NIAS AFRICA WEEKLY

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NIAS AFRICA WEEKLY
Africa in 2023: Elections and conflicts

  NIAS Africa Team

Africa Weekly #49 & 50, Vol. 2, No. 6 & 7

7 February 2023

IN FOCUS

Africa: Domestic instability, bilateral conflicts, and insurgencies ahead

Instabilities in Africa seem to be expanding in its intensity and geographic reach. Humanitarian crises, migration and displacement will be immense this year. New non-traditional factors like climate change, food insecurity and migration will be significant perpetrators of conflicts.

by Anu Maria Joseph

While internal ethnic and political divides are drivers of conflict in North Africa and the Horn of Africa region, Islamist insurgencies, armed rebellion and bandit attacks are major actors in the Sahel region. Instabilities in Africa seem to be expanding in its intensity and geographic reach. Humanitarian crises, migration and displacement will be immense this year. New non-traditional factors like climate change, food insecurity and migration will be significant perpetrators of conflicts.

Internal instabilities: Tunisia, Ethiopia and Sudan

First, Tunisia’s political crisis. Since 2021, Tunisia continues to be in a political crisis, after Kais Saeid sacking the government, freezing the parliament and instituting a new constitution. President Saeid has now taken control over the three pillars of democracy- the executive, judiciary and legislature. According to Statista, in 2022, the country recorded an unemployment rate above 15 per cent. The World Bank says Tunisia is under debt of 80 per cent of its GDP, seeking IMF bailouts. Protests are ramping up against the economic crisis and Saeid’s authoritarian drift. The protests are inclusive, represented by Ennahda Islamist opposition party, pro-democratic movements, civil societies and trade unions. Slogans reminiscent of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising are flaming. Considering its inclusivity and reach, the protests have the capacity to develop into another uprising taking up the Arab Spring legacies. 

Second, Ethiopia’s internal conflicts. The ceasefire agreement signed between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF in November 2022 was a great development ending a two year conflict. The new developments including restoring services, partial disarmament of TPLF and withdrawal of Eritrean troops were significant progress in terms of implementation of the ceasefire. However, a complete integration of Tigray with Ethiopia will be a complex process considering the humanitarian cost the conflict has caused. On the other hand, the peace deal has increased trust in the African Union and its ability to realise the idea of “African solutions to African problems”. 

However, the increasing violence by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLA) in Amhara and Oromia region raises a threat of an emergence of a new similar conflict in the country.

Third, political deadlock in Sudan. In October 2022, Sudan marked the one-year anniversary of the military coup. Since the coup, widespread protests have been going on demanding a civilian transition. In December 2022, Sudan’s pro-democracy coalition Forces of Freedom and Change signed a new deal with the military government agreeing for a two-year civilian-led transition towards elections. Though this was a major development, the deal seems too vague and opponents claim that it does not cover any security reforms that would leave the militarily powerful and disrupt a democratic transition. Though the UN initiated a second phase of negotiations between the military and the civilian groups, the military's contest for state power and a divided civilian coalition says the political crisis in Sudan would keep lingering. 

Bilateral Conflicts: DRC-Rwanda

The resurfacing of the M23 rebels since November 2021 has soured DRC-Rwanda relations. The group continues to attack the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) in North Kivu and capture border areas between DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. The blame game between DRC and Rwanda over supporting the rebels continues. The involvement of the East African Community and deployment of its troops after DRC joining the bloc in April 2022 was significant, as by July, both the countries agreed for a de-escalation. The ceasefire agreement signed by DRC, Rwanda, Angola, Burundi and former Kenyan  President Uhuru Kenyatta calling on the M23 withdraw from all its bases and disarming and surrendering to FARDC was a major development which was expected to end the rivalry between the countries. However, M23 announcing a non-compliance to the agreement turned the table. By January, Rwanda-DRC tensions resurfaced with a new wave of M23 attacks followed by accusations and counter accusations. 

The Rwandan government accuses DRC of wanting to perpetuate “conflict and insecurity” and failing to commit to the peace agreement. Similarly, DRC accuses Rwanda and M23 rebels of “once more failing to uphold the commitments” of the agreement. As M23 advances and the fighting re-erupts along with regular incidents of DRC fighter jets violating Rwandan airspace, it threatens that the clashes could erupt into a full scale bilateral conflict in the coming months. 

Insurgencies

First, Al-Shabab in Somalia. In August 2022, President Hassan Sheik Mohumud announced an “all out war” against al-Shabab militancy in the country. The campaign was successful to an extent in terms of re-capturing al-Shabab bases. However, beyond the campaign, al Shabab continues to carry out deadly attacks. However, with continued significant international assistance and the government's plan for the second phase of the campaign against al Shabab, the militancy in the country would see a significant positive turn. 

Second, Sahel. Islamist militancy, armed separatism and the rise of bandits. On 16 January, 50 women were abducted by Boko Haram Islamist insurgent group in Burkina Faso. Though the victims were released, the first mass kidnap in the country has raised a new concern that it would bring a new tactic by the Islamist extremists in 2023. With the two coups in 2020 and 2021, Mali grapples with Islamic State, and al-Qaeda linked militants fighting one another along with non-jihadist rebels. African Center for Strategic Studies says there were 2,800 incidents of insurgent attacks in Sahel in 2022 which is double that of past year.

The end of the Operation Barkhane and shattered France-Mali and France-Burkina Faso relations amid Russian involvement further deteriorated relations with western partners. It would mean that Islamist insurgency in the region would gain momentum taking advantage of the security vacuum, further increasing the threat of the spread of violence to the Gulf of Guinea and neighbouring countries. 

The gunmen attacks and abductions, and armed separatist rebellion in south-east Nigeria has usurped the powers of government officials in the country. With the failure of the government to address the insecurity, the violence seems to have no end in sight. 

Besides the insurgency, there are frequent incidents of farmer-herder conflicts across the Sahel countries which militant Islamist groups often exploit. 

Followed by a series of coups and attempted coups and challenged by deep-rooted and fragmented insurgencies, Sahel is in a bad shape. 

Non-Traditional conflict threats

The Horn of Africa is facing the worst drought in over 40 years, with consecutive failure in rainy seasons. Nearly 20 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia go through severe droughts and devastating consequences. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), nearly 7.1 million people in Somalia face acute food insecurity and three million are internally displaced. Meanwhile, the WFP report says in 2022, nearly 19 countries in West Africa went through above-average rainfall. According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, 1.2 million people in 16 countries in the region were affected by floods. When Africa goes through two climate extremes in two regions. 

Along with political instabilities, climate-induced conflicts will equally escalate resource conflicts, food insecurity, humanitarian crisis, displacement and migration across the continent. 


Africa: Despite the elections, democratic backslide will continue 

by Apoorva Sudhakar

Amid the ongoing sweeping political changes in Africa, the continent has 24 elections scheduled for 2023. These elections, some unlikely to take place, will highlight the state of democracy or its lack thereof in Africa. 

Africa’s political landscape in 2022: A recap

In 2022, Africa’s landscape was a mix of strengthening political processes in some regions while other regions witnessed a backsliding of the same. In the Horn of Africa, Kenya’s elections witnessed a breakaway from its violent electoral past; in Sudan, the military government and civilian leaders signed an agreement to end a political crisis linked to the October 2021 coup; Somalia, through its indirect voting system, witnessed a change of a government when Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took charge as president, after presidential elections were delayed for 15 months. 

However, fair political processes and democracy took a backseat in North Africa’s Tunisia, Libya, and Chad. In Tunisia, President Kais Saied consolidated his power by rewriting the constitution and a gradual power grab over institutions including the judiciary. In Libya, a lack of consensus between two rival governing authorities over the presidential and parliamentary elections fuelled the political stalemate. In Chad, the military government extended the transition period for two years until 2024. West Africa observed similar trends wherein Burkina Faso witnessed a coup in January 2022 and another one in September 2022. In Guinea Bissau and The Gambia, the governments foiled coup attempts in February and December, respectively. In Nigeria, as election campaigns kicked off, the number of attacks on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) facilities increased. 

With these ongoing changes and 24 elections scheduled across the continent - presidential, parliamentary or local - 2023 is going to be a year of elections for Africa. The continent, with its recent record of coups and attempted coups since 2020 has experienced the weakness of democracies in some regions, whereas in other regions of Africa, an increased clampdown on dissent and opposition has characterised the political situation. Amidst this, the major elections to watch in 2023 include presidential elections in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, and parliamentary elections in Libya, Sierra Leone and Mali. 

Election trends to watch in 2023

First, major presidential elections take the limelight. Africa will witness presidential elections in countries which have been undergoing problems like armed violence and insecurity, corruption and inflation, namely Nigeria, DRC, and Zimbabwe. In Nigeria, one among Africa’s richest economies, months leading to the polls in February, have witnessed attacks against electoral commission offices and an increased number of kidnappings and armed violence against civilians. The election commission warned that continuing attacks may lead to postponement of polls, but later clarified that polls would be held as scheduled. In DRC, the debate around insecurity in the east, anti-Rwanda rhetoric, and the fallout of President Tshisekedi from his predecessor will shape the elections. Similarly, in Libya which has presidential polls and parliamentary polls scheduled, the differences between the two parallel governments, lack of consensus on polling structure may lead to another postponement of the polls which have been delayed since 2021. 

Second, the unlikely elections or change in countries under military rule. The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) outlines that Sudan will be holding its presidential, national assembly and local elections in 2023; Mali will have its local, House of Representative and Senate elections; Guinea will have its local elections. As these countries, which have been under military rule since coups took precedence in West Africa, have elections scheduled for 2023, the debate around the state of democracy in Africa is likely to continue. The question arises whether countries will live up to the military governments’ promise of transition to civilian rule through elections. Given the history of military rule in Africa, it is unlikely that elections will be held in a free and fair manner. Therefore, the scheduled elections in these countries are likely to get postponed, cancelled, or marred by political violence. 

Third, volatility in electoral campaigns and results. Among the countries holding elections, Zimbabwe is reeling from the impact of replacing long-time dictator Robert Mugabe in 2017, wherein his successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa has increased restrictions on opposition groups; Mnangagwa belongs to the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) which has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence 1980 and is known for its contribution to political violence. Meanwhile, election results disputed by opposition parties in most African countries have previously led to violence. Despite Kenya’s successful breakaway from its violent electoral past in 2022, peaceful democratic transitions in 2023 seem unlikely given the highly charged political landscape in major countries. 

Fourth, setting the stage for 2024. Africa has major elections scheduled for 2024 in South Africa, Chad, Mali. The developments in 2023, whether South Africa's ANC will address its internal divide, whether Mali will hold its Senate and House of Representative elections, or whether Chad's military government will pave the way for a smooth civilian transition will set the stage for 2024. The developments in these countries in the last few years have only indicated a deteriorating political scenario. 

The uncertainties are likely to continue in 2023 and therefore, place 2024 as an equally charged year of elections.

(Note: The commentaries were previous;y published in The World This Week.)


AFRICA IN BRIEF

25 January - 7 February

Apoorva Sudhakar and Anu Maria Joseph 

TUNISIA

Lowest voter turnout recorded for second round of parliamentary elections

On 30 January, the electoral board said only 11.4 per cent registered voters participated in the second round of parliamentary elections on 29 January. This was the lowest voter turnout since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. Of the 11.4 per cent turnout, 67.6 per cent votes were cast by men. (“Tunisia records low turnout in second vote for defanged parliament,” France24, 30 January 2023)

LIBYA

Gas deal with Italy faces opposition from Tripoli minister

On 30 January, BBC reported that several leaders in Libya had rejected a USD eight billion gas deal signed by Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Italy's state-run energy firm ENI. Libya's oil and gas minister said the deal to develop and explore two Libyan offshore gas fields "lacks equality between the Libyan and Italian sides." The minister termed the deal "illegal," claiming the NOC had bypassed the oil and gas ministry and had also raised the Italian side's shares to 37 per cent from 30 per cent. However, the NOC chairman maintained that the NOC "works according to the law, and whoever sees this procedure as illegal must go before the court." (“Libya's gas deal with Italy prompts backlash,” BBC, 30 January 2023)

SUDAN

Israeli Foreign Minister’s visit, announcement of signing peace deal

On 3 February, Israel Foreign Minister Eli Cohen during his one-day visit to Sudan, announced that Israel and Sudan will sign a “historic peace agreement,” in a few months. Sudan agreed to revive ties with Israel two years before, however this has never been implemented. Subsequently, Sudan would become the latest Arab League country to normalise ties with Israel. Additionally, Sudan’s foreign ministry said that Cohen and Sudan’s military leader Abdal Fattah al Burhan “discussed means for establishing fruitful relations with Israel” and strengthen cooperation in “agricultural, energy, health, water, educational fields with special emphasis on security and military fields.” (“Israel says Sudan peace deal to be signed,” BBC, 8 January 2023)

SOUTH SUDAN

The Pope’s visit

On 3 February, Pope Francis arrived in Juba, South Sudan’s capital which will be his second African country to visit after the Democratic Republic Congo this week. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Ian Greenshields have joined with the pope for the visit. Meanwhile, a Catholic archbishop raised concerns on the death of at least 21 people during an attack on a cattle camp in Kajo-Keji County on eve of Pope’s visit. (“Top clergy decry South Sudan killings on eve of Pope's visit,” BBC, 3 February 2023, “Pope Francis lands in South Sudan,” BBC, 3 February 2023)

ETHIOPIA 

PM Abiy Ahmed meets Tigray authorities

On 3 February, BBC reported that Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with Tigrayan leaders for the first time since the peace deal was signed in November 2022. They discussed the progress of the implementation of the peace deal as well as the issues that need further attention. (“Abiy meets Tigray leaders for first time since peace deal,” BBC, 3 February 2022)

Millions cast vote in referendum for new region

On 6 February, Ethiopia held a referendum to establish a new regional state. More than three million people are registered to vote for the referendum. This is the third such referendum held in a span of four years. If the referendum gets a yes vote, the new region is to be called Southern Ethiopia region. (“Millions vote in Ethiopia referendum for new region,” BBC, 6 February 2023)

Tigray authorities says Eritrean troops still remain in the region

On 7 February, the authorities of Ethiopia's Tigray region said that despite the reports of withdrawal, Eritrean troops continue to remain as small units in the region. Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda said: "Although there were occasions when they [Eritrean troops] withdrew in an organised manner, there are instances of in and out of small units, and this should be addressed fully." (“Eritrean troops still in northern Ethiopia - TPLF,” BBC, 7 February 2023)

SOMALIA

Senior IS militant killed by US special forces

On 27 January, the US said that its special forces killed senior Islamic State militant Bilal al-Sudani in Somalia along with his ten associates; al-Sudani was a key figure in the funding and expansion of the group across Africa. The US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin described the development as “a successful counterterrorism operation.” Prior to joining the IS, al-Sudani worked for al-Shabab, and later split from the group to form an IS-affiliated group. (“US raid in Somalia kills top Islamic State leader,” BBC, 27 January 2023)

East African leaders meets to discuss operations against  al-Shabab

On 31 January, BBC reported that security chiefs from east Africa are meeting in Mogadishu to discuss joint military operations against the al-Shabab militant group. The meeting comes following the significant gains by Somali forces along with the US, African troops and local militia against the group. On 30 January, the Somali government said that it killed more than 130 al-Shabab militants including top commanders. The summit of the regional leaders is also expected to discuss the phased withdrawal of the African Union troops in Somalia since 2007. (“East African top brass to discuss al-Shabab plan,” BBC, 31 January 2023)

GHANA

Eight people allegedly killed by military; high command dismisses claims

On 1 February, BBC quoted eyewitnesses who said eight people, including a 12-year-old boy, had been killed after armed men in military shot at civilians in Bawku town in the north along the Burkina Faso border; the boy was reportedly burnt to death. The MP for Bawku Central accused the military of carrying out the attack and demanded an immediate investigation. However, the military high command had previously issued a statement warning people from wearing military uniforms. (Thomas Naadi, “Ghana military denies role in civilian deaths in the north,” BBC, 2 February 2023)

ZIMBABWE

26 opposition party members released 

On 27 January, 26 Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) members were granted bail after they had been arrested for allegedly holding an unlawful gathering. The CCC is an opposition party; a CCC spokesperson said: “This confirms that the arrest was an abuse of process in the first place.” Previously, on 14 January, police used tear gas at a CCC gathering in Harare; prosecutors held that the members had not received permission for a meeting. (“Zimbabwe court grants bail to 26 opposition party members,” News24, 27 January 2023)

Lukashenko concludes visit to Zimbabwe

On 1 February, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko concluded a three-day visit to Zimbabwe. Lukashenko told the media: “We are not using colonial style. We are not here to do that. We plan to expand our ties with Africa because the world cannot develop without Africa and the world belongs to Africa.” Lukashenko and Zimbabwean Emmerson Mnangagwa signed eight agreements; meanwhile, Lukashenk defended his visit at a time when Mnangagwa is seeking a readmission to the Commonwealth, terming Zimbabwe “a friend to all and an enemy to none.” (Lenin Ndebele, “We plan to expand our ties with Africa, says Belarus strongman Lukashenko,” News24, 1 February 2023)

ESWATINI

Political tensions on the rise, says SADC

On 31 January, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said political tensions over the killing of Thulani Maseko on 21 January were increasing in Eswatini. The murder took place hours after King Mswati III warned activists against defying him and of “mercenaries killing them.” The Namibian President Hage Geingob, who is also the chair of SADC, said sporadic instances of violence indicate “an escalation of the tensions.” (“Tensions brewing in Eswatini after the killing of activist Thulani Maseko, SADC says,” News24, 31 January 2023)

MADAGASCAR

Tropical storm claims 16 lives

On 26 January, the Office for Risk and Disaster Management said at least 16 people had been killed and 17 were missing after tropical storm Cheneso made a landfall on 19 January. Of the casualties, three died in the storm and 13 in the heavy rains that followed. On 26 January, the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations said that so far, 60,000 people have been displaced and 13,000 homes damaged.  (“Tropical Storm Cheneso, ensuing rain kill 16 in Madagascar,” News24, 27 January 2023)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

HRW warns escalation of tensions between Tutsi-Hutu communities

On 6 February, the Human Rights Watch warned of the escalation of tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic communities in eastern DR Congo. The escalation of violence comes as a result of increased fighting involving the M23 rebels in the region. The M23 armed rebel group is accused of carrying out summary executions and forced recruitment of civilians and Rwanda is accused of backing the group. This comes alongside the death of a UN peacekeeper from South Africa in an attack on a helicopter. The UN responded to the attack saying: “Monusco strongly condemns this cowardly attack against an aircraft bearing the United Nations emblem.” (“Rwanda-backed rebels stirring ethnic divisions - HRW”, BBC, 6 February 2023, “Peacekeeper killed in attack on UN helicopter in DR Congo,” BBC, 6 February 2023)

At least eight killed in protests against peacekeeping forces

On 7 February, hundreds of people protested against the UN and the East African Regional Force accusing them of failing to support the Congolese force’s operations against the M23 rebels. On 8 February, BBC reported that at least eight people were killed during violent clashes between the protesters and the peacekeeping forces. The military governor of the North Kivu province said that the peacekeepers fired in self-defence when the protesters attacked a convoy. (“Deadly protests against regional force in DR Congo,” BBC, 7 February 2023) 

MALI

Rights experts urge independent probe into Wagner Group operations

On 31 January, independent rights experts appointed by the UN and the UN Working Group on Mercenaries called on Mali to begin an immediate probe into the mass killings in Moura village in 2022. The UN News quoted the experts: “We are particularly worried by credible reports that over the course of several days in late March 2022, Malian armed forces accompanied by military personnel believed to belong to the Wagner Group, executed several hundred people, who had been rounded up in Moura, a village in central Mali.” The experts said they had also received reports of the Wagner Group’s human rights and sexual abuses in the Central African Republic; they said they were apprehensive of the “increased outsourcing of traditional military functions” to the Wagner Group. (“Mali: Independent rights experts call for probe into Wagner Group’s alleged crimes,” UN News, 31 January 2023)

Military government expels UN mission’s human rights chief

On 6 February, Mali’s military government expelled the UN peacekeeping mission’s human rights chief. The move comes after the government accused the human rights chief of commiting “subversive actions” in his selection of witnesses to testify at the UN Security Council briefings on Mali. Meanwhile, Mali’s foreign ministry said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit the country on 7 February which will be his second visit to Africa in two weeks. The Yerewolo movement, which promotes closer ties with Russia, welcomed Lavrov’s visit and called for the installation on a Russian military base in Gao region. (“Mali junta expels UN mission's human rights chief,” BBC, 6 February 2023)

BURKINA FASO

France recalls ambassador from burkina Faso

On 26 January, France announced the recalling of its ambassador to Burkina Faso, two days after Paris agreed to comply with Ouadougou’s request to withdraw all French forces from the country within a month. The French Foreign Ministry said it was recalling the ambassador “for consultations on the state and perspectives of our bilateral relations.” (“France recalls ambassador from Burkina Faso after agreeing to withdraw troops,” France24, 26 January 2023)

NIGERIA

At least eight killed by gunmen in central Nigeria

On 1 February, the Benue state police spokesperson said eight people, including a divisional police chief, had been killed by gunmen in Naka town in central Nigeria. The divisional police chief was leading an officers’ team against the armed group in a gunfight. The development took place after the police received a distress call when gunmen blocked the Markurdi-Naka road and forced travellers along the road to flee. (“Gunmen kill police chief, seven others in central Nigeria,” Al Jazeera, 2 February 2023)

15 pilgrims killed in gunmen attack

On 7 February, at least 15 Nigerian Muslim pilgrims were killed in an attack by unidentified gunmen. Following the incident, the Nigerian presidential spokesperson said: “The Nigerian foreign affairs ministry, through the Nigerian embassy in Burkina Faso, is engaging with the Burkinable authorities and awaits the outcome of their investigation of the unfortunate incident, and if necessary, to ensure that all culprits are appropriately sanctioned.” President Muhammadu Buhari shared condolences to the deceased and added that the government would make “every effort” to return the survivors back home as well as the bodies of those killed. (“Nigeria pilgrims killed in Burkina Faso bus attack,” BBC, 7 February 2023) 

MOROCCO

Spanish PM visits Rabat marking new turn in relations

On 2 February, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez arrived in Rabat and met Morocco's Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch amid thawing relations between the two countries. France24 quoted Sanchez: "We are going to avoid anything that may offend the other, especially with regard to our respective spheres of sovereignty." Sanchez's visit is the first high-level visit since 2015; Sanchez emphasised the "enormous unexplored potential" of Spain-Morocco relations and said the meeting indicates a consolidation of a new stage in bilateral ties. On the same day, at least 20 deals were signed on investments, energy and education. (“In Morocco, Spain PM reinforces ties after crisis,” France24, 2 February 2023)

REGIONAL

Despite improvement in governance, democratic backsliding a concern, says Mo Ibrahim index

On 25 January, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation released its Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) 2022 edition. The IIAG highlighted that amid “widespread democratic backsliding,” Africa’s progress on human and economic development had also slowed. The IIAG maintained that though Africa had witnessed a “marginal improvement” in good governance since 2012, the trend had become a “flatline” since 2019. Further, the IIAG said: “Governments have been increasingly prone to infringe on rights, curb freedom of expression and association, and impose restrictions on civic space.” Nevertheless, more than 90 per cent of Africans live in countries where  health, education, social protection and other criteria are better than 2012. (“Democracy ‘backsliding’ has slowed Africa’s development: study,” Al Jazeera, 26 January 2023)

UNODC report highlights alarming deaths from fake medicines

On 1 February, UN News reported on the latest Trafficking in Medical Products in the Sahel report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The report highlighted that in Sub-Saharan Africa, at least 267,000 deaths per year were caused by “falsified and substandard antimalarial medicines” and 169,271 deaths by “falsified and substandard antibiotics.” In West Africa, over 605 tonnes of medical products were seized between January 2017 and December 2021, and diverted from the legal supply chain. The report holds that several “pharmaceutical company employees, public officials, law enforcement officers, health agency workers and street vendors” are involved in trafficking. (“Fake medicines kill almost 500,000 sub-Saharan Africans a year: UNODC report,” UN News, 1 February 2023)

About the authors

Apoorva Sudhakar is a Research Associate at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. Anu Maria Joseph is a Research Assistant at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.

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