Monday, 22 January 2018

AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT: Trade, war, elections, and financing make for an agenda full to bursting point

We start in Addis Ababa this week with the opening of a critical summit of the African Union. Then to Monrovia for the carnival-like inauguration of President George Weah. After that we go to the European courtrooms for the latest episode in Nigeria's pursuit of ill-gotten oil wealth.

AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT: Trade, war, elections, and financing make for an agenda full to bursting point
Meeting in Addis Ababa for a week starting today (22-29 January), Africa's presidents, foreign ministers and top diplomats face a formidable agenda at the AU summit. Armed conflicts, election disputes, financing mechanisms for the AU itself and a continental trade treaty need resolving.

AU Commission chairman and veteran Chadian diplomat Moussa Faki Mahamat has been working to boost cooperation with the United Nations and the European Union. His itinerary of the past year – South Sudan, Somalia, Congo-Kinshasa, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania – is a guide to the AU's most pressing political and security problems.

There are also deepening, chronic crises, some tracked by the international media and others overlooked. Libya's political crisis and the horrific conditions faced by African migrants is now receiving attention after global media coverage but the challenges to President Paul Biya in Cameroon by Anglophone oppositionists and their Francophone allies has been largely ignored.
Beyond national crises, there are several regional disputes brewing: most directly between Ethiopia and Egypt over the potential of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to reduce the flow of the Nile; and the reverberations in Africa of the diplomatic ructions between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, and the Saudi-led alliance fighting a war in Yemen.

At the summit, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame takes over from Guinea's Alpha Condé as Chairman of the AU. He will be urging his fellow leaders to accept a formula to finance the organisation by levying a 0.2% tax on imports into all member states.

LIBERIA: George Weah's inauguration draws soccer stars and raises high hopes for economic revival
The first African to be voted best footballer in the world, George Weah, was also the first ex-professional footballer on the continent to be inaugurated as president of his country today (22 January). Among the invited celebrities was Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o.

Weah's presidency faces the tough realities of creating jobs, building many more roads and power stations, and attracting more investors to launch productive enterprises. Almost two-thirds of Liberia's 4.5 million people are under 25 and Weah's vote came overwhelmingly from the younger generation, many of whom are tired of what they see as politics dominated by a sterile elite.

NIGERIA: Abuja is suing JP Morgan bank for $875 million in oil corruption row
The dispute over the sale of a prospecting licence OPL 245, one of the richest in the region, to Royal Dutch Shell and Italy's ENI, has now drawn in the New York-based investment bank. Nigeria has hired top barristers in London to retrieve some $875 million which it says was illegally transferred to a former oil minister, Dan Etete, by JP Morgan.

The Bank has until March to file its defence. Like Shell and ENI, which face legal action in the Italian courts, JP Morgan denies any wrongdoing.


ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa brings forward elections to May after reshuffling the military and intelligence services

AFRICA: Mobile money companies top the list of investor start-ups in Africa according to Disrupt Africa report

EGYPT: Opposition candidates claim their campaigns are being blocked in run-up to Presidential elections in March

RWANDA/TANZANIA: Presidents Kagame and Magufuli agree to lay foundation stone on 407-kilometre railway from Isaka to Kigali

TUNISIA: Security forces claim to have killed a top Al Qaida official after warnings about returning jihadist fighters

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Multi-speed Africa in 2018

In politics as in economics, 2018 will be the year of the variable-speed Africa, as our special survey of the year ahead makes clear. Sometimes, the sharp differences are between regions: high-growth economies in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya in the east compared with slow growth South Africa, Angola and Zimbabwe in the south. Sometimes, there are sharp differences within regions: Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal are growing strongly but Nigeria's forecast growth for the year barely exceeds population growth. Nigeria's lacklustre economic revival points to a continuing negative trend: some of the continent's biggest economies, such as Angola and Algeria, are chronically under-performing.

The political contrasts across Africa are sharper still. South Africans are following in minute detail the constitutional and judicial manoeuvring aimed at removing Jacob Zuma from the state presidency. In Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya and Nigeria, constitutional and electoral reform is on the table, even extending parliamentary oversight of presidents' spending. But in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Libya, the contest for power is more about armed groups than amendments to the constitution. To that list must now be added Congo-Kinshasa, where President Kabila's obduracy is sparking several disparate rebellions, and Cameroon, where four decades of misrule are coming home to roost as rebellion takes hold in the country's western provinces.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

SOUTH AFRICA: New ANC leader Ramaphosa treads carefully as pressure mounts for him to take over the national presidency

The New Year begins with a wave of change in Southern Africa. The new leaders in South Africa and Zimbabwe are under pressure to turn around their countries' weakening economies, but they have also inherited a morass of political and legal problems. At least eight countries across Africa are due to hold presidential or parliamentary elections in 2018; several more governments may organise elections this year if they see some benefit in bringing forward the political timetable. In another eight countries, civil conflicts are swirling as governments and their opponents, many of them armed, square up as negotiators try to broker peace agreements.

But for most countries in Africa, economic prospects on the continent and in the international markets will dominate thinking. Although the latest forecasts from private and multilateral financial institutions point to a gradual upturn in growth across the region, they also sound warnings about dangerous levels of debt in some of the stronger economies such as Kenya, Ghana, and Zambia. Weaker economies, such as those of Congo-Brazzaville and Mozambique, missed repayments on their Eurobonds last year and face more financial turmoil in 2018.

More widely, economic risks include the appreciation of the United States dollar, which remains Africa's main currency for international trade, and higher US interest rates. No economists are forecasting a return to the 2005-2015 commodity boom that made some African economies among the fastest growing in the world. Instead, there are big questions about the trends of oil and gas prices. The continent's biggest producers, such as Algeria, Angola, Libya and Nigeria are expecting an incremental rather than major boost to export revenues.

Demand for copper and cocoa is growing again in the international markets but the ability to benefit from it depends both on political factors in Congo-Kinshasa and productive capacity in Zambia, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.

For the last month, Africa Confidential correspondents have been assessing the political, security and economic prospects for the region in 2018. We will publish their reports in the first edition of the year out on 12 January. Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights of the reports so far.

SOUTH AFRICA: New ANC leader Ramaphosa treads carefully as pressure mounts for him to take over the national presidencyMany senior officials in the African National Congress assume it will be their newly-elected party leader Cyril Ramaphosa who delivers the State of the Nation address at the opening of parliament in February. That means they have less than six weeks to persuade President Jacob Zuma to vacate the state presidency and his impressive offices in Pretoria's Union Buildings.

Some of Zuma's allies have been sounding out terms for his early departure from the state presidency, although he could hang on until national elections in early 2019. They propose some kind of deal to protect him from the myriad anti-corruption cases hanging over his head.

For now, power is finely balanced within the ANC's National Executive Committee, with Ramaphosa's supporters gradually building up their position. But a vote in the NEC to recall Zuma from the national Presidency could still backfire and would certainly worsen factionalism in the party.
Ramaphosa's best hope might be to wait for the array of pending legal cases against Zuma to make his position untenable. On 29 December, the Constitutional Court ruled that parliament had failed to hold President Zuma to account over the use of state funds to improve his homestead in Nkandla. Judge Chris Jafta said parliament should put in place a process that could be used to remove Zuma from office.

ZIMBABWE: As the military strengthens its position and promises of cash come in, ZANU-PF is confident of winning national electionsTwo developments last month gave a good sense of new President Emmerson Mnangagwa's intentions for 2018. His appointment of General Constantino Chiwenga as Vice-President consolidates the military's role in the new government just as a leaked national intelligence report suggests the former commander of Zimbabwe's military is already being tipped as the next head of state.

For the divided opposition, the growing role of the military in politics is a worrying omen, given their doubts about Mnangagwa's commitment to free and fair elections, which are due by August 2018.
Mnangagwa's other move will boost the economy: he pushed ahead with the release of the 2018 budget, announcing some dilution of the indigenisation laws and some opening up of other investment rules. That was enough for him to convene a more hopeful meeting with local and regional businesses in Harare before the Christmas break. However, there is widespread scepticism about his forecasts for 3.75% growth this year.

NIGERIA: With a revived Buhari set to run again in 2019, will he keep Vice-President Osinbajo on the ticket?The best guesses about the field in the national elections, due in March 2019, are that President Muhammadu Buhari will seek another term, standing on the All Progressives Congress ticket, facing former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar running on the opposition People's Democratic Party ticket.

The jostling for the running mate positions looks more problematic. Some in Lagos expect that state's former governor and political godfather Bola Tinubu to vie for the post of running mate to Buhari. With massive personal wealth and residual influence in the south-west, Tinubu could make a strong showing at the APC's party congress this year.

With party politics now centre-stage, some worry that key decisions on the economy and security could be shelved. Buhari's government is focusing on building as many new roads, bridges and power stations as possible but has postponed many of its ambitious ideas for governance reform.

Most critically, Boko Haram's fighters remain a regional threat with the capacity for mass killings by bombing mosques and market places. There are also worries that its insurgency is fuelling the clashes between cattle-herders and farmers in the north and the middle belt. Security rumbles continue in the Niger Delta, despite deals with militants and secessionists.

GHANA: A critical year for President Akufo-Addo as the focus shifts to his pledges on industrialisation and modernising agricultureAfter an election manifesto promising a factory in every district, US$1 million for a development fund in each constituency and a dam in every village, President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo's government will be held to account this year by the opposition and the media.

Many Ghanaians are asking when he will appoint, as promised, an Independent State Prosecutor to deal with all cases of corruption. This follows a stream of complaints about suspect deals and arrangements raised on social media.

Constraining the government is the country's mammoth burden of foreign and local debt. Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta's efforts to restructure the debt have prompted further lively debate. A positive for the government was the news of the economy growing by 9% in the final quarter of 2017.

KENYA: Political uncertainties are still dragging down the economy with the opposition committed to a non-cooperation strategyLast year's confrontations over two national elections are still undermining the economy with President Uhuru Kenyatta's government and the opposition led by Raila Odinga still at loggerheads. Economic growth has slowed to 4.4%, its lowest level since 2013. Industry, construction and banking are all down on the year with few prospects for an early revival in 2018 in the absence of a political breakthrough.

Odinga's National Super Alliance, which controls over 20 county governments, wants to continue its economic boycott and its non-recognition of Kenyatta's legitimacy. In turn, the government has rejected Nasa's call for constitutional and electoral reforms after it disputed both presidential polls last year.


CAMEROON: Mounting protests amid growing hostility to President Paul Biya could mean a messy national election in October
CONGO-KINSHASA: The killing of over seven protesters over the New Year presages more chaos as President Joseph Kabila tries to delay leaving office
EGYPT: With foreign funds and pressure on the opposition, President Abdel Fattah el Sisi will win elections due before June
MADAGASCAR: Former leaders Ravalomanana and Rajoelina are to challenge President Rajaonarimampianina in December's elections
MALI: Unless veteran candidate Soumaïla Cissé can unify the opposition, President Ibrahim Keïta will win elections in August
SIERRA LEONE: Technocrat Yumkellah could force his opponents Kamara and Maada Bio to focus on policies in the March elections
SOUTH SUDAN: Another unravelling peace deal and empty government coffers mean that President Salva Kiir's plans for elections in July are likely to be shelved.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Ramaphosa tries to unify and reform the ANC after beating Dlamini-Zuma in race for the party leadership

This week we concentrate on two important changes of leadership in South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as their implications for the region. We would also like to take this opportunity to send you our best wishes for 2018 and to let you know that our correspondents and editors will be working through the holiday season, posting news of the most important events in Africa over the next three weeks. Our first issue of the New Year will contain, as is our tradition, detailed analyses of political and economic developments in the coming year across Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA: Ramaphosa tries to unify and reform the ANC after beating Dlamini-Zuma in race for the party leadership
A narrow win of 179 votes on 18 December over his rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, poses several urgent problems for Cyril Ramaphosa, the new President of the African National Congress, in the aftermath of its most fractious leadership election in its 105-year history. Rampahosa, who played a leading role in writing South Africa's constitution, having helped win the political deal that amounted to the last rites for the National Party and apartheid, will need all his fabled negotiating skills to stop the rot that has been eating away at the ANC's organisation and its government in the past decade.
Pulling the party together will be just as important and difficult as trying to clean it up while it's still in power. Just under half the elective conference voted for Dlamini-Zuma, and many of those expressed strong support for outgoing ANC President Jacob Zuma.

In a rare alignment of sentiment, expectations among millions of voters as well as the financial markets are running high. The rand had been strengthening in the days leading up to the conference on the back of the predicted Ramaphosa win. Some market analysts forecast that the ratings agency Moody's will postpone its planned downgrade of South Africa's debt until March at least.

Such brave talk will come up against some tough political realities. The most pressing is that while Ramaphosa is president of the party he remains Deputy President in the government under Jacob Zuma, who could hold on to power until April 2019. Whether Zuma manages to stay in the post that long will depend on the outcome of the myriad legal cases he faces and the pace at which Ramaphosa can consolidate power.

The first problem will be how to manage the entrenched factions in the party. Of the top six leadership posts in the party, three, including Ramaphosa, are in the new President's camp, and three are in Dlamini-Zuma's.

Attempts to push through party reforms and reduce political patronage could be slowed or blocked completely as Ramaphosa and his allies try to build a consensus. The new Deputy President is David Mabuza, the premier of Mpumalanga Province, a close political and business ally of President Zuma.

Harder still will be Ramaphosa's position in the national government under a structure which gives the sitting president substantial executive powers including the right to hire and fire without consulting the cabinet or the ANC's policy-making body, the National Executive Committee. However, one of the key changes sought by reformists within the ANC, as well as many outside it, is the immediate sacking of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, seen as extremely close to Zuma and to his business friends, the Gupta family.

That is something Zuma, who replaced the well-regarded Pravin Gordhan with the inexperienced Gigaba, would reject out of hand. Despite the desperate conditions, Ramaphosa, who ran for the ANC leadership on a Keynesian-style programme, may have to stay his hand on the economy.

Over the next few weeks, Ramaphosa could be helped by Zuma's legal tangles, such as efforts to reinstate 783 charges of corruption relating to the US$6 billion arms deal negotiated in the late 1990s. The High Court earlier this month ruled that Ramaphosa (as Deputy President in the government) would have to appoint a new director of the National Prosecuting Authority after it invalidated Zuma's appointment of Shaun Abrahams.

The court ruled that Zuma could not appoint a new NPA director because of the conflict of interest. It will be for the new director to decide whether or not the 783 charges are reinstated. Zuma's lawyers immediately lodged an appeal, but they are unlikely to succeed. This holds out the prospect of Zuma being tied up with so many different legal processes, investigations and commissions of inquiries – the arms deal, state finance for his homestead at Nkandla as well as his business dealings with the Gupta family and Russia's state nuclear company – that he won't have time for his official duties.

No one expects Zuma to give up his last months in power without a fight. He might be pushed out as part of an exit deal involving some costly trade-offs. Much will depend on how much support Ramaphosa can muster among the 100 or so members of the NEC. Until a year ago, Zuma enjoyed overwhelming support in the committee but it has fallen off sharply in recent months. Ramaphosa should benefit from the changed sentiment in the party as its conference elects new members to the NEC this week.

If the anti-Zuma mood in the party gathers steam, the NEC could recall Zuma as national President just as it did to Thabo Mbeki a decade ago. That would allow Ramaphosa to take the helm, reshuffle the cabinet and the boards of many of the state-owned companies as well as launching his economic reforms. The alternative looks unpalatable and politically risky: it could mean that Ramaphosa would lead a divided party and play second fiddle in a discredited government in the run-up to the 2019 elections.

Those challenges cast Ramaphosa's victory in a more sombre light. Suddenly, the responsibility for the ANC's political survival and South Africa's economic revival has fallen on his shoulders. Success will depend initially on whether he can win enough support from the other half of the ANC that didn't vote for him on 18 December.

ZIMBABWE: General Chiwenga tipped to swap army role for Vice-Presidency after military reshuffle
Trying to understand new President Emmerson Mnangagwa's relationship with the military is getting harder. It was General Constantino Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, who launched the military operation that forced out President Robert Mugabe and propelled Mnangagwa to power.

So, is Chiwenga working for Mnangagwa or is it the other way around? In the latest twist on 18 December, Gen Chiwenga and Augustine Chihuri, Commissioner-General of Zimbabwe Republic Police, retired. The curt government announcement said they would be redeployed. For Chihuri, an ally of Mugabe's who had sent police to arrest Chiwenga to forestall the military action, this looks like the end of the road. But for Chiwenga, it could mean another promotion… to the Vice-Presidency.

Lieutenant General Phillip Valerio Sibanda takes over as ZDF Commander. He used the occasion of Chiwenga's retirement to announce that the army, which had taken over security duties from the police in most big towns during the military's removal of Mugabe, was returning to barracks.

So, does all that make Mnangagwa the boss? Not according to a witty tweet from Zimbabweans United for Democracy: 'A President appointed by a General who chased away the President who appointed him as a General is not a General who can be ordered around by a President he appointed… well not generally anyway'.

The wheels are turning and Mnangagwa is using his reshuffle this week to move more officers up the hierarchy while a few of them go directly into politics. It may be an expensive effort to buy off the military or another way of integrating the military into civilian life.

The appointment of Air Marshal Perence Shiri as Agriculture Minister and Major General Sibusiso Moyo as Foreign and International Trade Minister hands two top economic portfolios to the military. Both Shiri and Moyo are being retired and given one last promotion, as well as a boost to their pensions.

That allows a couple more senior officers to move up the ladder. Air Vice-Marshal Elson Moyo becomes head of the air force. Major General Edzai Chimonyo, ambassador to Tanzania, is promoted to Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, taking Gen Sibanda's old job. In addition, Mnangagwa appointed three generals to serve on of the Politburo of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

By comparison, the decision of last week's ZANU-PF congress to confirm Mnangagwa as the party's candidate for the presidential elections due next year was almost a sideshow. Again, the party congress showed that Mnangagwa, a former intelligence chief and former defence minister, is doubling down on the security service's role in government. The question that opposition and civic activists are asking is what will happen to Mnangagwa's promise of a 'new democratic era'.


EGYPT: Economy starts to grow with $20 billion of inflows as inflation slows after devaluation gamble

GHANA: Akufo-Addo's 'Beyond Aid' campaign gathers steam after video of press conference with President Macron goes viral

NIGERIA: State governors back $1 billion for counter-insurgency as Buhari appoints new commander for anti-Boko Haram campaign

KENYA: Signs of tensions between Kenyatta and Ruto over succession plans at the head of the Jubilee coalition

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Stand by for election fever

After this year’s cliff-hangers in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe, some may have expected a brief respite from political drama in 2018. No chance. At least eight countries are due to hold national elections next year.

The most strongly contested elections will be in Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Of the three, Sierra Leone is the least predictable: Samura Kamara, presidential candidate for the governing All People’s Congress Party, will struggle to defend his party’s record. His main opponent is former military leader Julius Maada Bio, standing on the Sierra Leone People’s Party ticket, and the impressive ex-United Nations official Kandeh Yumkella. In Madagascar, two veteran political gladiators – yoghurt king Marc Ravalomanana and former DJ Andry Rajoelina – will face off against the incumbent Hery Rajaonarimampianina.

Civic activists and oppositionists are hoping for freer and fairer elections in Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe’s forced exit last month. Successor Emmerson Mnangagwa is sending mixed signals: after promising a new democratic era, he is bringing his military allies centre-stage. However, the opposition is betting that the ruling party is less likely to bludgeon its foes out of the election. Even the old methods of vote fixing should prove more difficult under the new electoral rules.

Elsewhere, elections in Cameroon, Egypt, Mali, South Sudan all look set to return the incumbent to power.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Race tightens in the ANC's 'make or break' leadership vote due on 16 December

This week we start with the frenzied preparations for leadership elections which could change the shape of South Africa's politics – whoever wins. We have further reports from Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe.

SOUTH AFRICA: Race tightens in the ANC's 'make or break' leadership vote due on 16 December
The rhetoric and the stakes are rising steeply this week before some 5,000 members of the African National Congress gather at the Nasrec stadium near Soweto for the party's elective congress on Saturday.

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former chair of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma dominating the race for the ANC presidency, the party has become increasingly factionalised. Both sides promise to unify the ailing party but the prospects of a surprise win by a third candidate such as ANC Treasurer Zweli Mkhize are improving.

With Ramaphosa's supporters going to town on President Jacob Zuma's patronage network and his ties to the Gupta brothers – suggesting also that his ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma would try to protect him from prosecution if she wins – this election is about personal interests as much as political directions.
Increasingly, Ramaphosa supporters are suggesting that a Dlamini-Zuma win could split the party and threaten its chances of winning a national victory in the 2019 elections.

KENYA: Opposition postpones swearing-in of people's assembly after warnings from diplomats and government
Pulling back from a plan to inaugurate Raila Odinga as the 'people's President' on Jamhuri day on 12 December, the National Super Alliance said it would continue with its plans for 'people's assemblies' but wanted to keep the campaign as peaceful as possible.

Accordingly, NASA officials such as Musalia Mudavadi emphasised that Odinga's inauguration has been postponed rather than cancelled. The swearing-in was meant to have taken place in Mombasa under the aegis of Governor Hassan Joho, a staunch Odinga ally. But the ruling Jubilee party had insisted the plan amounted to treason, prompting concerns of another confrontation between oppositionists and police.

NASA leaders had to weigh up the damage to their credibility from postponing the swearing-in against the risks of more violent clashes and loss of lives if they went ahead. Alongside state security officials, several foreign diplomats had warned NASA against going ahead.

This raises questions about whether the party will continue with its campaign for electoral reform, and especially its establishment of people's assemblies in counties controlled by NASA-supporting governors.

So far, NASA's commercial boycott of Safaricom telecoms company (for its role in the elections) and President Kenyatta's Brookside dairy farms seem have proved more effective than its political protests. The World Bank forecasts that Kenya's economic growth rate could fall by 2% next year, partly as a result of the political confrontation.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Suspicions grow about state involvement as UN calls for full probe into killings of 14 peacekeepers
Such is the state of political turmoil and suspicion in Congo-Kinshasa, there is little agreement about what lay behind the murderous attack on a United Nations base at Semuliki, in Beni, North Kivu on the night of 7 December.

The attackers were said to have been fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, a militia initially backed by Sudan's government to destabilise Uganda over a decade and a half ago. At least 14 UN peacekeepers were killed, more than ever before in the UN's 18-year-old deployment in Congo-K. The UN also reported that five Congolese soldiers were killed in the ensuing three-hour firefight at the base.

Curiously, Congo's government denies this and says only one of its soldiers is missing. It also insists that its soldiers killed 72 fighters in the attacking force, a claim that no other source has substantiated. Some sources believe that the attack needs to be seen in the context of Congolese politics, and elements of the opposition may have been involved in the attack. The next issue of Africa Confidential will carry a report.

ZIMBABWE: Harsh spending cuts ahead of next year's elections raise doubts about the Mnangagwa government's first budget
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a close ally of new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised bold spending cuts and concessions on Indigenisation Act rules in his budget speech on 7 December.

With a pledge to cut the budget deficit to 3.5% of GDP from its estimated level of 9.4% this year, Chinamasa has set a tough target for the ruling party which has to face an election in eight months' time.

Chinamasa may be gambling that a clear break with the fiscal indiscipline of the past could entice new capital flows into the economy and restart business and even create some jobs in the short term. The government's foreign reserves are said to be dwindling dangerously.


LIBERIA: Supreme Court rejects electoral fraud claims but wants checks on voters list before next round of elections

NIGERIA: Ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar stars at opposition congress, calling for united front against President Buhari

EGYPT: Presidents El Sisi and Putin sign $20 billion deal for Russia's Rosatom to build nuclear power stations by 2028

LIBYA: Oil production boosted after meeting between heads of government, state oil company and central bank on 9 December

CAMEROON: Renowned bilingual writer and poet Patrice Nganang held in Yaoundé after lamenting political trends

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to announce policy changes after swearing in cabinet of loyalists

We start in Harare where the new cabinet and its policies are coming under scrutiny. To the south, the contest for the leadership of the African National Congress is heating up with Cyril Ramaphosa in the lead, for now. And in Nigeria, veteran politician Atiku Abubakar is joining the presidential race with all guns blazing, and Kenyan oppositionists are accusing the Kenyatta government of reverting to the tactics of the one-party state.

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to announce policy changes after swearing in cabinet of loyalistsThis week, new President Emmerson Mnangagwa will offer more detail about his strategy for an emergency rescue of Zimbabwe's ailing economy. Top priority will be boosting the country's foreign reserves to shore up the monetary system – a complex and dysfunctional mix of United States dollars, South African rand, state-backed bond notes and 'virtual money'.

In the wake of Robert Mugabe's resignation, some countries and financial institutions are offering to reopen discussions on bridging finance to allow Zimbabwe to repay its arrears to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Patrick Chinamasa, the new finance minister, started those negotiations in league with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya but his allies complained that he was being stymied by the Mugabe camp.

Bankers in Harare were highly sceptical about the plan, but they say that the Mnangagwa takeover could win new backing for an arrears deal from Western states. They cite a vague promise from British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to offer a 'bridging loan' if the new government passes some unspecified democratic tests.

We hear there has already been an offer of support from Beijing, which sent its deputy Foreign Minister Chen Xiadong to see Mnangagwa last week. That signal seems to have encouraged states such as Britain and France to talk up their own role. Officials from both countries have told our correspondent that they do not see the shape of Mnangagwa's cabinet – three ruling party military officers–as a deal-breaker.

SOUTH AFRICA: Winning in the provinces, Ramaphosa edges ahead in ANC leadership battleA week ahead of the conference which picks the new ANC leader, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has stolen a march on rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with backing from 1,862 party branches against her 1,309, a strong but far from unbeatable position.

The results will depend first on whether all the provincial delegates to the conference vote as they have promised. The high stakes – which could affect the fate of President Jacob Zuma, his myriad allies and his favoured projects – mean they will come under heavy pressure. One insider suggested that as many as a quarter of the delegates might switch sides at the conference.

The other factor is the 10% of votes from the ANC's affiliated organisations, such as its Youth and Women's Leagues and the veterans' organisation. Dlamini-Zuma is reckoned to have almost unanimous backing from the first two, with Ramaphosa being supported by the veterans. Meanwhile, the threat of the conference being postponed has receded. Backers of the two main candidates are confident there will be a final decision next week.

NIGERIA: Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar joins opposition to run against President Buhari in the 2019 electionsIf the opening salvos of the next presidential election campaign are an indication, it will be a no-holds-barred contest. A day ahead of announcing his return to the People's Democratic Party on 3 December, Atiku Abubakar launched an attack on President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing him of 'religious extremism'. He claimed that Buhari had been barred from entering the United States for 15 years because of his theological views, which the president immediately denied.

This attack follows claims from the governing All Progressives' Congress that Atiku has been embroiled in corruption, including a scandal that snagged US Congressman William J Jefferson, who was found by the FBI to have hidden US$90,000 his freezer.

Although Atiku's name was never mentioned in court, his opponents claim that Jefferson had intended to use the cash to bribe him. Atiku was Vice-President in President Olusegun Obasanjo's government at the time. The government's anti-corruption agencies have been investigating Atiku's business affairs, particularly his company Intels, for several months.

With Buhari's support in northern Nigeria remaining strong, Atiku is hoping to win substantial support in the Middle Belt and the south, where criticism of the President and governing party are growing. If Atiku were able to peel off some senior figures in the APC, his campaign could represent a serious threat.

But already, two key figures – Senate President Bukola Saraki from Kwara in the Middle Belt and Bola Tinubu from Lagos in the south-west – have pledged themselves to Buhari. Both men, however, would be among the top candidates to succeed Buhari if he decided not to run for re-election after all.

KENYA: Opposition leader due to inaugurate 'people's assembly' as militants claims over 200 killed by police in election clashesOpposition activists say the arrest over the weekend of David Ndii, top opposition strategist, and several other activists shows the government's determination to shut down their plans for a 'people's assembly'. The assembly, headed by opposition leader Raila Odinga is due to be launched on 12 December.

Opposition campaigners also claim that at least 215 Kenyans have been killed by 'trigger-happy' police in street clashes since the presidential elections in August.

Ndii was the chairman of the steering committee to organise the 'people's assembly', which is to campaign for reform of the electoral laws. Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) have rejected the presidential elections of August and October, claiming widespread fraud and mismanagement. Ndii was released on 4 December on police bail but is still said to be facing charges. Civic activists have lambasted police tactics, saying that they represent a return to the days of one-party rule.


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