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The Africa Report: A Death Every 48 Seconds as Famine Strikes East Africa

May 24, 2022

Umm Muhammed Umar

Senior Research Fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs, Stephanie Walters, was interviewed on Radio Islam’s ‘Africa Report’.

Mali has withdrawn from the G5 Sahel in protest against ECOWAS sanctions, the latest in a series of moves since a second coup took place in Mali, earlier this year. ECOWAS, the regional political and economic body, has tried to find a longer-term solution to what’s been going on there. Mali, firstly, has essentially protested against the sanctions, which involves the closing of borders, and the isolation of Mali, economically and politically, from the ECOWAS community. The country was  essentially withdrawing from a regional, political and military force – the G5, which includes Niger, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso. The mandate of the G5 was to combat terrorism along their respective borders. Walters said, “Now this is a force that does have a military force attached to it. And withdrawing from the G5 is really another move where Mali is further isolating itself.” The response to this from ECOWAS have been further condemnation, as had been from the UN Security Council, and the group of African countries on the UN Security Council. Walters said that the African countries on the UNSC had strongly urged Mali to return to the international fold, and continue dialogue with its neighbours.

Separately, Walters said that Rwanda’s role in Mozambique wasn’t very interesting, because Rwanda did not normally interact very much with Southern Africa. She said, “For some years now, we’ve seen a growing insurgency in northern Mozambique, probably Delgado Province, which has been essentially dealt with, initially by the Mozambican army, but not very successfully.” She added, “So Mozambique (is) looking for external actors to help. Last year Rwanda coming in on a bilateral level. So, this is not a regionally supported body, doesn’t have an AU mandate, it doesn’t have a UN mandate – its Rwanda interacting bilaterally, with Mozambique, sending several thousand forces to this area.” She said that the terms of this military cooperation lacked transparency, as they were not debated in the Rwandan or the Mozambican parliament. Rwanda had preceded the sending of  SADC forces. While South African troops, amongst those of some other countries were present in Mozambique, the predominant military force from the outside was from Rwanda. This begs the question as to whether Rwanda was promised access to lucrative natural gas contracts, or even perhaps to the construction contracts expected, as the northern part of Mozambique becomes quelled, and returns to more activity around the very large and lucrative natural gas sector in Mozambique.

Finally, the drought and looming famine in East Africa is, “an incredibly important story for Africa, (with) about 13 million people who are threatened with famine.” Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are experiencing the driest conditions since 1981. Walters said, “to put it in very clear terms, there’s a person dying every 48 seconds of famine in this region, and 50% of those people are under the age of five.” She added, “So we have an ongoing drought, very little harvest, dying livestock, food prices increasing.”  She said that there was a very slow response from the national governments, who were reluctant to ring the alarm, fearing they would appear  incompetent. The global response has also been very slow. Walters said that because of the Russia-Ukraine war, international funds were flowing towards Ukraine, and so much less attention was being paid to this famine. An estimate from Oxfam and Save the Children, indicates that $4.4 billion was urgently needed to save the lives of the people in that region.

 

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