It’s getting lost in the coverage of Covid-19, but the world’s second-worst Ebola outbreak ever may soon be history.
The last known patient with the disease was discharged from a treatment facility last week. Her clearance triggered a 42-day countdown. If no new cases are discovered in that period, the outbreak will officially be at an end. → Read the rest “At last, an end to the DRC’s Ebola outbreak?”
Dialogue with Islamists
Return of the army to the north
Insecurity and attacks
→ Read the rest “News – The Sahel Crisis”
February again saw more than 600 conflict-related fatalities, with the lion's share distributed between Mali (311) and Burkina Faso (235). The past three months have been the three deadliest of the Sahel crisis, with no signs of the violence abating.
Both security forces and armed groups continue to target civilians, often based on perceived ethnic allegiances and in retaliation for prior attacks. → Read the rest “Insights – The Sahel Crisis”
President Faure Gnassingbé has won a fourth mandate with 72.36% of the vote, according to official results. The announcement was contested by the opposition, which claims serious irregularities.
Agbéyomé Kodjo, Gnassingbé's primary challenger, won 18.37% of the vote, while third-placed Jean-Pierre Fabre got 4.35%. Participation was 76.63%, according to the electoral commission. → Read the rest “Insights – Togo: President (2020)”
As of now, the contested referendum is going forward, easily overshadowing the legislative elections that it was tacked onto only a few weeks ago. Tensions are running high, though.
President Alpha Condé did little to defuse these tensions with comments made to a French newspaper on Wednesday. He openly flirted with the possibility to use the planned constitutional changes to run for a third term, saying that "The Guinean people will ask this question: Is it the first time that a president changes the constitution to do a third or fourth term? → Read the rest “Insights – Guinea: National Assembly and Constitutional Referendum (2020)”
As was expected, the official results saw the governing party retain its absolute majority. President Paul Biya's RDPC won 139 out of 167 declared seats, according to the president of the constitutional council. Further seats went to allies of the ruling party.
Thirteen seats from the anglophone regions of Cameroon had their results annulled due to irregularities and violence during election day. → Read the rest “Insights – Cameroon: National Assembly (2020)”
This week brought another dramatic reminder of the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump’s expanded global gag rule is having on places in Africa. The policy has crippled health service delivery – and particularly the delivery of sexual and reproductive health care – across Malawi, according to a new report from the U.S.-based → Read the rest “The damage Trump has done to healthcare in Malawi”
The theme of this year’s African Union Summit was “Silencing the Guns,” and much of the focus was on continental efforts to ease the conflicts in South Sudan and Libya. But peacemaking wasn’t the only thing on the agenda during the meetings last week in Addis Ababa. A collection of presidents, officials from international agencies and bankers also held a meeting to discuss nutrition on the continent, focusing on the impact conflict has had in driving hunger across Africa. → Read the rest “Setting a different theme on nutrition”
The essentials: Last week an official of Sudan's transitional government announced that the country is planning to hand over former President Omar Al Bashir to the International Criminal Court to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The announcement was light on details and heavy on caveats, but with more information emerging, it looks increasingly likely that Al Bashir will have to face justice in some form. → Read the rest “The long arm of the ICC comes for Al Bashir”
Election day has come and gone, and the votes are still being counted. It may take another two weeks for the official result to arrive.
But based on the estimates of independent election observers and international journalists, it seems that the signature feature of this election was a low turnout. As few as 30 percent of voters may have cast their votes. → Read the rest “Insights – Cameroon: National Assembly (2020)”
Last week brought the frustrating news that a somewhat-promising HIV vaccine was not actually effective, causing researchers to shut down an ongoing trial in South Africa. The search for a vaccine to the virus, which infected an estimated 1.7 million people last year, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa, has been long and mostly disappointing. → Read the rest “The disappointing search for an HIV vaccine”
Thirty years to the day after Nelson Mandela stepped out of prison, his freedom a symbol of African self-determination and a triumph for the solidarity between Africans, the African Union is kicking off its annual summit to address the significant challenges of the continent. Unfortunately, many of the bloc's 55 leaders that will ultimately determine the AU's strategy are chief among those same challenges and show little willingness to tackle the systematic flaws in the system that they rely on. → Read the rest “Is the African Union up to the continent’s challenges?”
President Conde has pushed things too far with his attempts to reform the constitution, likely to allow him another term in office. If Guinea's political forces don't find a solution in the coming days, the onus will fall on the regional organization ECOWAS to mediate and search for a non-violent solution to the conflict. → Read the rest “Insights – Guinea: National Assembly and Constitutional Referendum (2020)”
I’m in Uganda this week, where the talk is all about 2019-nCoV, better known as coronavirus. On the one hand, health officials are bracing for the arrival of the virus, which has killed 490 people already. On the other, there has been some eye-rolling over the perception that the continent is taking the threat too seriously, with air carriers like Kenya Airways and RwandAir suspending flights to China. → Read the rest “Will Africa’s preparations for the coronavirus be enough?”
The essentials: Morocco's parliament has passed two laws that formalize the annexation of Western Saharan territorial waters under Moroccan sovereignty. While this does not present a fundamental change of the status quo, the unilateral move underscores the intractability of the conflict and the risks Morocco is willing to take to secure its economic interests. → Read the rest “Morocco goes shopping for territorial waters”
According to some press reports, Guinea's President Alpha Condé will announce in the coming days that the planned constitutional referendum will take place on the same day as the legislative elections.
Condé probably recognizes that the elections are linked to his plans to abolish term limits anyway. Furthermore, the opposition has announced that it will boycott the election and has not entered any candidates. → Read the rest “Insights – Guinea: National Assembly and Constitutional Referendum (2020)”
While much of the world focused on the gathering in Davos last week, there was a smaller get-together in Togo’s capital, Lome. There leaders and representatives from seven African countries signed on to an agreement, the Lome Initiative, committing to introduce legislation criminalizing the trafficking of fake medicines.
The idea is that it will be the first step in a broader effort to end the trafficking and sale of substandard and falsified drugs. → Read the rest “Fighting Fake Drugs”
The essentials: Massive swarms of locusts are currently active in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia and threaten the food security of millions in the whole region. The plague is the result of both natural breeding cycles and human-made climate change.
The context: Locusts are a family of insects that bear a strong resemblance to grasshoppers, but come with a critical difference: under the right environmental conditions, they can change both their behavior and physiology. → Read the rest “A Plague on All Your Countries: Locusts and Climate Change”
Given that the opposition largely boycotted the elections, the results don't surprise: President Azali Assoumani's party won 17 out of 24 seats, according to official results reported by news agencies.
Two seats went to other parties, though these are also part of the presidential coalition. A second-round deciding the five remaining seats will take place on February 23. → Read the rest “Insights – Comoros: Assembly of the Union (2020)”
The World Health Organization released its list of the 13 urgent health crises for the new decade. And though the list wasn’t in order of priority, it began with elevating the issue of health in the climate debate.
Without going any further down the list, it’s worth exploring how that specific issue has gone under-examined in Africa and what the implications are. → Read the rest “Climate change is already killing people across Africa. It will only get worse.”
The essentials: A massive leak of 715,000 documents to the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, led to a massive investigative journalism effort coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists into the provenance of the wealth of Isabel dos Santos, billionaire daugther of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and her husband, Congolese art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo. → Read the rest “#LuandaLeaks All Over Isabel Dos Santos”
The effort to decolonize global health is having a moment, with Goats and Soda — NPR's global health and development blog and a key read in the development world — predicting it will be one of the top trends in 2020.
Among the highlights, there will be a conference at Duke University on the issue at the end of the month — the latest in a series of events challenging traditional approaches to global health and the role still reserved for neo-colonial practices. → Read the rest “The decolonization trend”
The essentials: On Monday, French President Macron hosted his five Sahelian counterparts in the French town of Pau. In the run-up to the summit, Macron found harsh words for the anti-French protests in those same countries, threatening to pull out French troops fighting Islamists in the Sahel. In December, he also announced together with Ivorian President Ouattara that the West African CFA would transition to a new currency called Eco, signaling a less prominent role of France in African monetary policy. → Read the rest “What is France up to in its former colonies?”
The essentials: Egypt and Ethiopia failed again to find a compromise on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a massive construction project on Ethiopia's Blue Nile, which is due to be finished in the coming years. Filling the reservoir and using part of the water for irrigation in Ethiopia would severely reduce the water available to Egypt, which relies on the Nile for virtually all its irrigation water supply. → Read the rest “Egypt finds itself downstream without a paddle”
The essentials: The Turkish parliament last week approved the deployment of troops to Libya to shore up the coalition that holds the capital Tripoli and the internationally recognised government against militias supported by Russia and Arab nations. This marks an increasing escalation of foreign intervention in Libya and further undermines any hopes for a quick ceasefire. → Read the rest “Turkish Adventures on African Shores”
The essentials: A court in Luanda ordered the freezing of assets belonging to billionaire Isabel dos Santos and the seizure of her stakes in local companies last Monday. Dos Santos is the daughter of Angola’s former president José Eduardo dos Santos and is accused of siphoning funds that have cost the country more than $1 billion, according to a court document released in late December. → Read the rest “Angola freezes assets of Africa’s richest woman”
At the end of 2019, Science connected the dots on a range of polio incidents across 12 countries last year that left 196 children paralyzed.
The culprit was not wild poliovirus — the long-time public health bogeyman — but polio type 2 that emerged from previous vaccinations. The vaccine uses weakened strains of the virus, which can change over time to behave more like the naturally occurring version of the virus. → Read the rest “Africa’s emerging polio problem”
The essentials: A case of alleged genocide brought against Myanmar by The Gambia in defence of the Rohingya people was heard last week. The Gambia's Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou led the delegation at the International Court of Justice in The Hague while Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, spoke for Myanmar. → Read the rest “Tiny Gambia Takes Myanmar to Court over Rohingya Genocide”
The essentials: The trial of 47 Nigerian men accused of public displays of affection with people of the same sex began last week. If they are convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
The context: Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law in 2014, banning gay relationships in the country. → Read the rest “Nigeria Escalates Criminalization of its LGBT Community”
In Kenya, the country’s largest telecom is rolling out what should prove an interesting experiment. Safaricom subscribers will be able to sign up for a service that alerts them to information about any epidemics that have broken out in the places where they are traveling. It will also offer details on steps people can take to prevent infection and on symptoms they should look out for. → Read the rest “Kenya experiments with an early epidemic warning system”
The typical entrepreneur, the average businesswoman, the normal employee in Africa is part of the "informal economy". More than 77% of the non-agricultural workforce of the continent is employed informally, defined as working without paid leave and not receiving social security payments through the employer, who does not pay taxes to the national government. → Read the rest “Should the Informal Economy be the New Normal?”
The essentials: Yele Sowore, a media entrepreneur and former presidential candidate was dramatically arrested in court by the Department of State Services in direct contravention of a prior court ruling. Sowore has been detained since August for organising anti-government protests.
The context: Sowore, publisher of the news website Sahara Reporters and a 2019 presidential candidate was first arrested on August 3rd for organising anti-establishment protests that he called ‘Revolution Now’. → Read the rest “Activists call for release of detained Nigerian journalist”
The essentials: Tanzanian President John Magufuli's campaign to restrict critics or even potential critics of his administration has continued with his efforts to block individuals and NGOs from directly filing cases against his government to the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The context: The Court has jurisdiction over all cases that are submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. → Read the rest “Magufuli shuts down another outlet for dissent”
This year's World Malaria Report was a mixed bag. There are more women and children being protected from the disease, which continues to disproportionately affect Africans, but overall progress in prevention appears to have stalled.
The result is that about 11 million pregnant women — who are especially vulnerable to the disease — were infected with malaria in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018. → Read the rest “Global malaria response needs a jumpstart”
The essentials: Ghana president Nana Akufo-Addo granted citizenship status to 126 foreign nationals on Wednesday. The new citizens are all people of African descent who have been living in the country for many years.
The context: President Addo’s latest move is part of events lined up for his administration’s ‘Year of Return’ ceremony. → Read the rest “Ghana’s Year of Return in full swing”
Ebola health workers have again been targeted in the Democratic Republic of Congo by armed militia fighters. Four officials including a policeman were among those killed in the attacks on Thursday. More than 300 attacks on health workers have been recorded in the DRC this year alone.
At the same time DRC is battling the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, a wave of measles is also spreading through the country. → Read the rest “Ebola workers attacked in DRC – again”
Sudan's public order system could be used to justify any number of efforts to subjugate women. Officials relied on the system to dictate what women could wear, where they could go, who they could talk to. The tight system of control was upheld with the threat of flogging even though that punishment had been declared a violation of the African Charter of Human and People's Rights. → Read the rest “Vanquishing the public order laws”
Maybe it's because it fell on a Sunday, but World AIDS Day came and went this year with little fanfare — underscoring just how global attention for the epidemic has flagged. And not at a good time: The youth bulge across Africa and other parts of the developing world mean that more efforts are needed to prevent transmission of the disease or risk seeing a mass of new patients that overwhelms the existing infrastructure for treatment. → Read the rest “Don’t ignore World AIDS Day”
The typical African political leader is old, male and in many cases of questionable legitimacy. Of 90 presidents, prime ministers and other top rank politicians on the continent, only two are female. The median age is 62 years, compared to a median age of 19 for the entire population of the continent. → Read the rest “Some thoughts on African leaders”
The essentials: Bissau-Guineans voted on Sunday in a peaceful presidential ballot. The country remains calm for election results on November 28th. The forerunners are incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz, who seeks a second 5-year term and Domingos Simoes Pereira.
The context: Guinea Bissau has endured political upheaval for the past 5 years. → Read the rest “Calm as Guinea Bissau awaits poll results”