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NIAS Global Politics News Database
Africa This Week (3-10 Feb 2024)

  NIAS Africa Team

Anu Maria Joseph, Narmatha S and Vetriselvi Baskaran

In Africa, the political crisis in Senegal following the postponement of elections pulled the spotlight this week. Violent protests followed the announcement. The opposition believes that the decision is an attempt by President Macky Sall to continue in power.  The latest wave of protests adds to the series of protests that have been ongoing since 2021 against Sall's suspected third-term ambition and violent crackdown on the opposition. The political crisis in Senegal has raised concerns about the country's democratic credibility while military coups are on trend in the region. The election postponement raises two questions- would it be a victory for Sall's third term? If so, how the uncertain national and regional trajectories will unfold?

In Sudan, while the civil war between the two military factions is surging, the humanitarian crisis is intensifying beyond its borders. Meanwhile, the Abyei region, a disputed land between Sudan and South Sudan, is facing a new wave of crisis with the clashes between the Twic and Ngok communities of the Wrrap state. 

The conflict-caused humanitarian crisis in Sudan adds to a similar crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray and Amhara regions. While deaths due to hunger are unravelling, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accuses of politicising the issue. The crisis continues to be ignored, putting the Horn of Africa in an increasingly complex humanitarian crisis.

Protests amidst postponement of elections

On 5 February, the Senegalese parliament passed a new bill postponing the elections to December 2024. The bill received a majority with 105 Members of Parliament (MPs) voting in favour out of 165 seats. The development comes after on 4 February Senegal’s President Macky Sall announced the postponement of elections scheduled for February citing disputes regarding the eligibility of the candidates. Violent protests were carried out by several opposition parties across the capital Dakar. The riot police clashed with the protesters who burned tyres and blocked roads. The opposition called the move a “constitutional coup.”

On 6 February, BBC reported on Senegal’s political crisis following the postponement of elections. A contentious bill was passed, delaying the presidential elections to December 2024. The city raged with demonstrations and protests clashed with the riot police. The opposition party alleged that they were forced out of the parliament. Khalifa Sall, a leading opponent and a former mayor of Dakar, called the move a “constitutional coup” and urged people to protest against the delay of elections. Former Prime Minister Aminata Touré condemned the bill. Meanwhile, the AU, ECOWAS, the US and the UK called on the authorities to hold the elections immediately. 

On 7 February, three Members of Parliament (MPs) were arrested after protesting against the parliament’s decision to postpone the elections to December. The announcement has stimulated global concern and protests across the country. The African regional bloc, ECOWAS, insisted on finalising the electoral calendar to avoid tensions. Further, the US Department of State stated that this was "contrary to Senegal’s strong democratic tradition." 

On 8 February, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held an emergency meeting on the political crisis in Senegal and the withdrawal of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso from the bloc. In Senegal, President Macky Sall's sudden announcement of the delay in elections sparked violent protests and accusations of manipulating the system. Senegal's decision to postpone elections has raised concerns about the future of democracy in West Africa. Besides, the coups in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso along with strained relations with the bloc have threatened the stability of the region. Meanwhile, representatives from all four countries were absent during the meeting. 

38 people killed in the Abyei region 

On 5 February, BBC reported that the recent attack in the Abyei region, a disputed territory between Sudan and South Sudan, took 38 lives and 18 were abducted. According to Abyei's regional administration, the majority of the victims were women and children. Additionally, the attackers raided almost 1000 cattle. The authorities accused two armed groups from the Warrap state, Twic and Ngok of carrying out “coordinated attacks” in four villages. The previous week, the same groups looted the region and killed 53 people. Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sport in the Abyei Special Administration, Bulis Koch Aguar, condemned the frequent attacks. 

12 children die of hunger in a day as war rages
On 5 February, BBC reported on the live conditions of the humanitarian crisis in war-raged Sudan. More than 11 million people have been displaced from their homes, making it the world's largest humanitarian displacement. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Darfur has warned about the devastating situation in the refugee camps. According to the agency, every two hours one child dies out of hunger at the Zamzam camp near the city of Fasher. The MSF has called for an increase in international humanitarian aid. The war that erupted in April 2023 has killed more than 12,000 people. The MSF stated that it has been able to deliver vital aid to ten per cent of those in need. 

Internet blackout as war continues
On 7 February, BBC reported on the situation of the civil war in Sudan. The 10-month civil war between the RSF and the SAF has killed thousands and displaced millions. NetBlocks, a watchdog that monitors internet freedom, informed that there had been a new collapse of internet connectivity in Sudan. The two major internet providers, Uganda Telecom and MTN, faced disturbance in the services. The RSF is blamed by state-aligned media. Meanwhile, in the Sudan Tribune, the RSF accused the SAF of service blackouts. Currently, Darfur, Kordofan, Khartoum and Gezira states are under the control of the RSF. 

UN appeals for humanitarian fund
On 7 February BBC reported on the UN’s appeal for humanitarian fund allocation for Sudan. It has appealed for USD four billion to meet the needs of displaced residing in Sudan and neighbouring countries as war intensifies. More than half of the population, nearly 18 million people, need aid as they face acute food shortages. 

Migrants drowned near Tunisia's coast
On 8 February, BBC reported on a boat accident that led to the deaths of 13 Sudanese migrants near Tunisia's coast. The migrants were trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. A Tunisian official reported that 27 others are missing. The Sudanese migrants are said to have fled the civil war in the country between the RSF and SAF. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly 2270 migrants from Africa and the Middle East have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2023. 

Ten people killed in blast series

On 6 February, Al Jazeera reported that at least ten people were killed and 20 were injured in the capital Mogadishu, following a series of blasts. The incident occurred near the Bakara market near the city. Although the cause behind the blasts is unclear, al-Qaeda linked al Shabab group carry out frequent attacks in the region. The authorities have announced an investigation into the attack. 

UK warns of devastating food crisis

On 5 February, BBC reported on the devastating food crisis in Ethiopia following the conflict and drought. The Tigray region is currently engulfed by drought; more than 350 have lost their lives to hunger. The UK Minister of Africa, Andrew Mitchell, told BBC that there is a risk of famine “if we don't now take action." He promised that Britain would donate EUR 100 million in assistance. According to the Ethiopian government, nearly 16 million people across the country are facing food shortages. 

Abiy Ahmed denies hunger deaths
On 7 February, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed denied the allegations of deaths due to hunger in the country. He stated: “There are no people dying due to hunger in Ethiopia.” However, he accepted that “people may have died” due to illnesses associated with malnutrition. He conceded the country's food insecurities and drought that are affecting many conflict-hit regions including Tigray, Oromo and Amhara, however, he warned not to politicise the issue. The previous month, the state-appointed Federal Ombudsman Institute reported that nearly 400 people died in Tigray and Amhara regions due to hunger. 

President assures no ill intentions on Somalia
On 6 February, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed commented that Ethiopia "does not wish any harm" for Somalia. This comes on the sidelines of Ethiopia-Somalia tensions over a port deal signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland. Somalia sees the deal, which grants Ethiopia access to the sea, as an act of aggression and a violation of its sovereignty. Somalia has called its youth to prepare for defence and Ethiopia has blamed unnamed forces for inciting conflict.

Julia Sebutinde elected as the new ICJ vice-president 

On 7 February, Judge Julia Sebutinde, a Ugandan jurist serving the International Court of Justice (ICJ), was elected the new vice president. She sparked controversy by dissenting the emergency measures requested by South Africa against the Israel-Gaza war. She was one of two jurists who voted against the ICJ ruling among the total 17-member panel.

Calls to abolish castration law

On 7 February, BBC reported on the calls for immediate action to abolish castration law laid forward by Amnesty International. The castration law was enforced in January by President Andry Rajoelina. It will impose rape criminals with chemical and surgical castration. The Human Rights group, Amnesty International, called for cancelling the law describing it as "cruel, inhuman and degrading.” Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty's regional director for east and southern Africa, stated: "Implementing chemical and surgical castration, which constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as a punishment for those found guilty of raping minors will not solve this and is inconsistent with Malagasy constitutional provisions against torture and other ill-treatment, as well as regional and international human rights standard.”  

Cabinet supports death penalty abolition

On 7 February, Zimbabwe’s cabinet expressed its support for the proposed legislation on the abolition of the death penalty, a dire decision to abolish such punishment in the Southern African country. Information Minister, Jenfan Muswere, informed that the decision was taken after consulting the public.

African leaders discuss bolstering mining industry

On 5 February, BBC reported that leaders, experts and investors from several African countries gathered for the annual conference to bolster the mining sector in Africa. It is a four-day event, hosted by South Africa. Discussions on critical minerals including lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite which are the main components for renewable energy generation were predominantly focused. South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, mentioned Africa's potential in global energy transition, having mining as great support to it. He stated: “South Africa is pursuing a just energy transition – one that is at a pace and scale that our country can afford, and in a manner that ensures energy security and creates new opportunities for those affected.” 

Ramaphosa reaffirms support for ceasefire in Gaza
On 8 February, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa assured the country's support for a ceasefire in Gaza while addressing the lawmakers at the Cape Town city hall. He stated: “Guided by the fundamental principle of human rights and freedom,” the country has taken the side of Palestinians, “to prevent further deaths and destruction in Gaza.” The development came after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to prevent any act of genocide in Gaza following a case filed by South Africa. Ramphosa welcomed the court ruling stating: “We condemn the killing of civilians on all sides and call on all parties involved in the conflict to commit to a peace process that will deliver a two-state solution.” 

Increasing displacement after M23 advance 

On 7 February, Al Jazeera reported that the Tutsi-led M23 rebel group, allegedly backed by the Rwandan government, has intensified fighting in the eastern DRC, displacing 42,000 people from the town of Mweso. The conflict has reached near Goma, the capital of North Kivu state. It raises concerns about further displacement and violence. The DRC government assured that it would not let Goma be captured by the rebels. Meanwhile, on 7 February, the rebel group stated its actions as “defensive manoeuvres.” Meanwhile, the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) reported on treating 30 wounded people and evacuating several of its staff after bullets hit a hospital sheltering residents. The situation remains tense with international accusations and diplomatic tensions simmering. 

Debate on the lowest cost of living

On 5 February, the Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu’s office claimed that the country has the lowest cost of living in Africa. The Special Adviser to the President, Bayo Onanuga, stated that Tinubu’s administration focuses on “solving our economic and security challenges,” adding that his reforms would cause “immediate pains, but will usher in an era of prosperity in the medium and long terms.” The comments faced criticism with opposition leader Atiku Abubakar stating: “The intense cost of living pressures have created more misery for the poor in towns and villages. There is hunger in the land, as basic commodities, including bread, are becoming out of reach for average Nigerians. His 2024 budget is a business-as-usual exercise, bereft of concrete ideas and actions that would support Nigeria’s journey toward economic transformation – consisting mainly of wasteful expenditures to cater to a bloated federal government.” 

Electricity tax hike on hold

On 8 February, BBC reported on the suspension of the electricity tax imposed by the government. A new 15 per cent tax on power was proposed for domestic consumers to boost the country’s revenue after pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The decision faced countrywide criticism over the increasing cost of living. The government has put the plan on hold over the public protest. 

Economic tensions spike after quitting ECOWAS

On 8 February, Al Jazeera reported that Mali's recent withdrawal from ECOWAS has sparked concerns about the country's future and the economic stability of the region. The move came after ECOWAS imposed sanctions on Mali following two coups within a year. While some Malians support the government's decision, citing the sanctions' negative impact on their lives and ECOWAS's perceived lack of support in their fight against insecurity, others worry about the economic consequences of leaving the bloc and the potential for further isolation. The situation is complicated by the ongoing insurgency in Mali and the government's controversial partnership with Russia. While some hope for a negotiated solution, the future remains uncertain. 

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

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