South Africa’s Constitutional Court has declared the law which governs the communication surveillance activities of the country’s intelligence community unconstitutional.

The case was based on evidence that the state spied on investigative journalist Sam Sole, of amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, while he was communicating with a source in the National Prosecuting Authority.

The judgment is a huge advance for privacy and freedom of expression. It means that rogue spies will be less able to manipulate the process to spy on journalists, lawyers, activists and others purely because they are critical of the state. When they ask a judge for permission to conduct surveillance, they will have to be much more careful about justifying the request.

The African Union (AU) held the 38th Ordinary Session of its Executive Council at the beginning of February 2021.

One of the agenda items was to elect six new members of the AU Commission. The Commission is the AU’s secretariat, which carries out its day-to-day operations. These are the first commissioner elections since the Union’s reform process began in 2017. The reform process was deemed

urgent and necessary given the role the AU is expected to play in achieving Africa’s Agenda 2063.

The internal African slave trade was officially abolished in colonial Mali in 1905. But a form of slavery – called “descent-based slavery” – continues today. This is when “slave status” is ascribed to a person, based on their ancestors having allegedly been enslaved by elite slave-owning families.

The practice is most prevalent among Mali’s nomadic Tuareg and Fulani communities in Central and Northern Mali, but exists in every region of Mali. It is also present in other Sahel countries, including Niger, Mauritania, Chad, Sudan, and Senegal.

In 2020 four activists campaigning against the practice were murdered in Kayes, western Mali, leading to large demonstrations.

Ghana, touted for its democracy and peaceful transfer of power since 1992, faced its first presidential election dispute in 2012. This was the sixth election of the country’s fourth republic.

Six months prior to the elections, the sitting president, John Evans Atta Mills, passed away and the vice-president, John Mahama, was sworn in as president.

When the Electoral Commission declared the incumbent the winner of the presidential poll, the outcome was disputed by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the leading opposition party, the New Patriotic Party. He petitioned the Supreme Court to annul some 3,000,000 votes.

Ethiopia is set to hold general elections for members of the federal parliament and regional councils on June 5, 2021. It will be the sixth such elections, and another chance for Ethiopia to transit to democracy.

For many centuries, Ethiopia was ruled by a long line of absolute monarchs . The last emperor was overthrown by a popular revolution in 1974. However, the revolution was hijacked by a military junta that ruled the country until its overthrow in 1991.

There was hope that Ethiopia would embrace democracy for the first time when the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, a coalition of four ethnic political parties, took power in 1991 and introduced multiparty elections. This was not to be. The front conducted five sham general elections and ruled the country with an iron fist for 28 years.

The recently concluded 34th summit of the African Union (AU) had a particularly significant job to do: it elected six commissioners to the AU’s secretariat, which is a vital cog in the organisation. The AU Commission works with various organs of the union to promote and advance its objectives. It reports to the executive council, which develops policy and oversees implementation of the decisions of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

The election of the six commissioners signalled two things about the union. The first is how serious the AU is about putting in place a strong team to drive institutional reforms. The second is how strong its commitment is to implementing gender parity.

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