Africa Media Review for October 10, 2023

Liberians Head to the Polls in High Stakes Elections amid Flaring Tensions
Liberians are voting Tuesday in high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections – the first since the 2018 exit of a UN mission that kept the peace for more than a decade in a country scarred by two devastating civil wars. As well as the 14-year civil war that had claimed 250,000 lives by the time it ended in 2003, Liberia has grappled with epidemics, including the Covid pandemic and a deadly Ebola outbreak that killed more than 4,000 people in 2014. Incumbent President George Weah, a decorated former football star, is seeking reelection for a second six-year term after a tumultuous first tenure tainted by corruption scandals and allegations of mismanagement. Poverty is rife in Liberia, the World Bank says, further estimating that half of the country’s population survives on less than $2 a day. More than 60% of Liberia’s 5.4 million people are below the age of 25, but unemployment is widespread among the country’s youth, some of whom were former child soldiers in the civil war. Nineteen candidates are seeking to unseat Weah, who belongs to the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party, but he faces a contentious rematch with former Vice President Joseph Boakai of the main opposition Unity Party (UP). CNN

Yiaga Africa Deploys High-Level Election Study Mission to the 2023 General Elections in Liberia
Yiaga Africa has deployed an election study mission to the Tuesday, October 10, 2023, presidential and general elections in Liberia following its accreditation by the National Elections Commission (NEC). The mission is part of Yiaga Africa’s Transforming Electoral Governance in Africa initiative (TEGA), designed to transform electoral governance through evidence-based learning, documentation, and advocacy. … The delegation will interact with key electoral stakeholders in line with the mission’s focal themes, which include election management, electoral technology, election results management, and citizen participation. At the end of the election, the mission will issue a report on its findings to relevant stakeholders in Liberia and Nigeria on transforming electoral governance and promoting electoral reforms. Front Page Africa

Two Vaccines Could Be Strong Contenders in the Fight against Malaria in Africa
A first vaccine falling victim to its own success, a second one about to come into the picture: 2023 has been a decisive year in the fight against malaria. After 20 years of progress, malaria research has been at a standstill since 2020, but the deployment of the RTS,S (or Mosquirix) serum from British giant GSK, and the arrival of R21/Matrix-M, developed by Oxford University and recommended on Monday, October 2 by the World Health Organization (WHO), promise to turn the tide. By 2030, the WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) anticipate demand for up to 100 million doses, the two institutions stated in a joint press release. “These two vaccines break the chain of transmission by blocking the action of the parasite before it passes the hepatic barrier (the liver), where it reproduces before entering the bloodstream. In that way, they are an invaluable tool,” explained Didier Ménard, professor of parasitology at the University of Strasbourg and member of the “Malaria genetics and resistance” unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. … The second vaccine should help bridge the gap and bring relief to the African continent, which accounted for 96% of the 619,000 people, including 475,000 children, who died of malaria worldwide in 2021. Le Monde

Mali Crisis: Life in Timbuktu and Gao under Siege by Islamist Fighters
People living in cities in Mali under siege by al-Qaeda-linked militants have told the BBC they are facing shortages of food, fuel and medicine, and rapidly rising prices. The blockades have come as fighting intensifies between the army, who are backed by Russian Wagner mercenaries, and both Islamist groups and ethnic Tuareg separatist fighters. For nearly two months, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) has been trying to completely cut off the historic northern city of Timbuktu, preventing supplies from getting in. … Timbuktu was occupied by Tuareg rebels following an uprising by separatists in 2012, but they were quickly pushed side by al-Qaeda-linked Islamic groups who imposed a strict form of Sharia, or Islamic law, on the city – forcing women to wear full-face veils, banning music and amputating the limbs of criminals. One couple was stoned to death for adultery. So many people fear a repeat if JNIM does succeed in taking the city. After a year of Islamist rule, Malian government forces, backed by French troops, re-took the city. But those French forces have left the country since the army seized power in 2021, and the UN’s peacekeeping mission is also pulling out. … The city’s economy is normally centred around trade with neighbouring Niger and Algeria but the JNIM’s actions have caused many merchants to leave the city and left the streets deserted. BBC

Algeria “Postpones” Its Mediation in Niger
Algeria announced on Monday that it was “suspending” its mediation intended to put an end to the crisis that has shaken Niger since the takeover by the military. “The Algerian government has decided to postpone the initiation of the planned preparatory discussions until obtaining the clarifications that it considers necessary regarding the implementation of Algerian mediation” in Niger, indicated the Ministry of Affairs foreigners in a press release. Algiers recalls that the Nigerien authorities had informed the Algerian government, on September 27, “by official letter (…) of their acceptance of Algerian mediation in the political, institutional and constitutional crisis that Niger is facing.” … Algeria also deplores that “official and public declarations from Nigerien authorities have raised legitimate questions as to their real willingness to follow up on their acceptance of Algerian mediation.” Rédaction Africanews

How Feasible Is South Africa’s Offer to Mediate in the War between Israel and Hamas?
Pretoria has offered to mediate to try to end the devastating war that has erupted between Hamas and Israel and which has killed well over 1,000 people on both sides in just two days. But does the ANC government really have the diplomatic skills, the clout and the impartiality to be an honest broker? And is the conflict anywhere near ripe for mediation anyway? … “There is potentially an opportunity, as with Ukraine, for South Africa to use its good offices with one side, working together with other parties. Because it’s a bit like Ukraine, it’s not going to be one set of processes that are going to lead to a resolution. It’s different groupings potentially working together, or coordinating at any rate, that might help.” Daily Maverick

Sudan and Iran Resume Diplomatic Relations Severed 7 Years Ago, Promising to ‘Open Embassies Soon’
Khartoum cut ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi Arabian embassy in Iran. The oil-rich kingdom had executed a prominent Shiite cleric with 46 others days earlier, triggering demonstrations and severing Saudi-Iranian relations. At the time, Sudan was a close ally of Saudi Arabia and had deployed troops to fight in the Saudi coalition against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and his Sudanese counterpart, Ali al-Sadiq, met in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku in July, the first known high-level meeting between the two countries since 2016. … The rapprochement comes seven months after regional foes Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies in a deal brokered by China. Sudan has been rocked by violence since mid-April when fighting erupted between the country’s military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohamed Hamden Dagalo. AP

Sudan Army’s Burhan, RSF’s Daglo Face War Atrocities Charges
Sudan’s warring factions are facing new pressure to end the war after rights groups lobbied the UN Human Rights Council to establish a taskforce on atrocities, potentially harming the shuttle diplomacy of junta leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan who has been seeking legitimacy over his rival Mohamed Hamdani Daglo ‘Hemedti.’ And the situation now places Khartoum where Ethiopia was two years ago after activists lobbied for the creation of a panel of experts to investigate war crimes in Tigray. Last week, 17 rights groups across Africa wrote to the UN Human Rights Council, asking that such a team be established to place warlords at the crime scene and save the country from collapsing. … These include Sudanese Doctors for Human Rights, Governance Programming Overseas, Sudanese Women Rights Action, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, International Federation for Human Rights, Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders), Centre for Democracy and Human Rights – CDD Mozambique and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. … “The absence of the state institutions and the rule of law led to worsening human rights violations in the country. Local justice systems and law enforcement institutions collapsed and have not functioned in most of Sudan since the war erupted. EastAfrican

Court Blocks Kenya from Deploying Police Officers to Haiti to Fight Gangs
A Kenyan court temporarily blocked the government from deploying hundreds of police personnel in Haiti in a UN-approved mission aimed at helping the Caribbean nation tackle rampant gang violence. The court order issued on Monday is valid until 24 October and followed a petition jointly filed by one of the opposition political parties and two Kenyans who say the decision to deploy the police officers outside the east African country is illegal. According to a court document seen by Reuters, the order bars Kenyan government officials including the president and his interior minister “from deploying police officers to Haiti or any other country until 24th October 2023.” In July, Kenya pledged to offer 1,000 police officers after Haiti appealed for international help with security personnel to assist in its battle against gangs blamed for spiraling violence. Reuters

Fault Line Cuts Somaliland’s Quest for Nationhood
On the day Somaliland forces were defeated in Las Anod, shop owner Abdinasir Farah said: “Today, we are free people.” It’s a sentiment shared by others who live in or are from the city and its surroundings. Somaliland had been in control of the city – legally part of Somalia – for 16 years, which many experienced as an occupation. That ended when the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) militia seized control of the largest army base in the city on 25 August. Open hostilities first erupted between Somaliland’s forces and SSC militia in February, following weeks of angry protests that were triggered by the assassination of local politician Abdifatah Hadrawi in December. He was in the Somaliland opposition, and locals held the government in Hargeisa responsible for his death. Somaliland forces violently repressed the protests, killing a cultural figure in the city, Sheikh Bide Farah Caalin. Local elders representing the Sool, Sanag and Cayn regions declared their intent to secede from Somaliland and reunite with the Federal Republic of Somalia. … What followed was an eight-month conflict that caused mass displacement, and drew fighters from different parts of Somalia and its diaspora to the SSC ranks. …the Las Anod conflict is hurting Somaliland’s bid for international recognition, whose hopes hinge on the perception that it is more stable and more democratic than the Somali state from which it separated in 1991. Mail & Guardian

‘People Want Change but Fear the Guns’: Fighting for Democracy in Eswatini
Eswatini, the small Southern African kingdom of 1.2 million people, has been governed by King Mswati III for 37 years after he took over from his father, who had ruled since the country gained independence from Britain in 1968. Tensions have been high there in recent years, especially since a crackdown on mass pro-democracy protests in 2021 killed dozens of people, and calls for greater transparency and real democratic reform have grown. … After mass demonstrations in 2021, calls for change continued into 2022. There was a heavy-handed response from the government, and at least 80 people were killed, according to Human Rights Watch, which said the state continued to use excessive force and threats of violence against protesters. After SADC intervened in late 2021, the king agreed to hold a national dialogue. But that has not yet taken place, and elections were pushed ahead. … “The government has become more harsh. They even imported, if I may put it that way, mercenaries. They wear balaclavas. If you walk at night, you may be severely beaten, or sometimes they will shoot you,” she said. Human Rights Watch has also raised concerns about allegations of South African mercenaries working to stifle dissent in Eswatini. Al Jazeera

Murder and Violence Mark Rwanda’s ‘Extraterritorial Repression’, Says HRW
The tiny East African nation has been de facto led by Paul Kagame since the genocide in 1994, and the veteran president is seeking to extend his iron-fisted rule in elections next year. To maintain this control, the country’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front had “responded forcefully and often violently” to any perceived threat to its power, HRW said in a new report. “Such measures are not limited to critics and opponents within the country,” said the US-based rights watchdog, which interviewed over 150 people in a report covering the years since Kagame’s last election win in 2017. The report “documented over a dozen cases of killings, kidnappings and attempted kidnappings, enforced disappearances, and physical attacks” against Rwandans in the diaspora and efforts to extradite critics overseas back home. … In Mozambique, where Rwandan troops are peacekeeping, HRW found that at least three Rwandans including a known critic “have been killed or disappeared in suspicious circumstances” while others have been harassed by embassy officials or escaped kidnapping attempts. AFP

Fighting Intensifies in East DR Congo, Where M23 Once Held Sway
Clashes have intensified in DR Congo’s east where the national army has deployed in areas it was chased out of at the start of the year, the United Nations and local sources said Monday. After a six-month lull, fighting resumed this month between local armed groups and the M23 rebel movement in North Kivu province, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). At least 20 civilians have been killed and 30 more wounded since 1 October and “the resurgence of violent clashes”, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), OCHA said. “More than 84 700 people had been forced to flee their homes,” OCHA said, noting access to aid “remained greatly restrained” due to the “intensification of the fighting.” Fighting is centred on areas where an East African force of several thousand deployed in early 2023, in theory to patrol a buffer zone between the armed groups. Kitshanga, a strategic town 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the provincial capital Goma, passed without a fight from East African military control last week to the M23 rebel group which had chased the army out of the town last January. AFP

Education Under Attack As Nigerian Tertiary Institutions Face Increased Wave Of Violent Crimes
Before now, one of the few spaces assumed to be relatively secure in Nigeria were tertiary institutions’ campuses. A safe campus not only fosters a conducive atmosphere for education, it also helps to maintain a stable academic calendar. Many a time, parents usually prefer their children to live in hostels on campus because it could be said to be a small city of its own, with students as its citizens. However, the lack of basic infrastructure like street lights and inefficient security officials have made campuses vulnerable to attacks. In fact, most institutions are now experiencing the spillover of insecurity affecting Nigeria. … On Sept. 22, over 30 students and workers of the Federal University Gusau were kidnapped after terrorists raided three different hostels in the Sabon-gida community. One of the victim’s father, Hafizu Jammo, was in a state of uncertainty when he spoke with HumAngle. He has been having sleepless nights since his daughter, Rukayya Jammo was abducted. By his own account, their home is now a place of mourning, as they wait endlessly for the return of their daughter. HumAngle

Dozens Killed After Destructive Floods in Cameroon
At least 27 people were killed, and more than 50 others were injured after floods devastated the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde and some surrounding neighborhoods Sunday. Heavy rains unleashed flooding in the district of Yaounde 2 near the capital, sweeping away buildings in a torrent of water and mud, reducing many to chunks of rubble. Adding to the disaster, the rising floodwater overwhelmed a dike built in the colonial era, and it gave way, releasing a manmade lake which swept several structures down a hill Sunday, according to Assola Joseph, a local leader in the Mbankolo neighborhood. The flood destroyed many buildings in the district and washed away at least 30 houses in the Mbankolo neighborhood, causing others to collapse with residents inside. VOA

IMF, World Bank Hold First Meetings in Africa in 50 Years
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Kristalina Georgieva called Monday for wealthy nations to provide more support to debt-saddled developing countries, as she opened the first IMF-World Bank meetings on African soil in 50 years. The week-long talks in the Southern Moroccan city of Marrakesh come as the IMF and World Bank are facing calls to reform in order to better help vulnerable nations deal with poverty and climate change. The global lenders traditionally hold their annual gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors outside their Washington headquarters every three years. Marrakesh was supposed to host it in 2021, but the gathering was postponed twice because of the Covid pandemic. A powerful earthquake that killed nearly 3,000 people in the region south of Marrakesh last month threatened to derail the event again, but the government decided it could go ahead. The IMF and World Bank last held their meetings in Africa in 1973, when Kenya hosted the event, and some nations were still under colonial rule. AFP

El Anatsui Builds Monumental Art From Daily Life
It’s one of the great origin stories in contemporary art, a flash of instinct that would revolutionize a field. In 1998, El Anatsui was walking around Nsukka, Nigeria, and noticed a bag of aluminum bottle caps by the roadside. … I met Anatsui in the new studio he has built in Tema, the port city near Accra, Ghana’s capital. Born and raised in Ghana, Anatsui spent 45 years in Nigeria before returning two years ago. Tema is a utilitarian place, a planned city with a container terminal, oil refinery and aluminum smelter. Anatsui’s studio sits near the main highway, neighboring low-slung warehouses, the truck yard for a cement company and a home-goods superstore. When I arrived, Anatsui, 79, was working with 10 assistants on new works. Even a small Anatsui piece fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars; his metal works were among the first pieces of African contemporary art to clear the million-dollar bar, setting key market benchmarks and building value for cohorts of young artists behind him. The proceeds sustain a whole economy. Anatsui’s materials are inexpensive, but he requires huge quantities. The work is immensely labor-intensive and now straddles two countries. Between Ghana and his larger studio in Nigeria, he employs nearly 100 people. New York Times