Friday, 27 June 2014

A summit about security

The theme of the African Union summit in Equatorial Guinea on 26-27 June was 'Agriculture and Food Security' but the part that really resonated among leaders was the word 'security'. Egypt was readmitted to the AU after last month’s election and on 26 June, President Abdel Fatah el Sisi denounced Islamism as the overwhelming threat of the day to thunderous applause. The day before, a bomb had exploded in Abuja killing 21 people, which prompted Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to fly home just hours after he had arrived in Malabo. Last week’s massacres in northern Kenya reinforced concern about a belt of worsening instability across the middle of Africa and the lack of effective forces to stop it.

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Smaïl Chergui insists that an African Standby Force will be ready for action by the end of next year. Yet some governments are reluctant to second troops to a continental force. Chad's President Idriss Déby is offering his capital as a base for African and Western forces to tackle Boko Haram, the Islamist militia in northern Nigeria and its border zones. In power since 1979, the summit host, President Teodoro Obiang, is also keen on regime security. His opening speech called for reform of the United Nations to stop foreign meddling in Africa. Unsurprisingly, Obiang is a great supporter of the protocol for a new African Court of Justice which would try suspects for war crimes and human rights abuses but would exempt serving heads of state and senior officials from prosecution.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Cyril to centre stage

It’s official: it started with a pain in the neck at the National Executive Committee meeting of the African National Congress. That is Jacob Zuma’s neck and the pain was severe enough for his fellow NEC members to send him to hospital. ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe insists that President Zuma was merely tired and will deliver the state of the nation address on 17 June. By then, Cyril Ramaphosa will have chalked up some appearances on Zuma’s behalf. This week he chaired the cabinet lekgotla (big meeting) which is meant to map out the government’s plans.

Ramaphosa will also be leader of government business in Parliament and we hear he will chair the National Planning Commission after the departure of Trevor Manuel. With Zuma resting up before he faces renewed questioning over state spending on his Nkandla homestead and the latest probe into the US$6 billion arms deal, this looks strikingly like power seeping across to Deputy Ramaphosa. If so, it will be a tough initiation, even for this veteran union leader. Although there was meant to be consensus about the pro-market policies in the National Development Plan, companies were puzzled to hear the ANC announce last week that its election victory was a mandate for radical economic transformation. That sounds scary to business, especially when growth is slowing and the platinum mine workers are still striking. Comrade Cyril can expect more calls from his old friends in the corporate world.