Africa Media Review for November 29, 2023

Chad’s Constitutional Referendum Promises a Transition without Change—or Stability
Chad’s constitutional referendum, scheduled for December 17, is the latest step by General Mahamat Déby’s military junta to stage-manage a transition that maintains the hereditary succession of the Déby dynasty and the military as a central political actor in this country of 18 million people that straddles six neighbors in the volatile Sahel region. Civil society and opposition leaders have criticized the referendum process for its lack of inclusiveness and failure to consider key concerns of the political opposition such as intimidation, lack of freedom of speech and assembly, a partisan electoral management body, and consideration of decentralizing authority in the fifth largest country by land in Africa. Most opposition parties have called for either a “no” vote or a boycott of the referendum…The December constitutional referendum seems intended to provide a veneer of validation for the junta’s continued management of the transition leading to presidential elections in October 2024. The pattern of delay and obfuscation echoes the long-honed tactics of Idriss Déby who came to power by force in 1990 and then held on to it for three decades by evading term limits, resisting calls for democratic reform, and putting down multiple armed rebellions. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Burkina Faso’s State Media Says Hundreds of Rebels Have Been Killed Trying to Seize Vulnerable Town
Hundreds of rebels were killed as they tried to seize a town in northern Burkina Faso on Sunday, the state broadcaster reported, in one of the largest clashes in recent years in the West African nation under threat from fighters linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State. More than 3,000 fighters tried to take control of Djibo town near Mali’s border, the broadcaster said Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how many civilians or security forces were killed. The area has frequent internet cuts, and the military government is known to crack down on civil society. French medical group Doctors Without Borders said it treated locals injured in the attack. Approximately half of Burkina Faso is outside government control. The landlocked country has been ravaged by jihadi attacks. Fighters have killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people, further threatening the stability of the country that had two coups last year. Located 210 kilometres (130 miles) from the capital of Ouagadougou, Djibo has been under blockade by rebels for more than a year, often struggling to provide essential services. AP

Burkina Faso’s Jihadist Conflict Worsens as Military Junta Pursues ‘Total War’
Burkina Faso’s humanitarian and security challenges are worsening as the country’s junta-led government pursues an aggressive military campaign against jihadist armed groups, which have extended their control to around 40% of the national territory. The country has faced jihadist attacks since 2015, but fatalities and humanitarian needs have hit record highs since army Captain Ibrahim Traoré seized power from a different junta last year, and then began a “total war” against the insurgents. Humanitarian workers say their access has also shrunk as the military steers aid agencies away from operating in jihadist-controlled areas, and as the insurgents grow increasingly violent due to the pressures they are facing. Over two million people have been displaced, the vast majority since 2019, and 4.7 million out of a 22 million population require assistance, an increase of more than 1 million compared to last year. The situation is especially critical in dozens of towns that jihadists are blockading as part of their military strategy. The New Humanitarian

Sierra Leone Information Minister Says Weekend Attack Was a Failed Coup
Sierra Leone’s government said on Tuesday that attacks on several locations in the capital Freetown on Sunday were a failed attempt to overthrow the government led mostly by bodyguards of former President Ernest Bai Koroma. The West African nation’s information minister Chernor Bah, and the chief of defence staff Lt. General Patrick Lavahun, told a news conference the former president could not be directly linked to the plot but investigations were ongoing…Gunmen attacked a military barracks, a prison and other locations on Sunday, freeing about 2,200 inmates and killing more than 20 people, said authorities in the West African country. By Monday calm had returned…Thirteen military officers and a civilian have been arrested following the incident, minister Bah told a press conference, adding that over two dozen people, including five army majors and two captains, were on a wanted list following the attacks…Sierra Leone, which is still recovering from a 1991-2002 civil war in which more than 50,000 were killed, has been tense since Bio was re-elected in June. The result was rejected by the main opposition candidate and questioned by international partners including the United States and the European Union. Reuters

Congo Opposition Party Says Activist Killed in Violence at Election Rally
A Congolese youth activist was killed on Tuesday by stones pelted during an opposition campaign rally in the east-central city of Kindu, the party of presidential candidate Moise Katumbi said. The Together for the Republic party accused local authorities of seeking to stifle the opposition and allowing unnamed attackers to hurl stones during the campaign event at which Katumbi and two other opposition candidates who back him for the Dec. 20 election appeared…[Dido] Kakisingi, a lawyer and father of six, was the head of a political youth league in Maniema province that supports Katumbi, the party said…The CENI election commission has promised a fair and well-run election, but all of the opposition candidates have expressed concerns about potential electoral fraud. The United States has said it is concerned about possible violence and threats to freedom of peaceful assembly…President Felix Tshisekedi is seeking a second term and is running against more than two dozen rivals. They include businessmen Katumbi and Martin Fayulu, who came second in the disputed 2018 poll, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege. Reuters

Major Cocaine Haul Seized off Senegal
Senegal’s military has seized more than three tonnes of cocaine from a ship moored off the coast, in one of the country’s largest drug hauls. The navy made the announcement on Tuesday, saying that the ship was seized on Sunday night in international waters, with 10 crew on board, one of whom was Senegalese. The vessel was then escorted to the Admiral Faye Gassama Naval Base in the capital Dakar on Tuesday for “identification and logging of the seized products”…West and Central Africa has long been considered a key transit zone for drugs coming from Latin America. Now the region has also become one of high consumption, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Between 2019 and 2022, at least 57 tonnes of cocaine were seized in or en route to West Africa, 4.7 tonnes of which were in Senegal. In January this year, Senegal seized more than 800 kilos of cocaine off the coast of Dakar. The global number of cocaine users has grown steadily in recent years, with UNODC saying in its annual report in June that there were an estimated 22 million users in 2021. However, the UN body also noted that cocaine seizures have grown faster, containing the supply of the drug to some extent. Africanews

UN and African Union Sign New Human Rights Agreement
The United Nations and the African Union have reinforced their partnership following the conclusion of their seventh high-level dialogue in New York on Tuesday. At the meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat signed a framework agreement on human rights, which follows a previous accord on peace and security, and another on development…“What Africa needs above all is justice in international relations because Africa has been the victim of the structural injustices of our international relations,” said Mr. Guterres…Mr. Guterres underscored that Africa remains a key UN priority, highlighting the importance of working with the AU “based on the principle of African-led solutions for African problems”. He said the continent has been “the double victim of injustice” linked to colonialism and slavery in the past and financial and economic power relations today. UN News

Kenya’s Leader Lifts His Global Profile. At Home, the Public Fumes.
Kenya’s president, William Ruto, is facing searing criticism and mounting public anger just over one year since he took power after a tightly contested election. The rising discontent has rattled the East African nation, a close Western ally that has long been an economic powerhouse and a pillar of stability in a tumultuous region…Mr. Ruto initially scoffed at his critics, saying he assumed office when Kenya’s economy was already encumbered by growing debt, high unemployment and a prolonged drought that shriveled crops. He blamed the previous government of President Uhuru Kenyatta — in which he served as vice president — for making poor financial decisions and failing to stem corruption…Mr. Ruto’s plan to charge taxpayers 1.5 percent of their monthly incomes, along with an equal match by employers, to build affordable housing, was declared unconstitutional by the High Court on Tuesday. A separate plan to promote universal health care was also suspended by the court, on Monday. The president’s detractors say he has primarily spent his first year in office fixated on elevating his global standing and reinventing himself as a Pan-African leader. The New York Times

Tunisian Opposition Figure Moussi Begins Hunger Strike in Prison
Abir Moussi, a prominent opponent of Tunisian President Kais Saied, went on a hunger strike in prison on Tuesday to protest what her lawyers said was a violation of her rights to freedom and political activity. A judge last month ordered Moussi’s imprisonment after police arrested her at the presidential palace entrance on suspicion of assault intended to cause chaos, part of a crackdown on opposition politicians. Moussi is the leader of the Free Constitutional Party (PDL), which warned in a statement against “attempts to fabricate legal obstacles to remove her from participating in the presidential elections” expected next year. Her lawyers said in a statement that Moussi would be on hunger strike for 16 days, coinciding with a campaign to highlight violence against women in Tunisia. Police this year have detained more than 20 leading political figures, accusing some of plotting against state security…In recent months, the PDL has organised protests against Saied. Moussi accuses Saied of ruling outside the law. Reuters

South Sudan: Kiir Sacks Governor, 3 Ministers including That of Presidential Affairs
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Monday night sacked a state governor and three national ministers in a mini cabinet reshuffle…According to the decree, Kiir fired Presidential Affairs Minister Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Minister of Trade and Industry Kuol Athian Diing, Minister of Public Service Bangasi Joseph Bakasoro and Governor of Warrap State Manhiem Bol Malek…In a separate decree, the president appointed Bangasi Joseph Bakasoro as the new Minister of Presidential Affairs and William Anyun Kuol as the new Minister of Trade and Industry. He also appointed Dak Duop Bichiok as the new Minister of Public Service and Human Resource Development and Kuol Mur Mur as the new Governor of Warrap State. All the appointed officials are members of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) led by President Kiir…South Sudan is due to go to the polls for the first time next year under the 2018 peace deal that ended a bloody civil war in the world’s youngest nation. But the fragile transitional unity government has failed to meet many key provisions of the peace agreement, and there are still doubts within the international community and citizens that the election deadline will be met. Radio Tamazuj

Missing in Action: How Eritrean Football Was Deflated at Home and Abroad
[Eritrea’s] Red Sea Camels have now missed being in the running for a staggering total of 10 major international football competitions, including two World Cups, since 2010…While official explanations are never issued, Eritrean football insiders believe numerous high-profile desertions of footballers have led to the country’s authoritarian regime pulling the teams out of the qualifiers…For years, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have trekked across their country’s borders to avoid the draft, an often risky endeavour in a country where border guards once operated with a “shoot to kill” policy for escapees. So since 2006, at least 89 Eritrean footballers, most of them members of the men’s national team have chosen the relatively easier option of absconding while abroad during international competitions…Other Eritrean football teams have also suffered losses: its local teams no longer play in the CAF African Champions League after multiple desertions during away games; in 2021, five members of the Eritrean U-20 female team did not return from a regional qualification game in Uganda. Al Jazeera

Former Somali Refugee Wins Prestigious UN Award
A former child refugee from Somalia has been named as this year’s winner of the prestigious UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award. Abdullahi Mire, 36, was recognized for bringing 100,000 books to his compatriots languishing in sprawling camps in Kenya…Mire was born in southern Somalia in 1987 and lived in Dadaab in the 1990s when his family fled from Qoryooley in the Lower Shabelle region due to Somalia’s civil war…His childhood in Dadaab and subsequent professional experience made him realize the importance of his education, and he ultimately dedicated his professional life to helping his fellow refugees…A young woman who was learning medicine in [a] camp inspired him to collect books for the refugees, he said. “During one of my regular visits back to the camp, I was approached by a young stranger refugee girl, requesting me if I could send a medical book from Nairobi,” Mire said. “She told me about 20 girls normally shared one biology book. That inspired me to use social media for a book collection and donation campaign till we reached 100,000 books.” VOA