What’s Going On: Protests in Mali, Civil War In Ethiopia & More

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“What’s Going On” Tallies Notable News Headlines From Across The Continent — The Good, The Bad, And The Horrible — As A Way Of Ensuring That We All Become A More Sagacious African Generation. With This Column, We’re Hoping To Disseminate The Latest Happenings In Our Socio-Political Climate From Across The Continent, Whilst Starting A Conversation About What’s Important For Us To All Discuss. From Political Affairs To Socio-Economic Issues, ‘What’s Going On’ Will Discuss Just That.

Ever so often, we have to remind developed parts of the world that Africa is not a country. It’s not just because a significant portion of people in those parts are unenlightened, but also because of the continent-wide similarities when it comes to social, political, and economic issues. For one, Africa is teeming with corrupt and inept leaders—many of them dictators— who have failed to invest in meaningful infrastructure, all while derailing and rejecting systemic change through violent means if necessary. In addition to this, they are fully aided by deeply patriarchal, religion deferring, and ultra-conservative social constructs.

At the same time across the continent, the current generation of African youth are pushing against these systemic boundaries, in order to continue the arduous work of rewriting the narrative. Even with all of the endeavours, talent and records being witnessed from music to tech, the limitations put in place by the continent’s political landscape still looms large. Every week, disparaging headlines from around Africa make their way to the news, reminding us of the bumps affecting these perceived stripes, and the roadblocks which delay our growth towards more wholesome and enabling societies for all Africans. Below are few news bits of what’s been going in on in the past few days.

Malians protest ECOWAS sanctions

Months after Mali experienced its second coup in less than a year, the effects of the deposition continue to linger over the West African nation. Last week, ECOWAS, West Africa’s main regional bloc, announced sweeping economic sanctions against the country in response to the Malian ruling government change of the projected dates for general elections. Following the Assimi Goïta-led coup in May 2021, the military had initially committed to holding fresh elections in 2022 but has since backtracked on its promise, claiming that a fresh general election would be held in 2025, three years farther than already envisaged. 

Responding to those fresh developments, the leaders of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held an extraordinary summit where they agreed to impose a trade embargo on the country and shut off its borders. These decisions were backed by France, the United States and the European Union. Reacting to the sanctions, the military junta called for protests against stringent sanctions imposed by ECOWAS and over the weekend Malian citizens came out en masse to express their displeasure with the bans as well as espousing anti-French rhetoric.

Throughout the weekend, thousands of people wearing the national colours of red, yellow and green gathered in Independence Square in the country’s capital in Bamako while protests also spread to towns like Kadiolo and Bougouni in the south of the country. Already one of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world, the sanctions against Mali might further push the country to the brink of austerity despite claims that the country is prepared for every eventuality. Further ramping up the pressure on the Malian government, the United Nation’s Security-General, Antonio Guterres, urged the leadership of the country to present an acceptable election schedule while France and the United States have doubled down on calls for a general election. 

Ugandan schools open after two years COVID-19 shutdown

For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the very hinges of their existence, throwing every single routine into jeopardy, but few parts of life have been as ruthlessly altered by the effect of the pandemic as the education of Ugandan kids. From March 2020 until just the middle of this month, educational institutions in Uganda have been shut down due to concerns over COVID-19.  When the closure went into effect more than 20 months ago, just over 15 million students had their education disrupted, according to Dennis Mugimba, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Education.

While universities and higher had opened up in phases, kindergarten and lower primary students, which include approximately six million students, had not returned in any form at all. In a statement released last September, Janet Museveni, Uganda’s first lady and Minister of Education said that the lockdown was essential to protect citizens.”We choose to be patient and continue to vaccinate our teachers, learners above 18 years of age and the vulnerable population so that we can be confident enough that we have given some protection to a critical mass of our population,” she said. But now that schools are fully re-opening, some are projecting that as many as five million pupils may never return to classrooms, a big blow to a country that’s already one of the poorest in the world and dealing with ever-rising unemployment rates. 

Ugandan critics and opposition figures have debated the validity of Uganda’s repressive lockdown, arguing that officials used the pandemic as a pretext to impose draconian lockdown rules that have caught young pupils in its crosshairs. Ugandan officials, however, believe that its education sector can recover from the long halt. “We believe this time Covid will not scare us,” Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the state minister for primary education, said in an interview. “I don’t accept that there is a lost generation. What I agree to is there’s a percentage of our children who have gotten pregnant, the young boys have gotten into the moneymaking economy and others have gone into things. That does not mean that we have lost the generation completely.”

Ethopian civil war rages on

The contest between the Ethiopian central government and Tigray separatists is showing no signs of easing up anytime soon. The Ethiopian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy, continuing to launch military offensives against people living in Tigray, the country’s northernmost region. The year-long conflict between federal government troops and Tigrayan forces has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 2.5 million people according to the UN. According to the leadership of Ethiopia, they are laying the groundwork for a national conversation but there’s very scant proof of their commitment to the process with officials saying that any peace talks would exclude Tigrayan leaders and the Oromo Liberation Army, both of which have been fighting the Ethiopian national army and declared terrorist organisations by the East African nation. 

The plight of the Tigrayan population has prompted the Norwegian Nobel Committee, who bestowed Ahmed Abiy with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, to call on him to end the war and allow humanitarian efforts to reach the war-torn region, saying that he has a responsibility to bring peace to the country. “As prime minister and peace prize laureate, Abiy Ahmed has a special responsibility to end the conflict and contribute to making peace,” the Nobel committee chairperson, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said. “The humanitarian situation is dire and it’s unacceptable that humanitarian aid is not getting through in a sufficient manner.”

Meanwhile, the UN has warned that Tigray stands on the brink of a humanitarian crisis as fighting escalates and drone strikes continue. The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday that it would be distributing its last supplies of cereals, pulses and oil next week to Tigray, where more than 5 million people are estimated to be in need of food assistance while reports indicate that more than 100 civilians have died from the airstrikes in the region in 2022 alone. Aid workers have also roundly criticised the government’s blockade, interpreting it as revenge against all Tigrayans. “The big threat there is the Ethiopian government’s blockade of humanitarian assistance that is desperately needed by millions of people in the region, “Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said. “This is a classic case of collective punishment. This is not punishing Tigrayan military forces. It is punishing the people in Tigray.”

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