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Nigeriens gather in a street to protest against the U.S. military presence, in Niamey, Niger April 13, 2024.

REUTERS/Mahamadou Hamidou

Niger Pivots from the Eagle to the Bear

Hundreds demonstrated in Niger's capital, Niamey, on Saturday to demand the removal of US troops, much as they called for the exit of French forces last year. Niger’s military coup in July 2023 has brought changes to the central African nation, including a shift in military alliances. The nation is deepening its relationship with Moscow, as evidenced bythe arrival last week of Russian military trainers tasked with bolstering Niger’s air defenses.

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Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko listens to the presidential candidate he is backing in the March 24 election, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, as they hold a joint press conference a day after they were released from prison, in Dakar, Senegal March 15, 2024.

REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Sonko takes the reins in Senegal

Newly inaugurated Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, in his first act in office, appointed his mentor Ousmane Sonko as prime minister on Wednesday. The popular, reform-oriented Sonko will be the driving force behind big changes. Case in point: Faye's manifesto proposed an audit of the oil, gas, and mining sectors, which could bring more cash from natural resource extraction into Dakar’s coffers.

Sonko was banned from running for president in the most recent elections, but Faye subbed in, even using the slogan “Diomaye is Sonko.” Sonko is now calling the shots, says Eurasia Group analyst Tochi Eni-Kalu.

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A farmer opens a cocoa pod at a cocoa farm in Azaguie, Ivory Coast, October 22, 2019. Picture taken October 22, 2019.


Why Easter chocolate cost so much this year

The Easter Bunny is sweating over his chocolate bill this year thanks to rising prices. A ton of cocoa runs you a cool $10,000 today, double what it cost a month ago and triple what it cost this time last year. Still, the West African farmers who grow the world’s favorite treat have yet to see a windfall.

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Dakar, Senegal.- In photos taken on March 24, 2024, Bassirou Diomaye Faye (photo), leader of the main opposition party casts his vote during the presidential elections.

Handout / Latin America News Agency via Reuters Connect

Opposition candidate Faye wins Senegal’s presidency in landslide

Preliminary results on Monday showed opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye winning Senegal’s presidential election outright with 53% of the vote. Incumbent party candidate and former Prime Minister Amadou Baconceded to Faye ahead of official results, meaning the country will avoid a runoff vote.

Faye is a close ally of the popular opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from standing because of a defamation conviction, but is expected to play a major role in Faye’s administration. Outgoing President Macky Sall delayed elections from their intended February date, in part to buy time to improve his party’s standing against Sonko, but was checked by the country’s Constitutional Council.

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FILE PHOTO: A supporter of Senegalese presidential candidate Amadou Ba holds a poster during his campaign rally in Guediawaye on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal March 10, 2024.

REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

Election delay fuels close contest in Senegal

Voters in Senegal face a choice between continuity or a new direction for West Africa’s most stable democracy as they head to the polls Sunday.

The country’s reputation for fair and peaceful transitions of power looked like it was at risk last month when President Macky Sall called for a 10-month delay of elections scheduled for Feb. 25. The move was an attempt to buy time to bolster support for his party and its candidate, Amadou Ba, but it backfired, according to Eurasia Group analyst Tochi Eni-Kalu.

"The Constitutional Council pushed back against proposals to delay the election beyond the end of Sall's mandate on 2 April, leaving him with no choice but to accept their rulings in the face of opposition and public pressure" he says.

Opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye is now riding a wave of momentum thanks to anger over the delay, but it likely won’t be enough to get him over the 50% mark he needs to win outright. If Ba also falls short, they go to a runoff, and that’s where it gets interesting. Unlike other close elections in Senegal, in 2000 and 2012, the opposition isn’t necessarily unified against the incumbent.

“The key thing to watch is how the other big fish align,” says Eni-Kalu.

If Ba and his BBY party remain in power, Eni-Kalu expects broad continuity with Sall’s administration. A Faye victory could see Senegal take on a more nationalist tack, though it’s not clear how far he can push the most radical proposals, like leaving the CFA Franc currency union.

File Photo: Nigerien troops, May 23, 2022.

Michael Kappeler/dpa via Reuters

Niger wants US troops out

Niger’s military junta announced Saturday that it would end the agreement that allows US troops to operate in the country. Niamey said the pact was “profoundly unfair,” and cited a “condescending attitude” and alleged violations of diplomatic protocol during a high-level visit last week.

Washington has been trying to find ways to work with the military governments that have seized power in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali to combat extremist militants in the region. But at the same time, the Biden administration has pressured Niamey to set a timeline to restore democratic control and reportedly raised alarm at a possible deal to sell uranium to Iran, which seems to have led to the rupture.

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A boy holds a sign to protest against, what a teacher, local councilor and parents said, the kidnapping of hundreds school pupils by gunmen after the Friday prayer, in Kaduna, Nigeria March 8, 2024.


Hundreds of children kidnapped by extremists in Nigeria

Over 300 children have been abducted at gunpoint in northern Nigeria in recent days. On Thursday, gunmen kidnapped at least 287 children from a school in Kaduna state, and another 15 pupils were taken on Saturday. Militants are suspected of kidnapping around 200 women and children from Borno state as well. No group has claimed responsibility, but the region is plagued by Islamic extremism.

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Israel-Hamas war: West Bank raid won't derail cease-fire
- YouTube

Israel-Hamas war: West Bank raid won't derail cease-fire

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week from Davos on World In :60.

Does the Israeli undercover hospital raid in West Bank destroy any chance of a ceasefire with Hamas?I mean what? The fact that you have undercover IDF forces going after people they believe are terrorists in a hospital? I don't see that as more significant in any way than the war that's been going on in Gaza. The issue is that in the West Bank, but there's been a lot of fighting in the West Bank, knocking a lot of news. No, no, no. The big point here is that the Israelis are under more pressure and are willing to accept a more challenging ceasefire deal than they were a couple of weeks ago, both in terms of of how long that cease fire would go on and also what they're negotiating for the number of hostages and what they have to give up in return. It looks like they are getting pretty close, but once again, would have to be approved by the Knesset and Hamas has to say yes. And that has been more challenging than getting the Israelis to the table, at least in the last couple of weeks.
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