Press Review CW 20/2023: Efforts towards opening
Press Review 12 May 2023 to 17 May 2023

Opening of the border between Kenya and Somalia

At a high-level meeting of Somali and Kenyan ministers in Nairobi on Monday, Kenyan Interior Minister Prof Kithure Kindiki declared the gradual opening of three border crossings between Somalia and Kenya. The reopening after more than a decade is part of efforts by the two neighbouring countries to improve their bilateral relations after years of tension and promote cross-border cooperation. Kindiki announced that the opening would take place gradually over a period of 90 days from mid-June: Bula Hawa border in Mandera first, then Liboi, in Garissa district, and finally Ras Kamboni in southern Somalia, each at 30-day intervals. In addition, the opening of a fourth border crossing is being considered. The aim of the reopening is to facilitate the movement of people and promote trade in goods and services. The challenges for the communities in the border areas, which are very similar, are too complex for one country to handle alone, announced Somali Interior Minister Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh Ali. In October 2011, the borders had been closed under the previous government of President Uhuru Kenyatta because of increasing attacks by the Somalia-based and Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organisation Al-Shabaab. In July last year, Kenyatta and his Somali counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had announced the opening of the border, but without success. Part of the cooperation is also the fight against extremism, especially in the border areas. To this end, the exchange of information is to be expanded, the border infrastructure and border management strengthened, and the operational capabilities and capacities of the border protection and law enforcement agencies improved. Monday’s meeting is an important step for Kenya-Somalia relations, which were severed by Somalia in December 2020 and resumed in August 2021. Last week also saw the announcement of the UK-funded US$12 million Deris Wanaag project (Somali for Good Neighbourliness), which aims to improve socio-economic development in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia and find a lasting solution to the ongoing insecurity and instability in the Horn of Africa countries. In addition, Kenya and the UK signed a security pact last Wednesday, covering the full spectrum of security cooperation and marking an important milestone in the two countries’ relations.

Revision of the Constitution in Tanzania

Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania and leader of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, on Sunday announced the official resumption of the process to revise the constitution. Already on 6 May, Hassan agreed to a future meeting of all political parties, although her advisory panel to review the country’s political processes had advised a review only after the 2025 elections. Part of the constitutional review process is to be, among other things, a “National Dialogue”, which is to include not only politicians but also various interest groups as well as citizens of mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. An expert panel appointed by the president will draw up a new draft, with priority given to revising the electoral laws. The government plans to present drafts on this, as well as on the Political Parties Act, by the end of 2023. Nine billion Tanzania shillings (about US$3.88 million) is to be allocated for this in the 2023/2024 budget. The demand for constitutional change has characterised Tanzania’s political landscape since 2012. The current constitution was ratified in 1977, before the introduction of the multi-party system, and supports an overbearing position of the presidency. In 2014, under then-President Jakaya Kikwete, a review was supposed to take place, but was postponed indefinitely due to disagreements in politics in April 2015. The draft, in which Hassan was also significantly involved in her position as minister at the time, will be the basis of the new process. After coming to power at the end of 2015, the new president John P. Magufuli quickly made it clear that the constitutional revision was not a priority. The current president’s initiative to restart the process is part of her reconciliation agenda (Maridhiano) towards the opposition, which has suffered from years of political persecution under Magufuli. In January 2023, she already lifted the ban on political rallies, which was also a key item on the opposition’s reform agenda (see press review week 1/2023). The opposition’s reaction to the latest development of the reconciliation agenda is muted. The country’s third largest party Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo), is demanding that the new laws on elections and political activities come into force this year. In general, however, the opposition praises the president’s political will, on which success will ultimately depend.

In other news

Today, Wednesday, Malian-born director Souleymane Cissé was awarded the Carosse d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The 83-year-old is the second African filmmaker to be honoured with this award for the innovative qualities of his films, as well as the boldness and precision of his direction and production. His 1987 film Yeelen (Eng: The Light) was hailed by critics as a turning point for African cinema on the international stage and seen as the beginning of a new African film practice anchored in the oral storytelling traditions and spirituality of West Africa. In 1987, Cissé became the first African director to win the Grand Prix du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival for Yeelen. In his more than 50-year career, he has produced only nine films and three shorts, yet he is considered one of the most influential African cineastes of all time. Cissé even went to prison for his films, some of which were very political and some of which were banned in Mali, and was subsequently unable to make any overtly political films in his home country.

On our own behalf

Our German Chancellor Fellow Dambisa Dube attended this year’s JugendPolitikTage hosted by Jugendpresse and shares some of her reflections on the importance of intergenerational exchange, mentorship & political support in ensuring successful youth participation and engagement in her blog. Additionally to this Karabo Mokgonyana joined her most recent podcast episode Podcast “Dialogues with Dee” to discuss the state of things in South Africa with a strong focus on the various roles young people can play to their strengths to help shift things in the country.

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