Press Review CW 31/2023: Of confrontation and cooperation
Press Review 28 July 2023 to 4 August 2023

Dissolution of the Senegalese opposition party PASTEF

On Monday, the Senegalese Ministry of the Interior announced the dissolution of the opposition party Patriotes africains du Sénégal pour le travail, l’éthique et la fraternité (PASTEF), led by Ousmane Sonko. The move was justified by the PASTEF’s role in the violent protests in the capital Dakar in June this year (Press Review CW 23/2023). According to Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome, the party leadership had incited its supporters to take part in insurgent movements and riots, resulting in loss of life, numerous injuries and looting of public and private property. Criticism of the party’s dissolution – the first time a political party has been banned since Senegal’s independence from France in 1960 – came from former Prime Minister Aminata Touré (2013 – 2014), among others, who called the decision an “unforeseen setback” in the West African state’s democratic history. The announcement to dissolve PASTEF followed the arrest of opposition leader Sonko on Friday and a charge of plotting insurrection on Sunday. The new charges, which are unrelated to Sonko’s two-year sentence for moral corruption in June this year (Press Review CW 23/2023), include charges of undermining state security, endangering public safety, creating serious political disorder, criminal association with a terrorist organisation and theft. He himself criticised his arrest as unjust, as he shared via Facebook, and went on hunger strike on Sunday. On Monday, the judge announced that Sonko would remain in detention until his trial. It is currently unclear how the charges will affect Sonko’s presidential candidacy for the 2024 elections. In the wake of Sonko’s arrest and indictment, there were renewed protests in Dakar on Monday, as well as in Ziguinchor, where Sonko is mayor. In Dakar, among other things, the highway leading to the capital was blocked and tyres and trucks were set on fire. There were also isolated clashes between smaller protest groups and the police, who used tear gas to push back the demonstrators. According to official reports, two people were killed during the protests in Ziguinchor, but the Ministry of Interior did not release more detailed information about the circumstances and the persons. In addition, the train connection between Dakar and its suburbs was suspended; Total Energies, meanwhile, announced a 72-hour strike of its petrol stations in Senegal on Tuesday. This was justified by the fear of further violent riots, to which petrol stations have increasingly fallen victim in the past. The government responded to the protests by blocking access to social media and temporarily shutting down mobile internet; on Wednesday, access to the platform TikTok was also blocked. These measures would prevent the spread of “hateful and subversive messages” as well as incitement to violence by Senegalese living abroad, the Interior Ministry said. The political power struggle between the ruling party under President Macky Sall and Sonko’s PASTEF has been at the core of Senegalese domestic politics for some time. Already in March (Press Review CW 11/2023) and June of this year, there were violent protests. In July, the situation initially eased after President Sall announced that he would not run for a controversial third term in the next elections in 2024, ending months of speculation about his political intentions.

Burundi and Mauritania’s presidents on China visit

Last Friday, President Xi Jinping received Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani for bilateral talks in the Chinese provincial capital Chengdu. Both heads of government had travelled to China for the opening ceremony of the 31st Summer FISU World University Games taking place in Chengdu that day. The talks between President Xi Jinping and his Mauritanian counterpart Ghazouani focused on expanding bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, education and medical assistance. Following the meeting, a joint cooperation plan was signed under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to deepen cooperation in the sectors of infrastructure, trade, financial cooperation, agriculture, water management, energy and green hydrogen, and cultural exchanges between the two countries. Mauritania already joined the BRI in 2018 which was launched by the Chinese government in 2013 – but the agreement signed on Friday further deepens cooperation in the aforementioned areas. On Sunday, Mauritania’s President Ghazouani also met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in China’s capital Beijing. The talks with Burundi’s president Ndayashimiye also focused on deepening cooperation within the framework of the BRI – like Mauritania, Burundi also joined the initiative in 2018. President Jinping promised Burundi support in exporting agricultural products to China and in promoting private investment in Burundi. Other topics included cooperation in the areas of food self-sufficiency and peace and security in Africa. Burundi and China already cooperate closely in the energy sector. Only last September, President Ndayishimiye and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jiangping jointly inaugurated the Ruzibazi hydropower plant in Burundi’s Bujumbara province. The dam had been built with financial and technical support from China’s Sinohydro Construction Company and is the largest Chinese-supported project in Burundi to date. China has also promised technical support for the operation of three more power plants and for the training of local experts. Both African presidents also emphasised that they would adhere to China’s so-called “One-China” principle on the Taiwan issue. The visit of Ndayishimiye and Ghazouani to China follows a series of talks between China’s President Xi Jinping and high-ranking visitors from African states. After China relaxed its strict corona rules at the end of last year, Jingping had already received government representatives from Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe in the past six months.

In other news

The 2023 Women’s World Cup will take place in Australia and New Zealand this year from July 20 to August 20, with the four participating African teams from Nigeria, Morocco, Zambia and South Africa already attracting some attention in the group stage. Nigeria secured their place in the last 16 with a 0-0 draw against Ireland on Monday, repeating their success from the previous World Cup in 2019, while the South African women’s team, nicknamed Banyana Banyana, also recorded a spectacular 3-2 win over Italy to reach a World Cup last 16 for the first time. Morocco scored their first Women’s World Cup win with a 1-0 victory over South Korea and went on to beat Colombia 1-0 in yesterday’s match to become the third African team to reach the last 16. There, Morocco will face France next week. Zambia, on the other hand, whose women’s team qualified for the World Cup for the first time, were eliminated from the tournament after two previous defeats, despite their first World Cup win, 3-1 over Costa Rica. The qualification and success of African teams – three teams qualified for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, two of which made it through the group stage – underlines the growing potential and development of women’s football on the continent.

Event information

The Palais Populaire is currently hosting the exhibition “The Struggle of Memory” presented by Sammlung Deutsche Bank. The exhibition focuses on the role of memory and the preservation of the past for social cohesion. The consequences of the slave trade and colonialism in Africa have left deep traces, including the devaluation and destruction of pre-colonial history and culture. The exhibition shows not only the consequences of the theft of people and material heritage, but also the importance of reconstructing memories and cultural identity. The exhibition is divided into two parts. The first will take place from April 19, 2023 to September 18, 2023 and the second part from October 6, 2023 to March 11, 2024. Entry is free of charge. Free guided tours are also offered every Saturday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. in English and Sundays from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. in German.

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