CW 14/2023: Old patterns, new ways?
Press Review 31 March 2023 to 6 April 2023

Deputies of the South African ruling party ANC in Russia

Several high-ranking representatives of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party ended their four-day visit to Russia on Sunday. They had traveled to Moscow at the invitation of the ruling party there, United Russia, to strengthen long-standing relations between the two parties. The delegation from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s party was led by Obed Bapela, head of the ANC’s international relations subcommittee and deputy minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, and Alvin Botes, deputy minister of international relations and cooperation. Both are members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), the party’s top leadership body. The core topic of the talks was the readjustment of the global order and the consequences of neocolonialism, according to the ANC. As recently as January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid an official visit to Pretoria; in February, South Africa, Russia and China held a controversial joint military exercise in the Indian Ocean off the coast of the South African port city of Durban. South Africa, which along with Russia, China, India and Brazil is part of the so-called BRICS group of emerging economies, has been considered Russia’s closest partner on the African continent for decades. Thus, invoking the principle of neutrality, the South African government has so far also not condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine. The United States and local opposition parties, in particular, repeatedly criticized the South African government’s pro-Russia course last year. The Kremlin has been trying to expand its political and economic ties with African countries for years, and now especially against the backdrop of Western sanctions related to the Ukraine war. Thus, Russia is inviting African heads of state and government to the second Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg from 26 July to 29. The agenda here includes expanding cooperation in the fields of education, medicine and science. A month later, the 15th BRICS summit will take place in South Africa in August, where, according to Lavrov, the creation of a currency of their own and thus the establishment of a financial system independent of the West and the replacement of the U.S. dollar as the internationally dominant trading currency will be discussed, among other things. Overshadowing the summit, however, is the question of whether President Vladimir Putin will travel to South Africa in person and how the host would act if he does, following the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) March 17 issuance of an arrest warrant for the Russian president for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. After all, as a signatory to the court’s Rome Statute, South Africa would be obligated to execute the arrest warrant. While South African opposition parties took a clear position and demanded Putin’s arrest if he entered the country, the government led by President Cyril Rampahosa reacted hesitantly and initially commissioned a legal opinion to clarify how to proceed with the arrest warrant.

Rwanda’s President Kagame re-elected chairman at RPF party congress

On Sunday, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was re-elected chairman of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party for another five years at the party’s 16th congress. Kagame, who has led the party since 1998, won by a clear margin of 99.8 percent (2,999 votes) over his rival Abdulkarim Harelimana, who received a total of just three votes. With Consolee Uwimana, the party congress also elected a woman as deputy party chairman for the first time. The businesswoman and banker, who previously served as a senator until 2019, received 93 percent of the vote. Just days after his re-election as party leader, Kagame announced at a joint press conference with his Kenyan counterpart William Ruto in Kigali that a succession plan was currently being actively discussed within the ruling party. This would also mean that the 65-year-old would not run again in the next presidential elections in 2024. Rumors of Kagame, who has ruled Rwanda as president since 2000 and his retirement from politics, had been circulating since before the last parliamentary and presidential elections in 2017. In 2015 he had a controversial referendum lift the constitutional limit of two seven-year terms for the presidency, which allowed him not only to run for a third term but also the option to remain in office until 2034. In the press conference, Kagame also stressed that he was not interested in personally selecting his successor, but rather in creating an environment that would foster the emergence of capable leaders. While experts do not expect an immediate transfer of power, the political landscape in Rwanda will change now that Kagame’s retirement plans are known and the ruling party is preparing to elect new leadership. The party congress came just days before the anniversary commemorating the Rwandan genocide (7 April), in which an estimated 800,000 people from the Tutsi ethnic minority were killed in 1994.

In other news

Ivorian technology entrepreneur and smartphone designer Alain Capo received the 2023 World Literacy Award on Tuesday, which was presented at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Capo was honoured with the award for designing a smartphone that can not only communicate in 16 of the languages spoken in Côte d’Ivoire, but can also be operated by people who cannot read or write. The prize is awarded annually by the World Literacy Foundation and recognises individuals or organisations for their outstanding efforts to promote reading and writing.

 

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