Monday, 6 December 2010

Confidential Agenda week ending 12 December

CÔTE D’IVOIRE: Laurent Gbagbo against the world

This week diplomats and their organisations are ratcheting up the pressure on Laurent Gbagbo to accept that he lost the second round of the presidential election on 28 November and hand power to his rival Alassane Ouattara. The regional Economic Community for West African States (Ecowas) is meeting on 7 December in Abuja, following a strong statement from its Chairman, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, in support of Ouattara who was announced winner with 54% of the vote by the Commission Electorale Indépendante. Gbagbo's allies in the constitutional council claimed unconvincingly that electoral fraud in the north invalidated Ouattara's win.

Along with Ecowas, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the African Union have all endorsed Ouattara's win. All these organisations are trying to cut Gbagbo's room for manoeuvre and force him to compromise.

Yet so far the crisis has worsened with both sides claiming the presidency and naming their own parallel governments. Much hope is resting on former South African President Thabo Mbeki, whom the African Union has despatched to Côte d'Ivoire to mediate between the two rivals. Although regarded as sympathetic to Gbagbo in the past, Mbeki has referred to Ouattara as President.

Mbeki's approach to Gbagbo, according to a veteran journalist formerly based in Abidjan, is to 'lead the madman with the bomb out of the cinema'. He compared the situation to one of Congo-Kinshasa's periodic crises when oppositionist Etienne Tshisekedi demanded that Mobutu Sese Seko should be placed 'hors d'état de nuire' – that is rendered harmless.

Many are preparing for the worst such as the International Criminal Court's Deputy Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, who reminded all sides that Côte d'Ivoire has been a signatory of the ICC since 2003 and called for restraint: 'All reported acts of violence will be closely scrutinised by the Office.'

SOUTH AFRICA: Trades unions warn Walmart on recognition

South Africa's trades unions are warning the United States' Walmart that they will insist the company, which last week announced a US$2.2 billion purchase of 51% of the equity of local supermarket chain Massmart, respects trades unions' rights in all wage bargaining negotiations. However, Walmart, which owns 55 brands in 15 countries, vigorously opposes union organisation and has been sued in the USA for sexual, racial and pay discrimination. Concerned about such conflicts, South Africa's Minister for Economic Development Ebrahim Patel has set up a panel to review the effect of Walmart's entry into the local market.

UNITED STATES: The cables that failed to shock Africa

The United States' diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks have produced few gasps of surprise in Africa, although a few oppositionists in countries such as Sudan worry that reports that they talk to US diplomats might endanger their safety.

So far we've heard that US diplomats regard Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak as not committed to free elections, that Kenya's government is extremely corrupt, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is a wily politician and his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai is inexperienced.

Some cables offer more elucidation such as the US view of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's failure to rein in the institutional corruption of France-Afrique after reforming minister Jean-Marie Bockel was ousted in 2008 when he incurred the wrath of the late President Omar Bongo Ondimba.

'The Bockel case is significant because it shows that killing France-Afrique is easier said than done; that France-Afrique has a life of its own, with vested interests on the African side that the French perhaps underestimated when deciding on the new policy; that African leaders can manipulate France-Afrique for their own ends as well as the French can or could; that a clever, skillful leader like Bongo can fight far above Gabon’s weight and humble a French politician of Bockel’s stature; and that France should take care in not trifling with Africans (which is what Sarkozy said in Dakar that France would no longer do). Bold talk of signing France-Afrique’s death certificate ended with Bockel’s departure and has not resurfaced. Bongo made his point.'

UGANDA: Kampala and Tullow join forces in Congo-Kinshasa

Ireland's Tullow Oil seems to have got President Yoweri Museveni's government back on side following its negotiations over tax payments with Kampala. We hear that Tullow's chief executive Aidan Heavey is working with Uganda's oil minister Hilary Onek to help the company's case in a dispute over ownership of its oil blocks in Lake Albert, on the Congolese side of the border.

Formerly chief critic of Tullow, Onek now seems to favour a rapprochement perhaps swayed by the investment involved. With its partners, France's Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Tullow has put together a financing package of around US$6billion for an oil refinery in western Uganda and a pipeline to the Kenyan coast.

SOMALIA: Who is Puntland picking a fight with?

We hear that the United Arab Emirates is the mystery Middle Eastern government financing the training and equipping of a 1000-strong anti-piracy militia in Puntland, the semi-autonomous state in northern Somalia.

Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole says the new force will hunt down pirates on land in the Galgala mountains. Although the pirates operate along Somalia's long coastline, the mountains are home to Mohamed Said Atom, whom the United Nations accuses of supplying arms to Al Shabaab, the Islamist insurgents.

Previously accused of benefiting from piracy, the Puntland regime seems to have joined the battle against the pirates and Shabaab. That may have something to do with reports of vast oil and gas reserves along its coastline and calls for better maritime security by would-be prospecting companies.

ZIMBABWE: ZANU-PF prepares the army for elections

On 15-18 December, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front will hold its congress to set out its plans for next year's national elections. Party Chairman Simon Khaya Moyo will campaign for 'total control of our resources through indigenisation and empowerment'. But Moyo was less forthcoming on the party's military plans for the polls. Our correspondents in Zimbabwe report the launching of 'Operation Boys On Leave', which provides for the granting of leave to army officers allowing them to return to their home towns and campaign for the party. Moyo said he had heard nothing of such plans. Yet a journalist in Bulawayo was arrested last week for suggesting that 'war veterans' were being recruited into the local police.

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