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Behind the News

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:

Inside the controversy over Ghana’s anti-LGBT legislation

Reactions have continued to trail Ghana’s recent anti-LGBTQ bill, with the finance ministry warning on Wednesday that it may cause the country to lose $3.8 billion in World Bank financing over the next five to six years if it becomes law which lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation last week that will further up the crackdown on the rights of LGBTQ individuals and anyone suspected of promoting LGBTQ rights.

The positions of African countries against the LGBTQ community have always been a subject of division, particularly against Western powers and some of their agencies, while the European Union’s decision not to cut funding to Uganda over a harsh anti-LGBTQ law was criticised by gay rights activists. In 2023, Uganda had its fair share of pressure, with the World Bank insisting that the East African country’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.”

Ghana’s is the latest African country to go in the direction of anti-LGBT law, sponsored by a coalition of religious and traditional leaders and favoured most lawmakers, and it appears the “latest is the harshest.” Those who engage in LGBTQ sexual acts might be imprisoned for a maximum of three years or six months under the terms of the bill. Additionally, “willful promotion, sponsorship, or support of LGBTQ+ activities” carries a three-to five-year prison penalty under the measure.

The bill also stipulates that every Ghanaian now has a duty to ‘promote and protect’ heterosexuality; every parent, guardian, religious teacher, school teacher, traditional leader, imam and pastor must all start promoting heterosexuality; media and creative artists—musicians, actors, dancers, performers, etc.—must all teach and make ‘conscious effort’ to promote heterosexuality. The bill also provides that a foreigner who has entered into, has administered or witnessed a same-sex marriage (that is legal in your own country) is automatically a criminal in Ghana and can go to jail for up to three years, amongst other provisions.

Many arguments against the proposed law that is yet to be assented by President Nana Akufo-Ado stretch from the burden of non-allegiance placed on a likely “innocent public,” as it makes heavy stands against being indifferent or passive against same-sex practice in the West African country. Analysts say non-LGBTQ Ghanaians are more likely to be caught in the web of the law than actual gay people if assented, thus raising critical rights concerns.

The proposed law is a test of the socio-cultural history of the country. Being the most culturally liberal in the West African subregion, being home to many asylum seekers and political fugitives, and its largest tribe, the Ashanti, being of matriarchal tradition but with much homosexuality, can it accommodate?

US isn’t giving up on South Africa

The United States Deputy Treasury Secretary, Wally Adeyemo, who is of Nigerian descent, will travel to South Africa (SA) next week. Adeyemo’s tour will cover topics such as US sanctions, work against wildlife trafficking, investments in young leaders and entrepreneurs, sustainable energy transition, and illicit finance.

The proposed visit is in the spotlight for international observers as there have been recent strains in relations between the countries. Unsurprisingly, South Africa’s relations with European giants and US ideological rival Russia have continued to blossom. Last year, United States ambassador Reuben Brigety accused SA of providing ammunition to Russia through ships, contrary to its public claim of being non-aligned in the Russia/Ukraine crisis.

“Among the things we noted was the docking of the cargo ship in the Simon’s Town naval base between December 6 and 8, 2022, of which we are confident we uploaded weapons and ammunition onto that vessel as it made its way back to Russia,” said the US ambassador.

The US and its allies have imposed a plethora of sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, aimed at the nation’s banking industry, military industrial base, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Johannesburg remains a close ally, has almost hosted Putin and threatened to ignore the ICC’s ruling against the Russian president if he had visited.

South Africa has maintained an international ideological stance that opposes the US on global turf; more recent is its stand against US ally Israel’s engagement in the ongoing Hamas war by dragging it to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and asking the World Court to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal.

Despite its stance, it remains an irresistible toast to Washington, which is desperate to restore its dwindling influence in Africa, with many on the continent now favouring US global rivals, China for economic and trade partnerships, and Russia for military relations. Being Africa’s most industrilized economy, South Africa is core to whatever the US hopes to achieve in its last quest to “return” to Africa.

Zambia’s new maize policy and musings on intra-continental trade

On Saturday, the Zambian government made it illegal to export feeds made with maize ingredients until it conducted an audit of the country’s maize harvest to determine the full extent of the damage caused by the continuing drought. Zambia’s latest maize policy raises questions about the age-long discussion on regional integration and trade relations on the continent.

The position might affect food supply as Zambia is the largest net supplier of maize in the world. It exported almost 1.1 MMT of corn in MY 2022/23 on record carry-over stocks of 1.5 MMT and higher demand from East Africa and neighbouring countries, and production of its staple crop, corn, is expected to grow by 23 percent to 3.3 million metric tonnes (MMT) in marketing year (MY) 2023/24, mainly due to an upsurge in planted area.

In a similar fashion, the Government of the Republic of Tanzania has officially communicated to the Zambian government its availability to export maize to Zambia. Nigeria, which is the food basket for the West African subregion, has also adopted similar anti-food export policies amidst its growing food crises.

Despite having the largest free-trade in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation following the formation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which was a free trade area in 2018, “self-preservation” remains the biggest relational factor for many Africans with strict protectionist policies, which although affect formal intra-continental trade, only to become the lifeblood of smuggling.

Africa’s GDP and its internal trade expanded fourfold over the past two decades, according to the report, which suggests that intra-African trade is more resilient than exchanges with other regions of the world, Africa’s trade and regional integration face several obstacles. Transportation and communication infrastructure for intra-African trade are less developed than those that connect Africa to the rest of the world.

Ahead of the first election in the world’s youngest country

South Sudan, the world’s youngest independent state, is one of 19 African countries expected to hold elections this year, and there have been warnings from a senior US State Department official quoted by Reuters that unless immediate action is taken, the planned December elections are not likely to be a credible process due to the government’s delayed preparations.

“I give it 50/50” about the possibility that the elections in December would go as scheduled…If there’s either a delay or violence, I think we would look at the whole suite of options, including sanctions,” the official said.

Since its descent into civil conflict in 2013, South Sudan has experienced severe instability due to a long-standing political rivalry between First Vice President Riak Machar and President Kiir. This rivalry has strong ethnic overtones, as both leaders have successfully rallied support from the country’s two largest ethnic bases, the Nuer and the Dinka.

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan has built a career out of stalling elections, which has allowed him to hold the office de facto since 2005 despite only being qualified for a single four-year term after the country’s 2011 independence vote. He has since managed extensions in 2020, 2022, 2015, and 2018.

Kiir’s announcement to be a candidate in the election is profound, as the continent already boasts of some of the world’s longest-serving leaders with decades at the seat of power in countries like Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Uganda, and Rwanda. Thus, it seems that the biggest obstacle to South Sudan’s holding legitimate elections is a lack of political will to both hold credible elections and establish independent oversight agencies.

Behind the News

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

Published

on

Over the past week, there have been many important stories from around the African continent, and we have 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:

South Africa’s ANC remains in power despite electoral setback

It appeared that the dust had finally settled on South Africa’s 2024 general elections as its National Assembly concluded voting on the post of the Speaker of the Parliament, President, with the candidates of the ruling All National Congress (ANC) Thoko Didiza, and Cyril Ramaphosa emerged occupants of the country’s highest political jobs. The ascendancy of Didiza and Ramaphosa is the result of a coalition. The ANC and DA currently hold 246 of the 400 seats in the freshly elected National Assembly, which is enough to establish a coalition government.

The ANC party lost its parliamentary majority in an unprecedented election result, putting South Africa on a new political path for the first time since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule thirty years earlier. In the election on Wednesday, the once-dominant ANC received roughly 40% of the vote, falling well short of the majority it had routinely secured—more than 60% of the vote—in every election since 1994 when apartheid was abolished and put under Nelson Mandela’s leadership.

The swaged performance notwithstanding, the ANC managed a coalition which the populist Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) maintained it “contested because we wanted to demonstrate to South Africa that we did not agree with the marriage of convenience to consolidate the white monopoly power to dominate the economy and the means of production in South Africa. This marriage seeks to undermine the changing of property relations in South Africa. We refused to sell out, we had never done so when we were young and are not going to do so today.”

Since every party has distinct policies and views, the new government’s makeup will have a direct impact on South Africa’s future. Compromises and inter-party confidence building along the lines of President Nelson Mandela’s Government of National Unity, which included all of the ANC’s political rivals, including the National Party, following the first competitive multiparty elections in 1994, will be necessary for a government of national unity to be stable and effective for the people.

Nigeria strolling out of another FIFA World Cup

Nigeria’s senior football team is having it tough again on its journey to the World Cup after a devastating 2-1 loss to the Benin Republic at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan. The Super Eagles have failed to win the AFCON twice and make it to the 2022 World Cup since former Nigerian coach Genet Rohr was fired in December 2021. On Monday, Rohr guided the Benin Republic to their first-ever senior victory over Nigeria in international football. The German Cheetahs appeared more disciplined, fit, and focused than Finidi’s Eagles. The loss marked the first time in 17 games over 47 years, dating back to a 7-0 victory in February 1977, that Nigeria had ever allowed two goals against Benin.

Nigeria had an amazing record against the Beninoise in their previous 14 games, with 12 wins and 2 ties. In their two games against Benin, not even the CHAN Eagles scored two goals. Nigeria’s record now includes a defeat, courtesy of coach Finidi Geroge and his less-than-stellar Super Eagles. Unfortunately, it happens not at an international friendly but during a World Cup qualifier.

With three points after four games and currently four points behind the Benin Republic, who moved up to the top of Group C following their thrilling victory in Abidjan. The calculators and permutations are out already for Nigeria, If Zimbabwe wins their match, Nigeria will stay in fifth place in the group and may perhaps drop to the bottom.

The Super Eagles have not won any of their previous seven games in the series, with six draws and one loss. This is Nigeria’s worst run ever during the World Cup qualifying campaign. The game run isn’t of a team ready to compete at the Mundial against the top countries. Thus the Eagles are set to miss out on the North American party as the World Cup will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Nigerians will hope the situation can be salvaged with George Finidi’s now out of the job following his resignation on Saturday.

Nigeria’s Democracy Day and the many questions

Since gaining independence, Nigeria’s democracy has been brittle and inconsistent, despite the hurdles, the West African country marked twenty-five years of uninterrupted civil reign in the current fourth republic which began in 1999 after years of military interregnums on Wednesday, being 12th of June the date of a water-shed presidential election widely believed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola. More than 200 ethnic groups make up this complex nation, whose borders were determined by British colonialists, and successive governments have battled to forge a sense of national unity. The various regions of the country have had varying rates of democratization and development.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari issued an order on June 7, 2018, changing the date of the country’s Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12 annually. Additionally, Buhari bestowed the highest national title, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, upon Chief Moshood Abiola, the victor of the cancelled June 12, 1993, presidential election. Buhari went on to say that since Nigeria’s independence, the June 12. The 1993, election was the most peaceful, fair, and free one.

The civil war and the military era’s concentration of power gravely damaged Nigeria’s democracy. The battle developed a strong, affluent, and frequently dishonest military elite and contributed to the concentration of oil earnings in the hands of army officials. Nigeria’s political sphere was militarized by the dictatorships, and the emergence of democratic institutions and culture was impeded.

Nigeria’s democratic years are counting, but Nigeria remains below average in the reality of democratic indicators, notably on matters relating to civil rights, economic and social rights, civil and political participation, free and fair elections, rule of law, military and police control, government accountability and media tolerance. At no other time does the country needs the true expression of Bola Tinubu’s catchphrase of “Renewed Hope” beyond mere rhetorics.

From Palace to Trial: Story of Niger’s ousted President Bazoum

The travails of the ousted Nigerien president, Mohamed Bazoum went tougher on Friday as his lawyers confirmed that the State Court of Niamey has withdrawn the immunity, signalling the beginning of criminal proceedings against him by the junta. Bazoum was overthrown by a military coup in July of last year and placed under house arrest with his family after the coup. Since then, the Western countries and the ECOWAS regional political and economic bloc have repeatedly called for his release, but he and his spouse have stayed in detention.

Bazoum and his spouse have never appeared before a magistrate, according to his attorneys. Attorneys claimed that since October, when the White House disconnected their phone line, they have been isolated from the outside world and are only allowed to receive visits from their physician. The Niger military tribunal granted temporary release from home confinement to Mohamed Bazoum Salem, the deposed president’s 23-year-old son, in January.

Eight coups in West and Central Africa have resulted in the installation of military governments since 2020. Even after ruling last year that Bazoum’s arrest was unlawful, the ECOWAS Court of Justice has not responded to calls for his reinstatement.

The coup has put the country against a lot of its international allies particularly because the country favoured relations with France whose influence in Africa is fading fast. The French military was driven out of the region by new regimes in Mali, and Burkina Faso in the current wave. Since then, a law that assisted in preventing individuals from West Africa from travelling to Europe has been repealed. To reduce the number of illegal immigrants, the EU wishes to collaborate more closely with African nations.

Bazoum represents a political establishment, being the continuity candidate in the last election and a former foreign affairs minister in a country regularly ranked as the world’s poorest where jihadist attacks have surged in recent years and his legal travails are capable of upsetting the polity beyond just military incursion.

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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. ‘Come clean on secret subsidy payments,’ Atiku tells Tinubu

Nigerians were rudely shocked last Wednesday when Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Wale Edun announced that the government is still paying subsidy for fuel after President Bola Tinubu had pronounced the end of the subsidy regime in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2023.

The unilateral removal of fuel subsidy brought with it a rise in the cost of living with fuel price shooting up and the cost of food items rising beyond the reach of the common man.

However, Edun, while presentating the Accelerated Stabilisation and Advancement Plan (ASAP) report, alluded to the fact that fuel subsidy will gulp N5.4 trillion in 2024 after the initial denial that government had completely deregulated the product.

“At current rates, expenditure on fuel subsidy is projected to reach N5.4 trillion by the end of 2024. This compares unfavourably with N3.6 trillion in 2023 and N2.0 trillion in 2022,” Edun had said.

The report painted a clear picture that despite the surface removal of fuel subsidy, the government was still paying it.

The revelation drew lots of criticism from Nigerians including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who told Tinubu to come clean and tell Nigerians the truth about the subsidy payments.

Atiku, who made his views known in a statement on Wednesday, accused the Tinubu government of lacking in transparency and accountability while deceiving Nigerians in handling the affairs of the country.

President Bola Tinubu, at his inauguration on May 29, 2023, announced the abolishment of the subsidy on PMS, popularly known as fuel.

“Ever since, it has been a bragging right of Tinubu and officials of his administration.

“It is curious that since April 2024, fuel queues have mounted at many filling stations across Nigeria, and the infamous ‘black market’ has sprouted in several states. How much PMS is being imported and distributed, and at what cost? What is the implicit subsidy?

“If the subsidy regime had been characterised by opaqueness, what would we say of a situation where the subsidy is still being paid under the cover without Nigerians in the know?

“Like millions of Nigerians, I was shocked to learn through media reports that
the “government is still supporting downstream consumption.

“Now we know that expenditure on fuel subsidy may reach N5.4 trillion in 2024, compared to the N3.6 trillion spent in 2023, the same year that Tinubu claimed to have abolished fuel subsidy,” Atiku said.

Though the government came out to debunk the report from the Minister, insisting that it is no longer paying for subsidy, the question on the lips of Nigerians have been who is lying to the masses.

Nigerians want to know what the conflicting statements from the Minister and the government which were at variance with the situation on ground.

Why is the Tinubu government engaging in trial-and-error economic policies that have refused to yield positive results for the country?

And as Atiku pointed out, why would the government still engage in subsidy payments yet lie about it?

So many questions are begging for answers here.

2. Less talk, more work, please

For the umpteenth time, President Bola Tinubu reiterated his resolve and commitment to improving the quality of life of Nigerians with his now famous “bold reforms” and policies which he embarked upon since assuming office as Nigeria’s president a year ago.

While commissioning some projects in Federal Capital Territory on Monday,

Tinubu, said he has been “having sleepless nights” working hard to improve the lives of Nigerians under his watch.

“I reaffirm my administration’s dedication to enhancing the quality of life for all Nigerians. What is unfolding in the Federal Capital is a testament to what can be achieved by the government’s Renewed Hope Agenda of quality transformation of the FCT, and indeed Nigeria,” Tinubu said.

But the downtrodden Nigerian masses are not convinced with their President’s level of commitment to taking the country out of the woods due to what they are currently going through.

Under Tinubu’s watch, cost of living has escalated to the extent that common commodities have gone out of the reach of the people.

Inflation has skyrocketed, multinational companies are closing down and leaving the country in droves, insecurity has gone up unabated and the people are going through unbearable hardship and hunger.

Nigerians are unanimously asking President Tinubu to do less of talking and rather concentrate on working more to return the confidence that has been lost in his government.

3. Invitation to anarchy? Zambian opposition party threatens civil disobedience

Worried by alleged oppression by the Zambia government which uses the nation’s security forces to intimidate opposition parties, the Socialist Party (SP), threatened to embark on civil disobedience by bypassing a “no-rally” order placed by the Zambia Police Service.

The SP which was angered by the cancellation of its planned political rally which was scheduled to take place at Kitwe’s Changanamai Grounds in the Copperbelt on Saturday, vowed to go against the police order and go ahead with its rally.

In a statement by SP’s Party General-Secretary, Dr Cosmas Musumali, the party said despite applying to the police in Kitwe District seeking permission to hold a rally at Changanamai Grounds in Riverside on June 8, but were denied by the police authorities.

“SP President Dr Fred M’membe is going to speak to the nation on pertinent issues affecting the country, such as the high prices of commodities, political intimidation and violence,” Musumali stated.

“We went ahead thinking that after so many attempts to speak to the people of Zambia as a political party on issues that need answers, we would be allowed. But we are being told that we cannot go ahead because the situation in the country is volatile.

“We have read and we have heard from the ruling party UPND that they are not going to allow any rally. This is dictatorship of the worst order. Under the PF, as a party, we were allowed at least two rallies.”

The political situation in Zambia succinctly mirrors what are obtainable in many African countries where the government in power does everything to muscle and silence the opposition or any dissenting voice that seem to deviate from its leadership style.

And typically, they always seem to have their way as the security agencies, more often than not, play to the dictates of the ruling government.

A clear case of he who pays the piper dictates the tone!

“We do not need police permission to go ahead with this rally. We are going to proceed on June 8, 2024, at Changanamai Grounds in Kitwe. Our members and supporters are welcome as SP President Fred M’membe will deliver a message of hope,” Musumali concluded.

4. When love hurts as Achraf Hakimi’s ex-wife gives up

The estranged wife of Moroccan international football star, Achraf Hakimi, Hiba Abouk, has given up on love after she confessed that she has been hurt and disappointed several times by all the men who come into in her life.

Abouk who is coming to terms with the reality of her messy split from the Moroccan international after she discovered that all his assets were in his mother’s with little or nothing left for her, cried out in a podcast broadcast on Friday, saying she is no longer interested in love and relationships following her failed marriage to the PSG footballer.

In the podcast, Abouk, a 37-year-old Spanish-Tunisian actress also branded her marriage to the footballer a failed project, after their union had been blessed with two children.

“All men have been a disappointment. I’m a little hater on this subject,” the mother of two said.

Abouk and Hakimi made the headlines in 2023 following their messy divorce after Hakimi was indicted by the French police on charges of rape and sexually assaulting a French woman.

In the heat of the scandal, many African men had applauded the footballer for taking the steps of transferring his assets to his mother.

Many cited the examples of former Ivory Coast and Arsenal player, Eboue, who lost everything to his ex-wife after their divorce.

Apart from Emmanuel Eboue, examples abound of many African players have also lost their life earnings to their wives after their divorce.

5. Despite Tinubu’s vow, Nigeria still goes a-borrowing

Despite a stern vow from President Bola Tinubu that the era of Nigeria going cap in hand to borrow money from the international community, the country once again, accessed a $500 million loan from World Bank to rejig its power sector.

The loan which has jerked up the country’s burgeoning debt profile, came following the increase in charges for high-volume consumers in Africa’s most populous country.

According to the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), “the loan was included in the government’s borrowing plan for the month following the fulfilment of certain objectives.”

The BPE, in a statement on Friday, said the goal of the concessionary loan “is to help distribution businesses, who have had difficulty growing their capacity more than ten years after Nigeria turned over control of its electrical industry to private companies, perform better financially and technically.”

With the new loan, Nigeria’s debt profile has continued to rise, running into trillions of naira and continues to pile up pressure for the country.

Successive administrations seem not to learn from the past as they tend to always run to these international agencies to borrow money, thereby leaving the country at the mercy of their creditors.

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