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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.

 

Protestors and police clashed in the streets of Kinshasa on July 9, 2020, in demonstrations against the choice of the new president of the Independent National Electoral Commission. (Arsene Mpiana/AFP)
Protestors and police clashed in the streets of Kinshasa on July 9, 2020, in demonstrations against the choice of the new president of the Independent National Electoral Commission. (Arsene Mpiana/AFP)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo saw the third mass demonstration in ten days this past Sunday as thousands of people protested against the choice of a new president to head the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI). Unlike the first two demonstrations, during which a number of people were killed and dozens were injured after tear gas was used, this third demonstration passed without any major incident.

 

The demonstrators are demanding a depoliticized commission

 

The protests are focused on the choice of a member of the outgoing CENI team to head the new team, Ronsard Malonda, the current executive secretary. The demonstrators are demanding a depoliticized commission. They take issue with Malonda given his involvement in the 2006, 2011, and 2018 presidential elections, which were believed to have been rigged in favor of former president Joseph Kabila.

Malonda’s appointment as CENI president has already been approved by the National Assembly, but still has to be confirmed by President Félix Tshisekedi.

Catholic organizations in the country called for the demonstrations, with the support of the Lamuka opposition coalition. They believe that Malonda’s nomination is another ploy by Kabila, whose FCC party retains significant influence over the military and the National Assembly, to sway the 2023 election in his favor once again.

 

Zambian health minister Chitalu Chilufya
Chitalu Chilufya

Nearly a month after his arrest, Zambian health minister Chitalu Chilufya appeared before a Lusaka magistrate, where he pleaded not guilty to four counts of corruption. Chilufya, who was appointed as health minister in 2016 by President Edgar Lungu, is accused of using funds suspected to be the proceeds of criminal activity to buy business shares, property, and a speedboat from the United Arab Emirates between 2016 and 2018.

Zambia opposition parties have called for Chilufya’s removal while the case was in court, whereas members of the ruling Patriotic Front party have rallied around the health minister, with some even accusing the opposition of using the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission  to attack the presidency. Chilufya’s case highlights Zambia’s ongoing struggles to fight corruption, a key pillar of Lungu’s successful 2016 presidential campaign.

 

Graft and cronyism have become much more common

 

The Southern African nation, heavily dependent on its mining industry, has incurred a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 60 percent, as it still has high-interest Eurobonds to pay off on top of Chinese-sourced loans for mega infrastructure projects. Graft and cronyism have become much more common at the local as well as federal levels of government.

 

King Mohammed VI
King Mohammed VI of Morocco

Mali’s fraught political environment continues to involve more international mediators, with Morocco the latest country to intercede between President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and the Mouvement du 5 Juin–Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5–RFP). King Mohammed VI sent Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita to Mali to mediate talks between Keïta and Imam Mahmoud Dicko, the de facto leader of the M5–RFP.

Arriving on July 11, a day after protests in Bamako escalated into deadly clashes with security forces, Bourita delegated Hassan Naciri, the Moroccan ambassador to Mali, to meet with Dicko at his home. Dicko listed his terms for resuming talks with the government, including the release of opposition leaders, and Naciri convinced him to make a public statement calling for calm and a cessation of protests while negotiations took place. Naciri then met with President Keïta to relay Dicko’s demands.

 

ECOWAS Proposals Rejected

This past weekend, a delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met with M5–RFP members to try to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis, but their proposals were dismissed.

 

Boubou Cissé
Malian prime minister Boubou Cissé (via AFP)

A letter has been leaked that Malian prime minister Boubou Cissé’s office had sent to the minister of security and civil protection demanding an investigation into the deployment of the special counterterrorism force FORSAT during street protests on Friday, July 10. At least one person died—some say the death toll was four—and dozens were injured in the capital Bamako as the Mouvement du 5 Juin–Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5–RFP) kept up the pressure on President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to resign. FORSAT servicemen were also involved in the arrest of six opposition and protest leaders on Friday and Saturday.

Mountaga Tall is one of the senior M5–RFP figures arrested in Bamako on Saturday. (Michele Cattani/AFP)
Mountaga Tall is one of the senior M5–RFP figures arrested in Bamako on Saturday. (Michele Cattani/via AFP)

Malians calling for Keïta’s resignation are unhappy about disputed election results, corruption, the weakening economy, and the government’s handling of the jihadist insurgency. The brutal crackdown on protestors is in sharp contrast to Keïta’s claim that wants a peaceful outcome to the political crisis.

A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, met with M5–RFP representatives this past week, but the talks yielded no solution to the present crisis.

 

Elyes Fakhfakh
Elyes Fakhfakh, who resigned as prime minister of Tunisia on Wednesday, July 15. (AFP)

Tunisian prime minister Elyes Fakhfakh abruptly resigned on Wednesday, having served in the office since February 28, once again leaving Tunisia in a political quandary. Fakhfakh’s resignation comes a day after Ennahdha, the largest political party in parliament, tabled a vote of no confidence in the former prime minister’s government over allegations of a conflict of interest involving him. Documents came to light last month showing that Fakhfakh owns shares in companies that previously won contracts worth about US$15 million from the state. Investigations have been opened.

While there has been heightened tensions as a result of these allegations, the last straw for Ennahdha was probably Fakhfakh’s announcement on Monday that he would conduct a cabinet reshuffle within days, which they suspected would lead to him firing Ennahda ministers. Right after he had submitted his resignation, Fakhfakh did indeed dismiss six ministers affiliated with Ennahda. 

 

It now falls to President Saied to designate Fakhfakh’s successor within a month

 

When President Kais Saied appointed Fakhfakh in January to form a new government, it came after weeks of deliberations in parliament had yielded no clear majority vote for the cabinet lineup of the previous nominee, Ennahdha’s candidate Habib al-Jamali.

It now falls to President Saied to designate Fakhfakh’s successor within a month. The prime minister designate will then have to form a new government that would pass a majority vote, failing which, the country would have to hold new legislative elections.

 

Togolese opposition leader Agbéyomé Kodjo (Sunday Alamba/via AFP)
Togolese opposition leader Agbéyomé Kodjo (Sunday Alamba/via AFP)

An international arrest warrant has been issued for Agbéyomé Kodjo, the Togolese opposition leader who lost to incumbent president Faure Gnassingbé in Togo’s presidential election held on February 22. In a message sent to Agence France-Presse, Kodjo said he was in hiding somewhere in Togo after he had refused a summons to appear in court on July 10.

The prosecutor of Lomé’s lower court, Essolissam Poyodi, subsequently filed the arrest warrant. In a social media post, Kodjo wrote that he feared for his life and would remain in hiding. This warrant is the latest in a series of actions that have targeted Kodjo and his Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development (MPDD) party. On April 21, sixteen party members were arrested and sentenced to four months in prison for “flagrant offenses, rebellion and complicity in rebellion.” Kodjo, who won 19.46 percent of the vote compared with 70.78 percent for Gnassingbé, accused the authorities of widespread election fraud.

 

Gnassingbé assumed power in 2005 following the death of his father

 

Kodjo himself was arrested and detained on April 21 and held for four days over similar accusations of encouraging revolt. In March, Togo’s National Assembly voted to lift Kodjo’s parliamentary immunity following a petition by Poyodi, accusing Kodjo of “assaulting state security” due to his repeated criticisms of the February election. President Gnassingbé assumed power in 2005 following the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, with the backing of the military, and has retained his family’s hold on the country ever since.

The most recent presidential election did not have any independent election observers present, after Togo’s national election commission revoked the main independent observer group’s accreditation just days before the vote. Catholic Church observers were also prevented from monitoring the election. This, combined with Togo’s history of failing to hold free elections, incited Kodjo and other opposition parties to reject the official results of the February election.

 

Beninese president Patrice Talon has become increasingly autocratic since his election in 2016. (Yanick Folly/AFP)
Beninese president Patrice Talon (Yanick Folly/AFP)

Online news media in Benin have been subjected to a vague federal decree since the beginning of July that demands all “online media must suspend all publication under penalty of being subjected to the force of law.” The media release was published by the High Authority for Broadcasting and Communication (HAAC), one of seven ostensibly independent institutions formed under the 1990 constitution.

During a media conference, a spokesperson for HAAC claimed to have noted “an all-out creation of online media without prior authorization,” but there was no more clarity on the scope of the new ban.

Since President Patrice Talon was elected in 2016, the Media Foundation for West Africa has recorded fourteen violations of press freedoms and freedom of expression. Several of these instances involved HAAC suspending outlets, sometimes for an indefinite period, as punishment for publishing material deemed to be an attack on the president or for publishing “false information” in the form of articles commenting on the declining state of the economy.

 

“Beninese media are now paying for bureaucratic sluggishness”

 

In an effort to avoid running afoul of the law, some Beninese news sites, such as Banouto, have complied with the HAAC’s decree and are thus now stuck in limbo as they await the HAAC’s next step. In the process, they are missing out on potential stories and reneging on commitments.

Communications expert Léon Anjorin Koboubé told Agence France-Presse that online Beninese media are now “paying for bureaucratic sluggishness” and that this latest ban is “a way to kill local initiatives.”

Press freedom organizations in Benin argue that the HAAC is simply carrying out a continual pattern of press intimidation, based on a law passed in 2018 that criminalized online misdemeanors, including the spreading of “false information.” It is one of the reasons Reporters Without Borders ranked Benin at 113 on its 2020 World Press Freedom Index, down from 96 the year before.

 

French president Emmanuel Macron and Chadian president Idriss Déby. (Francois Mori/AFP).
French president Emmanuel Macron and Chadian president Idriss Déby. (Francois Mori/AFP)

A transport vehicle carrying French troops came under fire from Chadian security forces outside the private residence of President Idriss Déby on Monday night. Luckily, no injuries were sustained and the vehicle continued on toward a French base, returning from a sortie carried out earlier in the day.

An investigation has been launched into the events leading up to the incident, but observers have expressed concern that this was the second time that Chadian troops have engaged in accidental friendly fire against French forces, the first occurring on June 9, again outside the presidential residence.

 

The US expressed deep concern over allegations of human rights abuses

 

The June 9 incident happened three weeks after a meeting between the heads of state of the G5 Sahel military alliance and French president Emmanuel Macron, where all parties agreed to stay the course while noting the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Last Thursday, the United States Department of State released a statement expressing deep concern over allegations of human rights abuses committed by Sahelian security forces, and threatened to cut support for the offensive should they persist. This is an outcome the G5 Sahel cannot afford, nor can France, which has asked its European partners to send more soldiers and equipment to the Sahel.

 

A gas flare burns at the Batan flow station, operated by Chevron under a joint-venture arrangement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP)
A gas flare burns at the Batan flow station, operated by Chevron under a joint-venture arrangement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP)

Nigeria’s Niger Delta has some of the world’s richest oil reserves and largest petroleum exportation terminals. Oil has generated spectacular wealth for some, but has also drastically impoverished people of the region who live and work in one of the most polluted places on the planet.

Young men in particular find themselves in an untenable position of economic exclusion and persistent militant violence, conditions that feed a cycle of poverty and violence.

 

Limited Prospects

Modesta Tochi Alozie, as part of her research at the University of Sheffield’s Urban Institute, explored this relationship and how it directly impacts the lives of young men. Broadly speaking, Nigerian men are expected to obtain a steady paying job, marry, and provide for the household. However, more than half of all Nigerians aged fifteen to thirty-five are unemployed, and for those living in the Niger Delta, the paradox of being poor in a region that produces the majority of Nigeria’s wealth helps to sustain a resentment that has developed into a full-on insurgency.

Starting in 2003, militias began attacking oil pipelines and kidnapping employees for ransom, sometimes even launching assaults against Nigerian military forces protecting drill sites. A Post-Amnesty Program launched in 2009 provided monthly payments of US$400 in exchange for disarmament, which helped to reduce the violence somewhat, but also incentivized more young Nigerian men to become militants and entrenched the power of militia leaders.

The prospects for those who avoid the violent route remain rather dim. Some relocate to cities in search of a better life, and others become activists campaigning for tighter regulation, for companies to be held to account for livelihoods lost due to oil spills, and for restoration of polluted land. This environmental injustice is rarely addressed by Nigeria, the United Nations, or oil industry watchdogs.

 

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