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
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
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
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
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.