What’s Going On: Protests In Sudan, Crisis 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.

Pro-democracy demonstrations in Sudan

Since 2019, Sudan’s political seat has been under heavy contestation. In August of that year, military and civilian leaders began sharing power after Sudan’s long-term authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown. Although Bashir’s tyrannical rule was put to an end by the military, protests from civilians at the time resulted in a plan to negotiate a democratic government for the country through the Sovereign Council. However, as the years have gone by, the tension between both sides has only worsened with each proponent believing that the other is in a tussle for power.

Military leaders in the transitional government have demanded reforms from their civilian counterparts and called for the cabinet to be replaced. This was dismissed as a power grab by civilian leaders. Since then, pro-democracy protesters and pro-military protesters have swarmed the countries busiest streets demanding for their voices to be heard. Recently, the head of the Sovereign Council, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has given a speech announcing a state of emergency and dissolving both the cabinet and the council. The civilian Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, remains under house arrest and is facing pressure from the military to co-operate with them.

In a response to last month’s coup, pro-democracy protesters swarmed Khartoum, the country’s capital and its twin city of Omdurman, Wad Madani to the south, and the northern city of Atbara, where they were tear-gassed by Sudanese security forces. The teachers’ rally came after the military replaced heads of departments at the education ministry, as part of sweeping changes it made in multiple sectors. Since the coup, led by Sudan’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, mediation efforts involving the UN have sought the release of detainees and a return to power-sharing, but sources from the ousted government say those efforts have stalled. Western governments have also stalled economic assistance to Sudan and will continue to hold relief until there is a return to democratic power.

Crisis in Ethiopia

In the last eleven months and counting, the Ethiopian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy, has been persecuting people living in Tigray, the country’s northernmost region bordering Eritrea. The yearlong conflict between federal government troops and Tigrayan forces has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 2.5 million people. The UN has said up to 7 million people in the regions of Tigray, Amhara, and afar need help, including 5 million in Tigray where some 400,000 people are estimated to be living in famine-like conditions.

The government declared a six-month state of emergency on Tuesday, days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and authorities in Addis Ababa told Ethiopians to take up arms to defend their neighborhoods against the Tigray Defence Forces, an amalgamation of forces from the region’s former ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front and other rebel groups. To counter this, on Friday, nine anti-government groups in the country announced the formation of an alliance called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces, with a view to overthrowing the government. The new bloc said in a signing event in Washington, DC, that it no longer recognized Abiy’s government as legitimate and would seek to establish transitional arrangements, striving toward a democratic future.

Now, diplomats and regional leaders are now scrambling to bring the warring parties to the table as fears grow over the possible collapse of Africa’s second-most populous nation.

Deadly attack in Niger

Last Thursday, gunmen killed 69 people including a mayor in an attack in a remote area of southwest Niger, the interior minister said on Thursday, part of a wave of violence against civilians that has swept the country this year. A delegation led by the mayor of Banibangou was ambushed on Tuesday about 50 km (30 miles) from the town, near the border with Mali. The area is overrun by militants associated with a local affiliate of Islamic State that has killed hundreds of civilians in rural communities this year.
Fifteen people survived and a search operation was underway, Interior Minister Alkache Alhada said on state television. As of today, no group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Not including Tuesday’s violence, Islamist groups have killed more than 530 people in attacks on civilians in the frontier regions of southwest Niger this year, over five times more than in all of 2020, according to data provided by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a consultancy which tracks political violence. The country’s government declared two days of mourning in response to the attacks.

Oil tank explosion in Sierra Leone

The state-run central morgue in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown has received 91 bodies as a result of a fuel tanker explosion that occurred in the early hours of Saturday. The explosion was caused when a fuel tanker collided with a lorry, which caused a fuel spillage that ignited and led to a huge explosion at one of the capital’s busiest junctions. The country’s Vice President has referred to the explosion as a national disaster.

Reports also state that the large death toll was caused by passersby in the area who began pillaging the spilt oil once the accident occurred in Freetown. Rather than call for help or assist those caught in the damage, many on ground at the scene began collecting the leaking oil, leading to built up traffic at the junction. By the time the explosion was underway, it was difficult to evacuate the premises and many were caught in the deadly explosion.

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