Press Review CW 41/2023: Controversial
Press Review 6 October 2023 to 13 October 2023

African responses to the attacks on Israel

On Sunday, African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat called for a containment of the escalation between the two parties following the previous day’s attacks by Hamas militants on Israel. In his statement, he called for an immediate return to the negotiating table and a resumption of talks to implement the two-state solution. Senegal, which currently chairs the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), also echoed this call. In recent years, Israel had continuously strengthened its partnerships on the African continent and expanded its bilateral relations. After the Hamas attacks, the continent shows itself divided. Kenya’s President William Ruto, in his statement on Platform X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday, described the attacks on Israel as terrorist attacks which he condemned in the strongest terms and assured Israel of Kenya’s solidarity. The government of Rwanda – Rwanda is traditionally considered a supporter of Israel – also spoke of terrorism on Israeli territory, condemned the attacks on civilians and called for the situation to be de-escalated. Egypt, which was the first Arab country to normalise its relations with Israel in 1979 and has since traditionally played a mediating role between Israel and Palestine, called on both sides to exercise restraint. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said he had already held talks with EU foreign affairs envoy Josep Borrell, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Turkey, as well as with German and French authorities on the current situation. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI called an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers of the Arab League member states to discuss the current situation. Like Egypt, Morocco, which resumed diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020, condemned the attacks on civilians and warned against an escalation of the situation. Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian demonstrations took place in the capital Rabat as well as in Casablanca and Marrakech on Saturday and Sunday. Tunisia, on the other hand, proclaimed its full and unconditional solidarity with Palestine and blamed Tel Aviv for the escalation. Here too, numerous pro-Palestinian demonstrations were organised in the capital Tunis over the weekend, including by civil society organisations, trade unions and political parties. Similar reactions were also observed in neighbouring Algeria. Besides Algeria and Tunisia, South Africa has traditionally been one of the strongest African supporters of Palestine. Here, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party called for an immediate end to the violence, but also blamed Israel for the escalation. South Africa was also among the states that opposed the granting of AU-observer status to Israel in 2021. However, the observer status given by decision of the Chair of the Commission has since been considered merely provisional, as there has not yet been a member vote on the issue; the AU member states are also considered divided on this issue. At the AU summit in February this year, relations between the AU and Israel deteriorated after an Israeli diplomat, who according to the AU had not had an invitation and valid accreditation for the summit, was excluded from the meeting.

Madagascar’s Constitutional Court postpones presidential election

Madagascar’s High Constitutional Court on Thursday announced the postponement by one week of the first round of the presidential election, originally scheduled for 9 November. The decision by the Haute Cour Constitutionnelle (HCC) followed a request by presidential candidate Andry Raobelina, leader of the Agir, rénover, bâtir (ARB) party. Raobelina was injured in the face by security forces during a demonstration by his opposition alliance on 7 October and has since been receiving medical treatment in Mauritius, which is why he is currently unable to take part in the election campaign, which officially began on Tuesday. This was taken into account by the High Constitutional Court in its decision-making and it ordered an extension of the official campaign period by one week. Voting for the first round was accordingly postponed to 16 November, while the date of the second round on 20 December remained unchanged. Raobelina is one of a total of twelve challengers to outgoing President Andry Rajoelina, who resigned from office last month in accordance with Madagascar’s constitution to contest the upcoming elections. On Tuesday, 49-year-old Rajoelina launched his campaign for re-election with a rally of his party Young Malagasies Determined (Tanora malaGasy Vonona, TGV) in the capital Antananarivo, where thousands of his supporters had gathered. Besides Rajoelina, two other former presidents are running for the highest office in the island state. One is Marc Ravalomanana of the party I Love Madagascar (Tiako I Madagasikara, TIM), who ruled the country from 2002 to 2009, and the other is Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina, who was president from 2014 to 2018 and thus Rajoelina’s direct predecessor. In the run-up to the election campaign, Ravalomanana and Rajaonarimampianina, as well as the majority of the opposition candidates, had formed a single-purpose alliance, the so-called Collective of the Eleven (collectif des onze), to join forces against Rajoelina. On Monday, the alliance had declared that it would boycott the election campaign until the Constitutional Court addressed its complaints. The High Constitutional Court, in fact, had rejected three opposition appeals asking the court to declare Rajoelina’s candidacy invalid on the grounds of his dual nationality, after it was revealed in the press at the end of June that he obtained French citizenship in 2014. However, dual citizenship is not provided for under Malagasy law. Furthermore, the opposition accuses Rajoelina of an institutional abuse of power. After he resigned from the presidency in accordance with the constitution, Christian Ntsay, who had previously been prime minister under Rajoelina, took over as interim head of state instead of the Senate president, Herimanana Razafimahefa, as provided for in the constitution. Razafimahefa had previously declined to hold the office, citing personal reasons, but this week stated that he had made this decision due to death threats and applied to the HCC to be installed as interim head of state in accordance with the constitution. In the meantime, however, he was relieved of his duties as Senate President. Since the beginning of the month, the eleven opposition candidates have been organising unauthorized protest marches in the capital on an almost daily basis, which the security forces have repeatedly cracked down on using tear gas, as was the case during the protest march on 7 October. The European Union and the United States have recently criticised the security forces’ actions and stressed that they would closely monitor the electoral process. In an official statement, the United Nations also expressed concern about the human rights situation in the Southeast African island state.

In other news

Hamira Kobusingye, a Ugandan climate activist, was awarded the 18th Bremen Solidarity Prize at Bremen City Hall on Monday. The 27-year-old is being recognised for her relentless dedication to promoting climate justice on a global scale. In her home country of Uganda, Kobusingye is particularly concerned about the health and environmental impacts of the pollution in the Niger Delta, which is why she has actively protested against the controversial construction project of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. In addition to her local involvement, the young activist from Kampala is also helping to connect African climate and environmental activists internationally as part of the Rise Up Movement. In 2022, Kobusingye traveled to the G7 Summit in order to demand that the industrialised nations take responsibility as the main contributors to climate change. In her acceptance speech at the Bremen ceremony, the award winner emphasised the importance of taking action against climate change in the name of justice and solidarity. The Bremen Solidarity Prize is awarded every two years by the Bremen Senate and is endowed with 10,000 euros. It is intended to encourage individuals and initiatives to take an active stand against injustice in North-South relations and against the consequences of racism and colonialism.

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