Africa: Russia Tests New Disinformation Tactics in Africa to Expand Influence | Davey Alba and Sheera Frenkel/The New York Times

Russia has been testing new disinformation tactics in an enormous Facebook campaign in parts of Africa, as part of an evolution of its manipulation techniques ahead of the 2020 American presidential election. Facebook said on Wednesday that it removed three Russian-backed influence networks on its site that were aimed at African countries including Mozambique, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya. The company said the online networks were linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch who was indicted by the United States and accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Unlike past influence campaigns from Russia, the networks targeted several countries through Arabic-language posts, according to the Stanford Internet Observatory, which collaborated with Facebook to unravel the effort. Russians also worked with locals in the African countries to set up Facebook accounts that were disguised as authentic to avoid detection.

Africa: Libya Uncovers Alleged Russian Plot to Meddle in African Votes | Samer Al-Atrush, Ilya Arkhipov, and Henry Meyer/Bloomberg

Libyan security forces have arrested two men accused of working for a Russian troll farm seeking to influence elections in the oil exporter and other African countries. A letter from the state prosecutor of the internationally-backed Tripoli government to a Libyan security chief said the men were involved in “securing a meeting” with Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, the fugitive son of the ousted dictator and a potential presidential candidate who enjoys the backing of some officials in Moscow. Russia’s foreign ministry said it was aware of the reports and was seeking to verify them. “We haven’t received an official notification from the Libyan side regarding this matter,” the foreign ministry’s press service said. Laptops and memory sticks found with the suspects showed that they worked for an outfit identified as Fabrika Trollei, Russian for Troll Factory, that “specializes in influencing elections that are to be held in several African states” including Libya, the letter, stamped by the attorney general’s office and obtained by Bloomberg, stated. Two Libyan government officials with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed the authenticity of the document. Fabrika Trollei was the moniker given to a network of media and political outfits connected to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who’s been accused by the U.S. of funding and organizing operations to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Prigozhin has been in contact with representatives of Saif al-Islam over his future political role, according to three people familiar with the situation.

Africa: Leaked documents reveal Russian effort to exert influence in Africa | Luke Harding and Jason Burke/The Guardian

Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”, leaked documents reveal. The mission to increase Russian influence on the continent is being led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman based in St Petersburg who is a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. One aim is to “strong-arm” the US and the former colonial powers the UK and France out of the region. Another is to see off “pro-western” uprisings, the documents say. In 2018 the US special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contracts. According to Mueller, his troll factory ran an extensive social media campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump. The Wagner group – a private military contractor linked to Prigozhin – has supplied mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and Syria.

Africa: Twitter bots in Kenya, Lesotho, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea elections | Quartz

Automated bots are increasingly muddying election cycles in Africa, disrupting conversations, distorting facts, and bringing into focus the changing dynamics of politics in the continent. Bots on social media became an influential voice during crucial Africa polls over the last year, claims a report called How Africa Tweets from communications consultancy Portland. These bots, defined by some as a new form of media, are software programs that combine artificial intelligence with communication skills and intimate human behavior. Using them, one could amplify a specific conversation on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook by posting videos, photos, and biased statements targeting particular hashtags and wordings.

Africa: Anxiety on continent as Kenya, Rwanda and Angola prepare for polls | Daily Nation

After a rather lacklustre electoral year, the season of big-league African polls is finally here. July 29 will see parliamentary elections in Gabon as the second and final round of round of Congo Brazzaville’s legislative ones are held the following day. Despite their importance, the polls in the Republic of Congo and Gabon will be more or less overshadowed by the major league ones to be held in the momentous month of August. As matters stand, the limelight will be reserved for Rwanda, where a presidential election will be conducted on August 3 and 4. Already deified by his compatriots and practically given a carte blanche during last year’s constitutional referendum, multi-term President Paul Kagame is virtually guaranteed of a win. He has been in power for 17 years already. 

Africa: Five elections tell the diverse tale of democracy in Africa | Financial Times

Five African presidents with a collective 90 years of leadership under their belt are meant to hold elections in the next five months. Among them, only Joseph Kabila, who “inherited” the presidency of the Democratic Republic of Congo from his assassinated presidential father in 2001, is ducking the challenge, claiming his country is too broke to organise a poll. Four out of five, as they say, ain’t bad. The elections that will take place — starting with Rwanda on August 4, followed by Kenya, Angola and Liberia — tell the variegated story of African democracy. Two of the four, those in Kenya and Liberia, will be genuinely competitive and fiercely fought. The other two, in Rwanda and Angola, will be walkovers for the dominant ruling parties, though in Angola, President José Eduardo dos Santos is calling it a day — after 37 years. He has already anointed João Lourenço, defence minister, as his replacement.

Africa: More African countries are blocking Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp during elections | Quartz

Last week, Ghana, widely acknowledged as one of Africa’s role models for best democratic practice, caught democracy watchdogs off guard when the country’s police chief announced the government intends to shut down social media on voting day in November. The shutdown is to take place from 5 am to 7 pm “to ensure social media are not used to send misleading information that could destabilize the country.” While it is a surprise Ghana is making this move, it has become more common for several other African countries who haven’t been as courteous as to give voters notice before curtailing the use of social media and the right to free speech around elections. Deji Olukotun of Internet freedom advocacy group Access Now, notes Ghana “was clearly looking to what other countries have done.” Citizens in Ethiopia, Congo, Chad, Uganda, and elsewhere have found elections are a particularly popular time to crack down on social media.

Africa: Switch Off the Lights, We’re Voting |

Cameroonian journalist Richard Onanena’s recent trip to neighbouring Chad to cover the first round of elections on 10 April was a harrowing experience. Due to the restrictions on communications imposed by the government, he was unable to send messages or reach his colleagues at the BBC Africa service’s headquarters in Dakar. ‘On the morning of the election, I was supposed to send my report live from N’Djamena, but I couldn’t because of the blackout’. What’s more, Onanena says he was unable to reach his contacts in Chad to check what was happening at the various voting stations. ‘We moved blindly from one polling station to another without knowing what to expect,’ he told ISS Today. The shutting down of social media, messaging and mobile phone communications around the elections in Chad came in the wake of similar incidents in the Republic of Congo and Uganda, where governments also severely restricted access to communication networks during the recent elections. Election monitors and civil society organisations are increasingly concerned about this phenomenon, which signals a return to Cold War-era censorship and an attempt by governments to control the flow of information.

Africa: A Tale of Two Elections: Chad and Djibouti | Africa Times

Within the span of just a few days, two long-serving African leaders will go to the polls in search of new electoral mandates. As part of the “Super Sunday” of African elections in 2016, Djiboutian strongman Ismail Omar Guelleh will stand for re-election on April 8 while Idriss Déby Itno and 13 other candidates compete in the first round of Chad’s presidential vote on April 10. On the surface, Djibouti and Chad similar political contexts: both Guelleh and Déby have led their countries since the 1990s. The two leaders previously organized constitutional referendums to remove existing term limits, with Chad’s abolished in 2005 and Djibouti’s cast aside in 2010. Looking beyond time spent in office, however, the two presidents offer very different images of how African leaders positions themselves and their countries on the continent. Idriss Déby was a career military officer when he took power in a 1990 coup, bringing an end to the murderous regime of Hissene Habré. Since, he helped institute Chad’s first multiparty constitution and won the presidential elections in 1996 (being re-elected in 2001, 2006, and 2011). While much of the Chadian leader’s time in power in the 2000s and early 2010s had been spent fending off challenges, Déby’s more peaceful current term in office (domestically, at least) has seen a marked increase in his country’s regional influence. In 2013, 2,000 battle-hardened Chadian troops served on the front lines of the international campaign against jihadist groups in northern Mali, earning the gratitude of both France and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Several months later, Chad earned election to the UN Security Council for the first time. Capping off his government’s growing international clout, Déby himself was named Chair of the African Union this past January.

Africa: It’s a #SuperSunday in Africa, with elections being held in Benin, Cape Verde, Congo, Niger, Senegal and Zanzibar | The Washington Post

Election watchers have deemed today a #SuperSunday in Africa, where people are voting in elections in Benin, Cape Verde, Congo-Brazzaville, Niger, Senegal and Zanzibar. To be more exact: Benin and Niger are holding run-off presidential elections; the poll in the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a first-round (and probably only-round) presidential election; Cape Verde’s poll is a parliamentary election; Zanzibar’s election is due to an annulment of an earlier poll; and Senegalese are voting on a referendum. Below are a few snapshots and a round-up of links to learn more about each election.

Africa: Election Year 2015 – a Long Way to Democracy? |

The year 2015 will go down in history as one of elections in Africa. Overall there were thirteen of them. According to observers, eligible voters realized the importance and civic duty to take part in the elections. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, a sitting president was defeated and accepted the outcome of the election. He later willingly handed over power to his main rival. In this case it was Goodluck Jonathan handing over power to Muhammadu Buhari. Six months later it was Burkina Faso’s turn to elect its new leader. Voters endured long queues at polling stations to elect a new leader, knowing that this time their vote counted, unlike in the past three decades under Blaise Compaore’s rule when the results were long certain.

Africa: After Nigeria, could voters boot other African leaders? | Public Radio International

In becoming the first Nigerian to defeat a sitting president through the ballot box yesterday, Muhammadu Buhari’s victory turned into a political flashpoint for African hopefuls determined to set the same precedent in their country. In Kenya, five democratic elections have yet to see an opposition candidate successfully unseat a sitting president. But Raila Odinga, who lost in 2007 and 2013, said the outcome of Nigeria’s election gives him hope. Buhari, who is 72 years old, lost elections three times before his successful campaign. Odinga will be the same age when Kenya holds its sixth presidential elections in 2017. In Tanzania, a young presidential hopeful, January Makamba, hopes to unseat his country’s ruling party candidate in October. The incumbent president, Jakaya Kikwete, is ineligible to run for a third term. In the lead up to a hotly contested race, and in a climate of escalating sectarian tensions between Christian and Muslim communities in Tanzania, Makamba commended the importance of a ruling party concession.