Africa This Week (11/05/2024)

High-level mediation talks commenced in Kenya on Thursday, aiming to address the prolonged conflict in South Sudan. President Salva Kiir expressed gratitude for the talks, emphasizing his government’s commitment to negotiating in good faith. The discussions involve the government and rebel opposition groups not included in the 2018 peace agreement. Attendees included African leaders such as Presidents Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, Nangolo Mbumba of Namibia, and Faustin-Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic. The United States pledged over $47 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan, highlighting Kenya’s role in regional stability.

Togo’s president on Monday enacted a new constitution, abolishing presidential elections and allowing parliament to select the president instead. This move, criticized by opponents as a tactic to prolong the ruling family’s 60-year reign, follows the ruling party’s recent parliamentary election victory amidst crackdowns on dissent and media freedoms. While the constitution introduces a single-term limit and extends presidential terms to six years, it exempts President Faure Gnassingbe’s previous tenure. Civil society groups have called for protests, demanding the reinstatement of the former constitution and stressing the necessity of democratic transition through free elections.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived in Nigeria on Friday for a three-day private visit, where they engaged in various charitable activities and met with wounded soldiers. Their itinerary included a mental health summit organized by the GEANCO Foundation, where they interacted with students and emphasized the importance of mental health awareness. The royal couple also received traditional gifts and expressed gratitude for the warm welcome extended to them by Nigerian officials and the public. Meghan’s Nigerian heritage, discovered through a genealogy test, added a personal dimension to the trip, sparking excitement among the Nigerian populace. People expressed admiration for the couple’s advocacy and hoped their visit would further benefit underrepresented groups.

The United Nations agency on Friday issued a stark warning about the urgent need to prevent starvation in Darfur, Sudan, amid escalating violence in the region. The World Food Programme’s regional director for Eastern Africa, Michael Dunford, emphasized the dire situation, with people resorting to consuming grass and peanut shells due to lack of assistance. Sudan has been embroiled in civil war since April 2023, marked by brutal conflict and widespread displacement. Recent attacks, including the killing of ICRC drivers, highlight the dangers faced by humanitarian workers. Violence in Darfur, characterized by arbitrary killings, village burnings, and air bombardments, has displaced thousands, with El Fasher hosting a significant number of internally displaced persons. The situation has worsened in recent weeks, with reports of horrific violence, including sexual violence against civilians. Aid delivery has been hindered by fighting and bureaucratic obstacles, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. The WFP emphasized the need for uninterrupted aid delivery to address emergency levels of hunger affecting millions in Darfur.

Military leader Mahamat Idriss Deby emerged victorious in Chad’s presidential election, securing over 61 percent of the vote on Thursday, according to provisional results released by the National Election Management Agency. This win allows Deby to maintain the presidency, succeeding his late father who was killed in 2021. However, his closest rival, Prime Minister Succes Masra, has rejected the election results, accusing Deby of rigging the outcome. Critics have long accused the Deby family of stifling opposition and maintaining power through undemocratic means. The election process has been marred by violence, including the killing of prominent opposition figures, and allegations of irregularities. Deby’s victory marks Chad’s first democratic election under military leadership, though concerns about fairness persist. Security measures have been heightened in the capital, N’Djamena, amid fears of unrest following the election announcement.

On Friday. South Africa urged the International Court of Justice to order Israel’s withdrawal from Rafah and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. They argue Israel’s offensive is killing civilians and hindering aid access. Israel has not commented but previously denied wrongdoing. However, the ICJ is expected to rule on the emergency request within weeks.

Nigeria’s Senate on Thursday proposed a law amendment to intensify penalties for drug trafficking, suggesting the death penalty as the new maximum sentence instead of life imprisonment. Nigeria, once a transit point, has become a significant producer, consumer, and distributor of illegal drugs. Opioid abuse, especially tramadol and codeine-based cough syrups is prevalent, prompting a ban on codeine syrup production and import in 2018. The legislation, based on a Senate committee report, aims to combat drug trafficking. Supporters argue the death penalty would deter traffickers effectively, but opponents raise concerns about its irreversible nature and potential for wrongful convictions. The bill, previously passed by the House of Representatives without the death penalty provision, awaits reconciliation by a joint Senate-House committee before reaching the president.

Somalia’s government this week surprised the United Nations Security Council by requesting the termination of the 360-member United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) after over a decade of advising on peacebuilding, security reforms, and democracy. Despite efforts to restore services and security in the face of longstanding conflict, Somalia remains one of the world’s most violent and impoverished nations. The termination of UNSOM’s political mission is separate from the withdrawal of the U.N.-mandated African Union peacekeeping mission. Somali officials, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Aimed Moa Fiji, have not provided specific reasons for the request, but cited a desire to transition to the next phase of partnership with the international community. A presidential adviser indicated that Somalia no longer requires UNSOM’s coordination with the international community and cited the high annual cost of $100 million. Analysts note previous accusations of UNSOM’s interference in internal affairs and anticipate more assertive initiatives from the federal government of Somalia in areas such as constitutional revisions, federalism, and elections. UNSOM, in response, highlighted its past support for Somali authorities and noted that other U.N. offices, including humanitarian agencies, would continue operating in Somalia.

The European Union has announced the termination of its military training mission in Mali due to deteriorating relations with the country’s military junta. The mission, which has been training Malian armed forces and members of the G5 Sahel counter-terrorism force for 11 years, will conclude when its current mandate expires on May 18. The EU had previously suspended the mission in 2022 after the junta withdrew from the G5 Sahel. Following a strategic review and consultations with Malian authorities, the EU decided not to extend the mission’s mandate, citing the evolving political and security situation on the ground. Mali has been under military rule since August 2020, with a series of coups occurring in West and Central Africa. The current junta, which seized power in 2021, initially pledged to restore civilian rule within 24 months starting from March 2022 but later postponed elections scheduled for February, leading to discontent among political opposition groups.

The World Bank on Tuesday approved a $138.5 million loan to assist Namibia in enhancing its transmission network and incorporating renewable energy initiatives into the grid. Namibia, known as one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s driest nations with abundant sunshine and wind, aims to establish itself as a renewable energy hub alongside significant offshore oil and gas discoveries that have attracted global attention. Satu Kahkonen, the World Bank country director for Namibia, highlighted Namibia’s unique position as a regional leader in transitioning towards a greener and more sustainable future. The loan will support NamPower, the national electricity utility, in reducing its reliance on electricity imports from neighboring countries and marks Namibia’s inaugural World Bank-financed energy project. In addition to solar and wind initiatives, Namibia is pursuing a $10 billion green hydrogen project aimed at exporting to the European Union upon completion.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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