Africa This Week (01/06/2024)

South African parties are gearing up for coalition talks as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) faces the likelihood of falling short of a majority for the first time in 30 years of democracy. With nearly 70% of polling stations reporting, the ANC’s support has dropped to 41.8% from 57.5% in 2019. The uncertain outcome necessitates coalition building, with potential partners including the Democratic Alliance (DA) and insurgent parties led by former ANC figures. The DA is in second place with 22.6%, while uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), led by former president Jacob Zuma, has 12.2% support, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. The ANC’s Deputy Secretary-General Nomvula Mokonyane affirmed support for incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa, but analysts doubt the ANC’s ability to regain a parliamentary majority.

The United States has sanctioned two firms in the Central African Republic (CAR) for alleged ties to the Russian Wagner Group, as part of efforts to counter Russia’s destabilizing activities in Africa. The US Treasury Department accused Mining Industries and Logistique Economique Etrangere of supporting Wagner’s security operations and illicit mining. Mining Industries was penalized for leasing aircraft from a sanctioned Emirati firm for transporting Wagner personnel and equipment. Logistique Economique Etrangere received heavy materials likely for Wagner-linked mining activities from another sanctioned CAR-based company. The Biden administration designated the Wagner Group a “transnational criminal organization” in 2023, imposing various sanctions. Human Rights Watch has accused Wagner of serious human rights abuses in CAR from 2019 to 2021. The sanctions freeze assets of the targeted entities and ban US business dealings with them.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced a new government on Wednesday, ending over five months of uncertainty following President Felix Tshisekedi’s re-election in December. The new cabinet’s formation comes just 10 days after a foiled coup attempt. Government spokesperson Tina Salama revealed the 54-member cabinet on state broadcaster RTNC. Guy Kabombo Muadiamvita’s appointment as defence minister is significant, given the recent coup attempt and ongoing conflict between the Congolese army and Rwanda-backed M23 rebels in the mineral-rich eastern DRC.

Burkina Faso’s military rulers will remain in power for another five years after national talks agreed to extend the transition to democracy by 60 months from July 2, 2024. Chairman of the organising committee of the national dialogue process Colonel Moussa Diallo made the announcement on Sunday ratifying a new charter signed by military leader Ibrahim Traore. Initially, elections were promised for July this year, but security concerns took precedence. The new charter allows Traore to run for president and removes traditional party quotas in the assembly, favoring “patriotism” for deputy selection. The delay heightens worries about democratic backsliding in a region with eight coups in four years.

Egypt detained several students promoting pro-Palestinian boycotts and solidarity campaigns on Friday, a crackdown on activism over the Gaza war despite official criticism of Israel. Among the detained are at least 125 people, with 95 still held in pre-trial detention, accused of membership in a banned group or spreading false news, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Three students, including 22-year-old Ziad Bassiouny, were arrested for trying to form a group called Students for Palestine. Authorities, fearing protests over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could spark domestic dissent, have suppressed such activism amid a decade-long crackdown. Egyptian officials, while publicly supporting Palestinian rights, have not commented on the detentions.

Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, made his first official visit to Mali on Thursday where he discussed the possibility of Mali remaining in the regional bloc ECOWAS with Malian counterpart Colonel Assimi Goita. Despite Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso announcing their departure from ECOWAS in January to form the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), Faye noted that Goita’s stance was “not totally inflexible.” Faye emphasized the importance of regional integration and the need to address issues in multilateral cooperation. He also met with Burkina Faso’s junta leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore, indicating a window for dialogue despite the fixed positions on ECOWAS membership.

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday voted to extend an arms embargo on South Sudan despite appeals from various parties, including the African Union and nations like Russia and China, to lift or ease the measure. The U.S.-sponsored resolution received minimum votes for adoption, with six countries abstaining. The resolution also prolongs travel bans and asset freezes until May 31, 2025. While the U.S. deputy ambassador emphasized the necessity of the embargo to prevent arms flow into a region rife with weapons, Russia’s deputy ambassador criticized the U.S. for focusing on sanctions, calling them burdensome and outdated. South Sudan’s U.N. ambassador reiterated the country’s call for lifting the sanctions, arguing they impede progress.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Uganda’s parliamentary speaker, Anita Among, her husband, and several officials for corruption and human rights abuses on Thursday. Among was sanctioned for significant corruption tied to her leadership, while Lt. Gen. Peter Elwelu, a former deputy chief of Uganda’s military, was sanctioned for extrajudicial killings by government troops. Three former government ministers were also sanctioned for theft. Among, an ally of President Yoweri Museveni, faces scrutiny over her wealth’s source and alleged misuse of parliamentary resources. The sanctions bar the individuals from entering the U.S. Among’s husband, also sanctioned, serves as president of Uganda’s soccer federation. Museveni, accused of shielding corrupt officials, promised to crack down on corruption after his reelection but faces skepticism due to ongoing challenges.

Zambia’s former first lady, Esther Lungu, and her daughter have been arrested over the ownership of properties worth over $2 million suspected to be proceeds of crime. The Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) reported that Lungu owns 15 apartments worth $1.5 million near Lusaka but couldn’t explain their acquisition. Lungu’s daughter, Chiyeso Katete, and a family friend were accused of owning properties worth over $570,000 from illicit proceeds. Another daughter of the former president and Esther Lungu is also facing related charges. Edgar Lungu, Zambia’s president from 2015 to 2021, lost to current President Hakainde Hichilema in 2021. He is seeking a political comeback and aims to stand against Hichilema in the 2026 presidential election.


Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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