While the COVID-19 was morphing from an epidemic into a catastrophic global pandemic, captivating the global news, a diplomatic confrontation is unfolding in the horn of Africa between Somalia and Kenya.
On 2 March, fighting between the Somali National Army (SNA) and the regional Jubaland paramilitary forces erupted in the border town of Beled Hawo killing 21 combatants on both sides and civilians. The fighting in Beled Hawo spilled across into Kenya’s territory as the SNA pursued the retreading Jubaland paramilitaries into the Kenyan border town of Mandera. On 4 March, Kenya accused Somalia of ‘‘unwarranted attack’’ on its territory as the two East African nations traded accusations of internal political interference.
To understand the crisis in the Mandera triangle – a converging point of Somalia’s, Kenya’s and Ethiopia’s borders and the towns of Beled Hawo, Mandera and Suuf on each side of the borders, respectively – one has to grasp the intricacies of the horn’s new geopolitical reconfigurations, Villa Somalia’s long-term political agenda and Kenya’s geopolitical anxieties and concerns of Ethiopia’s increasing influence in Somalia.
Somalia’s governance model confusion
After nearly 30 years-long intra-tribal and warlords-based civil war, now, Somalia seems to be descending into a looming intra-federal states and central government military confrontations. The recent fighting in Beled Hawa between the SNA and a regional paramilitaries signal the commencement of a new civil war in the country – unless quickly resolved.
At the root of this violence lie confusions on which governance model suites Somalia best and its interests. Federal member states (FMS) like Jubaland and Puntland, coupled with their political and ideological difference with the Federal government of Somalia (FGS), envision a loosely connected federal system where federal member states have more powers as the central federal state a la a Swiss confederacy model. Contrary to this, the current administration of President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘‘Farmajo’’, with its nationalist and centralist tendencies conceives a ‘strong’ Somali state with a relatively autonomous and subordinate regional states.
The current governance model crisis in Somalia is also compounded by the slow constitutional review process which would have stipulated clearly the division of powers between the FGS and its constituent FMS.
Furthermore, the Somali governance model crisis also took a geopolitical dimension: neighbouring countries and Gulf States have been courting federal member states hence by-passing the central government. The Current administration’s siding with Qatar and a strong diplomatic relation with Turkey has worried Gulf powers. This has created a situation where FMS with the implicit support of Gulf powers and neighbouring countries challenge the central government.
Villa Somalia’s political end-game
Since the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘‘Farmajo’’ in 2017, a more assertive and centralist policies laden with Somali nationalism rhetoric has been observed in Mogadishu. In a speech while on a visit to Kenya delivered in the Somali embassy in Nairobi, the president lamented that Somalis are tired of political chaos, disintegration and accused some leaders of the federal member states of being unpatriotic and treasonous.
In its effort for recentralisation the central federal government had influenced the regional elections in Konfur Galbeed state and Galmugud state and got elected in both states leaders who were allied to the central federal government.
Furthermore, the ascent to power by Abiy Ahmed in 2018 in Ethiopia seems to have favoured the current administration in Mogadishu. In Abiy Ahmed, President Farmajo had found an ally who made sure that Ethiopia only engages with the FGS in Mogadishu. This has created the perception in the Somali public that Ethiopia has ceased interfering in Somali politics. The new-found close relations between Somalia and Ethiopia had worried Kenya which sees the bordering Jubaland state of Somalia as a buffer zone against the terror group Al-Shabab and as its sphere of influence. Prof. Peter Kagwanja observed that with Abiy Ahmed in power in Ethiopia and President Farmajo’s centralist and Somali nationalist tendencies, a new Somali-Oromo ‘‘cushitic allience’’ is emerging in the horn that will put in risk Kenya’s geopolitical interest.
More crucially, with elections in the corner in Somalia in 2020/21, Mogadishu is flexing its powers over what it considers rogue federal member states. After two days of fighting in Dhusamareeb, the capital of Galmudug state, the leaders of the armed sufi group Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jamaa (ASWJ) surrendered and were detained by the Somali army on 29 February.
Then, the central federal government turned its gaze on Jubaland state and its leader Ahmed Mohamed Islam ‘‘Madobe’’, a close ally of Kenya. Madobe got himself re-elected as the president of Jubaland state last year in an election the FGS refused to recognize. In a show of support his inauguration was attended by some Kenyan members of parliament spear-headed by Majority leader Adan Duale Barre. Amid an exchange of internal political interference accusations between Kenya and Somalia, the first shots were fired in Beled Hawo, Somalia and spread into Mandera, Kenya. Furthermore, Abdirashid Janan, a fugitive Jubaland warlord with an arrest warrant from the Federal government resided and mobilised his Jubaland paramilitaries from Mandera, Kenya with the displeasure of Mogadishu.
Time for de-escalation, dialogue and cooperation
Diplomatic relations between Kenya and Somalia have reached their lowest point this year. Amid an increase in terror attacks by Al-Shabab in both Somalia and Kenya’s North-Eastern region, both nations have to de-escalate diplomatic tensions and cooperate closely in security matters.
On 9 March, President Uhuru Kenyatta sent his interior minister Fred Matiangi to Mogadishu in an effort to de-escalate tensions with Somalia. This is a step in the right direction. The interior minister also travelled to Addis Ababa in a bid to iron out conflicting geopolitical interests with Ethiopia.
Finally, Somalia needs to have a constitutional review process before the elections on how to peacefully and efficiently institute and implement its federal system. While the Somali state in the Weberian sense, has a right to violence and coercion within its territory, nevertheless, regional states like Puntland and Jubaland are armed to the teeth and a violent confrontation would be a recipe for a new civil war. With Al-Shabab still terrorizing Somalis, Villa Somalia has to mobilize its meagre military resources against the terror group and employ internal diplomacy channels to engage and reconcile with regional states. Dialogue is paramount for Somali politics at this moment.
African Union’s Inaction on Ethiopia Deplorable – Open Letter
A group of African intellectuals says in an open letter that it is appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. The letter, signed by 58 people, says the African Union’s lack of effective engagement in the crisis is deplorable. The letter calls on regional bloc IGAD and the AU to “proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict”.
The letter also asks for “all possible political support” for the AU’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, whose appointment was announced on August 26, 2021. A United Nations Security Council meeting on the same day welcomed the former Nigerian president’s appointment.
Earlier in August 2021, UN chief Antonio Guterres appealed for a ceasefire, unrestricted aid access and an Ethiopian-led political dialogue. He told the council these steps were essential to preserve Ethiopia’s unity and the stability of the region and to ease the humanitarian crisis. He said that he had been in close contact with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and had received a letter from the leader of the Tigray region in response to his appeal. “The UN is ready to work together with the African Union and other key partners to support such a dialogue,” he said.
August 26, 2021 was only the second time during the conflict that the council held a public meeting to discuss the situation. Britain, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the United States requested the session.
Fighting between the national government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front broke out in November 2020, leaving millions facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the United Nations. Both sides have been accused of atrocities.
Africa: The G20 Must Recommit to Covax
It is one year since the international community gave its backing to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility to lead a worldwide effort to end the acute phase of the pandemic. The initiative aimed to ensure that every country, and not just those with sufficient money or resources, could access life-saving vaccines once they became available. As G20 health ministers prepare to meet in Rome on September 5-6, they are in a position to ensure that COVAX fulfills its mission.
A year ago, no one knew when or even if it might be possible to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, let alone the 20 that are available today. But since making its first international deliveries in February, COVAX a partnership established by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has delivered more than 235 million vaccine doses to 139 countries, and expects to deliver another billion doses in the fourth quarter. Only China, India, and the United States have delivered more. This start to the largest and most complex vaccine rollout in history has given hope to millions of people and laid solid foundations for how we respond to future pandemics.
Yet, so much more could, and should, have been achieved by now. It is unacceptable that only 1.8% of people in low-income countries have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 82% in high- and upper-middle-income countries. This shocking inequality is as economically senseless as it is destructive to human life, with the latest estimate of the cost of the slow rollout amounting to $2.3 trillion.
The world was woefully unprepared for a pandemic, and this is reflected in the challenges COVAX has faced. By the time initial funding arrived, wealthy countries had already locked up early vaccine supplies. Export bans affecting key suppliers, and difficulties experienced by many manufacturers in scaling up production to the required level, also undermined COVAX’s ability to access doses early.
Given increasing global vaccine inequity and the rise of new, more contagious coronavirus variants, we must put these challenges behind us. Thanks to the support of almost all G20 governments, alongside that of foundations and private businesses, COVAX has now raised nearly $10 billion and secured more than 600 million donated doses. All the preparations are in place for the most comprehensive vaccination effort that the world has seen.
Based on the committed orders COVAX has placed with vaccine manufacturers and the additional donations, hundreds of millions of new doses should now be available each month. We need to make sure they reach poorer countries and get into people’s arms. To avoid further delays, and for the facility to succeed, we need support from G20 leaders in four key areas.
First, we need doses, and we need them now. The premise of COVAX was always that the facility should be able to negotiate and buy its own doses. With our early vaccine access compromised, donations have played a vital role in maintaining our ability to keep doses flowing to those most in need. Of the 600 million doses pledged to COVAX to date, 100 million have now been delivered. We need more, and soon, with longer shelf lives and greater certainty so that recipient countries have time to plan their rollout. This can be achieved without jeopardizing high-income countries’ national vaccination efforts.
We also need G20 leaders to support our call for transparency. COVAX has legally binding agreements with manufacturers for more than four billion doses, but has all too often faced delays in accessing them. Without greater clarity regarding firms’ order books, it is impossible to know whether these holdups are due to production challenges or preferential treatment for bilateral arrangements. Insisting that manufacturers are transparent about their order timelines can ensure a level playing field where no one particularly those living in developing countries gets bumped to the back of the vaccine queue because of another bilateral deal.
In addition to ensuring that manufacturers keep their commitment to COVAX, governments should make global vaccine access their highest priority. Countries with pending orders for doses that they currently do not need should allow COVAX to take their place in the queue so that we can get doses to needy countries now.
Finally, lower-income countries require continued financial and technical support for their COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Strengthening national health systems will help these countries to ensure delivery of doses and mitigate the pandemic’s secondary effects, and will leave in place infrastructure critical to future global health security.
By recommitting to COVAX, G20 leaders will recommit to a multilateral solution that builds on the astounding scientific progress of the past year. Based on COVAX’s latest forthcoming supply forecast, when topped up with doses through bilateral deals, equitable COVID-19 vaccine access can protect up to 60% of the adult population in 91 lower-income countries. This would represent a huge step toward the WHO target of 70%, which is needed to suppress the coronavirus everywhere, and COVAX represents the best opportunity to achieve it.
Failure would mean more lives lost, broken health-care systems, even deadlier and more transmissible variants, and a pandemic with no end in sight. The G20 must not allow that to be an option.
More African Countries Register Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine
Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is a specialized technical institution of the African Union (AU) that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.
During the outbreak of the coronavirus, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), was established by African Union, as a component in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy and was endorsed by the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government on 20th of August 2020.
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has emphasized: “Africa has to team up with development partners to achieve its 60% continent-wide vaccination in the next two years. I think that is why we should as a collective of the continent, and of course, in partnership with the developed world make sure that Africa has a timely access to vaccines to meet our vaccination targets.”
An official media release in February 2021, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team from the African Union (AU) informed that Russia would supply and deliver 300 million Sputnik V vaccines to Africa. That step was intended to support African countries to attain their targeted immunization of 60% of the population by the year-end. That vaccine story disappeared, but instead what become so common is the speedy registration of Sputnik V on bilateral basis in various African countries.
According to the latest, Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. The use of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has been approved in Nigeria, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in an official statement.
“The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) announces the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control of Nigeria (NAFDAC). Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. Total population of all countries, where Sputnik V is approved for use, now exceeds 3.7 billion people, which is nearly half of the global population,” the statement said.
“Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and the approval of Sputnik V will provide for using one of the safest and most effective vaccines in the world. Sputnik V is based on a proven human adenoviral vectors platform and is successfully used in over 50 countries. Approval in Nigeria will make an important contribution to the country’s fight against the pandemic,” CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said.
Besides Nigeria, other African countries have registered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Reportedly, the vaccine has been registered in Algeria, Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Tunisia, the Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.
Russia’s drive to share Sputnik V vaccine, of course, offers a chance to raise its image and strengthen alliances in Africa. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has made efforts promoting the vaccine using all its channels. But supply and delivery have largely lagged behind, the pledges have simply not been fulfilled. Russian authorities have oftentimes said that they would step up efforts for fruitful cooperation in combating coronavirus in Africa.
Promising more than can be delivered appears to be a universal problem with coronavirus vaccines, and it is a real risk for Russia as well, said Theresa Fallon, Director of the Brussels-based Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies. “They have won the gold medal for creating this very effective vaccine,” she said. “But the problem is how are they going to implement production and delivery?”
Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), with profit motivation, has attempted supplying the Russian vaccines through, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, from the Monarch family and a third party in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to a number of African countries. For instance, the Republic of Ghana reportedly signed US$64.6 million contract for Sputnik V vaccine from Russia through Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum. It was double the price from the producer as reported in the media.
On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted, in a speech early September, that advanced countries that produce vaccines against the coronavirus do little to protect humanity from the pandemic.
“The benefits of vaccination are enjoyed mostly by advanced economies. The bulk of the vaccines is made there, and it is used to protect their own population. But very little is being done to protect humanity in the broad sense,” Putin said at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, the Far East of Russia. “This is very bad for the producers, because all this boomerangs around the globe. For instance, in Africa the level of protection with vaccines is minimal, but contacts with the African countries continue. There is no getting away from this. This infection will return again and again.”
According to an official release obtained late February, the Sputnik V vaccine the following advantages:
• Efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6% as confirmed by the data published in the Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals; It is one of only three vaccines in the world with efficacy of over 90%; Sputnik V provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19.
• The Sputnik V vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors, which cause the common cold and have been around for thousands of years.
• Sputnik V uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots.
• The safety, efficacy and lack of negative long-term effects of adenoviral vaccines have been proven by more than 250 clinical studies over two decades.
• The developers of the Sputnik V vaccine are working collaboratively with AstraZeneca on a joint clinical trial to improve the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine.
• There are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V.
• The price of Sputnik V is less than $10 per shot, making it affordable around the world.
In February, peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet published an analysis from Phase III clinical trial of the Russian vaccine, showing its 91.6-percent efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19. The Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
Sputnik V was registered in Russia on August 11, 2020 as the world’s first officially registered coronavirus vaccine. Russian vaccines have advantages as no deaths have been reported after vaccination with the Sputnik V, Alexander Gintsburg, Director of the Gamaleya Center, the vaccine developer, said and was reported by TASS News Agency. “As of today, no deaths after vaccination with Sputnik V have been registered,” he said.
Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund established in 2011 to make equity co-investments, primarily in Russia, alongside reputable international financial and strategic investors. RDIF acts as a catalyst for direct investment in the Russian economy. RDIF’s management is based in Moscow.
In Africa, during first of September, the coronavirus-related death toll has topped 196,190, while more than 6.9 million recoveries have been reported. South Africa accounts for a majority of coronavirus cases and deaths across Africa – 2,777,659 and 82,261 respectively. The death toll in Tunisia climbed to 23,451, and 664,034 cases have been confirmed. Egypt recorded 16,736 deaths and 288,441 coronavirus cases.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia is ranked second to South Africa (308,134 cases and 4,675 deaths) and is followed by Kenya (235,863 cases and 4,726 deaths) and Nigeria (191,805 and 2,455). The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached almost 8 million in Africa, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa.
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