Thursday, 18 February 2016

Election race for UN Chief

As the campaign for the next Secretary General of the United Nations heats up, the career of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who died on 16 February, should prove instructive. The Egyptian who held the UN’s top job in 1992-96 was one of the most experienced diplomats to have held the post. That counted for nothing once Boutros had quarrelled with Washington, which vetoed his second term, and he became known in Africa as the UN chief who withdrew peacekeepers from Rwanda as the genocidaires started the killing.

For this year's UN election, an impressive list of candidates is emerging: two Bulgarians, Kristalina Georgieva (Budget Commissioner at the European Union) and UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova (favoured by Russian President Vladimir Putin); the UNDP Administrator, New Zealand's former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Susana Malcorra, Argentina's new Foreign Minister.
In the spirit of regional alternance, it is meant to be Eastern Europe's turn to hold the post and there is strong support for the UN, at last, to appoint a female SG.

Some are pressing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to run. Not only can she match the other contenders' experience, she has the influence to get deals done. Incumbent Ban Ki-moon came to the SG's office a decade ago pledging to focus all his efforts on ending the mass slaughter in Darfur. As Khartoum blocked his moves, a new wave of conflict in the Middle East further diluted his efforts.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

African Union thinks again on interventions

A strong group within the African Union, including AU Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, backed the sending of an armed force to Burundi to confront President Pierre Nkurunziza's government. This followed a succession of alarming reports from AU and UN observers.

Last week's AU summit debated the merits of armed intervention. It decided against it because of opposition from countries such as South Africa and Tanzania. South Africa and Tanzania led a successful intervention in the east of Congo-Kinshasa but taking on the Burundi army would have made matters still worse in the absence of a political agreement, they concluded.

In fact, the AU lacks the tools for the job, even if its leaders can agree on intervention. It is yet to agree on the organisation of a rapid response force and there is confusion about how the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises will work together. Meanwhile, groups of countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have organised regional forces to intervene in Somalia, and West African states have done the same in Mali. Now, five years after a Western intervention in Libya, European states led by France and Italy are planning another operation. This time, they want to hit the estimated 5,000 fighters loyal to Da’ish ('Islamic State') there. But while the AU struggles with its plans in Burundi and the far worse conflict in South Sudan, it faces being sidelined again in Libya.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

AFRICAN UNION: Summit gives Nkurunziza another chance

This week diplomats and soldiers mull the decisions and lack of decisions at the African Union summit as political tensions rise in Uganda ahead of this month’s presidential elections. Mozambicans want to know what is behind the shooting of a top Renamo official and the United Nations finally gets tough with the two leaders in South Sudan’s civil war and power struggle. Finally, fighting in Libya escalates and fresh efforts to form a unity government are thwarted.

AFRICAN UNION: Summit gives Nkurunziza another chance
The ability of the African Union to intervene by force in member states to stop mass killings was tested at the organisation’s summit on 29-30 January in Addis Ababa.

A plan by the AU’s Peace and Security Council to send a peacekeeping force to stop the slaughter in Burundi was held back by the opposition of South Africa and Tanzania, the two states which drafted the Arusha peace accord which ushered in Pierre Nkurunziza’s first government. South Africa and Tanzania both argued that there should be another effort to negotiate the role of an AU force with the incumbent.

The chances of a broad agreement over an intervention looks slim. Nkurunziza, backed by Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, sternly opposes any intervention as a violation of national sovereignty, and the two have been exploiting the divisions on the issue among AU member states. As the AU struggles to find a consensus on Burundi, the United Nations sounds increasingly dire warnings about the mounting death toll and the deepening crisis there.

Our correspondents at the AU summit will also look at the difficulties of raising more money for its African Mission in Somalia forces, against the background of the devastating attack by Al Shabaab on a Kenya Defence Force base on 15 January. The corridors have filled with gossip about whether AU Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will leave Addis this year and run for the leadership of the African National Congress at party elections due in 2017.

UGANDA: Museveni doubles down on dissidents
There is no question that President Yoweri Museveni is throwing everything into his battle to win the presidential election this month, regardless of the fact that the opposition could not unite behind one candidate and present him with a credible electoral threat.

After the police arrested several opposition activists, the military have turned their attention to dissidents in their own ranks: they arrested General David Sejusa, who fled fled Uganda for Britain three years ago after claiming there was a plan to kill officers who opposed Museveni’s plan to be succeeded as president by his son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi. He then returned to Uganda and apparently made his peace with Museveni. Military sources say that Gen Sejusa is to be court-martialled but did not specify other charges. Our correspondents look at the campaign and how Museveni is leaving nothing to chance.

SOUTH SUDAN: UN calls for sanctions against both sides
A scathing report for the United Nations Security Council blaming both sacked Vice-President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir Mayardit for ordering ethnically-based slaughter and obstructing peace has causing ructions at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, where the rivals sent large delegations, and in Juba.

The report notes that Salva has acquired three helicopter gunships and fears an escalation of the war with Riek’s forces. This is despite both sides’ signing an accord for a unity government.

The two sides missed yet another deadline to form a power-sharing government on 22 January. Our correspondents unpick the situation and assess the Security Council’s chances of obtaining sanctions against both leaders and an arms embargo and whether it will make any difference.

MOZAMBIQUE: Who and what is behind the hit on Renamo?
The Secretary General of Renamo, Manuel Bissopo, was shot and seriously wounded and his bodyguard killed in an attack widely blamed on 'rogue’ elements of the security forces. A couple of days later, the head of the main employer’s federation, the CTA, Rogerio Manuel, was seen driving round Maputo trying to buy up all the copies of Maputo weekly Magazine Independente. The first, an action of the 'old guard' contrasts with the second, a presumed win for the reform party. The paper carried a story about a ministerial order against him to repay $7 million to the government. President Nyusi is expected to try to stamp his authority on a unstable situation at the Frelimo Central Committee meeting on 3 February.

LIBYA: New deal, new impasse
As fighting rages in Benghazi between nationalist and Islamist militias, the refusal of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives to endorse the latest UN plan for a national unity government creates fresh obstacles for any outside intervention force.

Western governments had hoped that proposed unity government would invite them to send intervention forces, including air strikes against the ISIS contingent in the Gulf of Sirte. That prospect has receded as fighting along Libya's littoral has intensified.