Tuesday, 17 May 2016

West in talks to fight Da'ish and consolidate new Tripoli regime

This week starts with talks on Libya's crisis in Vienna and negotiations in Nigeria over the fuel price increase. Kenya's government makes further moves to close down the world's biggest refugee camp and Uganda's most prominent opposition leader is held on treason charges. A claim that South Africa's President Jacob Zuma wants to arrest finance minister Pravin Gordhan unnerves markets and conditions worsen further in Gambia.

LIBYA: West in talks to fight Da'ish and consolidate new Tripoli regime
As they meet in Vienna to map out plans to counter Da'ish's (or ISIS) growing presence in Libya, Western ministers will pressure politicians they see as undermining the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. The new government is seen as a critical bulwark against Da'ish's efforts to expand its power in the country.

Its Prime Minister, Faiez el Serraj, is to ask for arms and intelligence from the United States and European governments, who have deployed Special Forces soldiers across the country. Serraj is struggling to impose his authority as politicians in the Tripoli parliament refuse to back him while he still faces outright opposition from the self-proclaimed government in Tobruk, eastern Libya. The Vienna talks will be chaired jointly by Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

NIGERIA: Buhari's officials in crisis talks over fuel prices as queues lengthen
Fuel scarcity could worsen as the country's two leading workers' organisations – the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress – threaten a national strike following a government plan, announced on 13 May, to raise prices by over 60%. If the plan isn't withdrawn, union officials say, the strike will begin on Wednesday. However, the just-approved national budget for 2016 doesn't include any allowance for fuel subsidies. That was one of the reasons behind last week's price hike and will complicate any negotiations between the government and the unions. In addition, fuel importers have been complaining they can't raise the dollars to buy gasoline from the flotilla of tankers lining up in Nigerian waters hoping for business.

KENYA: Government reiterates plan to close Dadaab camp
Although President Uhuru Kenyatta's government has not set a precise deadline on its planned closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, housing more than 350,000 people, it says it will start expulsions of refugees as soon as possible. It has already announced the closure of its Department of Refugee Affairs which has been operating as a liaison office for the Dadaab camp.

The government has been forced into the closure because of 'international neglect', according to a spokesman from the Interior Ministry, adding that means Kenya has to accommodate more than 600,000 refugees within its borders and their presence is exploited by terrorist groups. United Nations officials have responded diplomatically, calling Kenya 'a leading beacon in the region for international protection' in public while privately pleading with the government not to go ahead because it fears a humanitarian catastrophe could result.

UGANDA: Kizza Besigye on treason charge as opposition steps up protests
Supporters of opposition leader Kizza Besigye, now being held in Moroto near the border with South Sudan after being charged with treason, have vowed to intensify their campaign against President Yoweri Museveni's government. They claim Museveni's February re-election as president was massively rigged.

Security officials arrested Besigye on 11 May after a mock inauguration ceremony was organised to swear him in as president. The fake ceremony was particularly embarrassing to Museveni, as it took place the day before his official presidential inauguration.

In a sign of deteriorating diplomatic relations, several Western ambassadors walked out of Museveni's inauguration speech after he referred to the International Criminal Court as a 'useless organisation'. He has also made a point of inviting Sudan's President Omer Hassan el Beshir, indicted by the ICC on genocide charges, to the inauguration.

SOUTH AFRICA: Claims that Zuma plans to arrest finance minister rattle markets
Frantic denials by President Jacob Zuma's office of a press report on 15 May that the arrest of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was planned has failed to calm markets. The rand fell to a two-month low against the dollar and interest rates on government bonds rose sharply today.

The reports carried in the mass circulation Sunday Times had said a special police unit, the Hawks, was waiting for approval from Zuma to arrest Gordhan for his role in setting up a surveillance unit to track down tax evaders.

A proxy battle between Gordhan and Zuma, who appointed some key loyalists to run the Hawks unit, has been rumbling over recent months. Some of the irregularities discovered by the surveillance unit are thought to relate to Zuma's personal business affairs.

GAMBIA/SENEGAL: Little progress on border talks as Jammeh cracks down harder on dissidents
Banjul's political and economic crisis looks set to worsen after initial talks between Gambian and Senegalese officials on reopening their mutual border, closed for three months, have made little progress. A joint statement issued today said that talks would resume no later than the end of July but that could further damage the economic situation in Gambia.

Over 40 activists from the opposition United Democratic Party are being held and protests are growing increasing despite violence meted out by security officers. On 15 May, the police charged six women with unlawful assembly and inciting violence against President Yahya Jammeh's regime. In power for 22 years, accused of killing oppositionists and grand corruption, Jammeh is facing his most serious threat to date.

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