Africa Media Review for October 12, 2023

SADC Attempts to Navigate Zimbabwe’s Disputed Election
The Zimbabwe general elections of August 23–24 were widely viewed as fraudulent. This was the conclusion of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) and other independent observer missions from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the Commonwealth Observer Group, and the Carter Center…Led by Zambia’s former vice president, Dr. Nevers Mumba, SEOM broke with previous practice and issued a scathing Preliminary Statement noting that the polls fell short of minimum standards set forth in the SADC Principles and Guidelines for Democratic Elections…In response to the disenfranchisement of Zimbabwean voters, the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC) submitted to SADC a petition signed by 65,000 professionals and members of civil society to redress the fraudulent election…Zimbabwe has historically benefitted from strong civil society engagement. This continues today despite some estimates of up to 4 million Zimbabweans—a fourth of the population—having fled the country as the country’s political and economic realities have become more dire…With electoral standards backsliding elsewhere on the continent, SADC’s actions will have wider implications far beyond Southern Africa. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Liberia’s Election Commission Finalising Results of Tuesday’s Polls
Liberia’s National Elections Commission has begun finalising the results of Tuesday’s presidential and legislative polls. Boxes carrying ballot papers have been brought to the NEC’s Data Centre where officials will electronically tabulate the results…The election was the first to be held since the United Nations ended its peacekeeping mission in Liberia in 2018. Despite some clashes ahead of the vote, both local and regional election observers say polling was peaceful and voter turnout was high…Football legend, George Weah, is hoping to win a second term in office but will have to secure more than 50 per cent to avoid a run-off. Some analysts believe, however, that he will likely have to face a second round against his main rival from the 2017 election, Joseph Boakai. While the beloved soccer star has been hugely popular, his six years in office have been marred by corruption allegations and ongoing economic hardship…The election commission is expected to announce the first results later on Wednesday, with final results due within 15 days. Africanews with AFP

Whoever Wins Liberia’s Election Faces High Demands for Change
Liberia is among the least developed countries globally, according to the United Nations. Limited infrastructure, a poor healthcare system, and corruption have plagued the country for decades. However, addressing these problems for whoever wins the October 10 elections will require significant funds, as the country’s fiscal space is severely limited for significant investments in social infrastructure and economic stimulus projects that would stimulate the economy and create jobs. Despite being a mineral-rich country, more than half of the country’s population — 5.2 million people — live below the poverty line, with significant numbers lacking access to education and basic infrastructure such as electricity, safe drinking water, and improved sanitation, according to the World Bank. Even though nearly all of the 20 candidates vying for the Presidency have made these issues central to their campaigns, the problem is that they have been mounting for several years, leaving some analysts skeptical about whether whoever wins the election will actually be able to address them as the voters anticipate. One area analysts are looking at is that, although the county’s ratio of debt to its gross domestic product is low, its debt servicing burden in a few years’ time would impact any winner’s ability to keep the promises that voters desperately seek. Liberian Observer

Niger Military Rulers Order UN Official Out as US Cuts Aid
The Niger foreign ministry said in the statement dated Tuesday and seen on Wednesday by the press that the government had ordered the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator, Louise Aubin,” to take all necessary measures to leave Niamey within 72 hours.” In a statement dated 10 October, Niger’s foreign ministry accused the UN of using “underhanded manoeuvres” instigated by France to prevent its full participation at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) last month and in subsequent meetings of UN agencies held in Vienna and in Riyadh…Niger’s current foreign minister is Bakary Yaou Sangare. Before the coup, he was Niger’s ambassador to the UN. He was scheduled to go to UNGA’s gathering, but, finally failed to send an application to represent Niger. The matter was finally deferred and no representative from Niger was added to the speakers’ list…This decision comes as the United States has announced that it has decided to cut aid to Niger. Washington earlier Tuesday declared that Niger’s ousting of a democratic government had been a coup. RFI with newswires

UN Rights Council Votes to Establish Atrocities Enquiry Team in Sudan
The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday voted to establish a controversial investigations team into atrocities reported in Sudan, opening a new door for Khartoum’s diplomatic battle to save its image. The decision came after a narrow vote in which the Council passed a resolution despite the entire African membership in the Council refusing to endorse it. It passed by 19 votes against 16 Nos and 12 abstentions, allowing the Council to set up a Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to Sudan…A number of rights groups, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk had warned that war crimes and other crimes against humanity have happened in Sudan, by both sides, including rape, starvation, mass murders and forced displacements. But Sudan rejected the FFM from the beginning, arguing the Sudan Armed Forces were a legitimate authority capable of punishing wrongdoers. Sudan, a member of the Council, rallied its allies to either rejected the proposal or abstain. Eritrea, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco and Algeria all joined Sudan to vote No. South Africa, The Gambia, Malawi, Cameroon and Benin abstained. Khartoum was also backed by Middle Eastern countries Qatar and the United Arab Emirates who rejected the resolution…The matter went to a vote after members failed to reach consensus. 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. The East African

Rising Death Toll in Sudan Capital as El Nau Hospital ‘Hit by Shell’
Intense confrontations continued this week between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the Sudan capital Khartoum, and its sister cities Omdurman and Khartoum North. El Nau Hospital in Omdurman, one of the only remaining functional hospitals in the region, was hit by a shell, prompting condemnation from local and international groups, and leading the warring parties to trade blame…El Nau Hospital is the sole medical facility in the region that has remained operational and continues to receive patients, including the injured and wounded from the areas of Khartoum North, old Omdurman, Karari, and Ombadda. This has resulted in significant pressure and overcrowding at Ibrahim Said Rural Hospital, located north of Omdurman, which received a high number of patients “beyond its capacity”, according to the Lawyers. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that 70 percent of health facilities in conflict zones in Sudan are currently out of service, with 20 percent of those that are operational doing so under “inadequate conditions.” Radio Dabanga

‘You Have Forgotten Us’: Darfur’s Victims Struggle On in a Chad Refugee Camp
[Photo essay] More than 420,000 people have fled across the border as attacks by militias in West Darfur continue. Another 200,000 people are expected to follow. Yet, says one refugee, ‘the international community does nothing’ The Guardian

AU Envoy Seeks International Support for Somali Army
The head of the African Union Mission in Somalia has called for international support for Somali government forces who are battling the al-Shabab militant group on multiple fronts in the country. Mohamed El-Amine Souef says the Somali army needs not just training but weapons, equipment and skills for the officers, and lifting the arms embargo so that the country can buy weapons…He confirmed that the Africa Union Peace and Security Council has approved Somalia’s request for a three-month pause of the withdrawal of 3,000 peacekeepers…Asked if the Somali government is underestimating the magnitude of the task in taking over responsibilities from the AU and fighting al-Shabab, Souef said there is a “political will” in Somalia to take over security responsibilities from the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia…On Wednesday, a senior Somali government official welcomed the pause of the troops drawdown but expressed confidence the government will have enough troops in the coming months to resume responsibilities. Kamal Dahir Hassan Gutale, national security adviser to Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre, said the government has trained 9,700 soldiers since taking office in May 2022, and had an additional 3,000 troops trained in Eritrea. He said there are more troops still being trained abroad. VOA

DRC: Eight UN Peacekeepers Arrested for Sexual Exploitation, One Officer Suspended
The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) announced on Wednesday that it has taken “strong measures” against peacekeepers suspected of “serious misconduct.” According to internal documents from MONUSCO reviewed by AFP, eight peacekeepers deployed in Beni, in the eastern DRC, were arrested on October 1st, and an officer was suspended on October 8th as part of a case involving alleged sexual exploitation and violence. All of them belong to the South African contingent of the UN force and may be implicated in what internal reports describe as a “systematic and widespread violation” of UN rules against exploitation and sexual abuse…Since May, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has been calling on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, including South Africa, to deploy in the DRC to support the Congolese army against the M23 rebellion, which has seized large parts of the North Kivu province. The DRC government also demands an “accelerated” departure of the UN force starting from December of this year, as it accuses the force of not having been able to put an end to the violence by armed groups after 25 years of presence. Africanews with AFP

Egypt Moves to Prevent Mass Exodus from Gaza
Egypt is moving to prevent a mass exodus of Palestinians from Gaza, as Israel’s bombardment of the strip continued on Wednesday. While Egypt has not officially commented on the situation at Rafah, state-run Ahram Online published a story on Tuesday citing a warning by high-level Egyptian security sources that the country “refuses to allow Gazans to settle in Sinai”, and urged Israel to instead provide safe passage for civilians…The passage of people and goods in and out of Gaza is strictly controlled under a blockade enforced by Egypt and Israel. Rafah is the only possible crossing point into Sinai from Gaza, with the rest of the strip surrounded by sea and by Israel, which announced a total siege of Gaza on Monday and could launch a ground offensive…While there has been no sign so far of a mass exodus at the crossing, it remained shut on Wednesday with the Egyptian military taking up new positions close to the border to monitor the situation. Egypt is particularly wary of a deterioration of the security situation in Sinai. The area was the site of an Islamist insurgency that flared a decade ago. While the Egyptian military has largely asserted its control over northern Sinai in recent years, it still faces sporadic attacks. Africanews

FGM Ban in the Gambia under Threat as Calls Grow to Repeal Law
Political and religious leaders in the Gambia are threatening to introduce a bill to decriminalise female genital mutilation, eight years after the practice was outlawed. Members of the country’s national assembly have backed a proposal for the 2015 law to be scrapped while the Supreme Islamic Council has issued a fatwa condemning anyone who denounces the practice and calling for the government to reconsider the legislation. Activists and civil society organisations said the move would be hugely regressive…Almost three-quarters of women (73%) aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM, according to the country’s demographic health survey 2019-20…FGM involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, which can have serious long-term health consequences, including infertility. The practice is considered a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights and in 2012 the UN passed a resolution to ban it…Under the current law in the Gambia, a person convicted of performing FGM faces up to three years in prison, a fine of 50,000 dalasi (£622), or both. Where FGM leads to death, the perpetrator could face life imprisonment. Debate began in late August after three women were convicted of FGM in the Central River region – the first prosecution under the 2015 law – and ordered to pay a fine of 15,000 dalasi or spend a year in jail. A few days later, an Islamic cleric paid the fines and encouraged Gambians to continue to practise FGM. The issue was then debated at the national assembly in September, where there were calls to repeal the law. The Guardian

Eight African Filmmakers on the Legacy of Ousmane Sembène, a Hundred Years On
January may have marked the centenary of Ousmane Sembène’s birth, but celebrations of his legacy have continued to play on throughout the year – and across the world…Born in the town of Ziguinchor, Senegal, in 1923, Sembène worked as a fisherman before moving to France, where he became influenced by the trade union movement and began writing novels. Moving back to his home country, a decade later, he saw the power that existed in films to spread social and political activism…His contributions remain numerous: Over his career, which spanned five decades, Sembène published ten books and directed twelve films. His shunning of Western languages and narrative style in favor of African storytelling traditions, including using Wolof, Diola and Bambara in his films, helped shape cinema from the continent. From Borom Sarret to Martin Scorsese’s (and everyone else’s!) favorite, Black Girl (Black Girl La Noire de…), to his ambitious trilogy of Emitaï, Xala and Ceddo, Sembène more than made his mark by the time of his death at 84 in 2007. “Black Girl (La Noire de…) changed my life…[I]ts quiet rebellion sent me a very loud message about my responsibility as a filmmaker….For me, this is the true power of Sembène’s legacy, which also spoke to, and influenced many, Black filmmakers in the United States. He empowered us to fight against the “colonial imposition,” and to hang on to our dignity as Africans and as artists,” [Cameroon-born director Ellie Foumbi said.] OkayAfrica