New peacekeepers and talks in eastern Congo.
The East African Community (EAC) announced Sunday it will hold new peace talks next Monday to resolve the bloody conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Who will attend the talks and how long they will last initially remained unclear, but they are part of intensified regional efforts to bring peace to the volatile region, where the M23 rebel movement has mounted successful offensives against the Congolese army in recent weeks and made territorial gains. Not only are thousands of people reportedly currently on the run, but diplomatic relations between the DRC and Rwanda are at an all-time low. The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the Tutsi-led M23 rebels. While Rwanda denies the accusations, according to a UN report, there is enough evidence to prove the allegations are true, such as the rebels’ technical equipment, which includes surveillance drones. Against this backdrop, Angolan President Joao Lorenco already held talks in Kinshasa and Kigali last weekend in an attempt to defuse tensions. Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also traveled to the DRC this week for talks as a mediator for the EAC, where he also personally assessed the situation in Goma and spoke with local leaders and civil organizations. In addition to diplomatic efforts, the EAC is also increasing its military presence on the ground. On Saturday and Wednesday, the first Kenyan Army troops landed in Goma as part of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), specifically to protect the city’s airport and civilian facilities against the M23 rebels now just outside Goma. The deployment of 900 soldiers had been approved by the Kenyan parliament just a few days earlier. The regional organization has played an important role in regional mediation attempts since the DRC joined the EAC in April this year, and the talks beginning Monday are the third round of this year’s peace efforts.
Political crisis in Somaliland
The political situation in Somaliland is coming to a head after the opposition announced last Sunday that it no longer recognizes the legitimacy of President Muse Bihi Abdi’s presidency. President Bihi’s five-year term was due to end next month, according to the constitution, with the election of a new president, which should have taken place on the said Sunday. However, the elections were postponed to 2023 by the Somaliland Election Commission in September this year due to technical and financial reasons. In the wake of this, the Guurti Council of Elders, composed of representatives of the country’s ethnic groups and forming the upper house of parliament, extended the mandate of President Bihi, who was elected in 2017, until 2024 in early October. However, the opposition, composed of the Waddani National Party and the Ururka Caddaalada iyo Daryeelka (UCID, meaning Justice and Welfare Party), rejects both the postponement of the elections as well as the prolonging of Bihi’s mandate and sees Bihi’s presidency as no longer legitimate due to the elapsed deadline. The extension of the mandate as well as the postponement of the elections already triggered demonstrations in August, and on Sunday opposition parties again called for protests that ended in violence. Political tensions are not uncommon in the self-declared sovereign state, which seceded from Somalia in 1991 but is not recognized internationally. Disputes over the timing of presidential as well as parliamentary elections have been ongoing since late 2021. In light of recent events, the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank last Thursday called on Somaliland’s international partners to take a more active mediating role in resolving the political crisis and to support the ruling Kulmiye party and opposition parties in reaching a diplomatic agreement. The election to license political parties was also scheduled for December. This vote, which is rather unusual by international standards and was last held in 2012, selects the three political parties that will be able to participate in elections for the next ten years and thus shape the country’s politics. Due to the current crisis and disagreements regarding the order of the elections to be held, these could now also be delayed.
In other news?
Salima Mukansanga is the first African female referee in the history of the World Cup. The 33-year-old Rwandan was selected by the world’s governing football body as the main referee for matches at this year’s World Cup in Qatar, along with referees Stéphanie Frappart of France and Yoshimi Yamashita of Japan. It is the first time ever that women have been allowed to referee at the men’s World Cup. They will be assisted by three female assistants: Neuza Back from Brazil, Mexican Karen Diaz Medina and U.S. Kathryn Nesbitt, also a first for the World Cup. Mukasanga has been refereeing for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) since 2012, officiated her first match as head referee at the 2014 Women’s Africa Cup between Zambia and Tanzania, and made history earlier this year when she refereed the men’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).