Press Review CW 28/2023: Building bridges
Press Review 7 July 2023 to 14 July 2023

New mediation attempts in Sudan

On Thursday, at the initiative of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, a summit of Sudan’s seven neighbouring states was held in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to discuss a solution to the worsening conflict in Sudan. In his opening speech, Al-Sisi presented an initiative to establish a lasting ceasefire, create safe humanitarian corridors for aid deliveries, and build a framework for dialogue that would include all Sudanese political parties and relevant individuals. Together, they agreed to commit the Sudanese parties to the conflict to a three-month ceasefire. Furthermore, a ministerial mechanism would be established at the level of foreign ministers to develop a work plan with implementable solutions to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict and to establish an inclusive dialogue framework. These are to be closely coordinated with the mediation efforts of other regional actors such as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The head of the Sudanese army and de facto head of government, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, welcomed the results of the summit and declared his willingness to cease fighting as soon as the Rapid Support Forces (RFS) ended their attacks. It is the first time since the escalation of the power struggle between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary RSF in April that Egypt, considered an important foreign ally of the Sudanese army, has taken on a public mediation role. Some criticised the exclusion of the conflicting parties from the summit, while others welcomed the initiative as an alternative approach – after all, all attempts at mediation, such as efforts by the United States and Saudi Arabia, had so far been unsuccessful. As recently as Monday, the first round of regional peace talks by the so-called IGAD Quartet consisting of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and South Sudan, led by Kenyan President William Ruto, failed in Addis Ababa after the Sudanese army refused to participate. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry, which is aligned with the army, accuses Ruto of partisanship in favour of the RSF in the conflict. Since the ministry’s call for replacing the Kenyan president as head of the delegation remained unheared, the Sudanese army did not participate in the talks. RSF chief Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, on the other hand, had sent an envoy to the meeting in Addis. A statement from IGAD said it had agreed to ask the AU to consider the possible deployment of the East African Standby Force (EASF) as a peacekeeping force to protect civilians in Sudan. The EASF is one of five regional peace support operations (PSOs) forces of the African Standby Force, which includes a total of 10 East African states, including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan. Sudan’s army-led Foreign Ministry rejected IGAD’s proposal to deploy foreign peacekeepers. Fighting between the Sudanese army and the RSF broke out 12 weeks ago. Since then, an estimated three million people have fled Sudan. The situation is also worsening in the Darfur provinces, home to the RSF, and fears of ethnically motivated violence are growing. On Thursday, a mass grave was discovered there with 87 people reportedly belonging to an ethnic minority. The UN human rights office said there was credible evidence of RSF involvement.

Iranian President on a three-day Africa visit

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi began his three-day African visit to Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe on Wednesday. This marks the first African trip by an Iranian president in more than a decade. In Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, Raisi was received by his counterpart William Ruto. The talks focused on intensifying bilateral trade relations. The two heads of states expressed mutual interest in further strengthening cooperation. Iran also wants to support Kenya’s efforts in manufacturing, health and blue economy through research and technology, Ruto said in a subsequent joint press conference. Additionally, during the visit, five memoranda of understanding were signed regarding information technology, fisheries, agricultural products and investment promotion. President Ruto described Iran as an important strategic partner and expressed interest in increasing exports of tea, meat as well as other agricultural products to Iran and Central Asia. Kenya and Iran have had good trade relations for many years. Raisi’s state visit to Uganda also focused on improving economic and political relations. Speaking to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, he welcomed the anti-homosexuality law passed in May, which has been criticised internationally, including in particular by the United Nations and the U.S. government. He condemned this criticism as Western interference in domestic affairs. Although Museveni is considered a close U.S. ally on security issues, he has spoken out in the past in support of Iran’s nuclear program, which is the reason for numerous sanctions against the state and emphasised the right of sovereign countries to engage in peaceful nuclear activities. Uganda, for example, also had plans to build a nuclear power plant with the support of the China National Nuclear Corporation. Raisi arrived in Zimbabwe on Thursday and is to date considered the most prominent head of state to visit the African nation, which is in the midst of a parliamentary and presidential election campaign. Like Iran, Zimbabwe is under sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, which is why President Emmerson Mnangagwa called on states affected by Western sanctions to unite when he received Raisi. During the visit, a total of 12 memoranda of understanding were signed to strengthen bilateral relations in the areas of energy, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and research, science and technology. President Raisi’s Africa trip is in line with the administration’s diplomatic efforts to reduce Iran’s political and economic isolation and strengthen bilateral ties outside the region. Iran’s trade with African nations, for example, is expected to rise to more than $2 billion this year, according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry on Saturday ahead of the trip. The volume of trade between Iran and African countries in the period from March 21 to Oct. 22, 2022, included some 1.89 million tons worth US $992.77 million.

In other news

As part of a relocation project, 14 giraffes from Namibia arrived in the Iona National Park in southwest Angola on Wednesday. The new arrivals are giraffes of the species Giraffa giraffa angolensis, historically native to Angola, which was driven out of Angola by decades of conflict and was thought to be extinct there since the 1990s. The total number of giraffes, which now live mainly in northern Namibia, but also in Zambia, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and sporadically in South Africa, is currently estimated at over 20,000. The reintroduction is part of a larger effort by Angola to restore the diversity of wildlife that was decimated during decades of conflict. The project was carried out in collaboration with the non-governmental organisation African Parks, which has managed the Iona National Park since 2019, among others, the government of Angola, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the Wyss Foundation.

Special news

Nigeria’s President Tinubu Elected Chairman of ECOWAS

On Sunday, Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was elected as the new chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), succeeding the head of state of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo. Tinubu called for quick action against insecurity and coups and promised to prioritise political stability, peace and security as well as regional economic integration in the 16 ECOWAS member states. Furthermore, at the 63rd ECOWAS summit in Guinea-Bissau, the heads of state and government agreed to lift Mali’s suspension imposed in January 2022.

Morocco wins the Africa Cup U23

Congratulations to the Morocco U23 national football team for their title success at the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN U23). Morocco won the final on Saturday 2-1 against Egypt, the defending champions, who were leading at the start. In the third-place match, Mali beat Guinea 4-3 on penalties on Friday, becoming the third African team to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

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