Africa Calling podcast looks at some of the week's top stories from the African continent, including reports from the field and analysis with regional experts. This week we're talking about the final assault on Mekelle, Ethiopia and how the crackdown on the opposition in Uganda is impacting election campaigning. We also hear what the latest Mo Ibrahim governance index reveals about democracy on the African continent; bandits in Nigeria's northwestern Zamfara State, the re-election of Roch Kaboré in Burkina Faso, and a fledging chocolate industry in The Gambia.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said this week that federal government forces would begin their final assault on the Tigrayan regional capital Mekelle. Authorities in Addis Ababa had issued an ultimatum to the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) against whom Abiy launched an offensive following an alleged attack on federal troops in the Tigray region. UN Security Council members discussed the war in Ethiopia this week, but issued no statement, amid accusations of human rights abuses with the massacre of 600 civilians in Tigray.
“There's airstrikes going on, the military is marching on - it's a miracle it took them just 3 weeks to take over the whole state with the exception of Mekelle, the capital,” says Ethiopia correspondent Samuel Getachew.
The death toll from protests and a crackdown by security forces over the arrest of musician-turned opposition politician Bobi Wine rose to 45 people this week, with Ugandan police saying some 800 people were arrested. Last week's riots, ahead of the country's elections slated for 14 January, were seen by many as some of the worst in decades. Wine was accused of flouting measures designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, as he ramped up his campaign in the country's presidential polls. But critics accuse incumbent President Yoweri Museveni of using Covid-19 as an excuse to clamp down on political opposition.
“There is no possibility of the election being free and fair, because as you know the fairness of an election is not simply determined on the day of the voting. A lot that happens before voting day will determine what makes it free and fair or not,” says independent political analyst Frederick Golooba-Mutebi.
“We have had the incentive for semi-authoritarian rulers coming from the mecca of democracy—that is the US. It's not helping to see Trump who is whining and complaining about election fraud,” says Julius Kiiza, political scientist at Makerere University.
Mo Ibrahim governance index
Standards of governance on the African continent have dropped for the first time in a decade, according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and its latest African governance index published this month. Three island nations topped the index for 2019 – Mauritius, Cabo Verde and the Seychelles – with Eritrea, South Sudan and Somalia ranking at the bottom. Governance in Africa has improved over the decade, but in 2019 the rate of progress slowed. The foundation, set up by billionaire Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim, assesses indicators in four key areas: participation, rights and inclusion, security and rule of law, and human development.
“If you look at countries, the 54 countries, you have 13 countries out of 54, who's global governance performance follows, concerningly, a path of increasing deterioration,” says Natalie Delapalme, executive director at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
Reports emerged from Zamfara State, north-western Nigeria, this week about an attack carried out at a mosque during Friday prayers, with five people killed and a number of people abducted. Police said the attack was carried out by bandits who arrived on motorbikes and kidnapped 18 people including the mosque's imam.
“People in the area are not comfortable with the security efforts by the government, both the army and the police, because the incidents are occurring almost on a daily basis. So you can see the kind of life people are living in such areas,” says Bashir Ibrahim Idriss, editor of RFI's Hausa service in Lagos.
Incumbent President Roch Kaboré was announced winner of the presidential election by Burkina Faso's electoral commission, taking almost 58 percent of the vote. Kaboré avoided a second-round run-off vote, with his nearest rival securing just 15 percent of ballots cast. The elections were hampered by insecurity in the north of Burkina Faso, with voting abandoned at a number of polling stations.
“We never had any doubt, because we had an electoral strategy built around Roch, and there was enough belief. It was a clear victory - because it needed to be something that wasn't feeble, more or less a victory, that could lead to questions or questioning,” Simon Compaoré, the head of Kaboré's People's Movement for Progress (MPP) party, told RFI's Carine Frenk, after results were announced.
An entrepreneur in The Gambia is trying to overthrow the established order of chocolate producers with the launch of the first ever 'made in Gambia' chocolate bar called FH Bites. Most of the world's cocoa beans come from West Africa, primarily Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. But one Gambian businessman saw the opportunity to capitalise on chocolate following a romantic gesture he made three years ago.
“It was on Valentines Day when Fady Hocheimy, a Gambian enterpreneur, had an idea that would make his wife happy,” reports Banjul correspondent Sally Jeng.
Our resident music enthusiast Alison Hird picks "Je cours" by Floby as this week's track, an upbeat song in the coupé-decalé style of dance music that originated in Cote d'Ivoire. Burkinabé Floby sings in French and in his native Moré/Mossi. Je cours means 'I'm running', and it's a life-affirming tune about refusing to be held back by any obstacles and dangers in life. Check out the shoutout to his country in English at the end of the track!
This episode was recorded and edited by Erwan Rome and Cécile Pompeani.
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