Thursday, 21 September 2017

Trump takes on the UN

Some African leaders in the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September listening to United States President Donald Trump's planned remedies for rogue states seemed to breathe a sigh of relief at his lack of interest in their continent. The following day, during discussions chaired by Ethiopia, which presides over the UN Security Council this month, African officials saw in more detail what planned US budget cuts are likely to do to UN operations on their continent.

President Trump's enthusiasm for the military and US projection of power doesn't extend to financing or participating in UN peacekeeping operations. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is pushing for swingeing cuts – of up to 10% – to UN missions in Congo-Kinshasa and Sudan. Trump wants to limit the US share of the UN's US$7.3 billion peacekeeping budget to 25%. It is currently 28.5% and the US is easily the biggest contributor.

UN operations in Congo-K are to be cut by about $90 million by economising on staffing and travel. This comes at a time when the country could be on the brink of political implosion as opposition mounts to Joseph Kabila's attempts to extend his presidency, against the terms of the constitution. Other missions in the frame for cuts are those in Central African Republic, Mali and South Sudan. Washington evidently wants France to lead in the two francophone states, and for Britain to take on a stronger role in Juba.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

KENYA: Political bitterness growing as Kenyatta warns that an Odinga presidency would face impeachment

This week, Kenya's election saga rolls on with the opening of parliament in Nairobi and conflicting claims about the electoral commission. In South Africa, more companies and state officials could become targets of the 'Gupta effect'. Tanzanian President John Magufuli has another foreign mining company in his sights, this time over allegations of dodgy diamond-dealing. The same charge is levelled in Zimbabwe but this time – to the embarrassment of Robert Mugabe – against allies of the President and officials in the national spy agency.


KENYA: Political bitterness growing as Kenyatta warns that an Odinga presidency would face impeachmentMixed messages are emerging on the campaign trail and in parliament ahead of the rerun of the presidential election ordered by the Supreme Court. Opening parliament yesterday (12 September), President Uhuru Kenyatta warned that 'divisive and destructive politics' were threatening the stability of the country.

It was a sideswipe at politicians of the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) who boycotted the opening of parliament yesterday. 'We shall continue to encourage vibrant democratic competition,' said Kenyatta, '…we shall not allow destructive division.'

At the same time, opposition leaders were holding a rally in the Nairobi slum of Kibera at which they rejected the mooted presidential poll date of 17 October. They also demanded the resignation of the management of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

At the beginning of the week, at another election rally, President Kenyatta warned that if opposition leader Raila Odinga won the presidency in the rerun election he would be impeached within three months. Kenyatta was referring to the increase in the number of Jubilee MPs. They now constitute nearly two-thirds of the 290-seat parliament.

Jubilee officials have been trying, in recent days, to woo some MPs who have been supporting Odinga. For now, no end to 'divisive politics' looks to be on the agenda.

SOUTH AFRICA: Corrupt officials in state companies could face civil actions to recover funds as more Gupta-linked multinationals come under fireCalls from Thuli Madonsela, South Africa's former Public Protector, for civil actions against officials caught up in claims of multi-million dollar fraud linked to the Gupta brothers' companies have won strong support from local business.

Africa Confidential understands that some prominent local companies are preparing to sue senior state officials who they say are responsible for massive losses to South Africa's treasury. Madonsela has pointed to the public losses following payments of 300 million rand (US$23 mn.) by Eskom, the state electricity company, to Trillian, a company linked to the Gupta family and allies of President Jacob Zuma.

Officials at Eskom were warned of impropriety linked to the Trillian payments but failed to act, said Madonsela. Although the South African government has an Asset Forfeiture Unit, Madonsela has questioned whether it would be willing to act in such a case because it involves high-ranking officials.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the British-based auditors KPMG who have worked for several companies owned by the Gupta family. 'Save South Africa', a local civil society group, has accused KPMG of playing a 'central role in facilitating state capture' by the Guptas. This week, South Africa's Institute of Directors announced it would no longer co-sponsor events with KPMG and several companies are said to be reviewing their relations with the auditors.

TANZANIA: Government seizes consignment from Petra Diamonds,  accusing it of under-declaring mineral exportsPresident John Magufuli's government, already in a heated dispute with Acacia Mining, has stepped up his resource nationalism campaign by ordering an urgent review of all Petra Diamonds contracts.
This follows officials' seizure of millions of dollars worth of diamonds from Petra Diamonds' mine at Dar es Salaam airport. The company put the value of the stones, which were to be exported to Antwerp, at $14.7 mn. but customs officials ordered a fresh valuation after which the government claimed the true value was $29.5 mn. Finance Minister Philip Mpango has launched an investigation into the government's valuation team.

After President Magufuli ordered all officials involved in the affair to quit the government, Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Transportation Edwin Ngonyani and Minister in the Presidency George Simbachawene announced their resignations. They both expressed confidence that the investigation would clear them of wrongdoing.

Petra Diamonds has now suspended operations in Tanzania. It will now face a wider enquiry into claims that it substantially underpaid duties and taxes.

ZIMBABWE: Spy agency and Mugabe allies control diamond mines in Marange, according to Global WitnessAs President Mugabe announces the start of voter registration ahead of next year's national elections, an undercover investigation claims that his political allies and officials in the Central Intelligence Organisation have been trading diamonds illicitly from the mines in Marange. The revelations, by London-based Global Witness, will acutely embarrass Mugabe, who claimed last year that illegal Marange diamond exports had cost the country $15 billion in lost revenue. He accused 'foreign-owned' mining companies of swindling the state.

But it seems a company called Kusena, in which the CIO and others had a secret stake, was a major beneficiary of the diamond deals (AC Vol 55 No 10, Mugabe moves on Marange). The spy agency is said to have used its highly lucrative stake as a slush fund for covert operations. In previous elections, such operations, which have included serious assaults, have targeted the opposition.


IN VERY BRIEF

TUNISIA: Questions over who ordered the expulsion of dissident Moroccan Prince Moulay Hicham

NIGERIA: Women Affairs Minister Aisha Alhassan pledges to back Atiku Abubakar in 2019 presidential race

GHANA: Central Bank launches tougher rules on capital requirements after two local bank takeovers

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Observing the observers

Some rethinking by election observers and we, the journalists who cover them, is needed in the wake of the 1 September decision of Kenya's Supreme Court to annul last month's presidential election. In a rare example of editorial remorse, the New York Times has conceded that its leader, two days after the results were announced, asserting that observers had 'witnessed no foul play' and accusing Raila Odinga of 'fann[ing] the embers of ethnic strife', was misplaced. Other media outfits are less inclined to self-criticism.

Amid the complexity of a national election in which about 19 million voters marked six ballot papers each, it requires detailed scrutiny to assess its fairness. The key role of digital technology – and its vulnerability to security breaches – in verifying voters, tallying and relaying the results makes accurate judgements still harder.

That can make even intrepid journalists reliant on expert observers. Yet politics can impinge on technical judgements. After the murderous clashes of 2007-2008 in Kenya, some observers adopted a 'peace before justice' position, wanting to dampen down all but the most egregious complaints lest they fuel another political implosion. Now it seems the Supreme Court has taken a different tack, subjecting the electoral commission to the most rigorous legal tests. This comes at a time of creeping, sometime galloping, authoritarianism in Africa and its boldness puts a huge responsibility on the country's politicians.

Monday, 4 September 2017

KENYA: After court overturns Kenyatta's victory, opposition wants sweeping reforms to electoral commission ahead of poll re-run

We start in Kenya this week where the shock of the Supreme Court's decision to annul the presidential election is still being felt. Opposition movements and election petitioners across Africa have been heartened by the ruling. Some of the international analysts and observers who had rushed to endorse Uhuru Kenyatta's victory have sounded a note of humility as they await the court's full ruling. There is mixed news about China's multi-billion dollar deals in Nigeria. The family of a front-line political dissident in Rwanda, Diane Rwigara, say she has disappeared after a police raid but government officials contradict them. And Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's Deputy President, is facing a slew of dirty tricks which some are linking to outgoing President Jacob Zuma.

KENYA: After court overturns Kenyatta's victory, opposition wants sweeping reforms to electoral commission ahead of poll re-run
Critical decisions about the timing of the re-run election and the management of the electoral commission will have to be made quickly in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision to annul Uhuru Kenyatta's victory in the 8 August presidential election. Key to this will be the publication of the full written opinion by Chief Justice David Maraga setting out the reasons why four of the six judges sitting on the case decided to annul the result. Although Maraga has 21 days to release it, political insiders expect to see it later this week.

If the judgement relies mainly on evidence of procedural faults in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission's management of the polls – such as tallying discrepancies between results recorded at the polling stations and those posted electronically – fresh elections may be held without a major reorganisation of the responsible institutions.

However, if Maraga's written judgement backs the claims by opposition leader Raila Odinga that there was widespread interference with the IT systems that tallied and relayed the presidential results, many will demand a wholesale restructuring of the IEBC. That could make it make it extremely difficult to meet the deadline of holding fresh elections by 31 October.

There are already loud calls from the opposition for Wafula Chebukati, chairman of the IEBC, to stand down immediately. Within hours of the judgement on 1 September, President Kenyatta said he would accept Chief Justice Maraga's decision despite his strong disagreement. But back on the campaign trail a day later, Kenyatta referred to Maraga and his colleagues as 'dishonest people', arguing that the ability of a Court to annul a popular verdict was a problem that needed 'to be fixed'.
Political and community responsibility will be tested to the limit in the coming weeks.

NIGERIA: As Chinese oil giant faces international bribe probe, Beijing agrees to finance $5.8 billion Mambilla hydro scheme
The United States' investigations are escalating into claims that China's Sinopec paid $100 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to resolve a US$4 billion dispute during negotiations to take over Addax, the Geneva-based oil trading outfit. After a company official was arrested in Geneva in March on corruption charges, the Swiss authorities fined Sinopec 31 mn. Swiss francs ($33 mn.).

This case could prove extremely embarrassing for Sinopec, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, if the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission press ahead with their own investigations.

However, the dispute shows no signs of derailing the burgeoning relations between Beijing and Abuja. Indeed, as US companies cut their investments in Nigeria's oil industry as well as their purchases of Nigerian crude, their Chinese counterparts are stepping up trade with Africa's biggest producer. This month Power Minister Babatunde Fashola announced that China's Civil Engineering Construction Corporation has won a $5.8 bn. contract to build the 3,000 Megawatt Mambilla hyrdro-electric plant. China Exim Bank will finance 85% of the contract with Nigeria providing the rest. The project is to take six years, said Fashola.

RWANDA: Disqualified presidential contender and regime critic is missing after arrest, say family
The whereabouts of Diane Rwigara, a human rights activist who was barred from contesting last month's presidential election, are unknown, say her family, following a police raid on her house in Kigali last week. Rwigara and three siblings were taken from her house for questioning on 29 August, according to the police who insist none of them were detained.

Until three years ago, Rwigara's father Assinapol had been close to President Paul Kagame and other top figures in the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front, but he fell out with them and in February 2015 died in a car crash which his family and others insist was a murder.

Her father's death pushed Diane, a chartered accountant, into politics. Rwigara's application to run in the presidential election was rejected after the government said that some of the over 1,000 signatures backing her candidacy had been forged.

Following that rejection, Rwigera announced she would start a new political group, the People's Salvation Movement. Days later the Rwandan revenue authority said that the family company, Premier Tobacco, owes 6.6 bn. Rwandan francs ($7.8 mn.) in back taxes.

GHANA: After Accra mission, IMF sees signs of economic recovery and extends programme for another year
A decision last week by the International Monetary Fund to extend its credit facility to Ghana for another year has resolved a glitch in its relations with President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo's government. For several months, top officials in Akufo-Addo's government had said they wanted an early end to the IMF facility as it was unnecessary both in terms of the financing it brought and its macro-economic conditions.

In June, Germany invited Ghana to join its Africa economic partnership programme which would yield more financing than the IMF's three year $930 mn. facility.

There were other complicating factors to the IMF's relations with Ghana's new government. Many officials had wanted the IMF to be far more critical of the previous government's breach of its commitments to the fund on the budget deficit and state spending. Instead, the IMF had issued a highly diplomatic statement about 'its concerns' three months prior to last December's national elections.

Since the Akufo-Addo government took over, the IMF has been far more forthright about Ghana's economic plight and has made stern warnings about borrowing plans. In last week's statement, IMF officials referred to 'encouraging steps' by the authorities and signs of 'economic recovery'. Both fund officials and commercial bankers say the Akufo-Addo government is much more serious about budgetary discipline than its predecessor. This year the budget deficit is forecast at 6.3%, compared with 9.3% last year.

SOUTH AFRICA: Ramaphosa faces 'apartheid-style' dirty tricks in race to lead ANC
Two leading African National Congress figures – Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu – have condemned 'dirty tricks' against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's campaign for the leadership of the party. They said there is evidence that state resources and intelligence service personnel were used to hack Ramaphosa's email accounts.

Apart from damaging Ramaphosa’s electioneering, the stories, which broke over the weekend, may distract attention from what could be another difficult week for President Jacob Zuma. Tomorrow (5 September), the Constitutional Court is due to rule on whether there should be a judicial investigation into Zuma's breaching of the constitution. Also on 5 September, opposition parties in parliament are to push ahead with a vote for an early election to cut short Zuma's second term.

Referring to the hacked emails, the Johannesburg weekly, the Sunday Independent contacted Ramaphosa with a slew of questions about alleged marital infidelities. In response to the newspaper's story, Ramaphosa issued a lengthy rebuttal of the accusations and some of the women named in the account have come forward to back his version of events.

Mantashe went on to say the tricks were reminiscent of tactics used by the former apartheid regime. That is about as damning as condemnations get in the ANC. Although it's clear they were suggesting the involvement of President Zuma in the dirty tricks both men stopped short of referring to Zuma by name. Nor did they make any reference to Zuma's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is Ramaphosa's main rival in the leadership contest.


IN VERY BRIEF

ZAMBIA: Top Nigerian diplomat to mediate between President Edgar Lungu and opposition leader Hakainde Hichelema

UNITED STATES/UNITED NATIONS: US President Donald Trump will host special conference pushing reforms and cuts in UN funding on 18 September

BURUNDI: UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi calls for the International Criminal Court to probe claims of war crimes by President Pierre Nkuruniziza's regime

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

KENYA: Opposition demands access to election computers as court case heats up ahead of 1 September deadline

We start this week with a couple of election disputes – in Angola and Kenya. In both cases, opposition candidates allege fraud by the national electoral commission, but few expect either result to be overturned. Congo-Kinshasa is back on the radar, with the UN criticising the government over elections, about which there are growing concerns. A new agricultural commodities exchange is stirring interest among farmers and investors from South Africa and China. Finally, France's President Emmanuel Macron hosted a mini-summit on migration in Paris over the weekend during which he got agreement, in principle, to process asylum seekers within Africa, instead of running through the checks once the would-be migrants have landed in Europe. Much detailed work remains according to both the European and African officials at the summit.

KENYA: Opposition demands access to election computers as court case heats up ahead of 1 September deadline
A trial of strength is intensifying between Raila Odinga's National Super Alliance (Nasa) and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as opposition lawyers demand access to the commission's servers and other electronic data. Nasa says IEBC's announcement that incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta won the 8 August elections by 1.4 million votes was 'fatally flawed' due to meddling with the commission's information technology systems.

Although the Supreme Court, which is hearing the opposition's challenge, has requested the IEBC to grant opposition lawyers limited access to its computer servers on 28 August, both parties have been locked in dispute over the modalities. Opposition lawyers claim that the electronic results transmitted by the IEBC differ sharply from the votes counted manually at polling stations across the country.
The Presidential inauguration has been postponed until after 1 September, the deadline for the Court to rule on the validity of the elections.

ANGOLA: Opposition questions MPLA election win as talks start on $2 billion Eurobond
Opposition parties are also questioning the credibility of national polls on 23 August in Angola in which the incumbent MPLA is said to have won 61.1% of the vote by the electoral commission. Final results are not due until 6 September.

However, UNITA, the historic opposition party, says its parallel vote count in the provinces of Bie, Cabina, Huambo and Luanda, differs sharply with the results released by the commission.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Luanda have opened talks with international banks about floating a US$2 billion Eurobond. Crashing world oil prices brought Angola's economy to a grinding halt last year after a decade of growth averaging 7% a year.

Although Russian state bank VTB, which along with Credit Suisse is at the centre of the secret loans scandal in Mozambique, had earlier tried to market a financing scheme in Luanda, Angolan officials deny that it has been selected to handle the bond launch.

CONGO-KINSHASA: UN criticises President Kabila's government over rights violations as Washington ends special envoy post
Raising serious doubts about the government's commitment to holding national elections this year, a United Nations assessment has criticised the Kinshasa government for cracking down on journalists and civic activists.

A UN team led by Georgette Gagnon of its Human Rights Office concluded that the 'space for a credible electoral process is rapidly shrinking' although President Joseph Kabila signed an agreement pledging to leave power and hold free elections this year. Gagnon's assessment follows fresh reports of clashes in Kasai and the east of the country.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who has met Kabila in private talks, has added to concerns by telling the recent summit of the Southern African Development Community that elections in December are 'unlikely'. SADC is to appoint a high-level envoy to mediate between Kabila and the opposition. Kabila may find his political plans will encounter less international opposition following a decision by United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to end the appointment of special envoys to crises in Africa and Asia.

In a letter to the US Congress last week, Tillerson announced that he was shutting down the offices of special envoys to Congo-Kinshasa and South Sudan, and that those functions would be taken up by other Washington-based officials.

NIGERIA: Investment of $135 million in commodities exchange buoys hopes for speedier economic revival
The latest economic data – a slight drop in headline inflation and economic growth edging upwards slowly – points to a slow recovery from last year's recession but concerns persist about caps on social spending and a lack of new jobs.

However, the plan to invest US$135 million in an agricultural commodities exchange at Ugbokun, Edo State, has sparked huge interest following the sharp growth in farm production over the last two years. Farmers have boosted output in the wake of the crash in oil prices and state revenues.

Due to more effective delivery of seeds and fertilisers, farmers in northern Nigeria are stepping up rice, millet and sugar production, selling substantial amounts of produce to neighbouring states.
The commodities exchange at Ugbokun, known as Integrated Produce City, should encourage farmers in six states in the south of the country to boost their own production and bring it to the new market for domestic customers or exports. Crops such as cocoa, rubber, cashew nuts and palm oil will be traded on the exchange initially but the range is likely to widen to include yam and cassava.

Chief Executive of the new venture, Pat Utomi is an economist, a founder of the Lagos Business School and a former presidential candidate. Having advocated restructuring the country's economy away from its dependence on crude oil exports, Utomi is committing his energies to a project that would promote the country's self-sufficiency in staple foodstuffs. Currently Nigeria spends more than $3.5 bn. a year on imported commodities.

AFRICA/EUROPEAN UNION: France's Macron wins wide support for 'safe zones' to process asylum applications in Africa
After a summit meeting in Paris yesterday (28 August), German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron pronounced themselves satisfied with 'initial progress' on a plan to stem migration to Europe by organising the processing of applications for political asylum in Africa.

The plan, devised by Macron, also won some conditional support from Libyan leader Faiez el Serraj, Chad's President Idris Déby Itno and Niger's President Mahamadou  Issoufou. As with most of the European Union's initiatives on migration there is likely to be some inducement for regional governments to join.

Under the scheme, the EU will pay some countries in the Sahel region and West Africa to set up better facilities to accommodate asylum seekers. Over the last couple of years, the EU has stepped up development projects in African countries where people face harsh conditions and are firmly on the migration roadmap.


IN VERY BRIEF

GHANA: IMF is to release a review of the economy this week as the government forecasts faster growth over next two years.

SOUTH AFRICA: Presidential son Duduzane Zuma and KPMG are trying to limit damage of their links with Gupta family businesses.

SOMALIA: US airstrike kills top Al Shabaab commander but Mogadishu government faces protests after civilians killed in ground operation.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Buhari's quiet return

After three months' medical leave, President Muhammadu Buhari's return to Abuja on 19 August has failed to inject a new spirit of dynamism into government business.

A cabinet meeting planned for 23 August was cancelled at short notice. That was, we were told, to allow Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to discuss investigations into two suspended officials, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal, and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency Ayodele Oke.

Another reason, still less plausible, for the cancelled cabinet was the need for renovations at the Presidential offices. 'There are rats in the building,' said an official wryly, unclear whether the rodents were metaphorical ones. The inertia over the cases of Lawal and Oke shows the strict limits of Osinbajo's power as acting President in Buhari's absence. Although Osinbajo said he consulted regularly with Buhari, he was unable to sack either Lawal or Oke, let alone name replacements.

Osinbajo, who insists that substantive progress has been made on economic restructuring and security reform, admits to frustration at the pace of the promised fight against corruption. Not only have cases against officials from the previous government dragged on but there are signs of a new wave of crooked foreign exchange and oil deals. Sceptical about the executive's political will, senior politicians in the National Assembly claim to be amassing evidence on these cases.

Monday, 21 August 2017

SIERRA LEONE: More heavy rain forecast this week after over 500 killed and missing in Freetown landslide

We start in Freetown where rescue workers are trying to prevent more loss of life with renewed downpours expected this week and in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari is back on-seat and addressing the country on security matters. In Angola, the MPLA, headed by presidential candidate João Lourenço, is set to cruise to victory on Wednesday (23 August) against a weak opposition; the turnout may give a clearer idea about sentiment on the ground. Still on elections, opposition leader Raila Odinga submitted his election petition to the Supreme Court but insiders expect it will fail. Lastly, after a week of speculation about the possibility of Grace Mugabe being charged with assaulting a model in a Johannesburg hotel, the South African government gave her diplomatic immunity. Business sources claim there was a behind-the-scenes deal over landing rights for the two country's airlines.


SIERRA LEONE: More heavy rain forecast this week after over 500 killed and missing in Freetown landslide
Officials and volunteers are mapping out the most vulnerable areas around Freetown amid fears there could be another devastating landslide this week with deluges forecast for tomorrow (Tuesday 22 August) and Wednesday.


Seneh Dumbuya, the chief coroner in Freetown, told Reuters news agency yesterday (20 August) that rescue workers have brought out 499 bodies since the landslide at Mount Sugar Loaf on 14 August. Locals say another 600 people are still missing; some people trapped by rubble and mud in air pockets have been able to send text messages. The biggest risks now are that a fresh deluge could trigger another landslide, and that cholera could spread because of the shortage of clean water. Environmentalists say unregulated logging in the hills outside the capital and an absence of buildings regulation are to blame for the severity of the disaster.

NIGERIA: Buhari's dawn broadcast promises harder line on Biafran separatists and Islamist insurgents
After a day back in Abuja, a revived-looking President Muhammadu Buhari, who has spent most of this year receiving medical treatment in London, made a fiery televised address to the nation promising more determined action against Boko Haram. He added that attempts by citizens in the south-east of Nigeria to secede – a repeat of the calls that triggered the Biafran civil war in the 1960s – were a red line that no political organisation could be permitted to cross.

Although Buhari repeated the government's position that Nigeria's national unity isn't negotiable, he indicated that he would be open to a dialogue with secessionist groups. 'Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence,' he said.


ANGOLA: MPLA's João Lourenço pledges sweeping economic reforms ahead of 23 August presidential election
With his victory assured in this week's presidential elections, the MPLA's candidate João Lourenço offers a programme to restructure the oil-dependent economy and reiterates his commitment to crack down on state and corporate corruption.

Although those pledges ring hollow to the many Angolans who point out that little progress has been made on those issues during the MPLA's four decades in power, opposition parties are unlikely to make much headway in the elections. The biggest opposition party, UNITA, has been missing in action although one of its former militants, Abel Chivukuvuku, the candidate of Casa-CE, has been leading a much livelier campaign and winning over some in the coastal cities as well as the opposition redoubt of Huambo.

KENYA: Little prospect for success of opposition election petition in fast-track High Court case
Seven Supreme Court judges must rule on opposition leader Raila Odinga's petition to overturn the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 8 August elections. Insiders say the opposition's petition has far less detailed information than the complaint about the disputed 2013 elections which the Court rejected.

Kenya's courts do not countenance the sort of lengthy legal argumentation and demand for data sets from the electoral commission that was a feature of the opposition petition in Ghana in 2012. The Ghana courts took eight months to consider – and ultimately reject – the petition. But the process did give the opposition a forensic knowledge and understanding of the electoral reporting system, which it used to great effect in last year's elections.

Odinga submitted the petition last Friday (18 August), having earlier said he would prefer to mobilise his supporters against what he insists is a stolen election rather than engage with the judiciary. 'Our decision to go to court constitutes a second chance for the Supreme Court.' It can, he added, '…redeem itself, or like in 2013, compound the problems we face as a country.'

ZIMBABWE/SOUTH AFRICA: Did a deal over landing rights help Grace Mugabe get diplomatic immunity after facing prosecution for assault?
After internal argument in the government, South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, confirmed that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe's wife, Grace, was being granted diplomatic immunity following calls for her to face criminal charges over allegations that she beat up a young model in a Johannesburg hotel last week.

Some insiders are linking the decision to a sudden resolution in a dispute over landing rights between the national airlines of South Africa and Zimbabwe. After both airlines had to ground their flights on the busy Johannesburg to Harare route due to a row over operating permits, South African Airways resumed its flights to Zimbabwe just hours after Grace Mugabe's departure late on Saturday (19 August).

IN VERY BRIEF

ZAMBIA: In a dramatic climbdown, government releases opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and drops all charges

MALI: President Keïta withdraws plans for constitutional reform devolution

TOGO: Opposition demonstrates in Lomé against 50 years of the Eyadéma dynasty