Press Review CW 3/2024: Forms of Protest
Press Review 12 January 2024 to 19 January 2024

Namibia criticises Germany for intervening at the International Court of Justice

On Saturday, in a press release the Namibian government harshly criticised Germany’s planned support for Israel in the genocide case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Referring to the own colonial history, President Hage Geingob expressed his deep concern about Germany’s “shocking decision” to reject South Africa’s “morally upright accusation” at the International Court of Justice. At the end of December last year, South Africa filed a complaint with the highest court of the United Nations (UN) in The Hague, accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinian population and thus of violating the UN Genocide Convention due to its military operation in the Gaza Strip, in which more than 23,000 Palestinians have died to date. Namibia is one of the strongest supporters of the South African complaint. The reaction of the country in southern Africa came one day after the German government announced that it intended to intervene as a third party in the main proceedings. Against the background of German history and the human crime of the Shoah, the German government sees a special connection to the Convention against Genocide. The instrumentalisation of this is firmly opposed, according to the spokesperson for the German government, Steffen Hebestreit. The accusation of genocide against Israel is “firmly and explicitly rejected”, as it has no basis. After supporting Ukraine against Russia in September 2022 and supporting Gambia against Myanmar in November 2023, this is the third time that Germany, as a third party in a trial before the ICJ regarding a possible violation of the UN Convention against Genocide, has utilised the option of what is known as a subsidiary intervention. This offers a formally neutral third party the opportunity to submit expert opinions and statements and to participate in the hearing itself. The first hearing in the process already took place on 11 January. It is expected that the application for immediate measures to stop acts of war will be decided soon, but the main hearing on the accusation of genocide may take years. Meanwhile, Germany’s announcement of a side intervention coincided with the 120th anniversary of the German genocide against the Herero and Nama. Against this backdrop, Namibia also accuses Germany of 2not having learnt any lessons from its terrible history” and calls on the German government to reconsider its decision in this matter. The extent to which these developments will affect the German-Namibian reconciliation process remains to be seen. In May 2021, after years of negotiations, the German and Namibian governments concluded a reconciliation agreement in which the German government officially recognised the genocide of the Herero and Nama, to which an estimated 70,000 people fell victim between 1904 and 1908. However, the agreement, which also includes the payment of 1.1 billion euros to be channelled into development projects in the country over 30 years, is still awaiting ratification and is considered controversial in Namibia. The German and Namibian governments are currently in talks to clarify disputed details in an annex to the agreement.

 

Violent protests after controversial re-election of Comorian President Assoumani

According to health officials, one person died and six others were injured during protests against the re-election of Comorian President Azali Assoumani in the capital Moroni on Thursday. Violent riots, road blockades and the looting of a former minister’s house had already occurred on the island state on Wednesday. The Ministry of the Interior then imposed a night-time curfew and the police used tear gas against the demonstrators. Arrests were also made, although an exact number was not disclosed. According to Netblocks, a civil organisation that documents internet disruptions worldwide, access to the internet has now also been blocked. The protests were preceded by the official announcement of the election results by the Independent National Election Commission (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante, CENI) on Tuesday, which declared the incumbent President Assoumani the winner. With 62.97% of the vote, the 65-year-old from the ruling party, the Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros (Convention pour le Renouveau des Comores, CRC), won with an absolute majority in the first round of voting on Sunday against his five challengers, confirmed the chairman of the CENI, Idrissa Said Ben Ahmada. Second place went to Issa Salim Adillah from the opposition party Juwa with 20.26%. Voter turnout for the presidential election was just 16.3%, while the parallel gubernatorial elections were much more popular with a 55.7% turnout. Even before the official election results were announced, the opposition candidates had issued a joint statement denouncing irregularities and electoral fraud. Among other things, fake ballot papers had been placed in ballot boxes, polling stations had been closed prematurely and election observers had been prevented from doing their work. The national election observation centre of the Comoros, OBSELEC, also criticised the CENI and accused it of being biased. The election observation mission of the African Union (AU), on the other hand, spoke of a generally peaceful and calm election without any major irregularities. The election results still have to be confirmed by the Supreme Court next Sunday before Assoumani, who currently also holds the chairmanship of the AU, can begin his fourth five-year term in office. Assoumani came to power in 1999 following a military coup and won the 2002 presidential elections of the newly founded Union of the Comoros, as the island state has been officially known since 2001, as a civilian candidate. As the then constitution of the Comoros provided for a rotating presidency of the three islands of the Union, he retired from politics in 2006 before running for president again in 2016 and winning the elections, which were characterised by violence and irregularities. In 2018, following a controversial constitutional referendum, the condition of rotating the presidency between the three main islands was abolished, allowing Assoumani to run again in 2019. Since then in particular, his government has been accused of cracking down on critics and members of the opposition. Former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi of the opposition party Juwa and former Vice President Mohamed Ali Soilihi of the Union for the Development of the Comoros (Union pour le Développement des Comores, UPDC) are both in prison.

 

In other news

The 34th Africa Cup (AFCON 2023) kicked off on Saturday with a 2-0 win for the host Côte d’Ivoire against Guinea-Bissau. The match was played in the 60,000-capacity Alassane Ouattara Stadium, which opened in 2020 in the city of Abidjan. With 24 teams, the Africa Cup is the continent’s biggest sporting event and yesterday’s second matchday already produced a number of surprises: Namibia celebrated its first-ever AFCON victory with a 1-0 win over Tunisia, Mozambique held co-favourites Egypt, led by superstar Mohamed Salah, to a draw, while Equatorial Guinea fought out a 1-1 draw against three-time African champions Nigeria and Cape Verde prevailed 2-1 against Ghana. The final will take place on 11 February – also at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium.

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