CW 1/2022: New year, old challenges
Press Review 31 December 2021 to 7 January 2022

Political crisis in Sudan

Last Sunday, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced his resignation in a televised speech. Hamdok had returned to office only six weeks earlier, after the military junta had deposed him on 25 October 2021. The controversial deal to reinstate Hamdok had been first welcomed by the international community, but nationally it was immediately strongly criticised by the democracy movement. Hamdok’s resignation therefore comes as little surprise. The specific reason for his resignation is said to have been that the military did not grant him the promised independence in selecting the members of the transitional government. In addition, Hamdok is said to have been angry about the creation of the General Intelligence Service (GIS), which was announced by the military on 30 December. The GIS is said to be similar to the National Intelligence Service (NISS) feared under former dictator Omar al-Bashir. Against this backdrop, the news of Hamdok’s resignation was greeted with enthusiasm by large sections of the Sudanese population. At the same time, mass protests against military rule, which have regularly drawn tens of thousands onto the streets since the coup in October and are often violently put down by the military, continue. Yesterday, Thursday, thousands of demonstrators in various cities again demanded the return of power to a civilian government, and at least three people died in the subsequent clashes with the military. This brought the death toll since the start of the protests in October to over 60. Meanwhile, Hamdok’s successor remains an open question as the ruling junta led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has not yet commented on the issue. The international community reacted with concern to the unstable situation in the north-east African country. In a joint communiqué, the European Union and the Troika (USA, UK and Norway) called on the junta to form a transitional civilian government and appoint a prime minister emerging from a dialogue with various representatives of civil society. An emergency meeting on Sudan has also been requested at the UN Security Council, to be held next week.

 

Malian military government plans to postpone elections

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop presented the military government’s new transition plan to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday. According to the plan, the presidential and parliamentary elections originally scheduled for February 2022 are to be postponed significantly and the democratic transition process will only be completed after five years. The plan foresees a constitutional referendum in 2023 and parliamentary elections in 2025. Accordingly, the presidential election would not be held before 2026. The main political parties and non-governmental organisations in Mali have rejected the military government’s five-year plan. They accuse the junta of both acting unilaterally and delaying the democratisation process. According to them, the plan was not coordinated with civilian forces. Although the military junta had held a national forum for consultations in December, the meetings were boycotted by many sections of civil society, as the whole process was perceived as a fig leaf. Mali looks back on a politically very turbulent 18 months, during which the military, led by Colonel Assimi Goita, staged two coups. Since the ouster of interim president Bah N’Daw in May 2021, Goita himself has held the post. For its part, ECOWAS had already reacted with concern to the political situation in the country before the announcement of the five-year plan and had imposed sanctions on Malian officials (press review CW50/2021). In addition, it had urged that the elections be held on time and threatened to impose economic sanctions on the West African state if they were not. In view of the five-year plan now presented by the Malian military government, difficult talks are therefore expected for the next special summit of ECOWAS members on Mali, which will take place on 9 January in the Ghanaian capital Accra. The Malian government is currently also coming in for increased criticism beyond West Africa. Shortly before Christmas, Germany, together with a number of European partners, condemned the deployment of the Russian mercenary company Wagner Group in the country. Meanwhile, on 1 January this year, the USA terminated Mali’s important trade agreement, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), due to the unconstitutional change of government. In addition to Mali, the West African country Guinea and the East African country Ethiopia were affected by this decision.

 

In other news

1 January 2022 marked the transition to green energy for Morocco’s Al-Boraq express train. Operated by the state-owned railway company ONCF, the train has been connecting the cities of Casablanca and Tangier at a speed of 320km/h since 2018, reducing the travel time between the two economic hubs from five to two hours. Its electricity consumption is now covered by green energy, enabling ONCF to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 120,000 tonnes CO₂ per year in the short term. In the long term, this measure is part of the national energy strategy launched by King Mohammed VI, which aims to power at least 52 % of the country’s electricity infrastructure with renewable energy by 2030.

 

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