Africa in a Week (15/04/2024)

Protests swelled In Niger’s capital on Saturday as hundreds demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops, spurred by the juntas decision to end a military agreement with the U.S. and welcome Russian instructors. The demonstration echoed anti-French sentiments that led to France’s troop withdrawal last year after a coup. Citizens voiced opposition to foreign military presence on their soil, fearing a repeat of past occupations. Despite uncertainty over U.S. troop departure, the junta’s move signals a shift towards closer ties with Russia. Concerns persist over potential permanent foreign bases. Meanwhile, violence in the Sahel region continues to escalate, with a significant rise in conflict fatalities reported in 2023.

Suspected armed rebels launched a deadly attack near Beni in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing at least 10 civilians, including three women on Friday according to local authorities and a U.N. source. The assailants targeted people working in fields, with the death toll expected to rise as search efforts continue. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group is blamed for the violence. Originating from Uganda and now allied with Islamic State, the ADF frequently carries out attacks, exacerbating the region’s instability. Witnesses recounted
harrowing experiences, highlighting the ongoing threat posed by militant groups in the area. Eastern Congo has been plagued by decades of conflict, leading to a severe humanitarian crisis, with millions displaced by violence.

Nigeria this week launched the ”revolutionary” Men5CV vaccine against meningitis, becoming the first country worldwide to do so as announced by the World Health Organization (WHO). The country, a hotspot for the disease in Africa, witnessed a 50% surge in annual cases across 26 African nations deemed meningitis hyperendemic by the WHO. The rollout marks a significant step towards the WHO’s goal of eliminating meningitis by 2030. Nigeria recorded 1,742 suspected cases and 153 deaths between October and mid-March in seven states. The new vaccine offers protection against the five major strains of meningitis prevalent in Nigeria, unlike the previous vaccine, which targeted only one strain.

The UN refugee chief on Friday warned that without sufficient humanitarian aid, Sudanese refugees could start making their way to Europe amid the ongoing crisis in their war-torn country. Since the outbreak of war in April 2023 between the Sudanese army and paramilitary forces, millions have been displaced, and infrastructure has been devastated, leading to warnings of famine. Thousands of civilians have been killed, and both sides face accusations of war crimes. UNHCR’s Filippo Grandi stressed the importance of supporting those displaced within Sudan and neighboring countries to prevent further refugee movements towards North Africa and Europe. He emphasized that while humanitarian aid is crucial, it alone cannot stop migration. Additionally, the WHO highlighted the worsening health crisis in Sudan, with millions in urgent need of medical assistance due to the conflict’s impact on health facilities and the spread of diseases like cholera and malaria.

Somalia firmly rejects Ethiopia’s plan to build a naval base in Somaliland but is open to discussing commercial port access bilaterally, according to a senior Somali official on Friday. The diplomatic tension arose when Ethiopia signed a deal with Somaliland, leasing part of its coastline. Somalia considers Somaliland its territory despite its autonomy since 1991. Kenya, along with Djibouti and IGAD, proposed a maritime treaty to regulate landlocked states’ port
access. However, Somalia insists Ethiopia must revoke its agreement with Somaliland before bilateral discussions on port access. Somalia emphasizes its commitment to safeguarding sovereignty, political independence, and unity while engaging in discussions that align with international law.

The European Union announced a short-term financial aid package of 1 billion euros ($1.07billion) for Egypt to stabilize its economy on Friday. Egypt, grappling with a prolonged economic crisis, recently agreed to an expanded $8 billion support program with the IMF and a multi-billion-euro deal with the EU to enhance cooperation and address migration challenges. The short-term aid is part of a larger 5 billion euro loan package, with an additional 4 billion euros scheduled for longer-term assistance pending approval by the EU’s member states. The aid aims to address Egypt’s fiscal challenges exacerbated by recent events such as the Gaza war, Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, and the Ukraine conflict. However, the EU emphasized that Egypt must demonstrate tangible progress towards democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, as a precondition for receiving the aid.

Mali’s junta imposed a decree suspending political party activities on Wednesday sparking widespread condemnation and legal challenges from political parties and civil society groups. The decree, announced on state television, cites the need to maintain public order but has been labeled as “dictatorial” by opposition figures. This move comes amidst escalating tensions following the junta’s failure to hold promised elections within the agreed time frame. The suspension of political activities has drawn criticism both domestically and internationally, with calls for the junta to respect democratic freedoms and honor its commitments to restoring civilian rule. The U.S. State Department expressed deep concern over the suspension, urging Mali’s transition government to uphold its obligations and ensure free and fair elections.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Chris Coons and James Risch on Thursday introduced a bill to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) before its expiration next year. The proposed legislation aims to extend AGOA for 16 years, through 2041, and enhance countries’ ability to benefit from the program. Key provisions include maintaining benefits for countries as they become wealthier, adjusting eligibility reviews to occur biennially, and granting the president flexibility in enforcement actions. While an earlier draft singled out South Africa for an immediate review, this version opts for a broader approach. President Biden has expressed support for AGOA reauthorization, recognizing its importance in facilitating trade between the U.S. and Africa. The bill’s introduction comes amid calls from American business groups for certainty regarding AGOA, particularly amidst efforts to reduce dependence on Chinese manufacturing.

Liberia’s senate approved the establishment of a war crimes court on Tuesday aimed at addressing long-overdue justice for victims of serious abuses during the country’s civil wars. President Joseph Boakai proposed the resolution, which received backing in the lower house last month and secured further support in the Senate with a vote of 27 out of 29 senators. Activists and civil society groups have applauded the move, advocating for accountability for crimes
committed between 1989 and 2003, which claimed around 250,000 lives and involved atrocities like massacres, rape, and the use of child soldiers. Although a Truth and Reconciliation Committee previously recommended the establishment of such a court, no tangible action was taken until President Boakai’s election last year. The court, once operational, will adhere to international standards and address economic crimes alongside war crimes, with support from international institutions such as the United Nations. However, some in Liberia have voiced opposition, expressing concerns about reopening old wounds and potential conflicts with existing amnesty laws.

A tragic shipwreck off the coast of Djibouti claimed the lives of at least 38 migrants, including children, according to the United Nations migration agency on Tuesday. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that six others are missing and presumed dead, while 22 survivors are receiving assistance from the IOM and local authorities. The incident occurred approximately 200 meters off Djibouti, involving a boat that departed from Yemen on April 8th with around 66 people on board, mostly from the Horn of Africa region, particularly Ethiopian
nationals. Yvonne Ndege, regional spokesperson for the IOM, highlighted the perilous journey migrants undertake, with many attempting to reach Gulf nations from the Horn of Africa but finding themselves stranded in Yemen. It’s speculated that the migrants involved in this tragedy may have been seeking refuge in Djibouti to regroup before attempting their journey again or returning home.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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