Thursday, 21 July 2016

Dlamini-Zuma's busy swan song at AU

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's extended swan song as chairwoman of the African Union Commission has been more productive than the rest her of four-year term. Dlamini-Zuma doesn’t want a second term and will return home to South Africa. There, she’s likely to make a run for the presidency, a position currently occupied by her ex-husband Jacob Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma initially struggled with the AU bureaucracy and diplomatic in-fighting, but now she has some important achievements to her name. In January, the AU launched its Rapid Reaction Force and at the AU summit this week, Dlamini-Zuma presided over the decision to send a 3,000-strong force to South Sudan to protect civilians. She has also made progress on her pledge to reduce the AU's dependence on Asian and European financial support: the 54 member states agreed to levy a 0.2% tax on specific imports which should raise about US$1.2 billion a year.

But one major piece of business was unfinished: the election of her successor. There was little enthusiasm for the three candidates in the frame: Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Agapito Mba Mokuy, foreign ministers respectively of Botswana and Equatorial Guinea, and former Vice-President of Uganda, Specioza Kazibwe. Now the talk is of another three: Tanzania's former President Jakaya Kikwete, Algeria's Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, and Senegal's Abdoulaye Bathily, currently UN Representative for Central Africa.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

AU delegates search for funds for 100,000 peacekeepers

This week we start in Kigali, which is hosting the summit of the African Union, and stay in East Africa to hear that the region's three biggest economies are putting their trade negotiations with the European Union on hold. If the latest opinion polls in South Africa prove accurate the African National Congress faces a big upset in next month's local elections. Meanwhile, São Toméans wait patiently for the results of the 17 July presidential elections and Zimbabwe's finance minister says that sanctions are blocking his economic reform plan.

AFRICAN UNION: Delegates search for funds for 100,000 peacekeepers
Money and conflict dominate discussions at the African Union summit in Rwanda on 15-18 July.  Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, outgoing Chair of the AU Commission, wants to make progress on her plan to make the AU more financially self-sufficient before she leaves office.

Currently there are about 100,000 peacekeepers serving in Africa, either under the AU or United Nations flag or, in some cases such as in Sudan's Darfur region, under joint AU-UN command. With fresh calls for an international force in South Sudan after this month's fighting in Juba, the demand for peacekeepers is increasing. Dlamini-Zuma and other senior AU officials are frustrated by the extent that former colonial powers in Europe have political influence, because they are providing the money. Veteran Algerian diplomat Smaïl Chergui, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, has been pushing for a special fund to provide about a quarter of the cash needed for AU peacekeeping operations until 2021. He argued that the UN Security Council should finance the balance. Whatever the terms of the request that the AU puts to the UN, there's unlikely to be any considered response until the global body elects its new Secretary General at the end of  September.

EAST AFRICA: Regional states stall negotiations with Europe after Brexit
First Tanzania suspends its ten-year negotiations for a new trade treaty with the European Union, and now Kenya and Uganda say they are also putting the talks on hold. This is an early sign of the commercial complications caused by Britain's decision last month to leave the European Union.

All three countries — founding members of the East African Community — have been embroiled in tortuous negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU but still have many concerns about proposed rules on services and intellectual property, widely regarded as too generous to Europe. Some African negotiators want to try to get a better deal with Britain (some 10% of Kenya's exports are to the United Kingdom), which could then reshape negotiations with the EU.

SOUTH AFRICA: Polls predict heavy ANC defeats in key urban centres
If the pollsters are right – which remains a big question – the governing African National Congress, and particularly its President Jacob Zuma, is facing an electoral disaster in local and municipal elections on 4 August. The latest opinion polls give the centre-right Democratic Alliance a lead of 39% over the ANC’s 25% in the run-up to the municipal elections in the commercial capital Johannesburg and the political capital, Pretoria and Tshwane. Support there for the radical Economic Freedom Fighters is reckoned at around 13%.

The ANC is still trailing the DA in the National Mandela Bay municipality, which includes the industrial hub of Port Elizabeth, in Eastern Cape: DA support is running at 42% in Nelson Mandela Bay against the ANC’s 27% and the EFF’s 8%.

ANC loyalists question the accuracy of the pollsters' sampling methods and argue that much will depend on turnout: they insist that the ANC's bigger national organisation, not to mention resources, will enable it to boost its support in the polling stations.

SAO TOME E PRINCIPE: President Pinto da Costa vies for second term
São Toméans will know within the next few days whether President Manuel Pinto da Costa has won a second term after national elections on 17 July. The other leading candidates include Evaristo Carvalho, a former Speaker of parliament, and former Prime Minister Maria das Neves.
ZIMBABWE: Chinamasa says sanctions threaten reforms and debt deal
In Rwanda for the African Union summit, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said that international sanctions – particularly the United States block on loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank – are blocking his efforts to negotiate a re-entry into the international financial system.

Speaking at Africa Confidential's conference on Zimbabwe on 5 July, Chinamasa said the government was hoping that the boards of the IMF and the World Bank would approve its arrears clearance plan in September and soon afterwards approve fresh loans.

It seems that some of the banks involved in raising 'bridging finance' for the deal are having problems in the international markets, specifically concerns about the legal implications of US sanctions on Zimbabwe. Until these concerns are addressed, this will delay the deal and add to the deepening sense of economic crisis in the country. Delays in the payment of salaries for army, police, doctors, teachers are exacerbating local discontent.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

SOUTH SUDAN: Risk of chronic food crisis after Juba shoot-out

This week we start with the fighting in South Sudan and then look at the prospects for more anti-government protests in Zimbabwe. In Zambia, tensions are rising ahead of what many expect to be a very close election next month while Ghana is channelling the spirit of Kwame Nkrumah with its introduction of a visa-free entry scheme for all African visitors. Finally, we look at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's swing through East Africa last week.

SOUTH SUDAN: Risk of chronic food crisis after Juba shoot-out
Widespread food shortages and a worsening cash crisis will complicate negotiations between the rival factions in Juba after three days of fighting killed at least 270 people. The biggest risk is that the fighting could spread to other regions of the country, according to Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia's Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

On 12 July, Tedros called for a stronger UN mandate in South Sudan to include a beefed-up military force capable of intervening in future clashes. He was speaking a day after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had called for an arms embargo against South Sudan and the deployment of attack helicopters to UN forces so they were better able to protect civilians.

After President Salva Kiir Mayardit ordered government forces on 11 July to cease operations against forces under the command of his rival and Vice-President Riek Machar, the ceasefire appears to have held for the first day. But there is little agreement on what happens next. Reports say many of Riek's fighters have fled the capital after heavy fighting, some of it involving SPLA helicopter gunships, at their base at Jebel. Riek is said to be sheltering in a foreign embassy in the capital but no details of dates or locations for a possible reopening of negotiations with Salva have emerged.

ZIMBABWE: Arrest of protest organiser shows limits of ZANU-PF reform
Undaunted by being charged with inciting public violence, which carries a possible ten-year prison sentence, Pastor Evan Mawarire, the leading light of the #ThisFlag movement and coordinator of last week's mass stayaways in Harare and Bulawayo, has urged people to demonstrate against the government again today and tomorrow (13 and 14 July).

Last week's protests were the biggest in Zimbabwe for over a decade, and coincided with a strike by nurses, doctors and teachers protesting at the late payment of their June salaries. Business in the major cities was brought to a grinding halt.

The government's decision to charge Mawarire comes as Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa tries to negotiate desperately-needed credits from the IMF and the World Bank. Ostensibly, the loans won't include political conditions but the government is under pressure to show that it has consulted with the wider society about the terms of its proposed economic reform programme. Gaoling an extremely popular dissident like Mawarire could jeopardise the negotiations.

ZAMBIA: Police shootings and suspension of campaigning raise stakes in the polls
The opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) plans major protests in Lusaka this week after police shot dead one of its supporters during clashes on 8 July. Fighting broke out after police tried to stop UPND supporters from marching through the capital. The Electoral Commission has suspended campaigning for ten days in Lusaka and in Namwala district, west of the capital.

Opposition supporters accused the police of siding with the governing Patriotic Front as party militants took on their rivals in running street battles last week. UPND Presidential candidate Haikainde Hichilema told Africa Confidential that some Patriotic Front cadres had donned police uniforms to give them cover to harass opposition activists. The presidential and parliamentary elections on 11 August are expected to be extremely close. Growing violence and claims of a government plan to rig the vote could trigger a serious confrontation next month unless there is mediation between the two sides.

GHANA: Accra pushes Pan-Africanism with continental free entry scheme
The efforts of founding President Kwame Nkrumah to promote African unity some 60 years ago have won a new lease of life with a scheme to allow all African citizens to enter Ghana without pre-arranged visas. Under the scheme visitors would get a 30-day visa stamped in their passports on arrival. Up to now, that facility has only been granted to citizens of countries in the 15-member Economic Community of West African States.

President John Mahama's government, which has introduced the scheme partly to encourage tourism, says it is a step on the road to an African passport which would guarantee free movement across the continent for all citizens of member states of the African Union. The first version of the African passport is set to be launched at the AU summit in Kigali this week; initially it will be available only to heads of state and ministers of AU member states.

AFRICA/ISRAEL: Netanyahu searches for votes at the UN
The first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Africa in three decades, Benjamin Netanyahu's grand sweep through Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda last week could yield a few more helpful votes in the United Nations General Assembly. All four African countries reinstated diplomatic ties with Israel in the 1990s.

However, the vast majority of African countries back the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the Palestine Liberation Organisation has observer status at African Union meetings. Rwanda and Israel were already particularly close. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Rwanda abstained on a vote to support Palestinian statehood, and again on a vote to order Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in Palestine.

Ethiopia, which takes up a seat on the UN Security Council next year, also has developed ties with Israel. Apart from some security cooperation, tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel, have migrated to Israel since the 1970s, although race relations have deteriorated there sharply in recent years.

In Kenya, where Israeli companies have invested heavily in local agribusiness, Netanyahu offered support for Kenya's aim of building a 600-kilometre wall between northern Kenya and Somalia. Israel is a world leader in fence technology, having erected thousands of kilometres of security fences in Israel and the occupied territories.

Netanyahu's visit to Uganda marked the 40th anniversary of the raid on Entebbe airport by the Israeli Defence Force to free hostages held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The diplomatic climate wasn't helped when President Yoweri Museveni repeatedly referred to the close historical ties between Uganda and 'Palestine', when he presumably was referring to his country's close ties with Israel.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Zimbabwe's long hard transition

A new protest movement known as #ThisFlag is gaining momentum in Zimbabwe after one of the biggest stayaways in cities for a decade on 6 July. At the head of #ThisFlag is Evan Mawarire, a 39-year-old pastor who launched a social media campaign in April to make Zimbabweans proud of their country again.

As the latest economic crisis bites harder, this raises the prospect of a powerful wave of anti-government action across the country. Activists were encouraged by the start of a strike by doctors, teachers and nurses on 5 July over the delayed payment of last month's salaries. The previous day minicab drivers clashed with police over bribery at checkpoints. And on 1 July, activists burned down a bonded warehouse at Beitbridge near the border with South Africa to protest against new import bans introduced by the government.

These signs of deepening political trouble were at the centre of the conference organised by Africa Confidential on 5 July in London – Zimbabwe: Rebooting and Rebuilding – which brought together a range of figures from the government, the opposition, business and civil society. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa insisted the government's plan to clear its arrears with the international financial institutions was going ahead and there was no plan B. Yet former Finance Minister and opposition leader Tendai Biti said that there would have to be a transitional government to restore public confidence and implement reforms.