Burkina Faso’s Prime Minister meets French Ambassador
Burkina Faso’s Prime Minister Apollinaire Joachim Kyelem de Tambela met with French Ambassador Luc Hallade last Tuesday. It was the first meeting since Tambela was appointed Prime Minister by interim President Ibrahima Traoré, who ousted his predecessor in early October with the help of another military coup (see press review CW 43/2022). The talks focused on future military cooperation between France and Burkina Faso, which is struggling with intensifying Islamist insurgencies in the country. Hallade affirmed that the French special forces stationed in the country would stay and continue to support Burkina Faso in the fight against terrorism as long as the local authorities need help. Talks are currently taking place with various staffs to reorganise military cooperation after the end of Operation Barkhane and to take greater account of the needs of the Burkinabe government in future, Hallade said. France is considered an important bilateral partner of the West African state, contributing more than 100 million euros per year, mainly through the French Development Agency. Hallade assured Tambela that France wants to remain Burkina Faso’s first bilateral partner. At the same time, however, he asked for an increase in the protection of the French embassy and embassy staff, after two attacks by demonstrators on the embassy in the capital Ouagadougou in the recent past. As in neighbouring Mali, anti-French resentment and protests are increasingly evident in Burkina Faso, most recently fuelled by interim President Traoré’s accusation that France was providing protection at the embassy for his ousted predecessor. In addition to the French ambassador, Burkina Faso’s Prime Minister also received the European Union’s Special Representative for the Sahel, Emanuela Claudia Del Re, to inform her about his government’s new anti-terrorism strategy. She also assured the country of continued European assistance.
Equatorial Guinea’s president begins his sixth term in office
Last Saturday, the National Electoral Commission of Equatorial Guinea announced the election victory of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who will lead the fate of the Central African country for another seven years. The 80-year-old, who took office as president in a coup against his then ruling uncle Francisco Macias Nguema in 1979, is already serving his sixth term, making him the longest-reigning head of state in the world, with the exception of monarchs. According to the head of the National Electoral Commission, voter turnout was 98%, with Obiang securing 94.9% of the vote. Obiang belongs to the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), which also won all seats in the National Assembly and Senate in the general election. Opposition candidate Andres Esono, meanwhile, accuses Obiang of electoral fraud and of violating the principle of secret ballots. Obiang, who has never been officially re-elected with less than 93% of the votes, has been accused of electoral fraud and human rights violations in previous elections, which he has always denied. Obiang is only the second president since Equatorial Guinea’s independence from Spain in 1968 and has ruled the oil-rich state with an iron hand. According to Freedom House, oil wealth and political power are concentrated in the hands of the president’s family; most of the radio and television media are also owned by the government or controlled by allies. Political opposition is hardly tolerated in the Central African country and opposition politicians are repeatedly arrested. Accordingly, Equatorial Guinea scores poorly on the Freedom House Index, with just five out of 100 points. However, after Obiang abolished the death penalty in September before the election – a step that was welcomed and praised by the United Nations – experts assume that the president will use the new term in office to improve his international reputation.
In other news
Smart reading glasses for blind and visually impaired people that not only support reading, but also recognise objects and colours in the environment and even monetary currency as such – this is the promise of the Nigerian start-up company Vinsighte. Oluwatomisin Kolawole and his team first developed an app that translates texts into audio. This software is now being further developed and integrated into hardware, the smart reading glasses. The goal of Vinsight is the inclusion of blind and visually impaired people, says founder Kolawole, who launched the social enterprise in 2017 after a fellow student told him about a friend who had to drop out of school because he was blind. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 15.3% of the world’s visually impaired population lives in Africa. Vinsight has already been able to help around 5,000 people in schools and institutions in Nigeria with its technologies and is now working to expand its activities to the entire African continent over the next three years.