Translation – Carla Ferreira
Sub-Saharan Africa’s political and socio-economic stage is once again characterized by issues concerning the democratization process, or its attempt, in the face of attempts to stabilize domestic politics, for example, with elections, the institution of diplomatic relations and judicial reform. Some of the observed armed conflicts remain active to this day, especially with the gradual interference of Daesh in insurgent forces, which are trying to gain political power. It’s worth noting the negative externalities that the fight against climate change cannot prevent, such as droughts and ecosystems’ destruction, causing poverty, hunger and misery, and the public health crisis that is ongoing and far from being off the international agenda.
Pandemic and Vaccination Scenario
As of the date of writing, only 13,27% of the African population has been vaccinated, with at least one dose, not due to the social incidence of anti-vaccination movements, but because of the hard access to vaccines already conjectured. Notwithstanding, CPLP and G7+ have already made themselves available to reinforce and accelerate vaccination in its member states, just as China and the EU have donated vaccines and provided aid in this process.
South Africa has been an unstable stage for the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, since it’s the second time that it harbors a covid variant, with the Beta variant having been discovered the first time. The Omicron variant, discovered by a Portuguese scientist, is the most recent mutation to the genetic code of the covid virus. The country has also invoked its Apartheid past, given the restrictive measures imposed by the international community to flights coming from Southern Africa. Just this year, the country lost F.W. de Klerk, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s president from 1994 to 1996.
Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP)
Within the African countries of CPLP, Angola continues with a political crisis, intensified after the formation of a political alliance which united the opposition – UNITA, the Democratic Bloc and the non-legalized PRA-JA Servir Angola – to combat the MPLA party dominance since Angola’s independence, with the 2022 elections in mind.
At the beginning of December, São Tomé and Principe signed with Portugal a Strategic Cooperation Program, until 2025, worth 60 million euros, regarding the areas of public policy and finances. Cape Verde hosted the 2nd African Economic Conference, in which the deputy prime minister Olavo Correia participated, where he warned about the difficulties that the African economic growth presents, especially owing to the low tax collection due to fraud, calling for new private investment opportunities.
Portuguese minister João Cravinho began a framework program of military cooperation with Guinea-Bissau, striving for more Portuguese speaking states to join, as it has already been the case with Brazil and East Timor, in peacekeeping missions. The international community has been watching the Chinese motivations linked to the African continent, the most recent being the establishment of a military base in Equatorial Guinea.
Despite the success of the counter-offensives by armed forces (national and international), the conflict in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, against al-Shabaab, continues. Numerous public infrastructures have been destroyed, and the number of displaced people exceeds 800 thousand. There are reports of Mozambicans trying to escape the armed conflict through the northern border to Tanzania – whose presidency, this year, was assumed by a woman, Samia S. Hassan, after the death of the former Head of State – however, they are refused entry to the country and the right to asylum.
African Continental Free Trade Area
The AfCFTA, a free trade area founded in 2018, came into effect at the begging of the year, having already been ratified by 38 of the 54 States of the African Union, except for Eritrea, that neither signed nor ratified the AfCFTA due to the conflict with Ethiopia. Its objective is African integration and economic development, fostering the idea of Pan-Africanism in various socioeconomic aspects, for example, through the free movement of goods and services, the progressive elimination of trade tariffs and other non-tariff barriers, as well as aspects related to intellectual property rights, integrated investment, and the definition of a competition policy, to establish the basis for the creation of a customs union. AfCFTA is also committed to promoting structural reforms, for example, relating to gender equality.
Democratization processes, Coups d’État and diplomatic relations
Paul Rusesabagina, the man who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda, was found guilty of terrorist crimes, related to his involvement in the National Liberation Front and in the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change. Rusesabagina heard his verdict at the same time of the death of the main mastermind of the genocide, Théoneste Bagosora, who passed away while serving his 35 year long prison sentence.
The Central African Republic was the scene to the most recent international scandal involving Portugal, due to an accusation that uncovered the involvement of a Portuguese military force, assigned to peacekeeping missions, in diamond and gold trafficking and money laundering. The accusation was made in 2019, however, it was not until October that an investigation was conducted unveiling the trafficking network. The CAF has one of its battalions under the Wagner group, a private Russian company, known to have been hired by the Mozambican government to fight against al-Shabaab, in this case, to mitigate the chaos and violence after the 2013 coup d’état.
Somalia continues to follow its plan of diplomatic relations fragility. The most recent split was with Kenya, but the Somali state had already broken off diplomatic relations with Guinea, after a meeting between the two states and the president of the separatist region Somaliland. Considering the situation with Kenya, seen as border intromission, Somalia immediately reinforced its military presence along its border.
In Ivory Coast, the International Criminal Court absolved the former president Laurent Gbagbo and former minister Charles Ble Goude of the charge crimes against humanity, even though many locals disagree with the decision, after a turbulent post-electoral period, that resulted in more than 3 thousand dead.
Senegal has been thrown into a wave of protests after the arrest of Ousmane Sonko, leader of opposition. At the root of unrest is the alleged strategy by Macky Sall’s government – whose been growing in discontent – to minimize the political influence Sonko might have in the 2024 elections, in this case, with rape accusations and public disturbance. However, Sonko has already been released on bail at the beginning of the year.
Several coups d’états have happened this year, such as those in Mali, Sudan – where a militia took power in a political dispute to create a favorable environment to hold elections in 2023 – and in Guinea – where a militia captured the president Alpha Condé, abolished the Constitution, and has dissolved the government because of a supposed Condé’s unconstitutional 3rd term. In the beginning of October, the militia began a transition process, with the nomination of the prime minister, the former UN Undersecretary General. The interim president has promised the draft of a new Constitution, electoral reforms, and new elections, assuring that no member of the militia will run in the elections.
In Ethiopia, an armed conflict has been weaking the nation, pitting Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers against Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPFL), which has turned into a humanitarian crisis with thousands dead and displaced. The political instability leads to an insufficient response to ethnic cohesion, which has resulted in food insecurity for 9 million people. The separatist movement has moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa and the UN fears that the conflict with Abiy Ahmed’s government will develop into a civil war, and an investigation has been set up by the Human Rights Council to investigate reports of abuses.
The Influence of Daesh
Boko Haram terrorists have prompted chaos in Nigeria, with the kidnapping of hundreds of people, with reports since 2014. Many of Nigeria’s public infrastructure has been attacked by the group, and they have adopted a modus operandi of kidnapping people, mostly children, in schools, releasing some later. In March, nearly 300 girls were kidnapped, and in June, at least 140 students were taken, having already been reports of abductions in hospitals.
The number of victims of the crisis in the Sahel keeps rising. According to UNHCR, the issue accounts for more than 2 million displaced people, mainly from Burkina Faso, where jihadist attacks have not ceased since 2015, having already claimed more than 1400 lives. The country’s instability is also reflected in the Burkinabe Defense and Security Forces, which have been accused of committing mass executions of civilians on the grounds that they are fighting alleged jihadist forces. Blaise Compaoré, the former Burkinabé president, will stand trial for the murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara, during the 1987 coup d’état.
With the death of Chad’s former president, Idriss Déby, the G5 Sahel fear the weakening that the region may suffer in terms of security and combating armed violence, mainly due to the establishment of a military council, led by the son of the former head of state, and not a civil government, which has raised objections from the population. The election of Mohamed Baozum marked Niger’s new period of democratic transition, however, shaken by Daesh and Al-Qaeda attacks (some still linked to Boko Haram), which have killed more than 150 civilians.
The environmental impact
Climate change has worsened scenarios that were already extreme and difficult to combat, with countries finding it difficult to access water, such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland which are under endless droughts. Madagascar is facing a famine crisis due to four years of drought, with more than 11 million people suffering from food insecurity, with people eating wild leaves and locusts, and South Sudan is facing a surge of floods, food shortages, and ethnic conflict. To combat climate change and reduce pressure on forests, the Democratic Republic of Congo wants to create barriers on timber exports. Just this year, the eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano also caused the displacement of thousands of people and the disappearance of others.
The forecast for 2022 points to a slight acceleration in vaccination, however, the scenarios of the emergence of new variants remain, especially in Africa, with only a tiny part of the population vaccinated. The CPLP’s internal ties should expand, especially in scenarios for strategic cooperation in the development of PALOP countries, from public administration to peacekeeping. On the other hand, the same is not likely to occur, but worsen, especially in countries whose stability is shaken by Daesh’s interference, although the AfCFTA is slowly starting to foster ties for a closer and more integrated African Union and develop a collective response and international profile, as well as some processes of power transition should make room for the creation of new democracies or structural reforms. In general, the environmental impact is expected to worsen, as the problem deteriorates all over the planet.