Africa This Week: ECOWAS lifts strict sanctions on Niger; UAE and Kenya finalized a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, and Senegal’s President Macky Sall affirmed he will conclude his term as scheduled in April

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday announced it would lift strict sanctions on Niger in efforts to dissuade three junta-led states, including Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali, from withdrawing from the political and economic union. The decision includes lifting border closures, asset freezes, and the suspension of commercial transactions for humanitarian reasons. ECOWAS aims to encourage the junta-led states to reconsider their exit, emphasizing the benefits of membership. Some targeted sanctions remain in place for Niger, and certain sanctions on junta-led Guinea have also been lifted, though Guinea has not expressed intentions to leave ECOWAS but has not committed to a timeline for returning to democratic rule.

The UN Human Rights Office reported on Friday that both sides in Sudan’s civil war have committed abuses amounting to potential war crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilian sites like hospitals, markets, and displacement camps. The conflict, involving Sudan’s regular armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), has resulted in thousands of deaths and forced around eight million people from their homes, making Sudan home to the world’s largest displaced population. The report highlights incidents of violence, including the shelling of displacement camps and the use of human shields by the RSF. The US has accused both sides of war crimes, with the RSF and allied militias implicated in ethnic cleansing in West Darfur. The report is based on interviews, footage, and satellite imagery, documenting instances of explosive weapons attacks on fleeing civilians and incidents of sexual violence, including gang rapes, perpetrated by RSF members. The UN calls for immediate action to protect civilians and investigate these crimes.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kenya on Friday finalized a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), according to UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi. Kenya, as East Africa’s largest economy, engaged in bilateral trade deal talks with the UAE in 2022, aligning with the UAE’s strategy to diversify its oil-based economy. Non-oil trade between the two countries reached $3.1 billion in 2023, marking a 26.4% increase from 2022. The CEPA aims to expand collaboration across various sectors, including food production, mining, technology, and logistics. Kenyan Trade Minister Rebecca Miano highlighted the agreement’s significance in facilitating Kenyan exports to key markets in Asia and the Middle East while attracting investment to enhance national capabilities. The UAE has previously signed CEPAs with countries such as Israel, Turkey, India, and Indonesia, and its first CEPA with African nations was established in 2023 with Mauritius and the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville.

Egypt on Friday signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to develop the Ras El Hekma peninsula on its Mediterranean coast. The agreement with ADQ, one of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign investment funds, is expected to bring $35 billion of investments to Egypt in the next two months and potentially attract up to $150 billion over time. The development could significantly benefit Egypt’s economy, which is currently facing challenges, including those related to the situation in Gaza. The influx of investments is crucial as Egypt seeks to expand its existing support program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The announcement led to a rally in Egypt’s sovereign dollar bonds, with longer-dated bonds experiencing significant gains.

An airstrike in Ethiopia’s Amhara region this week resulted in the deaths of at least 15 civilians, including children and elderly individuals, as they traveled in a truck to a village earlier this week, according to three residents. The strike occurred approximately 24 kilometers (15 miles) from where Ethiopian troops were engaged in combat with militiamen. Some victims were fleeing clashes, while others were returning from a baptism ceremony. Ethiopian government officials, including those from the military and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office, did not comment on the incident. The conflict between Ethiopian troops and the Fano militia has led to over 200 deaths since last July. The strike hit a large truck carrying several dozen people, and witnesses described a scene of devastation with dismembered bodies scattered. While some estimate the death toll to be at least 30, exact figures remain unclear.

Spain’s High Court on Thursday accepted an appeal by Equatorial Guinea’s opposition, ordering arrest warrants for President Teodoro Obiang’s son and two officials on charges of torture and kidnapping. The accused allegedly abducted four members of the MLGE3R opposition group during a 2019 trip to South Sudan. One victim, Julio Obama, died in Equatorial Guinea’s prison. Despite compelling evidence from police reports and testimonies, the government denies the allegations. President Obiang, in power for 44 years, faces accusations of human rights abuses. The court’s decision comes after the accused failed to testify, leading to arrest warrants despite a pending appeal regarding case closure in January.

Senegal’s President Macky Sall affirmed on Thursday that he will conclude his term as scheduled in April but did not specify a new date for the postponed presidential election. The Constitutional Court invalidated Sall’s decision to delay the election for 10 months, citing unresolved candidacy disputes. Sall announced plans to hold discussions with political leaders to determine the election timeline and transition after his mandate ends. The country’s political crisis has led to deadly protests, with opposition groups urging swift elections. If a new president is not elected before Sall’s term ends, the president of the national assembly will set a date in accordance with the Constitutional Council.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday that pivotal national elections will take place on May 29, amidst mounting challenges facing the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Polls suggest that the ANC could lose its majority for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994, reflecting widespread voter disillusionment over issues like record unemployment and an electricity crisis. If the ANC falls below 50%, it would need to form a coalition to remain in power, marking a significant shift in South African politics. The main opposition parties are also mobilizing, with talks of forming coalitions to challenge ANC dominance. Ramaphosa emphasized the importance of the upcoming elections as a celebration of democracy and urged peaceful participation.

Military leaders in Guinea on Monday abruptly dissolved the government without providing any explanation, according to the president’s secretary general. Gen. Amara Camara stated in a video address that daily operations would continue under deputy secretaries-general until a new government is established. Guinea has been under military rule since the ousting of President Alpha Conde in 2021. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been advocating for a swift return to civilian governance, with elections slated for 2025.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI hosted Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Rabat on Wednesday, discussing various issues, including the Western Sahara dispute and joint preparations to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup with Portugal. Prime Minister Sanchez endorsed Morocco’s proposed plan for Western Sahara, emphasizing its role in finding a credible resolution. King Mohammed VI appreciated Spain’s constructive stance and highlighted the importance of mutual respect. Additionally, Sanchez praised Morocco’s strategic initiatives, including efforts to enhance cooperation among Atlantic-bordering African nations and projects like the Atlantic Gas Pipeline. Sanchez also called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and reiterated support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

Similar Topics