Africa This Week 8323: Niger’s Coup d’État; Mali replaces French with Bambara as its official language; Russia promises to continue grain exports to Africa despite sanctions; CAR intense presidential election; Senegal’s Sonko faces a new charge of seven offenses; Algeria wildfires
This is another Alafarika’s weekly news brief, where we look at some of the top news stories making headlines across the African continent. There’s plenty to catch up on, from political developments, diplomatic crises, and security concerns to cultural events and economic updates.
Niger’s military has staged a coup, demanding the resignation of President Mohamed Bazoum, dissolving the constitution, suspending all institutions, and closing the nation’s borders. The coup came after days of protests against the government’s handling of the country’s security situation. Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane announced the coup on national television and said the military had acted because of the “deterioration of the security situation” and “poor economic and social governance.” The new government said it is committed to dialogue but warned that it will not tolerate violence. President Mohamed Bazoum is reported to be under house arrest.
In a move that has been met with mixed reactions, Mali announced it was dropping French as its official language and replacing it with Bambara, the country’s most widely spoken language. The country’s interim government announced the decision, saying it was taking steps to “decolonize” Mali’s institutions. The decision to drop French has been met with mixed reactions. Some people have welcomed the move, saying it is a step towards decolonization and will help promote national unity. The interim government has said it will continue using French in some official contexts, such as diplomacy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to continue exporting grain to Africa despite Western sanctions against his country to avert a food crisis in Africa. Putin made the promise on Monday at the Russia-Africa Summit. He said Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea will get 25–50,000 metric tons of free grain each in the next three to four months. The war in Ukraine has disrupted global food supplies, and Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to the crisis. However, the African Union called on Russia to lift the sanctions preventing grain from being exported from Ukraine. Putin has said he will lift the sanctions if the West lifts its sanctions against Russia. It is unclear whether Putin’s promise to export grain to Africa will be enough to avert the food crisis. The sanctions against Russia are significantly impacting the country’s economy, and it is possible that Russia will not be able to export as much grain as it promised.
In a tense election, voting commenced in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Sunday, July 30th, for the presidential election for the reelection of the incumbent president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who is seeking a second term. He is facing a challenge from former Prime Minister Anicet-Georges Dologuélé. The election is taking place against a backdrop of insecurity and unending violence for years, and there are concerns that armed groups could disrupt the election. Despite the challenges, the international community is urging the people of the CAR to vote. However, the United Nations has deployed peacekeepers to help ensure a safe and fair election. The election’s outcome is uncertain, but it would show if the country is committed to democracy and peace or not.
Due to a heatwave causing high electricity demand, Egypt announced that it would implement planned power cuts in some areas. The cuts will be in effect from 12:00 p.m. to 18:00 p.m. local time and will affect areas in the north of the country, including Cairo and Alexandria. The heatwave has caused temperatures to soar in Egypt, with some areas reaching as high as 45 degrees Celsius, and has strained the country’s power grid. The government has said that the planned power cuts are necessary to prevent blackouts. The power cuts will affect businesses and homes in the affected areas. To manage the situation, the government has advised people to conserve energy during the planned power cuts and to use fans and air conditioners sparingly. It also said it would continue monitoring the situation and adjusting the planned power cuts as needed.
In a new development, a Kenyan appeal court has lifted a suspension placed on a disputed government finance law that will double the value-added tax on fuel and introduce a new housing levy. The legislation has sparked deadly opposition protests this month. The court ruled on Friday that the public interest outweighed the concerns raised by the opposition senator who challenged the law. President William Ruto’s government says higher taxes are necessary to stabilize government finances, which have strained debt repayments and resulted in lower-than-expected tax collection growth. The law has been met with widespread opposition, with critics saying it will disproportionately hurt the poor and middle class. The protests erupted after the law’s passage turned deadly, leading to the loss of lives and properties.
On Saturday, Senegal’s public prosecutor announced that opposition politician Ousmane Sonko is facing a new charge of seven offenses, including calling for insurrection, criminal conspiracy, undermining state security, plotting against state authority, and theft. Sonko was arrested on Friday for allegedly stealing the phone of a police officer and issuing a subversive message on social media. However, Sonko has denied all the charges against him, calling them politically motivated. Sonko is seen as a major challenger to President Macky Sall in the upcoming elections, and the new charges against Sonko come at a critical time in Senegalese politics. The elections are scheduled to be held in February 2024. The charges against him could damage his chances of winning the election. Sonko’s supporters have staged protests in recent days to demand his release. They have also accused the government of using the charges against Sonko to silence him. However, the government has denied the accusations, saying that the charges against Sonko are based on evidence.
In a major upset, Morocco claimed their first-ever victory at the Women’s World Cup on Sunday, stunning South Korea 1-0. Ibtissam Jraidi scored the match’s lone goal in the sixth minute, heading in a cross from Hanane Ait Elhaj. Morocco, ranked 72nd in the world, was much better than their 17th-ranked opponents for most of the match. The win is a major boost for Morocco, who are now level on points with Colombia in Group H.
In a devastating development, wildfires raged through forests, mountain villages, and towns in northern Algeria, killing at least 34 people and injuring hundreds. The blazes, which started on Sunday, July 24, have been particularly destructive in the coastal region of Bejaia, where 23 people have died. Ten soldiers were also killed in the Bejaia region when they were encircled by flames during an evacuation. The fires have also spread to neighboring Tunisia. Strong winds and successive heat waves have fueled the wildfires, which have been difficult to extinguish. As of Tuesday, 80% of the fires had been put out, but firefighters are still working to contain the remaining blazes. However, the Algerian government has mobilized 8,000 firefighters and 530 trucks to fight the fires, and military firefighting aircraft have also been deployed. The wildfires have caused widespread damage, destroying homes, businesses, and forests. The full extent of the damage is still being assessed. To contain the situation, the Algerian government has declared a state of emergency in the affected areas, and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has visited the region to survey the damage.
Ghana’s parliament has voted to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except high treason. The vote, praised by rights advocates, formalizes a de facto moratorium on executions in Ghana for the past three decades. The measure now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it. Under the change, the sentences of 176 death row inmates, including six women, would be commuted to life imprisonment. Capital punishment is becoming less common on the African continent. According to the advocacy group World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, 26 African countries had outlawed the practice outright, while Ghana and 14 others had all but stopped executions as of 2022. The vote to abolish the death penalty is a significant step forward for Ghana and the African continent. It is a sign that the world is moving away from capital punishment and that Ghana is committed to upholding the rights of all its citizens.