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Africa This Week

  NIAS Africa Team

Four Major Developments in Senegal, DRC, African Union and Egypt
Anu Maria Joseph, Narmatha S and Vetriselvi Baskaran

The highlight of this week is the annual African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During the two-day summit, the heads of the member countries are expected to discuss issues of peace, development and integration at the backdrop of resurging coups, global food and commodity crises and geopolitical competition. The summit also aims to push the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), to make Africa a global economic powerhouse.

The political crisis in Senegal took turns after the Constitutional Council announced President Macky Sall's election delay "unlawful." Three people were killed during the violent protests against the bill postponing the elections to December 2024. While the court's ruling is a hope for Senegalese, it is likely that Sall would influence the judiciary, implying an unclear prospect to the country's political crisis.

Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Tutsi-led M23 rebels, allegedly supported by Rwanda, are reported to have captured Goma, the capital of North Kivu. With the insurgency, displacement has also increased. The Southern African Development Community (SDAC) troops that replaced East African troops in 2023 witnessed its first major loss with three fatalities in eastern DRC while fighting the rebels.

Besides, Egypt has re-established ties with Turkey and Liberia has appointed its first female defence minister.

News Database for the Week
Constitutional Council annuls election delay

On 15 February, the BBC reported that the Constitutional Council ordered the delayed election proposed by President Macky Sall as “unlawful.” The council cancelled the election postponement and the contentious bill passed by parliament scheduling the election for December, calling it unconstitutional. The opposition described the ruling as "a great day for democracy.” Former Prime Minister, Aminata Touré, stated: "We've been so ashamed by all this violation of the law and the constitution.” On 3 February, President Macky Sall announced the election delay citing issues over the eligibility of the candidates. At least three people were killed during the riots that followed. 

On 12 February, the Ministry of Business and Trade spokesperson, Abdou Karim Fofana, stated that the election delay is a necessary move and a "moral obligation to stay and solve this problem" because according to the constitution, President Macky Sall is the guarantor of the functioning of the institutions. Three people have died in violent riots after Sall announced the delayed elections. 

On 12 February, ECOWAS chair and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu met Senegal’s President Macky Sall at the Senegalese capital Dakar in the wake of the postponement of the Presidential election. The development came after the bloc held emergency-level talks the previous week, discussing the political crisis in Senegal and the withdrawal of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso from the bloc. 

On 13 February, the Ministry of Communication issued new internet restrictions to prevent the spread of hateful messages against the government. The decision came following the violent protest against President Macky Sall who announced the delayed elections on 3 February. Sall cited a dispute in the eligibility of the candidates for the election postponement. The election was scheduled for 25 February and is currently postponed to December 2024. 

Clashes between the police and the protesters

On 12 February, BBC reported on the clashes between the police and the protestors in the capital Kinshasa. The police fired tear gas at the protestors gathered near foreign embassies in Kinshasa. The crowd was involved in burning the tyres and the national flags of the US and Belgium, accusing the Western countries of backing Rwanda. The development came after the M23, a Tutsi-led rebel group allegedly supported by Rwanda, started advancing towards the capital of the North Kivu state, Goma. 

On 13 February, BBC reported on the police using tear gas to disperse anti-West protesters in the capital Kinshasa. Pepin Mbindu, one of the protesters stated: "The Westerners are behind the looting of our country. Rwanda doesn't work alone, so they must leave our country." They burned the flags of the US and Belgium. The US asked the protesters to keep "a low profile" and the UK cautioned that the protest is "likely to continue throughout the week" and asserted on the risk of foreigners being "indiscriminately targeted." The fear persists as the M23 rebel group advances towards Goma in the eastern DRC; however, the group has denied the intention of attacking Goma. According to the UN, the intensifying conflict in the region has displaced more than seven million people. Meanwhile, the government of Congo has assured of controlling the status quo. 

On 13 February, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered the deployment of 2,900 soldiers as part of the Southern African mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC) to assist conflict-torn DRC. The deployment accounts for ZAR two billion and is said to last until December. SAMIDRC was initiated in May 2023 after DRC left the East African bloc citing its ineffectiveness. In addition to South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania are extending their support. 

On 15 February, BBC reported that the South African troops that were deployed in DRC to quell the rebellion were attacked, leading to two fatalities and three others injured. The troops were sent as part of the Southern African Development Community (SDAC) to assist the Congolese army’s fight against insurgency in eastern DRC. South Africa's opposition has called for an immediate withdrawal from the country. The development came after the M23 rebels captured Goma, the capital of the North Kivu. 

Annual African Union Summit begins on 15 February

On 14 February, Al Jazeera reported on the beginning of the 37th annual African Union Summit on 15 February at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, regional integration and “maintaining momentum in addressing issues of peace and security” is on the agenda. However, the conflicts and humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray, Oromo and Amhara regions complemented the tension with Somalia over the port deal with Somaliland is perceived as ironic. In January, Mahamat addressed a presummit session of the AU’s Permanent Representative’s Committee. He stressed the importance of continent-wide solidarity citing conflicts in Sudan and Chad. However, Ethiopia was not mentioned. 

Reconciliation efforts with Turkey

On 15 February, BBC reported that Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi disclosed their intentions of turning "a new leaf" in their relationship following the decade-long estrangement. Turkey-Egypt relations fell apart after the ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi who was backed by Turkey in 2013. The development came after both parties met in the Egyptian capital Cairo. During the meeting, both sides agreed to several bilateral agreements.

Migrant boat missing in the Mediterranean

On 12 February, BBC reported that Tunisian migrants went missing while attempting to reach Italy from the city of Bizerte in Tunisia. Tunisia’s National Guard stated that at least 17 Tunisian migrants went missing. Coastguards and Navy-backed helicopters are continuing the rescue operation. 

EHRC claims 45 killed by security forces

On 13 February, the state-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) alleged that the Ethiopian government's security forces killed 45 civilians in a massacre in January. The commission confirmed “the identity of at least 45 civilians who were extrajudicially killed by government security forces for allegedly ‘supporting [ethnic Amhara armed group] Fano’.” The US raised concerns over the “targeted civilian killings” in Merawi, Amhara. According to the EHRC, the clashes in the Amhara region were plagued by extrajudicial and mass killings, mainly carried out by security forces. The clashes between the Fano militia and the Tigrayan militia shredded when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed decided to merge the paramilitary forces. The violence in Amhara has become a major crisis since the peace agreement signed in Tigray in 2022. 

'Dark Valentine' to end femicides 

On 14 February, Valentine's Day was marked as a 'Dark Valentine' in Kenya. Hundreds of people gathered in black outfits with candles and red roses to spend their Valentine's Day demanding action from the government to prevent gender-based violence and femicide. Seven vigil gatherings were held across Kenya to honour more than 30 women who have been killed in 2024. This was organised by the End Femicide Kenya Movement, a collective of more than 1,000 organisations and individuals. 

Requests ICJ to reconsider emergency measures

On 13 February, Al Jazeera reported that South Africa has urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to consider additional emergency measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza, particularly in Rafah, where Israel plans to expand its offensive. They argued that Israel's actions violated the ICJ's previous ruling and the Genocide Convention. With thousands already killed and displaced, South Africa seeks stronger measures to prevent further harm. 

Foreign minister slams Israel at the AU Summit
On 15 February, the BBC reported on the South African response to the Israeli allegations that it is representing the interests of Hamas. After South Africa filed a case against Israel for genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the two countries are in a row. Israel called the South African government the representatives of the interests of the Hamas. South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Naledi Pandor, replied: "Insults are the last resort of a scoundrel.” At the African Union Summit, Pandor commented that the international community is responsible for ending the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

Demonstrators demand to end ties with Israel

On 12 February, BBC reported that thousands of Moroccans protested in the capital Rabat against the country's ties with Israel, angered over the war in Gaza. The protesters waved signs condemning the violence and called for an end to the Israel-Morocco relations. In 2020, the US brokered into establishing diplomatic ties between Morocco and Israel in exchange for the US recognition of Moroccan claims in Western Sahara. 

Appoints first female defence minister

On 12 February, Liberian President Joseph Boakai gave retired Brigadier General Geraldine George the position of acting Minister of Defence. Geraldine George is the first female defence minister in the country. She enrolled in the army in 2006 and then joined the elite forces. She served six years as deputy chief of staff. The development came after the protest carried out by soldiers' wives demanding the resignation of the former Minister of Defence Prince Charles Johnson III for low wages in the military barracks. 

Economic recession and increasing cost of living

On 13 February, BBC reported on the economic recession and increased cost of living in Nigeria. The cost of rice has increased 70 per cent from that of 2023 and people are forced to rely on the Afafata rice. Afafata rice is normally discarded as not saleable at the end of the sorting and is sold to farmers to feed the fish. Besides, the cancellation of fuel subsidies and devaluation of the Naira has worsened inflation. Protests broke out across the country demanding to reduce the cost of goods. 

HRW questions the injustice of the Ngarbuh village massacre

On 15 February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) asserted that the prolonged justice by the Cameron's military court is an injustice to the 21 killings in Ngarbuh village in 2022. HRW director for Central Africa, Lewis Mudge stated: “Hearings have been postponed multiple times,... the court has refused to admit key evidence." The village of Ngarbuh was attacked by soldiers and armed personnel on the suspicion of the presence of separatists. The government refused to hold responsibility. 

Russia hosts neocolonialism meet 

On 15 February, BBC quoted Russia's Sputnik and United Russia Party that South Africa and the Central African Republic took part in a neocolonialism forum organised by Russia. It was themed "Forum of Supporters of The Struggles Against Modern Practices Of Neo-colonialism – For The Freedom Of Nations." South Africa's ruling ANC party's Secretary General Fikile Mbalula and CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera attended the event. In addition, North Korea's ruling party delegates and other representatives from the global south who consider Russia a colonialist fighter attended the forum. 

About the authors
Anu Maria Joseph is a Research Associate at NIAS. Narmatha S and Vetriselvi Baskaran are Postgraduate Scholars at University of Madras.

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