CW 12/2021: No choice?
Press Review 20 March 2021 to 26 March 2021

President of the Republic of Congo confirmed in office

Unsurprisingly, Denis Sassou Nguesso was confirmed  as President of the Republic of Congo in Sunday’s elections. According to official figures, the 77-year-old defeated his six challengers with 88.57% of the vote in a 67.55% turnout. The largest opposition party, Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), boycotted the elections. Critical voices raised concerns about the transparency and credibility of the elections. For example, votes were reportedly cast early, and local election observers were refused to be sent to polling stations. UN and EU election observation missions were not permitted in the run-up to the elections. On election day itself, the Internet was shut down. The elections were also overshadowed by the death of opposition member Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, who tested positive for Covid-19 two days before the election. He died on election day itself aboard a plane that was to take him to France for medical treatment. Kolélas became the strongest opposition candidate with 7.84% of the vote. With the election victory, Sassou Nguesso will continue his accumulated 36-year term, interrupted only between 1992 and 1997, for another five years. A constitutional amendment in 2015 allowed him to remain in office despite having passed the age limit of 70 and having already served two terms. Critics accuse the president of the Parti Congolais du Travail (PCT) party of governing in an authoritarian manner and turning a blind eye to corruption, poverty and inequality despite the country’s oil wealth. The country has been in an economic crisis since 2014. As a result of collapsed oil prices, the Central African country’s external debt increased. The Covid-19 pandemic further worsened the country’s economic situation; in 2020, the economy shrank by 8%. Despite everything, Sassou Nguesso sees the election result as a sign of the population’s confidence in him to ensure a recovery of the economy.

 

Kenya announces closure of large refugee camps

Last Wednesday, the Kenyan government announced the closure of two of the largest refugee camps in East Africa and the world. These are the Kakuma Camp in northwestern Kenya near the South Sudanese border and the Dadaab Camp, which is located north of Nairobi on the border with Somalia. While Kakuma Camp, built in 1992, currently houses 190,000 refugees from Somalia and South Sudan, Dadaab, which was opened a year earlier, provides shelter for nearly 250,000 Somalis. The Kenyan Ministry of Interior has now given the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) two weeks to submit a plan to evacuate both camps. If the UNHCR does not take action by then, the refugees will be returned to the Somali border, according to the reports of the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation. The government has long considered the camps a threat to national security. There are fears that extremist Somali groups, such as the Al Shabaab militia, are recruiting fighters there. According to Kenyan intelligence, two refugees from the camp were involved in attacks in 2013 and 2015. Therefore, the Kenyan government tried to close the camps as early as 2016, but the closure was ruled unconstitutional by the Kenyan Supreme Court. Now Kenya has announced the end of its willingness to talk. Human rights organisations reacted alarmed, the UNHCR itself offers further talks and called on the Kenyan government to continue its efforts to protect the refugees. Kenya’s decision comes against the backdrop of deteriorating relations with its neighbour Somalia, although the Kenyan interior ministry denies any connection. Only last December, Mogadishu severed diplomatic relations with Nairobi. In addition, both nations are facing each other in the International Court of Justice over a border dispute over resource-rich maritime areas, the hearing of which Kenya is currently boycotting. Kenya, however, is currently boycotting the hearing.

 

In other news

South African comedian Loyiso Gola made history with the first African comedy show on Netflix, which started streaming this week. In “Unlearing”, the 37-year-old talks about topics such as identity issues, politics and school pranks that he played with his friends in his youth. Most importantly, Gola questions things that he was taught in school and by society. It should be about “unpacking what we’ve learned growing up, viewing the world differently and not getting stuck in our own stereotypical mindsets”. Gola has been a stand-up artist for 20 years and became known in his home country as the face of Late Night News, the South African version of the Daily Show. His comedy show, which Gola created about six years ago, was filmed at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in Cape Town and has now been revived for Netflix.

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