CW 35/2022: History matters
Press Review 26 August 2022 to 2 September 2022

A new start for Algerian-French relations

At the end of his three-day visit to Algeria, French President Emmanuel Macron and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune signed a declaration of intent last Saturday to permanently improve the strained relationship between the two nations. In order to make this concrete, a cooperation council will be created to jointly discuss bilateral and international issues in the future. The agreement reached by the two heads of state mainly concerns energy, security and historical policy and comes at a time when Europe is trying to replace Russian gas imports. Algeria is Africa’s top gas supplier and just days after Macron’s visit, Paris and Algiers began negotiations on a new gas deal. Algeria is already Europe’s third-largest gas supplier after Russia and Norway and could increase its exports to France by up to 50% from now on. There are also plans to cooperate more closely in the future on energy research, especially on gas and hydrogen. The North African country is also considered an essential partner in the fight against terrorism as well as an important partner in questions of European migration policy. Moreover, President Macron announced the promotion of cultural exchange, especially of the French language. In addition to the 30,000 Algerian students who have received visas so far, another 8,000 are to be granted visas to study in France this year. In order to strengthen the relations between the two countries, which are burdened by the colonial era, it was also agreed to form a commission of Algerian and French historians, which is to be given access to the national archives and reappraise the colonial history of the two countries. This had repeatedly caused tensions between Algiers and Paris in the past, until it came to a low point last year after Macron questioned the existence of Algeria as a nation before the French occupation and accused Tebboune’s government of fomenting hatred against France. The latter then withdrew the Algerian ambassador from Paris and denied French military aircraft access to Algerian airspace.

Ruling party wins parliamentary elections in Angola

In Angola, the ruling party MPLA of head of state João Lourenço won last Wednesday’s parliamentary elections. This means that Lourenço can run for a second term and hold the office of president for another five years. The National Electoral Commission announced on Monday that the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) won 51.17 per cent of the vote, while the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the main opposition party, secured 43.95 per cent of the vote, its best result so far. Voter turnout was 45 percent. Although the MPLA emerged victorious from the election and continues to hold the majority in parliament with 124 of 220 seats, the ruling party lost its previous two-thirds majority and recorded the worst election result in history. The electoral commission already proclaimed Lourenço president on Monday, as the winning party automatically becomes head of state, although not all members of the electoral commission signed the official final result, according to commission chairman Manuel Pereira da Silva; UNITA also announced it would challenge the result. UNITA candidate Adalberto Costa Júnior called for an international review of the election results last week. Costa Júnior accused the party of not having been sufficiently informed in the final phase of the election and of not having received a copy of the counting transcript. In addition, there is the comprehensive control of the election process and media coverage by the ruling party. According to experts, the potential for success of legal action is considered very low. Meanwhile, the MPLA is under pressure due to the country’s economic situation. Between 2014 and 2020, the gross domestic product fell from over 137 to under 54 billion US dollars. Allegations of corruption against the family of former president José Eduardo dos Santos and his supporters also led to a rift between Lourenço and his predecessor’s family and dominated the election campaign.

In other news

The annual African Book Festival took place in Berlin from 26 to 28 August, this year under the motto “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” and under the patronage of Minister of State Claudia Roth. Organized by the non-profit association InterKontinental e.V. and curated by the South African author, photographer, and filmmaker Lidudumalingani, visitors to the festival had the opportunity to take part in various readings, discussions, interviews, and concerts and to exchange ideas with well-known African and Afro-diasporic authors and artists. Additionally, a focus was also set on the discussion of current social, cultural, and political issues. Following the successful festival, the best-selling Botswanan author Lauri Kubuitsile gave an exclusive reading on 31 August as part of the DAS event series “Under the Baobab”, where she presented her historical novel “The Scattering”. Set at the time of the German genocide of the Herero in present-day Namibia and the Second Boer War in South Africa, it tells the story of the traumatic war experiences of two women in a sensitive yet brutal way. The German edition of the novel can be purchased from the publishing house InterKontinental.

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