CW 4/2021: New Paths
Press Review 23 January 2021 to 29 January 2021

DR Congo’s prime minister resigns after no-confidence vote

The power struggle between the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, and his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, reached a new climax on Wednesday evening when parliament voted to censure the incumbent Prime Minister, Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, by 367 from 382 votes. MPs from Kabila’s Front Commun Pour le Congo (FCC) party, as well as cabinet ministers loyal to him, abstained from the vote on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Accordingly, Ilunga, who also is a constituent of Kabila’s camp, initially announced that he would not accept the vote. However, this Friday, Ilunga complied with the parliament’s decision and announced his resignation. This is seen as an important success for Tshisekedi, who has been trying to push back Kabila’s influence for some time. He had only dissolved his party’s coalition with the FCC in December and since then had been pursuing the intention of joining forces with other parties to gain a parliamentary majority over his predecessor. According to Tshisekedi, the so-called Union Sacrée de la Nation now unites 391 of the 500 MPs. With Ilunga’s resignation, he is now free to reshuffle the cabinet as he wishes, balancing the interests of the many parties in his new coalition. Tshisekedi is also pushing Kabila’s political isolation outside parliament. This includes last week, when Ngoy Mulanda, the head of the 2011 Electoral Commission where Kabila prevailed over Felix Tshisekedi’s father, Etienne Tshisekedi, was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for “inciting hatred and endangering state security”. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch this week denounced increasing repression of the media and civil society by Tshisekedi’s government, saying that the number of such human rights violations had increased by 21% in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Peace agreement between conflict groups in Mali

A peace agreement was signed this week between the Fulani and Dogon ethnic groups in Mali. Representatives of both ethnic groups signed the last of three accords on Sunday, which are intended to ensure peace in the remote Koro region bordering Burkina Faso. Since an al-Qaeda affiliated group has been active there for more than five years, the region is considered one of the most conflict-ridden in the country. Armed militias are exploiting historical tensions over access to land and water between the Fulani, a semi-nomadic pastoralist ethnic group also known as the Peul, and the Dogon, who are sedentary farmers. According to the Swiss Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the peace agreements now signed aim towards achieving humanitarian goals. This includes both parties to uphold the respect of their respective customs, physical integrity and free movement of people, goods and livestock, and to guarantee all communities access to markets, towns and other facilities. The extent to which the peace accord (which was negotiated over a period of four months) will hold remains to be seen. A similar peace agreement signed two years ago failed to end the conflict. Meanwhile, Mali’s transitional government continues to push ahead with the country’s democratic transition. Last week, the Comité National pour le Salut du Peuple (CNSP), which deposed the unpopular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in a military coup last year, was dissolved at the request of ECOWAS. On Wednesday this week, interim President Bah N’Daw met with France’s President Emmanuel Macron, the first head of state outside ECOWAS, and discussed bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

In other news

In Tanzania, the executive and judiciary have agreed on a new law which permits Kiswahili as the official legal language in Tanzania. This was announced at the opening of this year’s Tanzania Legal Week and the centenary of the Supreme Court. The linguistic transformation of the judiciary is intended to help remove language barriers so that citizens particularly from rural areas, can benefit from better access to justice. Against this background, Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan praised other changes in the judicial system such as the increase in the proportion of women judges in courts and the increasing digitalisation. The new language regime will also ensure more justice in the judiciary. It is now planned to start transcribing court proceedings into different languages with the help of Chinese software.

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