Niger votes for more foreign military deployments
Last Friday, the National Assembly in Niger voted to increase foreign military deployments to fight jihadist movements in the country. After several hours of debate, the bill was passed by 131 votes to 31. The outcome of the parliamentary decision is hardly surprising as 135 of the 166 MPs are allies of the incumbent president Mohamed Bazoum and members of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (Parti nigérien pour la démocratie et le socialisme-Tarayya), which had presented the motion. The outcome of the vote was met with criticism from the opposition and civil society groups, who see the country’s sovereignty in danger due to the presence of foreign groups, especially France, the former colonial power. Nigerien Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou welcomed the new law and seeks closer cooperation especially with Paris. In concrete terms, the new law means that armed troops from France could remain in the Sahel, following the announcement in February of the withdrawal of 2,400 French soldiers and 900 special forces from neighbouring Mali as part of the European Takuba mission and the Barkhane anti-terrorist operation. The neighbouring countries of Mali and Niger, which share an 800 km border, are among the West African countries suffering from violence against civilians and the displacement of local populations by Al-Qaeda and IS-affiliated groups, along with other countries in the region. France and the United States, which already maintain military bases in the capital Niamey and in the northern region of Agadez, had already pledged further support. After the visit of Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in mid-April, there is also talk of transferring the 300 German soldiers of the EUTM mission from Mali to Niger, where 200 Germans are already stationed. How many military groups will ultimately be stationed in Niger to stabilise the Sahel is currently still open.
EAC tackles conflict resolution in eastern DRC
On Wednesday, the first consultations between representatives of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and those of armed groups active in the eastern DRC came to an end in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. After initial difficulties of the talks, which were held under the auspices of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, more and more representatives of armed groups came to Nairobi in the course of last weekend and early this week; in total, about 20 groups were present. Given the complex situation and long duration of the conflict in eastern Congo, the talks initially served to stake out expectations; negotiations were not held. For decades, the provinces of North and South Kivu as well as Ituri in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been particularly contested. The March 23 Movement (M23), defeated in 2013 and only active again since late 2021, was expelled from the meeting by the Congolese government on Saturday. The same day there were reports of fighting again after two weeks of ceasefire. Also absent from the consultations were representatives of the Mai-Mai militia active in South Kivu and the Ituri-based Codéco. It is unknown whether the terrorist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) participated in the negotiations. Further consultations are to follow within the next two weeks, according to the Congolese presidency. The meeting took place directly after a mini security summit of the East African Community (EAC), where the presidents of Burundi, Kenya, the DRC, Uganda as well as the Rwandan foreign minister discussed the security situation in eastern Congo; Tanzania and South Sudan did not participate. The international community agreed that if the armed groups did not voluntarily lay down their weapons and comply with the call for dialogue, they would intervene militarily. The DRC had only joined the EAC at the end of March (Press Review CW 13). The East Africans’ quick action was also welcomed by the African Union (AU) and the United Nations. The next meeting of the EAC Heads of State and government is to take place at the end of May. By then, a plan for a possible task force should already be in place.
In other news
The annual Africa Rugby Sevens tournament has a new title holder. In the final last Sunday, host Uganda defeated Zimbabwe 26-0 in the capital Kampala and thus prevailed over the other 13 teams in the competition. With the tournament win, Uganda qualified for this year’s Commonwealth Tournament in England in June and the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in September. Already prior to the final, big tournament favourite Kenya, currently ranked 10th in the world, was knocked out 22-12. Uganda’s national players, who all play rugby on a part-time basis only, will again face Kenya and Zimbabwe in the next two major tournaments. Both nations are set by their world rankings, as is South Africa, who did not compete in the just-concluded Africa Rugby Sevens.
On Saturday 30 April 2020, an English reading entitled A reading against war and violence will take place at Babylon Berlin at 20:00. Writings by authors who have themselves escaped cruelty, torture and death will be read. One of the authors present is Kakwenza Rukirabashaija from Uganda, who was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize International Writer of Courage in 2021. Admission is free. Tickets are available on the Babylon Berlin website or at the box office.
The Nigerian photo artist Adeolu Osibodu tries to preserve time with his art and to keep its mood alive forever. His exhibition Feels like home again will be on display at ARTCO Gallery in Berlin between 29 April and 11 June. On Saturday, there will be a musical opening event from 18:00. The gallery is also participating in the Gallery Weekend Berlin and is open Friday-Sunday from 11:00 to 19:00.