Virtual Africa trips by the USA and Germany
Three months after assuming office as U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has now travelled to Africa for the first time on Tuesday – virtually. During his first stop, Blinken discussed good governance and China’s role on the continent with young Africans from the Young African Leadership Initiative, which his country sponsors. Blinken subsequently spoke with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his foreign minister about the region’s security and climate challenges and the Covid-19 pandemic, among other issues. In Kenya, the U.S. celebrated 57 years of bilateral relations with President Uhuru Kenyatta and discussed deepening the cooperation on democracy promotion and trade, as well as combating global challenges such as Covid-19. Blinken’s virtual Africa trip is seen as a positive sign that the continent could resume a greater role under new U.S. President Joe Biden. The latter’s predecessor, Donald Trump, had been the first president since Ronald Reagan not to make an official visit to the continent during his term in office and, overall, had given it little foreign policy significance. At the same time, some African experts are sceptical that the primarily security-oriented character of the U.S. Africa policy, which has been a constant under all presidents, will really change. In any case, the first important personnel development is of a security policy nature: Shortly before this week’s trip, Blinken appointed the experienced diplomat Jeffrey Feltman as U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, who is to deal in particular with the many conflicts in and around Ethiopia. Security was also the topic of the virtual Africa trip of Michelle Müntefering, Germany’s Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office. She “travelled” to South Sudan and Rwanda on Monday and Tuesday to exchange views with female representatives from the government and civil society on the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 “Women, Peace and Security”. According to Müntefering, the resolution is a priority of Germany’s foreign policy. In South Sudan, Germany is funding a number of projects aimed at implementing the resolution, while Rwanda currently provides the second highest number of troops for UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, where the proportion of female soldiers is particularly high.
Somalia’s President Farmaajo announces new election
In an address to the nation, Somali President Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, had announced on state television (SNTV) on Tuesday that an election would be held and called for a return to political dialogue. He declared his intention to seek parliamentary approval for an electoral process next Saturday. With this announcement, he backed away from the recently passed and controversial law that was supposed to allow him a two-year extension in office. This had been passed by the lower house of parliament earlier this month and had caused national as well as international criticism after the president’s official term had already expired on 8 February (DAS Press Review CW16). In reaction to the unconstitutional extension of the president’s term of office, fighting broke out between government troops and opposition supporters in the capital Mogadishu over the weekend. Some Somali police and military commanders had sided with the opposition, causing a split in the security forces along clan lines. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), up to 100,000 people had already fled the violence. Even Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and the heads of government of two states, Galmudug and Hirshabelle, who are actually among Farmaajo’s allies, had spoken out against a term extension. They called for democratic elections to be held based on the 17 September 2020 agreement negotiated between the government, regional leaders and the opposition. In his address on Tuesday, the president spoke of four key issues on which he would now focus: the conduct of the election, the organisation of timely meetings to discuss the nature of these elections, the repeal of the tenure extension law, and the interference of foreign actors in the internal affairs of his country, which he has strongly criticised.
In other news
To encourage the Congolese population to read, an initiative of several writers has launched the “Caravan of Books and Theatre“. The first edition started last week in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo. Until 6 May, it will cross five provinces in the south of the country. The Central African country is known for its literary influence on the continent, and according to the initiator of the caravan, Mireille Emma Opa Elion, there is also no lack of access to books. Now the book and theatre caravan is to bring literary works in various local languages to the cities and address all population groups from young to old.