Unexpected Violent and drastic outbreaks that the Republic of Mali has seen for several decades, but the current unrest of the economic crisis and social constraints brought the state of affairs into a setting of confusion due to the lack of a political vision that would pull Bamako out of instability, which created a space for an internal coup d’état, which was officially realized a few days ago after a rebellion led it Military launched from the capital.
Yet, After the results of the legislative elections in Mali were announced, opposition voices manifested calling for the return of national elections in some regions and rejecting the decisions of the Constitutional Court, particularly the electoral district of the President of the Malian National Assembly. though, the Parliament, which proofed major violations, according to the opposition.
Although these events that followed by the international community have forged a comprehensive concern in the region, the military coup was met with global condemnations that called mainly for the return of military soldiers to their bases and rejecting regime change outside the legal framework. It is a position that the Kingdom of Morocco shares through its adherence to responsible dialogue and respect for the constitutional order, according to what was declared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Accordingly, the current assertion of Moroccan diplomacy indicates the intense efforts that Rabat has led over the past years to enhance the economic and social standard of life in Mali. For sure, it is necessary to point out the great virtue of two African -states Morocco and Mali -under the strategic friendship of which both states relations of comprehensive coordination and strategic partnership have known regionally and continentally. This is characterized by the highest degree of mutual trust by frequent royal visits, on one hand, the highest level of interaction and intimacy consensus on the second.
In light of the regional reality where the Kingdom of Moroccan upholds national stability in Mali reflects the kingdom’s stance since there have existed strong Islamic, cultural, and historical traditions of friendship and solidarity in support of the African neighbors for peace, freedom and interstate security.
In this regard, Scholars and Experts on African studies as Mohamed Benhamou, a researcher in international relations, noted, “the Kingdom of Morocco has always – and still is – collaborated positively with African issues that would ensure the unity of the African sovereignty particularly Malian soil, given the state of instability for many years ago. He also added, that “what is going on in Mali is unconstitutional move and cannot be accepted, especially since the power took over by the military and resorting to illegal framework is not recognized by African Union states or even international organizations, notably within the African continent.”
Due to this, Morocco’s stance on the resignation of former Malian’s President Ibrahim Keita is rationally unexpected as a good confidant of Mali, Morocco appreciates the efforts of different parties in Mali to accurately undertake the current issue towards dialogue and compromise within the legitimate approach with a view to the long-term and component interests of the nation. The kingdom of Morocco regards the Malian people are suited for maintaining political peace stability and national security development. Behind this soft support is that Kingdom of Morocco denying to any superpowers’ intervention with the interstate affairs of Mali. For instance, Morocco points out that only the Malian people who will govern their political situation and other states will not be set aside to govern the future of Malian’s politics.
Though, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Republic of Mali have maintained friendly relations for a long time. Both states have stood the proving of time and ever-changing international landscape. In current years, the strategic cooperation in several domains between the two sides have frequently pushed on and brought substantial outcomes to each other. Rabat highly values its interrelations with West African Mali and stands ready to cooperate with all parties of the Republic of Mali to enhance Morocco-Mali friendship and across-the-board partnership. For example, In the Economic and market trading perspective, the total volume between the two states has reached 850.5 million dirhams in 2016, making Mali the 19th largest African supplier to the Kingdom of Morocco (39.3 million dirhams) and its 10th largest customer (811.2 million dirhams). Moreover, the Moroccans are aware that the stability and development of the Republic of Mali would serve the local people’s benefits and are the shared aspiration of the African and global communities.
As we all know, the kingdom of Morocco has indeed appreciated personal friendship with Ibrahim Keita. Even though it is reported that the Moroccan parties’ leaders and African Studies experts are a little bit displeased about Keita’s misleading of Mali’s economic policy which led to rampant corruption, the Kingdom of Morocco hopes the Republic of Mali to maintain stability and security without any anarchy. After all, Ibrahim Keita stays seen as making a significant contribution to Mali’s national Assembly and Party Rally for Mali (RPM). He is also an active advocate and promoter of the Pan-African movement.
Given this, the Kingdom of Morocco has surely kept his promise to Mali during this crisis and as well as to the African society. Despite its economics looks not solid as expected. Morocco’s policy through Africa is of a long-term strategic approach. Thus, Morocco has maintained on three aspects in terms of crisis management in West Africa mostly and in the Republic of Mali this time. First of all, Rabat calls to all parties of Mali that they should put aside the group’s interest to seek a peaceful and suitable settlement of the proper issue under the legal perspective and in light of Mali’s national stability and social order. Indeed, this is the consent among the social elites and the regular citizens as well throughout the state. Secondly, the Kingdom of Morocco has a large number of investments in the Republic of Mali which has the potentials to be one of the most promising economies and growing countries in Africa. By 2015, Morocco had invested nearly 100 MAD million, more or less than many other FDI sources, into the Republic of Mali. Recently, Moroccan enterprises and financial banking firms in Mali are the most dominant one among Arab or North African firms. Third, The Kingdom of Morocco has normally taken a favorable policy through Mali, and their partnership is mutual and profitable to both countries. Because of this, Morocco quests forwards to unifying the further strategic cooperation with the Republic of Mail in line with the principle of social equality, win-win situation, and shared outcomes no matter who takes power in Mali.
Yes, president Ibrahim Keita is displaced finally. But West Africa‘s growing showing to Morocco has led to big exports to the Kingdom and have enhanced promote economic growth on the continent. The doctrine of the new strategic cooperation has advanced secured Morocco-Mali relations and centralized Morocco’s responsibility to mutual economic incentive policy through the Republic of Mali. It is generally noted that just one week ago before Keita was advised to step-down, by the commander of the Forces Armées Maliennes.
In sum, African diplomacy is a component process based on dialogue, friendship, and compromise. Morocco and the Republic of Mali have shaped their strategic relations in a positive sense due to their long-term perspectives. Thus, their cooperation in West Africa would be more motivated and pragmatic. Yet, Let’s see how the leadership and legacy in Morocco react to their African brother’s needs in Mali taking a new chapter into the national reform and international openness transparency.
Russia-Africa relations: The Way Forward
Russia is working consistently on strengthening multifaceted relations with Africa despite the numerous challenges. After the first Russia-Africa summit held in Sochi, authorities have been moving to build on this new page in the history of Russia’srelations, based on shared values and interests, with African countries. Within the framework of the joint declaration adopted in Sochi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation created a Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum.
On May 18, Deputy Director of the Department of Africa at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Oleg Borisovich Ozerov, was appointed Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum. He is a diplomat with extensive experience at the Foreign Ministry, including with Arab and African countries. In 2010-2017, he was Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and in 2011-2017, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
In this interview with Modern Diplomacy, Oleg Borisovich Ozerov, Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, talks about the primary tasks of the Secretariat, current efforts at supporting Russian companies to work in Africa and the way forward with Russia-African relations. Here are the interview excerpts:
Q: Why it has become important, in the first place, to create the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation?
A: In October 2019 Sochi hosted the first ever Russia-Africa Summit, ushering in a new era in the history of Russian-African cooperation. The outcomes of this event are evident in its final declaration. The first few points in the document outline decisions made by the event’s participants concerning the establishment of a Russia-Africa Partnership Forum as the Summit’s supreme body. It also stipulates that annual political consultations will be held between the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and African States acting as the present, former and future presidents of the African Union.
There needs to be coordinated action between Russian government bodies and economic actors. This is to ensure that the decisions reached at the previous Summit can be implemented, preparations for the next high-level Russian-African meeting made, and diplomatic support provided for communicating with the African Union and government bodies in Africa which oversee foreign policy. This need for coordinated action has led to the establishment of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Incidentally, one of its key objectives will be to organize and conduct the aforementioned political consultations. The first round of these consultations was held in July of this year.
Q: The Secretariat has already held a few meetings. Could you please talk about some of the decisions that have been taken with regards to strengthening cooperation with Africa?
A: I would like to make a small correction. On 9 September this year, Moscow hosted the official presentation of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat and the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States.
The senior management of the Secretariat’s working bodies were presented at this event. These included the heads of the coordinating council, research council, public council, and the working media group. These people are, respectively, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Roscongress Foundation Alexander Stuglev, Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Irina Abramova, Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Yevgeny Primakov, and Director General of TASS Sergey Mikhailov.
The first meeting of the coordinating council is planned for October this year. The research and public councils should meet accordingly shortly afterwards. Draft resolutions concerning the work of the Secretariat will be discussed at the aforementioned meetings, and the media will be informed of the outcomes in due course.
Q: Is it possible to discuss the roles of the three created councils (business, research and public) that were created during the meeting of 9 September?
A: The decision to set up the councils was taken much earlier, as the concept for the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat was being drawn up, which was established, as we know, in June this year. The Secretariat does not have a business council. Issues regarding coordination between federal government bodies and the business sector come under the remit of the coordinating council.
The Association of Economic Cooperation with African States also performs the role of a business council, and operates in close collaboration with the Secretariat. All the three councils are staffed by highly qualified professionals. They include people specializing in international relations, economics and finance, science, business, society and the media, who provide expert support for the Secretariat’s operations.
Q: In your objective view, is there a lot of potential in terms of increasing trade and economic cooperation between the African continent and Russia?
A: Speaking to the press at the end of the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin noted that in 2018 Russia’s trade with African states exceeded US$20 billion. As pointed out by the Head of State, “It is absolutely feasible to reach higher, and bring the value of trade to, at least, US$40 billion over the next few years.”
The official figures to come out of the Sochi Summit pay testament to the enormous potential of economic relations between Russia and Africa. Of particular note is the fact that delegations from 54 African nations took part in the event. Of these, 45 were led by Heads of State and Government. The Summit was also attended by the heads of eight regional organizations in Africa, 109 foreign ministers, and two vice presidents.
The Russia-Africa Economic Forum, which took place alongside the Summit, was attended by more than 6,000 participants from 104 countries and territories. These included more than 1,100 foreign business leaders, 1,400 Russian business leaders, and 2,200 members of official delegations from Russia and abroad. Ninety-two agreements, contracts, and memoranda of understanding were signed worth a total of more than RUB 1 trillion.
I would say that when organizing and holding the next high-level Russian-African meeting, one of the main objectives will be to further reinforce the powerful momentum built up in Sochi in 2019 in terms of economic collaboration between Russia and African countries. We are now enjoying comprehensive and enduring collaboration which is founded on long-term programmes.
Q: Doing business is not easy in Africa, but what kind of approach do you envisage adopting when it comes to dealing with such issues?
A: We see our mission as uniting economic operators from Russia and Africa, and facilitating the sharing of information between them. We also aim to ensure there is political and diplomatic support for Russian businesses in African countries. The Secretariat will work in close collaboration with the aforementioned Association of Economic Cooperation with African States.
We enjoy robust ties and have established communications with relevant Russian ministries and government bodies responsible for foreign trade, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Coordinating Committee on Economic Cooperation with Sub-Saharan Africa (AfroCom) and many other organizations.
The task before us is to coordinate the actions of all stakeholders with the aim of effectively promoting Russia’s economic interests in Africa and to foster mutually beneficial cooperation with African nations.
Q: Apart from corporate business at the state level, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has spoken about developing medium-sized enterprises. Is this part of your plan?
A: Small and medium-sized enterprises have already been using the AfroCom platform to work together with African countries for a long time. Incidentally, this organization is planning to soon join the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States. Our embassies’ consular departments and trade missions – where they exist – are also providing assistance to small and medium-sized Russian businesses. They are helping them to find partners in African countries and to establish business ties.
In accordance with the decisions made at the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit, we will also help build partnerships for small and medium-sized businesses, and help them to be more active and effective. The plans and strategies, which will be employed to achieve this, will be discussed at the first meeting of the coordinating council this October, as well as at other events.
Q: Looking at current developments and other active foreign players on the African continent, what do you see as the key challenges there?
A: In terms of intensifying economic collaboration between Russia and African countries, we need to anticipate the technical aspects of having Russian businesspeople, firms, and companies do business on the African continent. In particular, this means looking at transport accessibility (by air and sea), processes and forms related to mutual settlements, making payments, investment, providing loans, hedging risk, providing legal services and insurance, etc. Work on these aspects must be done immediately, in parallel with work on organizing the next Summit.
That said however, the current coronavirus pandemic is causing considerable difficulties, at the moment. It is affecting international travel and is hindering economic activity across the board, including in African countries.
In terms of competing with other countries on the continent, we are counting on building relations between Russian firms and companies in such a way as to create a sense of camaraderie and solidarity when it comes to withstanding foreign competitors on the African market. This will be another area of focus for the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States as it works in close collaboration with the Secretariat.
Q: Why do you think Russia’s soft power is not what it was during the days of the Soviet Union?
A: I cannot say I fully agree with that statement. There are numerous examples of how Russia has achieved notable success through soft power. I would like to particularly draw attention to the fantastic work being done by the Russian news channel Russia Today, under Margarita Simonyan’s leadership. And I cannot ignore the fact that in many African countries, a number of important roles within the African Union and a host of other regional organizations are staffed by graduates of Soviet and Russian universities. This says a great deal about the nature of Russian-African partnership. And there is still a high degree of interest among African people in studying in the Russian Federation.
I am also aware that Rossotrudnichestvo (the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation) is working hard to make Russia’s humanitarian presence both more effective and more keenly felt abroad, including in African countries.
Q: What plans do you have in terms of developing cooperation in education, the media and culture over the next few years?
The final declaration of the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit includes an entire section on our collaboration in science, culture, education and social ties. Rossotrudnichestvo is the main body in Russia responsible for humanitarian cooperation, including with African states. At the next meeting of the public council, we intend to discuss this agenda in detail with Yevgeny Primakov, who heads the organization. This discussion will take place within the context of implementing the decisions of the Sochi Summit and working towards fulfilling associated objectives.
Nigeria’s Youth Face Growing Challenges
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It has approximately 210 million population. Nigeria has the third-largest youth population in the world, after China and India, with more than 90 million of its youth population under the age of eighteen. While this is considered as a huge human resource, the youth also face unprecedented challenges including growing unemployment and insecurity resulting from ethnic conflicts.
As Nigeria is persistently engulfed with so many challenges and problems, it requires systematic well-defined approach in order to overcome them and make way for peaceful and promising future for the youth. Retaining well-trained professionals has been identified as one of the goals of the government. The current situation still makes the future bleak for majority of them. Some say there is hope on the horizon, only if economic policies generate needed employment, youth policies backed by adequate funds by Federal Government of Nigeria.
In September, Kester Kenn Klomegah met with the former candidate of the Social Democratic Party (2019) for House of Representatives and now the President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, Hon. Emmanuel Zopmal, for an interview during which he talked about current situation, the challenges and the way forward. Here are the interview excerpts:
Q: Why the youth are showing increasing signs of frustration these few years especially those in middle belt of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
A: That is very interesting. I would say that frustration, in any way, is part of human life. It could come at any time. There are conditions that make someone to be under frustration. In this instance, harsh situation or condition one faces in life without sign of overcoming it. This makes a person frustrated. It usually comes with worry over certain particular situation.
In the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Middle Belt is a region that has been under immense pressure from politics and economy. Then the socio-cultural condition has also influenced our lives. The worse now is the high insecurity existing in the country. These factors are, indeed, contributing to the frustration perception we’re talking about here. You can imagine a society of people facing these forms of structural violence for these several years and there is no sign of overcoming these situations.
Q: In your objective assessment, what has contributed to the growing unemployment in the country, considered as the Giant of Africa?
A: Unemployment is an economic index. It can be relative in nature. People are employed in formal or informal economy. The extent to which people need to live an average life with an appreciable level of income that can provide for basic needs should be the major concern of unemployment index. Unemployment perception varies as well. For example, there are two categories, those in the public sector and those in private.
Growing unemployment index can be attributed to mismanagement of the economy. Economy of every country determines how the country is structured, administered and managed for the benefit of the broad majority of the population. Without this, a country will definitely face high unemployment rate.
Secondly, the system of education plays a role here, the most important aspects that contribute to unemployment perception index. Innovative education produces a high quality of graduates who can create jobs. The standard of education should not be conservative. Research and public policy on education help to get out of this problem often referred to as unemployment.
Frankly speaking, it is difficult to understand why Nigeria claims the Giant of Africa. Perhaps, this claim is only by its huge population. Besides that, Nigeria is not a Giant of Africa.
Q: What are your views about the policies of the Federal administration in addressing problems of the youth, especially young graduates?
A: If the government focuses on research and policy, it will help in addressing the problems of youth. Anyway, one cannot actually measure what are the real problems of the youth, especially young graduates. As earlier mentioned, programs such as innovative education will help graduates to overcome employment challenges. Of course, innovation comes through talent or through research. This development can bring changes in the status quo. People will have access to new ways of doing things that help their lives.
Q: Does the current constitution adequately guarantee youth’s welfare? What are the pitfalls in the implementation of aspects of the Constitution that connect or relate with youth?
A: Unfortunately, I look at welfare as benevolence. It makes the younger generation too dependent and unproductive since government provides their welfare. Youth empowerment should simply be a question of policy not constitution. Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution only provided policy, the issue of youth is not mentioned. It talks only about welfare of the “citizens” in the country. In my candid view, capacity of education and skillset of the youth should be the welfare package of our government.
Q: As former candidate of the Social Democratic Party (2019) for House of Representatives, do you still press for youth issues?
A: In the African context, I am still among the youth. Youth is my major constituency. As a former presidential candidate of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (2015), I had my youth policy programs as the key manifesto. I will continue to press for youth’s political participation, contemporary educational standard, skillset, and empowerment.
Q: And now as the President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, what do you consider as the main challenges and the way forward for the youth in Federal Republic of Nigeria?
A: At the moment, the future of our youth must be secured by curbing the ravaging insecurity in the country. With the current rampant insecurity, we cannot move forward. Secondly, the attitude of growing nepotism by government officials in public offices, this culture is bad for our youth. It has to be checked in order not to transfer it to the youth. Government has to take the youth as its national priority. Deliberate policy programs in technological advancement will open up the new horizon for the youth. The youth have to be fully engaged in meaningful activities.
South Sudan: Progress on peace agreement ‘limps along’
Although the transitional government in South Sudan continues to function, with state governors now appointed, among other developments, progress on the 2018 peace agreement “limps along”, the top UN official in the country told a virtual meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday.
David Shearer, head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), updated ambassadors on the country’s ongoing political and security situations, which are unfolding amid the COVID-19 pandemic and an upturn in inter-communal violence in Jonglei and other states.
“COVID-19 has slowed implementation of the peace agreement, including meeting key benchmarks, but the pandemic is not entirely to blame”, he said, speaking from the capital, Juba.
“We are seeing a reversion to ‘business as usual’ where progress on the peace agreement itself limps along.”
The peace agreement was the latest deal in efforts to end political infighting and violent conflict in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation.
The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but descended into chaos roughly two-and-a-half years later following an impasse between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar.
Progress ‘painfully slow’
Today, South Sudan now has five vice presidents who head clusters of ministries where activities are progressing well, according to Mr. Shearer.
“Elsewhere, however, progress has been painfully slow”, he reported. “Cabinet meetings occur irregularly, and the South Sudanese want to see the President and vice presidents meeting and working collectively.”
Meanwhile, there has been “almost no movement” on security sector reform, while the Transitional National Legislative Assembly has yet to be reconstituted, which is delaying progress on the Constitution.
Mr. Shearer said these continuing delays risk pushing elections out well beyond the timeline prescribed under the agreement, which will only add to the people’s growing disillusionment.
Inter-communal tensions remain high
The UN mission chief also briefed on the violence among Nuer, Murle and Dinka communities in Jonglei State over the past six months, which has left 600 people dead and homes torched, with women and children kidnapped. The situation has since calmed though tensions remain high. Mr. Shearer said a recent meeting among senior leaders, organized by UNMISS, was encouraging.
However, the mission was thwarted in attempts to deploy peacekeepers following attacks launched by the National Salvation Front armed group in areas of Central Equatoria state, which were met by heavy government fire.
“For the past three weeks, the usual mechanisms through which UNMISS coordinates its movement have seriously deteriorated. COVID-19 can be partly blamed but the influence of hardliners in the security forces is the principal obstacle,” he said.
Later in the meeting, South Sudanese activist and feminist, Nyachangkuoth Rambang Tai, shared her concerns about the ongoing inter-communal violence and the need for greater women’s participation in governance and peacebuilding.
She called on the international community to urgently support local civil society organizations, particularly those led by women.
“Another way to help address the cycle of violence is to ensure transitional justice is made a priority. We cannot except citizens who lost their loved ones, or whose loved ones have been killed, to forgive and move on without healing and accountability. This is unrealistic and will only encourage conflict,” said Ms. Tai, the Gender and Social Justice Manager with Assistance Missions for Africa.
Violence impacts humanitarians
Mr. Shearer outlined how South Sudan is faring in the wake of recent floods affecting some 500,000 citizens.
On Wednesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it is reaching vulnerable families with urgently needed assistance.
Aid workers have been striving to help communities impacted by the flood waters, as well as the violence, and now the pandemic. Sometimes they pay a heavy price, as Mr. Shearer pointed out.
“This year, seven aid workers have tragically lost their lives and another 144 have been evacuated because of sub-national violence”, he said.
“This meant an upturn in violence stemming from splintering between and within groups. The difference this year is that external political actors are fuelling these local conflicts with military advice and with heavy weapons.”
Millions in need
COVID-19 has only added to the ongoing suffering in South Sudan. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator reported that during the annual hunger season a few months back, some 6.5 million people, or more than half the population, faced severe food insecurity.
“Overall this year, 7.5 million people now need humanitarian assistance –and that’s close to levels in 2017 when we warned of famine”, Mark Lowcock told the Council. He added that some 1.3 million under-fives are forecasted to be malnourished: the highest figure in four years.
The UN relief chief urged ambassadors to fund a $1.9 billion response plan to meet the ever-growing needs.
Changes at POC sites
With the transitional government in place and a ceasefire holding, the UN Mission in South Sudan is looking at how to better support peace efforts and protect civilians.
More than 180,000 people are still living in Protection of Civilian (POC) sites at five UNMISS bases across the country, and Mr. Shearer said the conditions which led to their establishment no longer exist.
As a result, UNMISS has gradually withdrawn its troops and police from “static duties” at the Bor and Wau POC sites, following consultations with the Government and others, including displaced persons.
“The spike in subnational violence is occurring in remote areas, not near our POC sites. Therefore, we have to deploy our forces to provide protection where there is greatest need,” he said, emphasizing the need for the UN force to be robust, nimble and proactive.
Mr. Shearer explained that following the gradual withdrawal of UN peacekeepers, the POC sites will be under the control of the Government.
He stressed that no one will be pushed out or asked to leave when this transition occurs, while humanitarian services will continue.
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