Press Review CW 43/2023: The struggle for the right path
Press Review 20 October 2023 to 27 October 2023

Peace Forum in Lomé

From Friday to Sunday, the Lomé Peace and Security Forum (LPSF) took place for the first time in Togo’s capital. Under the motto “How to strengthen political transitions towards democratic governance in Africa?”, Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé and the Togolese Prime Minister Victoire Tomegah-Dogbé welcomed representatives of African and non-African governments, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security of the African Union (AU), Bankole Adeoye, the UN Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, as well as actors from business, academia, and civil society, at the opening ceremony on Saturday. Among the ten participating African foreign ministers were also those of the military-ruled Sahel states of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In five different panel discussions, the participants discussed, among other things, the causes of fragile state institutions, political and security challenges in the transition to democratic governance, the role of sub-regional, regional, and international organisations in transition processes, and the building of strong democratic institutions and good governance in Africa. Accordingly, the first forum placed a strong focus on the Sahel states, which have experienced frequent unconstitutional changes of government in the recent past. Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé is seen as a mediator between Niger and the regional organisation ECOWAS, which strongly condemned the coup in the West African state in July this year and had threatened military intervention in the meantime if democratic order was not restored. In the final declaration of the first peace and security forum, the participants stated that political transition processes must be geared towards strengthening democracy, the rule of law and the resilience of the state against the backdrop of new security challenges as well as the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government. In doing so, it was central to draw on African expertise in solving African problems and conflicts and to consider each transition process in its individual context. Governments of countries in transition were urged to focus their political action on consolidating democratic governance, building democratic institutions and respecting human rights and freedoms. Emphasis is also placed on the need to strengthen the resilience of the state and its institutions in the context of rising violent extremism and terrorism, as well as the inclusion of young people and women in the socio-economic developments of society to promote inclusiveness and peace. Sub-regional, regional, and international organisations should accompany political transition processes through negotiation and mediation, define transition periods with the involvement of all stakeholders and also take into account the contextuality of the respective transition process, the statement said. The LPSF, initiated by the Togolese government and supported by the AU and the United Nations (UN), is to be held annually from now on and will provide a platform for dialogue on the political, security and development challenges of the African continent. The forum comes just months after the Togolese government launched the African Political Alliance (APA) and its first ministerial conference in May this year, which was also held in Lomé. The Lomé Peace Forum also joins a number of African initiatives responding to the continent’s new security challenges and promoting African approaches to peace and conflict resolution.

EU adopts framework for Niger sanctions

On Monday, the European Union (EU) adopted a legal framework for imposing sanctions on members of the military government in Niger. The framework makes it possible to sanction targeted individuals and organisations that threaten Niger’s peace, stability and security, undermine constitutional order or violate human rights, the EU Council announced. With the EU’s security and financial cooperation with Niger having already ended immediately after the military took power in July 2023 (press review CW 30/2023), the new framework now includes targeted sanctions against members of the military junta, such as freezing assets, imposing travel bans and prohibiting the provision of funds to individuals and organisations. However, according to the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Jospeh Borrel, the new framework also includes exemptions for humanitarian purposes, so that humanitarian aid can continue to be provided quickly and basic human needs can be met. This includes, for example, the provision of medicines and medical supplies. By adopting the set of rules, the EU also continues to support the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore constitutional order in Niger. The regional body was quick to sanction Niger following the coup stage and has temporarily suspended the Sahel state’s membership. Meanwhile, the US, which only officially declared the coup as such at the beginning of October, seems to be opting for a different strategy. Although the US has also suspended its aid payments to Niger, it now wants to build pragmatic relations with the military junta, maintaining channels of communication and continuing to work – within the legal framework – for security and stability in the region, the US President’s Special Assistant and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, Judd Devermont, announced last week. Unlike France, which began withdrawing its troops from Niger in October, there are currently no plans to withdraw the more than 1,000 US soldiers stationed in Niger to combat terrorism in the Sahel region. A withdrawal would negatively affect the security not only of Niger but also of the states bordering the Sahel, such as Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, Devermont said. According to analysts, the US also wants to prevent a possible increase in Russia’s influence in the West African country with its continued presence. The work of the US troops stationed in Niger initially came to a standstill following the coup, but by mid-September, an agreement had been reached with the military junta, enabling large parts of the US military’s surveillance and reconnaissance work on the ground to resume.

In other news

On Tuesday, Ethiopian-American scientist Gebisa Ejeta was presented with the National Medal of Science, the highest US governmental award for science. The award by US President Joe Biden honours the professor of genetics’ outstanding contributions to the science of plant genetics and the improvement of food security for millions of people. Ejeta’s work focuses on research into the sorghum genus, the world’s fifth most important cereal crop, which has been adopted as a staple food, particularly in drought-stricken African countries. Through his research, Ejeta succeeded in making the cereal plant more resistant to parasites and droughts, thus improving food security. Ejeta’s lifelong commitment to improving food security stems from his own experiences with hunger as a child growing up in poor conditions in Addis Ababa.

On our own behalf

From Thursday to Friday, the “Conference on Climate Change and Pandemic Preparedness” took place in Bostuana. About 30 scientists from Botswana, Germany, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa met in the capital Gaborone to strengthen collaborations and to discuss the impact of climate change on diseases and health care and to analyze how our health systems can be better prepared for future pandemics. The conference was organised by the Botswana Harvard Health Partnership Institute (BHP) and the German Embassy in Gaborone. Dr Sikhulile Moyo, who last year won the German Africa Award together with bioinformatician Prof Tulio de Oliveira from Stellenbosch University in South Africa for the discovery of the omicron variant and their contribution to global pandemic response, took over the scientific coordination of the conference. To stream the public part of the event, click here.

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