Morocco earthquake; Niger’s junta ends military pact with Benin; French President confirmed the ambassador and other diplomats held “hostages” in Niger; Libya’s massive flood killed thousands and left many missing in Derna; U.N. envoy to Sudan resigned; Gabon’s junta appoints Raymond Ndong Sima as prime minister, and others
On Friday, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Morocco with an epicentre located 72 km southwest of Marrakech. The quake has killed over 2,000 people and injured over 2,000 more, with 1,404 in critical condition. The historic old city of Marrakech suffered extensive damage. Neighbors are still searching for survivors buried on the slopes, where houses of mud brick, stone, and rough wood were cracked open and mosque minarets toppled by the quake. In the village of Amizmiz, near the epicentre, rescue workers picked through rubble with their bare hands. Unfortunately, no one was found alive in one family. The father and son were found dead, and they are still looking for the mother and daughter. Rescuers stood atop the pancaked floors of one building in Amizmiz, bits of carpet and furniture protruding from the rubble. A long queue formed outside the only open shop as people sought supplies. Underscoring the challenges facing rescuers, fallen boulders blocked a road from Amizmiz to a nearby village.
On Tuesday, Niger’s junta announced the end of a military pact with Benin, accusing it of allowing ECOWAS to deploy troops on its soil for a potential intervention. ECOWAS is trying to persuade the coup leaders to restore democracy but has threatened to use force if diplomacy fails. The coup took place on July 26 and ousted President Bola Tinubu, who was the chair of ECOWAS. The junta wants a three-year transition, while ECOWAS proposes nine months.
On Friday, September 15, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that the French ambassador to Niger and other French diplomats are “literally being held hostage at the French embassy” in Niamey by the military junta that seized power in the country in July. The ambassador, Sylvain Itte, is “eating military rations” and “cannot go out”. Macron also said that the junta has prevented food from being delivered to the embassy. The situation is ongoing, and no further details have been provided.
A massive flood caused by a storm has killed thousands of people and left many more missing in the Libyan city of Derna. The water destroyed buildings, dams, and belongings and swept some victims out to sea. Survivors are searching for their loved ones and trying to cope with the tragedy. Rescue workers are in need of more body bags and equipment. The city centre, built along a dry riverbed, was the worst-hit area.
On Wednesday, the U.N. envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, resigned after being declared unwelcome by the Sudanese government amid a war between rival military factions. Perthes accused the army and the paramilitary forces of committing atrocities against civilians, including bombing, sexual violence, and killings. The war started over a plan to integrate the forces as part of a transition to democracy after the ouster of President Bashir in 2019. No mediation efforts have succeeded in ending the conflict.
On Monday, Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa reshuffled his cabinet, appointing his son as the deputy finance minister and keeping Mthuli Ncube as the finance minister. Mnangagwa faces economic challenges such as debt, inflation, and currency crises. He won a second term in a controversial election last month, which the opposition and observers rejected as fraudulent. He also named Soda Zhemu as the new mining minister, replacing Winston Chitando. Mining is a key sector for Zimbabwe’s exports and growth. Mnangagwa did not include any opposition members in his cabinet, saying he had a huge majority and the opposition should enjoy being in opposition.
On Sunday, Gabon’s junta appointed Raymond Ndong Sima as prime minister. The army officers took power on Aug. 30, cancelling the re-election of President Ali Bongo, who had ruled since 2009 after his father’s 42-year rule. The junta has pledged to hold free and fair elections but has not set a date. PM Raymond Ndong Sima said he hoped to complete the process within two years.
The U.S. said on Friday it will withhold $85 million in military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns, Senator Chris Murphy said. He also urged Egypt to suspend another $235 million in military aid due to Egypt’s “egregious human rights record”. The U.S. had set conditions for Egypt to free political prisoners and respect human rights, which President el-Sisi failed to meet. The U.S. will redirect $55 million of the funds to Taiwan and $30 million to Lebanon, a State Department letter said.
Tunisia’s largest museum, the Bardo, reopened to the public on Thursday after being closed for renovation since 2021. The museum, which is housed in a historic Ottoman palace, showcases Tunisia’s rich heritage and artefacts from various civilizations. Visitors admired the giant antique mosaics, the marble statue of the Roman goddess of harmony, and the new section dedicated to Islamic manuscripts. The museum also paid tribute to the victims of the 2015 terrorist attack that killed 21 tourists and a policeman. The reopening was seen as a message of peace and tolerance by the museum staff.
Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema visited China this week to boost business ties with the Asian giant. He met with leaders of five major Chinese companies in Shenzhen, including Huawei and BYD. He also saw a talent programme that trains young Zambians in ICT. He said he wanted to combine Zambia’s needs with China’s solutions. Zambia is a top copper producer and could benefit from working with BYD, a leading EV and battery maker. BYD’s CEO said he was ready to offer technological support to Zambia for developing electric vehicles and increasing the value of its copper resources.
On Wednesday, Uganda’s police suspended the opposition party’s nationwide campaign, citing public order problems. The campaign, led by Bobi Wine, was launched on September 2 and had been authorised by the authorities. Bobi Wine, who challenged President Museveni in the 2021 election, said he would continue the campaign despite the police decision. He accused Museveni of using the police to stop his popularity. Uganda is due to hold its next presidential election in 2026.