Africa in the news: Disputed election in Comoros, US sanctions on Cameroon, and attack on Mali villages

Comoros incumbent President Azali Assoumani casts his ballot for the presidential election at a polling station in Mitsoudje, in Comoros March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Amir Ahmed - RC1BAD1F0500

Disputed presidential election in Comoros

On Tuesday, Comoros’ electoral body declared incumbent President Azali Assoumani winner of the country’s presidential elections with 60.8 percent of the vote. The runner up, Ahamada Mahamoudou, one of 12 opposition candidates, received 14.6 percent of the vote. Assoumani’s victory with over 50 percent of the vote has ensured that he will not face a second round of run-off elections against a single opponent.

The opposition alleges that voting was fraudulent and hindered by violence, assaults on candidates, and arrests of opposition supporters, which the government denies. As a result, opposition groups have rejected the results of the elections and are planning a civil disobedience campaign aimed at unseating the president and demanding a new ballot to be conducted by a transitional administration. Hours after opposition candidates announced their plans to unseat the president, a firefight took place near the main military base in the capital of Moroni. At least three people were killed in the shootout, and former army colonel Mohamed Soilihi, who came third in the elections, was arrested.

Observers from the African Union, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa, and the African Standby Forces of the East have stated that the voting process was highly irregular and lacked credibility or transparency.

US applies sanctions on Cameroon as violence persists

On Thursday, March 28, Human Rights Watch reported that at least 170 civilians have been killed since October in the escalating violence in Cameroon. The violence has occurred primarily along linguistic lines between Cameroon’s Anglophone and Francophone populations. The ethno-linguistic tension stems from perceived discrimination against the minority Anglophone Cameroonians: The government operates primarily in French, courts have ostracized Anglophones, and Anglophones are unable to hold civil service jobs. As a result, many Anglophones feel like second-class citizens, and ties between the two communities continue to fray while trust in government, especially in Anglophone regions, has plummeted.

Both the government and separatists are accused of atrocities. According to the report, “government forces in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have killed scores of civilians, used indiscriminate force, and torched hundreds of homes over the past six months.” The separatists, however, have also contributed to the violence through kidnappings—including of at least 300 children under age 18 years old—and two executions, says the report. Over 430,000 have fled in response to the violence. The violence is also compounding poverty in the country, as farmers have been forced to abandon their crops and exports are in decline.

As a result of the violence, earlier this week, the U.S. placed sanctions on over 20 military personnel, civilian actors, and government ministers in Cameroon. Aid programs and military training by the U.S. have been withdrawn.

Attack on Mali villages kills more than 150

Gunmen attacked the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara in central Mali last Saturday, killing 157 people. The attack was one of the deadliest in recent years. The villages are home to the Fulani ethnic group, who are seminomadic herders, while the attack was allegedly carried out by fighters from the Dogon ethnic group, escalating an ongoing conflict between the Dogon and Fulani.

According to the U.N., more than 200 people have been killed in interethnic violence in Mali in 2019. The conflict between the Dogon and Fulani has become increasingly violent since 2012 following a militant Islamic uprising in the northern part of the country.

Responding to the attacks, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita disbanded an anti-jihadi vigilante group and fired two generals in the military. On Wednesday, the United Nations announced that it would send a team of experts to investigate the attack. The International Criminal Court will also send a team to Mali to investigate and assess whether the crimes fall within its jurisdiction.