Tuesday, 24 April 2018

ZIMBABWE: Mnangagwa government plans to float bond after stops in USA and Europe on the roadshow

This week, Southern Africa is making all the running. We start with Zimbabwe where new President Emmerson Mnangagwa's economic ambassadors are stepping up the  charm offensive on investors. Another newish President, João Lourenço of Angola is consolidating his grip on  the military. And South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, the third newcomer to the Presidential club, is grappling with another provincial explosion. And in Antananarivo, protestors are calling for the immediate exit of Hery Rajaonarimpianina from the Presidency ahead of this year's planned elections.

ZIMBABWE: Mnangagwa government plans to float bond after stops in USA and Europe on the roadshow
As election campaigning heats up at home, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's economic team relentlessly circles the globe drumming up investment and new finance deals. Although the government claims to have corralled almost US$8 billion in new investments, mainly in the mining business, many of the biggest companies are waiting for the outcome of the elections which will be held in the last two weeks of July, according to Foreign Minister General Sibusiso Moyo.

At one of the latest meets, organized by London-based  Exotix in New York, finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya, wooed United States investors. This followed the spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF in Washington DC in which the institutions held to their line of no substantive negotiations on new finance for Zimbabwe until after the elections and the agreement of a definitive settlement on the country's arrears. Harare owes some $2.5 bn. in arrears to the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

However, the Mnangagwa team are in a hurry to resolve the matter. Mangudya told the bankers at the New York meeting that the government was seeking bridging finance to repay the arrears to the International Financial Institutions. This would be in addition to what the Cairo-based Afreximbank has offered already in terms of overall financial support. More surprisingly, Mangudya told investors that the government was planning to float a Eurobond later in the year.

ANGOLA: President Lourenço's anti-corruption purge extends to military and spy chiefs
Simultaneously sacking the chief of staff of the armed forces and the director of the well-financed foreign intelligence service suggests a supreme confidence in one's grip on power or political recklessness.

Luanda insiders assure us that President João Lourenço's latest top level sackings – he has dismissed police chiefs and the son of former President José Eduardo dos Santos has been charged with corruption – prove he has effectively consolidated power in the eight months since he was elected.

Certainly, there has been no public criticism of the move; indeed some Angolans are calling for Lourenço's purge to take on still bigger targets in and around the Dos Santos clan.

According to the presidential decrees read out on state television on 23 April, General Geraldo Sachipengo Nunda and long-time intelligence operative André de Oliveira Sango were sacked because they have been named as suspects in the latest round of anti-corruption investigations. Yet their exit also takes away two more allies of the Dos Santos clan who might have been able to protect the former president's interests as the new government pushes ahead with its anti-corruption sweep.

The next round of the battle is likely to focus on former President Dos Santos's role as head of the governing MPLA. Although Dos Santos wants to remain party chief for another year, supporters of President Lourenço say they are determined to push him out within the next few weeks. Should they succeed, that would be one of the last vestiges of formal power held by Dos Santos, opening up the possibility that he could face the same sort of police investigations that have already been launched against his son José Filomeno and daughter Isabel, former managing director of  Sonangol.

MADAGASCAR: Crisis deepens after President Rajaonarimampianina accuses protestors of attempting a coup d'etat
The protests in Antananarivo have been building up since 20 April with  President Hery Rajaonarimampianina accusing the demonstrators of mounting a coup against him. That claim seems to have designed to draw attention away from the deaths of two protestors on the second day of the demonstrations.

Ostensibly, the protests were against the new electoral laws which seem designed to stop some of the country's most high profile politicians – including the weird alliance of Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina – from running in this year's presidential elections. Now the protests have morphed into a general campaign to pressure Rajaonarimampianina to step down immediately.

SOUTH AFRICA: Demonstrators and investigators pile pressure on ex-President Zuma's allies in North-West Province and Free State
It is the latest episode of the country's state capture. This time the focus is on the North-West Province where premier Supra Mahumapelo, a close ally of ex-President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family, faces scrutiny for his award of over 65 million rand in no-bid contracts to private health care and ambulance companies. Demonstrators, angered by this opaque business at a time when the public health system in the province has broken down, have brought the provincial capital Mahikeng to a standstill.

Capitalising on the public mood, Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters were pushing a no-confidence motion in Mahumapelo as the mood on the streets turned uglier. This brewing crisis in the province ties into a wider split within the African National Congress between factions that back current President Cyril Ramaphosa and those that back his predecessor, Zuma.

It is serious enough to have forced Ramaphosa to rush from the Commonwealth summit in London to a crisis meeting of the ANC caucus in North-West. Accompanying Ramaphosa were Jessie Duarte and Ace Magashule, both of whom come from the Zuma camp. This points to the complexity of the crisis and the practical limits of Ramaphosa's position. As with other top Zuma allies, Ramaphosa's preferred course of action will be sit back and let the police investigators and the courts run with the ball. Whether the demonstrators on the streets in Mahikeng will wait that long for Mahumapelo's day in court is another matter.


THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

NIGERIA: Security and oil business top agenda for President Buhari's meeting with US President Trump on 30 April

AFRICA/UNITED KINGDOM: After Commonwealth summit in London, Trade Minister Liam Fox to spell out new era for UK-Africa relations

ETHIOPIA: Local businesses call on new Premier Abiy to ease the state's grip and speed economic liberalisation

EGYPT: Oil minister Tarek el Molla forecasts $10 billion of investment in national gas industry over next two years

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Critics targeted in Maputo

Mozambican journalist and lawyer Ericino de Salema was kidnapped in broad daylight in the capital Maputo on 27 March, beaten unconscious and abandoned by the roadside with severely fractured limbs. Salema's abduction bore similarities to the kidnapping in May 2016 of respected academic José Jaime Macuane. Both were commentators on independent TV station STV's 'Points of View,' and had been critical of Frelimo's poor governance.

Local media figures are now pressuring Attorney General Beatriz Buchili to act over the recent escalation of politically motivated attacks and assassinations. No case has yet been solved, and critics say the only explanation is collusion by public officials. After nearly two years without tangible progress in the investigation into his abduction, Macuane has finally spoken publicly about his ordeal, noting that one of his kidnappers showed him a police badge.

President Filipe Nyusi has maintained a deafening silence. After a bitter defeat in the recent Nampula by-election, Frelimo is increasingly concerned about next year's general election.

Prior to his attack, Salema criticised the extravagant delinquency of Nyusi's 20-year old son Florindo, who made local headlines for violating traffic laws during late-night jaunts in his luxury cars. On 17 April, Nyusi spoke at London's Chatham House about inclusive development. Critics say his commitment to that cause is questionable, given his son's attitudes to official impunity and entitlement.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

NIGERIA: After a mini-national tour and exhortations from his loyalists, President Buhari seeks second term

The news agenda this week starts with President Muhammadu Buhari's announcement that he will seek a second term in Nigeria's elections next year but the outlook remains extremely uncertain. Ethiopia's feted new Prime Minister is on the road in the Ogaden and Oromia. An accident in a Ghana gold mine intensifies public criticism of the sector. Julius Maada Bio, the winner of Sierra Leone's presidential elections, and his rival Samura Kamara have agreed to work together.


NIGERIA: After a mini-national tour and exhortations from his loyalists, President Buhari seeks second term
Of all the political manoeuvres ahead of next year's national elections, President Muhammadu Buhari's plan to seek a second term ranks as one of the least surprising, despite a well-coordinated attempt by his fellow former generals to stop him.

Buhari's announcement at the national executive meeting of the governing All Progressives' Congress yesterday (9 April) doesn't mean that he's guaranteed to win the nomination. But so far, no substantial party figure has emerged to take him on.

Instead, some of the party's heavyweights from the north – such as former Kano governor Rabiu Kwankwaso or the popular Sokoto governor Aminu Tambuwal – may choose to cross the floor and contest the presidential nomination in the opposition People's Democratic Party, where former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is making all the running after announcing his intentions on 27 March.

Both Buhari and Atiku will be in London this month. Buhari will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which is hosted by the Queen, and his office says he will also hold talks with Prime Minister Theresa May about expanding trade and security cooperation. Buhari, who made a dramatic recovery last year after protracted medical leave in London, may also fit in time for a check-up with his doctor.

Veteran businessman Atiku is giving a lecture about economic modernisation and development strategy to the Chatham House think tank on 27 April and attempting to burnish his technocratic credentials.

ETHIOPIA: Hopes for reform rise as new premier Abiy Ahmed shuts down torture centre, promising a political settlement
It took just five days after his appointment as prime minister for Abiy to get on the road, calling first on Jijiga, the capital of the Ogaden (officially, the Somali Region). He has a plan for political reconciliation in Oromia and the Ogaden after two years of violence.

A quick win was his announcement that the notorious Maekelawi detention centre, where dissidents were reportedly tortured, would be closed down and turned into a museum. Political insiders say that Abiy has a short time to prove he can get political results and keep the hawks in the security system, many of whom opposed his appointment, at bay. Those who draw parallels between Abiy's reform pledges and the early months of Hailemariam Desalegn's premiership could be mistaken.

Hailemariam was a consummate technocrat, lacking both a substantial military record or strong security ties, while Abiy was a lieutenant-colonel in the military and director of the country's aggressive cyber-security programme. That means the sceptics in the security system will take Abiy seriously, this year at least. The stakes could hardly be higher for Ethiopia, which has strong economic growth, an ambitious modernisation strategy and a population of 110 million.

GHANA: Tax write-offs, accidents and environmental damage could trigger a pushback against gold-mining companies
An accident killing six workers and badly injuring four others at Newmont's gold mine at Ahafo last Saturday (7 April) is likely to boost public demands for tougher state regulation. The victims were drowned in liquid concrete when the roof of a tunnel caved in.

Complaints are growing about working conditions both in the international companies and the artisanal sector, as well as the level of tax they pay. In the wake of the tragedy, Newmont has shut down its mines at Ahafo and Akyem, the home base of many senior figures in the New Patriotic Party.

Angry youths reeled off a list of complaints about Newmont when John Peter Amewu, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, visited the Ahafo mine after the accident and announced an investigation.

Meanwhile, the NPP government has reached an agreement with Anglogold Ashanti to restart production at its Obuasi mine, which had been forced to close after the previous government failed to crack down on informal or 'galamsey' mining ventures in the area.

For over five years, the 'galamsey' operators, usually joint-ventures between local groups and Asian companies and backed by some local politicians, ignored worker safety regulations and environmental laws. Hundreds of miners were killed and maimed in these operations and the water table across swathes of the Obuasi region was irreparably damaged.

But the latest political fuss centres on reports that Anglogold Ashanti has secured a cut in its tax and royalty obligations of $275 million in exchange for resuming production. The furore around the deal could embarrass the government as it tries to persuade Ghanaians to pay more tax.

As part of its 'Beyond Aid' strategy the government is trying to boost its domestic revenue, but it's saying less about the big companies' tax records and is focusing on the over six million Ghanaians in full time formal employment. Last week, officials in the ministry of finance said that less than a quarter of those workers were paying income tax.

SIERRA LEONE: Lack of parliamentary support forces new President Maada Bio cut deal with rival Kamara after tight election
It was an arrangement drawn up after the country's two top politicians – presidential election winner Julius Maada Bio and opponent Samura Kamara – both devout Catholics, attended mass in the same church in Freetown on Sunday (8 April). That day, Kamara, who stood for the All People's Congress, agreed to recognise Maada Bio's victory.

Until then, Kamara and his allies had been threatening to withhold recognition of the official result, launching a legal challenge as its supporters started organising protests. However, it was the narrowness of Maada Bio's winning margin – 51.18% of the vote against 48.19% for Kamara – that prompted the agreement.

That's because Kamara's APC won 67 of the 132 seats in parliament against Maada Bio's Sierra Leone People's Party's 47. The terms of the deal, and whether Kamara will have a formal role in Maada Bio's government, remain hazy. The two men have worked together before, when Maada Bio headed a military junta in the 1990s.


THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

ZIMBABWE: Police probe of ivory smuggling claims against ex-President Mugabe's family could scupper his ambitions for a political comeback

SOUTH AFRICA: After a cameo court appearance, Zuma ponders a political campaign against his corruption charges

AFRICA/UNITED STATES: Africo Resources claims $600 million against Och Ziff, two years after it admits corruption and cuts a $400 million plea bargain deal

RWANDA: With GDP growth forecast at 7.3% this year, President Kagame reshuffles his cabinet and names new finance minister

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Furore over Ghana's US military deal

A defence agreement between the New Patriotic Party government and the United States has outraged some nationalists and boosted the opposition National Democratic Congress.

The deal gives the US rights to a camp for 200 temporary personnel, free use of radio airspace, tax waivers and freedom from oversight. In return, Ghana will get training and equipment used for the exercise worth about $20 million. The NDC accuses the government of 'selling Ghana's sovereignty to the Americans'.

On 28 March, thousands marched in protest. NDC General Secretary Koku Anyidoho warned on radio that President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo's actions would provoke ‘a civil coup d'état'. He was arrested on suspicion of treason and detained for two nights.

Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul insists the arrangement is for a camp, not a base, and that it is subject to continuing approval. Leaked documents in the pro-government press show that the deal extends agreements in 1998 under President Jerry Rawlings and 2015 under John Mahama. Neither NDC leader put those agreements before parliament. The row echoes wrangling in 2007 about US plans for its Africa Command, apparently in flux once more under Donald Trump's Presidency. With a massive drone base now in Agadez, Niger, the US is stepping up its security presence in West Africa. That makes Ghanaians of all political persuasions extremely uneasy about the consequences for their own relatively peaceful land.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

SOUTH AFRICA: National mourning for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela galvanises radicals as government tries balancing act

This week we start in Soweto where mourners are assembling after the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela yesterday (2 April). And then to Addis Ababa, where there are hopes that the new Prime Minister will be able to lead serious talks with the opposition in the Amhara and Oromo regions. For Nigerians, the herder-farmer clashes and attendant casualties are dominating politics. Zimbabwe's President Mnangagwa is on a state visit to China – his only one before the elections due in July. Also, government and opposition in  Ghana are fighting it out in a dispute over the terms of a new security pact with the United States.

SOUTH AFRICA: National mourning for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela galvanises radicals as government tries balancing act
Within hours of the announcement of her death at 81, political leaders on the left were falling over each other to praise Winnie Madikizela-Mandela as a torch-bearer in the country's freedom struggle. They focused on the glory days of the anti-apartheid struggle, in which she stood defiant after being beaten, tortured and starved by the apartheid regime.

A minority of voices – mainly journalists, civic activists and centrist opposition politicians – picked out the depredations of Madikizela-Mandela's later life when she faced charges of rights abuses and corruption.

Yet her most enduring legacy looks likely to be bolstering the cause of radical politics within the African National Congress and among younger militants such as Julius Malema. After quitting the ANC Youth League to form the Economic Freedom Fighters, Malema found common cause with Madikizela-Mandela in his attacks on former President Jacob Zuma for selling out South Africa to business interests.

ETHIOPIA: New Premier Abiy Ahmed breaks with precedent, talks national reconciliation and a deal with Eritrea
The first Oromo to hold national political leadership since the foundation of the Ethiopian empire over 2,000 years ago, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's appointment is a ground-breaking move on many levels. As his mother is Amhara, Abiy can claim  affinity with the country's two biggest ethnic groups (Oromo are around 34%; Amhara are around 27%).

Over the last two years, opposition protests in the Amhara and Oromo regions have rattled the federal government in Addis Ababa, which has imposed a state of emergency and detained thousands of dissidents. Over a month ago, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn suddenly resigned, leaving a vacuum at the centre.

Now, the focus will be on the security services and their willingness to permit some political reforms to meet the protestors' demands. As a former top intelligence official, Ahmed has strong ties within the security system, in which Tigrayans – about 6% of the nation – predominate.

One of his first public calls as premier was to reopen talks with Eritrea on settling their common border. Many in the government suspect Egypt of financing Eritrea to cause trouble in Ethiopia recently. Addis Ababa and Cairo are at loggerheads over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which could restrict the flow of the Nile in Egypt.

NIGERIA: Generals, faith leaders and now traditional leaders sound warnings to Buhari over herder-farmer clashes
The Emir of Anka, Attahiru Ahmad, is the latest prominent Nigerian to lambast President Muhammadu Buhari's government for its mishandling of the herder-farmer clashes. He follows in the footsteps of Generals ObasanjoDanjuma and Babangida whose clear message was that Buhari should not seek a second term.

Although the Emir avoided local political prescriptions, he called for UN mediation in the crisis. Over the past month, over 100 people have been killed in these clashes in Zamfara state alone. The crisis, perhaps part of a wider breakdown of law and order in northern Nigeria, is outpacing the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency as a security threat in the region.

ZIMBABWE: With US$6 billion of promised mining investments from Africa and Europe, Mnangagwa signs a new deal with China
It seems that some are listening to President Emmerson Mnangagwa's oft-repeated mantra that 'Zimbabwe is open for business'. Over the past month, a Cyprus-based financier, Loucas Pouroulis, pledged $4.2 bn. for a platinum mining project and South Africa's Moti Group is doubling its investments to $500 million. There's more coming in the gold, chrome and diamond sector.

All that should be helping Mnangagwa's talks with President Xi Jinping's government this week in Beijing. Although security ties are close – China was one of the few governments to have known in advance about plans to oust President Robert Mugabe last year – Beijing takes a hard-headed view on the debts that the previous government has ratcheted up. Another bone of contention will be the involvement of some Chinese-owned entities in Zimbabwe's notoriously opaque diamond mining sector.

GHANA: Partisan row over US military cooperation deal heats up after street demos and detention of leading oppositionist
The announcement of a $20 mn. security deal between Washington and Accra was a gift to the ailing opposition National Democratic Congress. On hearing of the deal, its caucus walked out of parliament as radical opposition groups took to the streets in protest. A leading NDC figure, Koko Anyidoho, was detained for a couple of days and faces charges of threatening national peace after suggesting the behaviour of the government could trigger a coup d'état.

Embarrassingly for the opposition, it has emerged that the US-Ghana military deal, complete with infringements of sovereignty and tax-free concessions for security equipment, was mooted under the previous government led by the NDC's John Mahama. Now both sides look stuck in the mire as they fight for the moral high ground.


The week ahead in very brief

EGYPT: Dramatic fall in presidential election turn-out to well under 40% as Abdel Fattah el Sisi claims 97% of the vote

ZAMBIA: Government expels Cuban envoy Pages Vilas for attending opposition Socialist Party rally in Lusaka
ISRAEL/AFRICA: Under pressure from ultra-right, Prime Minister Netanyahu reneges on commitments to UN on 30,000 migrants

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary General António Guterres re-authorises probe into predecessor Dag Hammarskjold's plane crash in 1961

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Africa's common market

The build-up was as impressive as the goal is ambitious. After three years of talks, Africa is to form a Free Trade area for 54 countries and over 1.2 billion people. All signatory countries are to cut tariffs and import quotas. That is to be followed by a customs union where each country has the same tariffs and then a common market where all trade among members is free of tariffs and quotas. It would be the biggest economic union since the foundation of the World Trade Organisation. And all at a time when the United States has raised tariffs to protect its steel industry and China is styling itself as a crusader for free trade and globalisation.

The script became reality in Kigali on 21 March when the leaders of 44 countries turned up to sign the Free Trade Agreement. African Union Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat called it a 'glorious challenge' which demanded 'the courage to achieve.' That's all true. Trade within Africa makes up some 19% of the continent's commerce, and trade between countries in Asia is about 50% of the region's commerce. The UN's Economic Commission for Africa reckons the Kigali agreement could help double intra-African trade.

 But there are still powerful sceptics in Africa. Nigeria pulled out from the signing in Kigali, citing concerns by local companies about dumping and trade unions about jobs. Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni stayed away too, but it's uncertain whether that was for diplomatic or economic motives.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

SOUTH AFRICA: Ramaphosa reforms take off with Zuma's trial, Moyane suspended from tax authority and purge of state firms

This week we start with the prospects for President Cyril Ramaphosa's reforms in South Africa and then the chances of a deal between Mozambique and its commercial creditors. Still in Southern Africa, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's financial amnesty is proving a success ahead of elections in July and Angola's former President, José Eduardo Dos Santos, is trying to extend his term as head of the ruling party.

SOUTH AFRICA: Ramaphosa reforms take off with Zuma's trial, Moyane suspended from tax authority and purge of state firms
Step by step President Cyril Ramaphosa and his economic team – the Ministers for Finance and State Enterprises, respectively Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan – are remaking the government and its administration. The decision last Friday (16 March) by Shaun Abrahams, Director of the National Prosecuting Authority, to prosecute ex-President Jacob Zuma on 16 charges of corruption, racketeering and money-laundering sends a powerful signal about the seriousness of the new order.
Although Abrahams, who is contesting a judicial order that he is unfit to run the NPA, had little choice in the matter, his decision is seen by the ex-President's allies as a betrayal. Other allies of Zuma are threatening to cause mayhem in the African National Congress in revenge but their power is waning.

The more robust Zuma supporters warn that South Africa could follow the example of Brazil, where the fall of a corruption-plagued leftist government led to the rise of a right-wing president implementing tough neo-liberal reforms. So far in South Africa, the centre-right Democratic Alliance has benefited little from the fall of Zuma.

This is where Ramaphosa's political skills come in. His strategy is to pull more supporters into the ANC from both right and left: with a combination of anti-corruption policies and sympathy for the landless and unemployed. His decision on 19 March to suspend Tom Moyane as director of the South African Revenue Services sent another powerful signal. Lambasted for sacking some of SARS's most effective officials, Moyane had refused all entreaties to resign. He is already under investigation.

State revenues are likely to grow sharply if some of the top professionals who sacked by Moyane are reinstated. That will help Nene who is trying to balance the budget as credit ratings agencies make their assessments of the early effects of the Ramaphosa era.

However, the most significant changes will follow Gordhan's efforts to restructure the state companies that have proved such a political and economic drain on the ANC government. Starting with the power utility Eskom and South African Airways, Gordhan is working his way through the companies that served as a political patronage machine for Zuma and allies.

MOZAMBIQUE: Secret loan saga to cast shadow over government meeting with creditors
Expectations of an agreement on debt-restructuring between Maputo and its commercial creditors were low ahead of today's talks (20 March). Banking sources say that the government had not proposed a new plan ahead of the meeting and that the creditors were divided in their approach.

According to the IMF, Mozambique's foreign debt was US$13.3 billion at the end of 2017 and its arrears are now over $700 million Most of the country's financing problems have been traced back to some $2 bn. in secret loans, organised in deals with Credit Suisse and Russia's VTB which are now under international scrutiny.

Some creditors, one banker said, may have been prepared to accept some form of write-down but others would refuse any such offer, preferring to wait for full repayment until gas exports start up around 2023.

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa sets July as date for national elections as fresh investments arrive
A succession of announcements about fresh foreign investments are feeding a more optimistic view of the country under President Emmerson Mnangagwa's reshuffled government. Some $590 mn. in foreign exchange has been repatriated to Zimbabwe under Mnangagwa's financial amnesty programme. But officials say that at least another $800 mn. is due.

Emboldened by the flow of both new and old money coming in, Mnangagwa has announced that national elections will be held in July.

He added that election-monitoring organisations from across Africa and the European Union would be accredited for the vote. This is despite ousted President Robert Mugabe complaining at a press conference at his mansion in Harare in the week ending 17 March that he had been the victim of a coup d'état.

Insiders suggest that Mugabe's press conference may have badly misfired, partly because it showed the considerable luxury in which his family still live – despite his claims of persecution by the new government.

ANGOLA: Ex-President Dos Santos tries to control the ruling party for another year as his family face growing challenges
Contrary to expectations, the last six months have seen the family of President José Eduardo dos Santos lose power, influence and money at a dizzying rate as new President João Lourenço consolidates power. Dos Santos's daughter has been ousted as head of the state oil company and his son sacked as head of the sovereign wealth fund. Other children have lost lucrative state contracts and are said to be under investigation.

Yet ex-President Dos Santos has retained his position as head of the governing MPLA. That is about to change if many of the party militants have their way. They want to see Dos Santos out of the party leadership in the next few weeks, at most months.

Pushing back against this, Dos Santos says he wants to stay until December, if not April 2019. Some suspect that he wants to use that position as a shield against further investigations. The party politburo meets again next month.

News in very brief

NIGERIA: Row over super-salaries for Senators will be a campaigning issue in next year's election
EGYPT: Government cracks down harder on media but President El Sisi faces no serious challenger in the 26-28 March elections

BURUNDI: President Nkurunziza to hold referendum on 17 May which could give him another decade in power

CONGO-KINSHASA: Government stands firm on higher resource taxes against big mining companies as demand grows sharply for its cobalt