Africa This Week (22/06/2024)

Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in for his second term as South Africa’s president on Wednesday, following his party’s alliance with opposition parties to retain power. Speaking at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, he emphasized his commitment to respecting the electorate’s choice for democracy and peace over instability. Ramaphosa acknowledged the electorate’s diverse voices and concerns expressed in the recent election, which denied any single party a majority to govern alone. He acknowledged public dissatisfaction with political performance on issues like power cuts, crime, poverty, and unemployment. The African National Congress (ANC), which has governed since apartheid ended, lost its majority, signaling a shift in South African politics.

A massive fire erupted at a major military ammunition depot in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, early Wednesday, causing a series of explosions heard miles away. Projectiles launched into the sky at regular intervals, creating a red and black plume. President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno confirmed fatalities, while Foreign Minister Abderaman Koulamallah urged calm. The depot, near the international airport and a French military base, saw ammunition of all calibres explode. Residents reported injuries and deaths, with homes damaged by falling shells. Explosions continued for over an hour, spreading smoke across the city.

Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera appointed Michael Usi as vice president on Thursday following the tragic airplane crash that claimed the life of former Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine others. Chilima, who was also expected to contest against Chakwera in the upcoming presidential election, perished when the military plane crashed in a forest on June 10th. Michael Usi, who previously served as minister of natural resources and climate change, and was a close associate of Chilima as his running mate, was sworn into office on Friday according to a government statement.

Sudan has accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of exacerbating its 14-month conflict by supplying weapons to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a rival paramilitary group. In a tense exchange at the UN Security Council, Sudanese Ambassador Al-Harith Mohamed alleged that UAE arms were aiding attacks on civilians and prolonging the war. The UAE dismissed these claims as baseless and accused Sudan of avoiding peace talks. Assistant Secretary-General Martha Pobee highlighted atrocities in Darfur, urging a ceasefire in El Fasher to prevent further suffering. The conflict, which began in April 2023 amid internal Sudanese tensions, has claimed over 14,000 lives and displaced thousands. The RSF, originally formed from Janjaweed militias, has been central to the violence. Despite international appeals, including from the US, to cease weapons shipments, the situation remains dire with widespread food insecurity and humanitarian crises worsening across Sudan.

In Kenya, over 200 protesters were arrested by police during an anti-tax hike rally in Nairobi. Demonstrators were opposing a proposed 16% value-added tax on basic commodities, which they argue would exacerbate the country’s economic hardships. The protest, organized by the Kenya Civil Liberties Union, saw clashes with authorities who used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. Critics of the tax increase argue that it would particularly burden low-income families already struggling with inflation and high living costs. The Kenyan government defends the tax hike as necessary to increase revenue and reduce its fiscal deficit.

Niger’s military junta has revoked French company Orano’s operating permit for a major uranium mine, intensifying tensions with France. The Imouraren mine, a significant global uranium deposit, had recently resumed operations amid rising uranium prices. Niger, a key uranium supplier globally and to the EU, has seen shifts since the junta seized power, pledging to reassess mining contracts and reduce Western influence. Orano, operating in Niger for over 50 years, expressed surprise and readiness to engage with the junta while reserving legal options.

At the Global Forum for Vaccine Sovereignty and Innovation in Paris on Thursday, leaders, health organizations, and pharmaceutical firms pledged $1.2 billion to boost vaccine production in Africa. French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the creation of an African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator to increase local production from two percent to sixty percent of Africa’s vaccine needs by 2040. The initiative aims to address longstanding inequalities in global vaccine access, underscored by recent health crises like cholera outbreaks in Africa. The Gavi vaccine alliance also announced plans to raise $9 billion to support vaccine distribution in poorer countries. The initiative seeks to enhance Africa’s manufacturing capabilities and address regulatory challenges, potentially including the establishment of an African medicines agency and technology transfer issues resisted by some Western nations.

The IMF on Thursday approved $786.2 million in funding for Tanzania to address climate change, alongside $149.4 million for budget support. Tanzania’s commitment to economic reforms under President Samia Suluhu Hassan aims to stabilize finances, foster recovery, and achieve sustainable growth. Economic reforms have bolstered growth, with a rebound observed in 2023 following a slowdown in 2022. The IMF highlighted fiscal consolidation and improved external financing conditions, contributing to a narrowing current account deficit. Despite global economic challenges, Tanzania’s diverse economy, driven by sectors like tourism, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing, has shown resilience amid climate-related impacts. The World Bank reports a robust services sector surge supporting economic stability.

Burkina Faso’s military leader, Ibrahim Traore, on Thursday denied reports of a mutiny within the army following a deadly attack by al Qaeda-linked insurgents that killed over 100 soldiers near the Niger border. Traore reassured the public of his safety after gunfire was heard near the presidency and a rocket shell fell near RTB Television’s headquarters in Ouagadougou. He explained that the rocket was mistakenly launched by security forces protecting the TV station, resulting in injuries but no fatalities. In response to the attack, Burkina Faso launched an operation and sent reinforcement troops. Russian planes carrying U.N. equipment and Malian officials were dispatched to bolster Traore’s security. The attack, claimed by al Qaeda affiliate JNIM, was one of the deadliest in recent times, further exacerbating the political instability and Islamist insurgencies in West Africa

Uganda signed an agreement with the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry from the United Arab Emirates to construct a new international airport near Kidepo National Park, President Yoweri Museveni’s office announced on Friday. This will be Uganda’s third international airport, and construction is set to begin in August. The new airport aims to boost tourism by attracting visitors to the 1,442-square-kilometer Kidepo park, home to lions, giraffes, buffaloes, and other big game. President Museveni highlighted the deal as a sign of deepening relations with Gulf partners and a boost for investment and trade.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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