General mobilisation in Burkina Faso
On Wednesday, Burkina Faso’s interim president Ibrahim Traoré signed a decree on general mobilisation for a period of one year. In order to support the military in the fight against jihadist groups, it is now possible to recruit civilians over the age of 18 in addition to reservists. Since 2015, armed attacks have been a regular occurrence in the West African country, killing more than ten thousand people and displacing more than two million. In Burkina Faso, 40 percent of the national territory is currently controlled by jihadist groups, some of which work together with IS and al-Qaida. Traoré, who came to power in a coup last autumn, has set himself the goal of regaining control over the entire territory. Shortly after the announcement of the general mobilisation, the Burkina Faso army and the volunteer defence forces (Volontaires pour la défense de la patri, VDP) were attacked, presumably by jihadist groups. In the process 44 civilians also died in attacks in two villages on the border with Niger. Concerns about jihadist attacks are also rising in the neighbouring West African costal states Benin, Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. This led to a bilateral meeting between Beninese President Patrice Talon and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, during which Kagame promised Talon full support for the security challenges in the country. Details of the cooperation between the two countries were not yet clear, but it could include training for security forces as well as joint operations, the Beninese leader announced. While Benin engages in this intergovernmental cooperation with Rwanda, the Gulf of Guinea states are increasing their military presence in the northern border regions. Ghana, for example, sent 1,000 additional soldiers and police officers to the border and Togo declared a state of emergency in its northernmost province.
Fighting in Sudan intensifies
The situation in Sudan has been intensifying since Saturday. A de-escalation of the conflict between Sudanese military chief and de facto head of state Abdel-Fattah Burhan and Sudan’s deputy head of state and commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Mohammed Hamdan Daglo (better known as Hemeti) is unlikely. The conflict erupted after the transition to civilian rule planned for last week was delayed (Press Review week 15/2023). Two ceasefires have already been announced to no avail. On Thursday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Arab League, called on the two parties to the conflict to observe a three-day ceasefire during Sugar Feast (Eid). Civilians are to be given the opportunity to be evacuated and to stock up on food and medicine. The RSF said it announced a ceasefire to begin Friday morning. However, according to media reports, fighting still broke out in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Friday. Burhan announced on the same day that negotiations with Hemeti were out of the question. For him, the only option was the surrender of the RSF; the military would continue to work for a civilian government. The situation continues to deteriorate, especially in Khartoum and the Darfur region. At least 350 people have already died in the fighting. In addition, many people in Khartoum fear being without drinking water, food and electricity if the fighting continues. Evacuation attempts have not been successful so far. On Thursday, the US announced that it would send more troops to neighbouring countries to prepare for a possible evacuation. Previously, they had announced that an evacuation was not possible for security reasons and that citizens should seek shelter locally. Germans are also still waiting to leave Khartoum. The evacuation planned for Wednesday had to be cancelled for security reasons. In a speech, Kenyan President Dr. William Ruto expressed his concern for stability in the region. At noon on Friday, Ruto announced that Kenya was ready to mediate peace processes between the parties to the conflict. Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) had called for an immediate and unconditional cessation of all hostilities.
In other news
On Monday, the Nigerian government became the second country in the world to provisionally approve Oxford University’s R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine. Last week, Ghana first granted regulatory approval for the vaccine for children aged between five and 36 months. Unusually, the approval comes ahead of the publication of data from the vaccine’s trial phase. However, prior publications from the R21 trial show efficacy of between 70 and 80% even 12 months after the fourth dose. When the vaccine can be implemented according to WHO guidelines is still open. The Indian manufacturer is currently building up production capacities of over 200 million vaccine doses per year. The mosquito-borne disease malaria causes the death of more than 600,000 people worldwide every year, of which – according to a WHO study from 2021 – almost one third are in Nigeria alone.