Africa This Week (18/05/2024)

Chad’s constitutional council has confirmed Mahamat Idriss Deby as the winner of the May 6 presidential election, dismissing challenges from two losing candidates and cementing his family’s decades-long rule. Deby, who took power in 2021 after his father, President Idriss Deby, was killed by rebels, secured 61 percent of the vote. The second-placed candidate, Succes Masra, received 18.54 percent. Despite criticisms from international rights groups about the election’s credibility, the council declared Deby president-elect. Chad, a key Western ally in the fight against extremist groups in the Sahel, faces continued political and security challenges.

Egypt dealt a significant diplomatic blow to Israel on May 12, 2024, by announcing its formal support for South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This move has been described by Israel’s former foreign minister as an “unbelievable diplomatic blow.” The case at the ICJ accuses Israel of committing genocide, marking a significant escalation in international legal and diplomatic pressures on the country.

Somalia this week requested the United Nations to terminate its political mission, UNSOM, which has been assisting the government in achieving peace and stability amid al-Shabab attacks. In a letter to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Moalim Fiqi cited “a thorough consideration of our strategic priorities” for this decision. The mandate of UNSOM, set to expire on October 31, is requested to be concluded by then.

The U.N. has issued an urgent appeal for $430 million to assist Zimbabwe, where about half of the 15 million population needs food and water due to the worst drought in four decades, the agency said on Thursday. The drought, driven by the El Nino weather phenomenon, has drastically reduced corn harvests, leaving 7.6 million people in need of “lifesaving and life-sustaining” aid. The U.N. aims to support 3.1 million people in the most severely affected areas with food assistance, cash transfers, and solar-powered boreholes for water. The crisis has heightened the risks of gender-based violence and could force nearly 2 million children out of school. Immediate action is crucial to prevent further loss of life and livelihoods.

Senegalese Prime Minister Ousmane Sonko suggested the possibility of closing French military bases in Senegal. Speaking in Dakar on Friday, Sonko questioned the necessity of these bases more than 60 years after independence, citing concerns over national sovereignty. Senegal currently hosts about 350 French troops. Sonko expressed a desire for Senegal to exercise full control over its affairs, which he believes is incompatible with the continued foreign military presence. He also pledged to strengthen ties with Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, countries that have expelled French troops and sought Russian assistance against jihadist insurgencies. Sonko, a prominent political figure, was appointed prime minister by President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who took office in March.

Tunisian lawyers conducted a nationwide strike on Thursday, with hundreds protesting in the capital against the arrest and alleged torture of two colleagues. This is the second strike this week amid rising political tensions following the detention of two lawyers and two journalists. Protesters, opposing President Kais Saied, demanded a date for free elections. Saied, who seized extensive state powers and dissolved parliament in 2021, faces accusations of a coup. The bar association reported severe injuries on detained lawyer Mahdi Zagrouba, but the Interior Ministry denied allegations of torture, claiming Zagrouba assaulted a policeman. Lawyers gathered at the Palace of Justice, chanting for freedom and justice.

Benin has provisionally reversed its decision to block crude oil exports from Niger and has agreed to hold a bilateral meeting, Mines Minister Samou Seidou Adambi announced on Wednesday. Last week, Benin halted exports in response to Niger’s closure of its border to goods amid strained relations following a 2023 coup in Niger. Adambi emphasized that the authorization to load the first vessel is provisional and that Benin aims to respect pipeline project agreements. Tensions have persisted despite the lifting of ECOWAS sanctions. Niger’s Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine criticized the blockade, citing trade agreement violations, but noted security concerns prevent a full border reopening. The China-backed pipeline linking Niger’s Agadem oilfield to Benin’s port of Cotonou began operations in November.

The United States Treasury announced on Wednesday the imposition of sanctions on two senior commanders of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) due to their involvement in attacks in North Darfur. The sanctioned commanders are Major General Osman Mohamed Hamid Mohamed, the RSF’s head of operations, and Ali Yagoub Gibril, the RSF’s Central Darfur commander. The U.S. Treasury’s statement highlights ongoing concerns about violence and instability in the region.

Israel on Friday defended its military operations in Gaza during the third round of hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), responding to South Africa’s request for a cease-fire. Israel criticized South Africa’s genocide accusations as unfounded, while South African officials argued that Israel did not sufficiently address the facts. South Africa seeks emergency measures to halt Israeli military actions in Gaza, claiming they threaten Palestinian survival. Israel, citing short notice, had a smaller delegation and defended its actions, including allowing humanitarian aid. The ICJ previously recognized a “real and imminent risk” to Palestinians but has not enforced a cease-fire. The conflict, ignited by a Hamas attack on October 7, has resulted in over 35,000 Palestinian deaths and significant displacement in Gaza.

Former Gabonese President Ali Bongo and his two youngest sons, Jalil and Bilal, have initiated a hunger strike to protest their alleged “sequestration” and “acts of torture.” Lawyers representing them have filed a lawsuit in the Paris Judicial Court, seeking an investigation into the allegations. The lawyers, François Zimeray and Catalina de la Sota, aim to address these claims, especially as Gabon’s current leader, General Brice Oligui Nguema, plans a visit to Paris. The complaint follows an earlier dismissal of a similar complaint filed by Ali Bongo’s wife, Sylvia Bongo. Allegations include “illegal arrest, aggravated sequestration with torture, and barbaric acts.” The lawyers claim Noureddin, Ali’s son, has been subjected to torture, while Sylvia was reportedly beaten and forced to witness these acts. Ali, Jalil, and Bilal are said to be under house arrest, deprived of communication, and also subjected to torture. In March, the lawyers sought recognition of the Bongos’ “arbitrary detention” post-coup from a UN working group. General Nguema assumed the transitional presidency after ending the 55-year-old Bongo dynasty following the August 30 coup.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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