News Timeline: Africa 2017


January 7 – Ghana
In a peaceful transition of power, Ghana swears in its new president, opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, who defeated incumbent John Mahama in last month’s presidential election. Akufo-Addo ran his campaign on promises to improve Ghana’s faltering economy. He promised to reduce taxes, as well as make high school education free. Ghana is a multi party democracy with free press. According to Freedom House, Ghana freedom score is 83 on the scale 0-100 with 100 being the highest score.[1]
Map of freedom in the world in 2017 by Freedom House.

January 19 – The Gambia
After The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, who lost the country’s December presidential election, refused to step down, his successor Adam Barrow flees to neighboring Senegal where he is inaugurated as president at the Gambian embassy. (January 21): After negotiations with leaders from the West African countries and the support of the West African coalition troops, Jammeh agrees to step down. He leaves the Gambia into exile to Equatorial Guinea, another country known for its brutal and corrupt regime.[2] (January 26): Adama Barrow returns to the Gambia and assumes his position as the third President since the country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. He promises to return The Gambia to its membership of the Commonwealth.

February 8 – Somalia
In the second round of voting, Members of the Somali parliament elect former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as the country’s new president over incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Because of security concerns, the election takes place in a heavily guarded converted aircraft hangar at the Mogadishu airport complex. The terrorist rebel group Al-Shabab staged several mortar attacks around the venue before the election.
Map of Somalia – who controls which parts of the country.

February 9 – Kenya / Somalia
Kenya’s High Court blocks the government’s effort to close the country’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab. It rules that targeting just one group of people, in this case the Somali refugees, is illegal, discriminatory, and in violation of international law. The government planned to close the camp claiming that the camp has become a haven for terrorists. Dadaab camp was founded in 1991 to accommodate Somali refugees escaping civil war in their home country. Today, it hosts more than 256,000 refugees, making it the largest refugee complex in the world.[3] It is run by UNHCR and funded by foreign donors.[4]
“Life in Dadaab: three generations of refugees isolated from Kenyan society” from The Guardian.

February 20 – South Sudan
South Sudan and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) declare famine in South Sudan’s several counties, with 100,000 people affected. They also report that another 1 million people are on the brink of famine and another 5 million urgently need food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.[5] It is estimated that more than one million children are currently acutely malnourished across South Sudan.[6]  South Sudan has a population of 12.5 million people.[7] This famine is man-made exacerbated by three years of violent conflict that disrupted food production and by economic crisis.

March 13 – Somalia
Pirates off the coast of Somalia hijack an oil tanker, the Aris 13, carrying fuel from Djibouti to Mogadishu, in the first such incident since 2012. The attack happens despite safety measures and patrols by naval forces put in place a few years ago. (March 16): The pirates release the ship and its crew without ransom after finding out that the Aris 13 was hired by Somali businessmen.[8]

March 20 – Sub-Saharan Africa
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations releases the 2017 World Happiness Report. Using the following variables—social support, freedom of choice, generosity, honesty, health, life expectancy, income and perceived corruption— the study ranks 155 countries based on the happiness of their people. It also analyzes the findings to explain why some countries are happier than others. According to the study, the happiest place is Norway followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, and Canada. At the very bottom of the happiness list are countries from Sub-Saharan Africa and those hit by conflict, such as Syria and Yemen.[9] Despite an improving economic performance and tripling incomes since 1960s, the U.S. happiness report fell from rank 3 in 2007 to 14. According to the study, rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust are the reasons for this decline.[10]
Full World Happiness Report 2017

April 24 – Kenya / Ghana / Malawi
The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading and coordinating a pilot program to implement the malaria vaccine in small children in three African countries of Kenya, Ghana and Malawi. WHO will collaborate with Ministries of Health in these countries and it will also assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination. The RTS,S vaccine will provide partial protection in young children against the most deadly malaria parasite.[11] Vaccinations are due to begin in mid-2018. Despite progress in the fight with malaria, there were still 212 million new cases in 2015 worldwide and 429 000 deaths.[12] Africa is the hardest hit and most of those who die are in children.

May 26 – Egypt
Several gunmen wearing military uniforms and carrying automatic weapons attack a bus with Coptic Christians who are travelling on a pilgrimage to a monastery in central Egypt. The attackers execute at least 28 passengers and wound 25, including children.[13] According to Human Rights Watch, religious intolerance and sectarian violence against Coptic Christians has been on the rise in recent years, with many Egyptian Copts killed or driven out of their homes and businesses. The Egyptian government does not investigate properly and prosecute those responsible.[14] Christians, mainly Copts, are the largest minority in Egypt, making up 10 percent of the population of Egypt.[15] They have lived in this area before the Arabs conquered it in the 7th century. The Copts have maintained their autonomy, separate beliefs and traditions ever since they broke with the Eastern Church in the 5th century.[16]
Watch this BBC video (1:07 min): Coptic Christians: The essential facts in one minute.

May 31 – Kenya
Kenya opens the Madaraka Express, a major new express railway between the port city of Mombasa and the capital Nairobi. The railway is economically important to Kenya as it cuts the travel time between these two cities by half. This line will be later extended by another 155 miles from the central town of Naivasha to Kisumu in the west. The railway is planned eventually to connect South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia on the Indian Ocean, opening the region’s markets for trade. This huge $3.2-billion infrastructure project has been funded with long-term loans from China. It is part of China’s ambitious massive global infrastructure project, Belt and Road Initiative.[17] This $4-trillion initiative, also referred to as the new Silk Road, plans to encompass around 60 countries and is seen by China as a way of extending its commercial influence around the globe.[18]
Watch a video (1:10 min): What is the One Belt One Road initiative?

June 5 – Egypt / Libya 
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen, Egypt, and Libya’s eastern-based government abruptly cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing it of funding terrorism and links to Iran. They withdraw their ambassadors from Qatar and impose trade and travel bans. Qatar denies the accusation. Turkey and Iran strongly back Qatar in this regional diplomatic crisis. The United States President Donald Trump praises the decision of the Gulf countries’ isolation of Qatar contradicting the existing U.S. policy, while the Defense and State Departments remain neutral.[19] Qatar is home to the biggest US air base in the Middle East, Al-Udeid, with 9,000 U.S. troops and support personnel.  With Qatar’s assistance, the base plays a key role in the US-led operations against Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.[20] The root cause of this diplomatic crisis lies in the two-decade Saudi-Qatar rivalry, which has forces the countries in the region to take sides. About the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, Qatar controls some of the world’s largest gas reserves, which expanded its economy from $8.1 billion in 1995 to an astonishing $210 billion in 2014.[21] With the growing wealth, Qatar wants to play a bigger role in the region. (June 15): Qatar signs a $12 billion deal to buy F-15 fighters jets from the U.S.[22] The deal is completed despite Qatar’s recent criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump for allegedly supporting terrorism. (June 23): Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain say they will lift sanctions if Qatar fulfills 13 demands in the next 10 days. These demands include closing Qatar’s Al Jazeera broadcaster, reducing relations with Iran, closing Turkey’s military base, and cutting its relations with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Qatar rejects the demands.
How the Qatar, Saudi Arabia Rivalry Help Inflame the Middle East: Video (3:43 min) from The New York Times.

June 5 – Morocco / Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agrees to admit Morocco despite its location in North Africa. The move is part of Morocco’s efforts to strengthen its relations with Africa. The West African economic union was established in 1975 to foster free trade and free movement of people. It consists of 15 West African members with a total population of almost 352 million.[23]
More on ECOWAS history, its fundamental principles, and life within the union.

June 14 – Democratic Republic of Congo 
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports new cases of polio in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the first ones since 2012. These new cases come from areas with poor vaccine coverage.[24] Polio is a potentially deadly infection that results in permanent paralysis. Thanks to efforts to eradicate polio worldwide, cases of the disease decreased by over 99 percent since 1988, from more than 350 000 cases to 37 reported cases in 2016.[25] It remains endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Until polio is completely eradicated, all countries, but especially those with weak public health and immunization services, remain at risk of importation of polio.[26]
Explore more about polio and efforts to eradicate it.

August 8 – South Africa
South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, survives an eighth vote of no confidence by 21 votes. This time the parliament held a secret ballot and at least 26 members of parliament from Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) party voted against him with 25 abstentions.[27] Since taking office in 2009, Zuma has been embroiled in several corruption scandals. The president in South Africa is elected by the National Assembly (the lower house of the South African Parliament), serves no more than two five-year terms, and must have the confidence of the Assembly to remain in office.

August 17 – Africa
Spain’s coastguard rescues 600 migrants in one day at sea crossing from Morocco to Europe. According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 8,000 migrants have arrived in Spain so far in 2017, almost three times as many as in the previous year.[28] In 2016, most migrants were reaching Europe through Greece. However, a deal with Turkey to intercept migrant boats and tighter border controls in the Balkans forced migrants to look for different options.  Most migrants leaving the coast of Morocco cross the seven-mile Strait of Gibraltar in cheap flimsy vessels, paddle boats without motors, or even jet skis. This allows them to bypass smuggler networks and their fees. The majority of these migrants come from West African countries. Many migrants still chose the route from the coast of Libya to Italy. In June alone, the Italian coastguard rescued about 5,000 people one day in the Mediterranean. Since January 2017, there were nearly 126,000 arrivals to Europe by sea, mostly to Spain and Italy. More than 2,500 migrants drowned attempting the crossing.[29]
More maps and charts from OIM on migration flows to Europe: recent trends, transit routes, stranded, relocated, and missing migrants, and internally displaced and refugees

August 17 – Mali 
The International Criminal Court (ICC) finds Mali Islamic militant Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi liable for $3.1 million in damages for deliberate destruction of the UNESCO world heritage site of Timbuktu in 2012, which included nine mausoleums and the secret gate to the 15th century Sidi Yahia mosque. As a member of Ansar Dine group, a Tuareg[30] Islamist militia in North Africa with links to al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, Mahdi not only directed the rebels to destroy the historic sites, but himself actively participated in it. He is the first person convicted by the ICC for such a crime and in 2016 sentenced to nine years in prison.[31] Because Mahdi has no money, the funds for the damages for the community of Timbuktu will come from the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims.[32] Some of the vandalized sites have been already restored using old photographs and testimonies of the elders.
Video and pictures of Timbuktu historic sites from UNESCO

August 23 – Egypt
The United States announces that it withholds $195 million in military aid and cuts more than $95 million in other aid to Egypt due to concerns over its human rights record. This includes Egypt’s recent law regulating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seen as a crackdown on dissenting civil society groups by controlling their activities and funding.[33] In 2016, Egypt was the third largest recipient of aid from the United States, after Afghanistan and Israel.[34]
More data on U.S. foreign aid

August 23 – Angola
Angola’s ruling MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) party wins parliamentary election with 61 percent, leaving the opposition Unita party behind with 27 percent of the vote. The country’s Casa-CE alliance party (the Broad Convergence for the Salvation of Angola) gained nearly 10 percent of the vote, up from 6 percent in 2012. It is a political alliance that includes a variety of parties. In Angola, voters directly elect the parliament and the leader of the largest party automatically becomes president. The MPLA has been the only party in power since Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975. Former Defense Minister João Lourenço will take over the presidency from President José Eduardo Dos Santos who has been in power for 38 years and did not stand for reelection. However, he will remain the head of the MPLA and his children will continue to hold several key positions.
Watch a video from BBC (3 min): Is Dos Santos really giving up power?

October 10 – Kenya
Kenya’s opposition leader and head of the National Super Alliance (NASA), Raila Odinga, withdraws from a re-run of the presidential election scheduled by the Supreme Court for October 26. He demands changes to electoral operations and personnel for election results to be credible. He also calls for daily protests to pressure the authorities to complete the reforms. The boycott raises fears of political violence.[35] Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the results of the August 8 presidential election after finding irregularities in electronic voting and a lack of transparency to assure a victory for President Uhuru Kenyatta, a challenge brought up by Raila Odinga. The ruling was accepted by the incumbent president, which is seen as a victory for democracy and judicial independence in Kenya.[36] (October 26): After days of violent protests and clashes between the rival groups and anti-riot police troops that killed 50 people, President Uhuru Kenyatta wins the presidential elections run-off with over 98 percent of the vote. However, the turnout was only 39 percent, compared to 80 percent in the August first round.[37] In some areas belonging predominantly to the opposition supporters, the voting did not take place due to a total boycott. The election plunges Kenya into a political uncertainty with a threat of ethnic violence. In Kenya ethnicity is a key to political loyalties. Uhuru Kenyatta is from the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest ethnic community, and Raila Odinga from the Luo ethnic group, which has long felt marginalized.

October 14 – Somalia
Two powerful car bombs explode in a busy neighborhood in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, killing an unprecedented number of people and causing a huge destruction. So far, at least 277 people are confirmed dead and another 300 wounded.[38] Rescuers continue to pull more bodies from the debris. The explosions take place in the heart of the city with hotels, offices, restaurants, and foreign embassies. Many buildings got damaged, or collapsed with people trapped underneath. So far, no group has claimed responsibility, but it is suspected that it was Al-Shabaab, a home grown Islamist terrorist organization with links to al-Qaeda.
More about the al-Shabaab

November 6 – Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, 93, sacks Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of plotting to take power from him. The move paves the way for Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, to become vice president and then succeed him as president. Grace Mugabe, who is 41 years younger than her husband, has quickly risen through the ranks of the ruling Zanu-PF party, ousting many opponents. But she has been a polarizing figure within the party and failed to win the support of the army.[39] (November 14): Zimbabwe’s military takes over the state TV station and places President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, under house arrest. The army says it is not a coup, but an attempt to take care of “criminals” around President Mugabe.[40] It gives Mugabe an ultimatum to resign or face impeachment. (November 21): After 37 years in power, Robert Mugabe resigns as president of Zimbabwe. The move ends the political crisis and the impeachment hearings. He is succeeded by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mugabe: From war hero to president of Zimbabwe (video: 2:12)

December 6 – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The Norwegian Refugee Council reports that internal displacement due to conflict, violence and disasters continues to be a persistent and serious problem in Africa, despite strong commitments on the part of national governments to prevent, address and resolve it. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the country worst affected by conflict displacement not just in Africa, but in the world, ahead of Iraq and Syria. By the end of June 2017, there were close to 1 million newly displaced people in DRC on top of 922,000 in 2016, with another 130,000 people who fled their homes as a result of disasters.[41] The report points out that the instability within the country keeps many families away from their land who rely on it for their livelihoods. This put 7.7 million people on the verge of mass hunger. Lack of access to clean water has led to a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 600 people. The reason for the instability in DRC is ongoing fighting between rival militias over the control of the territory. The conflict has been worsened by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to hold new presidential elections. His second term ended in December 2016.[42]

December 10 – Sudan
Sudan’s court drops charges of indecency against 24 women who were arrested for wearing trousers after a party they attended was raided by morality police.[43] Article 152 of Sudan’s criminal code allows Sudan’s “morality police” to punish women for going unveiled or even for wearing trousers, which is considered an “indecent act” in public. Thousands of women are arrested and flogged for indecency every year, but the law is applied arbitrarily. The well-off or politically connected can get away with just paying a fine, while others face a punishment of 40 lashes. The law is also seen as discriminatory against minority Christian women from the Nuba Mountains, who wear long-sleeved shirts and skirts or trousers rather than a traditional Sudanese loose flowing robe.[44]


[1] Freedom House. “Freedom in the World 2017 Report.” 2017. Web. 19 February 2017.
[2] Searcey, Dionne and Jaime Yaya Barry. “As Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh Entered Exile, Plane Stuffed With Riches Followed.” The New York Times. 23 January 2017. Web. 12 February 2017.
[3] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “Refugees in the Horn of Africa: Somali Displacement Crisis.” Kenya, Dadaab. 31January 2017. Web. 5 March 2017.
[4] “Abuse in the name of security.” The Economist. 29 May 2013. Web. 5 March 2017.
[5] UN World Food Programme. “Famine Hits Parts Of South Sudan.” 20 February 2017. Web. 3 March 2017.
[6] Ibid 5.
[7] Washington D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency. “The World Factbook 2016-17.” South Sudan. 12 January 2017. Web. 3 March 2017.
[8] “Somali pirates release oil tanker and crew after first hijack for five years.” The Guardian. 16 March 2017. Web. Accessed 12 April 2017.
[9] Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. World Happiness Report 2017, New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 2017. Web. Accessed 13 April 2017.
[10] Ibid. Chapter 7. “Restoring American Happiness.”
[11] World Health Organization. “Malaria. Q&A on the malaria vaccine implementation programme (MVIP).” April 2017. Accessed 23 April 2017. – Who will fund MVIP?
[12] World Health Organization. “Malaria: Fact Sheet: World Malaria Report 2016.” 13 December 2016. Accessed 23 April 2017.
[13] “Egypt Coptic Christians killed in bus attack.” BBC News. 26 May 2017. Accessed 1 June 2017.
[14] Stork, Joe. “Egypt’s Christians Flee ISIS Violence.” Human Rights Watch. 13 March 2017. Accessed 1 June 2017.
[15] The World Factbook 2016-17. “Egypt: People and Society.” Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2017.
[16] Laila Shukry El Hamamsy and Marsden Jones. “Egypt.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. 2 May 2017. Accessed 1 June 2017.
[17] “Kenya opens Nairobi-Mombasa Madaraka Express railway.” BBC News. 31 May 2017. Accessed 1 June 2017.  
[18] “Our bulldozers, our rules.” The Economist. 2 July 2016. Accessed 31 May 2017.
[19] Stewart, Phil. “U.S. military praises Qatar, despite Trump tweet.” Reuters. 6 June 2017. Accessed 15 June 2017.
[20] Pawlyk, Oriana. “Al Udeid: The good, the bad, and the very ugly.” AirForce Times. 23 February 2016. Accessed 15 June 2017
[21] The International Monetary Fund (IMF). The World Economic Outlook Database. “Qatar: Gross Domestic Product, current prices, 1995-2014.” April 2017. Accessed 15 June 2017.
[22] “Qatar signs $12 billion deal to buy F-15 jets from U.S.” Reuters. 14 June 2017. Accessed 15 June 2017.
[23] “Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte D’ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.” The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 2017. Accesed 25 June 2017.
[24] The World Health Organization (WHO). “Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 – Democratic Republic of the Congo.” 13 June 2017. Accessed 14 June 2017.
[25] The World Health Organization (WHO). “Does polio still exist? Is it curable?” April 2017. Accessed 14 June 2017.
[26] The Global Polio Eradication Initiative. “Where We Work: Endemic Countries.” 2017. Accessed 14 June 2017.
[27] “South Africa Jacob Zuma survives no-confidence vote.” BBC News. 8 August 2017. Web. Accesssed 6 September 2017.
[28] United Nations International Organizations for Migration (IOM). “Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 120,137 in 2017; 2,410 Deaths.” Press Room.22 August 2017. Web. Accessed 6 September 2017 from
[29] United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM). “Migration Flows – Europe.” 3 September 2017. Web. Accessed 6 September 2017 from
[30] Tuaregs are semi-nomadic Muslim people believed to be descendants of the Berber natives of North Africa.
[31] “Timbuktu Trial: “A major step towards peace and reconciliation in Mali.” The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). News and Events. 27 September 2016. Accessed 21 August 2017.
[32] “Al Mahdi case: ICC Trial Chamber VIII issues reparations order.” The International Criminal Court (ICC). Press Release. 17 August 2018. Accessed 21 August 2017.
[33] Tamkin, Emily. “In Policy Reversal, U.S. Withholds Aid to Egypt.” Foreign Policy. 23 August 2017. Web. Accessed 28 August 2017 from
[34] “Explore: Map of Foreign Assistance Worldwide.” 2016 data. Web. Accessed 28 August 2017 from
[35] Burke, Jason. “Kenya: Raila Odinga withdraws from election rerun.” The Guardian. 10 October 2017. Web. Accessed 23 October 2017 from
[36] De Freytas-Tamura, Kimiko. “Kenya Supreme Court Nullifies Presidential Election.” The New York Times. 1 September 2017. Web. Accessed 23 October 2017 from
[37] “Kenya election: Kenyatta re-elected in disputed poll.” BBC News. 30 October 2017. Web. Accessed 30 October 2017.
[38] Nor, Omar and James Gray. “Mogadishu bombings kill ‘unprecedented number of civilians.” CNN. 16 October 2017. Web. Accessed 16 October 2017.
[39] “Grace Mugabe: Who is Zimbabwe’s former first lady?” BBC News. 21 November 2017. Web. Accessed 29 November 2017.
[40] “Zimbabwe’s Mugabe ‘under house arrest’ after army takeover.” BBC News. 15 November 2017. Web. Accessed 30 November 2017.
[41] Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). “2017 Africa Report on Internal Displacement.” (2017). Web. Accessed 20 December 2017 from
[42] “DR Congo country profile.” BBC News. 6 December 2017. Web. Accessed 18 December 2017.
[43] “Sudan women in trousers: No indecency charges.” BBC News. 10 December 2017. Web. Accessed 5 January 2018.
[44] Eltahawy, Mona. “The Middle East’s Morality Police.” The New York Times. 19 August 2015. Web. Accessed 5 January 2018.