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Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari (Photo by Kola Sulaimon/via AFP)

In Lagos, twenty-five anti-government protesters arrested on Wednesday were released after appearing in court, where they were cautioned against unruly and unlawful behavior. They were arrested during peaceful demonstrations—organized under the aegis of the #RevolutionNow movement and tagged “national day of action”—across major cities. The protestors are demanding better governance from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of a failed protest called by the journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore, who was arrested as a result and charged with treason, money laundering, and cyberstalking. He was freed in December, but he still faces trial.

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), an alliance formed in 2018 by Nigeria’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party and dozens of other parties, has condemned the crackdown on #RevolutionNow activists during Wednesday’s demonstrations.

 

Government Priorities

The arrest of the twenty-five protesters in the Ikeja suburb for unlawful protest and disregarding COVID-19 social distancing measures elicited stronger reactions than usual, as it occurred around the same time as a deadly attack on a community in Kaduna State, allegedly by a Fulani militia group. The authorities appeared to be more preoccupied with clamping down on protestors violating interim measures than acting against violent bandits, which has prompted rising anti-government sentiment.

 

Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara
Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara (Photo by Sia Kambou/via AFP)

After weeks of speculation, President Alassane Ouattara has confirmed that he will stand as the candidate for Côte d'Ivoire’s ruling RHDP party, taking the place of his chosen successor Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who passed away suddenly last month. Opposition parties claim Ouattara’s announcement is a violation of the Ivorian constitution, which limits a president to two consecutive terms. But the RHDP argues the constitution adopted in 2016 effectively reset Ouattara’s term limits, so his first term didn’t count.

Though this decision is seemingly an about-face from prior statements made by the incumbent, Ouattara had warned that should Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bédié run as candidates he would consider seeking a third term.

Former Ivorian president Henri Konan Bédie
Former Ivorian president Henri Konan Bédie (Photo by Issouf Sanogo/via AFP)

Bédié was president of Côte d’Ivoire from 1993 to 1999, and implemented changes to the country’s constitution that barred Ouattara from running for president in 1995 and 2000. The changes stipulated that both parents of a presidential candidate must be of Ivorian birth, which Ouattara and his supporters said was designed to specifically exclude him given that one of his parents was rumored to be from Burkina Faso. Another stipulation that barred him from running was the prohibition of ever having claimed citizenship of another country; Ouattara held Burkinabe citizenship for a while.

Ouattara was formally granted Ivorian citizenship in 2002, and in 2004 the National Assembly voted in favor of changing the constitution to specify that Ivorians with at least one parent who was Ivorian at birth would be allowed to contest presidential elections. The change was not immediately ratified, however, but was finally adopted in the 2016 constitution.

 

A Third Candidate

As for Gbagbo, his refusal to step down after the 2010 elections was one of the catalysts for the Ivorian Civil War, which claimed more than 3,000 lives. Gbagbo’s party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), declared former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan as its candidate. Both the FPI and Bédie’s party, the PDCI, declared they would run a joint ticket should the presidential election go to a second-round runoff.

The election is set to be held on October 31, 2020.

 

Chadian president Idriss Déby
Chadian president Idriss Déby (Photo by Georges Gobet/via AFP)

Late Monday, Chad’s communication minister Chérif Mahamat Zene said that a government measure to slow down internet speed in the country, introduced on July 22, was intended to halt “the dissemination of messages inciting hate and division.” He said the slowdown would be lifted soon, but did not specify a date.

Speaking anonymously, Chadian telecommunications officials allege this most recent blackout was in response to a video circulating on WhatsApp and social media showing a Chadian military officer in a dispute with two mechanics firing point-blank at one of them. The man died of his wounds. Some social media users have pointed out that the soldier was from the same community as President Idriss Déby.

 

The social media shutdown lasted sixteen months

 

This is not the first time Chad has limited Internet access. In March 2018, the government blocked access to social media platforms after protests had broken out over proposed constitutional amendments allowing Déby to remain in power until 2033. The shutdown lasted sixteen months. The official justification was a similar argument of protecting internal security, but civil society organizations claimed the real motive was to suppress public dissent against Déby, who has ruled Chad since he seized power in 1990.

Despite growing smartphone usage in Chad, Internet penetration is only 14 percent and data costs are high.

 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and a member of the Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Photo via Twitter)
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and a member of the Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Photo via Twitter)

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe announced an agreement had been struck with the Commercial Farmers’ Union to compensate farmers whose land had been seized during former president Robert Mugabe’s agriculture reform efforts in the early 2000s. He said Zimbabwe would pay US$3.5 billion in compensation for infrastructure but not for the land itself. He did not give details about the amounts to be paid to individual farmers or their descendants, nor how the country will be able to afford this large sum of money considering its dire socio-economic situation.

The Mugabe regime evicted 4,500 white farmers and redistributed the farms to black families as part of a land reform program to redress colonial imbalances.

 

Authoritarian Rule

Two days after Mnangagwa’s announcement, his administration deployed security forces to close down the capital Harare and arrest several dozen activists in response to mass demonstrations on July 31. The protest action, organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, was planned to coincide with a general strike against the deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the country. Internationally acclaimed novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga was among the protesters who were arrested.

Resolving the land question was a precondition placed on Mnangagwa by Western powers in 2017 in order to lift crippling sanctions and reintegrate Zimbabwe into the global community. This could explain Mnangagwa prioritizing compensation for expropriated farms while maintaining the same hardline approach against dissent as his predecessor, who also used military force to quell civil disobedience.

 

A fire burns in north-west Algeria. (Photo via STR/AFP)

It has been a troublesome past few days for Algeria, with power outages and drinking water shutoffs impacting the capital Algiers and several other cities during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, celebrated on Friday. Moreover, the banks had a liquidity problem, and country has seen a sharp economic downturn due to lower revenue from its energy industry. Capping this all off were forest fires that have destroyed hundreds of hectares of vegetation.

The combination of these misfortunes prompted President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to launch an investigation into what his administration believes were targeted actions meant to destabilize the country. Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad, speaking to reporters, blamed the water shortages on the deliberate sabotage of a desalination plant. Djerad also said people were caught setting the fires, but he did not provide any further details.

 

The greatest contributors to the forest fires were desertification and rising temperatures

 

The geography journal Méditerranée published a study in 2013 that found the greatest contributors to the forest fires were desertification and rising temperatures accelerated by climate change. The underlying problem was poor urban planning processes that led to population-dense regions burning forests to clear space for agriculture and housing.

Depicting these setbacks as deliberate actions could be a way for the Algerian government to lend itself legitimacy in cracking down on public protests, especially as the Hirak movement continues to gather in the streets demanding the complete overhaul of the Algerian political system.

 

Tundu Lissu, former Tanzanian member of parliament with the Chadema main opposition party, reacts to supporters as he returns after three years in exile to challenge President John Magufuli in elections later this year. (Photo by STR/AFP)
Tundu Lissu, former Tanzanian member of parliament with the Chadema main opposition party, reacts to supporters as he returns after three years in exile to challenge President John Magufuli in elections later this year. (Photo by STR/AFP)

Tundu Lissu, a principal political rival to Tanzanian president John Magufuli, flew home after spending nearly three years in Belgium receiving medical treatment for gunshot wounds he had sustained in September 2017. Lissu, who was an opposition member of parliament at the time, was hit by five bullets out of about thirty-two shots aimed at his car as he was returning home from a parliamentary session.

Welcomed by a few hundred of his supporters as he alighted from the aircraft, Lissu intimated he would be challenging Magufuli in the presidential election set to be held on October 28.

 

Observers are worried the country is backsliding into authoritarianism

 

The attack against Lissu was one of the most egregious examples of political intimidation and harassment against opposition figures under President Magufuli’s administration, a trend that has observers worried the country is backsliding into authoritarianism.

The top opposition parties are considering joining forces behind one candidate to stand against Magufuli, who will be seeking a second five-year term.

 

Patrick Chinamasa
Patrick Chinamasa (Alexander Joe/AFP)

Patrick Chinamasa, spokesperson for Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party, accused United States ambassador Brian Nichols of “engaging in acts of mobilizing and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents” in an effort to topple the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. “Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug,” he said. He provided no evidence to back these serious claims, and the US embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to the allegations.

Former president Robert Mugabe frequently invoked similar rhetoric during his 42 years in power, accusing the United States and Great Britain on several occasions of aiming to institute regime change.

 

More than 105,000 people have been arrested since March for violating lockdown regulations

 

This latest accusation comes a few days ahead of a planned mass demonstration on July 31. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance and Zimbabwean civil society organizations have urged Zimbabweans to take to the streets to protest against government corruption, the declining Zimbabwean economy, and harsh COVID-19 lockdown measures.

The authorities have warned against the demonstration, claiming concerns of spreading COVID-19. However, opposition leaders accuse the government of using the lockdown measures as cover to stifle political dissent and target the opposition. The police have confirmed that more than 105,000 people have been arrested since March for violating lockdown regulations.

 

Hichem Mechichi, Tunisia’s minister of the interior and advisor to President Kais Saied, has been designated as the new prime minister following the abrupt resignation of Elyes Fakhfakh more than a week ago. The transfer of power was formally conducted on July 25, and the president tasked Mechichi with forming a new government within a month.

Forming a government is one thing; maintaining one will be much more difficult.

In this handout picture provided by the Tunisian Presidency Press Service, Tunisian president Kais Saied (R) appoints Interior Minister Hichem Mechichi as the country's new prime minister, tasked with forming a new unity cabinet, at the Carthage Palace on the eastern outskirts of the capital Tunis on July 25, 2020. (Tunisian Presidency/AFP)
Tunisian president Kais Saied (right) and new prime minister Hichem Mechichi, photographed at the presidential palace in Carthage on July 25, 2020. (Tunisian Presidency/AFP)

The new government will need parliamentary approval, which requires an absolute majority. This means that the kingmaker will once again be the largest party in Tunisia’s legislature: Ennahda, an Islamist political movement that gained significant influence following the 2011 Arab Spring. Should the parliamentary vote of confidence fail, new elections must be held three months later.

During the political tug-of-war between the presidency and Ennahda over Fakhfakh’s appointment, the prospect of holding new elections finally convinced the party to form a coalition government, as their majority was not guaranteed given the months of political crises and economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

 

President Félix Tshisekedi
President Félix Tshisekedi

In a televised address, President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that the national COVID-19 state of health emergency will be lifted starting July 22. It was declared on March 24 and extended six times Most daily activities are set to resume immediately; educational facilities will open on August 3; and borders, houses of worship, and other public venues will open on August 15.

 

Reported new daily cases remained below 100 for a week

 

The lifting of restrictions comes as the DRC reported that new daily cases remainted below 100 for a full week, with new daily deaths numbering just one or two over the same period. It also arrives one month after the World Health Organization announced that the Ebola outbreak in the country’s east, the second deadliest in world history, was officially over.

As the country contends with a massive and ongoing measles outbreak, severe flooding, and continued violence in North and South Kivu provinces, the lifting of the state of emergency can be regarded as a small victory for the beleaguered Congolese people. President Tshisekedi acknowledged, however, that the end of the state of emergency did not mean the end of COVID-19. He emphasized the need to adhere to safety measures to prevent infection.

 

An still photo taken from a video shows Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former leader, arriving at a courthouse in Khartoum on July 21. (Mohammed Abuamrain/AFP)
An still photo taken from a video shows Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former leader, arriving at a courthouse in Khartoum on July 21. (Mohammed Abuamrain/AFP)

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who ruled with impunity for thirty years before being ousted last year following weeks of civilian protests, entered a Khartoum courthouse on Tuesday, July 21, to face charges over his involvement in the 1989 coup that brought him to power.

Bashir has already been sentenced to two years in prison for corruption, after he confessed to taking bribes to the value of US$90 million from Saudi Arabia during a trial held last year. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted. His court appearance was brief, as the judge adjourned the trial until August 11 with the intention of continuing in a larger venue that could seat the defendants and their relatives while also being mindful of COVID-19 containment measures.

In the meantime, the International Criminal Court in The Hague is still waiting for the dictator to be transferred to its jurisdiction, having indicted Bashir in 2009 and 2010 for crimes against humanity linked to ethnic cleansing campaigns in the Darfur region. Sudan agreed in February that Bashir should be brought before the ICC, but has since done little to make this happen.

 

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