Press Review CW 18/2024: Demonstration of Power
Press Review 26 April 2024 to 3 May 2024

German Africa Award winner Prof Tulio de Oliveira (2022) is one of the 100 most influential people in the field of global health

The Time Magazine has named bioinformatician Professor Tulio de Oliveira from South Africa as one of the 100 most influential people in global health in the new TIME100 Health List 2024. The Brazilian-born Professor is a globally recognised genomics scientist and led the multidisciplinary research team that discovered the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in 2021, which quickly became the dominant variant. In 2022, Professor Tulio de Oliveira and virologist Sikhulile Moyo from Botswana were awarded the German Africa Award by the German Africa Foundation for their scientific achievements and successful international collaboration. Previously, De Oliveira and his team had also discovered the beta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in 2020. De Oliveira, whose roles include Director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) and Deputy Director of the Genomic Surveillance Unit at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK, has succeeded in establishing South Africa as a new centre for virus research and is training a new generation of geneticists in Africa.
Last year, he also founded the Climate Amplified Diseases and Epidemics Consortium (CLIMADE) – a global consortium with the aim of identifying diseases and pathogens associated with climate change.
His inclusion in the TIME100 Health List 2024 emphasises the importance of research collaboration in tackling global health challenges, said de Oliveira. This is the second time that de Oliveira has been named in a TIME ranking. He was previously included in the TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people in 2022. The TIME100 Health List was introduced this year to recognise the 100 people who have had the greatest impact on global health each year.


UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO withdraws troops from South Kivu

The deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en République Démocratique du Congo (MONUSCO) in the province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) officially ended on Wednesday. With the completion of the first phase of the withdrawal, MONUSCO’s deployment will be limited to the two provinces of North Kivu and Itari from May onwards. Last Thursday, one of the most important military bases in South Kivu near Bukavu was closed in the presence of the UN Special Representative of MONUSCO, Bintou Keita, as well as representatives of the Congolese military and government. Previously, the UN base in Kamanyola had been handed over to the Congolese government in February and the base in Bunyakiri to the Congolese military in April. The handover of five further military bases to the Congolese armed forces and the closure of two military bases is planned over the next two months. The withdrawal will reduce the troop strength of the UN peacekeeping mission by around 2,000 soldiers to 11,500, but United Nations organisations, funds and programmes within the MONUSCO mission will continue to be guaranteed, according to Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In September last year, President Félix Tshisekedi called for the withdrawal of around 14,000 UN peacekeepers from his country and accused the UN mission of failing to fulfil its goal of protecting the population from armed groups. There had also been repeated protests against the UN peacekeeping mission among the population. Despite some concerns, including from the US, as to whether the Congolese armed forces could ensure the protection of the population, the UN Security Council relented in December last year, as a UN mission can only be continued with the agreement of the respective host country. With the adoption of Resolution 2717 (19 December 2023), the UN Security Council finally decided to extend the mandate of the peacekeeping mission until the end of 2024, but also to withdraw the UN troops by the end of the year. Following the withdrawal of troops from South Kivu, UN blue helmet soldiers are now to be withdrawn from North Kivu and Ituri in the second and third phases.

This heralds the end of the UN peacekeeping mission’s 25-year deployment in the DRC. In 1999, the mission was deployed to the Central African country under the name Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en République Démocratique du Congo (MONUC) and finally renamed MONUSCO in 2010. Over the years, the mandate of the mission, which developed into one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions with annual expenditure of around one billion US dollars, was also adapted. It remains to be seen how the complete withdrawal of MONUSCO will affect the security situation and political stability in the DRC. The conflict in the East of the DRC, which borders Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and includes the province of North Kivu, has recently come to a head. Here, around 130 rebel groups continue to fight for land and resources and there are repeated clashes between local militias and the Rwandan-backed M23 rebels. It was only in November last year that the Congolese armed forces launched a joint military operation with MONUSCO to prevent the M23 rebels from advancing further (press review CW 45/2023). Political relations between the DRC and neighbouring Rwanda also remain tense. Millions of civilians are affected by violence and internal displacement; around seven million people are on the run.

The conflict in eastern Congo also played a central role in the meeting between President Tshisekedi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Sunday. According to the Congolese presidential office, Tshisekedi called for the imposition of sanctions against Rwanda in order to increase pressure on the East African country. Tshisekedi also criticised the EU’s agreement with Rwanda on critical minerals and sustainable supply chains, which was concluded in February of this year, and called for the agreement of control mechanisms to prevent the exploitation of Congolese resources under this agreement. Other topics included economic relations between the two countries and the DRC’s accession to the G20 Compact with Africa. The visit by President Tshisekedi, who then travelled on to Paris, went largely unnoticed by the German media.


EU suspends visa regulations for Ethiopia

The Council of the European Union (EU) announced on Monday that the EU will temporarily suspend several elements of the EU law that regulates the issuing of visas to Ethiopian nationals. The EU Council’s decision is based on insufficient cooperation from Ethiopia on migration issues. Specifically, authorities of EU member states will no longer be allowed to waive the documents to be submitted by Ethiopian visa applicants, issue multiple-entry visas or waive visa fees for persons with diplomatic and official passports. The standard processing time for visa applications has also been increased from 15 days to 45 days.

The decision was preceded by an analysis by the European Commission, which described Ethiopia’s cooperation in the readmission of Ethiopian refugees who have come to Europe illegally as inadequate. The main criticisms were that the Ethiopian authorities were not responding to readmission applications and that there were also difficulties in issuing emergency documents and returning migrants without a residence permit. The European Council subsequently confirmed the results of the Commission’s analysis. According to the Ministry of the Interior of Saxony-Anhalt, 1,778 people from Ethiopia were required to leave Germany by the end of February – however, according to the Ministry of the Interior, it is almost impossible to return people without passports to Ethiopia.

Based on the EU Visa Code, which was updated in 2019, the EU Commission regularly assesses the cooperation of third countries in the readmission of refugees. If the assessment shows that the partner countries are not cooperating in the desired manner, a mechanism has been introduced that enables the EU to use visa applications as a means of exerting pressure for better cooperation in readmission. Critics also refer to this mechanism as a catalogue of punitive measures. In 2021 and 2022, the mechanism was used against The Gambia, among others. This included, for example, increasing visa fees for people travelling from The Gambia to the EU from 80 to 120 euros.

The Ethiopian embassy in Brussels criticised the EUs decision in an official statement on Wednesday. Ambassador Mesganu Arga Moach explained that the EU had not taken into account the arduous process involved in establishing citizenship. The timing of the decision was also criticised. According to the Ethiopian government, the EU and Ethiopia are currently working closely together to ensure that Ethiopians who have been denied legal residence in the member states of the EUn can return in a dignified, orderly and safe manner. The above-mentioned visa provisions will initially be suspended for an indefinite period, although this can be reversed if the Commission finds that co-operation has improved.


In other news

Artefacts from the Asante Kingdom were presented for the first time at the Manhyia Palace Museum in the Ghanaian city of Kumasi on Wednesday. The exhibition, which is part of the silver jubilee of King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, shows a total of 32 artefacts that were looted 150 years ago during the British colonial period from the Asante Kingdom, which is now part of Ghana. The artefacts were previously in the possession of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and the British Museum. As this is an agreement between the V&A, the British Museum and the King of Asante – and not between the British and Ghanaian governments – the artefacts will initially be on loan for three years. This is due to the fact that British museums are currently legally prohibited from permanently returning artefacts to other countries. An extension after the loan period has expired is possible, but requires the approval of the British Minister of Culture. At the opening of the exhibition, King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II spoke of an important day for the Asante and the African continent in general.



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