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Women Peacekeepers Play a Unique and Critical Role in DRC- MONUSCO

Veiled by the heated sun and surrounded by the lush green landscape of Kiwanja Valley in North-Kivu, thirty-one Moroccan peacekeepers stood to attention in a seamless line, as they awaited to receive their Medals of Honor. As birdsong entwined with the chorus of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national anthem, a sentiment of pride, courage and honor filled the air of that day in September 2022.

Amongst the line of young and well-experienced men, two women’s salutes gathered the attention of onlookers, for they reflected hope in a relentless joint pursuit of men and women across the world to ensure women’s representation in peace and security.

As of December 2021, women constitute 7.8 percent of all uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in United Nations field missions: an increase of 6.8 percent since 1993. Despite the progress, the UN is still far behind the targets of 20 percent women for individual police officer positions and 30 percent for justice and corrections government‐provided personnel.

READ ALSO:https://africandevmag.net/2022/03/10/announcement-agrobiz-to-hold-virtual-event-on-womens-economic-thumbprint/

Major Soumia Badi, Head of the Female Engagement Team (FET) of the Moroccan Rapid Deployment Base (MORRDB), shared a bright smile as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MONUSCO, Ms Bintou Keita, placed a medal of honor on her apparel: one which recognized her bravery and sacrifice.

It’s very important for women to serve in the UN, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

“It was a great honor and a proud moment for me and my country when I was awarded an appreciation certificate [and medal] from the SRSG,” Major Badi stated. Previously a social worker in Agadir, Morocco, and an Assistant Officer in the Hassan II Foundation for Retirees, Major Badi brought with her a significant knowledge, experience and skills in social issues and working with people.

“As a social worker, I must assist vulnerable people regardless of their origin, color, religion or nationality. Serving outside my country has been a great experience,” she continued.

Women are essential to the effectiveness of peacekeeping: they have greater access to communities through women and children, they help in promoting human rights and the protection of civilians and encourage women to become a part of peace and political processes. Through women’s diverse sets of skills in decision-making and planning and results, as well as their ability to build trust and confidence within communities, women are paramount to successful peacekeeping.

However, there are indeed obstacles to overcome to ensure the effectiveness of women’s expertise in peacekeeping, particularly in the Congolese context: “Communication with the local population can be difficult, especially with those who do not speak French. In such cases, a male linguistic assistant provides help, as we don’t have a female translator. However, when it comes to sensitive subjects such as cases of sexual violence, for example, the victim [often] feels uncomfortable speaking to a man. In addition, during the anti-MONUSCO protests, most of our activities were haltered due to the deteriorating security situation in the region” she added.

With much support being provided to Major Soumia and the FET in their work, a sense of empowerment filtered through the Moroccan Base. “I have been able to succeed in my mission because of the advice and directive of the Colonel and the close collaboration I’ve shared with the members of the contingent,” Major Badi explained; “My greatest achievement is winning the trust of the population and encouraging women to break the silence and talk about their problems and dreams. It’s very important for women to serve in the UN, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

The UN is working to ensure the deployment of more women in uniformed functions through the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the UN Security Council resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325), which advocates for the equal participation of women in all sectors of peacekeeping operations, and the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) Declaration of Shared Commitments, through which the UN has called for an expansion of the role and contribution of women in its operations. However, the responsibility for the deployment of women in the police and military ultimately lies with the willingness and proactivity of Member States.

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Towards a Common Women Agenda- UNITAMS

Supporting women’s meaningful participation in politics, decision making and peace processes is an integral part of the work of the United Nations as mandated by several Security Council resolutions

Since the coup of 2021, UNITAMS has been providing a platform to diverse groups of women to foster solidarity around common priorities and concerns across political divides with the hope of laying the foundation for a common agenda for all Sudanese women.

Supporting women’s meaningful participation in politics, decision making and peace processes is an integral part of the work of the United Nations as mandated by several Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2524 which established UNITAMS. In Sudan, unique challenges confront women in their quest to partake in deciding the future of their country.

The coup of 25 October 2021, brought with it an intensification in political polarization, rapid economic deterioration, and flare-ups of violence in the regions with particularly harsh impacts on women including harassment, intimidation, and other forms of Violence Against Women. Against this backdrop, women’s groups have been struggling to find channels to ensure women’s priorities are reflected in the national conversation and the many initiatives focused on finding ways to end the political impasse.

In response to the political crisis, UNITAMS convened a consultative process in early 2022 with over 800 Sudanese stakeholders who mapped a framework to guide any political solution with one key finding stressing that “Sudanese women and men must own the processes for determining the future of the transition and of their country.”

Our objective is to provide Sudanese women with the platform and the tools they need to bridge political differences and think collectively

Most recently, UNITAMS facilitated a series of dialogues for women from different regions and backgrounds in Sudan together with UN Women and UNDP between July and August 2022. The dialogues brought together a total of 170 women from Khartoum, the East, the North, Kordofan, the Blue Nile and Darfur. They also included women from different political parties and with affiliation to the Juba Peace Agreement signatory armed movements. National and international experts helped facilitate the dialogues and discussed examples of women’s movements in Sudan and elsewhere.

The dialogues allowed women from across the political spectrum to think together of ways to foster solidarity between women’s groups around unified priorities. Themes of the discussion also included the incidence of violence in the regions and women’s leadership role in combating hate speech and supporting peaceful co-existence. Women participants also exchanged experiences about gender-based violence, including sexual violence, and ways to leverage women’s solidarity in support of survivors, as well as more strategic plans to curb violence against women and improve accountability in this regard.

“Our objective is to provide Sudanese women with the platform and the tools they need to bridge political differences and think collectively as women of ways where they can work together to ensure their ability to meaningfully participate in shaping the future of Sudan,” said Christina Shaheen, UNITAMS’s senior Gender Adviser, “This participation and the overall agenda of gender equality are integral parts of a credible transition towards sustainable democratic governance in Sudan.”

In September, UNITAMS, in collaboration with UNDP and UN Women, convened a diverse group of women politicians, activists, scholars, and experts who formulated a unified gender-responsive constitutional vision and presented it to various Sudanese stakeholders, including political parties, armed movements, and civil society, as well as the Trilateral Mechanism and representatives of the international community.

UNITAMS, together with the National Democratic Institute and the Office of Transition Initiative (OTI), is also planning to launch a series of dialogues in all of Sudan’s 18 states to build on the six dialogues of July and August and continue the work of supporting women from across Sudan to create and advocate for a unified women’s agenda for the transition and beyond.

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South Africa: Ramaphosa to focus on the poor citizens as he seeks ANC re-election

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the plight of poor South Africans left out of nearly three decades of post-apartheid prosperity, he promised on Sunday ahead of a governing party election that will decide if he can run for a second term.

Ramaphosa was concluding the African National Congress (ANC) executive committee meeting before an elective conference next month to choose the party’s candidate for the 2024 national elections.

The president faces multiple challengers from within the party, mostly allied with his predecessor Jacob Zuma. Much may depend on whether Ramaphosa is seen as the best candidate to revive the fortunes of the ANC, the popularity of which is at an all-time low.

“No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remains in poverty; without land, without tangible prospects for a better life,” Ramaphosa said in his speech.

“Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of a democratic government.”

Ramaphosa added that the global cost of living crisis had worsened the poor’s plight and that the ANC would seek to enlarge the system of social grants that was expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic and has proved popular among working-class ANC voters.

He also pledged to forge ahead with policies to improve the standard of public education and introduce universal health insurance.

The ANC’s black empowerment initiatives were also mentioned, with Ramaphosa saying the measures need to be more “broad-based”. The initiatives have created some extremely wealthy black businessmen, Ramaphosa included but done little to lift millions out of poverty

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Ethiopia Govt, Tigray Rebels agree to end two-year war

The Ethiopian government and Tigray rebels agreed Wednesday to cease all hostilities in a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough two years into a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions, and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.

The breakthrough came just over a week after formal peace talks mediated by the African Union (AU) began in the South African capital Pretoria, delegates from both sides signed an agreement on a “permanent cessation of hostilities.”

“The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities as well as to systematic, orderly, smooth, and coordinated disarmament,” said Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the AU mediation team, at a ceremony.

Announcing the development, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the high representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission, said: “Today is the beginning of a new dawn for Ethiopia, for the Horn of Africa, and indeed for Africa as a whole. Let me hasten to thank God for this new dawn.”

He added that “we are seeing in practice and actualization what we have tried to achieve for ourselves over the years – African solutions for African problems. We also see in today’s peace agreement signing exercise the implementation of Agenda 2063, which embodies silencing the guns in Africa.”

Obasanjo added that the two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities as well as to systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated disarmament, the restoration of law and order, restoration of services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies and the protection of civilians, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups.

The agreement also takes care of the assurance of security for all concerned within and outside Ethiopia.

In a statement, Kenyan President William Ruto commended the parties to the Ethiopian peace process for signing the peace agreement.

“The commitment demonstrated by the two parties to the African Union-led peace process aligns with our collective desire for peace and security within our region,” Ruto said.

 

A damaged tank stands abandoned on a road near Humera, Ethiopia, Nov. 22, 2020. (AFP Photo)
People stand inside a damaged mausoleum at the al-Nejashi Mosque, one of the oldest in Africa, Negash, Ethiopia, March 1, 2021. (AFP Photo)

Türkiye hails deal

Türkiye late Wednesday welcomed the agreement reached between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray rebels and expressed hope for it “to be a lasting one.”

“We congratulate the African Union, which led the talks, the host Republic of South Africa, and all contributing parties for their efforts,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said.

Ankara also reiterated its “readiness to give all kinds of support to friendly and brotherly Ethiopia for the establishment of peace and tranquility in Ethiopia.”

In a report released on Oct. 29, the U.N. said that 2.75 million people in Ethiopia are internally displaced and 12.5 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance.

There has been intense fighting in the northern Ethiopian region since a monthslong truce was shattered in late August, with reports of mass casualties and other rights violations.

A report released by U.N. rights experts last month accused both sides of committing abuses that border on war crimes and crimes against humanity.

AFP*

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TUNISIA: Opposition party protest against President Saied, says “IT IS OVER”

Two rival Tunisian opposition groups staged one of the biggest days of protest so far against President Kais Saied on Saturday, denouncing his moves to consolidate political power as public anger grows over fuel and food shortages.

Thousands of supporters from the Islamist Ennahda party and the Free Constitutional Party held parallel rallies in adjacent areas of the capital, Tunis, accusing Saied of economic mismanagement and of an anti-democratic coup.

“Tunisia is bleeding. Saied is a failed dictator. He has set us back for many years. The game’s over. Get out,” said protester Henda Ben Ali.

Saied, who moved to rule by decree after shutting down parliament last year and expanding his powers with a new constitution passed in a July referendum, has said the measures were needed to save Tunisia from years of crisis.

In a speech Saturday to commemorate the departure of French troops upon Tunisia’s 1956 independence, he demanded the departure today of “all who want to undermine independence” – an apparent allusion to his political foes.

Saied’s opponents say his actions have undermined the democracy secured through a 2011 revolution that ousted autocratic leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and triggered the Arab spring.

Ennahda and the Free Constitutional Party have long been bitter foes, but both are now more focused on their struggle against Saied.

Tunisians are meanwhile struggling to make ends meet as a crisis in state finances has contributed to shortages of subsidized goods including petrol, sugar and milk on top of years of economic malaise and entrenched unemployment.

The president, who has blamed hoarders and speculators for the shortages, appears to retain broad support among many Tunisians, but the growing hardships are causing frustration and increasing the flow of illegal migrants to Europe.

In the southern town of Zarzis this week, residents protested over the burial in unmarked graves of local people who had died in one of the many shipwrecks of migrants trying to reach Italy.

“While our youth are dying at sea in boats to escape from hell, Saied is only interested in gathering power,” said Monia Hajji, a protester.

In Tunis, there have been some isolated clashes this week in poor districts between police and protesting youths, and there was a heavy police presence in the city on Saturday.

The Free Constitutional Party leader Abir Moussi, a supporter of the pre-revolution autocracy, criticized the stringent security arrangements in a speech to protesters, asking Saied: “Why are you afraid?”

At both rallies, protesters chanted “the people want the fall of the regime,” the slogan of the 2011 revolution.

“The situation is about to explode and is dangerous for the future,” said the Ennahda former prime minister Ali Larayedh.

Reuter*

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UNGA77: Mali army-appointed PM slams France, praises Russia ties

Mali’s military-appointed prime minister has lashed out at France and the United Nations in a grievance-filled address over his nation’s deteriorating security situation while praising the “exemplary” cooperation with Russia.

Addressing the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Abdoulaye Maiga slammed what he called France’s “unilateral decision” to relocate its remaining troops to neighbouring Niger amid deteriorating relations with Mali’s two-time coup leader Assimi Goita.

While it was Goita and his allies who overthrew a democratically elected president by military force two years ago, Mali’s prime minister repeatedly referred to a “French junta” throughout his 30-minute speech.

“Move on from the colonial past and hear the anger, the frustration, the rejection that is coming up from the African cities and countryside, and understand that this movement is inexorable,” Maiga, who was appointed prime minister last month, said.

“Your intimidations and subversive actions have only swelled the ranks of Africans concerned with preserving their dignity,” he added.

The Malian prime minister also offered a grim assessment of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA, while openly praising the “exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia” and the influence of mercenaries from the Wagner Group.

“We must recognize that nearly 10 years after its establishment, the objectives for which MINUSMA was deployed in Mali have not been achieved,” Maiga said. “This is despite numerous Security Council resolutions.”

France intervened militarily in Mali in 2013, leading an effort to remove armed groups from the control of the northern Malian towns they had overtaken. Over the past nine years, Paris had continued its presence in a bid to stabilize the country amid repeated attacks by armed groups.

The French departure in August raised new concerns about whether those fighters will regain territory with security responsibilities now falling to the Malian military and UN peacekeepers.

The Wagner Group, a Russian network providing fighters for hire, has been allowed to operate in Mali despite evidence collected by the UN pointing to their involvement in mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced disappearances in the Central African Republic.

The Malian prime minister also criticized UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his recent comments on the standoff between Mali and Ivory Coast over 46 detained Ivorian soldiers.

“Since friendship is based on sincerity, I would like to express my deep disagreement with your recent media appearance, in which you took a position and expressed yourself on the case of the 46 Ivorian mercenaries,” he said in comments aimed at Guterres.

The nature of the offenses in the case “does not fall within the remit of the secretary-general of the United Nations”, he added.

Maiga reiterated claims that the soldiers were sent to Mali as mercenaries, which the Ivorian government has vigorously denied. Ivory Coast says the soldiers were to provide security for a company contracted by the UN, but Maiga maintained on Saturday that there is “no link between the 46 and the United Nations”.

Three female Ivorian soldiers have been released as a “humanitarian gesture”, but there have been no updates about the others.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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After 43-year rule, Equatorial Guinea’s President Obiang set to run again

Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled the country for 43 years, has confirmed he will stand again in November’s elections.

His son and Vice President, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, made the announcement via Twitter on Friday saying it was “Because of his charisma, his leadership, and his political experience.”

Obiang’s Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea holds 99 of the 100 seats in the outgoing lower house of parliament and all 70 of the senate seats.

There had been speculation that Obiang’s son may be selected as the party’s candidate but Friday’s announcement confirmed the president would be seeking to extend his unrivaled rule.

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Breaking News: Chad foreign minister resigns

Chad’s interim Foreign Affairs Minister Cherif Mahamat Zene said he was stepping down on Monday because of disagreements with senior politicians, as the government attempts to open dialogue with rebels and end military rule.

Zene resigned as talks are taking place in Qatar’s capital Doha with various rebel and opposition groups paving the way to elections after the military seized power last year.

“My willingness to serve my country finds itself at odds with parallel actions and initiatives of certain members of your cabinet and the government,” he said in a letter to the president posted on Zene’s Twitter account.

He did not refer directly to the talks but said the situation had stripped his department of its prerogatives and kept him in a “mere background role”.

The presidency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chad’s transitional authorities signed a peace pact with more than 30 rebel and opposition factions last month in which they agreed to join a national dialogue after years of turmoil.

The vast Central African country has been under military rule since President Idriss Deby was killed on a battlefield in April 2021 while visiting troops fighting rebels, shortly after winning an election extending his 30-year rule.

The military-installed as interim president his son Mahamat Idriss Deby, who initiated talks with rebel groups that had long challenged his father’s regime.

He heads a military council that said it would oversee an 18-month transition to civilian rule, but has shown little intention of meeting the deadline.

Regional and international powers have been pushing for a swift return to democracy in Chad, which has long been a Western ally against Islamist militants.

Zene was named Foreign Affairs Minister for the transitional government in May 2021

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Politics: Senegal President Macky Sall appoints first PM since 2019

Senegalese President Macky Sall has reinstated the post of prime minister, appointing a former economy minister to the job two months after a tense legislative election in which Sall’s ruling coalition lost its comfortable majority.

Amadou Ba, a 61-year-old taxation specialist who has also served as foreign minister, was named as the West African country’s prime minister, a statement from the presidency said on Saturday

Ba’s appointment re-establishes the position of prime minister in the West African country following its abolition in April 2019.

In a speech to the nation broadcast on Friday, Sall said the new prime minister would be responsible for addressing the rising cost of living.

“Measures to reduce the cost of living and support employment and entrepreneurship for young people, the fight against floods and costly rents will remain the highest of priorities for me,” Sall said.

Ba echoed these sentiments during his first speech after the president’s secretary-general read out the decree.

“The major priorities that the president has outlined include improving household purchasing power, taming inflation, security, housing, vocational training, employment and entrepreneurship,” Ba said on national television after a meeting with Sall on Saturday.

The full government is expected to be appointed later on Saturday.

Earlier this week, Senegal’s security forces were called to secure a voting process in parliament and hold back opposition members of parliament who tried to disrupt the election of a new president of the national assembly. The assembly was convening for the first time since July’s election.

Sall came to power in 2012 after unseating longtime President Abdoulaye Wade. He was elected again in 2019 on promises of large-scale infrastructure expansion as the country is set to start producing oil and natural gas next year.

But much of his second term has been marked by economic hardship – partly stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and global fallout linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Political tensions have boiled over Sall’s refusal to publicly rule out a third-term presidential bid in 2024.

Violent protests erupted in Senegal last year when Ousmane Sonko, Sall’s main opponent who came third in the 2019 presidential election, was arrested on rape charges which he denied.

Sonko was released but many protesters saw his arrest as an attempt by Sall to remove a prominent rival and clear his path for a third term bid.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES
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Political Puzzle: Can Nigeria’s northern cabal convince Kwankwaso to partner with Atiku?

With the Nigerian presidential race in 2023 already taking on ethno-religious overtones, speculation has been rife about the deals leading candidates may reach to advance what may wind up becoming a regional agenda.

Millions of Nigerians watching the presidential primary of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on 28 May 2022 were surprised when Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal publicly announced that he was dropping out of the race.

More shocking, however, was that Tambuwal, who was an ally of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike asked his supporters and delegates to vote for former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

“I have come to a patriotic conclusion to step down. I appeal to my supporters to take this in stride and (push) for national unity and patriotism – not only that, those that are delegates here should vote for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar,” he said.

Wike had supported and financed Tambuwal’s presidential ambition four years earlier but the Sokoto governor was defeated by Atiku at the 2018 PDP primaries. Many had therefore assumed that in the event that Tambuwal would step down, it would be for Wike.

Atiku went on to garner 371 votes against Wike’s 237. Atiku’s supporters described Tambuwal as the “hero” of the day even as debates on whether Wike could have won had Tambuwal not done what he did, continued to dominate political discourse.

Northern interest

While Tambuwal later explained that he decided to endorse Atiku in order to strengthen democracy, the back story reveals something more interesting.

Days before the PDP convention, the northern aspirants had made a pact that one of them would emerge as the winner of the primaries against the wishes of the southern aspirants who believed the next president must be from the south. However, the northern aspirants could not reach a consensus ahead of the convention.

With time running out, a powerful northern cabal which also includes retired generals had reached out to Tambuwal and other aspirants from the region to ensure Atiku wins the election. More importantly, the northern leaders were against Wike’s emergence because of statements he had made against the north in the past as well as his radical behaviour.

Zoning game

Apart from Atiku of the PDP the three other frontline candidates are Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). Atiku and Kwankwaso are both from the north while Tinubu and Obi are southerners.

Alh. Atiku Abubakar

 

Both Tinubu and Obi are banking their ambition on the belief that after the eight-year term of President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, the presidency should automatically go to the south in consonance with a gentleman agreement that power should rotate between the two regions in the spirit of fairness.

This agreement is buttressed by the Federal Character Rule in the country’s constitution. This rule stipulates the fair and equitable representation of different ethnic and regional groups in the composition of all tiers of government.

But this line of argument has not been without its antagonism. Politicians and political analysts against this position have hinged their arguments on the calculation that since the return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999, the south has ruled Nigeria longer than the north. They also argue that no law precludes anyone from contesting. Atiku, a former Vice President, and Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano state, are hinging their ambition loosely on this thin line.

Kwankwaso’s game

Eager to actualize his ambition, Kwankwaso joined the relatively unknown NNPP in March and convinced several notable politicians in Kano State, including his arch nemesis Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, to join him in the party.

Kano State has the second largest voting population in Nigeria and produced the largest number of votes for the APC with President Buhari polling 1.9 million votes and 1.4 million in the 2015 and 2019 elections respectively.

Kwankwaso, who enjoys a cult following in Kano State, sought to leverage on the huge votes in Kano and a few other northern states coupled with a strong partner in the south to win next year’s election. However, talks between him and Peter Obi broke down in June. He has been unable to make inroads into the south.

This handicap has weakened Kwankwaso’s chances thereby fuelling speculations that he would most likely negotiate with another candidate who stands a chance of winning.

Losing footsoldiers

Last month, Senator Shekarau dumped Kwankwaso and openly declared his support for Atiku, a development that the PDP has been celebrating. Some of Kwankwaso’s footsoldiers have also dumped his party and returned to the APC.

With his chances of victory waning coupled with a lack of national appeal, speculations that he would work for either Tinubu or Atiku are rising.

So will Kwankwaso partner with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje – his former deputy turned foe – to actualize Tinubu’s ambition? Or will he work with his arch nemesis – Shekarau – to work for Atiku’s victory in the spirit of northern brotherhood?

mutual distrust and personal ambition … will make it very difficult for them to come together”

But Atiku and Kwankwaso have a history that may not make this relationship work out. A professor of political science from Bayero University, Kano, Kamilu Sani Fage said it was widely reported that in 2019, Kwankwaso got election ‘ mobilization money’ from Atiku but did not use it during the presidential election. Atiku would end up polling 391,593 votes against Buhari’s 1.4 million votes in Kano state.

Rabiu Musa Kwankaso

“That was one of the reasons they fell apart. So, I think there is that mutual distrust and personal ambition, which will make it very difficult for them to come together. Also, if Kwankwaso joins Atiku in PDP, it will rekindle the battle for supremacy with Shekarau,” he said.

Fage, a former Vice President of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA), however, added that “as far as Nigerian politics is concerned, there is nothing impossible or surprising because politics is primarily of self-interest not of principles or ideologies.” He, therefore, argues that it is unlikely that Atiku and Kwankwaso will work together.

Preferred candidate

But an associate of Atiku, Dr. Suleiman Yusuf Dambatta, who is the deputy governor candidate of PDP in Kano, told The Africa Report that though it would be difficult to convince Kwankwaso to abandon his presidential ambition at this time, the PDP family would welcome him if he decides to team up with Atiku.

Kwankwaso’s recent Freudian slip during a TV interview where he said if he does not make the presidency, he would support Tinubu, the ruling party’s candidate, had also brought to light his preference for Tinubu. However, he later claimed he didn’t mean he would be stepping down.

as far as Nigerian politics is concerned, there is nothing impossible … because politics is primarily of self-interest not of principles.”

Elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai, who also supports Tinubu, told The Africa Report that this televised position of Kwankwaso, coupled with the fact that there is no assurance that Atiku is even the preferred candidate of the ‘so-called Northern cabal’, makes a union between Atiku and Kwankwaso almost impossible.

He said even if the union materializes “it is not Kano (alone) that will determine the outcome of the election. My calculation is that whoever gets 25 per cent of votes in 24 states and works hard to get the majority of the total votes will emerge the winner.”

Merger talks

Also, Aminu Abdussalam, the deputy governorship candidate for Kwankwaso’s NNPP in Kano state and one of Kwankwaso’s closest associates, told The Africa Report that all the talks of a merger portray Kwankwaso as someone who cannot make it “and I think that is a terribly wrong and baseless permutation.”

“Kwankwaso will never step down or work with Atiku. We are all out for the challenges. No retreat, no surrender,” he said.

Similarly, Kwankwaso’s campaign spokesperson, Ladipo Johnson in a statement titled ‘Kwankwaso is in the race to win’ dispelled speculations that the candidate is considering backing other candidates.

But the voting pattern in Nigeria has shown that the 12 Muslim-dominated states in the north have always voted in the same direction in all Presidential elections since 1999.

Northern unity

Political associates of both northern heavyweight politicians (Atiku and Kwankwaso) believe that the union, though difficult, may not be off the table going into the election which is still five months away.

“Historically, the north has always been more united than the south. That’s why the motto of the dominant northern party in the 1960s was ‘one north, one people. Never say never when it comes to Nigerian politics,” a PDP Presidential aspirant who wished to remain anonymous, tells The Africa Report.

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