CW 10/2021: Between riot and unity
Press Review 6 March 2021 to 12 March 2021

Servere protests in Senegal 

After the arrest of the leader of the opposition party PASTEF (Patriots of Senegal for Work, Ethics, and Fraternity) Ousmane Sonko last week, Senegal is experiencing the most violent protests in many years. Police are responding to the nationwide unrest with water cannons and violence. Many people have already been injured and at least ten have died. In addition, President Macky Sall’s government restricted access to social media and shut down two TV stations that had reported extensively on the protests. Sonko, who came third in the last presidential election in 2019, is now considered a leading opposition figure and President Macky Sall’s strongest opponent. The 46-year-old is particularly popular among young Senegalese. In February, he was charged with rape, but he denies the charges. At the same time, his supporters accuse the government of political calculation: in case Sonko is convicted, he would automatically be excluded from the 2024 elections. In the past, opposition members have been accused of possible criminal offences by President Sall’s government in order to put an end to them politically. In the meantime, the opposition leader was released on bail earlier this week, but protests in the West African country continue nonetheless. In addition to Sonko’s arrest, the people’s dissatisfaction with Sall’s government is also driving the nationwide protests. When he came to power in 2012, Sall promised to boost the economy and fight nepotism and corruption. However, almost ten years after taking office, high youth unemployment, corruption scandals and growing inequality still characterise the country, which is a member of the Compact with Africa and, since 2019, Germany’s reform partner under the Marshall Plan with Africa. Measures to contain the Corona pandemic have also met with local criticism. The protests in the country, which is considered one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, have meanwhile gone beyond the Sonko case with shouts-outs like “Free Senegal” or “Macky out”.


Libya’s parliament approves the transitional government

After two days of intense debate, the Libyan parliament approved the new cabinet of interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in Sirte on Wednesday. With this vote of confidence, Parliament has taken an important step towards ending a decade of chaos. A total of 132 of the 178 MPs voted for the ministers proposed by Dbeibah. The new cabinet consists of 27 ministers, six ministers of state and two deputy prime ministers. The influential positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Justice will be occupied by women for the first time. It was only at the beginning of February that Dbeibah, a billionaire businessman, was elected by a Libyan committee in a process supported by the United Nations and was instructed with the formation of the transitional government. Wednesday’s parliamentary session was the first full session in years of conflict. In October last year, a ceasefire was negotiated between the government recognized by the United Nations and the opposition forces under General Haftar. Nevertheless, the new transitional government faces major challenges. The North African country is suffering from a severe economic crisis, high unemployment and inflation. Due to the involvement of numerous nations in the Libyan conflict, there are also over 20,000 mercenaries in the country, whose withdrawal after the ceasefire agreement was agreed by the end of January 2021, but has not yet been implemented.  In addition to the parliamentary elections, it also has to implement presidential elections in Libya, for which, however, a constitutional amendment will first be necessary, as the office of president is not provided for in the current constitution. Trust in the elected transitional government had recently suffered after UN experts raised allegations of bribery in the election. The United Nations described the current development as a “milestone in the history” of the country. According to parliamentary chairman Aguila Saleh, the government is to be sworn in at a later session in Benghazi, the exact date has not yet been set.


In other news

Last Monday, March 8, people in all parts of the world celebrated International Women’s Day. The day was also celebrated on the African continent. In Angola, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau and Uganda, International Women’s Day is even a public holiday – in Europe, this is only the case in Germany’s capital Berlin. Namibia, meanwhile, can boast of successfully campaigning for equal rights for women in politics: Last year, the proportion of female cabinet members increased the most compared to other African countries, from 15% to 39%. Moreover, the African continent leads the world in the appointment of female executives – one in four board members in African companies is a woman. Nevertheless, the road to gender equality is still long. Therefore, many African women have also used the celebrations to raise their voices against injustice, sexism and sexual violence. In the Republic of Congo, for example, well-known female artists presented the “Tosala” project, consisting of a song and a documentary film. The Lingala word “Tosala” expresses a call to action and is also understood as a call to end violence against women. While the song aims to encourage women in all walks of life to break the silence, build each other up and fight for equality, the 26-minute documentary features women affected by sexual violence talking about their experiences. In Morocco, the creative studio “Jawjab” has published the photo series #TaAnaMeToo (“Me too, I am #MeToo”). Illustrated pictures tell the fates of women who have experienced sexual violence.



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