Africa news roundup

Granny Africa
African art using African fabric by Garfield Morgan the Artist (photo: courtesy of Christopher Charles)

June 2-8, 2024


Electoral commission makes U-turn

The Electoral Commission (EC) has reversed its initial directive to prevent political party agents from observing the ongoing vote transfer exercise. In a memo to its district officers on Sunday, June 2, the EC directed that agents of political parties must not be allowed access due to violent clashes at some of the transfer centres. This sparked different reactions from various political parties especially the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and civil society organisations. They argued that the directive was an outright breach of the democratic process and could potentially lead to irregularities in the transfer of votes. Registering his displeasure, the flagbearer of the NDC, John Dramani Mahama, in a Facebook post, said the EC’s decision points to attempts to collude with the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) to rig the upcoming December 7 general elections.

However, the EC at a Press Conference on Tuesday, June 4, announced the reversal of the decision. Deputy Commissioner in charge of Operations at the Electoral Commission, Samuel Tettey, said the decision to reverse the ban was taken following extensive deliberations. According to the EC, on the grounds of transparency and magnanimity, it decided to allow party agents to observe the process. Due to a confrontation between party agents at Kasoa in the Awutu Senya East constituency in the Central Region on Sunday, June 2, 2024, the EC had directed its officers not to allow political party agents to observe the ongoing exercise.


Dozens trapped in collapsed mine pit

Dozens of gold miners have been trapped underground after a pit collapsed in central Nigeria on Monday June 3 after heavy rainfall in Niger state. However, news was slow to emerge because of the country’s general strike, which was called off on Tuesday June 4. According to the Niger state emergency service agency spokesman Hussaini Ibrahim, one person has been confirmed dead and more than 30 people are still trapped as rescue efforts continue. “As at this morning [Wednesday] we believe over 30 people are still trapped, we can’t give you exact figures because even those on site didn’t know”, said Ibrahim. So far, officials have attributed the collapse to torrential rains.

Commenting on the disaster, Nigeria’s Minister of Solid Minerals Dele Alake said officials of the Mines Inspectorate had been sent to the mining site in Galadima Kogo. “Rest assured, we will investigate the causes of the disaster to prevent a recurrence and ensure the safety of all Nigerians”, he said. Mining activities were banned last year in the Shiroro area, where the mine collapsed, along with neighbouring districts, due to insecurity and safety concerns. The state official said extra security had been provided to ensure that rescue workers were not abducted. Mining accidents are not uncommon in Nigeria as many miners are involved in the activity illegally.

South Africa

ANC stalwarts meet to decide the way forward

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa met with senior officials of the African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday June 6 to decide on the way forward for the ANC after the party lost its 30-year grip on power.  The party’s National Executive Committee met in Johannesburg to work through a split within the party’s ranks over which direction to take. The ANC lost its long-held majority in last week’s vote but remained the biggest party, and now needs some form of agreement with others to run Africa’s most industrialized country. The ANC has also stated its intentions to lean towards a government of national unity that would bring together many of the political parties in a broad agreement, rather than a direct coalition with the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, or DA.

The ANC was once led by Nelson Mandela and freed South Africa from the apartheid system of White minority rule by winning the country’s historic first all-race vote in 1994. The party has seen a gradual decline in its support over the last 20 years as South Africa struggles with high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The National Executive Committee, that includes more than 80 of the ANC’s top officials, is expected to be the body to decide on which direction it will take. There’s no guarantee that all the other parties will accept the idea of a government of national unity, even as South Africa’s political leaders are under some time pressure to decide on the way forward as the newly elected Parliament must sit for the first time by June 16, with one of its first priorities being to elect a president.


President reaffirms support for Israel

Kenyan President William Ruto has reaffirmed his backing of Israel amid the global backlash on Israel’s attack on Palestine since October 7.  Ruto maintains that Israel-Kenya ties would continue but was quick to add that Nairobi did not support attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.  “Israel is a great friend of Kenya and we believe that it should go into the future … We made a clear statement when Israel was attacked that it was wrong. We have also made a very clear statement when the war intensified and the use of force, when children were attacked when atrocities were committed against the people of Palestine”, Ruto said. He emphasized that the conflict should not be solved by military means, stressing his support for a two-state solution.

Kenya says it has supported calls for a ceasefire in Gaza but is unable to put pressure on Israel’s biggest ally the US to back them. In May 2024, Ruto became the first African leader to be hosted by the White House since 2008. Ruto reiterated that Kenya would continue to reaffirm its position calling for a ceasefire and a two-state solution, but without exerting pressure on other countries including the US. “Kenya has done its bit, we have taken the firmest position when our interests converge with the United States, we stand together”, the Kenyan president said. “Where they don’t, we stand separately. But that does not mean we become enemies.


Talks to implement free roaming begins

The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) and the National communications Authority (NCA) of Ghana have begun discussions on the establishment of free roaming services between the two nations. According to the LTA, the initiative marks the beginning of steps toward creating a system where mobile phone users in both countries can be charged local rates during visits. When an amicable decision is arrived at, the agreement will require commercial solutions that will enable the cost-effective implementations of the agreement in accordance with the regulations of ECOWAS. The LTA has been facing major setbacks in implementing ECOWAS regulations among the country’s mobile network operators.

The setbacks faced include the lack of direct links between telecom operators, high call termination rates, and fraud. While acknowledging this development, Angela Cassell Bush, Acting International Gateway Systems Commissioner, stated that Liberia anticipates further engagements and discussions with other ECOWAS member countries to collaborate on zero-cost roaming. Reports indicate that most subscribers calling between Liberia and Ghana rely on Internet-based apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and Telegram, which require having a smartphone and a data plan. Addiionally, travelers between the two countries must obtain a local SIM card to place a call. In April 2024, Ghana and Benin agreed to implement free roaming to reduce communication costs for citizens travelling between the two countries. Niger and Togo also announced plans of a possible partnership in the same month.

Sierra Leone

World bank approves loan for road project

The World Bank Board on Wednesday June 5 approved a $74 million International Development Association (IDA) grant to enhance climate-resilient transport connectivity and agricultural market access in Sierra Leone. “The construction of climate-resilient transport and agricultural market infrastructure is a critical step towards ensuring food security and increasing local incomes, which is in line with our government’s key priorities in the ‘Big 5 Game Changers’, especially the ‘FEED SALONE’ Agenda”, said Alhaji Fanday Turay, Minister of Transport and Aviation for Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone Connectivity and Agricultural Market Infrastructure Project (CAMIP) will support all-season connectivity and access to jobs, markets, and services, particularly in rural areas where the lack of infrastructure has been a major barrier to economic development.

The transport sector in Sierra Leone remains underdeveloped, with approximately 40 per cent of primary roads paved, and the majority of secondary and feeder roads unpaved. The urban areas, especially Freetown, experience increasing challenges in congestion and face a huge demand for an efficient public transport system. Rural areas, often surrounded by rivers, are particularly affected with only one-third of the population having access to an all-season road network. The absence of bridges and reliance on manual cable ferries and canoes, which are often inoperable during the rainy season, exacerbate the isolation of these communities.


African court gives ultimatum to scrap death penalty

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has emphasized its longstanding order to Tanzania to revoke the death penalty in line with the continental charter on the right to life. Delivering judgment on two separate cases, the court, sitting in Arusha, emphasized again that mandatory capital punishment was a violation of the African Charter and gave the country six months to remove it from its legal statutes. This puts it among several African countries that continue to retain it despite a 1999 resolution by the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights calling on African Union member states to observe a moratorium on capital punishment.

So far, only eight countries have abolished it in law and practice in the past 10 years, since 2014. Others are eyeing formal abolition while continuing to mete out the sentence for major offences. Countries including Tanzania and Kenya, have not carried out any executions for years. In a July 2023 report, a Tanzanian Government commission overseeing judicial reforms proposed that death sentences should be commuted to life imprisonment as a more “humane” option. The commission, which was chaired by the former Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman, said public opinion in the country was sharply divided on the merits and demerits of capital punishment as the best way to deal with serious crimes. Nzigiyimana Zabron, a Burundi national, and Tanzanian Dominick Damian are convicted murderers who have been languishing on death row at Mwanza’s Butimba Central Prison for the last 12 years awaiting execution. In Tanzania two offences carry the death penalty, murder and treason.


Finance Ministry secures loan for road projects

Uganda’s Finance Ministry has signed an agreement with the South Korean Government for a $500 million loan to help finance infrastructure building in the country. The agreement was announced on Thursday and was signed by Uganda’s Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, and South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-Yul, during the Korea-Africa summit in Seoul. The loan will be provided by South Korea’s EXIM bank. Even though the loan is to finance roads and energy projects, the ministry did not specify which infrastructure projects the funds would support. Experts have warned that this new loan will increase Uganda’s already increasing debt, which currently amounts to $24.6 billion as of December 31, 2023.

This development could further affect the country’s financial standing, following Moody’s recent downgrade of Uganda’s credit rating. Last month, the ratings agency lowered Uganda’s rating from B2 to B3, citing “diminished debt affordability” and “increasingly constrained financing options.” Moodys pointed out that the downgrade reflects Uganda’s reliance on more expensive domestic and non-concessional external financing sources. It added that the country’s external vulnerability risk remains high, with challenges in external debt servicing, tighter global financial conditions, and reduced foreign exchange reserve adequacy.


IMF reaches staff level agreement with Finance Ministry

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has disclosed that Zambia’s government had asked for its $1.3 billion loan programme to be increased to $1.7 billion to help it respond to a severe drought. The IMF also said in a statement that it had reached a staff-level agreement on the third review of the southern African country’s Extended Credit Facility. Once the latest review is approved by IMF’s executive board at a meeting expected by the end of June, Zambia will have access to roughly $573 million, the fourth disbursement under the facility. Zambia is one of a handful of African countries grappling with a drought induced by the El Niño weather phenomenon that has plunged parts of the region into hunger.

The copper-rich country is close to emerging from a debt restructuring beset by delays after more than three and a half years. Zambia’s finance ministry said that more than 90 per cent of holders of its $3 billion in outstanding international bonds had accepted a restructuring proposal. According to Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane, the staff-level agreement announced was “testament to Zambia’s determination to rebuild macroeconomic and debt sustainability” and its efforts to finalize restructuring talks within the parameters of its IMF programme.


Doctors to strike on Monday

After several months of failed negotiations with the government, healthcare workers have finally resolved to hold a nation-wide sit in beginning Monday, June 10 2024, until government resolves their grievances. The strike follows government’s perceived lack of commitment to resolve their grievances which include demands to increase their allowances and to improve working conditions. The healthcare workers are operating under the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (Nonm) and Physician Assistants Union of Malawi (Paum).

Meanwhile, Paum president Solomon Chomba and his Nonm counterpart, Shouts Simeza, have written hospital directors for central hospitals, directors of health and social services for district hospitals and hospital directors for Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham) on the strike. It reads: “By this letter, we write to request you all to prepare accordingly for the needed coverage of the hospitals during the entire period of the sit-in. “As you may be aware, we are currently unable to indicate the duration of the sit-in as it is dependent on the response and action by the government.” Last minute attempts by Attorney General Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda to intervene on the matter did not yield any results on Wednesday.


Korea extends financial aid

Eswatini has been named among other African nations who stand to benefit from some of Korea’s over E430 billion in development assistance and investment initiatives. This follows a pledge by the Korean Government to make available about E180 billion (USD 10 billion) in development assistance to spur African cooperation initiatives by 2030. Korea has also committed over E250 billion (USD 14 billion) to support Korean businesses to enhance trade and investment on the African continent over the next six years.

His Majesty King Mswati III has commended Korea for these commitments, saying they would go a long way toward strengthening the two continents’ cooperation. Speaking at the 2024 Korea-Africa Summit yesterday, the King first commended the hosting of the first Korea-Africa Summit, which he said served as a testament to the longstanding and growing bond between the country and the African continent. According to him, the summit, also presented an opportunity for Africa and Korea to understand each other much better and develop a strong partnership. “We wish to commend Korea for her decision to increase official development assistance (ODA) to USD 10 billion by 2030 to spur African cooperation initiatives.” “We also applaud the commitment to provide approximately USD 14 billion in export financing start-ups for Korean companies by 2030 to encourage their activities in Africa, thus stimulating trade and investment with our continent”, he said. The king also encouraged the Korean business community to join the government’s efforts to make this endeavor a success by investing in Africa.


According to a provisional list published on June 6, Paul Kagame will face two challengers in next month’s election. National Electoral Commission Chief Oda Gasinzigwa named Kagame, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party and independent Philippe Mpayimana as candidates for the July 15 vote. Both Habineza and Mpayimana were also the only candidates authorized to stand against Kagame in the last election in 2017. Gasinzigwa said, in an announcement on state television, that a total of nine applications from potential candidates had been received.

The highest-profile name missing from the provisional list was Diane Rwigara, leader of the People Salvation Movement and an outspoken Kagame critic, who had also been disqualified from the 2017 election. “Instead of providing a criminal record statement as required by the electoral commission, she provided a copy of a court judgement”, Gasinzigwa said, adding that Rwigara had also failed to provide a document proving she is of Rwandan origin. On the requirement for 600 signature endorsements, she did not provide at least 12 signatures from eight districts,” she added.

Most of the other unsuccessful applicants had also failed to meet the 600 signature requirement. A final list of candidates is due on June 14. Rwigara was disqualified in 2017 over accusations she forged the signatures of supporters for her application. The 42-year-old was arrested, charged with forgery and inciting insurrection and detained for more than a year before being released and acquitted in 2018.


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