S.A. opposition parties formed a coalition to defeat ANC in the 2024 elections; ECOWAS ready for military action in Niger; Ugandan President criticises World Bank’s decision to withdraw funding over anti-homosexuality law; Gabon’s opposition parties support a single candidate to challenge President Bongo in presidential election, and others
To end the dominance of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), seven opposition parties in South Africa formed a coalition to defeat the ruling party in the 2024 elections if it fails to win an outright majority. The parties, including the main Democratic Alliance, signed a pact following talks this week. The opposition hopes to gain a parliamentary majority by combining votes if the ANC’s share further erodes. They pledged no cooperation with the ANC or the leftist EFF. The parties, however, agreed on power-sharing and cabinet structure principles. The opposition also says the new national pact starts the work of fixing South Africa and providing an alternative to prolonged ANC rule. But the ANC remains the favourite in 2024 with its liberation legacy.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni criticised the World Bank’s decision to withdraw funding over the country’s controversial anti-homosexuality law. In a statement on Thursday, Museveni branded the World Bank as “imperialist actors” trying to coerce Uganda. Last week, the World Bank suspended funding to Uganda due to a law passed in May that criminalises homosexuality and imposes harsh penalties. The law has drawn global condemnation, but Museveni remains defiant. He insists the funding cut will not deter Uganda’s development or force it to reverse the law. On the contrary, Museveni says losing World Bank support will aid Uganda’s bid to reduce external debt and become more self-reliant. He claims Uganda still has Western allies but says they are intimidated about continuing support. He also stated that the country would continue advancing economically without the bank’s assistance.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the BRICS summit in South Africa next week during a state visit from August 21–24. Xi’s trip will mark his second major overseas visit this year after travelling to Russia in March. The leaders of the BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—are expected to meet in Johannesburg to discuss strengthening the alliance of major emerging economies into a more formidable geopolitical force. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin will participate remotely rather than in person due to the war in Ukraine. The summit will also focus on expanding BRICS membership, with China and Russia pushing for more like-minded nations to counter Western dominance.
Major opposition parties in Gabon have pledged support for a single candidate to challenge President Ali Bongo in the August 26th presidential election. Five of the 19 candidates have agreed to support former minister and professor Albert Ondo Ossa, according to their opposition coalition, Alternance 2023. They hope Ossa can end the Bongo family’s 56-year grip on power. At a rally on Friday, Ossa said Gabon did not belong to Bongo and vowed to fight using constitutional means for free and transparent elections. The opposition believes they can finally defeat Bongo by consolidating support behind Ossa. But the incumbent president is still seen as the favourite, given his powerful political machine.
Furthermore, West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc said Friday it has agreed on a “D-Day” for potential military action in Niger if talks with the junta fail. At a meeting of regional army chiefs in Ghana, ECOWAS said force remains an option, but peaceful resolution is still preferred. It has condemned the July 26th coup in Niger as one too many for the region. It has also ordered a standby force to prepare for intervention if needed, though strategic details remain undisclosed. Most member states except Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Cape Verde are ready to contribute troops. The bloc stresses that force would be a last resort but says it’s ready to intervene if ordered.
In a tragic development, more than 60 migrants are presumed dead after a boat that left Senegal in early July was found off Cape Verde on Monday. The pirogue had departed the Senegalese town of Fass Boye on July 10th with 101 people aboard, mostly Senegalese, along with one Bissau-Guinean. It was spotted on August 8th by a Spanish fishing vessel near Cape Verde, which alerted authorities. Rescuers found 38 survivors, including four children, along with seven bodies. Survivor accounts suggest 63 people are missing and presumed dead. The incident marks another migrant tragedy for Senegal after boats sank in July with dozens of fatalities.
In other news, the leader of a powerful armed group in western Libya has been released after his arrest earlier this week sparked deadly clashes in Tripoli. Colonel Mahmoud Hamza, head of Brigade 444, was freed overnight under a ceasefire deal brokered by the Tripoli-based government. His arrest on Monday by the rival al-Radaa Force led to heavy fighting that killed 55 people. Videos circulated Thursday showing Hamza back at his barracks south of Tripoli, surrounded by cheering loyalists. The ceasefire agreement provides for withdrawing fighters from the frontlines and deploying a neutral security force between the adversaries. It also allows for damage assessment and victim compensation. Hamza’s arrest triggered the worst clashes in the capital in a year. But calm has returned since the truce, bringing relief to Tripoli residents. The release of Hamza under a ceasefire deal marks a de-escalation following days of deadly infighting between rival militias.
In another development, lawyers for Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko say he has been admitted to the intensive care unit of a Dakar hospital. Sonko was jailed in late July on charges including sedition and undermining state security. He began a hunger strike shortly after, and his health deteriorated. Lawyers visited the hospital Thursday and confirmed Sonko was in intensive care after passing out Wednesday evening. He has clashed with authorities since a 2021 rape allegation. Sonko received suspended and prison sentences this year for defamation and corruption of youth. His supporters decry a conspiracy. Despite his convictions, Sonko insists he remains eligible to run in 2024. But the Justice Ministry says he lost his electoral rights after his June sentence. Sonko has, however, been removed from the voter rolls and notified.
Angola’s President João Lourenço this week emerged as the president of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In his acceptance speech for SADC’s rotating one-year presidency, Lourenço said the fund is key to mobilising financing for SADC’s regional industrialization programme and integration agenda. He pledged to work on diversifying funding sources and reducing dependence on international partners. Lourenço also stressed the need to invest in electrification, energy production, infrastructure links, and human capital to drive industrialization. He also highlighted Angola’s infrastructure investments, like the Lobito corridor, to improve regional connectivity. He also emphasised addressing security issues such as the conflict in eastern Congo. Lourenço further stated that under his watch, SADC will monitor upcoming elections in Congo, Eswatini, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe to ensure they are peaceful, free, and fair.
At least 1,400 people have starved to death in Ethiopia’s Tigray region since food aid was suspended four months ago due to theft, an official says. The UN’s World Food Programme and USAID halted aid after an investigation found nearly 500 people were involved in stealing the relief. Tigray has been devastated by conflict since 2020, causing famine conditions. A peace deal in November ended the fighting. But during the war, the region was blockaded, largely stopping aid. Up to 600,000 people died in the 2-year war, according to the AU. Aid emblems have been seen on food at Tigray markets, but it’s unclear if recipients stole or resold it. The Tigray official says the death toll from the suspension is likely much higher than 1,400 across three zones. Almost 200 have been charged, including officials, NGO staff, and business owners.