Africa This Week (04/05/2024)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a staff-level agreement with Mali on Tuesday for approximately $120 million in emergency financing to address the country’s escalating food insecurity. Mali faces increased import costs for essentials like food and fertilizers due to regional financial constraints and recent geopolitical tensions. Pending approval by the IMF Management and Executive Board, the funding is earmarked to cover food provision, facilitate access to clean water, sanitation, and shelter for displaced individuals. However, Mali’s economic outlook remains uncertain due to severe electricity shortages, security issues, decreased gold production projections, and a postponed election. Despite a 4.4% economic growth in 2023, the IMF anticipates Mali’s real GDP growth to slow to 3.8% in 2024.

The United States on Monday urged all nations, including the United Arab Emirates, to cease support for Sudan’s warring factions, as a dire crisis looms. Conflict erupted a year ago between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, leading to the largest displacement crisis globally. Concerns have arisen over a potential RSF assault on al-Fashir in Sudan’s North Darfur region, raising fears of prolonged conflict and ethnic tensions, with possible spill-over effects into neighboring Chad. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned of a looming massacre in al-Fashir, drawing parallels to the tragic events in Darfur two decades ago, where hundreds of thousands were killed. The RSF, originating from the Janjaweed militias, has been implicated in past atrocities, leading to international calls for accountability.

The death toll from flood-related incidents in Kenya this week surpassed 200 since March, with 22 fatalities reported, according to the interior ministry. Over 165,000 individuals have been displaced from their homes, and 90 others are missing, heightening concerns of further casualties. East Africa has been battered by torrential rains, leading to widespread flooding and landslides, causing extensive damage to crops, residences, and infrastructure, and displacing hundreds of thousands. Kenya and neighboring Tanzania, where flooding has claimed at least 155 lives, are preparing for cyclone Hidaya, which is expected to bring heavy rainfall, strong winds, and high waves to their coastal areas. Tanzanian authorities have issued warnings as Hidaya intensifies, reaching cyclone status with wind speeds of around 130 kilometers per hour, approximately 400 kilometers from the city of Mtwara.

Burkina Faso’s government this week rebuffed a report by Human Rights Watch accusing the military of civilian abuses, labeling the allegations as “unfounded.” The report claimed that on February 25, the military massacred 223 civilians, including 56 children, in the Thiou district of northern Yatenga province, as part of a broader campaign against civilians suspected of collaborating with armed groups. Government spokesperson Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo denounced the accusations, asserting that they aim to discredit the country’s security forces engaged in protecting civilians from terrorist threats. Ouedraogo emphasized ongoing judicial proceedings to address the alleged massacres and cautioned the military against being swayed by such accusations. Additionally, the government suspended the broadcasts of BBC Africa and Voice of America after they covered the report. Burkina Faso, which experienced two coups in 2022, continues to grapple with security challenges.

Russian military personnel entered an air base in Niger on Friday, where US troops are stationed, following Niger’s junta’s decision to expel American forces from the country. The junta instructed the US to withdraw its nearly 1,000 military personnel, ending a key partnership in Washington’s fight against insurgents in the Sahel region. Reports indicate that Russian forces are utilizing a separate hangar at Airbase 101 in Niger’s capital, Niamey, without direct interaction with US troops. This development places US and Russian forces near escalating military and diplomatic tensions, particularly regarding the conflict in Ukraine. It also raises concerns about the future of US installations in Niger following the withdrawal.

On Wednesday, Sao Tome announced its intention to seek compensation from Portugal for the damages inflicted during colonialism, following Portugal’s acknowledgement of its responsibility for crimes committed during the transatlantic slave trade and colonial rule. Portugal’s colonial legacy across Africa was marked by violence and cultural destruction, prompting Sao Tome’s demand for reparations. This move aligns with a broader trend of African nations demanding acknowledgement and restitution from former colonizers.

President Joseph Boakai of Liberia signed an executive order on Thursday establishing a war crimes tribunal to address atrocities committed during Liberia’s two civil wars. These conflicts, characterized by widespread massacres, torture, and sexual violence, resulted in the deaths of approximately 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. The tribunal, long-awaited by victims and justice activists, aims to provide accountability for war crimes perpetrators. International donors are called upon to fund the court, with the United States expressing willingness to contribute once the tribunal’s framework is established. Notable figures implicated in war crimes, including former warlords serving in the Senate, have supported the tribunal’s establishment. Charles Taylor, a former Liberian president, is serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes, making him the first former head of state convicted of such crimes since World War II.

The Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic issued an international arrest warrant for ex-President François Bozizé, who is currently living in exile in Guinea-Bissau, on Thursday. The warrant alleges human rights abuses committed during Bozizé’s leadership from 2009 to 2013, including crimes at a civilian prison and military training center where torture and killings occurred. The court, established to address war crimes and human rights abuses since 2003, aims to bring perpetrators to justice. Bozizé, who seized power in a coup in 2003 and was ousted by Seleka rebels in 2013, faces allegations of fueling violence and sectarian atrocities during the civil war. The warrant signifies the court’s commitment to prosecuting state wrongdoing and advancing justice for victims. However, Guinea Bissau’s president stated that extradition is not permitted under the country’s laws. Despite a peace deal in 2019, armed conflict persists in the Central African Republic, with thousands of children still fighting alongside armed groups.

Prince Harry and Meghan are set to visit Nigeria in May for discussions regarding the Invictus Games, an event Harry founded to support the rehabilitation of wounded and sick service members and veterans. The visit, anticipated after a service in London commemorating the games’ 10th anniversary, underscores Harry’s longstanding connection to Africa. Last year, Nigeria participated in the games, which are modelled after the Warrior Games in the United States and provide wounded veterans with sports competitions akin to the Paralympics. The trip aims to strengthen Nigeria’s involvement in the games and explore the possibility of hosting the event in the future. Additionally, cultural activities are planned during the visit. Harry’s commitment to supporting veterans stems from his military service in Afghanistan, where he served as an Apache helicopter copilot gunner. In a recent Netflix series, he candidly discussed his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, noting the lack of support upon his return from combat.

Despite withdrawing troops from Niger and Chad, the United States remains engaged with both countries, according to Gen. Michael Langley, head of the US Africa Command, as reported by the BBC. The withdrawal from Chad came after concerns raised by the country’s military leaders ahead of the May 6 elections, while a similar move occurred in Niger following orders from the country’s junta. Gen. Langley described the troop repositioning as temporary and emphasized the US’s ongoing dialogue with countries affected by military takeovers. He noted that the US aims to support these nations in returning to democratic governance. Despite recent tensions, both Chad and Niger continue to welcome continued relations with the US, citing the success in combating terrorism.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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