CW 5/2022: Mixed signals
Press Review 28 January 2022 to 4 February 2022

Rwandan-Ugandan border reopened

In a surprise development, the border between Rwanda and Uganda was reopened last Monday. After a three-year closure, Rwanda now arranged for the reopening of the land border in Gatuna so that trade as well as travel between Gatuna and Uganda’s Katuna can resume. The border between the two East African countries had been closed in February 2019 after Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame accused Uganda of supporting armed rebel groups in Rwanda, as well as abducting, torturing and killing Rwandan nationals. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, meanwhile, accused Rwanda of espionage and blamed Rwandan troops for the murder of two Ugandan citizens in the border region. The border closure marked the climax in the deterioration of relations between the two heads of state, who had long been considered close allies before the turn of the millennium. Various mediation attempts by African heads of state from Angola, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent years have brought no results, even the signing of an agreement to reduce tensions two years ago in Angola remained without consequences. In the latest developments, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Museveni’s son and commander-in-chief of Uganda’s land forces, is seen as having played a key role in the process. Kainerugaba flew to Kigali in January to meet Kagame. Subsequently, at the end of January, Ugandan intelligence chief Abel Kandiho, who Rwanda claims is responsible for crimes against Rwandans, was relieved of his duties and transferred to South Sudan. It is considered likely that Rwanda had made the removal of Kandiho, who is under financial sanctions by the US for human rights violations, a condition for the reopening of the main border crossing. The opening was warmly welcomed on Monday by the local population, which had suffered greatly, especially economically, from the consequences of the closure. As the border crossing is an important economic hub for trade in East Africa, delivery traffic is currently a priority. The African Union also welcomed the opening of the border as a positive step towards normalising relations between the countries.

 

Coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau failed

After an attempted coup in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, the situation is under control again, according to President Umaro Sissoco Embaló. On Tuesday afternoon, there were gun battles in the capital for more than five hours, during which the government building was damaged and several people involved were killed. Some of the attackers were arrested afterwards. It is still unclear who is responsible for the attempted coup. Embaló himself claims that his fight against drug trafficking is the reason. Guinea-Bissau is considered the most important hub for international drug trafficking between South America and Europe and has experienced four successful military coups and numerous coup attempts as well as several political assassinations since its independence from Portugal in 1974. The drug cartels have been responsible for some of these. The cartels profit from the corruption and weak law enforcement in the country and also maintain close contacts with both political leaders and the army. In view of the current coup attempt, however, some voices are also raising the assumption that the military is involved, as there has been growing discontent with the government within the armed forces for a long time. Frustration is also growing among the population in view of high unemployment, a low level of education and rampant corruption. In addition, Embaló is accused of cooperating with the drug cartels himself and only pretending to fight a battle to win over international partners. Against this background, there is even speculation that Embaló himself might have staged the coup in order to have a pretext for internal purges against opposition members and critical voices. The situation therefore remains unclear, and there is a danger of further destabilisation of the country. Internationally, the attempted coup is viewed with concern, as the violence in the West African country follows a series of military coups in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso and seems to confirm fears that the recent wave of coups in the region is spreading.

 

In other news

The Nigerian artist Boluwatife Oyediran is enriching the Parisian world of contemporary art starting this week. With his first international exhibition entitled “Point of Correction”, the 24-year-old painter wants to break down the norms of classical art. With his paintings, he questions the concepts of norm and power by depicting, among others, common figures of religious and political imagery such as Jesus Christ, the Pope, Napoleon or Queen Elizabeth II through black persons. The Nigerian artist is part of the movement of figurative painting and advocates a revaluation of the representation of black people in classical art, who are often made invisible or ignored. With this exhibition, he also wants to draw attention to the contribution of Africans to modernisation and global development. “Point of correction” runs until 22 February at the Afikaris Gallery in Paris.

 

Veranstaltungshinweis

With the exhibition “Observer & Commentator”, the artists Kufa Makwavarara and Richard Mudariki attempt to describe the political and social conditions in their home country Zimbabwe with perspicacity and a pinch of humour. The exhibition runs until 5 March 2022 in Berlin at ARTCO Gallery. For more information, click here.

 

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