At a political level, in Africa during 2021 a resurgence of the phenomenon of military riots was observed; since of the seven coups d’état recorded in the world, six occurred in the Sahel region. At the cultural level, three African writers received prestigious international awards and on the health level, the continent was the theater of the appearance of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is ravaging several countries.
The sub-Sahara region suffers from a particular type of political instability, being especially vulnerable to coups d’état, a phenomenon that was observed with greater force in 2021. While there were five coups in the continent between 2011 and 2020, only In 2021, six were counted, of which four managed to remove the head of state from power and two failed.
They all occurred in the Sahel, a region between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa that has faced multiple challenges for decades, including fighting terrorism, cross-border organized crime and human trafficking.
Chad, Mali, Guinea and Sudan, the latter after two attempts, saw the military seize power by force, while in Niger the attempt against President Mohamed Bazoum failed.
“The need for a democratic transition”
With the intention of legitimizing their seizure of power by force, the military have promised to facilitate a democratic transition and have promised to organize free elections, but these usually arrive many months after the coup, or they simply never occur.
In many countries of the continent the rules of the democratic game, such as the separation of powers or the limit of presidential terms, are not respected.
Louis Magloire Keumayou, a journalist specializing in Africa and president of the Pan-African Press Association in Paris, explains in an interview with France 24 that “although we try to put limits on presidential terms, the leaders always try to find a way to stay in power. , which leaves people with the impression that the ballot box does not meet their aspirations ”.
“Therefore, (the population) choose the means that they know and that seems most efficient to them, that is, the coup d’état”, the specialist specifies.
In Guinea, for example, the coup that defeated Alpha Condé in September was acclaimed by the population. Condé, in power since 2010, was becoming increasingly authoritarian. After reforming the Constitution, he was elected for a third term, but the Army, led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, removed him from power.
However, as Magloire Keumayou emphasizes, “the coup is never a positive thing because it represents a paralysis of the democratic process.”
The year of African literature
Despite the political instability in some latitudes, 2021 was a great year for the African novel. Several writers were awarded beyond the borders of their countries.
The Goncourt, France’s prestigious literary prize, was awarded to the Senegalese Mohamed Mbougar Sarr for his novel ‘La plus secrète mémoire des hommes’.
He is the first African author to be awarded this award and one of the youngest.
In October, another writer from Senegal, Boubacar Boris Diop, was awarded the Neustadt International Literature Prize, an American literary award.
Another prize, and undoubtedly the most prestigious, was the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature, which was awarded to the Tanzanian novelist Abdul Razak Gurnah.
Covid-19 and the appearance of the Omicron variant
On the African continent, the number of deaths from Covid-19 has exceeded 200,000 since the pandemic began early last year.
Although Africa has avoided the catastrophic scenarios feared at the beginning of the pandemic, the problem with vaccines persists.
Towards the end of 2021, the United Nations revealed that only five countries on the African continent will meet the immunization target of 40% of the population.
These countries are Seychelles, Mauritius, Morocco, Tunisia and Cape Verde.
Currently, only 6% of the African population is fully vaccinated, while more than 70% of high-income countries have already vaccinated more than 40% of their population by comparison.
The inequality in immunization between rich and low-income countries is such that the G20 countries, for example, have received 15 times more doses of vaccines per inhabitant than countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
This imbalance occurs at a time when the region is also struggling to cope with the growing demand for essential immunization products such as syringes.
Many experts argue that this inequality and the consequent slowness of vaccination on the continent, are behind the appearance of new variants such as Ómicron, which appeared in November in South Africa.
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2021 in Africa: 6 coups, 3 literary awards and a variant of Covid-19