Africa This Week: Armed groups killed at least 160 people in central Nigeria; 86% of Chadian voters support new constitution; Algerian parliament members encouraged President Tebboune to seek second term 2024 elections; Sudan’s RSF leader confirmed first appearance outside Sudan in talks with Uganda’s President; DR Congo’s government rejects opposition demands for a rerun of December 20 elections, and others

This is another Alafarika’s weekly news brief, where we look at some of the top news stories making headlines across the African continent.

Armed groups killed at least 160 people in central Nigeria in a series of attacks on villages, as confirmed by local government officials on Monday. The toll sharply rose from the initial figure reported by the army, which indicated 16 deaths. The attacks occurred in the Bokkos region of Plateau State and were described as “well-coordinated” by military gangs, locally known as “bandits.” The violence affected over 20 communities, resulting in burned houses and a significant number of wounded individuals, with more than 300 reportedly transferred to hospitals in Bokkos, Jos, and Barkin Ladi.

Chadians this week overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in a recent referendum, with 86% of voters supporting the move, according to the government commission. The vote, viewed by critics as potentially consolidating power for junta leader Mahamat Idriss Deby, had a turnout of about 64%. Chad’s military authorities argue that this constitutional change is a crucial step towards elections in 2024, marking a return to democratic governance after seizing power in 2021 following the death of former president Idriss Deby. The new constitution maintains Chad as a unitary state, rejecting calls for a federal state by some opponents who believe it would foster development. Despite the high approval rate, several opposition groups called for a boycott, citing concerns over the junta’s control of the referendum process. Initially pledging an 18-month transition to elections, Deby’s government later postponed the polls until 2024, allowing him to run for president in the eventual vote.

Algerian parliament members on Monday encouraged President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to seek a second term in the upcoming presidential election at the end of 2024. While Tebboune did not make a formal announcement, he expressed willingness, stating, “If Allah gives me enough health.” Elected in December 2019 for a five-year term, Tebboune is eligible for a second and final term, as per the Algerian constitution.

Sudan’s RSF leader, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, confirmed his first appearance outside Sudan in talks with Uganda’s President Museveni, discussing Sudan’s situation and peace vision. The RSF’s conflict with Sudan’s army since April has caused devastation in Khartoum and ethnic killings in Darfur. The RSF, accused of abuses, recently seized Wad Madani. A planned Djibouti meeting with Sudan’s army chief was postponed to January due to “technical issues,” possibly reflecting disagreements. Continuing his rare foreign tour, Dagalo visited Ethiopia to address the war’s urgent resolution, following a meeting with Museveni. Despite diplomatic efforts, progress in halting the conflict is limited. Dagalo’s delegation used a Royal Jet from Abu Dhabi to Uganda, with earlier flight verification pending.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government this week rejected opposition demands for a rerun of the disputed December 20 elections, despite reports of “numerous irregularities” that could undermine some results, according to the main observer mission. President Felix Tshisekedi holds a significant lead in provisional results, but opponents are calling for annulment, citing widespread issues in the voting process. The joint vote-monitoring mission of the Catholic and Protestant Churches reported over 60% of incidents at polling stations interrupting voting and raised concerns about the legality of the election commission’s decision to extend voting. The opposition, led by figures like Moise Katumbi, is pushing for a re-run, while the government urges waiting for full results before pursuing legal challenges. The dispute adds to the challenges faced by Congo, which is already dealing with security issues in its eastern regions and is a crucial global producer of cobalt and industrial minerals.

South Africa has on Friday urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an urgent order stating that Israel is violating the 1948 Genocide Convention in its actions against Hamas in Gaza. Israel’s foreign ministry dismissed the suit as “baseless.” South Africa alleges that Israel is breaching the convention designed post-Holocaust, making it a crime to attempt to destroy a people. The filing requests provisional measures to halt Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, citing the protection of Palestinian rights. Israel rejects the claims, blaming Hamas for Palestinian suffering and emphasising efforts to limit harm to non-involved residents. South Africa’s move follows recent diplomatic tensions, including a vote to close the Israeli embassy.

Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye strongly condemned same-sex marriage on Friday, labelling it an “abominable practice” and advocating for the stoning of gay couples based on religious reasons. Known for his conservative Christian views, the President rejects LGBTQ+ rights, urging those supporting such practices to stay abroad and refusing aid from Western countries with opposing views. This position aligns with the conservative Christian values prevailing in Burundi, where same-sex relations are punishable by imprisonment. This statement comes amid global discussions on LGBTQ+ rights, including Pope Francis’ recent declaration on blessing homosexual couples. However, the Catholic Church maintains a clear distinction between homosexual and heterosexual marriages. Implementing global changes faces challenges as African churches resist doctrinal shifts, reflecting the ongoing struggle within the Catholic Church to reconcile diverse perspectives on LGBTQ+ issues.

Russia on Thursday reopened its embassy in Burkina Faso, signalling a continued warming of relations between the two nations. The embassy, which closed in 1992, resumed activities in Ouagadougou. The Russian ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, accredited to Burkina Faso, Alexei Saltykov, led the ceremony and will oversee the diplomatic mission until the appointment of a resident ambassador by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The move follows Burkina Faso’s severance of ties with France, seeking to diversify its partnerships. The two countries signed an agreement for a Russian nuclear power plant in Burkina, and Russia is delivering humanitarian aid, including wheat.

Seventy-nine candidates submitted their candidatures for Senegal’s presidential election scheduled for February 2024, according to Senegalese daily Le Soleil. The Constitutional Council has yet to disclose the number of applications, but the body handling deposit checks received 79 submissions. Notable contenders include Amadou Ba, Senegal’s current prime minister; imprisoned opposition figure Ousmane Sonko; former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall; Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade; and Idrissa Seck, the 2019 presidential election runner-up. Incumbent President Macky Sall, in office since 2012, announced he would not seek re-election, endorsing Amadou Ba as the ruling coalition’s candidate. Ongoing legal challenges surround Sonko’s candidature, but he has submitted his application to the Constitutional Council. The council is expected to announce the final list of candidates by January 20, with the pre-campaign and campaign periods starting on January 5 and February 4, 2024, respectively.

Benin on Wednesday lifted the suspension on the transit of imported goods destined for Niger through the port of Cotonou, ending five months of sanctions on the coup-hit country. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had imposed sanctions on Niger after a coup on July 26 led to the military ousting elected leader Mohamed Bazoum. The sanctions resulted in the closure of the Benin-Niger border, impacting Benin’s revenues due to the halt in transporting goods to Niger through its ports. The decision to lift the suspension is attributed to improved operational conditions at the Cotonou port, particularly the reduction in congestion. The move follows Benin President Patrice Talon’s call for swift re-establishment of relations with Niger. Both nations are also concerned about a major oil pipeline allowing Niger to sell its crude on the international market via the Benin port of Seme.

Rabat this week secured three loan contracts totaling 250 million euros and two grant contracts worth 7 million euros with the German Development Bank. The financing is allocated to various sectors, including social protection, sustainable mobility, and irrigation. The first subsidised loan of 120 million euros, accompanied by a 2 million euro donation, focuses on improving living conditions through a social protection project. The second, a 100 million euro loan with a 5 million euro donation, supports the Fund to Back Urban and Interurban Road Transport Reforms (FART), aiming to develop modern and climate-friendly public transport in Moroccan cities. The third loan of 30 million euros targets the project “Improving the efficiency of water consumption in irrigated agriculture (Sidi Mohamed Cherif Perimeter),” contributing to efficient water use in regulated irrigation downstream of the Ouljet Essoltane dam.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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