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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 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. From prison to power: The inspiring story of Senegal’s youngest President, Bassirou Faye

Before he was announced the winner of Senegal’s presidential election on March 24, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, was another political prisoner who only released from prison a few days to the contentious poll that had to be held twice.

Despite the power of incumbency of sitting President Macky Sall and his efforts to buckle down on the opposition including one-time favourite, Ousmane Sonko who was accused of insurrection and disqualified from contesting in the election, the 44-year-old Faye dared all odds to secure 53.68% of the vote, while his close rival, Amadou Ba, the candidate for the ruling coalition, secured 36.2% of the vote to come a distant second.

Sonko’s disqualification had effectively paved the way for Faye with many Senegalese resolving to vote in new breed of politicians away from the usual recycled old heads that has come to be the bane of leadership in Africa.

Much of Faye’s success can also be attributed to the support of Sonko who enjoys high popularity, particularly among young people who promptly switched allegiance to Faye following Sonko’s disqualification.

So when the second round of elections took Center stage in the West African country, the electorates showed their discontent with the old order and decided to make Faye the youngest president in the country’s political history.

It was also a testament to the new reality of change and awareness that is gradually changing the face of politics in the continent with more younger people being voted into leadership positions.

The nationwide celebration that erupted in the country following the announcement of Faye’s victory by the Senegal Electoral Commission (SEC), also showed that a new dawn had come, not only for Senegal but for Africa in general.

The icing on the cake came following President Sall’s congratulatory message to Faye:

“I salute the smooth running of the presidential election of March 24, 2024, and congratulate the winner, Mr. Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who the trends show as the winner. It is the victory of Senegalese democracy,” the outgoing president had said.

2. ‘You can run, but you can’t hide,’ Tinubu tells killers of Nigerian soldiers

President Bola Tinubu was at his teether’s end on Wednesday, March 27 during the burial of the 17 military officers who were abducted and killed by gunmen while on a peace-keeping mission to the Okuama community in Delta State, and for the umpteenth time, vowed that the killers of the soldiers will be arrested and made to face the full weight of the law.

has once again reiterated that killers of 17 soldiers of the Nigerian Army in Delta State on March 14 will not go unpunished as he has mandated security agencies to go after them and make them pay for their crimes.

The visibly angry President Tinubu, while paying homage to the fallen soldiers during the burial at the National Cemetery in Abuja, assured their families, colleagues and Nigerians that those who perpetrated the dastardly attacks on the military personnel would be made to face the full weight of the law.

“They went as peacemakers and peacekeepers respectfully seeking to bring an end to the hostilities between the two communities,” President Tinubu said.

“They didn’t go with tanks, machine guns, or other weapons. They were on a mission of peace. They kept faith with their military calling until the end.

“The elders and chiefs of Okuoma also have a duty to help the military in fishing out the gunmen who committed the barbaric crime against our men.

“Those who committed this heinous crime will not go unpunished. We will find them, and our departed heroes will get justice,” Tinubu reiterated, not for the first time since the dastardly attacks on March 14.

But beyond the vows and zeal displayed by the Nigerian Army to fish out the killers of the gallant soldiers, many Nigerians are sceptical about the method being deployed.

There is a deja vu feeling of such encounters in the past where whole communities are brought down by soldiers out to avenge the killings of their colleagues by a few hot heads or militant groups.

It happened in Zangon Kataf in Kaduna State; the same scenario played out in Zaki Biam in Benue State; while the most devastating incident happened in Odi in Bayelsa State.

Will the Tinubu administration be able to curb the excesses of the Army with reports that they had already invaded the Okuama community in search of the killers who must have escaped into the creeks.

Nigerians are waiting with fingers crossed and bated breaths.

3. ‘Don’t rejoice too soon, you’d be disappointed,’ Zambian Alliance cautions citizens over debt restructuring deal

During the week in review, Zambian opposition coalition, the United Kwacha Alliance (UKA), threw spanners into the celebration of citizens who had welcomed a debt restructuring deal brokered by the President Hakainde Hichilema’s administration and the government claims that the country’s economy was picking up at the same time.

The Alliance, in a scathing statement on Thursday, said Zambians should not engage in premature celebrations because the Hichilema and the government was misleading the masses.

Before the attack on the deal, the government had announced that it had successfully brokered secured the debt restructuring deal with international bond holders and the Official Creditors Committee (OCC).

But the UKA, through its Media Chairperson, Saboi Imboela, urged the citizens not to jubilate just yet because, according to her, “the government was only exhibiting political desperation to show good results while hiding their bad governance.”

“President Hakainde Hichilema’s government’s debt restructuring celebrations are premature, a sign of political desperation meant to show intangible results while misleading the Zambian people,” she stated in the statement.

The UKA also challenged the government to acknowledge that the debt restructuring deal did not remove the burden of the Euro-bonds, except that they have been merely consolidated into two new ones – Bond A and Bond B in order to resume debt servicing.

“The Government is not fully disclosing its financial predicaments and weaker status for this process, as the terms of the Debt Restructuring Deal will negatively impact the Zambian economy and worsen the cost of living for the majority citizens,” Imboela said.

To the ordinary Zambian on the streets, the news that the government had secured such a debt restructuring deal would naturally be a thing of joy as it could trigger economic growth as well as curb the escalating inflation which has led to high cost of living.

But with the revelation by the UKA, now behoves on the government to employ it’s best public relations machinery to convince the people of its genuine intentions.

4. End of the road for Moroccan ‘Tinder Rapist’

The African adage which says that there are a hundred days for a thief but just one day of reckoning for the owner of the property, played out in grand style following the arrest of a Moroccan serial rapist who preyed on women on the online dating app, Tinder.

The accused, Salim Berrada, who is fondly called the “Tinder Rapist”, a 38-year-old Moroccan photographer, was arraigned at a French court on Friday on allegations of serial rape and sexual assault against 17 women spanning from 2014 to 2016 in France.

Prosecutors told the court that Berrada had, during the period, lured the women on the dating app to his photography studio where he would drug them and rape them thereafter.

They described a well-established pattern that began with contact through dating apps or social media, followed by a photoshoot in Berrada’s Paris studio, consumption of alcohol, suspicion of drugging, and non-consensual, often violent, sexual encounters.

According to French media, the “Tinder Rapist” case had drawn widespread attention because of its “chilling portrayal of alleged predation facilitated through the online dating platform.”

A French media outlet, BFMTV, in a report, said Berrada faces 20 years in prison if he is convicted of thirteen counts of rape and four counts of sexual assault.

“The trial has garnered significant attention, with the verdict expected on Friday. Berrada faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges against him,” BFMTV said.

In his defence, Berrada said:

“I have never drugged anyone. I have never had a modus operandi to rape anyone.

“There are people who slept with me to look good when they didn’t really want to. There are people who slept with me to get their photos and when they didn’t get the photos, they say they suffered abuse,” Berrada claimed.

Though he had denied all accusations levelled against him, it would be a big ask for Berrada to sweet talk his way out of the court.

5. Biafran dissident, Simon Ekpa dares Nigeria, declares President Tinubu, VP Shettima, govt officials wanted

In the same week under review, Finland-based Biafran dissident, Simon Ekpa, took his war against constituted authorities another notch when he declared Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and other top government and security officials wanted
over the insecurity situation in the South-East region of the country.

Ekpa who broke away from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), led by Nnamdi Kanu to set up a rival group known as IPOB-Auto Pilot before transitioning to become the self-styled Prime Minister of the Biafra Republic Government in-Exile (BRGIE), made the pronouncement two days after the Nigerian government declared wanted on account of terrorism

In a list he released on his verified X account, also declared wanted the governors of Imo, Anambra and Enugu States, Hope Uzodinma, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Peter Mbah, respectively, as sponsors of terrorism in the region.

“The above sponsors of terrorism, ethnic cleansing, killing and wanton destruction of lives and properties of Biafrans must be arrested anywhere you see them within Biafra territory,” he said.

Also included in Ekpa’s list were “all South East Senators and House of representatives members, except Chief Chinyelugo Imo, all GOCs of Nigeria within Biafra territory, and all CPs within Biafra territory.”

In the post on X, Ekpa stated that Tinubu, Shettima and the others on his listed are behind the insecurity in the South-East region and as such, are persona non-grata in the zone and should be arrested anytime they step foot in the region.

As funny as the declaration of the Nigerian officials may seem and a joke taken too far, many Nigerians believe it is time the government takes him seriously and activate diplomatic channels with Ekpa’s adopted country and bring him to book.

The reasoning is that he has some very gullible followers who take his orders hook, line and sinker and are willing to give their up their lives to satisfy his whims and caprice.

Behind the News

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

Published

on

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 of some of the biggest news stories in Africa that we covered during the week:

Here comes Senegal’s govt of young people

Following months in the build-up of the Senegalese election which produced Bassirou Diomaye as President and the appointment of Ousmane Sonko as Prime Minister, an announcement of a new government was made on Saturday, the make-up suggests a groundbreaking political alliance in Senegal’s political space as Sonko stressed that the government was “ruptured.” It has 25 ministers and five secretaries of state, and almost half of them are from his political party, the African Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics, and Fraternity (PASTEF).

“This is a government that embodies the project [of Bassirou Diomaye Faye], a systemic transformation the Senegalese people voted for on March 24, 2024, through a first-round election with 54.28% of the vote,” Sonko said of the president-elect.

Cheikh Diba was appointed as finance minister, which is a big deal as he used to be in charge of budget programming at the finance office. Abdourahmane Sarr was made minister of the economy. Birame Souleye Diop will be in charge of the oil and energy ministry for a country that will start producing oil and gas in 2024. Souleye Diop was vice president of Sonko and Faye’s Pastef party, which has since broken up. Two generals were chosen to be ministers of defence and interior. Ousmane Diagne is now the justice minister. He used to be a public lawyer at the Dakar Court of Appeal.

Sonko had hinted that the government is likely to embrace anti-France campaigns which have spread across former French colonies in the sub-region, as he hinted it would consider the implementation of the reform of the West Africa region’s CFA franc currency at a regional level first, and if that failed, would consider creating a national currency, if his preferred candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, wins the next presidential election.

Beyond the political alliance that ushered in the new government and disposition in the international system, the jury is out on the likely performance of the government of “young people” which spreads an argument about age inclusiveness in political leadership across the continent with Faye being the youngest elected president in the continent.

For many years, economic reports have criticized African countries for having too many people. People often see this growth as putting a strain on all of their developing skills. More than 60% of people living in Africa today are younger than 25 years old. By 2030, 42% of the world’s young people are likely to be from Africa.

Nigeria in fresh living cost crisis as electricity cost blows up

The Nigerian government changed the price of natural gas for companies that make electricity to $2.42 per metric million British thermal units (MMBtu) on Monday, which was the first news of the week. The old rate was $2.18mmbtu, so this is more than that. The following day, on Wednesday, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission allowed a rise in the price of electricity for customers in Band A. Customers will pay N225 per hour for electricity instead of N66 now.

More than 70% of Nigeria’s electricity is produced by gas-fired thermal power facilities. As a result, when the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission conducts another tariff review, the increased cost of the item can increase the rate that power users must pay.

There has been a surge in the cost of living since May 29 when the subsidies on petroleum products were removed, and the price of diesel which is the common option for alternate energy hit a record high of 1N,900, the new tariff could further compound situation for Nigerians but strong points have been made against continued subsidy regime in the energy sector.

Since late 2023, the terrible state of the energy supply has gotten worse because gas suppliers to gas-fired thermal power plants have stopped sending gas to the plants because the plants owe $1.3 billion in debt. In Nigeria, the price of electricity for homes in September 2023 was about 23 naira per kilowatt hour, which is about 0.016 U.S. dollars. But the price of electricity for factories was about 36 NGN per kilowatt hour, which is about 0.026 United States dollars.

Nigeria, which has the biggest economy and people in Africa, has had problems with electricity outages for a long time. The country doesn’t have enough power plants, and some of the energy that is made is wasted because the grid is so badly broken. Electricity companies can’t charge rates that reflect their costs, and they have a hard time collecting money because their meters aren’t set up correctly, which discourages new investment.

Egypt’s al-Sisi begins third term

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in for a third term on Tuesday in the country’s new capital, which is being built outside of Cairo. After being in charge for more than ten years, Sisi “will take the oath of office on the constitution Tuesday in the new parliament premises in the administrative capital,” which is east of Cairo, according to Al-Ahram.

Sisi, who is 69 years old began the new term as expectations build for wide-ranging changes after a $50 billion international bailout warded off the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. more than three months after he won re-election with 89.6% of the vote over three mostly unknown candidates. After huge protests across the country, Sisi led the removal of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. He was previously in charge of the army and the Ministry of Defence.

The possibility of a government reshuffle as Cairo tries to deal with the effects of two years of terrible economic problems and a severe lack of foreign currency. Analysts say that at the start of 2024, the Arab world’s most populous country was heading straight for failure and economic collapse. Then, suddenly, it got more than $50 billion in loans and investments. Financial services companies have also raised Egypt’s credit ratings, as months-worth of blocked inventory began to be released into the import-dependent economy.

In just a few weeks, the United Arab Emirates revealed a $35-billion deal to develop land in Ras al-Hikma, Egypt. At the same time, the International Monetary Fund more than doubled a $3-billion loan, and the World Bank and the European Union signed new loans. Former deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaa-Eldin said that the huge bailout kept Egypt “from falling into the abyss.”

Egypt remains in the eye of the world, particularly the Israel and Hamas war as the boundary between Egypt and Israel stretches 206 kilometres (128 miles) along the eastern edge of the Sinai Peninsula from the de facto tripoint with Palestine (Gaza) to the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea makes Egypt a geopolitical interest for the Western powers.

Somaliland’s naval space conflict in new twist

Ethiopia’s proposal to construct a naval station in the breakaway territory of Somaliland, Somalia took a fresh dimension on Thursday as Somalia announced the recall of its ambassador to Addis Ababa, closing two Ethiopian consulates, and expelling Ethiopia’s ambassador. “This follows … the actions of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia which infringe upon Somalia’s sovereignty and internal affairs,” Somalia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Disagreement over a memorandum of understanding that landlocked Ethiopia signed on January 1st, agreeing to lease 20 km (12 miles) of coastline in Somaliland, a region of Somalia that has enjoyed effective autonomy since 1991 and asserts its independence. In exchange for Ethiopia’s recognition as an independent state, Somaliland, the breakaway territory of Somalia, can use a major port with access to the Red Sea thanks to a controversial pact.

The contentious deal allows Somaliland to grant Ethiopia the use of a major port with access to the Red Sea in exchange for recognition as an independent state. Somalia has described the pact as an act of “aggression” and a violation of its sovereignty. Somaliland is requesting a 50-year lease from Ethiopia to lease 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the coastline in exchange for Ethiopia’s access to a military installation and commercial marine services.

International law does not recognize Somaliland’s claim of independence from Somalia in 1991. Its most recent deal with the big country in the region, Ethiopia, has been strongly opposed by the central government in Mogadishu, which has promised to fight it in every way possible. The agreement has made things more tense in the Horn of Africa. The US, the EU, the African Union, and the Arab League have all called for calm and for Somalia’s rights to be respected with the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, declaring that his country would not tolerate any threat against Somalia, following Ethiopia’s announcement that it would take into consideration Somaliland’s claim to independence in exchange for access to a seaport.

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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 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:

Egypt: In defence of bread subsidy

According to Mohamed Mait, Egypt’s finance minister, the nation’s budget for 2024–2025 will allocate $2.66 billion for wheat subsidies and $3.13 billion for petroleum product subsidies. A total of $12.67 billion was set aside for social protection measures, with 134 billion Egyptian pounds going specifically towards food subsidies.

The largest food crisis to hit Africa in forty years is currently affecting communities in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Somalia, among other places. Conflict is the main cause of Africa’s food crisis, as evidenced by the fact that 82% of the record 149 million Africans experiencing acute food insecurity live in conflict-affected nations but Egypt’s case is quite different.

Egypt is a significant importer of wheat, other staple goods, and petroleum into the world market and one of the most affected by poor grain supply in the aftermath of the Russian/Ukraine war.  The country is currently dealing with foreign exchange shortages, a gaping budget, and balance of payments imbalances. About 60 million of Egypt’s 105 million inhabitants benefit from the nation’s subsidy program, which provides discounted prices on items like sugar, rice, and bread.

But its disposition towards subsidies is antithetical to the stance of multilateral bodies, the World Bank the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international bodies which are its main aid sources as it anticipates receiving more than $20 billion from the agreement mediated by the IMF.  The country has moved from the verge of economic collapse to receiving over $40 billion from the UAE, IMF and likely investments from Saudi Arabia in just days in March.

In a 2023 assessment, the IMF contended that the wealthy benefited mostly from these subsidies because they consume the most. In the case of subsidies on energy, higher-income groups primarily profit from energy subsidies and the connection to the power grid is heavily biased toward higher-income people, and electricity subsidies are especially regressive. However, the impoverished would also suffer if they were eliminated. Even though there are notable differences in the types of energy products consumed across income groups, the poor would still experience a significant welfare impact from the elimination of subsidies.

Ongoing development in the Middle East, particularly the Israel and Hamas war as the boundary between Egypt and Israel stretches 206 kilometres (128 miles) along the eastern edge of the Sinai Peninsula from the de facto tripoint with Palestine (Gaza) to the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea makes Egypt a geopolitical interest for the Western powers and its institutions who are tilted towards Israel in the conflict means the aids might not cease despite subsidies. The world cannot afford a broken Egypt at this critical time; cheap bread might just be the key.

Senegal Decides: The end of CFA Franc?

As Senegalese vote for their next president on Sunday, campaign promises of controversial opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko to consider the implementation of reform of the West Africa region’s CFA franc currency at a regional level first, and if that failed, would consider creating a national currency, if his preferred candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, wins the next presidential election.

“We will try to implement a monetary reform at the sub-regional level first,” Sonko said. “If that fails, we will decide as a nation.”

“There’s no sovereignty if there is no monetary sovereignty,” said Faye, speaking at the same press conference.

Sonko claimed that the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro and is used by eight members of the West African Monetary Union, has an impact on regional economic progress and that it is time to look into other choices.

The CFA stands for the African Financial Community or Communauté Financière Africaine representing two currencies the West African and Central African backed by the French government and have a fixed exchange rate to the euro which are although distinct, practically equivalent. Fourteen countries utilize the CFA franc, 12 of which were formerly French colonies. The French colonies used to use currencies pegged to the French franc, but a number of them departed the franc zone after gaining independence: Tunisia in 1958, Morocco in 1960, Guinea in 1959, Algeria in 1964, Madagascar, and Mauritania in 1973.

Given the level of autonomy attained by many former African French colonies since their independence, particularly in West Africa, critics of persisting neocolonialism object to the monetary situation. With an anti-France wave growing in the sub-region, the spread of military coups and ideological shifts towards Russia and China which are both global rivals to France’s African dominance, and the election launching a new president for Senegal, the jury is out on what would be the diplomatic leanings of the country as incumbent Macky Sall bows out.

South Africa’s ruling ACN struggles

During the week, South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) threatened legal proceedings against a rival political party, uMkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation) headed by a former president, and ANC chieftain, Jacob Zuma, manifesting a new level of cracks between the party. The party has a bad reputation due to months of unrest between former President Jacob Zuma and current President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In January, the ANC accused Zuma of insubordination and suspended him over what it described as “exceptional circumstances”. Zuma had criticized the ANC leadership in December and said that he would support the newly established uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party, which was named for the ANC’s former military wing, which had opposed apartheid but had disbanded when South Africa gained independence. Later on, Zuma declared that he would continue to be an ANC member.

The move seemed to irritate the ANC, whose popularity has been dwindling in recent elections due to high rates of poverty and unemployment in one of the most economically unequal nations in the world. The recent instability around the energy sector has forced the rationing of electricity for over a year and has also become a political point as the country builds up towards its next presidential elections in May.

There is a long history of internal conflict and dissension within the ANC, the first episode being in the 1930s as a result of the conservatives’ win in the late 1920s, which caused the leaders of the party to divide over whether or not to cooperate with the Communist Party. In recent history, however, following Thabo Mbeki’s constitutional ban from serving a third term as president of South Africa, there were indications of dissatisfaction within the party before the 2007 national conference. Had Mbeki been able to secure a third term as party president, he would have had significant influence over the selection of the nation’s next president in 2009 which was strongly challenged by sacked Vice president at the time, Jacob Zuma.

Fresh elections are in view again and the ACN’s turbulent history has repeated itself, with opposition voices like the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and a parliament divided across eighteen political parties, the May 29 election might prove to be the biggest test yet for Nelson Mandela’s former party which has ruled South Africa since the end of white minority rule thirty years ago. With Zuma’s political base out of the equation for the ANC, a coalition which the party has also ruled out might be required to remain in power.

Niger: US efforts to regain lost ground in Africa suffers setback

The week began with the Niger Republic, one of the West African countries burdened with terrorist operations in the Sahel, announcing an end to military ties with the United States, dealing a blow to Washington’s recent push for a renewed global influence in Africa.

A surge of terrorism has hit the West African subregion, killing hundreds of people, destroying both private and public property, and uprooting millions of people. States and international organizations both inside and outside the sub-region have created and implemented various mechanisms to deal with the problem in response.

Over a thousand US forces are reportedly stationed in Niger, according to the US military. Furthermore, the US has a drone station in the country’s north, which is crucial for monitoring extremist groups in the Sahel region of Africa, which is located just beneath the Sahara desert.

The event draws attention to the US’s recent efforts to rebuild its alliance in Africa. Niger serves as the centre of US activities in West and North Africa, especially at Air Base 201, one of the most expensive construction projects the US government has ever carried out abroad. Despite its stated purpose of aiding counterterrorism efforts, the project is largely seen as a geopolitical posture against US global rivals China and Russia, both of whom African nations have recently leaned toward for military and economic ties.

International and regional sanctions have been imposed on Niger as a result of a coup that resulted in the removal of President Mohamed Bazoum. The US effectively stopped supporting Niger militarily, and the base’s activities were limited to observation to keep an eye on US soldiers.

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