Africa Media Review for October 13, 2023

SADC Maintains Zimbabwean Elections Fell Short of Acceptable Standards in Final Report
Regional body SADC’s final report on Zimbabwe’s August elections has maintained the polls fell short of accepted regional and international standards, a position similar to its preliminary position. The damning report highlighted issues to do with Zimbabwe’s legal framework, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) independence, postal voting by state security agencies, media and the diaspora vote. Shadowy organisation Forever Associates Zimbabwe’s (FAZ) involvement, the judiciary and the police’s inconsistent application of laws were emphasised as having affected the polls. Matters in the final report signed by SADC Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema were all highlighted days after Zimbabweans cast ballots by his countryman and head of SADC’s Election Observer Mission (EOM) Nevers Mumba. … “The Mission was informed that the delimitation exercise that was conducted in 2022 by the ZEC was marred with controversy. In one way or another, concerned stakeholders claimed that the report that ZEC submitted failed to observe the constitutional requirements for such an exercise and that there were also divisions amongst the ZECs regarding the report’s veracity.” … According to reports, Zanu PF had been hoping for a favourable final report. New Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s Opposition CCC to ‘Disengage’ from Parliament
CCC leader and losing presidential candidate, Nelson, says his party will “disengage” from lawmaking amid an implosion within the party in a sequence of events that has now included riot police. “Until this issue is resolved, CCC MPs and councillors will disengage from parliament and councils. When we say disengage, we do not mean that they have withdrawn. “We are saying no business will be transacted until remedy and justice are done through a mechanism we have agreed,” he said. But total withdrawal is on the cards, he warned. This week, CCC secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu recalled 15 legislators from parliament. … Chamisa insisted to journalists that “Zanu PF is using certain people purporting to be CCC, who are not even in our books in terms of membership registry.” Legislators also shared Chamisa’s convictions. On Tuesday, in parliament, they protested against the recalls. … Chamisa said the party would “disengage” all party legislators and councillors from both parliament and councils because of the recall of the 15 legislators. He threatened that if the recalls continued, total withdrawal from parliament was an option. He said: “We have disengaged, but withdrawal is also on the cards. We already have a constitutional crisis, but there is going to be a worse one if there is no justice on the issues that are at play.” News24

Liberia: Can Boakai Sustain Early Lead?
[Former Vice President Joseph Boakai] leads with 3,119 votes, representing 60.17%, while [President George] Weah is far behind with 1,681 votes ( 32.43%), according to NEC’s official ongoing tally. … Boakai may have taken an early lead over … Weah, but he faces an uphill battle to maintain it. Boakai, who is hoping to amend his defeat to Weah in 2017, is currently in a comfortable lead, according to the National Elections Commission (NEC). However, Boakai’s lead is based on “tally captures from two of the fifteen counties’ reporting, namely Bomi and Montserrado counties, which represent 16 out of 5,890 polling places across the country. … It is unclear whether Boakai, who sources say is pleased with the trend of his lead and deeply confident of winning against his opponents in the first round, can pull off a surprise win in Montserrado County, which no ruling party has won in the postwar history of Liberia. During the President’s time in the opposition, Montserrado was his stronghold. However, with just over two months remaining in his six-year term, it is uncertain whether he still maintains a grip on the county, as his administration’s achievements on the issues of poverty, unemployment, and corruption remain mixed.If Boakai manages to win in Montserrado and performs well in other battleground counties, analysts say he would have a chance of potentially winning the election in the first round, depending on the voting margin. Daily Observer

EAC Raises Concerns over New Hostilities in Eastern DR Congo
The East African Community (EAC) is expressing concerns over renewed hostilities between armed groups fighting in the North Kivu region of Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in what could signal violations of an agreed ceasefire. So far, armed confrontations have led to deaths, injuries, and displacement of civilians in the ongoing clashes between the Wazalendo armed group and M23 rebels. Their clash violates a months-long ceasefire between armed groups and Congolese armed forces FARDC, brokered by regional leaders under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), also known as the Luanda Process. M23 group have accused Congolese Forces of using Wazalendo as proxy, although FARDC says M23 have refused to abide by the ceasefire calls. The EAC says such hostilities will hurt the entire peace bid. … Political hostility in the DRC has meant the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) will leave the country by December 8, according to an official stance by Kinshasa. DRC accuses the forces of not targeting armed groups. … However, on Sunday an EAC defence ministers meeting in Arusha proposed an extension of the regional force’s occupancy until peace and stability is fully restored in DRC, arguing it had made gains since it arrived in Goma last year. East African

Madagascar Court Orders One-week Postponement of Presidential Election
A court in Madagascar on Thursday ordered a one-week postponement of the island’s November election, a move that incumbent president Andry Rajoelina has opposed. The High Constitutional Court said in a statement on its website that it had ordered the first round of the election be moved to Nov. 16 from Nov. 9, and maintained the second round election on Dec. 20. The court gave no reason for the change. Soava Andriamarotafika, spokesperson for the Independent National Electoral Commission, said the postponement gave them more time to prepare for the vote. … The Indian Ocean island is aiming for its third peaceful election since the upheaval of 2009 when Rajoelina ousted then president Marc Ravalomanana in a coup. Reuters

Sudanese Government Rebuffs UN Investigation Mission, as FFC Welcomes
The Sudanese military-led government has refused to allow the formation of an international fact-finding committee into human rights violations during the war, while the pro-democracy coalition, Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), has welcomed the decision and called for these crimes to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UN Human Rights Council decided on October 11 to establish a three-member fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations committed by the warring parties in Sudan since the outbreak of the conflict between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15. In a statement released on Thursday, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has raised doubts about the rationale behind this decision. … For its part, the FFC welcomed the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Council. They considered it an essential step towards stopping and ending war-related violations and redressing its civilian victims. The pro-democracy coalition stressed “the necessity of completing these investigations by referring all charges related to these violations to the ICC through the UN Security Council.” Sudan Tribune

Sudan-Iran Reconciliation Raises Concerns
Sudan’s foreign ministry announced it renewed diplomatic relations with Iran, in a joint statement on Monday. In an exclusive interview with Radio Dabanga, Sudanese political science professor Salah El Douma warns that this move reflects “El Burhan’s pursuit of resources and weaponry, amid concerns about legitimacy”. The two nations agreed to “strengthen ties” and to reopen embassies between the two nations. Salah El Douma, a Sudanese university professor of political science, asserted that the revival of Sudanese-Iranian relations “is part of El Burhan’s pursuit of financial resources and weaponry to sustain the conflict against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).” In an interview with Radio Dabanga, El Douma said that the Burhan regime, which he called “an extension of the ‘salvation regime’”, grapples with a fundamental legitimacy issue, “desperately seeking any means to gain it”. He emphasised that the Burhan government “is aware it lacks approval from the Sudanese people, the regional, and international communities”. … In a joint statement on Monday, Sudan and Iran announced their decision to restore diplomatic relations, marking the end of a seven-year hiatus. Dabanga

Algeria’s Top Court Rejects Journalist’s Appeal of his Seven-year Sentence
A journalist in Algeria targeted as part of a broader crackdown against pro-democracy protests will remain imprisoned after the country’s Supreme Court rejected his appeals on Thursday. Defense attorneys for Ihsane El Kadi, the owner of a media company that oversaw Algeria’s now-shuttered news site Maghreb Emergent and radio station Radio M, filed two appeals asking the court to overturn the journalist’s sentence for taking foreign funds for his media outlets and “inciting acts susceptible to threaten state security.” El Kadi is one of hundreds of people associated with Algeria’s pro-democracy movement who have faced criminal charges and imprisonment, including Mustapha Bendjama, another journalist. El Kadi’s website and radio station emerged as key channels during the North African nation’s 2019 Hirak protests. In April, a court in Algiers gave him a 7-year sentence that included three years in prison and ordered his website and radio station shut down. The sentence was part of a growing list of criminal penalties given to journalists, reflecting the increasing difficulties they face throughout North Africa. Khaled Drareni, Reporters Without Borders’ North Africa representative, said press freedoms had regressed in recent years throughout the region as journalists face imprisonment or fines as they try to do their jobs. AP

Eight UN Peacekeepers Detained over Sex Abuse Claims in DR Congo
The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) announced on Wednesday that it had taken “strong measures” against peacekeepers suspected of “serious misconduct”. According to internal documents of the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, seen by AFP, the eight peacekeepers deployed in Beni, eastern DR Congo, were arrested on October 1 and an officer suspended a week later in connection with alleged sexual exploitation and violence. All belong to the South African contingent of the UN force, and may be involved in what internal reports describe as a “systematic widespread violation” of UN rules. “The Office of Internal Oversight Services has been apprised and precautionary measures have already been taken in accordance with the UN Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy,” MONUSCO said in a statement late Wednesday. France24

Wife of Gabon’s Ousted Leader Ali Bongo Jailed for Corruption
Franco-Gabonese Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, ex-wife of ousted president Ali Bongo, was charged on 28 September with money laundering, forgery and falsification of records. According to Gabonese media reports, the 60-year-old was taken into custody at a prison in the capital Libreville following a long hearing in front a judge and imprisoned late on Wednesday, her Paris-based lawyer Francois Zimeray said. Sylvia Bongo had been under house arrest in Libreville since the 30 August coup brought the curtain down on 55 years of rule by the Bongo dynasty. Ali Bongo, 64, who had ruled the central African country since 2009, was overthrown by military leaders moments after being proclaimed the winner in a presidential election. … The putschists accuse Sylvia Bongo of having manipulated the former president, who is suffering the after-effects of a serious stroke in 2018. They say she and one of the couple’s sons have effectively pulled the strings in the oil-rich country for the past five years and have misused public money. RFI

South Africa Uncovers Coal-smuggling Ring
The South African authorities say they have uncovered a coal-smuggling syndicate that has played a major role in exacerbating the country’s energy crisis. The South African Revenue Service (Sars) led what was described as a search and seizure operation across five provinces where the smugglers are active – Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Limpopo. The suspects include former employees of the state-owned electricity firm, Eskom. A statement said the scam involved high-grade coal being sold off and replaced with a low-grade product which has been damaging power stations. The issue of coal theft has been reported in South Africa’s media for several years. It is widely felt that high-level corruption long prevented any action being taken to stop the scam. BBC

Outbreak of Diphtheria Kills 600 in Nigeria
Nigeria is grappling with a devastating diphtheria outbreak that has claimed the lives of more than 600 people, primarily children, since its onset in December 2022. This recent outbreak surpasses the 2011 incident, which reported a mere 98 cases. Kano state, located in the northern region, has become the epicenter of this health crisis, bearing the brunt of the outbreak with over 500 recorded fatalities. However, there is a glimmer of hope as the number of active cases has recently declined. Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease that primarily affects the nose and throat and can also lead to skin ulcers. It spreads through coughs, sneezes, and close contact with infected individuals, with severe cases often proving fatal. Regrettably, many of the affected children were unvaccinated. Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the head of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, emphasized the preventable nature of this disease during a visit to a diphtheria isolation center in Kano city, stating, “Witnessing the young children suffering from this entirely preventable disease at the center today was profoundly heart-wrenching.” AfricaNews

AFCON: Cote d’Ivoire Hosts Thrilling Africa Cup of Nations Draw
Host Cote d’Ivoire will play against Nigeria in the first stage of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Cote d’Ivoire 2023. This exciting news came after a special event in Abidjan where they picked the teams. The current champions, Senegal, will compete against Cameroon, and Egypt, who have won the tournament many times, will face Ghana. The draw was made with famous football players like Didier Drogba, Mikel Obi, Sadio Mane, and Achraf Hakimi helping out. In one of the groups, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau will be playing against each other. Senegal, the champions, will be in a group with Cameroon, Guinea, and Gambia, which looks like a tough group. Interestingly, Senegal and Cameroon will play a friendly match in France before the tournament begins. Egypt, who has won the tournament many times, will face Ghana in a group. Cape Verde and Mozambique will also be in the same group. Another exciting group includes Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Angola. World Cup semi-finalists Morocco will be in a group with DR Congo, Zambia, and Tanzania. The matches will happen at six different stadiums across the country, including new ones in Abidjan, Korhogo, and San Pedro. AfricaNews