New military operation in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
On Monday, the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and UN peacekeepers from the MONUSCO stabilisation mission launched a joint military operation in the province of North Kivu in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Operation Springbok is intended to strengthen security in the province following violent clashes between the local militia Wazakendo and rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23) near the provincial capital Goma. In addition, the advance of the M23 rebels towards the city of Sake should be stopped. Accordingly, various new defensive positions have been established; joint patrols are taking place in key regions to protect the civilian population. Security zones, where internally displaced persons can find refuge and humanitarian aid is provided, have also been set up near the Kitchanga base. It was only in September that President Félix Tshisekedi called for the UN mission to begin withdrawing its troops in December of this year, as it failed to establish peace in the country. The resurgence of the Tutsi-dominated rebel group M23 since 2021 and the accompanying deteriorating security situation in the East of the country is also straining relations with neighbouring Rwanda. Kinshasa accuses Rwanda’s government of supporting the M23 rebels militarily, among other things, while Kigali rejects the accusations and accuses the DRC of carrying out military operations on Rwandan soil. After the UN Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes Region, Huang Xia, warned last month of the danger of a direct confrontation between the armed forces of the two neighbouring states and urged both sides to exercise restraint, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also appealed to both sides to find a peaceful solution during his telephone calls with Tshisekedi and Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Monday. In recent months, the US has increasingly tightened its stance towards Kigali and restricted its military aid as well as the sale of weapons and equipment to the country. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) also put the security situation in the DRC at the top of the agenda of its extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in the Angolan capital Luanda last week. It was only at the last meeting of the SADC Troika on Defense, Politics, and Security in May of this year that it was decided to send a SADC contingent of around 500 soldiers to the Central African state to support the troops of the East African Community (EAC), which have been stationed there since November of last year and the UN Peacekeeping Mission. The volatile security situation in the country is also fueling additional fears of outbreaks of violence in the upcoming presidential elections, which are due to take place on 20 December. Tshisekedi, whose election in 2018 was highly controversial, will run against circa 20 challengers; the exact number will be known after the Constitutional Court validates the candidacies on 18 November It remains to be seen whether the election will occur as planned and meet democratic standards. Critical voices have criticised the lack of fundamental reforms to the electoral law and process after the last election, which is generally considered to have been rigged. In addition, international experts are currently reporting increasing repression of opposition parties, and the electoral commission is also accused of acting in favour of the ruling party.
Opposition leader Succès Masra returns to Chad after a year in exile
Last Friday, Chadian opposition politician Succès Masra returned from exile. Like many other opposition politicians, the leader of the largest opposition party, Les Transformers, fled Chad last year after the military government brutally crushed opposition protests on 20 October 2022 and blamed Masra, among others, for this (press review CW 43/2022). After more than a year in exile in the US, Europe, and various African countries, he landed in the Chadian capital N’Djamena last Friday far from the public eye, where he was received by Abderaman Koulamalla, Chad’s Minister of Reconciliation, and the Minister of Communication, Aziz Mahamat Saleh. Masra’s return was made possible by the declaration of principles signed last Tuesday in the Congolese capital Kinshasa between the Chadian transitional government and Masra’s party, which is the result of the negotiation efforts of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi. He was appointed head of the mediation mission in Chad by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in 2022 (press review CW 43/2022). In the declaration of principle, the Chadian military government pledged to facilitate Masra’s return to the country and ensure his safety. Accordingly, on the same day, the international arrest warrant issued against Masra by the Chadian public prosecutor’s office in June was cancelled by the Attorney General of the Court of Appeal in N’Djamena. According to government circles, however, this was merely suspended; the proceedings against Masra for “attempting to undermine the constitutional order” and “incitement to rebellion” are still ongoing. With the agreement, the military government also guaranteed the opposition leader the freedom to pursue his political activities, meaning that Masra would also be able to run in the elections planned for 2024, provided he is not convicted in the ongoing trial. In return, he pledged to work towards a peaceful political solution in Chad and to avoid any form of violence. In addition, the Chadian authorities are to submit a comprehensive amnesty law to the National Transitional Council by the end of the month, which should guarantee complete impunity for all those involved in the violent protests of 20 October 2022, both civilians and military and police personnel. In addition to Masra, the agreement also aims to facilitate the return of other opposition members to the country. Masra’s return and the agreement have met with mixed reactions among the Chadian population: While positive voices see the agreement and the return as a diplomatic success and an important step towards a peaceful transition process, civil society groups criticise the announced amnesty law in particular. Instead of defending human rights and achieving justice for all those who fell victim to the violence, the law serves to protect the state security and defence forces, which were responsible for the violent suppression of the protests, according to the criticism. Masra’s agreement to the joint declaration is therefore seen by some sections of the population as a serious political mistake as it fails to fulfil the desire for justice, the conviction of the perpetrators and reparations for the victims. A referendum on a new constitution, which among other things should pave the way for elections and thus end the transitional military government under General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, who took over the reins of government in 2021 after the death of his father and long-term ruler Idriss Déby, is now scheduled for 17 December. It therefore remains to be seen to what extent the agreement between Masra and the transitional government can be seen as a lasting success in the democratic transition process in addition to the successful mediation.
In other news
The Kenyan pharmaceutical company Universal Corporation Limited (UCL) has become the first African manufacturer to receive prequalification from the World Health Organization (WHO) for the production of a drug to treat and prevent malaria. The drug suladoxine-pyrarithamine plus amodiaquine (Spaq) is a combination preparation that is primarily used in seasonal malaria chemoprophylaxis programmes (SMC) for small children. The aim is to treat existing infections and prevent new infections during the seasons with a high risk of transmission. Up to now, 70 percent of the supply of medicines has been covered by imports, mainly from India or China. Perviz Dhanani, Director of UCL, assessed the WHO authorisation as an important step towards reducing dependency on imported medicines and strengthening Africa’s ability to provide important medical goods and healthcare services. The WHO prequalification is a kind of seal of approval that guarantees that the manufacturing processes and quality of medicines meet international standards.
Former world champion Tamirat Tola from Ethiopia and 5000 metre Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri from Kenya triumphed at the 52nd New York Marathon on Sunday. Tola beat the previous course record set by Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai in 2011 by exactly 8 seconds, finishing in just 2:04:58 hours. In the women’s race, 33-year-old Hellen Obiri took first place with a best time of 2:27:23 hours. While the men’s race was already decided before the final kilometres, there was more variety in the women’s lead. Obiri, the Ethiopian Gidey and the defending champion Sharon Lokedi, also from Kenya, took turns in the lead. Obiri then pulled away during the last 400 metres and took the title by just six seconds from Gidey. The German Africa Foundation congratulates Obiri on her success.