Africa Media Review for October 20, 2023

Liberia’s Joseph Boakai Courts Smaller Parties as Run-Off against George Weah Looms
Liberia’s main opposition candidate Joseph Boakai is courting smaller parties ahead of a likely run-off against incumbent George Weah. Provisional results from 99.5% of the 5,890 polling stations show that the two candidates remain neck and neck following elections on 10 October. Mr Weah currently has 43.8% of the vote with Mr Boakai on 43.5%. This suggests that neither candidate will get the more than 50% of the vote needed for victory. Voting is being repeated in parts of Sinoe, Nimba and Montserrado counties following allegations of ballot-tampering, but not in enough areas to significantly affect the overall presidential tally, local media report…In a press conference, Mr Boakai urged fellow opposition candidates to join the “rescue team for a resounding victory”…He pledged that if he was elected president, he would form a “government of inclusion that truly reflects the political, social and religious diversity of the citizens.” None of the 18 other candidates received more than 3% of the vote. BBC

Fact-Checkers Dispel Myths, Reduce Chaos During Liberia ‘s Election Season
[VIDEO] Fact-checkers in Liberia help clean up media space during the country’s volatile election season. By verifying — or dispelling — claims that political parties and supporters make, fact-checkers say they have reduced election season chaos. Senanu Tord reports from Monrovia, Liberia. VOA

Chad Opposition Fear Arrest, Harassment Ahead of Referendum
On the eve of the first anniversary of the bloody repression of a protest against military rule in Chad, the opposition still faces arrest, intimidation and threats…[A] referendum on a new constitution is scheduled in two months’ time and is due to set the stage for “free” elections and a return to civilian rule. [Mahamat Idriss] Deby had said elections would be held within 18 months of his takeover. But last October 20, he pushed that back two more years. Chadians poured out onto the streets in protest…The junta has admitted that at least 50 protesters died in the capital, while the opposition and NGO’s said the true figure from police and army gunfire was far higher. Hundreds of youth and opposition figures were arrested, although some managed to flee abroad, including Transformers’ leader Succes Masra. On October 8 this year, 72 young activists were arrested at the party headquarters and were since detained at a secret location…After Black Thursday, the regime said 621 youths, including 83 minors were detained at an infamous desert jail at Koro Toro, 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the capital. Six weeks later, they were tried in a closed court without legal representation. Many were sentenced to jail. Local and international NGO’s as well as UN-mandated experts estimate that 1,000-2,000 were arrested. Dozens if not hundreds of them have since disappeared…The main reason for the latest arrests “is that Succes Masra …frightens President Deby and other actors in the transition who have their sights on the next presidential” elections, said Kelma Manatouma, a political science researcher at Paris Nanterre University. AFP

Somalia: Insecurity Worsens, Civilians Pay the Price
Insecurity persists in Somalia, with extremist group Al-Shabaab and fighting in the Laascaanood region taking a heavy toll on civilians, the UN envoy for the country told the Security Council on Thursday. Briefing Ambassadors in New York, UN Special Representative for Somalia Catriona Laing, described the country as being at a critical juncture. “Last year, we saw the largest increase in civilian casualties since 2017. Sadly, early data indicate a similar trend in 2023, with 1,289 civilian casualties recorded so far,” she said. The military campaign against Al-Shabaab in central Somalia faced setbacks, though the national army and allied clan militias were able to initially retake significant territory. “In response to its own setbacks, Al-Shabaab has increased the use of 107mm rockets, particularly in Mogadishu. It has also conducted targeted attacks on high profile Somali politicians,” Ms. Laing added…The humanitarian situation in the country remains deeply concerning, with nearly four million people facing hunger and about 1.2 million people displaced, the UN envoy said. The situation may deteriorate due to enhanced Deyr rains and the El Niño climate effect, leading to floods that could push hundreds of thousands more into food insecurity. UN News

Somalia Rejects Ethiopia’s Quest for Negotiations over Red Sea Access
Ethiopia’s quest to have negotiations over access to the Red Sea suffered a huge blow on Wednesday, with the Federal Republic of Somalia dismissing the move, noting that it is “not interested” in granting access to strategic assets like the port. Being a landlocked country, Ethiopia has struggled to export and import goods from overseas, forcing it to entirely depend on the Port of Djibouti and the newly constructed Port of Berbera in Somalia. The cost of importation directly affects the country’s economy…Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed Ali was quoted as saying his country had “natural rights” to directly access the Red Sea, and if it was denied this “there will be no fairness and justice and if there is no fairness and justice, it’s a matter of time, we will fight.” The Prime Minister suggested his government could grant shares in its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in return for similar stakes in ports in neighboring countries. The dam, once fully operationalized, would serve neighboring states with uninterrupted power. Garowe Online

Sudan: Number of Families Suffering from Hunger Almost Doubles
The number of families suffering from hunger has almost doubled in the past year in Sudan, where a war between generals has plunged the country into chaos for six months, WHO and UNICEF said on Wednesday…According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “the number of families suffering from hunger has almost doubled” over the past year. “700,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition and 100,000 children need life-saving treatment against acute malnutrition accompanied by medical complications,” alerted the two UN agencies in a press release. “More than 20.3 million people, or more than 42% of the country’s population, face high levels of acute food insecurity” and this is particularly true in areas where clashes rage, notably in Darfur, Khartoum, South Kordofan, and West Kordofan, said a UNICEF spokesperson in an email to AFP…Millions of children are exposed to various diseases, such as cholera, dengue fever, measles, and malaria, while the health system is significantly strained by attacks and fighting, warn the WHO and the Unicef. Africanews with AFP

Deadly Shelling Unabated in Sudan Capital
Continued artillery shelling [Wednesday] caused deaths and injuries in parts of Karari locality of Omdurman, twin city of the Sudan capital of Khartoum. Volunteers at El Nau Hospital in the city say the hospital has received several people killed and wounded by the shelling. Residents of Omdurman told Radio Dabanga that they heard strong explosions and several shells falling in multiple neighbourhoods of Omdurman. Plumes of smoke were also witnessed rising from the Karari military area, which is under the control of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), and subjected to continuous shelling by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The Karari Resistance Committees Coordination said the RSF attack on residential neighbourhoods resulted in multiple deaths and dozens of injuries, as well as the collapse of several houses. The sources indicated that shells fell on the SAF printing press, El Wadi Street, and El Shanqeeti Street in Omdurman. Reports emerged from Bahri (Khartoum North) of several shells falling in the Shambat area during artillery shelling from the weapons corps. Residents from Khartoum also reported heavy shelling in Jebel Aulia, while areas south and east of Khartoum witnessed complete calm on Wednesday. Radio Dabanga

Sudan: Trial of Darfur Janjaweed ‘Colonel of Colonels’ Ali Kushayb Resumes at ICC
The trial of former Darfur janjaweed leader, Ali Muhammad Ali Abdelrahman, known as ‘Ali Kushayb’ and referred to as the ‘Colonel of Colonels, who stands accused of 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity between 2003 and at least 2004, resumed yesterday at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands…Kushayb and his militia are accused of attacking villages, including Kutum and Bindisi, which resulted in the displacement of the civilians of these villages to Mukjar and the alleged detention, seizure and executions of villagers, including community leaders, in Mukjar in the period from February to March 2004. Previous witnesses during the trial have given various examples of janjaweed atrocities in Darfur, in one case explaining how they “pillaged and burnt down villages”…The ICC issued arrest warrants against former Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Haroun, and Kushayb in 2007. Kushayb was transferred to the ICC’s custody on June 9, 2020 after surrendering himself voluntarily in the Central African Republic. Upon his arrest, the Sudanese government announced its support for his transfer to the ICC. Kushayb is also charged with a number of crimes by the Sudanese authorities. Radio Dabanga

South Sudan President Pledges Free and Fair Elections in 2024
South President Salva Kiir has reiterated his administration’s commitment to free and fair elections come 2024 at the end of the transitional period…During [a] meeting [with US Ambassador to Juba, Michael J. Adler], the South Sudanese leader briefed the US official about efforts in place to ensure all prerequisites for the conduct of free and fair elections are in place…[L]eading opposition and foreign diplomats have expressed concerns that credible elections require addressing the violence across the country. Already, previously peaceful areas have fallen into traps of tensions and violence, causing fear in Eastern and Central Equatoria, Unity, Warrap, and Jonglei states, as well as the Abyei Administrative Area, where civilians have endured multiple attacks, fueling a cycle of cattle raiding, abductions, revenge killings and gender-based violence. South Sudan is expected to hold its first democratic elections in December 2024 as per the 2018 peace agreement. But given disagreements between Kiir and other leading opposition parties, it is unclear whether the potential elections will take place next year…In August last year, South Sudan’s leaders signed a two-year extension of the transitional government, in a move foreign partners warned as lacking legitimacy. This was the second time the parties extended the country’s transitional period. Sudan Tribune

ICC Prosecutor Drops Charges against CAR Ex-militia Mokom
The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor on Thursday said it was dropping all war crimes charges against Maxime Mokom, a former militia leader in the troubled Central African Republic (CAR). Prosecutor Karim Khan said his office had concluded there were “no longer any reasonable prospects of conviction at trial even if the charges were confirmed.” Mokom had faced charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over alleged atrocities committed against Muslim civilians in the CAR, a former French colony, by his self-proclaimed self-defence militias in 2013 and 2014…The charges Mokom had faced included directing attacks against the civilian population, murder, rape and pillage. Prosecutor Khan said the decision to drop those charges was taken after considering all the evidence and “changed circumstances regarding the availability of witnesses”…The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Mokom in 2018 and he was finally handed over by Chadian authorities last year. AFP

Senegal: Navy Intercepts Two Migrant Boats
Two boats carrying migrants on Wednesday were intercepted by a Senegalese navy patrol off the coast of Senegal. The 338 migrants, which included many young people, as well as women and minors, were then forcibly returned to the Dakar naval base. The number of attempted migrant crossings to Europe has risen in recent months, with thousands arriving in places like Lampedusa in Italy and Spain’s Canary Islands. The Canaries are a main target for migrants attempting to cross the Atlantic from west Africa. The Canaries saw 14,976 migrants arrive between January 1 and September 30, an increase of 19.8 percent compared to the same period in 2022, according to the latest figures from Spain’s interior ministry. The migratory route across the Atlantic has become increasingly busy in recent years due to tighter controls in the Mediterranean Sea. Like the Mediterranean, however, the risks are high, with many boats sunk or missing in 2023. In August, a boat that left from Senegal sunk off Cape Verde, killing 60. Africanews

African Football League: Q&A on the Continent’s Newest Elite Club Competition
Africa’s new elite club competition, the African Football League (AFL), will kick off on Friday when the opening game takes place in Tanzania…The AFL is a new competition for the continent’s leading clubs, eight of whom will battle it out in the hope of winning the $4m prize for the champions. On Friday, the record 11-time African club champions – Al Ahly, of Egypt – meet Tanzania’s Simba in the first of the quarter-finals, all of which are played over two legs. The brainchild of Fifa and its president Gianni Infantino, who announced in February 2020 that the continent needed a new pan-African club competition, the AFL – in its own words – “is set to change the future of club football on the continent.” The two-legged final of this year’s inaugural AFL, which will be played on a knock-out basis, is scheduled for 5 and 11 November…With Fifa working in partnership with the Confederation of African Football (Caf), the hope is the AFL will not only raise the global profile of the continent’s clubs but also generate increased revenue. Should Africa’s clubs resultantly improve their finances, the hope is that improved wages will incentivise more players to stay on the continent to play football without feeling the need to play in Europe or elsewhere. BBC