CW 37/2021: Going Public
Press Review 11 September 2021 to 17 September 2021

German Africa Award goes to Ethiopian Rights Activist 

The Ethiopian Dr Daniel Bekele will be awarded the German Africa Award 2021 for his lifelong fight for human rights. An independent jury of 24 experts from politics, foundations and the media selected the human rights activist from more than 30 nominees. Daniel Bekele was committed to human rights from an early age: At the age of only 23, he started working as a lawyer in Addis Ababa, represented NGOs and quickly became a sought-after expert on democracy and human rights. As a representative of civil society, he took a leading role in monitoring the 2005 parliamentary elections in Ethiopia. After criticising the questionable conduct of the elections and their violent consequences, he was first attacked and injured by armed government security forces in October 2005, then later arrested and sentenced to prison. As an internationally recognised non-violent political prisoner, he remained in jail until March 2008. This did not diminish Daniel Beckele’s determination to stand up for political rights, especially those of disadvantaged groups. Between 2011 and 2019, he held senior positions at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to advance human rights on the African continent. In 2019, Bekele was appointed by the Ethiopian parliament to head the Ethiopian State Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Since then, Bekele has significantly transformed the commission, successfully advocating for greater independence and an expansion of the commission’s powers and financial autonomy. The deteriorating political climate in Ethiopia and the civil war over Tigray province in the north of the country present the Commission with the difficult task of fairly assessing the human rights violations of the parties involved in a politically charged atmosphere. Not surprisingly, the Commission has also been subject to criticism in this context. A testament to the international standing and credibility of Daniel Bekele’s Commission is the ongoing joint investigation with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for a report on human rights violations committed by all sides in the course of the Tigray conflict. The joint enquiry has been welcomed by a number of governments, including the EU, the US, Canada, Australia and the UN Security Council. The award ceremony for Daniel Bekele is scheduled for November in Berlin.

 

Mali’s rapprochement with Russia

In Mali, the military junta has not denied negotiations on the deployment of a contingent of up to 1,000 members of the Russian Private Military Company (PMC) “Wagner”, to protect the country’s own government and train the Malian armed forces for more than ten million US dollars per month. Instead, Mali’s interim military government, led by Assimi Goïta, confirmed the news on Tuesday evening, while expressing its medium-term goal of a military “diversification strategy” to ensure the country’s own security. Accordingly, in the event of a positive outcome of the bilateral talks, the paramilitary mercenary force led by Putin’s confidant, Jewgeni Prigoschin, could soon be present in Mali after deployments in Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Mozambique. The possible agreement is internationally seen as critical  not only because of allegations of extortion, raiding, arms trafficking and human rights abuses related to Wagner Group deployments. Furthermore, Russia’s engagement in the Sahel is also incompatible with Western efforts, such as the UN-led stabilization mission MINUSMA or the EU training mission EUTM, by means of which more than 10,000 international servicemen and women are committed to security in the region. Notably, France’s President Macron, whose troops have been militarily active in Mali since 2013, threatened to withdraw his forces if there was a commitment to the Wagner Group. There are profound tensions between the French and Malian governments, after France announced back in June that it was scaling down its troop presence in Mali in the wake of the second coup attempt in nine months. The rapprochement with Russia can therefore also be regarded as a strategic attempt by Mali to strengthen its own negotiating position with European states ahead of the upcoming Africa France Summit in October. Germany also views a possible deal between the Malian military junta and the Wagner Group critically and as a threat to the basis of Germany’s Bundeswehr mandate in the West African country. Russia, meanwhile, denies that there are official negotiations with the military junta.

 

In other News

From Monday until today, Friday, the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB-ICC) is meeting for its 33rd session in Abuja, Nigeria. This is the first time the council is meeting in an African country. On 15 September, the MAB-ICC reviewed proposals for new biosphere reserves. Of the 20 newly added reserves, only one is on the African continent: the Matseng Biosphere Reserve gives the Kingdom of Lesotho its first entry on the UNESCO list of biosphere reserves. At the same time, a biosphere reserve in Gabon was removed from the list. The meeting comes a few days after the World Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) outlined the extent of the global biodiversity crisis and found that more than 8,500 species are at risk of extinction. With the MAB program, UNESCO has been developing concrete solutions to environmental problems for over 50 years. With 727 biospheres in 131countries, it also seeks to reconcile people and nature and to show that it is possible to use biodiversity sustainably while promoting its conservation.

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