Africa in the news: Push for wage increase in Nigeria, Tshisekedi inaugurated as DRC president, and Burkina Faso cabinet reshuffle

Felix Tshisekedi holds up the constitution during the inauguration ceremony whereby Tshisekedi was sworn into office as the new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Olivia Acland - RC143472C080

Nigeria recommends minimum wage increase; leading female candidate drops out of presidential race

On Tuesday, Nigeria’s government recommended a 50 percent increase in the national minimum wage, raising it from 18,000 ($50) to 27,000 naira ($75) per month. The current revision follows worker strikes in 2018 when unions demanded the minimum wage to be raised to 50,000 naira. The new minimum wage is expected to apply only to businesses employing more than 25 employees and public employees. The National Assembly also began debating the bill this week, forming committees in the Senate and House of Representatives that will provide input over the next two weeks before the measure to raise the minimum wage is voted on. 

Also this week, leading female candidate, Obiageli Ezekwesili, dropped out of the presidential race. Explaining her reasoning, she tweeted, “I have decided to step down from the presidential race and focus on helping to build a coalition for a viable alternative to the #APCPDP in the 2019 general.” According to analysts interviewed by Reuters, Ezekwesili had limited support from President Muhammadu Buhari and opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar is likely to be the only genuine contenders in the race.

Tshisekedi inaugurated as next president of DRC

On Thursday, after a long and tumultuous election process since the ballot on December 30 of last year, the opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi was inaugurated as the next president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. On Sunday, the Constitutional Court declared Tshisekedi the winner and rejected a challenge from runner-up Martin Fayulu, another opposition leader who declared himself the country’s legitimate winner and had called for peaceful demonstrations demanding for a recount. Tshisekedi will take over from President Joseph Kabila, making it the first peaceful transfer of power in the country’s history.

The election had been steeped in controversy even before the ballot day, with nearly two years of delays, voting machines being destroyed by a fire a few weeks before the elections, and the election commission restricting over 1 million voters from participating in the eastern part of the country due to an Ebola outbreak.

Concerns over the legitimacy of the election rang out last year when President Kabila picked a political ally, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, to run for president, with critics saying that he would be a stand-in until Kabila was able to make a comeback. With the surprising results of Tshisekedi being named the winner, speculations began to circulate about Tshisekedi and Kabila having made a backroom deal. Tshisekedi has been largely quiet since the ballot day and has not addressed such allegations.

While the United States issued a proclamation on Wednesday welcoming the new government, representatives of the African Union and the European Union have not yet explicitly recognized Tshisekedi.

Burkina Faso cabinet reshuffle amidst rising Jihadi violence

Earlier this week, the prime minister of Burkina Faso, Paul Kaba Thieba, resigned from office along with his entire 30-member cabinet, according to a statement read on live television. No further explanation was given for the move. Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore accepted the resignation of his cabinet, vowing to form a new government soon. Days later, Kabore named Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire, a former health minister and regional monetary union official, as his new prime minister. Dabire is expected to announce his new cabinet in the coming days.

The political reshuffle occurs amid deteriorating security along Burkina Faso’s borders with Mali and Niger. The small, landlocked country has had a surge of violent attacks by Islamist insurgents vying for influence in the Sahel region of West Africa. Dozens have been killed in attacks by jihadi militants, including at the French embassy in the capital of Ouagadougou. Foreigners have also been kidnapped including Kirk Woodman, a Canadian geologist working on a gold mining project, who was later found dead with multiple gunshot wounds.

The government extended the state of emergency declared on December 31 for six more months in several regions affected by repeated attacks near the Mali and Niger borders.