CW 30/2022: Voice of the people
Press Review 22 July 2022 to 29 July 2022

Constitutional referendum in Tunisia

In Tunisia, around nine million eligible voters were able to decide on the draft constitution presented by President Kais Saied on Monday. Around 95 percent of the voters who took part approved the bill. However, this high approval rate is put into perspective by the low voter turnout of only 30.5 percent. The constitution can come into effect despite the participation of not even one-third of eligible voters. The opposition had called in advance for a boycott of the referendum, considering the vote and the draft unconstitutional. In January, Saied had commissioned a committee to draft a new constitution. Their proposals, however, were barely mentioned in the draft now submitted for a vote. The constitutional amendment gives the Tunisian president significantly more power, as he now appoints the government and judges single-handedly. There is no longer a body that could control the president or remove him from office. In addition, political parties are losing importance in the new system. Saied, who has been in office since 2019 and governs the country by decree after the dissolution of parliament brought about by him last year, says he wants to use this constitutional amendment to end the political stalemate and the economic problems of the republic (press review CW 25/2022). Tunisia is considered the only country of the Arab Spring in which the transition to democracy has succeeded. However, many critics see the new constitution as a return to autocracy in the North African country.

Protests against the UN in eastern DR Congo

Demonstrators stormed the headquarters of the UN mission MONUSCO in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) earlier this week. The violent protests, in which at least 15 people were killed, were initially concentrated at the UN base in North Kivu’s provincial capital Goma, but then spread to other towns in the province and the neighbouring province of South Kivu. Large parts of the Congolese population, especially in the eastern conflict regions, are highly critical of the UN peacekeeping mission in their country, which they say has failed to bring peace to the country in over 20 years. The latest events can be directly attributed to the deterioration of the security situation due to the resurgence of the M23 rebels and the associated fighting against the Congolese army (press review week 22/2022). In addition, in the run-up to the riots, civil society organisations and the party of President Félix Tshisekedi had called for a demonstration against the UN mission in Goma. This call is in turn linked to statements made by Senate President Bahati Lukwebo in mid-July, in which he publicly called on the UN mission to leave the country. Lukwebo’s party rejected accusations of being responsible for the riots and tried to appease the population by saying that a withdrawal of MONUSCO from the country was a done deal. It is likely, however, that a possible withdrawal will not take place until 2024, because although Congo’s government and the UN agreed on a joint strategy on a gradual drawdown in 2020, according to the current transition plan from 2021, the fulfilment of 18 minimum conditions will make a drawdown of the UN mission possible only at the end of 2024. Coinciding with these developments, it was announced that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the DRC and Rwanda next month as part of his second trip to Africa to try to calm the intra- and interstate conflicts.

In other news

With a 2-1 victory over the hosts from Morocco, the South African team secured the title of the 14th Women’s Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday. For South Africa, this is their first win of the trophy. Despite losing the final, this tournament might still be considered a success in the host country. After a record attendance of over 45,000 fans in the stands in Rabat for the semi-final between Morocco and Nigeria, the figure was topped just a few days later with 53,000 spectators attending the first Africa Cup final of an Arab women’s team. Before that, Zambia had secured third place with a 1-0 win over the multiple title-holders from Nigeria. All four teams are therefore seeded for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Morocco’s Atlas Lionesses have qualified for a World Cup for the first time ever; this will also be the first participation of a team from the North African region.

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