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NIAS Global Politics Database
Africa This Week (24 February-29 February)

  NIAS Africa Team

News Brief: Ghana's anti-LGBTQ Bill and Africa's Upcoming Elections
24 February-29 February
Anu Maria Joseph, Narmatha S and Vetriselvi Baskaran

On 28 February, the parliament of Ghana passed a new anti-LGBTQ bill. The bill is the major development in Africa this week. The bill imposes a sentence of three years for identifying as LGBTQ+ and a five-year jail term for forming or funding LGBTQ+ communities. The bill is yet to be signed by President Nana Akufo-Addo. The bill was initiated by two major political parties who consider gay sex to be a crime and an alien to the Ghanaian culture and family value system. 

The religious and traditional leaders (leaders of pre-colonial political communities that influence the country's identity, language, customs and beliefs) welcomed the bill. Besides, the bill has popular support as Ghanaian society is inclined to religious and traditional values. The bill also came ahead of elections, a bonus to Akufo-Addo's government. However, it has been condemned by several human rights groups claiming that it is against fundamental human rights and freedom. This bill poses a threat to the LGBTQ+ community living in Ghana.

On 29 February, the US State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, expressed concern over the anti-LGBTQ bill which was passed by the parliament. He averred: “The bill would also undermine Ghana’s valuable public health, media and civic spaces, and economy.”

Ghana's new bill adds to the wave of anti-LGBTQ narratives in Africa, adding to Uganda and Kenya. It is a major blow to Ghana's democracy which has increasingly taken an illiberal shift recently. 

Meanwhile, Africa is getting ready for its elections. South Africa announced its elections in May. The African National Congress (ANC), the party which dominated South African politics since independence, is expecting hardship to secure a majority this year. Unemployment, the increasing cost of living, corruption and division within the party after Jacob Zuma formed his own party are the reasons behind the same. 

Chad and Senegal have announced to hold elections in May and June. The announcement of elections is complemented by violence in both countries. In Chad, opposition leader Yaya Dillo was killed after being alleged of attacking the National Security Agency's (ANSE) headquarters. In Senegal, two people were killed in the protests against President Macky Sall's announcement of election postponement. However, the Constitution Council annulled the delay and after a two-day national dialogue, the panel has proposed to hold elections on 2 June.

In Guinea, the military abruptly dissolved the government and appointed a new prime minister. The country is supposed to hold its elections in ten months. However, the new developments point to uncertainty and a likely extension of the transition.

News Database

ETHIOPIA
Heightening tensions in Amhara

On 26 February, BBC reported on Ethiopia’s Amhara region facing increased fighting between the regional militia, Fano, and the federal forces. The federal authority has blocked a road connecting Debre Birhan and Dese following the fighting. Previously, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission alleged that the federal troops had carried out dozens of extra-judicial killings in the region.

KENYA
The US carries out joint military exercises

On 26 February, the US began its military exercise, Justified Accord, in Kenya. Nearly 20 countries took part in the 11-day exercise. The exercise aims to achieve countries' readiness for peacekeeping missions, crisis response, and humanitarian assistance. The US military stated: "Justified Accord, the largest exercise in East Africa, showcases the desire of the US and partner nations to increase readiness and interoperability for regional security and crisis response."

SOUTH AFRICA
ANC pitches for votes as majority threatened

On 24 February, the African National Congress (ANC) announced its manifesto for the May elections. It fears that the share of the vote could fall below 50 per cent for the first time since independence. Several challenges, including unemployment that rose to 32 per cent, frequent power cuts and high crime levels, led to the ANC losing its popularity. According to BBC, President Cyril Ramaphosa stated: "There are forces that seek to use this election to undo the progress of democracy. It is crucial that together we defend our hard-won freedom.” The ANC polled above 50 per cent in national elections, enabling it to run the country without challenge since 1994. 

ZAMBIA
President declares national emergency over drought

On 29 February, President Hakainde Hichilema declared a nationwide emergency due to drought. He stated that 84 districts out of 116 are being affected by the disaster. The country has been receiving poor rainfall, escalating the fear of hunger and energy needs. The Kariba dam's water level has dropped to nearly 11.5 per cent which is used for harnessing hydroelectric power by Zambia and Zimbabwe. The president stated that the drought would affect the production of 450 megawatts of power.

GUINEA
Two people killed during protests against the increasing cost of living

On 27 February, Al Jazeera reported that at least two people were killed in a violent protest that erupted in Guinea’s capital Conakry. The protests began after the military dissolved the transitional government without providing a reason. The strike was organised by the confederation of several trade unions, demanding low food prices, media freedom, and the release of the Secretary-General of the Union of Press Professionals of Guinea (SPPG), Sekou Jamal Pendessa. 

Opposition leader appointed as Prime Minister
On 28 February, Guinea’s opposition leader Mamadou Oury Bah was appointed as the new Prime Minister. The country’s interim President, Mamady Doumbouya, carried out the sworn-in event. The development came after the military dissolved the interim government without any details. Guinea is expected to end the transition and hold its elections this year. In 2021, the military carried out a coup, ousting the civilian-led government. 

CHAD
Elections to be held in May

On 27 February, Chadian military authorities announced the delayed elections to be held in May. The polls would put an end to a transition that began in 2021. Gen Mahamat Déby took over the power after his father and President Idriss Deby died in the battleground against insurgent groups.

Attack in the capital 
On 28 February, the BBC reported on the attacks in Chad's capital, N'Djamena, and the National Security Agency's (ANSE) headquarters. Gunfire killed many people and injured several others. The government blamed the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF) for the attack. However, its leader, Yaya Dillo, denied the allegations. The attack came after the government announced the presidential election on 6 May. The upcoming election will end the transitional government under military leader Mahamt Deby.

Opposition leader killed in shootout
On 29 February, BBC reported that Chad’s opposition politician, Yaya Dillo, was killed in a shootout by security forces in the capital N’Djamena. Dillo and 12 others were killed during the attack. Dillo’s party, Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF), was accused of gunfire on the headquarters of the National Security Agency (ANSE) on 28 February, which was immediately denied by the party. These attacks came after the announcement of the election that is to be held on 6 May.

SENEGAL
Elections to be held on 2 June

On 27 February, after a two-day national dialogue, the panel proposed to hold elections on 2 June. The panel included several civil, political, and religious leaders except the candidates on the ballot. The dialogue focussed on fostering trust among people and candidates. The panel asked the Election Commission to relook at the decision that blocked candidates including Karim Wade, an opposition leader and son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, from the ballot. The development came after the Constitutional Council annulled President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the elections to December. Violent protests erupted across the country following the announcement of election delay.

Migrant boat shipwreck causes casualties
On 29 February, BBC reported that a migrant boat, carrying more than 300 people to Europe, sank; 24 people reportedly drowned. The boat sank near the Saint Louis estuary, a meeting point of Senegal and the Atlantic Ocean. President Macky Sall expressed his "deep sadness" stating: "The relevant authorities have been mobilised to provide them with support and assistance."

NIGERIA
Army denies report of coup plot

On 26 February, the Nigerian Army denied the reports of a coup attempt. The Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) stated that reports were falsified and advised the public to ignore them. The presidential guards were mobilised in the capital Abuja, triggering a suspected coup.

Protests against government as inflation hikes
On 27 February, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), a trade union, began its two-day protests against the government to "end hunger and insecurity" across the country. The primary demands of the protesters are to “open all food storage silos and ensure equitable distribution across the country,” and abandon the World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies. Meanwhile, Nigeria's Central Bank has raised interest rates in an initiative to curb inflation. Inflation has reached nearly 30 per cent and millions are struggling for basic needs and food. 

NIGER
ECOWAS lifts sanctions

On 24 February, ECOWAS lifted sanctions on Niger which were imposed following the coup in 2023. The announcement came with a condition of immediate release of President Mohamed Bazoum and his family members who were detained following the coup. The bloc's President Omar Alieu Touray stated that the decision is purely on a "humanitarian basis." In January, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso left the bloc forming the Alliance of Sahel States. Nigerian President Bola Tinubu urged three countries to reconsider their withdrawal decision.

BENIN
Deployment of 2000 troops to counter gang violence in Haiti

On 27 February, BBC reported on the announcement by the government of Benin to deploy troops in Haiti. During a press briefing held in Guyana, the US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced that Benin is set to offer 2000 troops to a UN-approved Kenyan-led multinational security force in Haiti aimed at fighting gang violence. Greenfield stated: "This mission is key to helping the Haitian national police restore peace and security, enabling free and fair elections, and alleviating the humanitarian crisis.”

BURKINA FASO
Terrorist attack on Catholic church

On 25 February, the northern village of Essakane witnessed a terrorist attack carried out by unknown gunmen on a Catholic church. At least 12 people were killed during the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.  According to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the number of people killed by armed groups has nearly tripled compared to the previous 18 months.

Attack on mosque in Natiaboani
On 26 February, BBC reported that gunmen attacked a mosque in the town of Natiaboani on 25 February. Insurgents currently control a large area of the country. The incident happened on the same day attackers targeted a church in the northern village of Essakane and killed dozens. Attacks on religious buildings have increased recently. No group has claimed the attack. Al Qaeda in the Sahel region asserted that it only captured army barracks in Natiaboani and denied the attack on the mosque.

REGIONAL
Ecowas lifts sanctions against Guinea and Niger 

On 26 February, the ECOWAS lifted sanctions imposed on Guinea followed by Niger. ECOWAS stated: "The authority instructs the president of the commission to invite all four Ecowas member states in transition to technical and consultative meetings of Ecowas as well as to all security-related meetings." Previously, the bloc imposed sanctions on Niger, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso following the respective coups. The bloc's President Omar Alieu Touray stated that the decision is purely on a "humanitarian basis." In January, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso left the bloc forming the Alliance of Sahel States. Nigerian President Bola Tinubu urged three countries to reconsider their withdrawal decision.


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

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