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.

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