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Behind the News: All the backstories to our major news this week

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Over the past week, there were many important stories from around the African continent, and we served you some of the most topical ones.

Here is a rundown of the backstories to some of the biggest news stories in Africa that we covered during the week:

Somalia finally gets UN approval for arms purchase 

Somalia’s 31-year arms purchase restriction by the United Nations was lifted on Friday by the Security Council of the global body. The council voted 14-1 to lift the arms embargo, with France abstaining. This allows Somalia to freely purchase new weapons. The transfer of supplies or weapons to terrorists connected to Al Shabaab is still prohibited.

Somalia has been constrained by this UN decision amidst the country’s quest for lasting peace in the face of internal wranglings and terrorist activities. In September, Somalia asked the UN to pause a planned drawdown of 3,000 African Union peacekeepers for three months to allow its security forces time to regroup after a militant attacks forced them to withdraw from several recently captured towns.

An arms embargo was imposed on Somalia in January 1992 by Security Council Resolution 733 in response to the conflict that was still going on and the worsening humanitarian situation. The adoption of this resolution was unanimous.

Before being lifted on Friday, the ban had undergone several modifications. In June 2001, Security Council Resolution 1356 allowed for exemptions to the embargo for supplies of non-lethal military equipment for use in humanitarian operations, while in July 2002, Resolution 1425 clarified the scope of the arms embargo, making clear that it prohibited the financing of arms acquisitions as well as the direct or indirect sale or supply of technical advice or military training.

Uganda pivots to China after Western sanctions

Uganda plans to apply for a $150 million loan from China’s Export-Import Bank (Exim) in response to World Bank’s lending restrictions related to its anti-homosexuality legislation. The bank in August stated that “no new public financing for Uganda will be presented to our Board of Executive Directors until the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested.”

“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a livable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality,” the bank said.

But the East African country appears to have moved on from the setback with the multilateral body as it is now negotiating a loan to finance the construction of a pipeline to help export its crude oil to foreign markets with the Chinese export credit organisations, SINOSURE and Exim Bank.

The Ugandan legislature passed a law outlawing LGBTQ people in May. The legislation included many strict regulations that sparked outrage from the international community, including the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and big businesses.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s recent relations with China as a sub-regional power might be a concern for the United States and its Western allies.

A look at Nigeria’s 2024 budget of ‘Renewed Hope’ 

On Wednesday, the Nigerian president, Bola Tinubu, presented a N27.5 trillion 2024 budget proposal to a joint session of the 10th National Assembly in Abuja in which he stressed that defence, education, and internal security were accorded top priority.

The budget expenditure for the year as proposed stood at N27.5 trillion, the highest in the history of Nigeria, and 10.9% higher than the 2022 revised budget (N24.83 trillion – addition of signed + supplementary
budgets).

Revenue projections surged by 65.8% to N18.32 trillion, surpassing the 2023 revised budget of N11.05 trillion, while expenditure projections rose by 10.3% to N27.5 trillion from the 2023 revised budget. It breaks down into capital expenditure (31.6%), recurrent (36.1%), and debt servicing (30.0%).

Revenue and fiscal deficit projections seem unrealistic. The country continues to live in denial as revenue consistently underperforms projections and maintains a slow growth projection while spending surges annually. As a clear departure from previous budgets, the 2024 budget highlighted how the government intends to support growth and employment. However, there is no mention of sending the Finance Bill 2023 to support the 2024 budget implementation.

Britain’s Sunak adamant on migrant deal with Rwanda

British Prime Minister, Richie Sunak, has continued to press for a migrant deal with Rwanda despite recent major legal setbacks for the arrangement after meeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Friday for a discussion on the subject.

Sunak, while responding to questions on the sidelines of the ongoing COP28 climate conference in Dubai, maintained that he remained “confident” in his government’s proposals. The two leaders wanted to ensure that the plan’s details were correct.

“We’re finalising the arrangements we have with them. It was good to check in with him on that and reiterate… our commitment to making the partnership work,” Sunak said at a press conference.

“Paul and I have forged a very strong relationship over this issue. He’s keen to work very constructively with us.”

Last year, Britain declared that it would send each asylum seeker to Rwanda for 169,000 pounds ($215,035), with the average cost of deporting each person to Rwanda estimated at 105,000 pounds, 22,000 pounds for travel and accommodations, and 18,000 pounds for processing and legal fees.

In recent years, illegal migrants from the Middle East and Africa have become a major source of concern in Europe. A record 45,000 people had flown across the English Channel in small boats as of June 2023.

Similar to Britain, Italy is experiencing an increase in the number of migrants entering the country through the Mediterranean, with a rise in arrivals in 2022 compared to this year. In comparison to roughly 10,200 during the same period last year, nearly 150,000 people have arrived in Italy thus far in 2023.

Behind the News

Behind the News: All the backstories to our major news this week

Published

on

Over the past week, there were lots of important stories from around the African continent, and we served you some of the most topical ones.

Here is a rundown of the backstories to some of the biggest news in Africa that we covered during the week:

1. Karma strikes as Nigerian govt gets jittery over looming nationwide strike

The Nigerian Presidency has been all over the place issuing warnings against a planned nationwide protest scheduled to commence on August 1st.

The Presidency which issued the warning vis a statement by Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, said the protest tagged “EndBadGovernment” organised by concerned citizens, said it could degenerate into anarchy.

The Presidential spokesman went on to accuse opposition politicians like Peter Obi, Omoleye Sowore, Pat Utomi and supporters of Obi known as Obidients as being behind the planned protests.

“Peter Obi, FS Yusuf, another rabid Obi supporter, and Professor Pat Utomi, a Labour Party chieftain and a guy on X who goes by the pseudonym Peter Obi’s First Son” are behind the planned protests,” Onanuga had alleged.

Onanuga who acknowledged that it is the right of people to protest in a democracy, he however cautioned those behind it to should be careful so that it will not be hijacked by people who would use the opportunity to cause problems.

“My post is just to highlight that the people who are organizing this so-called nationwide protest are members of Labour party, they are Peter Obi supporters, so that’s my own take of it, it’s my own opinion so I am not going to say more than this,” he said.

But beyond running from pillar to post issuing warnings and accusing others of planning to destabilize Tinubu’s administration, Nigerian are quick to remind Onanuga and the Presidency that the hen has come home to roost.

In the tumultuous years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s regime, the likes of Onanuga, Tinubu, Buhari and other leaders of the All Progressives Congress which was in the opposition used protests to discredit the PDP at every given opportunity.

They were always quick to mobilize Nigerians to hit the streets and protest against the government all in a bid to take over power.

It is then a thing of surprise that they should be so vehemently opposed to protests when it was on the back of such actions that they rode into power.

Now Karma has come around in full circle, and it is left to be seen if the ruling party can stop Nigerians from expressing themselves and exercising their democratic rights.

2. Cunning Tinubu prevails over labour leaders on minimum wage

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu showed his masterful cunning ways when he practically coerced labour leaders to accept a paltry N70,000 (about $43) as the new national minimum wage after months of lingering negotiations between government and organised labour.

The agreement which was reached on Thursday, according to the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero, was more of an intimidation and coercion rather than a mutually agreed decision.

The N70,000, up from the previous N30,000, was approved by Tinubu after months of back and forth with labour which included strike actions and several threats of nationwide protests and economic shutdown.

His Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, who announced the agreement, said the President was magnanimous enough to approve the new minimum wage which is a far cry from labours’ demands of N250,000.

In an interview with journalists, Ajaero revealed that the labour leaders were forced to settle for the amount after Tinubu had threatened to increase fuel price if labour insisted on their N250,000 demand.

Those who know President Tinubu at close range are quick to point out that he has a way of using the carrot and stick approach to solve knotty issues and is wont to play dirty whenever he is in a right position.

It is then glaring that he also applied the same tactics when he threatened the labour leaders with a fuel price hike if the failed to accept his N70,000 minimum wage proposal.

And once again, he came out tops!

3. Sudan devastated by unending war as over 10m people displaced

The unending war in Sudan has led to the displacement of more than 10 million people, about 20 per cent of the country’s population, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The situation, according to the UN agency, has forced the affected people out of their homes since the conflict which is seen as one of the world’s worst displacement crisis.

The IOM, in a statement during the week, said the Sudanese crisis is the most recent alarming estimate from the nation in East Africa, which has been destroyed by fighting that started in April 2023, which has led to a majority of the 50 million people in the country in need of humanitarian help while half of them are experiencing starvation as a result of the war.

The Sudanese war which broke out last year When fighting broke out between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the capital city of Khartoum, has spread to the west throughout Darfur, with the RSF seizing control of most of the major cities.

“Since the start of the conflict, over 2.2 million people have fled to foreign nations and about 7.8 million have sought safety within the nation. Previous conflicts in the country have already resulted in the displacement of an additional 2.8 million people,” a bimonthly report from the IOM stated.

The situation in Sudan, though pathetic and avoidable, has once again highlighted the precarious state of African nations and its people whenever power mongering leaders decide to take on each other which is always to the detriment of the masses.

The Sudan war, like others in Africa, has led to mass killings of citizens as well as the destruction of public properties.

And in such wars and conflicts, one is forced to ask what the warring factions really want aside control of power and resources. So why kill the innocent citizens in the process?

4. More confusion as Zambian MPs walk out of parliament during proceedings

The political crisis rocking Zambia took another turn during the week when opposition Members of Parliament from the Patriotic Front and allied members staged a walkout during proceedings.

The aggrieved MPs decided to take the option citing inadequate debate time allocated by Deputy Parliamentary Speaker, Atractor Chisangano.

The dispute was ignited when Chisangano allegedly failed to grant sufficient time for discussing corruption allegations implicating senior government officials which the MPs felt was an attempt to shield indicted government officials.

MP Brian Mundubile, who led the walkout expressed frustration, emphasizing that crucial issues like corruption deserved more attention.

“The Speaker was expected to allocate at least an hour to debate these unprecedented corruption allegations against high-ranking officials. It’s unacceptable that such serious matters are sidelined,” Mundubile lamented.

He highlighted the concerns of the opposition MPs over a reported theft of medical kits and medicines, while calling for accountability and swift action against implicated government figures.

“Ministers and senior officials facing serious allegations should either be dismissed, resign, or face legal consequences.

“Theft of medical kits and medicines should not go unpunished. It’s imperative that those implicated in are held accountable through appropriate legal measures,” Mundubile said.

The celebrated ‘Medicine Gate’ currently rocking the country’s health sector has seen several key government officials accused of stealing medical equipment and kits meant for government hospitals but according to opposition figures, the culprits, some of whom are believed to be high ranking members of the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) administration, are being protected instead of being prosecuted.

The walkout was also a show of displeasure by the lawmakers who felt the Speaker deliberately stunted their debate by allocating limited time for the scandal to be addressed.

5. Ghanaian actor stokes controversy with assertion that Jesus never performed miracles

In a continent where religion is seen as the opium of the people, veteran Ghanaian actor, Majid Michel, has raised a storm with many say is heresy following his comments that Jesus Christ did not perform miracles such as raising the dead or healing the sick during his earthly ministry.

The actor who is now a preacher of the gospel, stoked the embers of fire when he told a congregation during a sermo about Christianity that said contrary to widely held beliefs, Jesus Christ neither personally healed any sick person nor raised the dead, despite these acts being credited to him in biblical teachings.

“Do you know Jesus never healed the sick nor raised the dead? Jesus never let the blind see.

“Do you know what Jesus said? ‘I do nothing by myself. As I see the Father do, I do.’ In other words, I am Jesus, I have a will, but I will not use my will; only the will of my Father I came to do,” he said.

“If the devil had gotten Jesus to turn that stone to bread without asking his Father’s permission, he had gotten him to sin and that is what you call sin—separation from God, independence from God,” the award winning actor added.

Michel’s controversial sermon has continued to divide opinions from adherents of the Christian religion but typically, especially from Africans who have come to believe everything they read in religious books and sees any contrary opinion as an affront to their beliefs.

As offhand as Michel’s assertion may seem, it is also imperative to interrogate his claims especially when one considers another angle he put up in his argument.

“When you throw your own plans and make your own decisions without consulting the Father, you have sinned,” he had also stated.y

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Behind the News

Behind the News: All the backstories to our major news this week

Published

on

Over the past week, there were lots of important stories from around the African continent, and we served you some of the most topical ones.

Here is a rundown of the backstories to some of the biggest news in Africa that we covered during the week:

1. Audacity of pride as APC boasts Nigerians will still re-elect Tinubu despite hunger, hardship

Despite the hues and cries of ordinary Nigerians over the unbearable hardship, hunger, insecurity, and pervasive poverty as a result of the now infamous “bold reforms” and unfavourable economic policies of President Bola Tinubu since coming into office over a year ago, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has boasted that Nigerians will still re-elect him as president come 2027.

The Deputy National Organising Secretary of the party, Nze Chidi Duru, who made the boast in an interaction with journalists in Lagos, said he was convinced beyond doubt that come 2027, Tinubu would be re-elected despite the economic hardship and planned alliance between mega opposition parties.

Duru, who was reacting to insinuations that the current hardship and economic woes arising from Tinubu’s policies could lead to Nigerians voting against him, said the ruling party was not losing sleep because he was sure Nigerians would still vote for the president.

“Our party has always recognised the fact that the current challenging economic environment has not in any way got better.

“When Mr President took over, he asked Nigerians not to pity him. It is an office that he craved and worked hard for before offering himself to provide leadership to Nigeria.

“What gives confidence is that Mr President is very much aware of the expectations of the person on the street.

“Concerning whether we will be re-elected, as a democrat and my personal view, we have always canvassed that unless His Excellency President Bola Tinubu will not contest, the APC government is bound to be represented by our candidate in 2027 to fly the flag for the simple reason that I want to bring up. And, of course, there is the incumbency factor,” Duru boasted.

Beyond the cockiness and confidence of the APC spokesman, who is invariably speaking the minds of the ruling class, what this means is that no matter how they have emasculated Nigerians and throw them under the bus, they will still be re-elected come the next election cycle in 2027.

They have the power of incumbency, the chairman of the Electoral Commission is appointed by the ruling party, they have the machinery and the funds to buy voters and in the case of an election dispute going to court, they have their appointed judges to give verdicts in their favour.

Little wonder Duru, like others before him, has the effrontery to boast that Nigerians will still re-elect Tinubu despite what they are being made to go through.

And he is not far from the truth because most of the suffering Nigerians will still sell their consciences for pittance in future elections.

2. ‘You are killing Zambian democracy,’ Lungu attacks Hichilema again

The war of words and verbal attacks between former Zambian President Edgar Lungu and incumbent President Hakainde Hichilema has continued unabated following a new allegation from the Lungu camp that Hichilema is attacking the country’s democratic norms by using the parliament to strangle the opposition.

Lungu made the allegations after nine members of his party, the Patriotic Front (PF), were sacked from the parliament.

In a press conference in Lusaka, Lungu said his party would vigorously contest the expulsions of the MPs through legal and political means.

He also accused the current government of misusing the Speaker’s office to target perceived opponents of the ruling party, calling it an abuse of power.

“During my tenure, we never interfered with the workings of the National Assembly. My government respected national principles and the separation of powers,” Lungu said.

He also warned that if Zambia fails to oppose the unconstitutional expulsion of lawmakers, it would signal a dangerous attack on democracy, adding that the Hichilema administration is displaying dictatorial powers, contrast with his administration’s practices since 2015 when he took office.

“Sadly, the respect for power and democratic principles that we upheld has been undermined under the current government. Since Mr. Hakainde Hichilema assumed power, we have witnessed a decline in governance integrity,” Lungu lamented.

The political fight between Lungu and Hichilema is not new especially in Africa where politicians see themselves as sworn enemies.

Those who are not in office see all the mistakes made by those in power while those on the inside will do everything possible to stop their opponents from upsetting them in future elections.

Since Hichilema took over from Lungu, the former president has been on the warpath, picking on him and attacking the President at every point, oblivious of the fact that he was duly voted out by the citizens who felt he had not performed to their expectations.

But then, this is the way of a typical African politician and the roulette dance of shame goes on!

3. End of an era as US completes troops withdrawal from Niger’s Air Base

After several years of having its troops stationed in Niger Republic and other West African countries, the United States announced that it would finally withdraw its troops from the Nigerien Air Base on Sunday.

The Nigerien military junta had given the United States until September 15th to withdraw its forces.

In a statement on Friday, US officials said the military will finish removing its soldiers from Niger’s Air Base 101 in the capital on Sunday and will next concentrate on leaving a significant drone base in the upcoming weeks.

The withdrawal of the US troops also comes with a withdrawal from a $100 million drone base close to Agadez in central Niger, which had supplied vital intelligence regarding organizations associated with the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

US Air Force Major General Kenneth Ekman, who was in Niger to oversee the withdrawal, had announced that a ceremony will take place on Sunday night to officially close Air Base 101 for the United States.

“We will do a joint ceremony on that occasion that marks the departure of the last U.S. C-17 (aircraft). The government of Niger will assume control of former U.S. areas and facilities,” Ekman said.

The idea behind the withdrawal of the US troops from the West African country came following a spate of coups that rocked the region in the past five years, the latest being that of Niger last year which saw the junta leaders ordering the United States to remove its almost 1,000 soldiers from the country in April.

The order and the subsequent protest by citizens caused the US serious embarrassment leading to the decision to withdraw its troops.

The withdrawal of US troops is also coming on the heels of similar withdrawals by Russia troops from Mali and Burkina Faso following military coups in the countries.

4. 82 million Nigerians face bleak times as food crisis escalates

An estimated 82 million Nigerians, about 64% of the nation’s population, face a bleak future and may go hungry by the year 2030 as a result of acute food crisis which is likely to hit the country in the next few years.

This damning prediction was given by the United Nations which also urged the Nigerian government to immediately address climate change, pest infestations, and other risks to agricultural productivity.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s resident humanitarian coordinator, Taofiq Braimoh, a UN representative, who made the prediction at the CropWatch Abuja launch during the week had stated:

“The government of Nigeria, in collaboration with others, conducts an annual food security survey.

“The results this year are concerning: over 80–82 million Nigerians are at risk of severe food crisis by 2030, and about 22 million may experience food insecurity in 2023.

“Nigeria, like many countries, grapples with food insecurity, climate change, unreliable water patterns, pest infestations, and other threats to agricultural productivity.”

Realities on ground shows that this bleak forecast by the UN is as a result of sustained increase in the nation’s food costs where the cost of living has gone beyond the reach of ordinary Nigerians.

Food inflation rate surpassed the 40.53% mark, an increasing from the previous month to a new high of 40.66% in May 2024, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

This is the highest of such inflation rate witnessed in over 20 years, with increasing insecurity where farmers have not been able to produce foods, and with the unfavourable economic policies of the present administration, the UN prediction may well come to reality if the ugly trend is not reversed on time.

5. New UK PM delights African migrants as he declares Rwanda migration deal ‘dead and buried’

The newly elected British Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, has got into the good books of African migrants quite early after he declared that the plans to repatriate asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda is “dead and buried.”

In what turned out to be Starmer’s first significant foreign policy statement,
Starmer said he would abandon the audacious plan to transport thousands of illegal to the East African country by the previous administration of Rishi Sunak.

The new PM stated categorically that the Rwanda policy would be abandoned since it would not have served as a deterrence and that just 1% of asylum applicants would have been expelled.

“The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It’s never been a deterrent,” Starmer said in the speech.

In the agreement which was estimated at around £120 million ($148 million), the British government, had disclosed last year that it intended to send thousands of migrants to the nation in East Africa to discourage asylum seekers from using tiny boats to cross the English Channel from France.

The plan was to return undocumented migrants to the Rwanda and was first announced by the Conservative government in 2022, with the stated goal of ending the influx of asylum seekers in small boats.

The deal had suffered significant setbacks with some members of parliament kicking against it and court cases delaying its smooth take off but Sunak had insisted on going through with it.

With the stance of the most powerful man in the UK, endangered African migrants who seek asylum in the country can be rest assured of some level of protection.

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