Africa Media Review for October 23, 2019

Polls Open in Botswana’s General Election
Voters in Botswana head to the polls today for crucial general elections in one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Over 900,000 registered voters are expected to cast their ballots across the country to elect members of the national assembly and by extension the president of the southern African nation. The government declared October 23 – 25 as public holidays to allow for full participation of citizens in the democratic process. The vote caps a busy election year for the southern Africa region which has witnessed elections in South Africa, Malawi, DR Congo and earlier this month in Mozambique. In this article, we will keep track of the voting and tallying process, until the official results are declared. … The polls have been described by analysts as unprecedented especially against the backdrop that the former president Ian Khama has thrown his weight behind two opposition presidential candidates. The Presidential bid will see President Eric Mokgweetsi Masisi battle it out with three other candidates. Africa News

Putin Hosts Major Summit as Kremlin Scrambles for Africa
President Vladimir Putin is hosting dozens of African leaders for the first Russia-Africa Summit, as Moscow seeks greater influence on a continent where the West and China have a firm foothold. The two-day event at the Black Sea resort of Sochi will see more than 3,000 delegates prepare deals and discuss topics from nuclear technology to mineral extraction. Putin will open the summit this Wednesday alongside Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the current head of the African Union and guest of honour at the event. All 54 African states are reportedly sending a representative, according to Kremlin advisor Yuri Ushakov. Of those, 43 will be heads of state or government. … Putin — who has been in power for the past 20 years — has only ever visited South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa, preferring to host leaders from the continent in Russia. RFI

Between War and Talks: Egypt Shocked by Ethiopia PM’s Dam Remarks
Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister warned Tuesday that if there’s a need to go to war over a dam project disputed with Egypt his country could muster millions of people, but he said only negotiation can resolve the current deadlock. Egypt’s government said it was “shocked” by the remarks. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed spoke during a parliament question-and-answer session, his most prominent public appearance since winning the Nobel on Oct. 11. On Wednesday he and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi are expected to meet on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in the Russian city of Sochi. … Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion dam, the largest in Africa, which is around 70% complete and is expected to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people. Egypt, with a similar population, fears the Nile dam will reduce its share of the river and leave the country with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of freshwater. Pro-government media in Egypt have cast the issue as a national security threat that could warrant military action. AP

Extremist Attacks Intensify at Mali, Burkina Faso Border
Assaya Ngweba says Islamic extremists transformed his once-peaceful village in Burkina Faso, near the border with Mali, into “a place of misfortune and death.” Now the 78-year-old is among half a million people who have fled the area this year as the extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group increase attacks and expand their range in West Africa. Concerted military actions by five regional countries, along with a French operation, have failed to stem the violence. The border between Burkina Faso and Mali is the latest flashpoint in the vast, arid Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert. In the past week at least 19 civilians have been killed by suspected extremists in Burkina Faso’s north. … The attack in Boulikessi “was devastating for the military in terms of morale and strategic impact because it laid bare the jihadists’ strength in that crucial border region which is a bridge to Islamist expansion further south,” said Human Rights Watch’s West Africa associate director, Corinne Dufka. AP

Burundi Security Forces Say 14 Armed Men from DR Congo Killed
Security forces in Burundi have killed at least 14 armed men who had intended to launch an attack in the northwestern province of Bubanza, police and residents said. Police deputy spokesman Moise Nkurunziza said on state broadcaster RTNB that the men, said to be from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), entered the province at dawn on Tuesday and were killed in the district of Musigati. … The group had the “intention of repeating the carnage of Ruhagarika”, the security ministry said, referring to an attack last year that killed at least 26 people days before a constitutional referendum that cleared the way for President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in power until 2034. Last month, the United Nations warned that Burundi was at risk of a new wave of atrocities as it approaches next year’s election with an unresolved political crisis and a president increasingly portrayed as a “divine” ruler. Al Jazeera

Sudan, S. Sudan Sign Agreement on Border Demarcation
The Joint Technical Committee for Border Demarcation (JTCB) between Sudan and South Sudan on Tuesday signed an agreement on the full delimitation of the joint border parts between the two neighbouring nations. The agreement, SUNA reported, was signed by Maj. Gen. Al-Amin Mohamed Bannaga on behalf of the Sudanese government while Ambassador Darios Garang Woul inked it on behalf of South Sudan. The JTCB, with the support of the African Union Border Programme (AUBP), began its meetings in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum on October 13. The committee, during its meetings conducted between October 13-22, prepared full detailed delimitation of the coordinates in the agreed-upon sectors on the borderline and also made an Atlas on the maps, documents and reference documents, which it has relied on in the delimitation of the explored and unexplored sectors. Sudan Tribune

Guinea Jails Protest Leaders Up to 12 Months, Lawyers Plan Appeal
A court in Conakry Guinea has jailed protest leaders for up to one year. The court found them guilty of spearheading a wave of unauthorized protests on October 14 claiming 10 lives. … Abdourahamane Sanoh, Coordinator of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution, an alliance of opposition groups, was given a 12-month term, and four other leaders got six months. Three other defendants were found not guilty. Lawyers for the defendants, say they will appeal the ruling. Rights group Amnesty International has criticized the ruling. It said ”no one should be detained for having organized or called for a peaceful demonstration.” Guinea’s President Alpha Conde plans to amend the constitution to avoid a ban on seeking a third term in office. AFP

‘The Time to Be Afraid Is Over’: The Quest for Justice and Healing in Liberia
Like Dennis, now a legislator in the west African country’s parliament, most Liberians have a war story to tell. But decades later, a thorough reckoning has still not been had. The recommendations of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), published in 2009, have never been implemented, and former rebels and their associates have held some of the country’s highest offices. The country’s president, George Weah, appears to be changing tack, however, writing to parliament in September to ask for advice on implementing the TRC recommendations including setting up the war crimes court that activists have long demanded, and telling the UN the country needs “closure” on the wounds of 14 years of war – though he stopped short of openly supporting the establishment of the war crimes court. The Guardian

Kais Saied: Who Is Tunisia’s New President?
Kais Saied has been sworn in as Tunisia’s new president. The 61-year-old law professor has no prior political experience, never held office and barely ran a campaign. Saied sealed a resounding victory in a runoff election on October 13, largely buoyed by a groundswell of support from young voters. He won just over 72 percent of the votes, with about 27 percent of ballots cast for his media-mogul opponent Nabil Karoui. He succeeds former President Beji Caid Essebsi, who died in office in July. … Saied’s vision for politics is as transformative as it is threatening to Tunisia’s political elite. … With Saied’s platforms seemingly diverging from presidential responsibilities, which are largely limited to foreign affairs and national defence, critics have accused him of stoking populism. Opponents also say his utopist projects will not hold up once he is sworn in and finds himself confronted with a parliament that will, in all likelihood, shoot down his proposals. Al Jazeera

Creation of ‘Smaller Parties’ Increased Women’s Participation in Nigeria’s Election – Report
The creation of small political parties in Nigeria, especially during the general election, increased the participation of women in elections, a report has shown. The report, tagged ‘Gendered contests: women in competitive elections’ was jointly produced by the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies African Studies Program (SAIS-AFP), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD). … More than preceding cycles, the 2019 electoral cycle opened up the political space, which served to boost political engagement for marginalised groups which was especially the case for women and youth, the report states. It also noted that a younger and more diverse crop of candidates took advantage of the platform provided by the proliferation of new and smaller political parties to run for various positions at the state and national levels. Premium Times

African Countries Mull Nuclear Energy as Russia Extends Offers
Southern Africa’s ongoing drought has had a devastating impact on the region’s power supply. Water levels at Kariba Dam, which straddles Zimbabwe and Zambia and generates significant amounts of electricity, are at the lowest in years. Both countries have now turned to South Africa to import power, even though the region’s biggest country and the continent’s most industrialized nation, South Africa, is unable to meet its own energy needs. Nearly 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity. With growing populations and rising demand for power, African governments are desperate for solutions. In 2016, the Zambian government signed an agreement with Moscow to support it as it explores nuclear technology. And the energy-hungry country isn’t the only one. DW

Kenya Struggles to Manage Debt for Railway to ‘Nowhere’
It’s been lampooned as the railroad to nowhere – 120 km (75 miles) of gleaming new railway tracks that snake from the capital Nairobi, climb the trenches and escarpments of the Central Rift Valley to stop dead at a remote village. … The $1.5 billion (€1.35 billion) stretch of track, built and funded by the Chinese, is the second phase of a flagship railway project intended to link Kenya’s port city of Mombasa with the Ugandan border. … Th[e] phase three section of the track is seen as critical because it would link Mombasa, East Africa’s biggest port, with the landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan – giving them a faster and more reliable route to Mombasa’s port than the overburdened roads. But in a blow to Kenyatta, China announced in April that they wouldn’t bankroll the $3.7 billion railway extension from Naivasha to Uganda. DW

C.A.R: Floods Leave over 6,000 Homeless in Bangui
More than 6,000 people have lost their homes to flooding in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Heavy rains have worsened the plight of residents following the outburst of the river Oubangui last week. … A local Member of Parliament fears the use of informal latrines in the neighbourhood could lead to serious health crisis. “When you don’t have a collective sanitation you end up with what we call individual sanitation, un-regulated and that means there is a risk of waste contaminating the water table and the wells in which people get water from and so the risk of illness is very high, the risk of malaria is a constant in District 6 but now we need to find solutions to get out of this situation”, Toh Sa Benza said. Central African Republic leads a Climate Change Vulnerability Index. It is also listed as most at risk of flooding. Other counties include DR Congo and Liberia. Reuters

Indian Ocean Dipole Spells Flood Danger for East Africa
The western Indian Ocean has been about two degrees warmer this month than the eastern Indian Ocean. As a result, higher evaporation off the African coastline is being dumped inland as rainfall: a simplified description of 2019’s positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) episode. This year, the IOD is “enormous”, according to climate scientist Saji Hameed, who studies the phenomenon at the University of Aizu, Japan. Hameed told The New Humanitarian that equatorial East Africa is “very, very likely” to be unusually wet from October to December, adding: “November is the most dangerous month as far as IOD impacts are concerned, as enhanced rains reach far into highlands and the watersheds of several rivers.” … While cautious not to attribute complex systems to a single cause, ICPAC climate modelling expert Zewdu Segele told TNH that “high rainfall events associated with flooding in [parts] of Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Kenya are likely related to this positive IOD state.” The New Humanitarian

WhatsApp Is the Medium of Choice for Older Nigerians Spreading Fake News
Given the potent mix of fear (the [Ebola] outbreak killed over 11,000 people across West Africa) and uncertain information about the virus and the disease, older Nigerians were particularly quick to spread the bogus prevention technique in a bid to “save” family and friends. But that Ebola broadcast was not a one-off. With family WhatsApp groups so popular, a common complaint among younger Nigerians revolves around the barrage of forwarded messages which range from improbable to ludicrous that are shared by parents and grandparents. But there’s an explanation for this. In some ways, WhatsApp is the internet for older users. Unlike other social platforms which require creating and managing online profiles as well fast-moving interactions older users may be unable to keep up with, WhatsApp condenses the experience of having personal and group conversations, sharing photos and videos, receiving and sharing news into a one-stop shop platform that mirrors regular text messaging in its ease of use. Quartz Africa



Photo: Adam Jones