The ECOWAS-Summit and developments in Guinea and Mali
Last Sunday, the 60th summit of ECOWAS member states took place in Abuja. On the agenda were primarily the topics of vaccine supply, travel bans for African countries as well as the political situation in Guinea and Mali. Both countries are currently headed by a military government that seized power in a military putsch. From Guinea, the ECOWAS demanded a return to constitutional order and the holding of elections within the next 6 months. At the same time, it welcomed the release of President Alpha Condé, who was deposed in September and had been imprisoned by the military government for 12 weeks. With regard to Mali, the Community called for compliance with the agreed roadmap to end the transitional government and for elections to be held accordingly by 27 February 2022, otherwise economic and financial sanctions could be imposed on the entire country. ECOWAS-imposed sanctions are currently in place against members of the transitional government, including travel restrictions and asset freezes. For its part, the ruling junta led by Colonel Assimi Goita speaks of a necessary longer transition period to hold a national dialogue. It announced that it would present a precise timetable for the democratic transition by 31 January. In addition to the institutional crisis, the security situation in Mali is also a major challenge; jihadist groups dominate large parts of the country, especially in the north. At the same time, the gradual withdrawal of the French army, which has been deployed in the West African country for almost eight years as part of Operation Barkhane, is in full swing. On Tuesday, a contingent of the French army withdrew from Timbuktu, which observers describe as a turning point for the French mission on the ground.
Court orders Zuma’s return to prison
The High Court in Pretoria ruled on Wednesday that South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma must return to prison. Also, the time he spent out of prison should not be counted towards the prison sentence. The 79-year-old Zuma was transferred to a hospital in September this year for health reasons after just 2 months in detention, so he was to be allowed to serve the rest of his sentence on medical parole. This decision has now been revoked after the opposition Democratic Alliance party and the Helen Suzman Foundation challenged the parole. In June, South Africa’s Constitutional Court had sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a commission of enquiry into allegations of corruption during his tenure from 2009 to 2018. The verdict led to major unrest in South Africa. After the verdict was handed down in June, Zuma’s supporters organised sustained protests which, according to official figures, claimed the lives of at least 337 people within a week and resulted in property damage running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Only the deployment of 25,000 male and female soldiers led to a stabilisation of the security situation. Against this background, there are fears of renewed unrest in view of the current court ruling, and security forces have been put on alert as a precaution. Meanwhile, Zuma continues to face charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud in connection with the French arms company Thales. The trial is scheduled to continue next year, and he faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Most recently, South Africa had made headlines, especially in view of the Omicron variant discovered by South African scientists. After numerous countries had reacted with travel restrictions against the country and its neighbouring states (press review CW48), these were lifted again this week by some countries such as Great Britain against the background of the latest findings.
In other News
Last Tuesday, the Congolese rumba was inscribed on the UNESCO Heritage List. This music and dance genre, whose origins can be found about 500 years ago in the Kingdom of Congo, has undergone numerous changes that make it one of the most popular rhythms in Africa. It originates from the Nkumba, a traditional dance from the Kingdom of Congo. Exported to America through the slave trade, it came into contact with other modern rhythms over time, most notably the Cuban rumba. The modern rumba emerged in the mid-20th century through the re-importation of this music to the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which now jointly successfully applied for the inclusion of the rumba on the World Heritage List. A number of other African countries were able to enjoy the inclusion of their traditions, including, for example, the Senegalese delicacy Ceebu Jen or the Madagascan storytelling art Kabary.