Category Archives: Politics

Mali ECOWAS lifts sanctions

Leaders of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS have lifted sanctions imposed on Mali following the August 18 coup d’état that ousted unpopular President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the group said on October 6.

The crippling sanctions on landlocked Mali were lifted following the nomination of retired Colonel Bah Ndaw as interim president, and Moctar Ouane as prime minister of the transition that is expected to last 18 months, the statement said.

“Taking into account the notable progress made towards a constitutional normalisation, and the support the process, the heads of states have decided to lift the sanctions on Mali, and called on partners to support Mali,” said the statement, signed by the chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Mali’s transitional leaders announced a new government on October 5, with some of the top posts going to military officials.

The Gambia: EU concerns over constitution review

“The European Union has been at the forefront of support to the democratic transition in The Gambia since 2017 and to the reforms aiming at entrenching democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Over the last months, it has observed with growing concern a marked slowdown in the pace of the reform process and in particular noted the recent important setback with the rejection of the draft new Constitution. It is key for the 2021 Presidential elections to take place on the basis of a new social contract” reads the statement of the head of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell.

“The constitutional review process is linked to other pillars of the democratic transition, in particular the transitional justice process with the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), as well as the Security Sector Reform (SSR). It therefore remains important to lay the foundations for the follow-up of these processes. Moreover, taking forward other significant reforms, such as the revision of the Public Order Law, media and access to information laws prior to the 2021 Presidential elections, requires decisive Government action.

“The European Union calls upon the Government to take the lead in building the necessary national consensus around the future direction of the democratic transition, with a new Constitution at its core”  the EU top diplomat wrote.

In December 2017, the National Assembly of the Gambia had established a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to draft a new statute book to replace the 1997 constitution, which many analysts believed had many undemocratic provisions. This constitution had been drafted three years after a military coup led by Yahya Jammeh, who amid high drama was overthrown, by a seven-party political alliance loosely called Coalition 2016.

But since then Gambian President Adama Barrow has walked out from the coalition that brought him to power and has launched his political party he National People’s Party (NPP).

Experts say that that the country’s transition that received praise from the international community and counted as one of the successes of post-dictatorial democratic transition on the rocks. They say, that democracy has become trapped under the complexities of power struggle.

After registering his new party in January, Barrow made it clear that he plans to run for president again in 2021, although he indicated when he was elected that he would be a one-term president.

The constitution bill would have created a two term limit, with the President serving five years per term. A clause in the bill for a transitional president, such as Barrow, would have his current term counted as one term.

EU awaits ECOWAS decision on Mali

Brussels 04.10.2020 The EU once again reiterated its full support to ECOWAS on the issue of lifting Mali sanctions, imposed by West Africa the regional powers.  Meanwhile the transitional government is hopeful that sanctions placed on Mali by ECOWAS are likely to be lifted soon. Mali’s newly appointed transitional President, Bah Ndaw held a meeting with the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Permanent Representative to Mali, Boly Hamidou to discuss the blockade problem, which has grave consequences for population of the country, and neighbourhood regions, involved in cross-border trade.

“After the swearing-in of the President of the Transition, Mr. Bah N’daw on September 25, the appointment of a civilian prime minister, Mr. Moctar Ouane, on Sunday, September 27, we are following the developments in view of the Transition on a track in accordance with ECOWAS requirements” said the EU spokesperson to Africa Diplomatic, while commenting on the issue. “In this context, the EU awaits the decision of ECOWAS regarding the sanctions imposed on Mali.” 

“The confirms her readiness to work in close collaboration with the UN / AU / ECOWAS Follow-up Committee in support of a successful transition. The EU gives full support to ECOWAS, whose heads of state are calling for a transfer of power to a transition led by a civilian President and Prime Minister, who can ensure the transition to a return to constitutional order” the spokesperson has underlined.

ECOWAS requires that the position of vice president, instituted by the board, be deprived of the prerogative to replace the president if the latter is unable to exercise the position. The post of vice president was handed over to the head of the military who led the coup d’état – Colonel Assimi Goita.

ECOWAS is concerned that the army may regain control in a transition in which it already plays a prominent role. The position of vice-president and his duties must be included in a “letter,” a kind of fundamental document, to which the board refers to organize the transition.

However, no final official version of this text, according to which the president and vice president took office on September 25, has not been published. ECOWAS is requesting the publication of this document. A source close to the Mali officers said it could be revealed soon but would remain anonymous.

Meanwhile Nigeria President Buhari is reluctant to lift up sanctions, after the meeting with the Special Envoy to present a formal report to the new ECOWAS Chairman, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, “who will then write us officially, and we then determine the next steps.”

The Nigerian President said with about two-thirds of Mali currently under occupation by terrorists, “the priority of the military should be to secure their country,” rather than hold on to power, former army General Buhari said. Buhari is a retired general of the Nigerian Army and served as military head of state from 1983 to 1985, after taking power in a military coup d’état.

Libya: speaker Aguila Saleh rise

Brussels 03.10.2020 Libya’s oil output has risen to 270,000 bpd as the OPEC member ramps up export activity following the easing of a blockade by eastern part of the country.
On October 1 Libya’s oil terminals at Hariga, Brega, and Zueitina were open for business and welcoming tankers to ship oil, although the biggest port and the terminal typically exporting crude from the largest oilfield in the country was still under strain.

The North African nation’s National Oil Corp said it expects production to rise to around 260,000 barrels per day, or bpd, by next week, up from some 100,000 bpd before the blockade of its oil ports and oilfields lifted by Haftar’s forces at the end of last week.

Total Libyan production could reach 550,000 bpd by the end of the year and nearly a million bpd by mid-2021. All that for a country that did not export a single barrel from January due to the civil war forced by Haftar. At its peak in 2008, Libya produced nearly 1.8 million bpd.

The shifting market dynamics could force OPEC back to the drawing board, to figure out what to do with all that unexpected new supply.

Emboldened by the steady price action of the past four months, OPEC decided to roll back its cuts by two million bpd from this month, taking a gamble that the market won’t crash, as economies continue to recover from the worst of the COVID-19 disruption. AbS’ warning to oil giants that they’ll be “ouching like hell” if they try to short the market was part of a calculated campaign to defend prices.

In the complex international economic context, and Libya ongoing political crisis, the Tobruk House of Representative (HoR) Speaker, Aguila Saleh, is expected to play a major role in state-building during the coming period, amid hopes of a political settlement to the long-time crisis in the country. Moreover might play a key role in concluding new trade agreements for oil exports, preventing overproduction, and subsequent turmoil for the oil markets.

Saleh has cemented his reputation as a political heavy-weight demonstrating openness to resolve the ongoing crisis in Libya. For the international community his rise will embody the transfer of political powers in Cyrenaica from military – Marshall Khalifa Haftar leading the Libyan National Army – to civilians. The increasing influence of the role of Saleh has reflected in the decision of the European Union Council to lift the individual sanction, allowing him to travel freely.

“The Council today decided to remove Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, and Nuri Abu Sahmain, former president of the internationally unrecognised General National Congress of Libya, from the list of individuals and entities subject to restrictive measures in relation to the Libyan conflict.

“The two leading political figures had been subject to EU restrictive measures – a travel ban and an asset freeze – since 2016. The delisting of Speaker Saleh was agreed in light of his recent constructive engagement in support of a negotiated political solution to the Libyan crisis. The Council will continue to follow his behaviour closely, notably in relation to his support for the Berlin Process and for the efforts of the UN mission to Libya (UNSMIL). The delisting of Abu Sahmain was agreed based on the overall absence of any recent role in the Libyan political process.

“The EU welcomed the announcements made on 21 August by the president of the Presidency Council, Fayez al-Sarraj, and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, which accelerated promising developments in Libya and created a window of opportunity to move the Libyan transition forward towards completion through a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process.

“Today’s decision underlines the strategic use of the EU’s sanctions regime, following developments on the ground. Restrictive measures are intended to bring about a change in policy or activity by entities and individuals responsible for malign behaviour, and are of a proportionate, targeted and non-punitive nature. De-listing is appropriate wherever the criteria for listing are no longer met, as was the case here.

“The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons and entities concerned, have been published in the Official Journal”.

CAR: Touadéra joins election

The President of the Central African Republic (CAR), Faustin-Archange Touadéra, announced his candidacy for the presidential election scheduled for December 27 on Saturday September 26.

“It’s a heavy responsibility. A very heavy responsibility. I accept to be your candidate ”, declared the Head of State, elected in February 2016 and whose candidacy is not a surprise, in front of the members of his party, the United Hearts Movement (MCU), gathered in congress in the capital Bangui.

More than 7 years after the coup d’état of a coalition of armed groups with a Muslim majority, the Seleka, which overthrew President François Bozizé in 2013, the first round of the presidential and legislative elections is scheduled for December 27, but uncertainty prevails today as to the possibility of holding them within this timeline, as significant delays have arisen in their organisation, in particular the registration of voters.

Mali on brink of conflict

Brussels 17.09.2020 Mali military commanders officially confirm that they are supporting a plan of the country led by a military man, without a further precision on the candidacy. However one can presume that traditionally this role can be attributed to the leader of the coup d’état on August 18, Colonel Assimi Goita (pictured).

Following the ECOWAS urgent meeting in Accra, the West African organisation, representing 15 countries, threatened Mali officers with a “total embargo” if power is not quickly handed over to a civilian transitional president and prime minister. In response the spokesperson has underlined that the option of a military-president remains open.

Reportedly this week Mali officers began the process of appointing these officials called to lead Mali during a transition that will bring civilians back to power, Colonel Ismaël Wagué, spokesperson for the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, told reporters.

“It keeps its options open as to the appointment of military figures, as it would like, or civilians, as ECOWAS demands, he added. “All options are on the table,” Colonel Wagué underlined.

Tigray region counts ballots

Tigray region held regional elections on September 9, in spite of protests of the federal government and increasing political tensions in Ethiopia.

While Prime Minister Abiy has ruled out military intervention, there are fears that any punitive measures by the federal government could further escalate tensions.

The Tigray defiance of the federal government is the latest challenge to the administration of Nobel Peace Price winner Abiy, who is struggling to hold together a federation that assembles Ethiopia’s more than 80 ethnic groups.

The regional officials, holding polls for the 190-seat Tigray parliament, warned that any intervention by the federal government would amount to a “declaration of war”.

They objected to the postponement of the national and regional elections, originally scheduled for August, explained by the coronavirus pandemic and the extension of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s time in office.

The local sources said results will be announced by September 13.

On, Ethiopia’s upper house of parliament, which mediates constitutional disputes, ruled that the polls for regional parliaments and other positions were unconstitutional, announcing the assessment on September 5, which did not stop Tigray region to continue with election timetable.

EU calls Ethiopians for inclusive dialogue

«The EU calls all sides to restrain from violent reactions, and appease tensions» said the European External Action Service spokesperson, while commenting on the situation in Tigray region of Ethiopia, where the elections to the regional 190 seats parliament were declared unilaterally, refusing to postpone them due to pandemic sanitary restrictions.
The Tigray electorate intends to drop ballots on September 9, provoking political tensions between regional and federal delegates, interpreting the Constitution.

«The EU encourages and supports the inclusive, and comprehensive dialogue between all political parties at federal and regional levels in order to organise next general elections in coordinated way» she continued. «The EU intends to deploy an electoral observation mission for the general elections, and will pay special attention to the conditions of its organisation through the electoral process. The EU follow closely the situation in Ethiopia, including through out EU delegation».

The EU spokesperson also quoted the declaration of the House of Federation of Ethiopia, qualifying the decision of the regional parliament of Tigray region as «unconstitutional».

Ethiopia is the key EU partner in the region, while development cooperation is one of the largest in Africa and in the world, amounting to more than €800 million for the period 2014-2020. The significance of the partnership with Ethiopia has been underlined with the symbolism of the first working foreign visit of the new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to Addis Ababa.

However in spite of the calls for coordinated  action from Addis Ababa and abroad, the Office of Electoral Commission of the National Regional State of Tigray said 2672 polling stations were ready for tomorrow’s regional election. Some 2.7 million people are expected to cast their votes from 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM, the Commission said.
The information about the upcoming vote is limited because the independent observers, and members of the press were not allowed to enter the region.

The elections are just the latest example of how Tigrayan officials are increasingly acting like leaders of an independent state, creating a political standoff, which evokes a great deal of interest and concern abroad. Back in June the Federal election officials said the elections had “no legal basis”, and the upper house of parliament ruled they were “null and void”. On September 5 Ethiopia upper house of parliament, the House of Federation, called the formation of an electoral board in the region illegal and said any actions taken by it would be unenforceable, state-controlled Broadcasting Corporation reported from Addis Ababa.

In recent days, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed office has instructed the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority to call journalists working for foreign media outlets to pressure them not to cover the vote. On September 7, intelligence agents barred several journalists from boarding a flight from Addis Ababa to Mekele.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank revealed that some federal officials have raised the possibility of retaliating by taking economic “punitive” action against the Tigray government – for instance, by withholding financial grants, which amount to half the region’s budget.

Approximately 3 million people are expected to vote in the September 9 regional election, according to the Tigray Regional Electoral Commission, and results are expected to be announced by September 13. Five parties are participating, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and other smaller regional parties such as the Tigray Independence Party, which is focused on for the secession of the region from Ethiopia. However not all the parties in the region entered the standoff with Addis Ababa – the Prosperity Party and the Tigray Democratic Party are both boycotting the elections.

Mali suffocated by ECOWAS

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) continues the imperative demands to the military commanders supported by Malians who assended power by coup d’état, to ensure a “rapid” return of civilian rule. The Republic of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou on September 7 at the opening of ‘a summit of the ECOWAS in Niamey once again has underlined the major request for a clear timetable, ensuring the transition of power to the civilans.

“It is the duty of our community to assist the Malians with a view to the rapid reestablishment of all democratic institutions. The military junta must help us to help Mali”, affirmed Mr. Issoufou, also current president of the ECOWAS.

“Other strategic partners of the Malian people have the same hope,” he insisted.

President Issoufou recalled that the ECOWAS had “taken sanctions and asked the military junta to return to the barracks (…) and the establishment of a transition, lasting a maximum of 12 months, led by civilians “.

However the talks conducted by the ECOWAS are not reduced to verbal promotion of the democratic demands, the regional orgainsation has decided to close all its borders with Mali and block all the economic and financial transactions, launching a total blockade of the landlocked country.

As consequence even Mali neighbours started to doubt the effectiness of this drastic measure of the West African politicians, causing immense damage to Malians, already being listed among the poorest nations in the world. In Ayorou, a Nigerien town close to the border, residents are worried about the consequences of this closure, Radio RFI reports.

The residents of Ayorou are seeing short, medium and long term damages of the ECOWAS blocade because exchanges with neighboring Mali are essential for the city, especially concerning the supply of food products for the large Sunday market.

“There are the foodstuffs that they export, there is also tea, sugar and pasta. So really, if the borders are closed, we can say that the prices of the products will increase” the inhabitants of Ayorou complain.

Another consequence for the locals in the closing of the borders is damaging the travel between the various family members on the outskirts of Mali.

“If I wanted to visit family in villages on the border, for example in Koutougou which is around or eight kilometers from the border, it is a problem because the police do not accept the passage of vehicles” the local residents explain.

However the major concern is in absence of clarity for the future, how long will this devastaing for local population strategy last. The food shortages among neighboring countries, depending on Mali exports, are just part of the problem caused by the ECOWAS borders shut down. Nowadays the situaiton of the Malian population enters a dramatic stage of food insecurity, which has been a considerable problem for the internaitonal community, attempting to assist and provide humanitarian aid for the population, ensuring their human rights, namely right to life.

Escalating violence and insecurity in Mali have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, rendering 3.9 million people in need of assistance and protection – an increase of 700,000 since the beginning of the year, the UN said in December 2019.

Mali has been the scene of perpetual conflict and displacement for nearly eight years, when in January 2012, tensions in the marginalized north came to a head as rebels took over almost one-third of the country. A peace agreement signed in 2015 between the complex web of warring groups, has failed in implementation.

The report notes that eight years after the onset of the political crisis that has destabilized Mali, “the international community remains heavily focused on stabilization and counterterrorism, at times to the detriment of the worsening humanitarian situation.”

While insurgent violence in the north rages on, anti-Government elements have spread south into central Mali, where they have inflamed intercommunal tensions.

Some 70% of the people affected live in the conflict regions of Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao.

Throughout the year, UN and humanitarian partners have assisted about 900,000 people with food assistance and in 2020, the Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $365.6 million to assist nearly three million in urgent need.

While the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has restored some degreed of peace and government control there, the country’s northern and central regions remain trapped in cycles of violence.

The UN report (2019) has concluded that there is no purely military solution to the country’s crisis.

Although international humanitarian aid must be strengthened, Mali’s citizens also require a government willing and able to meet the needs of its people and address grievances at the root of the conflict while implementing the terms of the peace agreement in a timely and transparent fashion.

“The real war will be won by whoever wins over the population. And for now, the state is perceived to not even be trying”, said one of the UN representatives quoted in the report.

So fare the EU diplomacy has not expressed its position towards the ECOWAS strategy blocade of Mali trade, and finance.

“The decision to close borders by ECOWAS countries was undertaken on volonuraly basis” said the European Extenal Action Service spokesperson, while commenting on the issue.

Sudan: separation of religion from state

Sudan’s transitional government agreed to separate religion from the state, ending three decades of Islamic rule. (Image: Khartoum)

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, a leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North rebel group, signed a declaration in Addis Ababa, the capital city, adopting the principle.

For Sudan to become a democratic country where the rights of all citizens are enshrined, the constitution should be based on the principle of ‘separation of religion and state,’ in the absence of which the right to self-determination must be respected,” the document states.

The accord comes less than a week after the government initialed a peace deal with rebel forces aiming at end of fighting that ravaged Darfur and other parts of Sudan under ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir.

The larger of two factions in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, which has fought Sudanese troops in the nation’s border states, has refused to sign any agreement that doesn’t ensure a secular system.

Sudan is recovering from international isolation that began soon after Bashir seized power in 1989 and implemented a hard-line interpretation of Islamic law that intended to shape the country as the “vanguard of the Islamic world.” Al-Qaeda settled théorie and the U.S. designated Sudan a terror sponsor in 1993, later imposing sanctions until 2017.

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