Welcome to the Africa Foreign Policy Letter.
This week's highlights: Somalia cannot agree on an election date and why this is a sign of deep instability. Plus: A child soldier is sentenced as an adult in Uganda and how TikTok sparked a food trend for Fufu – a West African staple food.
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Standstill and uncertainty in Mogadishu
Somalis should have waited for the results of a national election this week. Instead, on February 8, the vote never took place because the country's heads of state and government could not agree on the basic rules for holding it. Failure to reach a compromise not only undermined the democratic process, but also made Somalia more vulnerable to security threats and regional rivalries.
Although President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed – widely known by the nickname Farmajo – assured citizens that there would be no power vacuum, he is unable to make promises. His term officially expired on Monday when the election was due to take place. While he may have had plans to remain as an interim leader, opposition leaders refuse to recognize him as president. Instead, an alliance of opposition parties is calling for a transitional government to be created.
Not so universal suffrage. It is not the first time Somalia has delayed this election. It was supposed to take place in November 2020, but in June last year the country's electoral commission delayed the vote on "significant technical and security challenges".
Perhaps even more frustrating for Somalis is the existing electoral system. The country has not directly elected a president since 1969. Instead, Somalia uses a localized version of the US electoral college. The elders of the clan select delegates for 51-member electoral colleges, who use a power-sharing formula to elect 275 members in the House of the People, while 54 members of the House of Lords are elected after the representation of the federal states. Both houses then elect the president from a list of several candidates vying for the position.
It's a complicated system that has excluded the vast majority of Somali citizens and should evolve into a more direct representative system in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these challenges and discouraged plans for a direct vote.
States within a state. This complicated electoral process is a response to a complex country where decades of civil conflict have created a shaky federal system. Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in the north, participates out of self-interest, as does Jubaland, which once had its own president.
Somaliland now functions as a de facto independent state on the world stage, although it does not formally exist as a country and Mogadishu does not recognize its independence. Kenya's decision last year to open a consulate in Somaliland's quasi-capital Hargeisa and to set up direct flights to the city from Kenya Airways resulted in Kenya and Somalia severing diplomatic ties.
The leaders of Puntland and Jubaland now refuse to recognize the incumbent, while Farmajo accuses them of failing to reach a compromise. The regions and central government ultimately disagreed on key processes, including those of the electoral commission – the independent body tasked with overseeing the already complex elections.
Safety vacuum. All of this is against the backdrop of the ongoing violence by al-Shabab. The Islamist fundamentalist group, which seeks to establish an independent state ruled by Sharia law, has carried out terrorist attacks across the country for years.
Al-Shabab regularly shakes Somalia's attempts at peace. In recent years it has bombed an ice cream parlor, sent a suicide bomber to a graduation ceremony, and killed dozens of civilians. To make themselves felt during the talks, the group organized a roadside explosion near the town where the leaders met on Sunday, killing at least a dozen intelligence officers.
February 15th: Schools in South Africa are set so that they can be opened again after a long COVID-19 lockdown
February 15-16: French President Emmanuel Macron will meet leaders of the G5 Sahel countries, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to discuss violence in the region.
February 17th: Libya marked ten years then rebels rose against it Muammar al-QaddafiRegime.
Vaccines as a public good. The European Union and the United States have opposed a proposal by South Africa and India to renounce intellectual property rights in vaccine technologies. Since October last year, the two countries have campaigned on behalf of other developing countries for the World Trade Organization to change the rules for trading vaccines so that more countries can manufacture them. The WTO has vaguely encouraged cooperation.
Condemn a child soldier. The International Criminal Court in The Hague found Dominic Ongwen, a commander of Lord & # 39; s Resistance Army, guilty of war crimes, human rights abuses and sexual offenses committed in Uganda. The court also dismissed Ongwen's defense that his own experience as a child soldier made him mentally incapable. As a boy, Ongwen was kidnapped and cared for by the guerrilla group to become the dreaded commander known as the "White Ant".
Thousands missing in Ethiopia. About 20,000 refugees are missing in the aftermath of the conflict in Tigray as a result of the chaos. The United Nations says it is unable to explain thousands of people, many of whom are Eritreans, who sought refuge in Ethiopia after two refugee camps were destroyed last November.
About 3,000 people made it to another camp, but others are feared kidnapped or dead. It might be difficult to find. Aid agencies reported this week that their buildings had been destroyed, and humanitarian workers say much of the area is inaccessible.
Civil investigation. Had it not been for the intrepid Kenyan nurse Margaret Ruto, American sex offender Gregory Dow might have gotten away with multiple crimes at an orphanage he and his wife founded in Kenya.
Dow was convicted last week in the US and sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. To clarify the case, Ruto carefully gathered evidence of multiple sexual assaults and alerted the local media and the FBI that a refugee lived freely near her home in Pennsylvania. The case has raised questions about how easy it is for foreigners claiming to be missionaries to build orphanages in African villages to exploit desperate poverty with little control.
Open the books in Nigeria. The Nigerian fintech start-up Carbon has published its financial data for the second time in a row. This may not raise eyebrows in Silicon Valley, but it is extraordinary among African startups. Few startups are willing to open their books for a number of reasons, especially in the early stages of funding – from avoiding a cynical investor scrutiny to avoiding outdated regulations.
Customers and observers have welcomed Carbon's transparency, and it doesn't hurt that the company's numbers show a profit. Nonetheless, carbon plays a long game. The fintech market in Africa is already overcrowded and competitive. Carbon made it clear that it should be much more than a payment system. The Dozie brothers' founders are building a digital bank that will serve a fledgling Nigerian market.
They already offer interest-free loans for young workers. Setting up a bank based on transparency in a country where financial and other data is notoriously opaque could be a welcome change.
#FufuChallenge: Thanks to a social media hashtag, the West African staple is finally getting the international recognition it deserves. The hashtag started in response to the latest online trend of derogatory videos in which mostly white TikTok users try and spit African food. However, the internet is a welcome compensation. West African social media users responded by posting their own videos and dipping fufu balls in delicious-looking soups and stews.
Fufu, made from cassava flour or other crushed vegetables, is eaten in West and Central Africa and parts of the Caribbean. The social media trend has not only counteracted food racism. It also introduced the food to new audiences. A Los Angeles foodie drove nearly 80 miles to the nearest Nigerian restaurant where she tried several soups of fufu. One TikToker went on and flew to Accra, Ghana to give it a try, where it also received a crash course to make its own.
The original Karen. In the now classic colonial nostalgia novel Out of Africa, the Danish writer Karen Blixen created an elitist image of Kenya that endures beyond the suburb of Nairobi that bears her name, writes Carey Baraka in The Drift. Blixen "drew on British ideas of the colonial African border," argues Baraka, "while conveniently erasing the violence of the empire, a paradox that saturates safari tourism in the broader sense."
Hoarding vaccines harms everyone. World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus published an essay in FP explaining why it is both immoral and scientifically unacceptable for 16 percent of the world's population to buy 60 percent of all available COVID-19 vaccine doses. When new varieties emerge, “Vaccine nationalism is not just morally defensible. It is epidemiologically self-destructive and clinically counterproductive, ”he wrote, pleading for an increase in production and dispensing with barriers to intellectual property in order to overcome the“ artificial scarcity ”.
The Nigerian worker hero became the villain. In Africa Is a Country, union leader Kunle Wizeman Ajayi traces Adams Oshiomhole's rise from factory administrator to governor and how his shift from defending workers to repressing them represents the failure of the Nigerian labor movement as a whole.
That's it for this week.
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