was 12…[she] was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), which involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. Diallo harnessed her fury and channelled it into a life of activism. At 15, she founded Amfe, L’Association pour le Maintien des Filles à l’Ecole (the Association for Keeping Girls in School) in Matam, her home town in north-east Senegal. She is also a lawyer specialising in human rights. Last month, a story she co-authored with her husband, Mame Bougouma Diene, based on her experiences of violence, won the Caine prize for African writing. They are the first pair to win the award since it began in 2000, and the first winners from Senegal. A Soul of Small Places, published in 2022, is a coming-of-age story told against a backdrop of African cosmology, in which spirits and humans coexist. Diene, a French-Senegalese American humanitarian and writer, worked with Diallo to create a fictional version of herself. He says: “[The fictional Woppa Diallo] becomes a driving force against oppression that young girls are undergoing, with heroic and devastating consequences.” The Guardian