Africa news roundup

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

May 21-27, 2023


First tranche of $3 billion IMF credit facility received

Bank of Ghana has received the first tranche of USD600 million from the USD3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Credit Facility (ECF). On his twitter page, Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta announced the receipt of the money and stated that “the first tranche of USD$600 million of Ghana’s low interest USD3 billion ECF facility has been received. These funds will be used for BOP and budget support and will also help stabilise the FX rate and trigger a cascading effect on inflation”.

Ghana is expecting a second tranche of funds by June 2023 when the IMF Mission is scheduled to visit Ghana to assess the country’s programme considerations. Another evaluation is expected towards the end of 2023, perhaps in December, prior to the final disbursement. All the funds will be deposited directly into the Bank of Ghana’s account to support the country’s balance of payments requirements. Ghana is set to receive approximately USD3 billion, over a period of three years, as part of the IMF programme. Experts have predicted an increase in taxes and tariffs with the receipt of the first tranche of the credit facility.


Court consolidates Obi and Atiku’s petition

The Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja has consolidated three different petitions that are seeking to nullify the outcome of the 2023 presidential election. In a unanimous decision, a five-member panel of the court, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, dismissed objections the President-elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) raised against the merger of the petitions. The judge demanded that the cases be consolidated and dealt with as one petition since they were all related to the same election. The court also scheduled 30 May for the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, to open his case against the outcome of the presidential election held on 25 February.

Obi’s request for seven weeks to prepare his case was reduced to three weeks, even as it gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Tinubu and Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, five days each to defend the petition. Similarly, the court gave the fourth respondent in the case, Kabiru Masari, three days to defend himself. The court stressed that the parties would adopt final briefs of argument on 5 August to enable it to fix a date for judgement.

South Africa

 Economic Freedom Fighters leader promises to supply Russia with arms

Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South Africa’s third-largest political party, has said he would “supply weapons to Russia” because Moscow is “in a war with imperialism”. In an interview with the BBC in Johannesburg, Malema insisted that “South Africa is an ally of Russia” and that the African National Congress (ANC) Government’s position of non-alignment only applied to the war in Ukraine. “I will go beyond the friendship with Russia. In the war, I will align with Russia and I will even supply the weapons” Malema told HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur. The EFF also wants South Africa to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes but Malema has pledged to prevent any attempt to arrest the Russian president if he attends next month’s Brics summit in Cape Town.  Malema made these comments following a diplomatic row in which the US ambassador to South Africa alleged that weapons and ammunition were loaded onto a Russian vessel docked in the country last December. The South African Government has denied approving any arms shipments to Russia.


IMF reach staff level agreement with the government

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reached a staff-level agreement with Kenya for the release of USD410 million for budgetary support pending approval from the IMF Board. The IMF’s management and executive board are expected to approve the loan in July to allow for the immediate release of the funds to the National Treasury. The release of the loan will bring to USD2.017 billion the total amount of money that Kenya has received from the IMF, so far, under the USD2.43 billion programme.

The total IMF commitment of USD3.52 billion comes from the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), Extended Credit Facility (ECF) augmentations and the Resilience and Sustainability Facility (RSF) support. The staff-level agreement follows the fifth review of the 38-month EFF and ECF. Kenya has also requested access to further funding under the RSF and further augmentation under the EFF/ECF.


Four suspects disappear in drug case

Liberian authorities have admitted that they have lost track of four men recently tried and exonerated after the seizure of cocaine valued at USD100 million. This admission shocked the Minister of Justice.

A criminal court in Monrovia caused a stir on 18 May by finding a Liberian, a Bissau-Guinean, a Portuguese and a Lebanese arrested in connection with the seizure of 520 kilos of cocaine in October 2022, not guilty.  According to the authorities, the cocaine was concealed in a container from Brazil, the result of collaboration between criminal forces in the United States and Brazil. It is one of the largest seizures ever made in the country. The judgment by a popular jurist was even more surprising as the court ordered the return of $200,000, seized during the operation, to the suspects.

The judgment raised questions about the functioning of the justice system and its exposure to corruption. The court’s decision “makes Liberia an international laughingstock”, Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean Jr said, and “clearly undermines the collective efforts of Liberia and its international allies to combat the illegal transit of illicit drugs, and the use of West Africa as a conduit for international trade from Latin America”. The four suspects, photographed in prison uniform with their lawyers after the trial, have disappeared. “They can’t be found. We do not know where they are, they fled,” Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie told AFP, confirming the justice minister’s remarks.

The case highlights the strategic location of the West African coast on the drug trafficking routes from South America to Europe.

Sierra Leone

Bio launches his re-election manifesto 

President Julius Maada Bio has launched his ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP) manifesto at the Eastern Technical University in Kenema, southern Sierra Leone. Dubbed the “The People’s Manifesto 2023”, the document focuses on consolidating progress achieved by the government over the last five years, and accelerating transformation through agriculture in the next five years. In a tweet, President Bio stated, “Today, I launched the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) 2023 people’s manifesto titled – THE NEW DIRECTION: CONSOLIDATING THE GAINS AND ACCELERATING TRANSFORMATION. The People’s Manifesto is designed to continue our New Direction national development agenda, consolidate our gains and accelerate the social and economic transformation for a better Sierra Leone – Paopa Salone Must Betteh”.

The tweet outlined initiatives President Bio will undertake in his next term. “Our Manifesto 2023 is anchored on five key initiatives for building an inclusive and prosperous Sierra Leone and for faster and lasting transformation: feed Salone; human capital development for nurturing skills for 21st century industry; youth employment scheme; revamping the public service architecture through delivery, efficiency and professionalism; and technology and infrastructure programmes to serve as pathways for sustained economic growth. Making progress in these key areas will set Sierra Leone on a sustainable path of transformational change, poverty reduction and resilience in the face of external shocks.” Bio has been the president of Sierra Leone for the past five years.


Massive budget allocated for groundbreaking projects

During the 2023–24 fiscal year, the Works and Transport Ministry of Tanzania intends to invest USD24.8 billion in development finance, with more than two-thirds of the funds targeted for six important projects. The building of seven new highways, the ongoing construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR), and port upgrades are among the projects for which USD16.36 billion of the ministry’s development expenditures will be allocated. A new aircraft purchase by Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), the construction of railway infrastructure by Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC), and the purchase and restoration of ships are also on the list.

The government intends to start building seven new roads the following fiscal year, according to Works and Transport Minister Makame Mbarawa who yesterday presented his budget recommendations for 2023–2024 in Parliament. It is expected that a total of Sh3.7 trillion (USD26.8 billion) will be invested in the projects to build the seven highways spanning a distance of 2,035 kilometers. “These roads will significantly unlock economic opportunities in these areas and the nation at large. Contractors have already been found and contracts will be signed before the end of June 2023”, Mbarawa said. “It will be the first time in the country’s history for road projects with a total distance of 2,035 kilometers and costing over Sh3.7 trillion to be implemented at once under this procedure,” Prof Mbarawa said. “The funds will be used to construct a railway from Uvinza to Musongati-Gitega (282km) as funds are mobilized for the Kaliua-Mpanda-Karema (321km) and Isaka-Rusumo (371km) railway projects,” he added.


Sexual Offences Bill reintroduced in Parliament

Parliament has given Soroti District Woman MP Anna Adeke permission to reintroduce the Sexual Offences Bill. The Bill seeks to amend Uganda’s laws to reflect the modern approach to sex crimes. Adeke’s motion to reintroduce the Bill was approved by fellow MPs during a session chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa yesterday. This is the second attempt by Parliament to introduce a broader law that will address the evolving nature of sex crimes and the increase in cases of sexual violence through a Private Member’s Bill.

The 2022 police crime report shows that 1,623 cases of rape were reported compared to 1,486 in 2021, representing an increase of 9.2 per cent. The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) MP told colleagues that “whereas Uganda has enacted various laws to curb sexual offences and sexual violence against women and children, incidents of sexual violence are increasing”, hence the need for a more targeted law. “There is a need for a single piece of legislation on sexual offences to guide the effective prevention, protection [of victims], and prosecution of these offences” Adeke explained. She noted that it was hoped that a new law will cover those areas not included in some of the country’s outdated statutes that have been overtaken by technological advances which have broadened the reach of sexual offences. Adeke’s motion was seconded by Ms Sarah Opendi (Tororo District Woman), Mr Amos Okot (Agago North) and Sarah Najjuma (Nakaseke District Woman), among others. Adeke can now wait to formally table the Bill for parliamentary scrutiny at a date to be determined by the Speaker’s office. For now, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka said he did not have any legal issues to raise, although President Museveni’s objections and subsequent refusal to assent to the first Bill are well known.


Saudi Arabia to open embassy 

Saudi Arabia has announced the establishment of a full-fledged embassy in the Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, a tiny southern African landlocked country with a population of slightly more than a million people. The announcement was made by Saudi Arabia’s Royal Court Advisor Ahmed Qattan during his meeting with King Mswati III on Tuesday evening, in which strengthening bilateral relations was also discussed, Eswatini’s Foreign Affairs Minister Thuli Dladla told reporters in the capital Mbabane on Wednesday. “We have received His Majesty and the important issues were discussed with the king concerning improvement in the relationship in all aspects”.

The minister quoted Qattan, “I informed the king that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has approved the construction of an embassy building in the Kingdom of Eswatini”. The country has strong bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dladla said, adding that “we would like to reaffirm the bonds that exist between us as kingdoms”. Qattan’s role in the country is not new, as he has always played an important role in improving relations, Communications manager in the King’s Office, Percy Simelane, told Anadolu in a telephone conversation. Qattan visited the country and delivered what the government claimed was a special message from the Saudi king, which played a role in the country’s political settlement when Eswatini was in political turmoil in March last year.


Refugees rounded up and sent to camps

Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi have been forcibly relocated from the capital, Lilongwe, to an overcrowded government camp. Over the past week, more than 300 refugees, including 100 children, have been rounded up and sent to Dzaleka camp, about 30 miles away. The Ministry of Homeland Security issued an ultimatum two months ago for all refugees in the country to return to Dzaleka by 15 April or face eviction from their homes. The government says refugees were taking jobs and economic opportunities away from Malawians. Dzaleka was built in 1994 to house thousands of people escaping violence in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire). It was built to accommodate 12,000 people but is now home to more than 50,000. An estimated 20,000 refugees are understood to be living outside the camp.

On 17 May, police began raiding homes and closing shops and businesses in four areas of Lilongwe. Residents were taken to Maula prison before being relocated to the camp. On 19 May, the army was brought in to help police round up people in Mgona, about seven miles from the city centre, after residents protested against the evictions. “These people [refugees] were our source of income. They were giving us jobs and we can’t imagine what life will be like now that they are gone,” said Getrude Banda, a local resident. Minister of Homeland Security Ken Zikhale Ng’oma warned that evictions would be extended to other parts of the country in the coming weeks, despite pressure from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), and the Malawi Human Rights Commission to halt the relocations. The government had imposed a similar eviction order on refugees in 2021, but no action was taken by the authorities. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, predicts that by the end of the year it will have registered more than 70,000 refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people in Malawi.


Gambian Ambassador to Spain presents letters of credence

The Ambassador of the Republic of The Gambia to the Kingdom of Spain, His Excellency Ambassador Noah Touray, presented his Letters of Credence to His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid on Wednesday 17 May 2023. Ambassador Touray conveyed special greetings of His Excellency Adama Barrow, president of the Republic of The Gambia, to King Felipe VI and expressed his appreciation for the continued support, cordial relationship, and the trust that exists between the peoples and the Kingdom of Spain and the Republic of The Gambia, demonstrated by the long term support of the Kingdom of Spain to the Ministry of Interior and, in particular, to the Immigration Department for choosing The Gambia as a destination for Spanish tourists, and the activities of Spanish philanthropists in the country.

Ambassador Touray and King Felipe discussed security in the Sahel and along the coast of West Africa, investment, trade, tourism, and the need to upgrade the services at the Spanish diplomatic antenna in Banjul to include consular activities. King Felipe VI congratulated Ambassador Touray on his assumption of duties and enjoined him to work hard to improve the legacy of his predecessors. He shared his memory of The Gambia and her people and the strong ties of friendship the two countries have shared for many years. King Felipe paid tribute to President Adama Barrow, the government, and the people of The Gambia for their steadfastness in promoting the rule of law and democratic governance.


Police surround former president’s house

Zambian police have surrounded the home of former President Edgar Lungu and are demanding access to search it as part of a corruption probe. A spokesperson for Zambia’s former ruling Patriotic Front party, Raphael Nakachinda, told VOA that police forcefully gained access to the Lusaka home of the former president. “It’s not only unconstitutional, but criminal — this government never to respect the supreme law of the land, which is the constitution, which confers the former president with immunity”, Nakachinda said. Zambian police spokesperson Dan Mwale told VOA on Wednesday afternoon that police were still outside the property. “Police officers are at the former head of state’s residence. Currently, we can’t give out a statement as to why we have surrounded the house,” Mwale said.

The police action comes 10 months after Zambia’s anti-money laundering agency summoned former first lady, Esther Lungu, over the ownership of 15 luxury flats in Lusaka. Investigators said they believed the apartments were acquired from ill-gotten gains. The Lungus denied wrongdoing, according to the Patriotic Front party spokesperson. No charges were filed and Lungu’s lawyer told journalists the matter was closed. Critics say a government campaign against corruption is being used to target and intimidate political opponents. Numerous officials who served under former President Lungu have been arrested, and his family members questioned. President Hakainde Hichilema has denied allegations that his fight against corruption is targeting opponents. Lungu’s party was defeated by Hichilema and his United Party for National Development nearly two years ago.

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