ECOWAS Summit in Accra
Last Saturday, a meeting of West African heads of state and government took place in Ghana. The extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) once again focused on how to handle the military juntas in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Each of them had come to power in a coup d’état, which resulted in the suspension of the three countries from all ECOWAS activities and partnerships. For this reason, representatives of the military governments were also excluded from the summit. The main point of controversy between ECOWAS and the three countries is how to shape the transition process to a civilian government. Whereas the military juntas in the two Compact with Africa countries Burkina Faso and Guinea want to remain in power for another 36 months (press review week 18/2022), the regional organisation reiterated on Saturday its call for a much shorter transition period for both countries. On the other hand, the military juntas argue that due to the volatile domestic political situation respectively, and in the case of Burkina Faso and Mali due to the fight against Islamist insurgencies, they need a longer transition period for building state institutions and preparing for elections. To engage in talks with the military juntas on shorter transition periods, ECOWAS appointed mediators for Burkina Faso and Guinea at the current summit. It was announced after the summit that ECOWAS reserves the right to impose sanctions also on Burkina Faso and Guinea if these negotiations fail. Since January, severe economic and diplomatic sanctions have already been in effect against Mali, excluding the country from trade with all ECOWAS members apart from goods for basic needs. Hoping for an end to the sanctions, Mali announced on Monday that the transition period would be reduced from the originally planned five years to 24 months. In response, ECOWAS reiterated its call for a return to civilian rule within a maximum of 16 months and expressed its regret at Mali’s decision not to wait for the conclusion of ongoing negotiations on a transition plan acceptable to both sides. Therefore, the sanctions will remain in place at least until the next extraordinary ECOWAS summit, scheduled for 3 July. In the meantime, all three countries remain excluded from ECOWAS.
Meeting between AU Chair Sall and Russian President Putin
Last Friday, the Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Senegal’s President Macky Sall, travelled to Sochi to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. The talks, which were also attended by the Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, were prompted by the ever-worsening food shortages and looming food crisis in various states on the African continent. In his talks with Putin, Sall urged that economically weak states and those dependent on grain exports from Russia and Ukraine should not suffer as a result of the war and of sanctions against Russia. In this context, he also pointed to the voting behaviour of African states in the UN resolution condemning the invasion of Ukraine, in which a total of 17 African states abstained. Although he emphasised that the AU was clearly in favour of a ceasefire, an end to the war in Ukraine and the release of foodstuffs, the AU Chair agreed with the Kremlin’s statement that Western sanctions were mainly responsible for the shortage of food and fertiliser. According to the Kremlin, Russian cargo ships are subject to sanctions and therefore cannot export grain, while exports from Ukraine are prevented by Ukrainian sea mines in front of the ports, which make it impossible for Russian ships to enter the ports and export grain. Meanwhile, Western states accuse Putin of preventing grain exports from Ukraine and stress that Russian ships themselves are not sanctioned, but merely not allowed to enter European ports; deliveries to Africa are thus not excluded. Putin himself did not address the food crisis in his statement to the press, but rather stressed the willingness and importance of further developing relations with Africa. The African continent has been particularly hard hit by food shortages and price increases in the wake of the Ukraine war. Between 2018 and 2022, the continent imported 44% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. As a result of the supply disruption, wheat prices have risen by 45 %, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).
In other news
Sixteen years after its formation, the six-member Sudanese band Dorpa is about to release its first studio album, which aims to preserve the cultural heritage of the Beja, a group of nomadic herders and pastoralists in Sudan. The band, whose name translates from the Beja language Bedawit as “the band of the mountains”, is made up of musicians from different population groups in Sudan, which is characterised by diverse ethnic minorities, each with their own rich culture. The unifying element of all of them is the marginalisation and oppression of their respective ethnic groups by ex-president Omar al-Bashir, who cemented the supremacy of Arab culture in his three-decade rule and whose policies continue to reverberate to this day. The founder of the band, Noureddine Jaber, also known as “Noori”, is a member of the Beja himself, on whose music the album Beja Power, which will be released at the end of June, is based.