Africa in a Week (29/03/2024)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, this week assumed the role of the country’s Chief of Defence Forces, pledging to combat corruption within the military. This move is seen as a step towards Kainerugaba’s potential succession to power, following his father’s lengthy presidency. The military, integral to regional stability with deployments in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, faces accusations of nepotism in Kainerugaba’s appointment. Previously removed from a military post for controversial remarks, Kainerugaba now vows to prioritize soldier welfare and deny allegations of political grooming by his father.

Tropical cyclone Gamane wreaked havoc across Madagascar this week, resulting in at least 18 fatalities and displacing thousands, according to the country’s disaster management office on Friday. With winds reaching up to 210 km per hour, the cyclone made landfall in the northeast, causing widespread flooding and infrastructure damage. The disaster prompted a massive relief effort, with personnel assisting residents in retrieving belongings from submerged homes. This marks the first cyclone of the year in Madagascar’s storm season, following last year’s devastating cyclone Freddy and tropical storm Cheneso, which claimed the lives of at least 37 people and displaced many more.

The United States issued a stern warning on Thursday, stating it would press the U.N. Security Council to facilitate aid delivery to famine-stricken regions of Sudan, potentially allowing cross-border assistance from Chad if access is not restored by the Sudanese armed forces. With the conflict in Sudan marking its first anniversary, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield emphasized the dire humanitarian crisis, noting that millions are at risk of starvation. The conflict, which erupted in April 2023, has displaced millions and left nearly 5 million facing catastrophic hunger. Thomas-Greenfield accused the Sudanese army of obstructing aid routes from Chad into Darfur, where thousands are at risk of starvation, urging immediate action to reopen borders. The U.S. has labeled the warring parties in Sudan as perpetrators of war crimes and is eyeing a resumption of peace talks in April. Last year alone, ethnic violence in Sudan’s West Darfur region claimed between 10,000 to 15,000 lives, according to a U.N. report.

Egypt’s population growth rate slowed to 1.4% in 2023, its lowest in decades, according to the planning ministry on Thursday. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has emphasized the need to curb population growth, attributing strains on services and the government budget to high birth rates. With over 106 million people, Egypt faces challenges such as poverty, water scarcity, and overcrowded infrastructure. Despite declines in population growth since 2014, Sisi’s mega-projects aimed at job creation and infrastructure development have faced criticism for diverting resources and increasing Egypt’s debt burden. In 2019, the government initiated the “Two Is Enough” family-planning campaign to challenge traditional norms favoring large families, particularly in rural areas.

Kenya this week granted Uganda’s state oil firm, Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC), permission to import petroleum products through its port of Mombasa, ending a dispute between the two countries. Uganda had sought alternative import routes, including through Tanzania, due to historical reliance on Kenyan-affiliated firms for imports. The first shipment under this new agreement is expected in May. Kenyan Energy Minister Davis Chirchir stated that UNOC would utilize the Kenya Pipeline Company for product transportation, ensuring Kenya still benefits. Uganda’s petroleum imports totaled $1.6 billion in 2022, mostly sourced from the Gulf, with 90% transiting through Kenya. In November, Uganda announced plans to grant exclusive supply rights to a Vitol unit, aiming to mitigate supply vulnerabilities. President William Ruto of Kenya and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda recently met to resolve the dispute, as reported by Kenyan media outlets.

A Dakar Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld the victory of opposition figure and anti-establishment leader Bassirou Diomaye Faye in the recent presidential election, where he secured over 54% of the vote. The provisional results were announced on Wednesday following a 100% vote count from polling stations. Faye, aged 44, defeated ruling coalition candidate Amadou Ba, who garnered 35.79% of the vote. The election, initially postponed by outgoing President Macky Sall, led to widespread clashes and unrest. Turnout was recorded at 61.30%, with over 4 million votes cast out of 7 million registered voters. The Senegalese Constitutional Council is expected to confirm the final results soon, after which Faye will be inaugurated before Sall’s mandate expires on April 2.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday engaged in discussions with Mali’s junta leader Assimi Goita, focusing on security and economic cooperation, as confirmed by both countries. The call follows Putin’s similar conversation with the junta leader of Niger. Mali has emerged as a key African ally of Russia, with the deployment of the Wagner Group mercenary force to combat jihadist insurgents in the Sahel region. Russia aims to bolster ties with African nations, emphasizing its non-colonial background. Putin’s diplomatic outreach extends to other African leaders, including Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo and Niger’s junta leader Abdourahamane Tiani. This communication coincides with a shift in alliances in the Sahel region, with Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso severing military ties with traditional allies and forming the Alliance of Sahel States. These nations are also quitting the West African regional bloc, opting for closer cooperation and joint security efforts against Islamist insurgencies.

International Resources Holding (IRH), a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi’s International Holding Company, this week expressed its intention to bid for a stake in Zambia’s Lubambe Copper Mine. Following its recent acquisition of a 51% stake in Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines, IRH sees further opportunities in Africa’s second-largest copper producer. Despite an agreement by Chinese firm JCHX Mining to purchase an 80% stake in Lubambe, IRH remains interested in the acquisition. This move could potentially lead to a bidding war with JCHX, signaling increased competition for mining assets in Zambia. The interest from cash-rich oil majors like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia reflects a broader trend of diversification and investment in African firms to secure resources for electric vehicle production. IRH also stated that it aims to diversify its investments beyond copper, targeting minerals crucial for the energy transition, including cobalt, nickel, rare earth elements, manganese, graphite, tin, tungsten, and tantalum.

Ireland announced its intervention on Wednesday in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, signaling Dublin’s concern about Israeli operations in Gaza. Foreign Minister Micheal Martin emphasized the blatant violation of international humanitarian law, citing actions such as taking hostages, withholding humanitarian assistance, and indiscriminate use of explosive weapons. The International Court of Justice previously ordered Israel to refrain from genocidal acts against Palestinians. Ireland’s intervention aims to present its interpretation of the Genocide Convention in the ongoing case .

China has expressed its commitment to collaborating with all stakeholders to facilitate Zambia’s debt restructuring process, according to a spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. This statement comes following Zambia’s announcement of a new agreement with a bondholder group to restructure $3 billion of international bonds. While China did not explicitly endorse the proposed deal, it emphasized its ongoing efforts as co-chair of the Zambian Debt Committee to facilitate progress in resolving Zambia’s debt issues. China reiterated its intention to coordinate and cooperate with relevant parties to ensure the steady advancement of Zambia’s debt restructuring efforts.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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