Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Panama documents cast light on shady politicians and businesses in Africa

This week the leak of the details of over 10 million account documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca dominates the news and African activists start to probe the list to track their politicians and business people. Then there is the drama of continuing pressure of South African President Jacob Zuma, the deepening crises in Congo-Brazzaville and Burundi, as well as prospects for the elections in Djibouti on 8 April.

BANKING AND FINANCE: Curtain lifted on Africa's undercover politicians and businesses
Revelations emerging from Mossack Fonseca's files implicate politicians and businesses in China, Russia, Britain, Ukraine, France and Iceland in tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering and other criminality. But the story has a special significance for Africa.

The continent worst hit by illicit financial flows, Africa has been losing well over $50 billion to year due to tax avoidance, deliberate trade mispricing and inflation of contracts. South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki has been leading a campaign, backed by the African Union and the United Nations, to crack down on these flows.

Embarassingly for several African government, some key officials and their relatives were found to have used the services of Mossack Fonseca to cut their tax bills and conceal their investments.  So far the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which obtained the Mossack Fonseca files, has identified about 30 figures from Africa's business and political elite as having used the Panamanian law firm's services. 

They include: Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt's ousted President Hosni Mubarak; Mounir Majidi, personal secretary to Morocco's King Mohammed VI; John Addo Kufuor, son of Ghana's former President John Agyekum Kufuor; Jean-Claude N'Da Ametchi, financial advisor to Côte d'Ivoire's ousted President Laurent Gbagbo; Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of South Africa's troubled President Jacob Zuma; Mamadie Touré, widow of Guinea's former President Lansana Conté and key player in the dispute over Simandou iron ore reserves; Jaynet Désirée Kabila, sister of Congo-Kinshasa's President Joseph Kabila and found to have secret holding in the Vodafone subsidiary there; Abdeslam Bouchouareb, Algeria's Minister of Industry and Mines; José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos, Angola's oil Minister; Kalpana Rawal, Kenya's Deputy Chief Justice; Ian Stuart Kirby, judge in Botswana; Brun Jean-Richard Itoua, Managing Director of Congo-Brazzaville's state oil company and financial ally of President Dénis Sassou Nguesso; James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, Nigeria; Emmanuel Ndahiro, former head of intelligence, Rwanda

SOUTH AFRICA: Pressure mounting for Zum-exit
Although allies of embattled President Jacob Zuma were proved right when they predicted that he would survive a vote of confidence in parliament, he faces more scrutiny at a meeting of the National Working Committee of the governing African National Congress this week.

Despite the growing chorus from senior ANC figures calling for Zuma's exit, insiders say that he is likely to negotiate a stay of execution at least until the local elections in August. But if the party's performance then is as disastrous as Zuma's detractors fear, the pressure for him to go could prove unanswerable.

CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: Heavy gunfire as election fight worsens
The row over President Dénis Sassou Nguesso's claimed election victory has spilt into the streets as gunfire erupted in Brazzaville on 4 April. This latest battle threatens to reignite the civil conflict of the 1990s: Sassou Nguesso has ruled Congo-Brazzaville for 32 of the past 37 years.

His nearest rival last month's Presidential polls was Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, whose father Bernard Kolelas led the Ninja militia two decades ago. Now the Ninjas are back on the streets of Brazzaville and Sassou's aides are blaming Kolelas junior for the latest outbreak of fighting. Last year, some 20 people were killed after security forces fired on a protest against Sassou's plan to change the constitution and prolong his stay in office. 

BURUNDI: UN police due in Bujumbura as violence spirals
President Pierre Nkurunziza's government insists it has no problems with a French-backed plan by the United Nations to deploy 500 police to Bujumbura as political violence escalates. Until now Nkurunziza's government has fiercely resisted any external intervention and undermined any regional pressure for negotiations with his opponents.

Yet the UN's latest move has not won much support from Nkurunziza's adversaries because they say the police force will lack the muscle to disarm the state-backed militias which are at the heart of the political violence which has cost over 400 lives this year.

DJIBOUTI: Tensions rise ahead of Presidential poll
He may have signed more lucrative leases for foreign military bases than any other African President, but Ismaïl Omar Guelleh is leaving nothing to chance ahead of elections due on 8 April. State security services are closely watching and controlling the three other Presidential candidates and restricting journalistic access to them.

Security operatives have arrested journalists from the Financial Times and the BBC for talking to some of the opposition candidates. A crew of BBC journalists, led by Security Correspondent Tomi Oladipo, was expelled over the weekend.

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