Africa news roundup 2-8 April

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A flag map of Africa (image:courtesy of open clipart-vectors from Pixabay)


Incumbent NPP responds to “The real State of the Nation” by the NDC

Despite undertaking a historic debt exchange programme and seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) has hailed the Akufo-Addo-led administration for diligently managing Ghana’s economy. This comes after opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) challenged the state of the nation address presented by President Akuffo Addo a few weeks ago. During a press conference held in Accra, the National Chairman of the NPP Stephen Ntim echoed claims that contrary to the NDC’s “True State of The Nation Address”, the current crippling economic crisis is due to the impact of COVID-19 and the effects of the Russia-Ukraine War and not the incompetence of the economic management team as being propagated by the opposition NDC. The NPP national chairman added that before COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine War, the NPP government had recorded an impressive 7 per cent average GDP growth for three fiscal years (2017-2019). According to Ntim, had COVID-19 not happened, Ghana’s economy would have continued to grow into 2020, and the story of Ghana’s economy today would not be one of hardship but of growth and prosperity.

Stephen Ayensu Ntim also refuted claims by the opposition party that the government has deliberately refused to cut down on its bloated size. According to him, “the government has addressed the call to reduce its size”. The reduction in government size, according to the NPP Chairman, is because this government is a listening government. Indeed, between this government’s first and second terms, the number of ministers and deputy ministers has been significantly reduced from 126 to 86”. According to him, the government has gone a step further to implement other cost-cutting measures, all in line to resuscitate the Ghanaian economy. The NDC held a press conference a week after the parliamentary speech describing most of Akufo-Addo’s assertions regarding the country’s predicament as false.


 Obasanjo pleas for mercy for former senate president facing trial in the UK

 Former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, has appealed to the UK Government to temper justice with mercy in dealing with former Senate President Ike Ewkeremadu who has been found guilty of indulging in organ trafficking in the United Kingdom. In a letter addressed to the chief clerk of the central criminal court, Obasanjo acknowledged the gravity of the crimes of Ewkeremadu and his wife but also appealed to the clerk to consider the warm relationship between the UK and the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the worsening condition of Ewkeremadu’s daughter who is still in need of urgent health care. He asked that he use his office to intervene and appeal to the court and the government of the UK to be magnanimous and temper justice with mercy. “I do realise the implications of their action and I dare say, it is unpleasant and condemnable and can’t be tolerated in any sane or civilized society. However, it is my fervent desire that for the very warm relations between the United Kingdom and Federal Republic of Nigeria; for his position as one of the distinguished senators in the Nigerian Parliament, and also for the sake of their daughter in question whose current health condition is in danger and requires an urgent medical attention, you will use your good offices to intervene and appeal to the court and the government of United Kingdom be magnanimous enough to temper justice with mercy…”, he wrote.

It will be recalled that, Ewkeremadu, his wife Beatrice and a doctor middleman, Dr Obinna Obeta, were found guilty after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey, for facilitating the travel of a young man to the United Kingdom with the objective of harvesting his organs. The victim is a street trader from Lagos, Nigeria. He was brought to the UK last year to provide a kidney in an £80,000 private transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in London. The prosecution said he was offered up to £7,000 and promised opportunities in the UK for his participation, and that he only realized what was going on when he met doctors at the hospital. While it is lawful to donate a kidney, it becomes criminal if there is a reward of money or other material advantage.

South Africa

Government revokes ‘state of disaster’ over power crisis

After months of crippling power crisis, the South African Government has revoked a national “state of disaster” declared in February to manage the electricity crisis. On 9 February, President Cyril Ramaphosa invoked disaster regulations to fight the crisis that included daily, rolling power cuts by state utility Eskom due to frequent breakdowns at its ageing coal-fired power stations and years of corruption. A decision, he described as an extraordinary measure, which was necessitated by an extraordinary circumstances. The state of disaster gave the government ample time to respond to the crisis, including permitting emergency procurement procedures with fewer bureaucratic delays and less oversight.

However, the decision by the government has been met with some resistance from organisations that believe a “state of disaster” will only encourage corruption. State of disaster legislation was first used to enable health authorities to respond more swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some analysts doubted it would help to boost the power supply. It was also challenged in court by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse  (OUTA), a nonprofit that focuses on fighting government corruption and tax abuses. “The state is withdrawing the national state of disaster in response to OUTA’s legal action challenging its rationality”, the organisation said in response to the withdrawal. The government will now work through its Energy Crisis Committee to reduce the effect of power cuts using existing legislation and contingency arrangements, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister Thembi Nkadimeng said on Wednesday. As part of efforts to mitigate the effect of the crisis, newly appointed electricity minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, visited the troubled utility’s power stations in recent weeks. He had consultations within the government and with Eskom aimed at resolving the electricity shortages, CoGTA said.


Calm returns to Nairobi after two weeks of protest

Calm has returned to Kenya after nearly two weeks of anti-government protests organised by the opposition to protest the high cost of living.  While both parties have decided to give dialogue a chance, President William Ruto has yet to say how his administration will fight the high cost of living, one issue that sparked the demonstrations. However, four days after President William Ruto and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga agreed to a temporary truce, some Kenyans have expressed a huge sigh of relief. Odinga has suggested the protests could resume if the government fails to show “meaningful engagement” in discussing key issues, such as reforms to address alleged election irregularities.

The central issue for many Kenyans is the high cost of living. The Kenyan Bureau of Statistics says the annual inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Price Index was 9.2 per cent in February, a slight increase from January. Meanwhile, the opposition’s deadline for “meaningful engagement” is set to expire Sunday. Odinga has not said if the protests would resume the following day.


Saudi Arabia donates food items to the vulnerable

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, has signed a memorandum of understanding for the consignment of 29, 412 bags of 25kg rice valued at US$500,000 donated to the Government of Liberia. The official signing ceremony, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday 5 April, involved Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Faisal Al-Zamil, head of delegation from Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The food donation from the Saudi Arabian Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has been turned over to the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) to be used for disaster victims and vulnerable people of Liberia.

Al-Zamil pointed out that the gesture was in fulfillment of a request made to his government by Liberia’s foreign minister, Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr. He also lauded his government for seeing the need to identify with Liberia and its citizens during these difficult times.  Addressing the press, Liberia’s foreign minister, Dee-Maxwell, outlined how the donation was achieved: “In line with the directives of the President of the Republic of Liberia, we initiated a series of ongoing engagements with our bilateral partners and friends including, but not limited to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our request for food assistance was to enable a prompt response by the government to would-be victims of disaster related situations as well as those within the bloc of vulnerabilities. The bilateral discussions were held in October; a communication from the Saudis came informing me that the requests made for the renovation of the Foreign Ministry and food assistance were granted”. The Liberian Government was later asked by its Saudi counterpart to provide a bank account to deposit the amount of US$2 million and US$500,000 respectively that were approved for the renovation of the ministry and food assistance. He noted that the Liberian Government was also requested to identify the sample of rice to be imported to Liberia and work out the modalities for the rice to be distributed to the needy.

Sierra Leone

Authorities ban political rallies ahead of presidential elections

On Monday 3 April 2023, authorities in Sierra Leone announced that they have banned political street parades, a tradition during election campaigns in the West African country, less than three months before the presidential elections. According to the political parties regulatory commission, election periods are not a time for dancing and joy but rather “a time for deep reflection”. The new rules now require parties to designate a fixed location (stadium, community centre, etc.) to hold their campaign rallies. This prevents the two major parties, the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the All People’s Congress (APC) from holding parades through towns. “Playing on the credulity of our people, politicians have for years used these street circuses to cloud the thinking of the electorate, especially young people, by using drugs and other intoxicants,” says the commission.

According to Lucien Momoh, spokesperson for the commission, the ban could “reduce violence to a minimum”. Year after year in Sierra Leone, campaign street parades have become an increasingly serious threat to the safety of ordinary people,” he told AFP. “These rallies were marred by violence and insults and threats towards political opponents”. Presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections in this country of some eight million people will take place on 24 June. President Julius Maada Bio will run for a second term. His main opponent, APC leader Samura Kamara, is currently on trial for corruption. If convicted, he cannot stand for election or hold office in the state.


Half brother of president evacuated after 14 years in prison

Half-brother of Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé, and former Minister of Defence (2005-2007), Kpatcha Gnassingbé, was evacuated to Gabon for ” sanitary reasons”  on Wednesday 5 April. Gnassingbé was accused of trying to overthrow the president in 2009 and was sentenced in September 2011 to 20 years in prison for “conspiring against state security”. He was arrested on 15 April 2009 in front of the American embassy where he was trying to find refuge. According to Togolese politician Me Zeus Ajavon, Kpatcha Gnassingbé has been transferred to Gabon for health reasons. “I can confirm that Kpatcha Gnassingbé has been evacuated to Gabon for health reasons since March 23. I am in contact with his relatives. He is currently in a hospital where he is being treated”, said Me Zeus Ajavon. “We have asked for his evacuation several times, because of his state of health which has deteriorated. In any case, we appreciate this gesture, which can be a sign of relaxation within the Gnassingbé family”, he said. However, no official Togolese or Gabonese source has yet confirmed the information, he added.

Kpatcha Gnassingbé had been hospitalized in the military pavilion of the Sylvanus-Olympio University Hospital Center (CHU) in Lomé since 17 June 2021. According to Me Ajavon, Kpatcha suffers from diabetes , “he is still considered a prisoner, because he has not benefited from parole or a presidential pardon”. A total of 33 soldiers and civilians involved in this foiled putsch of 2009 were tried by the judicial chamber of the supreme court and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 months to 20 years. All had pleaded their innocence. Kpatcha Gnassingbé and two officers are still being held in this case, the others having been released. “We would like the two officers who are still in detention in this case to also benefit from a medical evacuation, because they are also sick”, pleaded Me Ajavon. Togo has been ruled by Faure Gnassingbé since 2005. He  came to power after the death of his father, General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who himself had ruled Togo for 38 years. He was re-elected in polls that were all contested by the opposition.

 Burkina Faso

Security services accused of extra judicial killings

Burkinabe troops have been accused of killing a group of boys and filming them in an 83-second video that surfaced in mid-February 2023. The army denied responsibility for the killings which constitute a potential war crime under international law. The killings occurred inside a military base about two kilometres northwest of Ouahigouya, a regional capital near which one of the victims, Adama lived. From their uniforms and vehicles, it was determined that the troops were members of Burkina Faso’s security forces, which until recently received military training and hardware from the US and the European Union.

The US Government condemned the killings as “horrific” and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable. Burkina Faso is at the epicentre of Islamic extremist violence cutting across Africa. For seven years, the landlocked country has been wracked by violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic state group that has killed thousands, displacing about 10 per cent of the country’s 20 million people and destabilizing the nation. Frustration at the government’s inability to stem the violence led to two coups last year by military juntas vowing to stamp out the insurgency. Yet little has changed, with Burkina Faso overtaking Afghanistan as the nation with the most deaths globally from extremist violence, according to a recent report by the Global Terrorism Index.

Ivory Coast

IMF reaches staff a $3.5 billion agreement with government

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a staff-level agreement to offer loans of $3.5 billion to the Ivory Coast to help the government of the world’s biggest cocoa producer to improve its finances. The 40-month arrangement will be under the Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility, the IMF said in a statement. Ivory Coast has tapped the IMF 17 times for credit facilities, according to the lender’s website.

According to President Alassane Ouattara the war in Ukraine resulted in higher food costs prompting the government to spend more on subsidies to keep prices of fuel, electricity and bakery products under control. That left the administration with a fiscal space to spend on development. Fitch Ratings forecasts the West African nation’s debt to gross domestic product will worsen to 55.7 per cent this year. Ivory Coast’s “economic rebound has softened in the face of adverse spillovers from the Russia’s war in Ukraine and global monetary tightening”, the IMF said. “Indirect and direct subsidies to curb price pressures, higher security spending, and worsening terms-of-trade amid robust domestic demand have led to a widening of macroeconomic imbalances in 2022”.


First military parade held in four years amid political tensions

Senegalese took to the streets to celebrate the country’s Independence Day on Tuesday, in a show of patriotism just a week after political tensions led to violent clashes between security forces and opposition supporters. People lined the streets of Dakar to watch the first military parade to be held in the city in four years following a break caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Senegal, which gained independence from France in 1960, is widely viewed as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, but concern that President Macky Sall may try to run for a third term has fuelled protests over the last few years.

Security forces clashed last week with supporters of Opposition Leader Ousmane Sonko, who was sentenced in a court case for libel. Senegal’s leading opposition politician and presidential aspirant Ousmane Sonko received a two-month suspended prison sentence for libel in a case involving the tourism minister, the minister’s lawyer El Hadji Diouf said. The sentence will not prevent him from running in elections next year.


Atleast 25 villagers abducted along Nigerian border

Security forces in Cameroon have launched a search for at least 25 villagers that gunmen abducted along its border with Nigeria. Locals are calling on the governments to stop armed gangs operating on both sites of the border. Officials in Cameroon say unidentified gunmen abducted the villagers during daily attacks and looting this week in Ako district, on its western border with Nigeria. District officials say several hundred villagers fled from the attacks. Mayor Nkanya Nkwai says the unidentified gunmen operate on both sides of the porous Cameroon-Nigeria border.

Cameroon’s military says it has deployed troops along the border with Nigeria to rescue those abducted and stop the gunmen. The Mbembe Cultural and Development Association is a Cameroonian aid group helping villages along the border. President of the group, Abel Shewa, says the attackers are displacing scores of villagers every day, most of them women and children. “Most of the villages have been abandoned as the population flee to Nigeria and to Ako town for safety,” he said. “So, we are pleading with humanitarian organisations to intervene, to come in and assist the population displaced from their homes … they don’t have what to live on. Women and children are suffering, and the entire civilian population is affected, and people are living in total fear”. Shewa called on Cameroon’s government to provide aid to the displaced and pleaded with host communities to also offer them food and shelter.


Paul Kagame re-elected as chairman of Rwanda’s ruling party

During the 16th congress of Rwanda’s ruling party, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) President Paul Kagame was re-elected as chairman with an overwhelming majority. Kagame received 2,999 votes, representing 99.8 per cent of the total votes cast, while his closest rival, Abdulkarim Harelimana, got only three votes or 0.2 per cent. The outcome of the election pleased supporters of the party. Kagame, who has been the head of the political party since 1998 will now lead the RPF for another five years. The congress, which took place in Kigali, was held on the 35th anniversary of the ruling party.

Around 2,000 supporters were present to vote. Many members of the RPF expressed their satisfaction with the large majority by which Kagame won. Kagame became president in April 2000, although the former rebel chief has been regarded as de facto leader since the end of the genocide. His most recent victory followed controversial constitutional amendments that allowed him to serve a third term and could see him rule until 2034.

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