Press Review CW 9/2024: Of losses and reconciliation
Press Review 23 February 2024 to 1 March 2024

Unrest in Chad following the announcement of elections

On Wednesday, the leader of the Chadian opposition party Parti Socialiste sans Frontières (PSF), Yaya Dillo Djérou, was killed in an exchange of fire with security forces of the military government near the PSF party headquarters. This was announced by Chadian public prosecutor Mahamat Kedelaye and Communications Minister Abderaman Koulamallah at a press conference on Thursday. The PSF headquarters was surrounded by the military on Wednesday following an attack on the National Security Agency (ANSE) on Tuesday night, in which several people were killed and for which security forces blamed Dillo’s party. In addition to Dillo, 12 other people were killed in the exchange of fire, according to the authorities. Internet and telephone connections were interrupted in large parts of the country, as reported by the internet monitoring service Netblocks. According to the government, the PSF’s financial secretary, Ahmed Torabi, had already been arrested on Tuesday, accused of attempting to assassinate the President of the Supreme Court, Samir Adam Annour. The PSF party leadership, including Dillo before his death, rejected these government reports as lies and the assassination attempt as a staging. According to them, Torabi was shot dead on Tuesday and his body was dumped in the ANSE. Party members and relatives had then searched for the body in the office, whereupon soldiers had shot at them and killed several people. These events were preceded by the surprising announcement by the Chadian electoral authority on Tuesday that the presidential elections, which had previously been scheduled for October this year, would now be held on 6 May; the second round would take place in June. The elections would also mark the return to constitutional order and the end of the political transition that began in 2021 following the death of long-term president Idriss Déby (press review CW 16/2021). Mahamat Idriss Déby took office after the death of his father and has been at the head of Chad’s transitional government ever since. A list of presidential candidates is to be published by the Constitutional Council on 24 March, the electoral authority announced. With the death of Dillo, who was not only Déby’s cousin but also his best-known political rival, a prominent opposition figure will now be missing from the ballot. Déby’s candidacy, although he had assured the African Union in the past that he would not run in the presidential elections, is now considered a foregone conclusion. In January, the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party declared Déby as its presidential candidate and a group of Chadian opposition leaders also announced their support for the interim president. It remains to be seen whether the election will still take place as planned in May following the unrest.

Steinmeier attends funeral of Namibian President Geingob

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier travelled to the Namibian capital Windhoek at the weekend to attend the funeral service for Namibian President Hage Geingob who died at the beginning of February (Press Review CW 6/2024). At the funeral ceremony on Saturday, which took place at the Independence Stadium, the Federal President paid tribute to Geingob as a “great statesman” and emphasised his achievements in the reconciliation process between Namibia and the Federal Republic of Germany. Geingob will be “forever remembered in Germany because he had the courage to reach out to the German people across the dark abyss of our history”. He recalled the “abyss of atrocities committed by Germans during colonial rule, which culminated in the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama ethnic groups 120 years ago”. Today’s Namibia was a German colony from 1884 to 1915 under the name “German South West Africa”. During this time, an estimated 100,000 members of the Herero and Nama ethnic groups were murdered and many thousands were interned in concentration camps. In 2021, government representatives from Germany and Namibia agreed on a reconciliation agreement. This agreement stipulates that Germany will pay 1.1 billion euros in development and reconstruction aid to Namibia over a period of 30 years. From today’s perspective, the agreement recognises the German crimes against the Herero and Nama ethnic groups as genocide and therefore in the historical sense, but not in the sense of international law. No legal claims for compensation or reparation payments can therefore be derived from the agreement. The “Joint Declaration” met with protest from various organisations of the two ethnic groups and has still not been signed. At the commemoration ceremony, Steinmeier again emphasised Germany’s desire to finalise the reconciliation agreement. He said he hoped to travel to Namibia again soon to officially apologise to the Namibian people. After the memorial service on Saturday, Geingob’s funeral, which was also attended by Steinmeier, took place on Sunday at the “Field of Heroes” outside Windhoek. It was the first trip by a German head of state to Namibia in 26 years.

 

New stage in the rapprochement between Morocco and France

The French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, was received by his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, for bilateral talks in Rabat on Monday. At a joint press conference, the two foreign ministers emphasised that they wanted to overcome the recent diplomatic crises between France and Morocco together and initiate a new partnership. The Western Sahara issue was a key topic of discussion (press review CW 47/2020), with Séjourné, who has been in office for just over a month, emphasising that Paris clearly and permanently supports the autonomy plan for Western Sahara proposed by Rabat in 2007. France knows that the question of the status of Western Sahara is an existential one for Morocco and he will personally endeavor to achieve progress in this area. Séjourné’s visit is another important step in the rapprochement between France and the Maghreb state, after diplomatic relations were frozen for a long time. Emmanuel Macron’s policy of rapprochement with Algeria, which supports the independence efforts of the Frente Polisario in Western Sahara and broke off diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2021, among other things, led to tensions. During his visit to Rabat, Séjourné extended an invitation to the Moroccan ministers to Paris to continue the talks. Last Monday, Brigitte Macron had already received the sister of Moroccan King Mohammed VI at the Élysée Palace, a gesture that was particularly appreciated in Morocco.

 

In other news

On Monday, the Great Mosque of Algiers, also known as Djamaa El-Djazair, was officially inaugurated by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. With a height of 265 metres and an area of 27.75 hectares, it is the third largest in the world and the largest in Africa. The prayer room offers space for 120,000 worshippers. Its modernist design incorporates Arabic and North African ornamentation. The construction of the mosque was long considered politically controversial. It was originally a project of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who had planned the mosque as his legacy and wanted to name it after himself. After more than seven years of construction, numerous delays and budget overruns, the house of prayer, which cost around 900 million US dollars to build and was realised by a Chinese construction company, has now been officially opened before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

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