Africa news roundup

Africa Gd164a664d 1280
Map of Africa (Image: courtesy of Pixabay)

June 4-10, 2023


Parliament approves new chief justice

Parliament has approved the appointment of Justice Gertrude Torkornoo as the Chief Justice of Ghana. This followed the unanimous endorsement of her nomination by the Appointments Committee of Parliament on 26 May 2023. Some members of the minority caucus had raised concerns over two issues. One was Justice Torkornoo’s stand on a birth certificate not being proof of national identity and the second was the Supreme Court’s judgement on the member of Parliament for Assign North, James Gyakye Quayson.

Representatives of the minority caucus on the Appointments Committee of Parliament had said earlier that they would not withhold their approval of her appointment although they disagreed with her interpretation of the text of the 1992 Constitution with regard to the James Gyakye Quayson case. They said, however, that her CV showed her to be a person of considerable experience, having served as a judge on the High Court then the Court of Appeal and, ultimately, the Supreme Court. According to the NDC caucus, several opinion polls had demonstrated that the judiciary was not held in high regard and hoped that Justice Gertrude, as a lady chief justice, would restore the dignity of the judiciary.


Tinubu signs new law that harmonises the retirement age of judges

Nigeria’s new president, Bola Tinubu, has assented to a constitutional amendment bill harmonising the retirement age of judges across courts. The Director of Information, State House, Abiodun Oladunjoye, disclosed on Thursday that the President had signed the bill presented by the outgoing 9th National Assembly.

“President Tinubu signed into law the ‘Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fifth Alteration) (No.37), 2023’ presented by the outgoing 9th National Assembly. With the signing of the Constitutional Amendment Bill, retirement age and pension rights of judicial officers have been effectively brought into uniformity and other related matters”. Previously, state and federal high court judges were required to retire at 65. Similarly, judges of the National Industrial Court, Sharia and customary courts of appeal retired at 65. But judges of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court could remain on the bench until age 70.


Government to convert massacre forest into a memorial site

The Government of Kenya says it will convert the vast coastal forest, where the bodies of more than 250 people linked to a doomsday cult were found, into a national memorial site. The discovery of mass graves in Shakahola forest, a 325-hectare (800-acre) bushland that lies inland from the Indian Ocean town of Malindi, has shocked Kenyans. Cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie is facing various charges in the grisly case. He is accused of driving his followers to death by preaching that starvation was the only path to God. The forest “where grave crimes have been committed will not remain as it was,” Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said on Tuesday. “The government will convert it into a national memorial, a place of remembrance so that Kenyans and the world do not forget what happened here,” he said. Investigators began a third phase of exhumation on Tuesday, unearthing nine more bodies, taking the death toll to 251.

Kindiki said the cult’s activities extended beyond Shakahola forest and that “comprehensive, methodical, and scientific” investigations had extended to a ranch in the area stretching over more than 14,980 hectares (37,000 acres). “Once the ongoing exercise is concluded, a congregation of believers from all faiths and the national leadership shall convene for a commemoration service”, Kindiki said. Autopsies revealed that while starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims — including children — were strangled, beaten or suffocated. Mackenzie – a taxi driver-turned-preacher – has not yet been required to enter a plea, with the prosecution seeking an extended period of detention pending further investigations.


ECOWAS court set to deliver judgement on ex Liberian president case

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court in Abuja has fixed a date to deliver judgment on a suit filed by a former Liberian President Charles Taylor, demanding his unpaid pension and other benefits. The court disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday, noting that Justice Dupe Atoki would preside over the three-man panel that would decide the matter. Other justices on the panel are Justices Mohamed Koroma and Ricardo Goncalves.

Taylor served as the 22nd president of Liberia from 2 August 1997 until his resignation on 11 August 2003, as a result of the Second Liberian Civil War and growing international pressure. Taylor is praying that the ECOWAS Court will declare that the state had violated his human rights by refusing to pay his pension and other benefits. The 75-year-old former president said the suit was also to protect his right to own property, guaranteed by Article 14 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights and Article 17 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone elected to Security Council

Sierra Leone has been elected, unchallenged, to sit on the UN Security Council in 2024-25, while Slovenia  beat Belarus for the only contested seat. The UN Security Council is made up of 15 members, including five permanent members (United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom) and ten countries elected for two years, half renewed each year, and respecting rules geographical distribution. In the secret ballot vote in the General Assembly, Slovenia – competing with Belarus for the seat going to Eastern Europe – obtained 153 votes, against 38 for Belarus. “Today’s vote in the General Assembly shows why a competition for UN elections is essential”, commented Louis Charbonneau of Human Rights Watch.

“UN member states have undoubtedly decided that Belarus’ grave human rights violations at home and attempts to cover up Russian atrocities in Ukraine disqualify it from serving on the Security Council, a crucial body for ensuring human rights”. The other four seats to be filled, held by representatives from Africa, Asia, Pacific and Latin America/Caribbean, all had a single candidate. Algeria got 184 votes, South Korea 180 votes, Sierra Leone 188 votes and Guyana 191.The five countries elected on Tuesday will replace Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates as of 1 January 2024. They will join the five permanent members of the Council who have a right of veto as well as the five countries elected last year: Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland.

South Africa

South Africa to lead Russia and Ukraine peace talks

South Africa has declared its readiness to host peace talks to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Last month, the country announced an upcoming mediation talk to be led by six African leaders in Kyiv and Moscow. “We must be open to the possibility of South Africa hosting the peace summit here”, Minister to the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told journalists at a press conference in Pretoria after the meeting. The aim of the mediation in Russia and Ukraine is to “find a peaceful solution” to the war. The peace mission is said to begin in the next few weeks. Besides South Africa, the delegation will include the heads of state of Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said on Thursday 8 June 2023 that the South African President spoke on the phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and the latter “welcomed the initiative of the African heads of state”. Ramaphosa also indicated last month that the Russian Ukrainian presidents both agreed to receive the African peace mission. South Africa, which has refused to condemn Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine, claiming to remain “neutral” and in favour of dialogue has been criticized on the international scene for its closeness to Moscow. Africa has been hard hit by the increase in cereal prices as a consequence of the war between Russia and Ukraine on world trade.


Government declares Maburg virus over

Tanzania declared the end of the deadly Marburg virus outbreak after the last confirmed case in the country tested negative on 19 April, setting off the mandatory 42-day countdown to make the announcement, reported the World Health Organisation (WHO). This was the first such outbreak in the country with a population of almost 62 million. The Marburg virus is an extremely dangerous microbe that causes severe fever, often accompanied by organ failure and bleeding. This microbe is a part of the filoviridae family which also includes Ebola.

The cases were first reported March. A total of nine cases, out of which eight were confirmed and one was recorded during the outbreak of haemorrhagic fever between 16 March to 30 April 2023, as per WHO. Among the confirmed cases, three recovered. The virus claimed the lives of six in the East African country. The cases were reported from the Bukoba district, Kagera region.


Museveni reaffirms support for anti-LGBTQ law

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday defied international calls to rescind an anti-gay law, seen as one of the world’s harshest, including a potential death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”. “The signing of the bill is finished, no one will move us”, Museveni said after a meeting with members of his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. “The NRM has never had two languages, what we tell you during the day is what we shall tell you during the night”, he added. Ugandan activists have called on international donors to impose sanctions against the East African country’s leaders over the law.

In a joint statement on Monday after the law was signed, the rights groups denounced a “dangerous and discriminatory” law would further crimp freedoms for civil society under Museveni, whose rule has become increasingly authoritarian since he took power in 1986. US President Joe Biden, as well as the European Union and UN Chief Antonio Guterres, have also slammed the legislation, warning that foreign aid and investment for Uganda could be jeopardised unless the law is repealed. In 2014, international donors slashed aid to Uganda after Museveni approved a bill that sought to impose life imprisonment for homosexual relations, which was later overturned. But the latest anti-gay law has enjoyed broad support in the conservative country where lawmakers have defended the measures as a necessary bulwark against western immorality.


Pro-democracy MPs convicted of terrorism

Two pro-democracy MPs were found guilty on Thursday 8 June of terrorism and murder in connection with the wave of anti-regime protests that rocked the country in 2021. The two men, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, were tried by a court in the capital Mbabane almost two years after their arrest in July 2021. Charged with inciting demonstrations, they had pleaded not guilty. “I find the accused guilty of all the charges against them”, said Judge Mumcy Dlamini. They face up to 20 years in prison. Their sentences will be handed down “at a date to be determined”, the judge continued.

Mabuza and Dube were arrested in the midst of a wave of demonstrations calling for democratic reforms. These protests were severely repressed by the regime’s police and dozens of protesters were killed. The two MPs had in particular called for reform of the complex system of elections in which political parties, although theoretically authorised, are not allowed to participate. Parliamentary elections are due to be held on 29 September in the country formerly known as Swaziland.


Citizenship of Refugees revoked

Malawi’s government has started revoking citizenship of refugees and asylum-seekers who are reputed to have obtained their status fraudulently. Officials say the campaign is aimed at flushing out criminals from other countries, including Rwandan genocide suspects. But critics say the programme is too broad and will ensnare legitimate refugees. Minister of Homeland Security Zikhale Ng’oma said in a televised news conference on Monday that Malawi received a request from Rwanda to help track down about 55 criminals wanted for various charges who are staying in Malawi. Ng’oma said the fugitives could not be found easily because they might have changed their identities and started using Malawian names.

The government is revoking passports and citizenships that were fraudulently obtained as part of the manhunt, he said. “We want to tighten our security and ensure that whosoever obtained a passport in a manner that is not normal, we have to confiscate that passport. And whoever got citizenship without right procedures, we will also revoke [that] citizenship”, Ng’oma said. In 2020, Malawi’s High Court sentenced former Minister of Homeland SecurityU ladi Mussa to six years in jail for issuing fraudulent citizenships and passports to Burundians and Rwandans


USAID provides funds to speed up prosecution of Jammeh-era crimes

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is launching a 10-month Rapid Response initiative to make immediate progress on prosecutions of alleged crimes committed under the Jammeh regime. The focus will be on setting up a new Special Prosecutor’s Office for crimes covered by domestic laws while linking this work to a future hybrid or internationalised court with jurisdiction over international crimes.

The Rapid Response Initiative will support the Ministry of Justice on three fronts. First, the initiative will support the drafting of legislation to establish a Special Prosecutor’s Office. Second, the initiative will support the design of a hybrid or internationalised court in collaboration with Ecowas that would have jurisdiction over international crimes. Finally, the initiative will support sensitisation of the public and political actors on the roles and responsibilities of transitional justice institutions.


Hichilema acknowledges Egypt’s role in maintaining peace in Africa

President Hakainde Hichilema hailed Egypt’s pioneering role and efforts in pushing forward development in Africa and preserving continental peace and security, the Egyptian presidential spokesman, Ahmed Fahmi, said. In a meeting on Thursday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, Hichilema affirmed his country’s keenness to develop cooperation relations with Egypt and push forward these relations to broader horizons of joint work.

Hichilema said Zambia is also keen to continue consultations with Egypt on issues and challenges facing Africa in light of Egypt’s role in Africa. The Zambian president hailed the achievements made under Egypt’s presidency of COMESA. For his part, Sisi affirmed Egypt’s aspiration to strengthen the historical bilateral relations with Zambia and to activate joint cooperation frameworks between the two countries in various fields.

This includes increasing trade and exploring mutual investment opportunities in a way that is mutually beneficial. Sisi added that Egypt is keen to continue providing various aspects of support to the Zambian brothers and building their capacities. Egypt is also keen to continue coordination with Zambia on the regional and African issues, Sisi said.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *