G5–Sahel Summit takes place in Chad
The G5 Sahel, which includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad, held a summit with France earlier this week. The aim was to agree on the next steps in the fight against jihadist insurgency and violence that has plagued the region in recent years. The two-day event took place on Monday and Tuesday in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad. French President Emmanuel Macron attended online. The summit ended with the decision that France will not withdraw its troops in the near future. Earlier this month, the French government had initially planned to withdraw some of the troops involved in security operations in the region. On Monday, Chadian President Idriss Déby announced that he would send an additional 1,200 soldiers to the border region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Additional Malian and Mauritanian troops are also to support France’s military. Macron hoped for a stronger commitment from Germany who is France’s most important European ally. However, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas ruled out sending additional German soldiers to the region for military operations. Maas referred to the existing presence of 1,550 German soldiers in Mali and stressed that Germany would instead contribute through development cooperation and the provision of economic support. This decision represents a setback for France’s efforts to share the burden of its military operations in the Sahel region, in particular by means of the Takuba Task Force launched in 2020. The European task force is supposed to support Malian troops in the border region with Burkina Faso and Niger. So far, Estonia, Sweden and the Czech Republic have sent or pledged to send troops. Due to the lack of progress and the still volatile security situation in the region, France’s military operations have been heavily criticised both on the ground and at home. In the past eight years since the launch of Operation Barkhane, there have been almost weekly reports of armed attacks, explosions, and assaults on civilians. Meanwhile, over two million people have reportedly been displaced.
Parliament dissolved after resumption of Hirak protests in Algeria
After pressure on Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune mounted this week in relation to the resumption of protests by the Hirak movement, he announced on Thursday the dissolution of parliament and called for early elections and a government reshuffle. He also ordered the release of prisoners from the Hirak movement. This was Tebboune’s response to the demands of the Hirak movement, whose supporters had taken to the streets again in their thousands after almost a year of stalemate due to the Corona pandemic. With their nationwide movement, the protesters had secured the resignation of then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2019, who was on the verge of a fifth term after 20 years in power. But even under the newly elected President Tebboune, the hoped-for reforms have not yet taken place. The Hirak movement is seeking a comprehensive reform of the political system that has existed since the country’s independence. People are protesting against Tebboune and the military, denouncing ongoing abuses and demanding the release of all prisoners of the movement. Prominent figures from the movement and representatives of the opposition also took part in this week’s protests, including the president of the Council for Culture and Democracy (Rassemblement pour la Culture et de Démocratie (RCD), Mohcine Belabbas, and the president of the Union for Change and Progress (UCP), Zoubida Assoul. The next parliamentary elections in Algeria were originally scheduled for 2022, but new elections are now expected to be held this year.
In other news
A reggae-dance-hall song as a means of denouncing state corruption – this spontaneous idea came to Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chi’nono, who uploaded the song DemLoot (“they loot”) to the online platform Twitter a few weeks ago. Although Chi’nono has been arrested three times in the last six months, he still is committed to make the grievances of his country public. The reason for his multiple arrests included statements on Twitter criticising the Zimbabwean authorities and government. In the meantime, the song, which is an adaptation of a successful hit from the 90s and highlights issues such as the negative consequences of corruption on medical care and youth unemployment, has gone viral on the internet. It has triggered the #DemLootChallenge, which calls for the lyrics to be depicted in various musical genres.