This Week in Africa 6923: UN and USA suspend food aid to Ethiopia; Ghana regains top spot as Africa’s largest gold producer; PAIGC won a majority in Guinea-Bissau’s legislative elections; Speaker of Israeli Knesset signed parliamentary agreements with Morocco; Cameroon’s border towns cried out over fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria, and other
In a humanitarian operation, more than 280 children and 70 caregivers have been rescued from an orphanage in Khartoum, where they were trapped by fighting between rival factions of Sudan’s military government. On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that some children with special needs were taken to a safer location after weeks of hardship. At least 67 children have died from hunger and illness in the orphanage since mid-April. According to the United Nations, the war in Sudan has killed hundreds and displaced over a million people. The ICRC said it secured security guarantees from both sides to allow safe passage for the children and orphanage staff. The aid organisation also called for an immediate end to the violence and urged all parties to protect civilians.
Meanwhile, due to the widespread theft of donations, the UN and the US have suspended food aid to Ethiopia, where more than 20 million people need food assistance. On Friday, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said they were halting food distribution until reforms are in place to ensure humanitarian food reaches the intended beneficiaries. The agencies said they had uncovered a coordinated and criminal scheme that involved government and military entities diverting food aid to their own units or selling it on local markets. The scheme affected food supplies across the country, including in the northern region of Tigray, where a two-year conflict has left millions hungry. The WFP and USAID said they were working with the Ethiopian government to investigate and hold those responsible for the thefts accountable. They also noted that they would continue providing nutrition assistance to children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, school meal programmes, and activities to build resilience.
In other news, Ghana regains the top spot as Africa’s largest gold producer. According to the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Ghana produced 3.7 million ounces of gold in 2022, a 32% increase from the previous year, making it the largest gold producer on the continent. The chamber’s president, Joshua Mortoti, said the growth was driven by both large and small-scale sectors, with the large-scale sub-sector recording its highest output in the country’s history. He also said that chamber members had sold over 77,000 ounces of gold to the central bank under a programme to boost reserves. Ghana lost the top spot to South Africa in 2021 after a sharp decline in output.
However, Senegal temporarily shut down its consulates abroad after supporters of an opposition leader attacked its diplomatic missions in France, Italy, and the United States. The foreign ministry said on Tuesday that the attacks caused serious damage, especially in Milan, where passport-making machines and identity cards were destroyed. The attacks came amid political tensions in Senegal, where at least 16 people were killed and hundreds injured in protests last week. The protests erupted after Ousmane Sonko, a popular opposition figure, was sentenced to two years in prison for corrupting youth, a charge he denies. Sonko’s supporters accuse the government of trying to block his presidential bid for next year’s elections. The government restricted mobile internet services last weekend to quell the unrest but restored them on Tuesday after three days of calm.
In a political development, on Thursday, a coalition led by the former ruling party PAIGC won a majority in Guinea-Bissau’s legislative elections, defeating the party of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo. The result will restore parliament after a 13-month absence, block Embalo’s attempt to change the constitution, and strengthen his power. The West African country has been plagued by political instability and poverty since its independence from Portugal in 1974. Voters hope the new parliament will bring some stability and development.
In an effort to ease tensions, the prime ministers of Italy and the Netherlands and the president of the EU Commission will visit Tunisia on Sunday to try to unblock loans from the IMF for the country, which faces a financial crisis and a surge in migration. Tunisia has been in talks with the IMF for a $1.9 billion loan since last year, but the deal has been stalled by President Kais Saied’s rejection of key reform commitments and a lack of public support. Saied had ruled by decree since 2021, when he seized most powers and dissolved parliament, sparking protests and criticism from the opposition and civil society. The EU hopes to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between Tunis and the IMF and support the country’s democratic transition and economic recovery. The EU is also concerned about the impact of Tunisia’s instability on the security and migration situation in the region.
In a historic visit, the speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Amir Ohana, visited Morocco and signed parliamentary agreements with his counterpart, Habib El Malki, in Rabat on Thursday. The agreements covered cooperation, the exchange of information, and joint initiatives. Ohana’s visit, the first by an Israeli parliament speaker to a Muslim country, was part of a diplomatic outreach following the resumption of ties between Israel and Morocco in December 2020. However, the visit also sparked protests by pro-Palestinian activists who gathered outside the Moroccan parliament and waved Palestinian flags and placards critical of Israel. The protesters accused the Moroccan parliament of betraying the Palestinian cause and collaborating with a “fascist” and “Zionist” regime. They also expressed their opposition to the normalisation of relations between Israel and Morocco, one of four Arab countries that agreed to establish formal ties with Israel in 2020.
In a controversial decision on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry of Burundi suspended the activities of the National Council for Freedom (CNL), the main opposition party, citing “irregularities” during its last two congresses in March and April. The CNL leader, Agathon Rwasa, the presidential candidate in 2020, had dismissed eight executives who opposed his plans to change the party’s statutes and internal regulations in line with the country’s new administrative division. The ministry said the party had violated its statutes by not holding a political bureau meeting before the congresses and ordered it to defuse tensions within its ranks. The CNL denounced the move as a violation of the constitution and the law on political parties and an attempt to destabilise and weaken the party ahead of the 2025 legislative elections. Burundi has been under the rule of the CNDD-FDD party since 2005 and has faced criticism for human rights abuses by NGOs and the UN.
In a gesture of solidarity, a team of 200 South African firefighters arrived in Canada on Friday to help fight the wildfires that have scorched millions of hectares of forests and forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate. The team was welcomed with singing and dancing at an airport in Edmonton, Alberta, where they will join the local crews and other international firefighters. Canada is facing its worst wildfire season on record, with hot and dry conditions expected to continue through August. Fires have erupted in almost every province, from British Columbia to Ontario. The country has called in reinforcements from several other countries, including Australia, the US, Mexico, New Zealand, France, Spain, and Portugal.
On the other hand, Cameroon’s border towns and villages with Nigeria cried out over the fuel shortage and a rise in the prices of basic commodities after Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu scrapped a fuel subsidy in May. Nigeria is one of Africa’s leading oil producers, and subsidised gasoline was smuggled into Cameroon and sold cheaply by the roadside. Tinubu cited heavy smuggling as a reason for ending the subsidy, which he said would save the country billions of dollars. Cameroonians who trade across the border say their business has suffered and transport fares have doubled. Some traders and transporters have been stranded for days due to fuel scarcity. Cameroon’s government says it will supply petrol to the affected areas to ease the situation. Cameroon relies on Nigeria for petrol, as its own state oil firm, SONARA, sells petrol at a higher price.