Africa Media Review for October 2, 2023

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Long Quest for Democracy Faces Another Test
To break the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s long legacy of stolen elections, the country’s independent oversight institutions, civil society, and media will need the backing of SADC and international democratic actors. Africa’s fourth most populous country will head to the polls to elect their president, parliamentary, provincial, and municipal representatives on December 20, 2023. The elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) take place against the backdrop of persistent armed conflict in the east, concerns over the reignition of a regional conflict in the Great Lakes region, questions over the status of the 18,000 troop United Nations peace operations mission (MONUSCO), the destabilizing exploitation of the DRC’s vast natural resources, dozens of active armed militias throughout the country, and the forced displacement of over 7 million of the DRC’s estimated 110 million citizens. Given the country’s location at the heart of the continent, the outcome of DRC’s elections will have direct implications for east, west, central, and southern Africa. … While Tshisekedi has established some independence from his predecessor’s stranglehold on state institutions, the DRC’s legacy of opaque governance has persisted. … Concerns are likewise growing that the DRC’s long legacy of electoral malpractice will persist in 2023. … Reformers have highlighted several urgent priorities to ensure the credibility of the vote. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

DR Congo’s Nationality Draft Law Seen as Targeting Moïse Katumbi
A draft law meant to tighten rules on election candidacy in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being seen as a tool to ring-fence President Felix Tshisekedi’s second term ahead of scheduled elections in December. The proposed law is among several pieces of legislation up for debate in the September session of the Congolese parliament, which often also discusses budgetary rules this time of the year. The parliament is set to discuss the draft dubbed the “Tshiani Law”, after its author Noël Tshiani, a 65-year-old economist, who worked at the World Bank and ran for president in 2018. One of the provisions of the Bill is that only Congolese born of a Congolese father and mother may be appointed to positions of sovereignty or as state officers, including president, prime minister, in the courts and tribunals, the ministries of finance, defence and security. … [S]ome people in the DR Congo believe that Tshiani’s and Pululu’s initiative is a strategy to keep Tshisekedi rivals such as Moïse Katumbi, who has mixed heritage, out of the presidential race. East African

Congolese Opposition Leader Fayulu Confirms he Will Run for the Presidency
Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Martin Fayulu confirmed on Saturday he will submit his candidacy for the December presidential election, where he is expected to be one of the main challengers to President Felix Tshisekedi. The 66-year-old former Exxon Mobil executive came second to Tshisekedi in the contentious 2018 election. His party, the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party, the African Union and Congo’s influential Catholic Church questioned the outcome and Fayulu challenged the results in court. Since then he has remained a vocal critic of Tshisekedi’s presidency, threatening to boycott the Dec. 20 ballot in protest at alleged fraud linked to the voter list – a decision he now says would have played into his opponents hands. … In an effort to allow greater scrutiny, his party is pushing for election results to be announced by polling station unlike the 2018 vote, which pre-election polls had predicted Fayulu would win by a landslide. “We will continue to fight for transparency in the elections, and if we don’t have transparency in the electoral register, we will have it in the monitoring of the elections,” Fayulu said. Reuters

Talking Peace in Sudan, the U.A.E. Secretly Fuels the Fight
Under the guise of saving refugees, the United Arab Emirates is running an elaborate covert operation to back one side in Sudan’s spiraling war — supplying powerful weapons and drones, treating injured fighters and airlifting the most serious cases to one of its military hospitals, according to a dozen current and former officials from the United States, Europe and several African countries. The operation is based at an airfield and a hospital in a remote town across the Sudanese border in Chad, where cargo planes from the Emirates have been landing on a near-daily basis since June, according to satellite imagery and the officials, who spoke on the basis of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. It is the latest example of how the Emirates, an American ally in the Persian Gulf, has been using its vast wealth and sophisticated armory to position itself as a key player and sometimes kingmaker across Africa. In Sudan, the evidence suggests it is backing the Rapid Support Forces, or R.S.F., a powerful paramilitary group that has been linked to the Russian mercenary group Wagner and accused of atrocities. The R.S.F. has been battling the nation’s regular military in a civil war that has left 5,000 civilians dead and displaced more than four million people since April. NY Times

At Least Ten Die in Airstrikes on Residential Areas in Sudan Capital
At least ten people were killed in Khartoum state during airstrikes and shelling by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) over the weekend. In particular Mayo in south Khartoum and El Sawra and Ombadda in Omdurman were hit. A Sudanese Sufi sheikh has called on the Saudi American negotiations platform in Jeddah to resume the talks between the warring parties. The fierce fighting between the Sudanese army and its paramilitary counterpart in Khartoum continues unabated, with an increasing number of civilians being hit. In a statement on Sunday, the Emergency Lawyers condemned the killing of nine people as a result of the aerial bombardments and artillery shelling on Saturday. … Emergency lawyers accused the army of besieging the Kalakla neighbourhoods in southwest Khartoum and preventing the entry of any consumer goods from Jebel Awlia. They further reported that the SAF has set up an outpost near the El Amal Hospital on the highway leading to Kosti. “The soldiers investigate all vehicles and confiscate all consumables.” Dabanga

Mali Tuareg Rebels Claim Military Base Following Clashes on Sunday
Mali’s northern Tuareg rebels said on Sunday that they had seized another military base from the Malian army following fighting in the north of the country. The military base is the fourth taken in a series of attacks the rebel alliance, called the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), has carried out since August following the departure of a U.N. peacekeeping mission that for years helped maintain a fragile calm. Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane, a spokesman for the CMA told Reuters on Sunday that they had taken control of the Bamba military base in the Gao region. He gave no further details. … The CMA attack on Bamba, following those on military bases in Lere, Dioura and Bourem in the past weeks signals intensifying clashes as both sides seek to control territory in the desert centre and north of the West African country, just as U.N. peacekeepers withdraw. … The CMA signed a peace deal with the previous government and pro-government militia in 2015. But tensions have resurfaced since the military consolidated power in two coups in 2020 and 2021, teamed up with Russian military contractor Wagner Group, and kicked out French forces and U.N. peacekeepers. Reuters

Burkina Faso Leader Says Elections are Not a Priority and Plans Constitutional Changes
Elections in Burkina Faso are not a “priority” compared to “security”, the country’s military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore said Friday, September 29, on state TV, almost a year after coming to power in a coup. Traore, who had promised a return to democracy with presidential elections by July 2024, also announced planned changes to the constitution to make it representative of the “masses”. “It’s not a priority, I’ll tell you that clearly, it’s security that’s the priority” in a country plagued by jihadist violence, he told reporters, referring to the elections. When Traore seized power he gave himself “two to three months” to improve security in Burkina Faso, but one year on, jihadist attacks still blight the West African nation. Le Monde/AFP

Ghana’s President Urges ECOWAS to Cut the ‘Coup Spirit’ Urgently
Not long ago, all 15 heads of state in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) were democratically elected, but just four years later that has drastically changed. … Problems in the past four years arose in French-speaking countries that had military coups; namely, Mali was suspended on 30 May 2021, after two military coups in a space of nine months; Guinea was suspended on 8 September 2021; and on 28 January 2022, Burkina Faso was suspended. The last to be suspended was Niger in July this year. … On Friday last week, the second Ecowas Parliamentary Seminar was held in Winneba, Ghana. In his address, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo spoke about the new reality in which Ecowas found itself, which required immediate solutions. He said: We cannot run away from the fact that our region is confronted with a difficult economic, political, social, and security situation. “As all of us know, despite the considerable progress made by the community in the areas of democracy, good governance, and the rule of law since the early 1990s, which meant that, four years ago, all 15 leaders of Ecowas states were democratically elected, we are, at the moment, witnessing a decline in our democratic credentials,” he said.He spoke about the need to “find solutions to the emerging remilitarisation of governance, the attempted confiscation of democracy by elites, and the wanton desire to destroy democracy by terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs in the region”. News24

Torture in Egypt a ‘Crime against Humanity’, Says Rights Groups
Egyptian authorities’ “widespread and systematic” use of torture is “a crime against humanity”, rights groups said Monday in an appeal to the United Nations to review Egypt’s rights record. The report, submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, tracked the use of methods including “beatings, electrical shocks, sexual violence” and denial of access to medical care by members of the security services. Egyptian authorities’ “use of torture is so widespread and systematic as to amount to a crime against humanity under customary international law,” the coalition of six rights groups said. Torture has been used “as a political tool to curtail dissent” in Egypt’s long-running practice of targeting “human rights defenders, minorities, journalists, academics and opposition politicians,” according to Mohamed Lotfy, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms’ executive director. The coalition submitting the report included the ECRF, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and London-based human rights organisation REDRESS. … Cairo has long been criticised for its rights record during the decade-long rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who oversaw a crackdown on dissent. Rights groups estimate the country has around 60,000 political prisoners. Many of them, according to rights groups, have been subjected to brutal conditions in overcrowded cells and regularly mistreated by prison authorities. France24

Mnangagwa Will Be Dragged to an Election Rerun Kicking and Screaming, Says CCC
Opposition Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC) has said Zimbabwe will soon conduct another election through a transitional authority headed by the SADC and managed by an “independent and professional” electoral body. This comes after the August general election was denounced by regional and international electoral observer missions: the SADC, AU, EU, Commonwealth, and Carter Center in their preliminary reports. The opposition described the polls as a “gigantic fraud” and has insisted on a rerun, demands which the ruling party, Zanu PF, and its affiliates have scoffed at. In a post on X, CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi wrote: “Mnangagwa will be dragged to a fresh, free & fair election kicking & screaming. “A fresh election is inevitable. Let us use every peaceful & democratic means available & permissible to bring forth the elections. … He added Chamisa had already stated that “what is currently governing is an illegal, illegitimate interim defacto arrangement peaceful means would be used make sure re-election will be done. “Our focus is on organising and mobilizing towards a fresh election which will have to come through a transitional authority shepherded by SADC and a new, independent & professional body in place of [the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission].” New Zimbabwe

Senegal: More than 600 Migrants Intercepted in Three Days
Senegal’s navy said on Sunday that it had intercepted over 600 Europe-bound migrants off the country’s coast in three days. Two more boats carrying 262 would-be migrants, including 26 women and 13 minors, were boarded late Saturday. The navy also stopped a boat with 272 passengers on Friday and 71 a day earlier. The rescues come during the busy summer season, when thousands of migrants attempt to cross the hundreds of miles of ocean separating Africa and Europe each year in a desperate search for a better life. The Senegalese navy has stepped up its boarding and rescue operations against illegal migrants in recent weeks. It has intercepted 1,955 would-be migrants since July 1, according to its social media accounts. From Senegal and its neighboring countries, boats repeatedly set off in the direction of the Canary Islands, which are about 1500 kilometers away and belong to Spain. Between January 1 and August 31, 11,439 migrants arrived on the islands, 7.5 percent more than in the same period in 2022, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry. This is the highest number for this time of year since at least 2018, and most likely since 2006. The Atlantic Ocean, with its strong currents and high waves, is considered one of the most dangerous escape routes to Europe. DW

New UN Migration Chief Says Private Sector ‘Desperate’ to Take Migrants despite Negative Narrative
The new head of the U.N.’s migration agency said Monday that the private sector is “desperate” for their countries to take in migrants to mop up labor shortages, especially in the West — endeavoring to steer a narrative away from reticence and suspicion about migrants in many parts of the world. Amy Pope, the first woman to head the International Organization for Migration, sought to play up the economic benefits of migration for rich nations with aging populations and declining workforces … ”We hear from … the private sector globally, but especially in Europe and in North America, that they are desperate for migration in order to meet their own labor market needs and in order to continue to fuel innovation within their own companies,” Pope, who is American, told reporters. … Pope insisted that countries must ensure legal and proper “pathways” to migration, a longstanding call by U.N. institutions. … Pope said her first trip abroad in the job will be to East Africa, where drought and the impacts of climate change have driven many to flee. She said 80% of African migrants stay in Africa, and said her job was “not to focus just on south-to-north migration, which I know occupies a lot of the political space and a lot of the print space.” She pointed to shrinking humanitarian aid budgets, the need to draw in the private sector into the “conversation” to support migration, and signs that migration is set to continue to grow. AP

Central African Refugees Stitch Together New Life in Cameroon
Marallah came to Cameroon eight years ago when attackers struck her community in Bangui. “I do not want to talk about it,” she tells RFI when asked to describe what drove her to flee. “I am in a healing process. Talking about it will only reopen those wounds.” But her compatriot Fifi Tecombi is more forthcoming. Tecombi witnessed firsthand the 2013 coup d’état when a coalition of predominantly Muslim rebel groups, Séléka, overran the capital Bangui. They put President François Bozizé to flight and named former rebel leader Michel Djotodjia the new head of state. But predominantly Christian militias known as the anti-Balaka – meaning “anti-machete” – would eventually force Djotodia out of power. “I left the town of Boda on 1 December 2013 for business in Bangui and there was a coup d’état on 5 December. The anti-Balaka invaded the town and I couldn’t return because I am a Muslim – the narrative was that it was a Christian-Muslim conflict,” Tecombi said. … Tecombi, like Marallah, forms part of the over 352,000 refugees from the Central African Republic in Cameroon, uprooted from their country in the midst of war, rapes, kidnappings and maimings. RFI met them this week at a forum for refugees, internally displaced people and migrants organised by G100, an NGO made up of influential women from around the world. … The G100 meeting aimed to find ways of dealing with the problems displaced people, particularly women, face. Beer said the UNHCR and other partners have initiated programmes and projects that are giving displaced people a fresh start. RFI

Wife of Gabon’s Ousted President Ali Bongo Charged with ‘Money Laundering’
The wife of Gabon’s ousted president Ali Bongo Ondimba has been charged with “money laundering” and other offences, the public prosecutor said Friday, a month after her husband was toppled in a coup. Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, who is Franco-Gabonese, and one of the couple’s sons have been accused by the coup leader of having pulled the strings in the oil-rich country. Their eldest son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, has already been charged with corruption and embezzling public funds with several former cabinet members and two ex-ministers. Sylvia Bongo was charged by an investigating judge on Thursday and ordered to remain under house arrest, Andre Patrick Roponat announced on state TV channels. She also faces other charges including concealment and forgery, he said. France24

An Invasive Mosquito Threatens Catastrophe in Africa
A malaria-carrying species that thrives in urban areas and resists all insecticides is causing outbreaks in places that have rarely faced the disease. … At its center is Anopheles stephensi, a malaria-carrying species of mosquito that arrived in the port city of the tiny East African nation of Djibouti a decade ago and was largely ignored by public health officials. It is resistant to all insecticides and has adapted to thrive in urban environments and survive in dry seasons. It is now breeding in locations across the center of the continent, and entomologists say further spread is inevitable. Africa has expertise and strategies to fight malaria as a rural disease but now faces the threat of urban outbreaks, putting vastly more people at risk and threatening to wipe away recent progress against malaria, which still kills 620,000 people each year, mostly in Africa. Although some mosquito experts say it is too soon to be certain of the magnitude of the threat, the potential for outbreaks in cities, they fear, may set up a competition between urban and rural areas for scarce resources to fight the disease. NY Times

A ‘Modern Masterpiece’ Paints Pandemic Chaos on Cloth Made of Fig-tree Bark
Kenyan-British artist Michael Armitage painted Curfew (Likoni March 27, 2020) while moving between Nairobi and London during the COVID-19 pandemic. The work is a response to an incident in the port city of Mombasa, Kenya, when passengers, unable to board severely overcrowded ferries in time to meet a government-imposed curfew, were beaten and tear-gassed by paramilitary police. According to curator Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi of the Museum of Modern Art, where the work now hangs, it is nothing less than “an apocalyptic foreboding that transcends the specific event in Mombasa to reflect the global upheaval and uncertainty of the pandemic moment.” … Armitage paints on lubugo cloth, which is made from fig-tree bark, in part to ground his work in East African history. His widely acclaimed work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in Europe, Africa, Australia and the United States. In 2020 he founded the non-profit Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute (NCAI) to promote contemporary art from East Africa and opened an exhibition space in Nairobi. NPR

How West Africa Can Reap More Profit From the Global Chocolate Market
The global chocolate industry is a multibillion-dollar confection, and Africa grows 70 percent of the world’s raw cocoa beans. But it produces only 1 percent of the chocolate — missing out on a part of the business that generates the biggest returns and is dominated by American and European multinationals. Capturing a bigger share of the profits generated by chocolate sales and keeping them in Ghana — the second-largest cocoa exporter behind Ivory Coast — is the animating vision behind Fairafric. The aim is to manufacture the chocolate and create stable, well-paying jobs in the place where farmers grow the cocoa. … The pattern of exporting cheap raw materials to richer countries that use them to manufacture valuable finished goods is a hangover from colonial days. Growing and harvesting cocoa is the lowest-paid link in the chocolate value chain. The result is that farmers receive a mere 5 or 6 percent of what a chocolate bar sells for in Paris, Chicago or Tokyo. … [T]he “fairchain movement” … argues that the entire production process should be in the country that produces the raw materials. The idea is to create a profitable company and distribute the gains more equitably — among farmers, factory workers and small investors in Ghana. By keeping manufacturing at home, Fairafric supports other local businesses, like the paper company that supplies the chocolate wrappers. It also helps to build infrastructure. Now that Fairafric has installed the fiber optic connections in this rural area, other start-up businesses can plug in. NY Times