Press Review CW 33/2023: Closing ranks
Press Review 11 August 2023 to 18 August 2023

Federal minister Schulze travels to Mauritania and Nigeria

On Thursday, the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development and Chair of the Sahel Alliance, Svenja Schulze, concluded her four-day visit to West Africa. The focus was on the continuation of development cooperation with the countries of the Sahel region as well as the situation in and further dealings with Niger after the military overthrew the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum three weeks ago. The minister arrived in Mauritania on Monday and travelled on to Nigeria on Wednesday, instead of Burkina Faso as originally planned, to hold talks with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In Mauritania, Schulze visited several development projects supported by Germany, including a registration centre for refugees run by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR and a vocational school. On Tuesday, she then met for talks with Mauritanian President Ould Ghazouani, in which the coup in Niger also played a central role. Mauritania currently chairs the G 5 Sahel, a grouping of Sahel states to promote security and development in the region. Schulze stressed that the solution to the conflict must come from the region, but that Germany would provide support and advocate for a peaceful solution. The Mauritanian government expressed concern about the situation in the Sahel region. It was feared that the conflicts would spread to the entire region, causing an increase in the number of refugees and the spread of terrorist groups. After talks with Mauritanian Foreign Minister Ould Merzoug and Minister of Economy Abdessalam Saleh, the Federal Minister announced the expansion of German development cooperation at a press conference on Tuesday evening. Among other things, support is to be provided for the training of skilled workers, who are urgently needed for the expansion of renewable energies, and for the reception of refugees. Development cooperation with the Sahel countries will above all pursue the goal of creating perspectives for young people through employment and social security in order to strengthen social cohesion, reduce poverty and prevent the further spread of terrorist groups, Schulze said. In Nigeria, Schulze then met the President of ECOWAS, Omar Alieu Touray. ECOWAS had condemned the coup in Niger, the fourth among ECOWAS member states within a few years, and also threatened military intervention. Schulze warned against military intervention that could further destabilise the situation in the Sahel and reported after her talks with Touray that they had agreed that a peaceful solution to the conflict had to be at the centre. Schulze also welcomed the mediation efforts of ECOWAS and assured Touray of the support of the Sahel Alliance, of which she has been president since July this year. The Sahel Alliance coordinates international support for the five Sahel states Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad and had suspended development cooperation with Niger after the coup – reportedly at the request of ECOWAS. German bilateral development cooperation with Niger was also put on hold after the coup, which means that around 24 million euros will no longer flow to Niger this year. However, projects within the framework of transitional development assistance will continue in order to ensure basic services for the population. ECOWAS imposed economic and financial sanctions after the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum, including Nigeria cutting off its electricity supply to Niger. The country gets about 70% of its electricity from Nigeria, which is why there are now regular, prolonged power cuts. ECOWAS has been trying to find diplomatic solutions in recent weeks, but at its special summit last Thursday it decided to set up a standby force. This Thursday, the chiefs of defence of nine of the 15 ECOWAS countries met in Accra to work out an operational plan. A military intervention, however, was seen as last resort and a peaceful solution should continue to be found through diplomacy. On Monday, the military junta in Niger announced its intention to charge ousted President Bazoum with high treason, which can be punished with the death penalty. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine, appointed by the coup plotters, sent positive signals on Tuesday at a meeting with the president of Chad, expressing openness to talks with all parties

Ruto on state visit to Mozambique

Last Thursday, Kenyan President William Ruto travelled to Mozambique for a multi-day state visit. In the capital Maputo, he met with his counterpart Filipe Nyusi for talks. The visit focused on economic integration at regional and continental level as well as cooperation in the field of security and defence. Also on Thursday, Mozambique and Kenya signed four memoranda of understanding in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, energy and capacity building in the public sector, as well as four other cooperation agreements relating to the mutual recognition of driving licences, the transfer of persons convicted of criminal offences and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, as well as cooperation in the field of defence. According to Ruto, the latter in particular is of fundamental importance, as security and stability on the African continent are the basis for sustainable development. The security forces of both countries have already been cooperating  in the fight against cross-border terrorism and violent extremism in the region for a number of years, with Mozambican soldiers being trained by their comrades in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF). Cooperation in the field of security has recently gained importance against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in the Cabo Delgado region in the far north of Mozambique. Since 2017, there have been repeated attacks by Islamist militants in the region; according to the United Nations, more than 700,000 people have been displaced from the area since then and thousands of people have been killed. Now, among other things, the two countries plan to increase the exchange of intelligence information. At a joint press conference, Ruto and Nyusi commented on the mediation efforts of the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with regard to the unstable security situation in the Sahel as well as the conflict in Sudan. Both strongly condemned the military coup in Niger and declared their full support for the measures taken by ECOWAS. With regard to the expansion of bilateral economic relations as well as economic integration in Africa in general, both heads of state expressed their confidence that negotiations on the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) could be concluded before the end of the year. The aim of the TFTA is to unite the 27 economies of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) into one consolidated market. This is seen as an important step towards the implementation of the Africa-wide single market envisaged by the AU, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

In other news

World Elephant Day was celebrated on 12 August. It serves to raise awareness of the threats to elephants while promoting measures that contribute to their protection. This year, the focus is on “Stopping the Illegal Wildlife Trade”. World Elephant Day emphasises the urgent need to stop the illegal trade in wildlife and, along with it, to ensure the protection of the animals. The recognition of this day by millions of people worldwide illustrates the growing commitment to elephant conservation. The day of action was originally launched in 2012 by Canadian Patricia Sims and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation in Thailand, an initiative of former Thai Queen Sirikit. The initiative came about in response to the rise in poaching and the rapid decline of elephant populations in Asia and Africa. Conservationists built shelters to protect the animals from ivory poaching. At the same time, they worked to raise public awareness of the essential role of these animals in the ecosystem.

Event information

Cultural Summer Festival – “Street Connection”: La poésie de l’Afrique

On 25 August, the initiative Perspektivwechsel e.V. invites to the event “Street Connection” at the Nettelbeckplatz in Berlin-Wedding. Under the motto “Culture, Music and Pleasure”, artists from Guinea, Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda will present insights into their cultural backgrounds and musical traditions. Visitors can expect a diverse programme of poetry, beats and culinary delights. The musical performances range from Afrobeat to Boom Bap, Rap and Afropop to Afro-futuristic performances. Special attention will be paid to the tasting of authentic Cameroonian specialities, which will also offer insights into the diverse Central African cuisine. In the context of an accompanying info market, various associations involved in the decolonisation of Berlin will also present themselves. This also includes the upcoming renaming of Nettelbeckplatz, which currently still bears the name of a former slave trader and colonial lobbyist.

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