Africa Media Review for October 29, 2020

Tanzanian Opposition Leader Rejects Presidential Election
Tanzania’s leading opposition candidate is rejecting Wednesday’s presidential vote after alleging widespread irregularities, saying that whatever happened was not an election and was like “spitting in the face of democracy.” … Lissu asserted that thousands of observers were turned away from polling stations and those who managed to enter were not given official results. The other top opposition party, ACT Wazalendo, announced that its presidential candidate in the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad, was arrested Thursday for the second time in a week. … Tanzania Elections Watch, a regional group of eminent persons, expressed concerns about the conduct of the vote. “Unfortunately, in Tanzania the announcement made by the National Electoral Commission is final,” the group’s co-chair Frederick Ssempebwa told a briefing, as results cannot be challenged in court. “There is no avenue for the aggrieved parties to air their views.” AP

Malawi Court Judges Win Global Prize
Five judges of Malawi’s High Court who in February nullified the country’s presidential elections are winners of this year’s prestigious Chatham House award. The London-based think tank said on Tuesday that the constitutional court judges have won the 2020 Chatham House Prize in recognition of the “courage and independence in the defence of democracy” demonstrated in their historic February 2020 ruling that annulled the May 2019 poll. Malawi became the second country in Africa — after Kenya — and only the third in the world to nullify a presidential election. … “At a time when standards of democratic governance are under threat not only in Africa, but in many democracies, Malawi’s constitutional court judges set an example for their peers across the world by upholding the centrality of the rule of law and separation of powers,” Chatham House said. … Apart from the judiciary, the country’s military and civil society have been praised for safeguarding the country’s democracy. Mail & Guardian

Guinea Loosens Restrictions on Opposition, 10 Days after Disputed Election
Guinean opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo said Wednesday that a blockade of his home, imposed by the security forces following tumultuous presidential elections on October 18, had been lifted. … Police had barricaded the politician in his home in the capital Conakry after he declared victory a day after the vote – a claim denied by the government and which led to lethal clashes. On Tuesday, mediators from the UN, African Union and regional bloc ECOWAS called on the “security measures” around Diallo’s home to be lifted “in the spirit of inclusive dialogue.” Diallo said that barricades around the headquarters of his party, the UFDG, and around his offices, remained in place. … The United States, in line with a European Union statement a day earlier, said it “notes” the announced results and voiced concern about a lack of transparency and inconsistencies in the vote-counting. “We urge all parties to resolve electoral disputes peacefully through established, non-partisan institutions and inclusive dialogue,” a US embassy statement said. AFP

US Focused on Disrupting Finances for Somalia’s Al-Shabab
The United States strongly backed efforts to disrupt the illegal financing methods used by Somalia’s al-Shabab extremist group, which according to U.N. experts raised more than the $21 million it spent last year on fighters, weapons and intelligence. U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft told the Security Council on Wednesday the Trump administration is committed to partnering with other countries and using U.N. sanctions to counter al-Shabab’s “financing of terrorism” and the threat from homemade bombs the group is making. The United States also remains focused on limiting the ability of al-Shabab to conduct attacks against civilians, she said. The Security Council was focusing on the panel of experts whose latest report stresses the continuing impact of al-Shabab’s operations not only in Somalia but in neighboring Kenya. AP

Tunisia Bans Internal Travel to Contain Pandemic
Tunisia on Thursday banned travel between the country’s regions, suspended schools and public gatherings and extended a curfew, as it tried to contain a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases with hospitals nearly full. Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has said Tunisia cannot afford a second lockdown with the government already fighting the central bank over a projected deficit double what it had originally foreseen. However, after successfully containing the coronavirus in the spring and summer, Tunisia is now experiencing a very rapid spread of the disease with more than 55,000 cases and intensive care units full in some regions. As well as banning internal travel in most cases, the new rules include a suspension of schools until Nov. 8, a two-week suspension of universities and a ban on protests and public gatherings of more than four people. Reuters

Algerian President Tebboune Transferred to German Hospital Amid COVID-19 Fears
Algeria’s president was transferred from hospital in Algiers to Germany on Wednesday, officials said, days after the 74-year-old went into self-isolation following reports of suspected coronavirus cases among his aides. … The transfer comes after officials said Saturday that Tebboune had “voluntarily” gone into self-isolation for five days amid reports several officials in the presidency and government had contracted the Covid-19 disease. … The president’s hospitalisation also comes ahead of a referendum on November 1 on constitutional reforms that the government hopes will satisfy a protest movement. The vote is a flagship initiative of Tebboune. Algeria has seen a resurgence in novel coronavirus cases in recent weeks. AFP

Nigeria’s Army Admits Its Soldiers Were at Lagos Shootings
Nigeria’s army has admitted its soldiers were deployed at the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos where live rounds were fired last week, killing several peaceful protesters prompting global outrage. At least 10 protesters were killed in the Lekki plaza shooting on Oct. 20, according to Amnesty International, which charged Wednesday that army troops opened fire on protesters without provocation. The army had previously maintained that its troops were not at the site of the shooting, but Tuesday night a military spokesman, Maj. Osoba Olaniyi, reversed that position, saying soldiers had been deployed there to enforce a curfew. However, he denied that the troops shot at the protesters. … The military’s admission of its presence at the plaza came after Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said security camera footage showed Nigerian soldiers firing at the peaceful protesters at Lekki plaza. AP

Unrest in Nigeria Lifts Lid on Deep-Rooted Social Discontent
Three weeks of protests in Nigeria that provoked a violent response from the military have been followed by a looting spree, highlighting the divide between the nation’s rulers and its poverty-stricken citizens. The fault lines were evident before the discord surfaced on Oct. 5. About half of Nigeria’s 200 million people live on less than $2 a day despite the nation being Africa’s largest oil producer, and 55% are either jobless or under-employed. Rampant poverty has been exacerbated by the coronavirus and restrictions imposed to curb its spread. A small political and business elite meanwhile live in opulent mansions, are ferried around in fleets of luxury vehicles and educate their children at top schools and universities abroad. … Idayat Hassan, head of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development, said the protests, rather than the looting, have rattled the political establishment and are likely to have a more enduring impact. Bloomberg

Two Sentenced to Death in Mali over Hotel, Restaurant Attacks
A Malian court handed a death sentence to a suspected jihadist and his co-defendant on Wednesday, his lawyer said, after he pleaded guilty to shooting five people to death in a 2015 attack and planning two other attacks targeting Westerners that killed 37. In a court appearance in Bamako on Wednesday, Fawaz Ould Ahmed described in detail how he carried out the attack on La Terrace restaurant in March 2015. He said he was also involved in planning a raid that killed 17 at Hotel Byblos in the town of Sevare in August and another that killed 20 people at Bamako’s Radisson Blu hotel that November. The attacks marked a brazen new phase in jihadist operations across West Africa, in which top hotels and tourist destinations frequented by Western tourists, aid workers and diplomats were no longer considered safe. Reuters

Ten Years after a Post-election Conflict, a New Poll Stirs Violence in Côte D’Ivoire
With tensions mounting ahead of the poll, at least 16 people were killed last week in inter-communal violence in southern Côte d’Ivoire, while several anti-Ouattara protesters have also been killed in clashes with security forces in recent weeks. “There is a strong fear that after [the vote], the situation will deteriorate further,” said Drissa Traoré, an Ivoirien lawyer and secretary general of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). The unrest has revived memories of the brief but bloody civil war that followed disputed polls in 2010. … Ouattara has since overseen a period of strong economic growth in the world’s biggest cocoa producer. Large amounts of public money have been invested in new roads and other infrastructure projects. But critics say the boom has not translated into much social reconciliation between communities, while prosecutions for crimes committed during the previous conflict have focused largely on Gbagbo’s camp, fuelling a perception of victor’s justice. The New Humanitarian

Sudanese Christian, Muslim Leaders Agree to Promote Religious Freedom
Sudanese Muslim and Christian religious leaders have agreed to join forces and promote religious freedom in the country, now that the Islamist government of Omar al-Bashir is out of power and a recently signed peace deal includes language saying freedom of religion is a human right. At the end of a two-day conference this week, the religious leaders signed a declaration to promote peace and freedom of worship among all Sudanese communities and to encourage community dialogue among people of different faiths. Khartoum Catholic Archbishop Michael Didi said the declaration will help create space for more religious freedom in Sudan as the country embarks on a new era following the revolution that led to military leaders removing Bashir from power. … Jibril Bilal, a member of the Darfur-based rebel group Justice and Equality Movement, said the declaration’s resolutions are in line with the peace agreement mediated in Juba, which call for a secular system of governance in Sudan with equal rights for everyone. VOA

Sudanese Government Takes Control of Gold Mines in North Darfur
The Sudanese government on Wednesday officially took control of the gold mines in Jabal Amer area of North Darfur, operated by the Rapid Support Forces (SRF) leader and his family. Following continued criticism of the control of the gold mines and large involvement of the Sudanese military in the national economy, al-Junaid Company announced the handover of gold mines to the transitional government. The handover ceremony took place in Jebel Amer area where Heba Mohamed Ali Finance Minister and Economic Planning was received by Abdel-Rahim Dagalo, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al-Junaid Company. … The RSF took control of Jebel Amer mines from Musa Hilal, a tribal leader and former commander of the famous janjaweed militia after his arrest on 27 November 2017. Sudan Tribune

Sudan-South Sudan Aim for $3bn Exchange in Free Trade Zones
Sudan and South Sudan laid the foundation stone for the free trade zone in the area of Mokhaleef in El Jebelein locality in White Nile state on Tuesday, in a move designed to promote border trade between the two countries. At the same ceremony, the Kosti and El Jebelein free zones were inaugurated, as well as the resumption of river traffic the two countries. It is hoped that the volume of annual trade exchange between the two countries in the near future will reach $3 billion. During the inauguration ceremony, Sudan’s Defence Minister Maj Gen Yasin Ibrahim reported that the joint Sudanese-South Sudanese political security mechanism decided to open 10 border crossings between the two countries. Finance Minister Heba Mohamed said that “the free trade zones, the foundation stone of which has been laid now, will provide many job opportunities for the residents of the region, and achieve great returns for the state treasury.” Radio Dabanga

Seychelles Elections: How a Priest Rose to Become President
“After 43 years we have regained democracy. The road has been long and now we will reap its rewards.” There was only the merest hint of triumphalism in President Wavel Ramkalawan’s acceptance speech as he addressed an audience of invited dignitaries assembled in the manicured grounds of State House. His election marks a seismic change for the islands, where the presidency has been dominated by one party since 1977. In front of the grand Victorian colonial mansion and accompanied by a military guard of honour, the 58-year-old was sworn in by the chief justice on Monday. The new president is an ordained Anglican minister, and not surprisingly his overall message was one of peace, tolerance and an appeal for all Seychellois to work together for national unity, and to overcome the divisions of so many years of political wrangling. BBC

Gambia Gets Ready to Swap Marbles for Ballot Papers
When Gambians step into a voting booth, they don’t put a cross on a piece of paper. Instead, they stand before multi-colored drums, deciding which one they will throw their glass marble into. For easy identification, the drums are painted different colors for different candidates. Casting the marble sets off a little bell, to discourage people from trying to smuggle in extra marbles and vote more than once. The system was introduced in the 1960’s to ensure that everyone had their say in a country with very high illiteracy rates. The iconic glass marbles have since become a curiosity for the rest of the world. But the system proved to work well for Gambia. It was good enough to vote out long-time dictator Yahya Jammeh in 2016, despite his best efforts to rig the elections. … However, according to the will of Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the 2016 election would be the last time that a head of state is to be voted in or out of office through marbles DW

Saving and Loan Groups Give Lifeline to Kenyans during Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out an estimated 2 million jobs in Kenya, forcing many into the informal economy. Kenyans, however, also have a secret that is keeping many of them financially afloat — the largest cooperative savings and loan movement in Africa. With more than 14 million members making monthly contributions, Kenya’s cooperatives offer loans during tough times, helping many to ride out the pandemic or even start their own businesses. Thirty-year-old Judy Muthama was selling shoes and utensils in the Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum in central Nairobi. Sales were good until the coronavirus pandemic wiped out her business. But, she is restarting her business with a $600 loan from a savings and credit union, where she has had a membership for three years. VOA

Special Report: Nigeria at 60
Nigeria gained independence from Britain 60 years ago. With civil unrest, security and economic problems dominating events in 2020, find out why the future of Africa’s most populous country is in the hands of the young, and whether it can ever prosper. FT



Photo: Adam Jones