Africa news roundup

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A flag map of Africa (image:courtesy of open clipart-vectors from Pixabay)

25 June – 1 July 2023


Gyakye Quayson wins Assin North by-election

James Gyakye Quayson of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) took an early lead in the Assin North constituency by-election when the Electoral Commission (EC) started collating the results on Tuesday evening. The returning officer for the election, Kofi Tsibu, declared Quayson winner at the Youth Centre at Assin Bereku at 9:50 p.m. Quayson won with 17,245 votes representing 57.56 per cent of the valid votes cast with the New Patriotic Party candidate, Charles Opoku, coming second with 12,630 votes representing 42.15 per cent. The Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG) candidate, Sefenu Bernice Enyonam, got 87 votes representing 0.29 per cent. Quayson said his win was a win for the conscience of well-thinking Ghanaians who were not influenced by money. In what he described as “injustices meted” out to him, he said he was unperturbed because he knew he had the support of his constituents, the NDC fraternity and even people from the NPP who said that the election results had spoken.

Quayson said the win was a vote of confidence in him and pledged to work with the NDC and his constituents to accelerate the development of the area. In all, there were 29,962 valid votes out of the 30,418 votes cast representing a 74.23 per cent turnout. In the 2020 parliamentary election in Assin North, Quayson had won with 17,498 votes representing 55.21 per cent against the then NPP candidate Abena Durowaa Mensah’s 14,193 votes representing 44.79 per cent. By 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, there were indications that Quayson was retaining the Assin North parliamentary seat. Functionaries from the opposition NDC had earlier released some figures projecting the party’s candidate James Quayson was winning. This threw NDC supporters into a celebratory mood with many pouring white powder on themselves in jubilation.


EU observers release final report on elections

The European Union (EU) observers have released a final report on Nigeria’s recent elections, revealing significant problems that undermined public trust in the electoral processes. The report emphasizes the need for reforms to enhance transparency and accountability in future elections. President Bola Tinubu emerged as the winner of the disputed February vote, which is currently being challenged in court by his main rivals. The EU mission identified six priority areas for improvement, including clarifying electoral laws, ensuring real-time publication and access to results, and cracking down on electoral offences.

The report also points out that shortcomings in law and administration negatively impacted the conduct of well-run and inclusive elections, damaging trust in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The low voter turnout during the February vote, the lowest since the end of military rule in 1999, further demonstrated the erosion of trust. The INEC, however, was not immediately available for comment. While an INEC representative cited a system glitch as the reason for the delayed upload of presidential election results, the EU mission report was deemed “unfair” by the spokesperson in a statement made to local TV.

South Africa

Foreign minister declines to confirm Putin’s presence at Cape Town summit

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor has said that last weekend’s aborted visit to Russia would not affect African efforts to engage authorities in Moscow and Kyiv about the war in Ukraine. The “attempted mutiny … will not affect our intention of continuing to engage with both countries as has been agreed by the presidents who were part of the African peace mission”, Pandor said in Pretoria on Tuesday after talks with her German counterpart Annalena Baerbock. A group of African presidents led by South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa visited Russia and Ukraine as part of a peace mission earlier this month. The trip had no backing from the African Union and has drawn criticism within the continent.

South Africa has insisted it is non-aligned in Russia’s war in Ukraine and has faced criticism from Western powers for maintaining close ties to Russia. Pandor told reporters on Tuesday that the African peace mission to Kyiv and Moscow was a preliminary visit and leaders of both countries had agreed to further meetings in the next few weeks. She declined to comment on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would attend a summit in Cape Town in August. Putin’s visit has been the subject of intense debate globally after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest in March. Pretoria is obligated, as an ICC member, to arrest the visiting leader.


Al Shabab strikes again

Five civilians were killed and some beheaded in an attack on two villages in eastern Kenya claimed by the radical Islamist Shebab, police said. The attack was carried out at around 19:30 (16:30 GMT) on Saturday in the villages of Juhudi and Salama, located in the coastal county of Lamu, which borders Somalia. “Five people were killed (…) The victims’ throats were slit and others were beheaded”, a police source said. “The assailants were armed with machetes and some had firearms, but they did not shoot at them”, the police added. A resident of one of the villages, Hassan Abdul, also said that “the women were locked in the houses and the men were ordered to come out, they were tied up with ropes and massacred. In total, five people were killed, including a secondary school pupil…”  Hassan added.

Saturday’s attack took place near Mpeketoni, an inland town around 450 km from the capital Nairobi and around 120 km from the Somali border. The area had already been targeted on 2 January 2022 by an attack attributed to the Shabab, in which one man was decapitated and five others shot or burnt to death, according to a police report. In 2014, a series of raids claimed by the Shabab left around 100 people dead. On 14 June, eight police officers were killed when an improvised explosive device in Garissa County destroyed the vehicle of the Shabab. On 15 May, Kenya and Somalia announced the gradual reopening at three points of their land border, which had been officially closed in 2011 in an attempt to curb Shabab attacks.


Lawmakers pass non-bailable drug law

The Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives passed a drug law making the cultivation, manufacture, importation, export, trafficking and sale of controlled drugs and substances not bailable. The lawmakers consider the acts listed as first-degree felonies, and grave offences under Liberian laws. However, the law designates the use or consumption of controlled drugs and substances a second-degree felony which is bailable consistent with the constitutional right to bail for the commission of the crime. On Tuesday, 27 June 2023, the Plenary of the Liberian Senate adopted a conference committee report seeking to enact into law an Act to Amend Chapter 14 of the New Penal Law of Liberia. The instrument is under the title “Offence Involving Danger to the Person”. The Senate added Subchapter ‘E’ under the title: “Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of 2014″, now “Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of 2023”. Headed by Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney G. Sherman, the conference committee was intended to harmonize the two versions of the bill from the House of Representatives and the Senate to make it more robust. It also sought to meet international standards in the control of illicit drugs and substances under the laws of the country.

The House of Representatives, similarly, passed the drug law making the offence non-bailable. The plenary of the House of Representatives took the decision Tuesday, 27 June 27, following a report from the Legislative Conference Committee on the Drugs Law of Liberia. The Conference Committee also indicated that the use or consumption of controlled drugs and substance constitute a second-degree felony and is bailable consistent with the constitutional right to bail for the commission of the crime. Meanwhile, the Liberian Senate, through the Office of the Secretary of Senate, has informed the House of Representatives on its action. At the House, the body suggested the consumers are deemed victims of the cultivators, manufacturers, importers, exporters, traffickers and sellers. The law also provides that where the perpetrator of any of these crimes is not a Liberian, after serving his/her sentence, he/she shall be deported from Liberia.

Sierra Leone

Maada Bio re-elected as opposition cries foul

Incumbent Julius Maada Bio has been declared the winner of Sierra Leone’s presidential election, but the opposition has disputed the count. Official figures give Bio 56 per cent of the vote. His main rival, Samura Kamara, trailed far behind with 41 per cent. After the first tranche of results were released. Meanwhile, Dr Kamara called the outcome “daylight robbery”. International election observers have highlighted problems with transparency in the tallying process. Saturday’s vote took place amid tension, but President Bio had called on Sierra Leoneans to “keep the peace”. The 59-year-old, a former soldier, is due to be sworn in for his second and final five-year term soon. The retired army brigadier took part in a military coup during the country’s civil war in 1992, only to overthrow the military junta itself in 1996 and pave the way for free elections that year.

Members of Bio’s party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), have said opponents attacked them during campaigning. The campaign took place against a backdrop of a troubled economy, the rising cost of living and concerns about national unity. Bio, who blamed the country’s woes on external factors such as the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, now has the task of solving these problems. The election is the fifth since Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war which officially ended in 2002. It was a particularly brutal conflict, with 50,000 deaths and thousands of people estimated to have had their arms and limbs amputated. However, since then the country has had a tradition of largely peaceful, free and credible elections, according to Marcella Samba Sesay, chairperson of the non-governmental Organisation National Elections watch.


National Assembly updates law on electronic transactions

Togo revised its law on electronic transactions on 27 June during the fifth plenary session of the first ordinary session of the National Assembly. The update aims to match existing regulations to new challenges and issues that electronic transactions pose. The updated bill also aims to create a favourable environment for the development of e-commerce and to enhance consumer trust in online transactions, according to the Togolese Parliament. This initiative aligns with the rapid evolution of technology and the increasing digitalization of the global economy, and it complements the country’s recent ICT reforms.

Although e-commerce still involves a small percentage of citizens (estimated at 6% based on 2019 data), the sector is experiencing significant growth, especially due to the development of mobile money. “This bill ensures inclusive, secure, and fast digitalization for socio-economic development”, stated the National Assembly. “Other merits of the law include strengthening rules related to electronic copies and the preservation of qualified electronic signatures, regulating electronic stamps and digital safes, as well as increasing obligations for trust service providers in case of non-compliance”, it added. Cina Lawson, Minister of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation, who was present during the parliamentary proceedings, praised the passage of the bill, noting that it should help establish digital trust, and foster ICT usage and that it is a step more towards Togo’s modernization and digital transformation.

Ivory Coast

Flooding threatens next cocoa harvest

Above-average rain in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa regions last week has flooded plantations and could affect the start of the next October-to-March main crop, farmers said. The world’s top cocoa producer is in its rainy season, which runs officially from April to mid-November. Downpours are usually abundant and heavy during this time. Several farmers said rain had caused flooding that barred them from accessing their crops. Rainfall was unusually high in other cocoa-growing parts of the country. The western region of Soubre recorded 119 mm last week, 65.7 mm above the average.

The southern region of Agboville had 146.2 mm of rainfall, 87 mm above the average. In the southern region of Divo, where 57.8 mm of rain fell – 18.5 mm above the average – farmers said they were concerned the showers would damage new flowers and hinder the start of the next main crop. But in the central regions of Bongouanou and Yamoussoukro, where rains were also above average, farmers remained optimistic. Rain was below average in the centre-western region of Daloa. Average temperatures ranged between 24.8 degrees and 28.5 degrees Celsius (76.64°F and 83.3°F) last week.

Burkina Faso

Soldiers and army auxiliaries killed in attack

At least 31 soldiers and three army auxiliaries were killed on Monday in an attack by suspected Jihadists in northern Burkina Faso, the army announced on Tuesday, with security sources telling AFP that another separate attack had left dozens dead. “A supply convoy escorted by military units, returning from Djibo”, a town besieged for months by Jihadists in the Sahel region (north), was on Monday “the target of an ambush” in Namsiguia, in the Centre-nord region, according to a Burkina Faso army statement. “The fighting, which was particularly violent, caused significant casualties, despite the vigorous response of the units,” it added, referring to a “provisional toll” of 31 soldiers and three volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland (VDP, civilian army auxiliaries) killed, while “around ten elements are still being sought by reinforcements” dispatched to the scene. According to the army, “more than forty terrorists have been neutralized”.

The army did not mention in its communiqué another attack in the same region on Monday, which, according to security sources told to AFP, also left “dozens dead”, the majority of them VDP. “Terrorist groups attacked the village of Noaka” in the Centre-Nord region, “mainly targeting VDP”, according to one of these sources. “We lost dozens of men in Noaka and several are wounded,” said a local VDP official. “Several other fighters are still missing,” he added. According to a local resident, “it’s a massacre that’s taken place in Noaka”, estimating that “around thirty” VDP were killed in the attack and mentioning “many wounded”. “The valiant fighters, supported by the army, also inflicted a heavy loss on the assailants”, he added, referring to “several motorcycles and weapons recovered”. The local VDP leader also reported that another, smaller-scale attack had taken place on Monday in Gayeri, in the eastern Komondjari province, killing four army auxiliaries.


Government inks $2.7B climate financing deal with G7 nations

Senegal has taken an important step towards its energy transformation ambitions by signing a $2.7 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JET-P) contract with G7 nations and the European Union (EU). The agreement intends to help Senegal achieve its goal of increasing the amount of renewable energy in its energy mix to 40 per cent by 2030. The JET-P will unlock financial support from France, Germany, the EU, the United Kingdom and Canada, totaling $2.7 billion over a period of three to five years, and starting as early as 2023. Additional financing may be made available at a later date to assist Senegal in meeting and exceeding its renewable energy objectives. Previously, similar agreements were made with South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Under the terms of the JET-P deal, over the next 12 months, Senegal will be required to develop an investment plan identifying avenues for investment that ensure a just and equitable energy transition. This strategy will outline the capital required to assist the country in transitioning to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. The EU’s JET-P financing for Senegal comes from its €300 billion Global Gateway investment initiative, which aims to create a favorable environment for private businesses. The funding plan is intended to attract long-term investments of $15 billion to $20 billion.


Farmers bemoans crop export ban

Government is cracking down on the smuggling of cocoa, cotton, and other cash crops to Nigeria by temporarily banning the legal trade as well. Since announcing the ban two weeks ago, authorities have sent hundreds of police to the border and seized scores of trucks. But Cameroon’s struggling farmers are protesting the ban, saying it’s more profitable and safer to sell their goods to Nigeria. Police and customs officials say they blocked scores of trucks that attempted to smuggle cash crops in the past two weeks from northern towns and villages into Nigeria. Cameroon’s ministry of trade says the ban was needed as it loses $165 million each year from the smuggling of cash crops to its northern neighbour – 60 per cent of the total trade. The government ordered hundreds of police to the border and to track down at least 12 trucks that fled from authorities.

Cameroon’s farmers say the ban will be hard to enforce along the porous, 2,000-kilometer-long border. Ahmadou who is the spokesperson of the Association of Cereal Farmers on Cameroon’s northern border says Cameroon does not have enough facilities to protect cocoa, wheat, corn, rice and sorghum from moisture, dust, and [insect] swarms that invade and destroy crops after harvest. He says farmers prefer selling their produce to a ready Nigerian market because rice, corn, and raw cotton processing equipment is scare, old, and there are regular power cuts. Ahmadou says selling to Nigerian merchants is also more profitable, and he cites the example that farmers can get about 20 per cent more for a 50-kilogram bag of unprocessed rice. Cameroon’s government complains it pays subsidies to farmers to sell their cash crops locally and at agreed prices.


British court of appeal rules stating deporting migrants as “illegal”

The controversial plan to deport migrants who arrived clandestinely in the UK to Rwanda was declared unlawful on Thursday by the British court of appeal due to safety concerns, much to the dismay of the government, which has announced that it will appeal to the supreme Court. The court explained that Rwanda cannot currently be considered a safe third country as there is a real threat that those sent to the east African country will be returned to their country of origin where they may have been subject to persecution and inhumane treatment. “The deficiencies in the asylum system in Rwanda are such that there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that persons sent to Rwanda will be returned to their home countries where they faced persecution or other inhumane treatment, when in fact they have a good claim for asylum. In that sense, Rwanda is not a safe third country”, said Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett.

“Unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum process are corrected, sending asylum seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful,” the court stressed in a summary of the judgment.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he disagreed with the decision and announced that his government would seek permission to refer the matter to the Supreme Court. “The policy of this government is very simple, it is this country, and your government, that must decide who comes here, not criminal gangs”, he said, claiming he would do “whatever is necessary” to implement it. “Rwanda is a safe country,” he insisted. The fight against illegal immigration is one of the priorities of Sunak’s government. Despite Brexit promises to “take back control” of borders, more than 45,000 migrants crossed the Channel from France in small boats in 2022, a record. And, there are more than 11,000 this year to have done the same.

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