Tuesday, 7 June 2016

KENYA: Election Commission protests escalate

This week, the political developments start in Kenya, with mounting protests for electoral reform, then to the story of why some senior Nigerians are spending the week in London and the private reactions to the appointment of the president's daughter to head the state oil company of Angola. And then in Kinshasa, a close political ally announces that a referendum may be organised to allow President Kabila another term, while there are some prickly exchanges between Western and South African officials over a warning about terrorism threats.

KENYA: Election Commission protests escalate
At least one person was killed and another twelve suffering from bullet wounds were taken into the Jaramogi Odinga Teaching Hospital in Kisumu after clashes between protestors and police on 6 June.

Protestors are stepping up their campaign for the reform of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission by organising street demonstrations every Monday.

Three people were killed in clashes after demonstrations last month in Western Kenya, which is an important opposition base. An opposition protest in Nairobi went off peacefully on 6 June.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga last met President Uhuru Kenyatta at the end of May but the two failed to agree on substantive changes to the Electoral Commission. Now oppositionists say they will organise more protests to press the government to negotiate.

NIGERIA: Two Presidents and Finance team land in London
It is a big week for Nigeria in London this week, with two Presidents and a Finance Minister arriving in the British capital. First to arrive was former President Goodluck Jonathan, who gave his first major speech since losing national elections a year ago.

Jonathan used the platform, provided by Bloomberg News and Invest Africa, to call for a Bill of Rights which would establish the same rights of citizenship for all of Nigeria's 180 million people.

'Civus nigerianus sum,' ('I am a Nigerian citizen'), said Jonathan, arguing that Cicero's definition of citizenship in ancient Rome should apply in contemporary Nigeria. Discrimination against 'settlers' by 'indigenes' should be prohibited by the constitution, he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari arrived in London on the morning of 6 June for a ten-day holiday and a medical consultation for a persistent ear infection, his office announced.

Buhari's government is struggling with multiple security threats in the Niger Delta, the north-east and the Middle Belt, as well as financial pressures from the tumbling price of oil and, more recently, the disabling of oil production by Delta militant attacks.

That is a major reason why Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun also arrived in London: she was due to address investors at the Corinthia Hotel, near Trafalgar Square, on the government's strategy and to win support for a Eurobond issue. Many of the investors will be asking the government to drop capital controls and allow the naira to float against the dollar. Both policies are anathema to President Buhari, who will be just a few miles down the road at the time.

ANGOLA: Business reacts as presidential daughter takes helm of state oil company
A hardened Western banker in Luanda told Africa Confidential that he had never taken any notice of politics in Angola – until a year ago, when the oil price started to crash and the country's financial woes began to multiply.

The writ of President José Eduardo dos Santos was assumed to run supreme, across the military, the central bank and of course, the parliament. Even so, the President's decision to name his billionaire daughter Isabel as the new chief executive of state oil company Sonangol and sack the rest of the board provoked uncharacteristic gasps across the corporate landscape.

Bankers, all insisting on anonymity and discretion, said Isabel's appointment would create difficulties for the company for 'reputational' and 'risk' reasons when it goes to the market for funds. Others suggested it could undermine Angola's attempted rapprochement with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

So far only one business leader, John Baltz who is managing director of Chevron's affiliate in Angola, Cabinda Gulf Oil Company, has publicly endorsed Isabel's new job. 'The government has acted. I am always optimistic. I certainly support the direction Sonangol is taking,' Baltz told Reuters news agency.

SOUTH AFRICA: US and now Britain warn on terror attacks
First the United States, and now Britain, have publicly warned President Jacob Zuma's government that they have intelligence on possible Islamist attacks on shopping malls and Western installations in South Africa. That's not so extraordinary as there have been such warnings before but this time there is a certain tetchiness in the official exchanges. Already, Security Minister David Mahlobo, a close ally of President Zuma, has provoked criticism from local and foreign intelligence professionals.

Western intelligence agencies have long complained about a lack of cooperation from their South African counterparts on counter-terrorism. Some South African officials say they find their Western counterparts tend to hector or patronise them and are not always well-informed about local political realities.

After the latest warnings, an official from South Africa's Department of International Affairs and Cooperation said the country's security services were absolutely capable of confronting any threat.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Presidential ally hints at referendum to extend Kabila term
As the presidential contender and former governor of Katanga province Moïse Katumbi recuperates in Europe after his latest clash with Congolese security, an ally of President Joseph Kabila has floated the idea of a referendum to allow the incumbent to stand for another term.

Until now, it seemed that Kabila's strategy to was to find a formula to extend his second term in office by claiming that the government wasn't able to hold elections this November as scheduled. The speculation was that Kabila and his aides could secure another two years in power without a vote.

This was strongly challenged by Moïse Katumbi and other leading opposition contenders who have been insisting that Kabila must respect the two-term limit in the constitution.

But Henri Mova Sakanyi, the Secretary General of the ruling PPRD, told a rally in Kinshasa to celebrate the President's 45th birthday that his supporters would find a way to organise a referendum on term limits.

Sakanyi quoted approvingly the example of Rwanda, where Paul Kagame has banished such limits. He made no reference to Burundi, where the death toll has been mounting after President Pierre Nkurunziza pressed ahead with his plan for an unconstitutional third term in the teeth of staunch local opposition.

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