This is the third and final part of our three-part series reviewing the top African news stories for the year 2017. We adopt a country by country approach – touching strictly on on the major news.
The first part reviewed news from Algeria through to Ethiopia. The second covered Gabon to Mozambique. This part will focus on Namibia through to Zimbabwe. You can find more review articles on our dedicated 2017 Review page.
NAMIBIA – Africa’s press freedom hub, ruling SWAPO polls, Trumpy twist
The country was ranked Africa’s freest when it came to press freedom. They, however, ranked 24th on the global list. They were followed by Ghana and Cape Verde in that order. South Africa, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Mauritania, Mauritius, Madagascar and Senegal complete Africa’s top 10 list.
In September 2017, U.S. president Donald Trump caused stampede on Twitter after he mispronounced Namibia twice by calling the southern African country Nambia in front of eight African leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“In Guinea and Nigeria, you fought a horrifying Ebola outbreak. Nambia’s health system is increasingly self-sufficient,” he said. It gave people the leverage to mock him but to also find about more about the Southern African nation.
The ruling SWAPO party in late November elected Hage Geingob as its president. Geingob, president of Namibia since 2015 but acting president of the ruling party, won 574 out of 766 votes at the elective congress.
NIGER – U.S. soldiers killed, G5 Sahel duties, terrorist attacks
The killing of United States soldiers in Niger made news headlines in the country but also in Washington. The handling of the death of one of the soldiers by President Trump gave it extra leverage as the spouse took offence over Trump’s condolence style.
But it also brought to the fore the involvement of U.S. troops in the Sahel region. Allied to that, Nigerien president Mahammadou Issoufou was very much a part of the France – Africa meetings and also talks in the formation of the G5 Sahel force.
Attacks by Boko Haram were largely contained throughout the year comparative to the situation in Cameroon’s Far North and Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State.
NIGERIA – Buhari’s long sick leave, Boko Haram attacks
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari’s absence from the country was one of the biggest news to come from Africa’s most populous nation. Buhari twice left on medical leave to the United Kingdom.
His second lasted over three months as he sought treatment for an undisclosed illness. There was no constitutional crisis as he had notified the Senate of his absence leaving his vice president to oversee affairs in his absence.
Boko Haram attacks continued throughout the year. They were, however, restricted to Borno State. A number of oil explorers were ambushed and killed by the terrorists. The government managed to secure the release of a number of Chibok Girls in a prisoner exchange deal.
A mistaken airstrike targeting Boko Haram ended up hitting and killing scores in an internally displaced camp in the town of Raan. The humanitarian crisis in the region continued to rise as the U.N. security council team visited.
The Biafra agitation also hit the headlines. After leader Nnamdi Kanu was released on bail, IPOB activities spiked leading to a clash with the army. Kanu has since been missing and the government has proscribed IPOB as a terrorist group.
RWANDA – Kagame wins polls, female opponent held, global visa openness
After a 2015 referendum allowed Kagame to contest in 2017 elections, Rwanda geared up for elections in August this year. Diane Rwigara – a female aspirant was first off the blocks with her intention to challenge Kagame.
Then her nude pictures surfaced in the lead up to the filing of papers. She did file but was disqualified for failing to meet minimum requirements. Kagame and two others also filed and were cleared to run.
Rwigara was disqualified on her reapplication. She is currently facing charges of forgery in filing her papers. Her mother and sister are also being held over tax evasion charges relating to their tobacco business.
Kagame went on to win a landslide with over 98% of votes. He has since been sworn into office for a seven year term. Rwandans will go vote in 2022 for a president but he/she will serve a five-year term.
Rwanda also offered to accommodate Africans stranded in Libya slave markets and also announced a big visa regime scrapping entry visas for people all over the world effective January 1, 2018.
SENEGAL – Anti-CFA protests, Dakar Mayor trial, local polls
Senegal ‘hosted’ a protest that spread across the better part of Francophone Africa. The anti-CFA protest spearheaded by Femi Seba – the Frabco Beninese activist. Seba was arrested for burning a banknote.
A court ordered his release on a technicality following which the Senegalese authorities deported him but the protests revived talk of the continued use of the CFA across 14 West and Central African countries.
The mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall remains in prison over corruption charges. Protests have been held in support of Sall but the authorities continue to hold him. Fromer president Aboulaye Wade returned to contest in local polls.
He won his seat but the opposition failed to make significant gains, the final results showed that the ruling coalition had swept seats in the legislature. Wade subsequently resigned his seat after the poor showing.
SIERRA LEONE – Deadly mudslide, ban on jogging, girl child
Sierra Leone experienced a mudslide that killed hundreds in the west African country. The incident happened after heavy rains overnight. Hundreds were killed and thousands displaced in the capital Freetown.
The world condoled with Sierra Leone as the A.U. and other African governments took the lead in raising support in cash and materials for the country. The U.N. and other relief agencies also helped to support Sierra Leone.
The police had banned jogging in the capital Freetown stating that it was disrupting free flow of traffic. Political opponents, however, dismissed it as a ploy to limit political activities that were tied with people going on jogging especially on the weekends.
The girl child had a good year in Sierra Leone – a hitherto tough ground. The first lady upped the campaign against child marriages and the government in late 2017 announced specialized schools for pregnant girls.
SWAZILAND – King takes 14th wife,
After the 2017 edition of the cultural reed dance, the Swazi monarch King Mswati II took his 14th wife. The 2017 reed dance was attended by Zambian leader Edgar Lungu who joined the King and his entourage to celebrate the annual event.
Tech giant Google also lifted restrictions on YouTube from showing Swaziland’s famous reed dance which features bare-breasted women.
SOUTH SUDAN – Humanitarian crisis, Machar remains in SA
The security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan has not in the least abated. Clashes have been reported between the government and rebel forces across the country. It has led to displacements internally as hundreds also cross the border into Ethiopia and Uganda.
Former First Vice-President Riek Machar still remains in exile whiles the regional bloc IGAD continues its efforts to mediate in the crisis. The Ethiopian foreign minister and his Egyptian counterparts met Machar in South Africa – where he is currently based.
President Salva Kirr declared famine as a national disaster due to a biting drought that threatened most displaced persons. At a point state of emergency was declared in three restive regions. Several U.N. bodies have decried the security and humanitarian situation in the country.
SOUTH AFRICA – Zuma’s court loses, ANC presidency, Fees protests
President Jacob Zuma’s political woes via the courts continued as he suffered more biting judgments. At the heart of it was the state capture report by the country’s public protector – the report said Zuma’s actions were influenced by a rich Indian family the Guptas.
Zuma survived parliamentary votes to oust him for breaking his oath of office. But mass protests by opposition activists were held across the country under the by opposition activists were held across the country under the #ZumaMustFall banner.
The issue of Zuma’s successor was also a topical issue in the country. His former wife and ex-A.U. chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was up against Zuma’s deputy Cyril Ramaphosa. In the end Ramaphosa got the ticket and is likely to end up as South Africa president after polls in 2019.
SUDAN – Trump travel ban, U.S. sanctions, Bashir ICC headache
Sudan – America relations took center stage in 2017, at the level of diplomacy and trade. Trump’s first travel ban affected Sudan along with Libya and Somalia. A revised version took out Sudan but added Chad.
The trade sanctions imposed by Washington was finally lifted in October 2017, much to the chagrin of rights groups who had expected an extension.
Meanwhile ICC summons around president Al-Bashir continued to hold. South Africa suffered court decisions over failure to arrest Bashir in 2015. Jordan, an ICC member also hosted Bashir recently risking summons by the group. Ethiopia and Egypt asked that the charges against Bashir be dropped.
SOMALIA – New president, Al-Shabaab attacks, drought bites
Somalia in February voted for a new president after a series of postponements in 2016. The sitting president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud lost his post to a former Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo.
A former second in command of Al-Shabaab defected to the government denouncing the group. The group was, however, labelled the most deadly terrorist group by a security report beating Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
Shabaab’s attacks across the country did not stop. The United States also announced having carried out attacks against the group. One of the attacks was said to have hit civilians. A twin bomb attack that hit Mogadishu in October 2017 is said to have claimed over 500 people.
TUNISIA – State of emergency, new Prime Minister, terrorist combat
The north African country continued to extend the state of emergency rule arising from a terrorist attack on its beach in the town of Sousse.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed as leader of government business also declared war against corruption. Ousted president Ben Ali and his wife were also handed sentences in absentia over corruption charges.
A ban was also lifted which allowed women to marry non-Muslim men. A row over Tunisian women also led to Emirates being banned for the country. Tunis was also involved in the terrorist combat as the government force engaged terrorist groups.
TOGO – ECOWAS presidency, anti-government protests, political talks
Togo’s president Faure Gnassingbe was elected president of the sub regional heads of states bloc, ECOWAS, taking over from Liberia’s outgoing president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
But it was not until August 2017 when anti-government protests broke out in the country with an opposition coalition calling on the president to resign and by that an end to the Gnassingbe family dynasty that has ruled the country for five decades.
Faure’s father Eyadema ruled for 38 years till his death in 2005. Faure is currently in his third term which runs till 2020. 2017 was his 12th year as president. The government has opened dialogue but the opposition have turned it down opting to deal with Ghana government mediation efforts.
TANZANIA – Over 9000 workers sacked, president’s salary, school girls banned
In Tanzania, President John Magufuli ordered the firing of over 9000 civil servants over false documentation. He also turned down talk of staying on beyond his constitutional two terms – despite being in the second year of his first term.
Pregnant school girls in the country also had a bad time President Magufuli reiterated government stance that pregnant girls could not return to state run schools after giving birth. The human rights backlash will do little to change his position.
An opposition MP was shot and eventually flown to Kenya for treatment. Magufuli fired a number of appointees – ministers and head of utility outfits. He declared his salary on national TV and sounded a tough warning to same-sex activists.
A number of newspapers were also closed down in what political and media watchers have described as muzzling the media. Magufuli pardoned two musicians convicted for rape.
UGANDA – Women murders spike, refugees summit, age limit chaos
The most contentious issue in Uganda over the last year was the age limit debate which resulted in clashes on the streets, on social media and in the chamber of parliament.
President Museveni’s resolve to stay on beyond his 2022 mandate prevailed as lawmakers voted to scrap the age limit. he only recently signed the bill into law.
The murder of women across the country also came up in 2017. The media also suffered bruises in the year as a number of practitioners were detained over their reportage. There was a biting doctors strike that grounded health care delivery.
Uganda also hosted the first Refugee Solidarity Summit backed by the United Nations to find support for the over 1.3 million refugees in the country for the next four years.
ZAMBIA – Treason trial of opposition leader, market fires, state of emergency
In Zambia, it took the intervention of the Commonwealth to resolve a political crisis that led to the detention of opposition chief Hakainde Hichelima over treason charges.
Hichilema who lost 2016 polls to the incumbent Edgar Lungu was judged to have obstructed the president’s motorcade and endangered Lungu’s life. he was arrested and charged for treason.
The country’s biggest market was gutted by fire whiles other public properties were also torched leading to the imposition of a state of emergency in the country.
ZIMBABWE – Mugabe ousted, Grace assaults model, Mugabe sleeps at U.N.
The biggest news from Zimbabwe was the November ouster of Robert Mugabe after 37 years in power. The army took over the reigns of power after Mugabe fired his then first vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa who fled to South Africa returned after Mugabe’s exit and was installed President ahead of elections slated for later this year.
Months earlier Former First Lady Grace Mugabe had caused a diplomatic row when she assaulted a South African model who was said to be ‘hanging out’ with her two sons who resided in South Africa.
It took diplomatic immunity to allow Grace to leave South Africa after about a week as an assault case had been filed before a court. Mugabe’s public sleeping was also explained as “resting of the eyes.” He underwent medical checkups in Singapore and was awarded a WHO ambassadorial role which was eventually rescinded after public uproar on social media.