Africa This Week (29/06/2024)

Kenyan President William Ruto announced on Wednesday that he will not sign the contentious finance bill proposing new taxes that have led to violent protests that saw demonstrators storm parliament and result in multiple deaths. The bill, intended to raise funds for debt repayment, faced widespread opposition as many Kenyans, already struggling economically, viewed it as exacerbating their financial woes. The unrest led to military deployment, which Ruto initially described as necessary to counter “treasonous” actions, but later acknowledged the dissatisfaction the bill caused. Ruto emphasized the need for national dialogue to manage the country’s affairs collectively. The protests, the most significant challenge to Kenya’s government in decades, resulted in at least 22 deaths and 200 injuries.

South Africa’s main coalition partners, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), are clashing just weeks after agreeing to share power. President Cyril Ramaphosa has accused DA leader John Steenhuisen of trying to form a “parallel government,” breaching the constitution. The ANC, having failed to secure a majority in the recent election, had formed a coalition with the DA, which secured DA politicians cabinet positions. However, disputes over cabinet posts have arisen, with the DA demanding more positions and accusing Ramaphosa of reneging on agreements. Ramaphosa criticized the DA’s negotiation tactics as “offensive” and inconsistent with the constitution.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame’s reelection rally this week resulted in one death and dozens of injuries. The incident occurred in Rubavu district, where 37 people were injured, with four hospitalized. The ministry of local government expressed condolences and assured that medical teams did their best. Kagame, running for a fourth term, began campaigning for the July election with rallies in northern Rwanda. He has led the country since 1994 and won the 2017 election with nearly 99% of the vote. Despite facing criticism for his human rights record, Kagame defends Rwanda’s political freedoms.

West African defense chiefs at its meeting in Abuja on Thursday proposed a $2.6 billion annual plan to have a 5,000-strong “standby force” to tackle the region’s security crises and prevent further coups. Nigeria’s Defense Minister Mohammed Badaru emphasized the need for stability following recent military takeovers. This is the first detailed financing discussion of the force by the regional bloc ECOWAS. Challenges include securing contributions from member states and support from coup-affected countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray urged member states to back the force, highlighting the critical need to address regional insecurity.

Egypt’s government extended daily power cuts to three hours due to increased electricity consumption from a heat wave, according to a cabinet statement. Initially planned for Sunday and Monday, the cuts will now last until the week’s end. The electricity and petroleum ministries cited extreme temperatures as the reason. Since July last year, Egypt has faced scheduled two-hour power cuts due to falling gas production, rising demand, and foreign currency shortages. The blackouts have caused frustration among citizens and business disruptions, with some incidents leading to deaths, including a saxophonist trapped in an elevator. The extended cuts aim to maintain stable gas network and power station operations.

Somalia’s U.N. ambassador on Monday accused Ethiopian troops of illegal border incursions, causing clashes with local security forces. Around 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers are in Somalia under an African Union peacekeeping mission (ATMIS) against al Shabaab, with an additional 5,000-7,000 under a bilateral agreement. Ethiopian troops briefly crossed into Somalia’s Hiraan region to monitor al Shabaab threats but withdrew on Sunday. This incident led Somalia to postpone the next ATMIS troop withdrawal from July to September, with full withdrawal expected by December 31. Relations between Somalia and Ethiopia soured after Ethiopia leased coastline from Somaliland, which Somalia considers illegal. This area, claiming independence since 1991 but unrecognized internationally, was offered recognition by Ethiopia in exchange for setting up a naval base and commercial port.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday completed a third review of Zambia’s Extended Credit Facility, approving an immediate disbursement of approximately $569.6 million. The IMF also increased its financial support for Zambia from $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion to assist with the severe drought impacting crop yields and power generation. Antoinette Sayeh, IMF’s deputy managing director, praised Zambia’s progress on economic and structural reforms amidst humanitarian challenges. Zambia recently resolved a debt default through a lengthy restructuring process under the G20’s Common Framework, which hindered investment and economic growth. Last week, Zambia’s finance minister requested parliamentary approval for additional spending of 41.9 billion kwacha ($1.65 billion) to repay external debt and address the drought’s effects.

On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud, a leader linked to al-Qaeda, for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Mali, committed during his reign of terror in Timbuktu between 2012 and 2013. Al Hassan, 46, was found guilty of torture, rape, sexual slavery, and destroying religious and historic buildings. As a key member of Ansar al-Din, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, he oversaw brutal punishments, including amputations and floggings, while serving as police chief during the group’s control of Timbuktu. Prosecutors highlighted the severe violence and fear inflicted on Timbuktu’s citizens, particularly targeting women and girls, who faced corporal punishment and imprisonment. Al Hassan forced women and girls into “marriages” with fighters and was personally involved in flogging women accused of adultery. He faces up to life imprisonment, with sentencing to be decided later.

A China-backed pipeline intended to transform Niger into an oil-exporting nation faces threats from internal security issues and a diplomatic dispute with neighbouring Benin this week, both stemming from last year’s coup that ousted Niger’s democratic government. The 1,930-kilometer pipeline, connecting Niger’s Agadem oil field to Benin’s Cotonou port, was set to boost Niger’s oil production nearly fivefold under a $400 million deal with China’s state-run petroleum company. However, the pipeline’s closure last week due to diplomatic tensions and a recent attack by the Patriotic Liberation Front rebel group, which demands the deal’s cancellation, has stalled progress. The Niger junta is exploring alternative routes through Chad and Cameroon, though this poses significant logistical and financial challenges. The disruption could hamper Niger’s economic growth, previously projected by the World Bank to be the fastest in Africa at 6.9% this year. The diplomatic rift with Benin, sparked by the coup against President Mohamed Bazoum, also impacts Benin economically through lost transit fees.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso in the Kremlin on Thursday, praising Sassou Nguesso’s efforts in strengthening Russian-Congolese relations. Putin highlighted their cooperation across political, trade, economic, and international platforms, noting significant developments in recent times. This visit, Sassou Nguesso’s second to Russia within a year, is aimed at finalizing agreements on energy, trade, and security cooperation. Putin also honored Sassou Nguesso with Russia’s Order of Honor for his contributions to bilateral relations. Russia has intensified engagements with African nations since 2022, seeking to broaden ties amid Western sanctions related to the Ukraine conflict.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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