News Timeline: Africa 2009


January 3: Ghana

Ghana’s opposition leader, John Atta Mills, narrowly wins the second round of the elections and becomes the country’s next president. The elections were fair and free, showcasing Ghana as one of the few functioning democracies in Africa.

January 25: Ethiopia/Somalia

Ethiopia completes the withdrawal of its troops from Somalia, where they assisted the Somali interim government based in the town of Baidoa. The Ethiopian troops are replaced with about 3,400 African Union peacekeepers.

February 5: Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean parliament passes a constitutional amendment, which allows for a power-sharing with Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. The move also paves the way for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to become prime minister. February 11:  Zimbabwe

The country’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is sworn in as prime minister. He faces a difficult task to deal with the country’s ruined economy.

March 4: Sudan

The International Criminal Court in The Hague issues an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan’s region of Darfur. Thousands of people died in the conflict where pro-government Arab militias have been carrying out ethnic cleansing against the non-Arab people.

March 16: Madagascar

Madagascar’s military seizes the presidential palace, ousts democratically elected President Marc Ravalomanana, and grants full presidential powers to an opposition leader, Andry Rajoelina. Rajoelina has led several-month long popular protests against President Ravalomanana. Although Ravalomanana has introduced successful market reforms and opened the country to foreign investment after decades of socialism, most of the Madagascar’s population still lives in dire poverty. (March 17): Ravalomanana announces his resignation. The international community condemns the coup. (March 18): Madagascar’s Supreme Court approves the handover of power. (March 20): The African Union suspends Madagascar’s membership and the United States stops non-humanitarian aid to the country. The European Union condemns the coup. (March 31): The Southern African Development Community (SADC) suspends Madagascar and calls for Rajoelina to step down. In defiance, Rajoelina announces his new cabinet. He also promises a new constitution and general elections within the next two years.

March 27: Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s new prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, says that further confiscation of the white farmers’ land is illegal and it will be prosecuted. President Robert Mugabe, however, insists that the government will continue this policy as part of the land reform. The continuation of the policy has been the main part of the power-sharing agreement.

March 31: Africa

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that more than 200 African migrants are feared dead when a boat carrying 250 people overturned off the coast of Libya. From North Africa, migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea to the Italian island of Lampedusa. In 2008, more than 30,000 African migrants reached the island.

April 6: South Africa

South African court drops corruption charges against Jacob Zuma, the leader of the African National Congress (ANC), concluding that the evidence has been manipulated. The ruling will allow Zuma to run in the upcoming elections. (April 22): In the country’s parliamentary elections, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) wins 65.9 percent of the vote followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 16.7 percent and a newly formed Congress of the People (COPE) with 7.4 percent. The outcome of the election clears the path for Jacob Zuma to become South Africa’s next president. As president, he faces a struggling economy and rising crime.

April 9: Algeria

Algeria’s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, wins his third term in office with over 90 percent of the vote. The opposition describes the election as a charade.

June 8: Gabon

Gabon’s president, Omar Bongo, dies at the age of 79. He came to power in 1967, which makes him the longest serving leader in Africa. Under the constitution, the Senate leader will take over as interim president and organize elections within the next 45 days. The opposition is questioning whether an election in Gabon can be fair as Bongo made sure that his son, Ali-Ben Bongo, would succeed him.

July 19: Mauritania

Mauritanian’s military leader, General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, who seized power in a coup last year, wins 52 percent of the vote in the presidential election. The opposition claims the election has been fixed in order to legitimize Abdelaziz’s rule. However, international observers say the vote was largely fair and free.

July 22: Sudan

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague sets new borders for Sudan’s disputed oil-rich Abyei region, awarding greater territorial control to the government of Sudan. Both North and South Sudan accept the ruling; however, it will have to be approved in the referendum on independence of South Sudan in 2011.

September 8: Sudan

A female Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmed Hussein is released after spending one day in jail. Her case brought international attention and pressure to free her. She was sentenced to a month in jail and 40 lashes under Sudan’s indecency law for wearing trousers. She claims, however, that the case has had nothing to do with the Islamic law, but rather bad treatment of women, which she campaigns to have it changed.

September 29: Guinea

Troops in Guinea open fire on tens of thousands of anti-government protesters, killing dozens. Demonstrators oppose the plan of the country’s interim leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara who seized power in a coup last year, to run in the presidential election planned for January 2010. This would violate an agreement to return power into civilian hands.

October 8: Nigeria

As a result of a two-month amnesty, a variety of oil militant groups in Nigeria’s Niger Delta turn in 5,000 weapons and 18 gunboats. In the last three years, militant attacks on oil installations have disrupted Nigeria’s oil production, contributing to hiking oil prices on the world markets.

October 13: Guinea

Guinea and China sign an agreement making China a strategic partner in Guinea’s mining and oil projects. The deal involves $7 billion in Chinese investment in Guinea’s infrastructure. China is Africa’s second-largest trading partner after the United States.

October 18: Botswana

Botswana’s ruling party, the Botswana National Front, wins the parliamentary elections, which allows incumbent President Ian Khama stay in office for another five-year term. Election observers say the voting turnout was high and do not report any irregularities. Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable democracies.

November 8: China

China and 50 African states gather for the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in Egypt’s resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. During the summit, China pledges to give Africa $10 billion in loans over the next three years.

November 18: Somalia

The militant group al-Shabab, which controls the large part of Somalia, sentences a 20-year-old woman, who is divorced, to death by stoning for adultery. Her boyfriend is sentenced to 100 lashes. Although unpopular among the people, Al-Shabab has imposed a strict interpretation of the Islamic law on the area of its control.

December 23: Eritrea

The United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Eritrea for arming the Somali Islamist militant group, al-Shabab, which is fighting the Somali government for control over the capital, Mogadishu. The sanctions include an arms embargo, travel ban, and asset freezing on businesses and individuals.