Amadou Mame Diop elected President of the Senegalese National Assembly
Last Monday, the new Senegalese National Assembly elected its president in its constituent session. After the ruling coalition Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY), led by President Macky Sall, lost its absolute majority in the parliamentary elections in July, its candidate Amadou Mame Diop won the election for the presidency of the National Assembly with 83 out of 84 votes cast; 81 of the 165 members of Parliament abstained. The opposition coalition, which consists of the party alliances Yewwi Askan Wi (YAW) and Wallu Senegal (WS), was unable to agree on a common candidate in the run-up to the election. The election was overshadowed by fierce debates and disputes, among other things over the election procedure and the ballots, which were blocked by the opposition. When opposition politician Guy Marius Sagna tried to boycott the election by stealing the ballot box, scuffles broke out, including insults and flying plastic bottles. In the end, the Senegalese police and military had to intervene to ensure a peaceful election process; some politicians were arrested. During the presidential elections in July, there had already been increasing political tensions in the West African country. The opposition accuses President Macky Sall of planning to run for a third term in the presidential elections in February 2024, which would violate the term limits enshrined in the constitution. President Sall has not yet commented on his future plans. It is also currently open whether the head of state will fulfill his promise to reintroduce the position of prime minister after the parliamentary elections, which Sall himself had officially abolished in 2019 for reasons of efficiency. So far, the president has not taken action here.
William Ruto sworn in as president of Kenya
William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya’s fifth president on Tuesday before the country’s Supreme Judge in the capital, Nairobi. A week earlier, Kenya’s Supreme Court upheld the final results of the August 9 election contested by longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga (press review week 33/2022: Change of personnel in sight), which certified Odinga a narrow defeat in the first round of voting. Although the court ruling was not welcomed by the opposition, it was immediately accepted, paving the way for a peaceful transfer of power. Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had supported Ruto’s challenger Odinga in the election campaign after a falling out with him, also congratulated his successor on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony. Ruto asked his predecessor to continue regional peace efforts in neighboring Ethiopia and the Great Lakes region. With the newly elected government taking up its work, the East African country is strengthening its democratic credentials in a crisis-ridden region where several heads of state have been in power for decades. At the same time, the country faces enormous economic challenges: rising food and fuel prices, high unemployment and an immense national debt make for a very tense situation. The new president, who despite his three active decades in Kenya’s politics was able to successfully portray himself as a hustler in the election campaign and thus stand aloof from the political elite, had made several popular campaign promises aimed at providing economic relief to the population. At his swearing-in ceremony, he directly announced the promised implementation of the 46 percent price cut on fertilizers within the coming week. He also referred to his government’s plan to provide 420 million US dollar in credit facilitation to small and medium-sized enterprises through a fund known as the Hustler Fund. At the same time, however, one day after taking office, Ruto lifted the previous fuel subsidy, which had made the prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene the lowest in East Africa, but which the new president described as ineffective and too costly. Overnight, petrol prices rose over 13% on Thursday. The removal of the fuel subsidy is also said to be a condition of a 38-month 2.34 billion US dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund.
In other news
Last Friday, Namibia’s first national opera celebrated its premiere in Windhoek. The opera, called Chief Hijangua, was created by a German-Namibian ensemble of artists under the direction of Namibian composer Eslon Hindundu and German director Kim Mira Meyer. The story focuses on the common colonial history and is about the life of a Namibian successor to the throne who comes into conflict with German settlers. It is performed in German and Otjiherero, one of Namibia’s most widely spoken languages. The opera, which mixes Western and African musical styles, has been developed and rehearsed in Munich and Windhoek over the past three years. In addition to coming to terms with the colonial past, the piece is intended to contribute to the promotion of German-Namibian relations. The German premiere is planned for October 2023 in Munich.
ARTCO Gallery in Berlin opened an exhibition of Burkina Faso-born artist Saïdou Dicko last Tuesday as part of the Berlin Art Week 2022. Titled Umrissene Welten (Engl: Outlined Worlds), the exhibition from September 14 to October 29 presents Dicko’s early photographic works in the context of his latest digital collages. His artistic work is shaped and inspired by his childhood experiences and impressions as a young shepherd in Burkina Faso. In his works, the artist, who now lives and works in Paris, processes representations of forms into complex light events in black-and-white contrast, using various creative forms of expression, including photography, painting and videos.