Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Welcome to Foreign Policy’s Africa Brief. This week’s highlights include: DRC opposition disputes election results, Ethiopia and Somaliland sign a controversial deal on Red Sea access, and Senegal’s Supreme Court rejects Sonko’s appeal. To receive Africa Brief in your inbox every Wednesday, please sign up here. South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking to have the court declare Israel’s military assault on Gaza a genocide will be heard starting on Thursday in The Hague. Israel has called the allegations “baseless” and accused South Africa of “cooperating with a terrorist organization.” Malaysia, Turkey, and Jordan have backed South Africa’s case. Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry described the proceedings as a “timely and tangible step towards legal accountability for Israel’s atrocities.” South Africa’s 84-page brief cites alleged incitement by top Israeli officials, including the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, who referred to Palestinians in Gaza as “human animals,” as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comparison of Palestinians to the biblical story of the Amalek nation, which God ordered the Israelites to destroy.
The application also condemns Hamas’s killing of 1,200 Israelis and foreign citizens and hostage-taking of around 247 people on Oct. 7 but argues that no attack can justify the killing of more than 22,000 Palestinians, including over 7,000 children—the number of dead at the time it was written. Israel, a signatory to the Genocide Convention and subject to the jurisdiction of the ICJ, has no choice but to appear in front of the ICJ. South Africa is sending international law expert John Dugard, a former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, while Israel will be represented by British lawyer Malcolm Shaw, an expert on territorial disputes. The United States is increasingly isolated as one of the few countries that has stood resolutely behind Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and subsequent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip amid growing international criticism over the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Thursday, Jan. 11, to Friday, Jan. 12: South Africa’s petition accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza is heard by the ICJ in The Hague. Saturday, Jan. 13: The 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament begins in the Ivory Coast, where the host nation takes on Guinea-Bissau. Sunday, Jan. 14: Comoros holds presidential elections. Wednesday, Jan. 17: Former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma goes to court on charges of treason in connection with a failed coup in November 2023. Sudan recalled its ambassador from Nairobi on Thursday in protest of Kenyan President William Ruto’s hosting of talks with the leader of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagalo. Hemeti has been touring African countries on his first known tour abroad since war broke out in April with the Sudanese Army led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. On Friday, he met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and later visited the Genocide Memorial Museum in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, which angered many Sudanese. The RSF has been accused of carrying out mass atrocities including systematic ethnic cleansing and rape. He has also visited South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Djibouti at a time when the Sudanese Army has lost ground to the RSF, which now controls most of the capital, Khartoum, nearly all of Darfur, and the city of Wad Madani. The war has displaced 7.3 million people. Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, on Saturday signed a bill nullifying a landmark preliminary deal between Ethiopia and the breakaway region of Somaliland. Somaliland signed a pact last week to lease landlocked Ethiopia port access to the Red Sea and a naval base in the Gulf of Aden in exchange for Addis Ababa recognizing Somaliland as a sovereign state. Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 and established its own parliament and presidential elections but is not internationally recognized as a separate country. Somalis in the capital, Mogadishu, protested against the deal. The Somali government recalled its ambassador to Ethiopia and lambasted the deal as a “hostile move” and a breach of Somalia’s “territorial integrity”. It seems the pact has also ruffled Somaliland ministers. Defense Minister Abdiqani Mohamoud Ateye resigned in protest and criticized Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi “for not consulting the council of ministers on the port deal with Ethiopia,” saying they “heard about it from the media.” Ethiopia’s Red Sea access. While it is easy for some analysts to dismiss South Africa’s case, any ruling could set legal precedents. With South Africa basing its petition in part on Gambia’s proceedings against Myanmar in 2020, in which Gambia successfully argued as party to the Genocide Convention that it has an obligation to act to prevent genocide against the ethnic Rohingya population in Rakhine State and therefore had standing. The ICJ could decide it does have jurisdiction to proceed with the case as in The Gambia v. Myanmar. It could also choose to impose some of the interim measures requested by South Africa without making a decision that Israel’s conduct in Gaza amounts to genocide. Israel is becoming more isolated on the world stage.

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