Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Confidential Agenda (Week ending 28 November)

Nigeria: Ex-Vice-President Abubakar is northern contender for ruling party presidential nomination
It will be a straight north versus south contest for the ruling party's presidential nomination in next year's elections in Nigeria. This follows the emergence of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as the consensus northern candidate for the presidential nomination of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) at a meeting on 21 November. Under the agreement brokered by former Finance Minister Adamu Ciroma and other elders in the party, the other northern contenders – former military leader General Ibrahim Babangida, former Director of military intelligence Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, the Governor of Kwara State Bukola Saraka – have agreed to join forces to support Atiku's bid for the presidential nomination. The PDP's political dominance means that the winner of the party's presidential nomination would be the favourite to win the national predidency in elections now likely to be held some time between late January and April.

Atiku has both the experience and the political network to run for the nomination: he helped push through many economic reforms in President Olusegun Obasanjo's 1999-2003 government and developed a powerful network when he built a national party in the 1990s, with the Yar'Adua family, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (who died in power this year) and General Shehu Yar'Adua, murdered in gaol by agents sent by military leader Gen. Sani Abacha. With the combined finances and political guile of fellow northern contenders, Atiku will present a formidable challenge to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in the PDP's presidential primaries, which are now likely to be held in Abuja in early January.

Ghana: Finance Minister Duffuor deflates oil bubble
In a budget that pleased almost nobody, veteran banker Kwabena Duffuor has made the most cautious projections on oil export revenues and effects of fresh Chinese loan finance. There is a brutal logic to Duffuor's calculations as he strives to balance the books and pay off substantial arrears to domestic contractors. But that logic – which involves tax hikes across the board – is not one that appeals to the ruling National Democratic Congress, now preparing for national elections in 2012.

Duffuor insists that much work still has to be done to stabilise Ghana's economy: the budget and trade deficits were nudging 20% of gross domestic product in early 2009 and inflation remains stubbornly high. Taking a pessimistic view of oil revenues – about US$400 million on a world oil price of $40 a barrel (just over half the current price) with production around 60,000 barrels a day – Duffuor's projections are about a third of previous estimates of revenues from Ghana's first full year as an oil exporter.

Congo-Kinshasa/Central African Republic: Bemba's trial starts in the Hague

This week, Congo-Kinshasa's leading opposition politician Jean-Pierre Bemba faces charges at the International Criminal Court in the Hague that he allowed his militia forces to rape, murder, and pillage. Prosecutors say the crimes were committed when Bemba's militia was supporting Ange-Félix Patassé, then President of Central African Republic, to hang on to power against the rebel forces of François Bozizé, who has since become President of CAR. Patassé is now safe in Bangui, contemplating his political options, while Bemba's Mouvement de Libération du Congo is searching for another candidate to fight for the presidency in the national elections due in Congo-Kinshasa due in late 2011.

France/Gabon: Libreville fights back

Pro-government activists in Libreville are fighting back against the French judiciary's support for an investigation into how late President Omar Bongo Ondimba financed his mammoth property portfolio in France. Five small organisations have filed a complaint against Transparency International for making 'defamatory statements' about the late President, and for attempting to incite unrest. The complaint was filed by Cashbo (Cash acquis solde Bongo Ondimba meaning that President Bongo properly accounted for his wealth). Filing the complaint, Cashbo's lawyer Ferdinand Abéna Bidzo'o said that he would take the case 'all the way to France or Berlin' (home of the anti-corruption lobby Transparency International).

France/Mali/Niger: Al Qaida makes its demands over hostages

President Nicolas Sarkozy, his new Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie and Defence Minister Alain Juppé have now heard from the kidnappers of the seven Areva uranium workers in Niger. The kidnappers are demanding that France leave Afghanistan and negotiate with Usama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said. The AQIM statement may have been timed to greet the new French cabinet, and is clearly designed to supplement Bin Laden's own open threats to France recently over its ban on the full-body veil for women. Yet since Sarkozy's cabinet, including defence and foreign affairs, has lurched to the right, the chances of an accommodation or of ransoms being paid seems practically nil. The stage may be set for a military rescue attempt.

China: Beijing's next leader talks up African ambitions

Vice-President Xi Jinping, newly established as China's next President, has been touring Africa. He has just left South Africa with a massive military co-operation agreement in his pocket. Next, it was Botswana and then, the shining jewel for Chinese interests, Angola.China-Africa trade rose from US$10.6 billion in 2000 to $106.8 bn. in 2008 at an annual growth rate of over 30%. In the first three quarters of this year, the figure stood at $93.7 billion – up 48%. On arrival in Angola, Xi said that 'Sino-Angola relations will continuously march into a higher level'.

Congo-Kinshasa/Rwanda: Rising military tensions in Kivu
Rwandan Hutus of the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda apparently killed 23 people in a truck, in an ambush at Walikale in Kivu on 17 November. The truck plunged off a cliff after the rebels shot the driver. This is believed to be the area that Rwandan Defence Forces were headed towards under an agreement between Congo-Kinshasa's President
Joseph Kabila and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame in early September (see AC Vol 51 No 22). The FDLR had largely been busy mining minerals in the area and no major armed incidents had recently been reported.

United States/Angola: Diplomatic accounts frozen

A number of United States private banks have closed the accounts of 16 African diplomatic missions in the USA, along with of a number of other countries. Few details have emerged but one of them was the Bank of America, which closed the Angolan Embassy's accounts. This is odd, as HSBC had been handling the official
Angolan accounts until they dropped them; BoA took over three months ago. Possible amnesia had struck. Pierre Falcone, the notorious arms dealer sent to gaol in France for six years and also Angola's Ambassador to UNESCO and a major pal of President José Eduardo dos Santos, used his BoA accounts to move dodgy money all over the world for 18 years.

The US Congress found out about it and BoA closed the accounts in 2007, and said sorry. Nobody is saying why all these missions have had their American monies stopped, and the State Department is most unhappy. Africa supremo Johnnie Carson said, '
The Department of State seriously regrets the inconveniences'. Possibly, the banks don't want a repeat of the situation at Riggs Bank, which was fined $16 mn. by the government for welcoming the millions of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo into its Washington coffers. However, we think something else spooked the banks – probably a fear of liability in the event of corrupt practices by the diplomatic missions coming to light. You heard about it here first, so watch this space for more...

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