Press Review CW 2/2024: Recognition and Nullification
Press Review 5 January 2024 to 12 January 2024

Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo confirms Tshisekedi as election winner

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) confirmed the controversial election victory of incumbent President Félix Tshisekedi, who will now rule the Central African state for another five years. The court dismissed two appeals against the provisional results of the presidential election that was held on 20 December 2023, one of which was filed by opposition candidate Théodore Ngoy, and declared Tshisekedi the winner with 73.47% of the vote. In second place with 18.08% was the former Governor of the South-Eastern mining region of Katanga, Moïse Katumbi, followed by Martin Fayulu (4.9%), who ran against Tshisekedi in the last election in 2018. Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Denis Mukwege, on the other hand, only managed to secure less than 1% of the vote. Voter turnout was lower than in 2018 with only 43% of the approximately 44 million registered voters casting their ballots. The final results announced by the Constitutional Court on Tuesday differed only slightly from the preliminary results published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) on 31 December 2023. In addition to the presidential elections, parliamentary, regional and local elections were also held in December. The elections were overshadowed by logistical mishaps, irregularities and allegations of manipulation. Voting was extended by a day at short notice due to missing ballot papers or the late opening of polling stations, for example, and voting took even longer in remote areas. In addition, there were technical problems with around 45% of the voting machines, as reported by the Election Observation Mission of the National Catholic Bishops’ Conference CENCO. The opposition and civil society organisations strongly criticised the irregularities and called for the elections to be repeated. The Catholic and Protestant churches, which are considered influential institutions in the DRC, joined in the criticism and spoke out in favour of an independent investigation into the election process. International Election Observation Missions such as the US-based Carter Center also reported serious irregularities in 21 of the 109 polling stations visited. Meanwhile, the 42-strong European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission had already left before the election after it was refused permission to use satellite phones and was therefore unable to guarantee reliable and independent election observation, according to the EU. Last Friday, the head of the election commission Denis Kadima announced CENI’s decision to annul the parliamentary and local elections in several constituencies and to declare the election of a total of 82 candidates invalid. Among them are three ministers and four provincial governors as well as the Presidential Minister and Tshisekedi confidante Nana Manuanina. A total of 12 of the 82 candidates affected by the election nullification belong to Tshisekedi’s party. The allegations include the illegal possession of electronic voting machines, which were used to distort the election results. Among the opposition, however, the CENI’s admission of irregularities in one of the election processes of the general elections only strengthens calls for the entire election to be nullified In a statement published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, France congratulated Tshisekedi on his re-election and called on politicians and civil society in the DRC to engage in dialogue and promote national cohesion. Félix Tshisekedi is to be sworn in as president on 20 January and officially begin his second term in office.

Tensions between Somalia and Ethiopia

On Saturday, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed a law to nullify a Memorandum of Understanding signed on New Year’s Day between neighbouring Ethiopia and Somaliland – a de facto autonomous state which Somalia considers part of its territory. The agreement provides for a 50-year lease for a naval base with access to the Somaliland commercial port of Berbera, which is intended to guarantee the landlocked state of Ethiopia access to the Red Sea via the Gulf of Aden. In return, Ethiopia will make an “in-depth assessment” of Somaliland’s aspirations for official recognition as a sovereign state. According to the Ethiopian government, Somaliland will also receive a stake in Ethiopian Airlines – although details of this part of the agreement are not yet known. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 1 January in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Somaliland counterpart Muse Bihi Abdi and significantly increased tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia’s federal government in Mogadishu. Somaliland had unilaterally declared its independence in 1991 and since then has had its own government and has acted autonomously, but is not recognised as a sovereign state by Somalia and the international community. The port agreement was therefore strongly condemned by Mogadishu. According to President Mohamud, it is a disgrace to international norms and laws and violates the independence and sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Accordingly, Mogadishu recalled its ambassador from Ethiopia for further consultations. The move was also criticised internationally. For example, the African Union, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Egypt, Qatar, the European Union and the United States called on Ethiopia to respect Somalia’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to which both Ethiopia and Somalia belong, unlike the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, called on both parties to find an amicable solution. So far, however, there are no signs of a rapprochement. On Monday, the head of the Ethiopian military, Birhanu Jula, met with his Somaliland counterpart Nuh Ismail Tani to discuss possible military cooperation, while Somalia’s President Mohamud traveled to Eritrea to meet President Isayas Afwerki and strengthen relations with Ethiopia’s neighbouring state. In addition, Mohamud reportedly held talks with Egypt and Qatar, both of which are rivals with Ethiopia over the GERD Nile Dam. Meanwhile, Addis Ababa and Somaliland are receiving backing from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which manages the commercial port of Berbera with the Dubai-based company DP World and also has a military presence. Tensions between the Somali government and Somaliland’s de facto government in Hargeisa are also escalating again after both sides agreed to resume dialog after years of deadlock just a few days before the port deal was announced at the urging of Djibouti, which currently holds the chairmanship of IGAD.

 

In other news

Ghanaian chef Failatu Abdul-Razak set a new world record in cooking on Wednesday: After exactly 227 hours, she completed her 10-day cooking marathon. This took place in the kitchen of the Modern City Hotel in the city of Tamale in northern Ghana and developed into a small food festival where guests were able to enjoy a wide variety of Ghanaian dishes. The media attention of the new world record, which was broadcast live by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, among others, but at the same time caused a stir on social media, is also intended to promote the worldwide recognition of African chefs and the culinary diversity of the continent. The Guinness World Records book has recently gained popularity in many African countries – it was only in June last year that chef Hilda Baci from Nigeria was included in the Guinness World Records book with her 93 hour and 11 minute cooking marathon, but she was replaced in November by Irishman Alan Fisher with 119 hours and 57 minutes.

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