Africa news roundup

Portrait of African woman
Portrait of African Woman (Photo credit: Garfield Morgan)
November 5-11, 2023


Airport boss ordered to step back

Paul Adom-Otchere, the Board Chairman of the Ghana Airport Company Ltd (GACL) has been ordered not to interfere with the day-to-day administration of the company. In a decision dated 30 October 2023, the Commissioner of the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal, further ordered Adom-Otchere to leave the administrative role to management of the Ghana Airport Company Ltd (GACL).

The decision comes after the commission concluded in its investigations that Adom-Otchere abused his office as the Board Chairman of the Ghana Airport Company Ltd (GACL) when he interfered in the procurement of Christmas inspirations by management of GAGL in 2021.  “The interference of Mr Otchere in the procurement of Christmas trees by the GACL and communications by him were contrary to the principles of corporate governance”, the Commissioner said in a 55-page report. Additionally, Adom-Otchere has been ordered to desist from using the media as a means of commenting on Ghana Airport Company Limited (GACL) procurement issues either in his personal capacity or as Board chairman as long as he remains on the Board of GACL.


Hilda Baci officially dethroned

Hilda Effiong Bassey, known as Hilda Baci, has been officially dethroned from her position as the Guinness World Record holder for the longest cooking marathon. Guinness World Records (GWR) confirmed a tweet in a statement on its official website, which was later posted on X. The tweet announced Alan Fisher as the new record-holder. “Alan Fisher (Ireland), an owner and chef of a restaurant in Japan, has broken two cooking-related Guinness World Records titles”, the statement read. “First up, he’s claimed the longest cooking marathon (individual) after clocking in a time of 119 hours 57 minutes. That is more than 24 hours longer than the previous record held by Nigerian chef Hilda Baci. “Alan then claimed the longest baking marathon (individual), with a time of 47 hours 21 minutes. The previous record holder was Wendy Sandner (USA) with a time of 31 hours 16 minutes. “What’s even more impressive is that Alan took on both attempts back to back, meaning he was at work in the kitchen for over 160 hours with just over a day of rest in between!”

In June, Hilda was declared the Guinness World Record holder for the longest cooking marathon. The 26-year-old Nigerian chef began on Thursday 11 May and continued through Monday 15 May, cooking over 100 pots of food during her four-day kitchen stint. Guiness World Records said that Hilda attempted to set a record of 100 hours, however, almost seven hours were deducted from her final total because she mistakenly took extra minutes for one of her rest breaks early on in the attempt. Hilda had broken the previous record of 87 hours 45 minutes which was set by Lata Tondon (India) in 2019.

South Africa

Government deploys army to tackle illegal mining

President Cyril Ramaphosa has given the green light for 3,300 army personnel to tackle illegal mining, at a cost of US$26 million.  “Operation Prosper,” aims to maintain law and order. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF), working with the police, will conduct an anti-criminality operation from 28 October 2023 to 28 April 2024. The move follows a 2019 deployment under the same operation to combat gang violence in the Western Cape province. Mining industry body, The Minerals Council of South Africa, says illegal mining takes place at both disused and active mines and has dimmed South Africa’s attractiveness as an investment destination.


Deputy Foreign Minister dismissed

President George M. Weah has relieved Deputy Foreign Minister Henry Fahnbulleh of his position with immediate effect. The decision, taken on Wednesday 8 November 2023, was attributed to administrative reasons”.  Fahnbulleh, a former Representative of District #4 Montserrado County, and a stalwart of the former ruling Unity Party, had served in the position of Deputy Foreign Minister since his appointment by the Liberian leader in 2020. Fahnbulleh’s dismissal comes just two days after he was heard, on a phone call, defending the right of Ms. Wynee Cummings, a female staffer of Liberia’s Permanent Mission. Cummings claimed that she was sexually assaulted by Foreign Minister Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah. In September 2020, Cummings, who has worked at the office of the Permanent Mission, filed a sexual harassment complaint against Kemayah, who was then Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.

Kemayah claims that an investigation is ongoing, though it has been more than 48 months since Cummings filed her complaint.  On Monday 6 November 2023, Cummings showed up at the office of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Liberia to the United Nations, claiming she was still assigned there as an employee of the Government of Liberia. However, she was met with stiff resistance when the officials of the Mission called officers of the New York Police Department to remove Cummings from the building.

Sierra Leone

President Julius Maada Bio honoured

President Dr Julius Maada Bio has received the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) scorecard from the United States of America’s Ambassador to Sierra Leone Bryan David Hunt. Bio observed that it was always good to have an independent, international assessment of his government. Ambassador Hunt said he was pleased to let the President know that according the 2024 MCC scorecard, Sierra Leone did very well in the control of corruption and democratic rights, which was good news for the government, adding that Sierra Leone passed 10 out of the 20 indicators. “This is an excellent way to assess government’s progress. This government has consistently continued to improve on the various scores in the MCC Scorecard,” he told President Bio, noting that in December this year, the MCC Board would meet and take a decision on whether to re-select Sierra Leone for the MCC Compact again.

In response, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio thanked the Ambassador for bringing the good news to him, stating that his government had consistently done good things, which continued to attract high scores in the MCC assessments. “From the MCC scorecard, I have seen that my government has consistently made progress in the area of gender, control of corruption, regulatory policies, and health expenditure, employment opportunity, among others. Apart from the MCC compact that we will eventually have to benefit from, it is good for us to know what progress we are making”, he said.


Outcry over newly implemented fees on identification documents

Kenya’s government has imposed a charge for national identity cards, provoking the ire of many citizens. Until now, Kenyans have acquired ID cards free of cost upon reaching 18, but new applicants now face a fee of $6. The cost of replacing ID cards has also increased to $12. The new charges, which come amid a spiralling cost-of-living crisis, have ignited a widespread outcry among Kenyans. This was most visible on social media. The revised fees also affect other government-issued documents, such as passports, marriage certificates, work and residence permits and birth and death certificates.

Obtaining or replacing various categories of passports will cost more than 50 per cent more, while the fees for obtaining birth and death certificates have increased by more than four times. Marriage certificates will now cost more than triple the previous amount, while the cost of civil weddings has risen 10-fold. The government has also hiked the cost of acquiring citizenship or residence, including doubling the amount payable for children born to Kenyan citizens abroad to acquire permanent residence in Kenya. The hikes are the latest in a series of revenue-generating measures introduced by President William Ruto’s administration since he came to power last year. Many Kenyans have complained about paying more for government services which they believe are already funded by their taxes.


Government to lead Niger mediation talks

The military regime that emerged from a coup d’état in Niger asked Togo on Monday to act as a mediator in its negotiations with the international community, in particular with the West African countries that sanctioned it last summer. Niger’s Minister of Defense General Salifou Moby held talks with Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé in Lomé later in the day. Following the coup d’état on 26 July, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed strict financial sanctions on Niger to pressure the military who had overthrown the elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, to restore constitutional order. General Mody denounced these “cynical” sanctions, and thanked Togo for continuing to talk with the military regime after the coup, unlike many other countries. Although a member of ECOWAS, Togo has taken several bilateral initiatives to engage in dialogue with the military regime in Niger. “We have never closed our country to our friends …. Niger remains open, even if arrangements have been made so that we can no longer speak with them,” General Mody told the press after his meeting with President Gnassingbé. “We have asked the President of the Republic of Togo to be a mediator, to facilitate this dialogue with our various partners”, he added.

France, Niger’s former colonial power, engaged in a tug-of-war with the military regime after the coup d’état. It began, in October, to withdraw its 1,500 or so soldiers deployed in the country. We are asking Togo, our brother country, in view of what it continues to give us, to be our guarantor” in the framework of the agreement framing the French military withdrawal, which is “progressing” and taking place “normally”, added General Mody. Togo’s Foreign Minister, Robert Dussey, told a press conference that his country was ready to “help as a facilitator” in the dialogue between Niger and the international community, and thanked General Mody “for having designated, alongside the United States of America, Togo as the guarantor country for the withdrawal of French forces”. The ruling junta in Niamey has rejected requests from ECOWAS to restore constitutional order and insists on the need for a transitional period of up to three years to do so, at a time when the country is facing two Jihadist insurgencies in the south-east and west.

Togo regularly attempts to position itself as a mediator in the region. In 2022, it took part in efforts to free 49 Ivorian soldiers held prisoner in Bamako, Mali, after being accused of being mercenaries.

Ivory Coast

Robert Mambé named new prime minister

The governor of the Abidjan district and former head of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), Robert Beugré Mambé, was named the new Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire. Robert Beugré Mambé, 71, is particularly known in Côte d’Ivoire for having been president of the CEI between 2005 and 2010. He has been the governor of the Abidjan district since 2011, a position in which he oversaw the major transformations of the Ivorian economic capital.

Elected deputy in 2018, he was promoted in 2022 within the Rassemblement des Houphouetistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix (RHDP). Born in Abiaté, near Dabou (south), Mambé embodies a face from the south of the country, like his predecessor Patrick Achi , in an RHDP which has a strong electoral base in the north. He is also a defector from the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), a former single party that is now the main opposition party.

President Alassane Ouattara asked the new Prime Minister to “propose a new government as soon as possible”, announced the Secretary General of the Presidency, Abdourahmane Cissé, reading the decree appointing Mambé. The next presidential election is scheduled for the end of 2025 Alassane Ouattara has not yet indicated whether or not he intends to run for a fourth term. In February 2022, he said he had half a dozen names in mind for his possible succession.

Burkina Faso

Russia discusses military cooperation

The Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs of Burkina Faso Kassoum Coulibaly met with the Defence minister of the Russian federation while on a visit to Moscow recently. They agreed to strengthen defence ties. Burkina’s military rulers have been looking to diversify the country’s international allies. “Russian-Burkinabé relations are based solely on the principles of mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests, and in recent years they have acquired positive dynamics,” Russia’s Sergey Shoigu said. “I consider today’s meeting to be another step in the development of our friendly relations”.

Coulibaly described the ongoing negotiations with Rusia as “a real practical phase”. On 5 October Coulibaly hosted Russia’s Vice-minister of Defence Iounous-Bek Evkourov in Ouagadougou. Both men held what the Burkina Faso Presidency called “working meetings and experience-sharing between ministers on the one hand, and specific officials from the General Staffs of the Armies of the two countries on the other, with the aim of strengthening the skills and capabilities of the National Armed Forces”. They also touched on cooperation in the “in the operational, economic, logistical, technological and training fields”.


Macky Sall wages war against illegal emigration

President Macky Sall has ordered emergency measures to be taken to stem the growing flow of migrants taking to canoes to reach Europe. Sall asked the government on Wednesday “to take emergency security, economic, financial and social measures to neutralize the departure of emigrants from the national territory”, in a communiqué issued after the Council of Ministers. The effort will involve the Ministers of the Interior, the Armed Forces, Youth and Fisheries, according to the communiqué, which also refers to the national strategy to combat irregular migration presented by the government in July. Senegal, a West African country that President Sall is striving to put on the road to emergence, is facing a flood of departures by sea bound for the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago and gateway to Europe.

The Canary Islands have seen a record number of migrant arrivals since 2006, with 30,705 people arriving between January 1 and October 31, more than double (+111%) the figure for the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior. Two-thirds are from sub-Saharan Africa, according to the European coastguard and border guard agency Frontex. Senegalese, along with Moroccans, are the most numerous new arrivals, according to Frontex and several Spanish NGOs. Several times a week, the press reports arrivals of pirogues in the Canaries, interceptions or rescues in the Atlantic off Senegal or in the waters approaching the Canaries. This dangerous migration has led to a series of tragedies.

The migration issue has become a theme in the ongoing campaign for the February 2024 presidential election. Prime Minister Amadou Ba is the presidential camp’s candidate to succeed Sall.


20 dead in fresh attacks

Twenty people, including women and children, were killed on Monday in a new attack on a village by English-speaking separatists in western Cameroon, where these rebels and the army have been fighting each other for seven years, the government said. The tragedy occurred during the night in the village of Egbekaw (South-West region). “More than twenty men, women and children have been killed, it’s unacceptable”, Victor Arrey-Nkongho, Minister in charge of the Office of the President of the Republic, told state radio Mengot.

Since the end of 2016, a deadly conflict has pitted pro-independence armed groups against the security forces, each accused of crimes against civilians by international NGOs and the UN, in the North-West and South-West regions, populated mainly by the English-speaking minority of this predominantly French-speaking Central African country. In the middle of the night, “the terrorists” attacked “using firearms and traditional weapons, leaving around twenty people dead and seven seriously injured, and around ten houses burnt down”, Viang Mekala, the prefect of Manyu Department, where Egbekaw is located, told the state radio.

The state media attributed the attack to separatist rebels systematically referred to as “terrorists” by the authorities. “It happened at 4:00 a.m. Young men with guns came and shot at the inhabitants who were asleep in their houses and set fire to a whole block of houses,” said a resident of the village, who requested anonymity for security reasons. “We’ve already pulled 23 people out of the rubble, some of whom we can’t even recognise because of the fire”, he continued. “We think it’s linked to 6 November, the anniversary of President Paul Biya’s accession to power”, said the resident, who added that “a meeting of the RDPC (Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais, the all-powerful presidential party) was scheduled to take place nearby”.

Cameroon, which has a population of nearly 30 million, has been ruled with an iron fist for 41 years to the day by 90-year-old President Paul Biya.


Government announces visa-free travel for all Africans

Rwanda announced Thursday that it will allow Africans to travel visa-free to the country, becoming the latest nation on the continent to announce such a measure aimed at boosting free movement of people and trade to rival Europe’s Schengen zone. President Paul Kagame made the announcement in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where he pitched the potential of Africa as “a unified tourism destination” for a continent that still relies on 60% of its tourists from outside Africa, according to data from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. “Any African, can get on a plane to Rwanda whenever they wish, and they will not pay a thing to enter our country” said Kagame during the 23rd Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council. “We should not lose sight of our own continental market,” he said. “Africans are the future of global tourism as our middle class continues to grow at a fast pace in the decades to come.”  Once implemented, Rwanda will become the fourth African country to remove travel restrictions for Africans. Other countries that have waived visas to African nationals are Gambia, Benin and Seychelles.

Kenya’s President William Ruto announced Monday plans to allow all Africans to travel to the East African nation visa-free by December 31. “Visa restrictions amongst ourselves is working against us. When people cannot travel, business people cannot travel, entrepreneurs cannot travel we all become net losers” said Ruto at an international summit in Congo Brazzaville. The African Union (AU) in 2016 launched an African passport with much fanfare, saying it would rival the European Union model in “unleashing the potential of the continent.” However, only diplomats and AU officials have been issued the travel document so far. The African passport and free movement of people is “aimed at removing restrictions on Africans ability to travel, work and live within their own continent”, the AU says on its website. AU also launched the African Continental Free Trade Area, a continent-wide free trade area estimated to be worth $3.4 trillion, which aims to create a single unified market for the continent’s 1.3 billion people and to boost economic development.

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