Coup D’Etat in Burkina Faso
In Burkina Faso, a group of soldiers announced their seizure of power on national television on Monday evening. The military junta organised within the “Patriotic Movement for Protection and Restoration” (“Mouvement Patriotique pour la Sauvegard et la Restauration”, MPSR), led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, overthrew President Marc Christian Roch Kaboré, suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament. A curfew was also imposed and the country’s borders were closed. The coup had seemed imminent since Sunday, following a mutiny in various barracks in the capital Ouagadougou in which numerous shots were fired. The reason for the coup is considered to be the failure of the state in the fight against jihadist militias, whose attacks have been responsible for more than 2,000 deaths and around 1.5 million displaced people since 2015. The deposed President Kaboré promised at his re-election in late November 2020 to prioritise this fight. However, the security situation has deteriorated drastically since then: while Burkina Faso counted 500 attacks by jihadist militias in 2020, last year there were 1,150, almost twice as many as in neighbouring Mali. According to reports, the government has lost control of almost two-thirds of the country, and the army regularly complains about insufficient equipment, supplies and pay. After a massacre of 50 soldiers in November 2020, popular discontent with the government continued to grow. Accordingly, hundreds of people took to the streets on Tuesday to welcome the military’s coup, which did not come as a surprise given the recent developments. On the international level, however, the coup was strongly condemned. The United Nations Secretary General called on the military junta to lay down its arms and guarantee the physical integrity of President Kaboré. The USA, the AU and the EU also called for the release of the ousted president, whose situation initially remained unclear. The regional organisation ECOWAS, which reacted to the recent coups d’état in Mali and Guinea with suspensions and sanctions, is meeting today, Friday, to discuss the situation in Burkina Faso. Further political developments in the country are currently uncertain. The junta has not yet given a concrete timetable for a return to democracy, saying it should take place within a “reasonable time”.
Malawi’s President Chakwera dismisses cabinet
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera on Thursday appointed new ministers after dismissing his entire cabinet on Monday over corruption allegations against three of his ministers. The three implicated are Land Minister Kezzie Msukwa, who is accused of benefiting from land deals involving a Malawian businessman based in the United Kingdom; Labor Minister Ken Kandodo, who is alleged to have embezzled Covid 19 funds; and Energy Minister Newton Kambala, who is accused of illegally manipulating fuel imports. All three ministers are to stand trial. For weeks, the president had been facing protests and pressure from civil society demanding measures against corruption. Criticism is also growing within the governing coalition, the so-called Tonse Alliance, as many of its members accuse President Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) of corruption, nepotism and a desolate economic policy. The decision to dissolve the cabinet ultimately followed meetings with the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), which includes church groups that act as watchdogs of the government. Both groups criticized past inaction by the president, who was elected in 2020 on a promise to fight Malawi’s endemic corruption and usher in an economic recovery. Chakwera’s consistent action against his ministers has been received positively by international partners. Other Malawian politicians are also currently facing corruption investigations: In December, three former officials of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were indicted, including the former finance minister and the former governor of the central bank. They are accused of manipulating accounts to obtain loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Both men are considered Chakwera’s main challengers in presidential elections scheduled for 2025.
This Monday, the first winner of the Pan-African Prize for Literature was announced in a ceremony at the National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The award was given to Franco-Cameroonian documentary filmmaker and photographer Osvalde Lewat for her debut novel “Les Aquatiques”, in which she challenges social conventions. The new $30,000 Pan-African Literary Prize, created by Democratic Republic of Congo President and outgoing African Union (AU) Chairman Félix Tshisekedi, will be awarded to Lewat in February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the next African Union Heads of State Summit. The literary prize, which will be awarded annually in the future, is one of the flagship projects of the Congolese chairmanship of the AU with the aim of promoting African literary culture, and more broadly, stimulating the production, consumption and dissemination of cultural products on the continent to showcase Africa to itself and the world.