African Overview: News from Kenya, Togo, and Ethiopia

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Source: / The Dawn News / October 11, 2016


Amidst controversy, Kenya will close the biggest refugee camp in the world


In a month, the time span that the government of Nairobi set to definitively close the refugee camp of Dadaab and Kakuma will expire. This is the biggest refugee camp in the world and hosts mostly Somali refugees. The decision of dismantling this camp was taken after the massacre of the Somali Islamist organization Al-Shabaab in the University of Garissa, Northeastern Kenya, in April 2015.

President Uhuru Kenyatta gave the UN three-month grace period to transport the inhabitants of Dadaab and Kakuma back to Somalia. The justification (which the government maintains to this day) is that the camp was the breeding ground for the terrorist cells of Al-Shabaab that carried out that attack and that are still active in the country. “Like the US was changed by the US, Kenya will change after Garissa”, said Vice President William Ruto.

But a month later, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who was recently elected Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, convinced the Kenyan government to postpone the closure until the conditions are ideal in Somalia for a safe return of the displaced.

Therefore, a process of voluntary repatriation started, which had little effectivity. Less than a hundred thousand refugees accepted the deal.

Now less than a month remains until the definitive closing of the camp, and there are still 280 thousand people inside, whose destiny is uncertain. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), 80% would rather stay in the camps due to the insecurity that prevails in their country.

The Secretary General of the NRC, Jan Egeland, said that the current program for repatriation “doesn’t meet the international standards for the return of refugees”.

The Dadaab refugee camp was created in 1991, nine months after the fall of Somali mandatary Siad Barre, which sparked a civil war in the country. Currently, the camp is home to a third generation of refugees, that is, young people who have lived their whole lives inside the camp and don’t know another thing.

The opposition demands democratic reforms in Togo


On Saturday, October 8, a coalition of opposition parties in Togo took to the streets in a protest to demand constitutional reforms.

Reunited under the name of Fight for Political Alternance 2015, the organizations demanded the consensuated application of reforms prescribed in the so-called global political agreement of 2006. The main objective of these reforms is to guarantee transparency and democracy in elections.

The most important items are the limitation of the Presidential mandate, the change in the electoral code to re-establish the voting system to a two-round system (currently, candidates win by a simple majority) and the reevaluation of prerogatives from institutions such as the Constitutional Court and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The mobilization also denounced arbitrary detentions and unconstitutional judicial controls, and demanded the restoration of the rights of their representatives in the INEC.

They announced that protests will continue throughout the The African Union Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security, which will be held between October 10 and 15.

Togo achieved its independence from France in 1960. Seven years after, a coup d’état led by Gnassingbé Eyadéma took over the government. Eyadema led the country through a single-party system until he died in 2005.

It was then that his son, Faure Gnassingbé, with the support of the army, gave a new coup d’état and since then has presided this little nation of Western Africa.


Ethiopia declares a state of emergency for six months


For a year, Ethiopia has been through an internal conflict that threatens to escalate. The crisis broke out with the demonstrations of the Oromo, a semi-nomadic people of farmers who are the main ethnic group in the country, and they demanded to have more representation in the government and political institutions, to match the Asmara, who are the second biggest group. The Asmara have also been the most relevant group in the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was overthrown in 1991.

The current government is led by the inhabitants of Tigray, the most northerly of the nine ethnic regions, which fought alongside the people from Eritrea (currently an independent state) the war that ended with Mengistu’s government.

Internal fights have already caused 400 deaths. Just last week, the Executive acknowledged the murder of 52 people.

Because of this, on Sunday the government decreed a state of emergency for six months. “The general situation, including the destruction of government institutions and businesses, indicates that our country is descending into chaos. This threatens our sovereignty and our existence as a nation”, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said when announcing the measure.

The head of state affirmed that while the state of emergency is in force, he will convene a political dialogue with organizations of civil society and parties of the opposition to seek a solution to the conflict.

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