Press Review CW 8/2024: Change of personnel
Press Review 16 February 2024 to 23 February 2024

37th Summit of the African Union in Ethiopia

The two-day summit of the heads of state and government of the member states of the African Union (AU) ended on Sunday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Under the motto “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century: Building Resilient Education Systems for Increased Access to Inclusive, Lifelong, Quality, and Relevant Learning in Africa”, the African heads of state and government met at the AU headquarters to define the organisation’s priorities as part of the second Decade Plan 2024-2033 for the implementation of Agenda 2063. However, the states of Burkina Faso, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Sudan, whose membership of the AU is currently suspended due to unconstitutional changes of government, were not represented. The focus of the summit, which was also attended by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, H.E Mohammad Shtayyeh, as guests of honour, was on education, peace and security, climate, economic development and international diplomacy as well as a number of personnel changes. On Saturday, Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani was elected as the new Chairperson of the AU for 2024 and handed over the office from his predecessor Azali Assoumani (Comoros). The AU’s institutional reform process, which was initiated in 2016 and has since been led by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, also received a new chair with Kenyan President William Ruto following Kagame’s resignation. The remaining reform priorities are now to be finalised under his leadership by February 2025. Possible regional rotation principles for the upcoming AU Commission elections in 2025 were also discussed; a final decision is not yet known. The modalities and provisional priorities for the AU’s membership of the G20 and African reform efforts for the UN Security Council to ensure full African representation were also discussed. In addition to the annual theme of education, in which increased investment is to be made over the next ten years and in particular the areas of innovation, science and technology are to be promoted, the topic of peace and security also took centre stage. In his speech, AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat criticised the decline in African solidarity and pan-Africanism, which he could observe on an almost daily basis, and called on the heads of state and government to tackle the conflicts on the continent. At the same time, he condemned a series of coups in a number of African countries. Among other things, he referred to the conflict in Sudan and the resulting humanitarian crisis as well as the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the ongoing tensions there with neighbouring Rwanda (press review CW 45/ 2023). These tensions were also evident at the summit. At the end of the opening session, there was a brief interruption due to protests calling for an end to the violence in the DRC. A special session on the conflict was postponed to the next day after 90 minutes on Friday night due to internal disputes. Instead of a further meeting, however, there were reportedly only separate bilateral talks with Angola’s President João Lourenço, who is leading one of the African peace initiatives in the conflict. Tensions were also felt between Somalia and Ethiopia after Somalia accused Ethiopia of violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity over a harbour deal with Somaliland (press review CW 2/2024). Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud left the summit immediately after the opening ceremony on Saturday, claiming that Ethiopian security forces had prevented him from leaving his hotel that morning. Ethiopian soldiers had also denied his security personnel access to the AU headquarters. Ethiopia rejected the accusations. Mohamud had been warmly welcomed and only the Somali delegation, which had refused to be accompanied by Ethiopian security forces, had been prevented from entering the AU buildings armed, explained the spokesperson of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Billene Seyoum. The recurrence of military coups, election-related violence, humanitarian crises and the impact of climate change were also highlighted at the meeting of the AU’s Executive Council of Foreign Ministers, which took place last Wednesday and Thursday. Moussa Faki Mahamat also warned of further cracks in regional integration and expressed concern about the new phenomenon of the collapse of regional and continental governance institutions.

 

Military junta in Guinea dismisses transitional government

The military junta in Guinea surprisingly dissolved the transitional government led by Prime Minister Bernard Goumou on Monday. This was announced on state television on Monday evening by Amara Camara, spokesperson and Secretary General of President Mamady Doumbouya. Accordingly, all ministers were dismissed with immediate effect and the secretary generals, cabinet directors and lower-level civil servants were temporarily entrusted with the continuation of government business in the ministries. Furthermore, the bank accounts of the previous ministers would be frozen and their passports confiscated, the army chief of staff, Ibrahim Sory Bangoura, announced in a further public statement. All borders would also remain closed until the complete handover of the ministries to the military junta. On Monday, security was tightened in the capital Conakry and military checkpoints were set up. Despite increased street patrols, there were riots in which two secondary school students were shot dead; the families held the security forces responsible. The Russian embassy also issued a message to Russian citizens on the same day, calling for vigilance and warning of possible unrest. The military junta reacted angrily and summoned the Russian ambassador, but subsequently announced that relations between the two countries would not be affected by the incident. On Tuesday, Camara received the new heads of ministries and expressed his confidence in them on behalf of the president. Specific reasons for the dissolution of the government have not yet been given, but there have recently been repeated reports of tensions between the now deposed Prime Minister Bernard Goumou and Justice Minister Alphonse Charles Wright.The transitional government that has now been dissolved was appointed in July 2022 after Mamady Doumbouya, commander of the Guinean special forces, overthrew the democratically elected President Alpha Condé in September 2021 (press review CW 36/2021). Since then, the military junta has been in power under the name of the National Committee of Reconciliation and Development (CNRD) and appoints ministers who report to it. However, according to the transitional constitution, members of the military junta themselves cannot hold office in the government. In the wake of regional and international pressure, President Doumbouya agreed in October 2022 to a 24-month plan negotiated with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for a return to a democratically elected government by the end of 2024. It is not yet clear whether the dissolution of the government will have any consequences for the 24-month plan.

 

In other news

As the first African jury president the Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o opened the 74th Berlinale last Thursday. Nyong’o, who after winning an Oscar for her supporting role as Patsey in “12 Years a Slave” was also seen on the big screen in the enormously successful films “Black Panther” and “Us”, said that she considers it a great honour to be the president of this year’s jury. Among the 20 films competing for the Silver and Golden Bears this year are three African films. In his film “Black Tea”, Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako tells the story of a young woman from Côte d’Ivoire who falls in love with an older Chinese man after immigrating to Asia. Also nominated is the documentary “Dahomey” by Senegalese-French director Mati Diop, which deals with the return of 26 looted works of art from the Paris Museum to the Kingdom of Benin (formerly “Dahomey”). The third nominated African film is the drama “Mé el Aïn (Who Do I Belong To)” by Meryam Joobeur. The film revolves around two sons of a Tunisian shepherd family who join the IS in Syria and only one of whom returns to his village alive. The award ceremony will take place on 24 February. In addition to the films in competition, numerous other films from and about Africa will be shown at this year’s Berlinale.

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