Africa This week: 2023 Africa Cup of Nations starts in Cote d’Ivoire; Nigeria’s Dangote oil refinery commences production of diesel and aviation fuel; China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to embark on a diplomatic tour to Africa; Morocco secured victory in a heated vote to lead the UN Human Rights Council; MONUSCO to leave DR Congo by end of 2024; Burundi closes border with Rwanda after accusing Kigali of training Red Tabara rebel group
The CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023, Africa’s largest football event, will commence at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Ebimpe at 20:00 GMT on Saturday. The opening match between hosts Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau was broadcast live in over 170 territories globally, making it a major international sporting event.
Nigeria’s Dangote oil refinery, Africa’s largest, commenced production of diesel and aviation fuel on Saturday, marking a significant milestone after years of construction delays. Costing $20 billion, the 650,000 bpd plant, located near Lagos, aims to make Nigeria self-sufficient in fuel production and potentially become a fuel exporter to West African nations. Test runs are expected to start this week following the refinery’s receipt of a sixth crude oil cargo on Jan. 8. While the state-owned NNPC Ltd. plans to supply four crude cargoes, experts anticipate a gradual transition from test runs to full-capacity fuel production over several months. Dangote plans to initially refine 350,000 bpd, with aspirations to reach full production later in the year.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to embark on a diplomatic tour to Africa and other nations. From January 13 to 18, he will visit Egypt, Tunisia, Togo, and Cote d’Ivoire. This trip continues a tradition of the Chinese foreign minister making Africa their first overseas destination of the year for the 34th consecutive year. Following the African leg, Wang will extend his visit to Brazil and Jamaica from January 18 to 22, according to statements from the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning during a regular press conference.
Al Shabaab militants seized a United Nations helicopter in central Somalia after it made an emergency landing in an area under the group’s control, according to a military official on Wednesday. The helicopter, carrying two Somali individuals and several foreigners, developed a defect shortly after departing from Beledweyne city. Major Hassan Ali stated that the aircraft was supposed to transport injured soldiers from the Galguduud region and was carrying medical supplies. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) confirmed the incident, stating it involved a UN-contracted helicopter conducting an air medical evaluation. Response efforts were underway, but details about the captured individuals and their nationalities remained unverified. Al Shabaab, linked to al Qaeda, has been engaged in an insurgency against the Somali government since 2006, aiming to establish its rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
Morocco secured victory in a heated vote on Wednesday to lead the United Nations Human Rights Council, overcoming opposition from South Africa. Ambassador Omar Zniber, the Moroccan candidate, received 30 votes in the secret ballot held in Geneva, while his South African opponent, Ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi, garnered 17. Ahead of the vote, Nkosi criticised Morocco’s human rights record, dubbing it the “antithesis” of the council’s principles. Morocco accused South Africa and other African states of undermining its candidature, citing global support for its election. The dispute is linked to Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara and allegations of rights abuses against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeking independence. Rights groups urge Morocco to prioritise human rights in its new role, emphasising the need to protect human rights defenders engaging with the U.N. The U.N. Human Rights Council, which convenes regularly, plays a crucial role in global human rights protection and scrutiny.
Cabo Verde this week was officially certified as a malaria-free country by the World Health Organization, becoming the third nation in the WHO African region to achieve this status. The certification acknowledges Cabo Verde’s successful interruption of indigenous malaria transmission for three consecutive years. This achievement not only strengthens the country’s health system but also positions it as an attractive destination for travellers, potentially boosting tourism and socio-economic activities. Cabo Verde’s journey involved strategic public health planning, collaboration across various sectors, and sustained efforts. The WHO Director-General commended the government and people for their commitment, emphasising the significance of Cabo Verde’s success in the global fight against malaria.
South Africa accused Israel of carrying out genocide against Palestinians and presented its case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on January 11. South African legal representatives argued that Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute a “pattern of genocidal conduct,” citing extensive civilian casualties, the destruction of infrastructure, and the prevention of humanitarian aid. The allegations come in response to the Israeli military’s massive bombardment following Hamas-led attacks in October. Israel strongly denies the accusations, dismissing them as “baseless.” South Africa contends that thousands of civilians have died, with many buried in mass graves, and highlights the use of large and destructive bombs.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known as MONUSCO, said it will fully withdraw from the country by December, according to an announcement by the mission’s head, Bintou Keita, on Saturday. The decision follows the Congolese government’s request for the UN mission’s departure, citing its failure to protect civilians from various armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and M23. The withdrawal will occur in three phases, starting with the departure of about 2,000 UN troops from South Kivu by the end of April, reducing the MONUSCO force from 13,500 to 11,500.
Burundi on Friday closed its border with Rwanda, weeks after accusing Rwanda of hosting and training the Red Tabara rebel group. Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye made the accusations in December, following an attack near the country’s western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, claimed by the Red Tabara rebel group. Rwanda has denied the allegations. The Rwandan government learned about the border closure through media reports and criticised the move, stating it violates the principles of regional cooperation and integration within the East African Community. Burundi’s Interior Minister, Martin Niteretse, confirmed the closure, citing restricted movement of people and goods. The Red Tabara rebel group has been active in eastern DRC since 2015.
The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that it is engaged in discussions with Egypt to ensure the success of its $3 billion IMF programme, with additional financing deemed critical. IMF spokesperson Julie Kozack revealed ongoing talks with Egyptian authorities about policy enhancements, including the need for tighter fiscal and monetary policies and a move towards a flexible exchange rate. The discussions follow a meeting between IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Egypt’s finance minister and central bank governor. The $3 billion loan programme faced challenges due to Egypt’s failure to allow its currency to float freely and make progress on the sale of state assets.