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Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2012 (Source: World Economic Forum)

On Wednesday, October 28, the World Trade Organization picked Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister and a world-renowned economist and international development expert, as its next Director-General. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala amassed the broadest support among the 164 members of the WTO, making her the most likely candidate for this highly coveted position. As Dr. Okonjo-Iweala inched closer to making history as the first woman and the first African to be elected as the director of a global trade organization, the U.S. government is attempting to block her appointment. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative issued a statement saying it would back Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee for the Director-General position, asserting that the WTO must be led by “someone with real, hands-on experience in the field.”Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has a stellar track record in the field of economics of trade, having twice served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, and working in senior leadership positions at the World Bank for 25 years as a development economist. …


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#EndSARS protesters in Lagos on October 13 (Source: Kaizenify)

Over the past three weeks, the #EndSARS protests calling for an end to police brutality in Nigeria have taken the country by the storm. Last Tuesday, the protests turned deadly after Nigerian security forces opened fire on peaceful protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, an upscale suburb of Lagos, killing at least 12 people. An Instagram Live streamed by DJ Switch and watched by over 100,000 people showed viewers what was happening on the ground and videos taken during the incident immediately started flooding social media, with #LekkiMassacre trending on Twitter.

Nigerian youth galvanized social media to mobilize and spread awareness of the shooting at Lekki Gate. Within hours, advocacy groups like the Feminist Coalition and the EndSARS Response Unit redirected their efforts to setting up medical and legal aid funds, finding the whereabouts of missing protesters, and running hotlines to connect protesters to the resources they need. Nigerians were able to spread the word about the incident at Lekki Toll Gate, garnering immediate global attention. Across the world, solidarity marches and protests were held to stand with Nigerians and condemn the use of force on peaceful protesters. From world-renowned musicians to political leaders, the #EndSARS protests gripped the attention of everyone, amplifying the voice of Nigerian youth at such a critical moment. …


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Cartoon by Ndarama Assoumani

Africa currently has over 1.6 million COVID-19 cases and over 39,000 deaths. While these numbers are high, they do fall short of the grim predictions made by experts earlier this year when the pandemic began. Compared to the U.S. where there are currently over 8 million cases and over 218,000 deaths, Africa is doing much better. Africa has been praised for its fast and targeted action against COVID-19 and the tremendous leadership of national governments and regional organizations like the African Union and the Africa Center for Disease Control. …


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A boy and a woman struggle with the dusty wind looking for water in Wajir, Kenya. (Source: USAID)

Our world is experiencing crises like never before. Even ahead of the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, growing inequality, poverty, and conflict threatened peace and security worldwide. The rise of authoritarian regimes and the retreat of democracy in many countries created an environment for these threats to thrive. Perhaps the greatest danger to peace and security is climate change. This is not because climate change on its own does the most damage, but because it serves a threat-multiplier and a catalyst, exacerbating the pre-existing crises that already plague our world. …


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A U.S. Air Force Special aviator deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa rides in an HH-60G pavehawk helicopter during training conducted in East Africa (Source: AFRICOM)

The U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) is seeking authority to carry out drone strikes in Kenya, to target Al-Shabab fighters. This could permit AFRICOM “to expand the counterterrorism drone war” into Kenya. The latest news indicates that U.S. military operations are not likely to diminish anytime soon. While the U.S. military has claimed to have a “light” foot-print across the continent, its expansive counter-terrorism operations and the number of its military bases say otherwise. Currently, AFRICOM has 29 U.S. military bases across the continent and according to its website, it “counters transnational threats and malign actors, strengthens security forces” and works to “promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.” From drone strikes and surveillance to military training and arms sales, the U.S. military is heavily involved throughout the African continent, including in Somalia, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, and Cameroon, just to name a few. In Somalia, the U.S. …


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The Spanish Coastguard intercepts a traditional fishing boat carrying African migrants off the island of Tenerife in the Canaries (Source: UNHCR/ A. Rodriguez Flickr)

In the wake of the recent #BlackLivesMatter protests and the global pandemic, the plight of thousands of African migrants and refugees seems to be forgotten.

In places like Lebanon, where economic mismanagement, corruption and overspending has led to an economic crisis, African migrant workers are being abandoned in the most brutal manner as employers are unable to pay their wages due to the depreciation of the Lebanese pound. Ethiopian migrant workers, who make up the majority of domestic workers in Lebanon, are being left in the streets by their employers and forced to camp outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut with no money to return home. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), under the Kafala (sponsorship) system, “a migrant worker’s immigration status is legally bound to an individual employer or sponsor (kafeel) for their contract period. The migrant worker cannot enter the country, transfer employment nor leave the country for any reason without first obtaining explicit written permission from the kafeel.” The sponsorship system, therefore, allows thousands of African domestic workers to be exploited and abused, with no one to turn to for help. Kenyan domestic workers in Lebanon have not only reported exploitation and abuse at the hands of employers, but also at the hands of Kenya’s Honorary Consul, Sayed Chalouhi, and his assistant Kassem Jaber, both Lebanese nationals who oversee the Kenyan consulate in Beirut. In July, these allegations prompted the Kenyan government to send officials to Beirut to investigate. Abusive employers and incompetent consulates are not the only things African migrant workers have to deal with — some are trafficked and sold to others. In April, a Nigerian domestic worker in Lebanon was put up for sale for $1,000 on Facebook, after a man posted her passport in a “Buy and Sell” group. Fortunately, she was able to return home safely with the help of Lebanese authorities but this highlights the many others who are likely being trafficked and don’t get saved. …


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A woman votes at a polling station in West Freetown, Sierra Leone (Source: Travis Lupick)

In recent weeks, Mali made headlines as President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was ousted by a military junta on August 18, following weeks of protests calling for his resignation. Disputed elections, Islamist violence, corruption, and a struggling economy hard-it by insurgency and the COVID-19 pandemic were the reasons behind the turmoil in Mali, which eventually led to the coup d’état. As negotiations continue between ECOWAS and the military junta about the transition process, the question that is on everyone’s mind is when elections will take place to ensure the fragile country makes a peaceful transition to democracy.

Mali is not the only one preparing to hold decisive elections. In the next few months, 10 African countries are set to hold their presidential and parliamentary elections, and the stakes for ensuring the establishment of democratic governments are high. Among the countries set to hold their presidential elections are Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso. These countries showcase the diverse challenges leaders and their repressive regimes pose on the conduction of free and fair elections. In Côte d’Ivoire, President Alassane Outtara has announced that he will be seeking a third term, reigniting protests, which in recent weeks have turned violent. President Alpha Conde of Guinea has also announced his bid for a third term, despite protests from thousands of Guineans. The strong grip on power and the refusal to make room for others to lead is a phenomenon observed time and time again across Africa. Even when the opportunity to run against a diverse group of contenders arises, challenges to free and fair elections still remain. For instance, in Tanzania, President John Magufuli’s government is accused of repression of opposition parties, non-governmental organizations, and the media ahead of the country’s general elections on October 28. While it is encouraging that 14 candidates are challenging President Magufuli for the presidency, it is worrisome that there are allegations that the government has unfairly disqualified some candidates. There is also a worry among the opposition they might be locked out of the October elections and that their chance at running in a free and fair election could be jeopardized. Opposition parties and activists are not the only ones facing repression from governments looking to consolidate their power. Even citizens are now being robbed of the opportunity to make their vote count, as rising security concerns hinder their movement and their ability to travel to vote. …


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Protest for Amadou Diallo in front of the White House on 15 February 1999. (Source: Elvert Xavier Barnes Protest Photography)

Across the world, African and Caribbean immigrants have been subject to police brutality, modern day lynchings and white supremacist violence just like African Americans. In the United States specifically, Black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people and 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed compared to white people. In the United Kingdom, Black people make up only 3.3 percent of the population but experienced 12 percent of use-of-force incidents between 2017–18. In France, Black men (as well as Arab men) are 20 times more likely to be stopped compared to white men.

All three of the aforementioned countries have large African and Caribbean immigrant populations. Between 2010 and 2018, the sub-Saharan African population in the U.S. increased by 52 percent and the Caribbean population by 18 percent. According to the UK’s most recent census, Black British people account for 3.0 percent or 1,904,684 of the country’s population however over a million live in the Greater London area. And in France, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, around 3 million French nationals are of sub-Saharan African origin and the country also experienced its version of Windrush (post World War II immigration) of men and women from the French Caribbean islands, Guiana and Réunion. Although racial segregation and oppression did not occur in these countries the same way it did in the United States, both the U.K. …


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U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo (Source: Travels with the Secretary of State: Department of State)

Every two weeks or so, when it updates its data on U.S. government aid to fight the coronavirus overseas, the State Department claims that, “The United States Continues to Lead the Global Response to COVID-19.” Indeed that is the title given to each of its Fact Sheet Updates since late March 2020. But this is a false claim with consequences. For Africa it means that urgently needed assistance is not forthcoming from the United States. Moreover, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and deny resources to that crucial U.N. …


Morufat Bello, Research Fellow, Africa Program, Center for International Policy

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World Health Organization flag. U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers

On Friday, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. and its funding from the World Health Organization (WHO). Trump claims that the WHO “failed in its basic duty,” and accused it of “mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” Governments, medical experts and health organizations around the world continue to critique his move.

If successful in withdrawing from the WHO, it will be an addition to the long list of treaties and organizations the President has withdrawn from since he took office. …

About

Center for International Policy, Africa Program

The Center for International Policy Africa Program analyzes U.S. foreign policy toward the nations of Africa to promote greater positive U.S. engagement

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