Africa: Conflict and governance July 2021-

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Africa: Conflict and governance 2018-June 2021

26-28 July
Tunisia’s Saied moves on economy and COVID-19 after dismissing govt
(Reuters) – Tunisia’s president said on Wednesday he was addressing the dire economic and COVID-19 situation and probing widespread corruption after invoking emergency powers on Sunday to seize control of government in a move his foes called a coup.
Tunisia crisis prompts surge in foreign social media manipulation
Social media propaganda emanating from Saudi Arabia and the UAE seeks to justify Tunisian president’s actions.
Influential voices in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE celebrate Tunisia turmoil as blow to political Islam
Tunisians are struggling to make sense of their country’s ongoing political crisis after the president abruptly dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament Sunday night.
(WaPo) For some in Tunisia, the Arab Spring’s sole surviving democracy, the moves against institutions led or supported by Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, amount to a coup. Others praised the sidelining of political leaders they saw as dysfunctional and repressive. Civil society groups remained on the fence. President Kais Saied, meanwhile, has insisted that the measures are lawful.
But the narrative emerging from key players in the Arab world for which Tunisia’s Arab Spring legacy presents a clear challenge — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — was far more univocal: The events in Tunisia marked the death knell for political Islam in democracy.
Newspapers, television commentators and social media influencers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt hailed Saied’s move as the triumph of the popular will over Ennahda. The three countries — as well as Tunisian opponents of Ennahda — have for years sought to link the party to the transnational Muslim Brotherhood and accused it of abetting terrorism. Ennahda long ago disavowed connections to the Brotherhood.
What we know so far about Tunisia’s political crisis
Tunisia faces political, economic turmoil again as President Saied removes PM Mechichi, suspends Parliament.
(Al Jazeera) Parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, who heads Parliament’s biggest party, Ennahdha, accused Saied of launching “a coup against the revolution and constitution”.
The presidency said the parliament would be suspended for 30 days, though Saied told reporters the 30-day period can be extended if needed “until the situation settles down”.
Saied based his decisions on Article 80 in the constitution, which allows the president to take extraordinary measures if there is “imminent danger threatening the nation”.
The move came following mass demonstrations in several Tunisian cities earlier on Sunday.
Protesters demanded the government’s removal after a spike in COVID-19 cases that aggravated economic troubles. Offices of the Ennahdha party were also attacked.
Throwing stones and shouting slogans, the protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and the dissolution of Parliament.
Sharan Grewal: Kais Saied’s power grab in Tunisia
(Brookings) On July 25, Tunisian President Kais Saied froze the parliament, dismissed the prime minister, and announced he will temporarily rule by decree. Flanked by military and security officials, Saied also rescinded parliamentary immunity, threatening to subject corrupt parliamentarians to the law “despite their wealth and positions.” On July 26, he also issued a nationwide curfew for 30 days.
Saied’s power grab represents a major test for Tunisia’s young democracy, as serious as the protests in 2013 that nearly derailed its initial transition. How Tunisian and international audiences react to Saied’s announcement will likely shape whether the country remains the world’s only Arab democracy, or falls to what political scientists call a “self-coup” or incumbent takeover.
In Egypt, the only other Arab Spring country to transition to democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood performed well in the polls — only to be ousted in a military coup in 2013 that quickly won support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The Egyptian coup scared Ennahda, which entered into alliances with secular parties.
But its popularity has declined since then, and anger toward the party has mounted over the past year as the pandemic ravaged the country and its economy and a movement against police brutality gained steam. Calls grew for the dissolution of parliament, which is helmed by Ennahda’s highly unpopular leader Rachid Ghannouchi.

22 July
Fighting in Ethiopia’s Afar forces 54,000 people to flee, official says
Tiksa Negeri, Maggie Fick
(Reuters) – Attacks from Tigrayan forces in Ethiopia’s Afar region have forced more than 54,000 people from their homes, an official said on Thursday, as the eight-month-old conflict appeared to be spreading beyond Tigray in the north.
Tigrayan fighters seized control of three districts in Afar this week, according to Afar regional spokesperson Ahmed Koloyta.
The region is of strategic importance because the main road and railway linking Addis Ababa, landlocked Ethiopia’s capital, to the sea port of Djibouti run through it.

20 July
Events of last six months show fragile countries must remain priority for the US and its allies
Alexandre Marc and Bruce Jones
(Brookings) In Africa, Mozambique has seen renewed violence by an Islamist group connected to Somalia’s al-Shabab and the Islamic State. Palma, a major economic hub for natural gas extraction, was occupied for nearly 10 days, causing Total to suspend a $20 billion gas project, a major economic blow to the country. In April, fighting erupted once again in the streets of Mogadishu, because of a political crisis ignited by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi’s decision to delay elections, a major step back after many years of improvement in both governance and security in Somalia. In Ethiopia, internal and cross-border fighting in the Tigray region has seen large-scale denial of humanitarian access, killings of civilians, and the imminent threat of famine.
The Sahel has seen multiple crises over the first six months of 2021, making the situation in this large region increasingly precarious. President Idris Déby Itno of Chad, the country with the strongest army in the region, which has been an essential asset in the war against jihadis, died in a fight with rebels coming from Libya, creating strong risk of instability in the country. On May 24, Mali’s government was overthrown in a military coup — the second in less than a year — leaving the country in turmoil.

13-16 July
Bloomberg Politics: Peering into the abyss
It’s been a week from hell for South Africa.
Riots and widespread looting have claimed at least 117 lives, cost billions of rand in damages, and left some areas facing food and medicine shortages. Soldiers are on the streets and business confidence in an economy already weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic is shot.
What lit the fuse was the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for defying a court order to testify before a graft inquiry. He was due to respond to allegations he’d facilitated and been party to endemic corruption.
Zuma’s supporters, particularly in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, cry victimization; his critics say it’s a case of justice finally being served. The jury is still out on whether Zuma and his backers stirred up the unrest as political payback.
The carnage has undermined the authority of President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose government’s response was lethargic. It’s also highlighted the faction-fighting that’s called into question the capacity of the African National Congress to govern after ruling for a quarter-century.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time for southern Africa — with Mozambique fighting an Islamic State-linked insurgency, Zimbabwe perennially in economic crisis, and a tense standoff between pro-democracy activists and Africa’s last monarch following weeks of protests in Eswatini.
South Africa is a fragile state: The “rainbow nation” democracy that emerged when Nelson Mandela took office in 1994 has always struggled to deal with the deep ethnic, racial and class divisions left behind by apartheid.
This week’s violence has stretched the social fabric to breaking point and left the economic powerhouse of the continent on a knife-edge. — Karl Maier 
Worst violence in years spreads in South Africa as grievances boil over
(Reuters) – Crowds clashed with police and ransacked or set ablaze shopping malls in cities across South Africa on Tuesday, with dozens of people reported killed, as grievances unleashed by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma boiled over into the worst violence in years.
Protests that followed Zuma’s arrest last week for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry have widened into looting and an outpouring of general anger over the hardship and inequality that persist 27 years after the end of apartheid.
Poverty has been exacerbated by severe social and economic restrictions aimed at blocking the spread of COVID-19.
Security officials said the government was working to halt the spread of the violence and looting, which has spread from Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province to the country’s biggest city Johannesburg and surrounding Gauteng province, and to the Indian Ocean port city of Durban.
Ethiopia: Tigray forces push south as Amhara militias mobilise
The fresh fighting follows a vow by the region’s ruling party – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – to retake all territory within Tigray’s borders it lost in conflict that broke out between the TPLF and Ethiopian federal forces in November.
The war pits Tigrayan forces – both formal and irregular – against the Ethiopian military and its allies from Amhara and the neighbouring nation of Eritrea. Thousands have died, more than 4 million people depend on emergency food aid, and nearly 2 million have been displaced since the conflict began

Africa Will ‘One Day Have a Common Currency’ Says Secretary General of African Continental Free Trade Area
In the meantime, the report also quotes Mene sharing some new details about the proposed Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) whose pilot phase commenced in June 2021. According to Mene, this trial stage enables “trading within the free trade area to be done in the local currencies of each member state.” On why such a payment system is needed, the secretary-general explained:
“We have 42 currencies in Africa. The cost of converting currencies amounts to $5 billion a year. This is a very big amount of money that can be seen as revenue foregone. So we want to reduce and eliminate this cost to converting currencies in Africa for the purpose of trading.”

11 July
The news from South Sudan over the past 10 years has been relentlessly grim. The joy and celebrations that marked independence on 9 July 2011 have been replaced by reports of sexual violence, conflict, economic instability and hunger.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added to the country’s problems. A report earlier this year predicted that thousands of people will die of hunger in 2021 as the economic fallout of the pandemic and the effects of the climate crisis take their toll. This week, the UN food report said more than 60% of South Sudan’s population are now considered severely food insecure.
The light that failed: South Sudan’s ‘new dawn’ turns to utter nightmare
Simon Tisdall
Nearly 400,000 have died since it won independence 10 years ago. Now violence looms again, within and beyond its borders
South Sudan, which marked its 10th birthday on Friday [9 July], came late to Africa’s independence party – the product of a complex 2005 deal to end Sudan’s decades-old civil war. Barack Obama, seeking the credit, waxed lyrical. “Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible,” he declared.
Yet by most measures, that dawn proved false. South Sudan is an experiment that flopped – “the light that failed”, to co-opt the title of Rudyard Kipling’s first novel, which was partly set in Sudan. In 2013, two years after independence, rival ethnic factions plunged the country into war, just as vice-president Riek Machar, a Bradford University-educated Nuer warlord, had threatened to do when he spoke to me in Juba in July that year.
Machar wanted Salva Kiir, South Sudan’s president and a leader of the Dinka people, to stand down. Kiir had other ideas. In the ensuing five-year war, nearly 400,000 people died and millions were displaced. Now, amid escalating inter-communal violence and rising political tensions, the UN is warning of a “return to large-scale conflict”.

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