Thursday, 11 November 2010

CONFIDENTIAL AGENDA (Week ending 14 November)

Côte d'Ivoire/Tanzania/Guinea: one election win and two close contests

Two of the election cliffhangers continue this week in Côte d'Ivoire, where the second round of the presidential elections is due to be held on 21 November, and in Guinea where results of the presidential elections held on 7 November are trickling out. In Côte d'Ivoire, the smallish gap between the two second-round contenders – incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo (38% of the vote) and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara (32%) – shows how polarised the country remains eight years after the civil war broke out.

Would be-kingmaker and third-running contender, ex-president Henri Konan-Bédié, with 25% of the vote, has kept his word and thrown his weight behind Ouattara in the second round. Much less certain is how many of Bédié's supporters will follow their leader's command and vote for his old and distrusted rival Ouattara. Gbagbo's grip on the patronage machine and political guile shouldn't be under-estimated.

After last month's clashes in the capital, Conakry, the release of the results of the second round of Guinea's presidential elections is a matter of high sensitivity, and the authorities are rationing the news. In theory, the two candidates – Alpha Condé and Cellou Dalein Diallo – have pledged to work together in a unity government no matter who wins. But that plan will still take a lot of selling to the militants on both sides of the contest.

The confirmation of incumbent Jakaya Kikwete as winner of Tanzania's presidential election was hardly shocking, but the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi has been weakened substantially by the resurgent opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) party.

Chadema candidates defeated two ministers and three senior party hacks, including the woman who formerly chaired the African Union parliament, Gertrude Mongela, who was widely excoriated for endorsing a stolen election in Zimbabwe. In his second term, Kikwete's supporters say he will start reforming the party and promoting more credible politicians such as former UN Habitat director Anna Tibaijuka. If he is to restore the fortunes of the CCM, he will have to tackle the spreading corruption in political and business life which prompted many to vote for opposition parties.

See next week's Africa Confidential for in-depth analysis of these key elections and the aftermath

Libya: dissent in the ruling family
When security agents detained journalists from the Libya Press in Tripoli last week, they joined battle in what appears to be growing differences within the ruling family of Libyan leader Colonel Moammar el-Gadaffi. Libya Press is owned by Col. Gadaffi's son, Seif el-Islam whose criticisms of the regime – 'there is no state in Libya'– have been growing more trenchant. The detentions follow the suspension of another newspaper owned by Seif el-Islam for publishing more articles critical of the regime. Col. Gadaffi remains uncharacteristically silent during these battles, declining to say publicly whose side he's on. Whatever his strategy, he seems heartened that critics of his regime, however close to home they might be, are unable to unite against him.

Liberia: Mama Ellen picks her new pre-election cabinet
Who will President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appoint to cabinet after she sent most of her ministers on compulsory leave? The official reason for the clear-out is '...that this administration is entering a critical stretch and this would afford her the opportunity to start with a fresh slate going forward.'

Many in Monrovia think the clear out is a bid to get rid of the most corrupt elements in the government as presidential challenger and former AC Milan striker George Weah launches his campaign for the 2011 presidential election. If President Johnson wants to campaign on a 'clean government' ticket she will have to take some tough action following the naming by a state investigation of the Ministers of Interior and Planning in cahoots with a British businessman on an allegedly illicit deal to use.

United States: How plea bargains in frauds against Africa help fund the US Treasury
The US Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have accepted $236.5 million from seven companies found to have bribed customs officials, in Nigeria and Angola among others, to accept over-priced and poor quality products in continuing trade frauds in developing countries.

Panalpina World Transport was fined for paying 'thousands of bribes totalling at least $27 million', the DOJ and SEC said, in seven countries at least. The money was paid so that over-priced shipments could clear customs. Royal Dutch Shell, Transocean, Tidewater, GlobalSantaFe and Noble Corporation paid fines and a percentage of their profits.

Anti-graft campaigners argue that Africa loses at least US$150 billion a year in tax and trade fraud as overpriced goods are sold into Africa while its exports are deliberately under-priced. They want African governments to take on companies which dodge taxes and misprice contracts, as well as the corrupt local customs officials who facilitate the deals.

France: Foreign Minister Kouchner ready to jump ship
The imminent departure of France's Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, who had already threatened to quit over President Nicolas Sarkozy's policy of deporting Roma people back to Romania, is widely predicted in an upcoming reshuffle. It will have a symbolic rather than material effect on Africa policy. Kouchner had held up the flag for reform in the Sarko era – which initially had promised a rupture with the old habits of Françafrique – but he had been comprehensively undermined by the Secretary-General in the Elysée Palace, Claude Guéant. Francophone Africa's old guard leaders, such as Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaoré, added their weight to the anti-reform lobby.

But budget cuts may achieve something the reformers could not. The post of Minister for Cooperation (foreign aid) has been vacant since the last incumbent, Alain Joyandet, resigned after the French press reported that he had chartered a private jet on a mission to the Caribbean. Now, bean-counters in Paris are suggesting the portfolio could be abolished and the work undertaken jointly by the foreign ministry and the presidency.

No comments: