CW 9/2023: Realignment?
Press Review 24 February 2023 to 3 March 2023

Nigeria elects a new president

On Wednesday morning, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the victory of Bola Tinubu in the presidential race. The 70-year-old candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) won the presidential election on Saturday with about 8.8 million votes (36.61%) against his two main opponents, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) (29.07%) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (25.4%). In addition, Tinubu had also fulfilled the second requirement for an election victory, securing at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of the total of 36 states, thus preventing a run-off election, which for a long time had been indicated by many factors. However, Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, lost the city of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, to his opponent Peter Obi. Obi, who is very popular especially among the young population, also won Nigeria’s capital Abuja. The overall voter turnout of 29% was the lowest since the end of the military dictatorship in 1999. Less than 25 million of the 87 million registered voters cast their ballots. The election, which was largely peaceful, was overshadowed by technical problems and considerable delays. Not only did many polling stations open, but there were also delays in the electronic transmission of the counting results and their publication on the web portal of the electoral supervisory authority. On Sunday evening, INEC reported the collapse of the web portal – by then, results from just one province had been published. The opposition parties therefore demanded a rerun of the election even before the official results were announced. The delays in recording the votes had provided numerous opportunities for vote rigging, argued both the PDP and the Labour Party, among others. European Union election observers also criticised the poor planning and communication by the electoral body, which had undermined confidence in the electoral process. The opposition now has three weeks to officially appeal the election results. Appeals against election results are not unusual in Nigeria, but they have never been successful so far. The delays and technical problems also affected the parliamentary elections, which were also held on Saturday. Here, there are only temporary results so far. Tinubu’s APC has so far won 49 seats in the Senate, the PDP 27 and the Labour Party 7 of the total 109 seats (as of 2 March). In the House of Representatives, too, the APC currently holds a majority of 48 seats (PDP 36 seats and LP 18 seats) – though 246 of the seats are still undeclared. The new government faces numerous challenges. Not only is the West African country in a deep economic and cash crisis, it also faces considerable security challenges, with the country’s stability considered to set the tone for the stability of the entire region.

 

Macron presents new Africa policy

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron presented the guidelines for the French Africa policy for the coming years. At the centre of this is the reform of the French military configuration in African countries. Macron announced a significant reduction of the French military presence in Africa, but at the same time emphasised that this would not mean a withdrawal or even an end to France’s military engagement. Rather, in return, training and supply missions in the region would be expanded and military bases on the ground would be operated jointly with the respective African states in the future. This would ensure an “Africanisation” of the bases and a new “model of partnership”. Furthermore, at the beginning of his speech, Macron emphasised humility in the face of current events on the African continent and stressed that France wanted to offer its African partners cooperation on an equal footing as well as close economic and cultural relations instead of arrogance and post-colonial thinking. In the course of this, he also announced a new framework law for the return of looted goods. The announcement of the new Africa policy comes against the backdrop of the involuntary withdrawal of French troops from Mali six months ago, the withdrawal of around 400 French special forces from Burkina Faso at the request of the ruling military junta, and the growing influence of China and Russia on the continent. In addition, anti-French resentment and demonstrations have been increasingly observed in West and Central Africa for some time. The reactions to Macron’s presentation of France’s Africa policy were also rather mixed. In Niger, for example, where part of the French troops previously stationed in Mali were relocated, the announcement of a planned shared command of military bases was met with much criticism from the civilian population. According to a spokesperson for the civil society organisation Mouvement patriotique pour une citoyenneté responsable (Patriotic Movement for Responsible Citizenship), this is an insult as the population wants a complete withdrawal of France from the national territory, not a granted say in their own country. Phrases like co-determination and balanced cooperation would not change the actual attitude of France towards African states. Other voices in Niger, such as that of political analyst Alkassoum Abdoulrahamane, were less critical and at least conceded to Macron the concession of a courageous attempt to change French Africa policy – even if this attempt was far too late and far too little. On Wednesday, Macron also set off on a five-day Africa trip to Gabon, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo to put his new Africa policy into action. Experts, however, see Macron’s trip mainly as an echo of Russian Foreign Minister Sergej Lawrow’s latest trip to Africa. While Macron’s participation in the One-Forest-Summit, an initiative for the protection of the rainforest in the Congo Basin, was in the foreground in Gabon, the state visit to Angola will mainly be about talks on the supply of fossil energies to the West – no easy undertaking, after all, Head of State João Lourenço once studied in Moscow and still has close ties to the Marxist-influenced National People’s Liberation Movement MPLA. In Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, people have been protesting against Macron’s visit in front of the French embassy. The reason for these protests is France’s close partnership with neighbouring Rwanda, which the DRC accuses of supporting rebel fights on Congolese territory and with which relations have been tense for months.

In other news

The South Sudan men’s basketball team celebrated a historic success last Friday: with an 83:75 victory over Senegal, South Sudan became the first African country to qualify for participation in the Basketball World Cup at the first attempt. In the game against the favourites Senegal, the two teams went head-to-head for long stretches, with South Sudan leading by only one point at half-time. Earlier in the qualifying round, the team beat Egypt 97:77 and the Democratic Republic of Congo 101:58. With the triumph over Senegal, coach Royal Ivey’s team secured a place among the top two teams in Group F. The FIBA World Cup will take place from 25 August to 10 September 2023 and will be held for the first time in three countries (Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines).

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