Monday, 31 October 2016

SOUTH AFRICA: Pressure mounts on ANC leaders as Prosecutor wobbles on case against Finance Minister

This week we start in the South African courts to watch the latest round of the proxy political battle between Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma; the Kenyan economy gets a vote of confidence from the World Bank; results in Côte d'Ivoire's constitutional referendum are expected early in the week; and the biggest foreign investor in Guinea's Simandou mine, Rio Tinto, is selling its 46% stake to Chinalco, one of the biggest resource companies in China. Finally, the chairwoman of Ghana's Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, is in Europe this week to discuss her efforts to ensure credible and peaceful elections in December.

SOUTH AFRICA: Pressure mounts on ANC leaders as Prosecutor wobbles on case against Finance Minister
The governing African National Congress faces another week of turmoil as State Prosecutor Shaun Ibrahim looks set to back down on his widely criticised attempts to lay fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Several senior ANC figures are giving strong support to Gordhan, questioning the motives behind Ibrahim's threatened prosecution.

Many political insiders believe that Ibrahim, an ally of President Jacob Zuma, is part of a campaign to stop the Finance Minister's probe into state corruption and patronage. Unless Ibrahim calls off the case, Gordhan is due in court on 2 November to face charges of fraud for approving an early retirement deal for a senior staffer at the National Revenue Service.

As the Gordhan case plays out this week, ANC leaders are mulling a new report prepared for the party's National Executive Committee which calls for President Zuma to resign. The report includes trenchant criticism from party's branches of the leadership's lack of accountability, in particular Zuma's close personal relations with corporate interests.

KENYA: Mixed signals as Kenyatta tries to boost economy ahead of next year's election
Against the trend of slowing economies in much of the rest of Africa, Kenya's farming and tourism sector are growing faster and bringing in more foreign investment. On 31 October, the World Bank announced that Kenya's economy should grow this year by 5.9% against an earlier forecast of 5.6%.
President Uhuru Kenyatta's government says the final growth figure should be 6% for this year and will rise to 7% next year. Facing a tough election next August, with veteran oppositionist Raila Odinga among the leading challengers, Kenyatta is keen to claim economic successes.

Although Kenya is Africa's fastest growing retail market and one of the region's most diversified economies, its tea production is falling short of the government target – 500 million kilograms – because of a regional drought. Kenya is the world's biggest tea exporter. Coffee production has also been hit by the drought.

And despite big investments by France's Carrefour and the United States' Walmart into Kenya's retail sector, two local supermarket chains – Nakumatt and Uchumi – are restructuring after hitting serious financial problems.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Opposition boycott undermines constitutional referendum
A proposed new constitution which dilutes the nationality qualification for presidential candidates and strengthens executive powers is likely to go through after the 30 October referendum. But the organisation of the referendum and the drafting of the new constitution have been lambasted by civic activists and opposition parties which boycotted the referendum.

They are eagerly waiting to see what percentage of the country's 6.3 million registered voters turned out on 30 October. Critics say the new constitution was rushed through – Ivorians had just two weeks to debate its provisions before the referendum – and serves the interests of President Alassane Ouattara, above all else.

The new constitution allows  a candidate with just one Ivorian parent to run for the presidency; the previous constitution of 1999 stipulated that both parents should be Ivorian. This created problems for Ouattara as his opponents claimed that at least one of his parents came from neighbouring Burkina Faso.

Opposition parties insist that Ouattara's election as President in 2010 and 2015 was illegitimate. They add that the new constitution is designed to weaken the power of parliament.

Under the new constitution Ouattara will be able to appoint a Vice-President who will succeed him should he resign. It also allows the President to appoint a third of the members in the Senate, and establishes a national house of traditional rulers which might further weaken the power of the elected chambers.

GUINEA: Rio Tinto sell stake in world's biggest ore mine to China
After two decades of political fights and lawsuits, Rio Tinto is leaving Guinea, having sold its 46.6% stake in the Simandou iron ore mines for an estimated US$1 to 1.3 billion to Chinalco, one of China's biggest resource companies.  The development of Simandou, the world's biggest iron ore mine, could double the size of Guinea's economy but investors have struggled to raise funds to build a 1,000 kilometre railway linking the site to a seaport.

The decision to quit was made by Rio's new managing director Jean-Sebastien Jacques who said his company was struggling raise money for the project. Company officials could take another six months to finalise the deal under which Rio would be able to recoup much of its estimated $1.4 bn. investment in the project.

The sale will not directly affect the complex three-way legal fight between Rio and its erstwhile partners in Guinea, Brazil's Vale and Swiss-based Beny Steinmetz Resource Group in which each side accuses the other of fraudulent practices.

GHANA: Appeals from disqualified candidates could delay presidential election due on 7 December
Charlotte Osei, the chairwoman of Ghana's Electoral Commission, is due to address a meeting of the Royal African Society in London on 2 November, as 13 opposition candidates are protesting their disqualification from the elections. The two leading candidates – President John Mahama and Nana Addo Akufo Addo of the New Patriotic Party – are the front runners in the presidential elections on 7 December and have not got involved in this latest controversy.

The Commission ruled that the 13 presidential candidates would be ineligible because of mistakes and duplications in their applications forms. The disqualified candidates include Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, wife of former President Jerry Rawlings, and Paa Kwei Nduom, an Nkrumahist candidate who leads the Progressive People's Party.

Rawlings and Nduom, along with some of the other candidates are contesting their disqualification in a petition to the High Court. Although the Commission insists its decision is final, it agrees that the Court appeal process must be completed before the elections are held.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

BURUNDI | KENYA | SOUTH AFRICA: African states start exodus from International Court

This week, top officials at the International Criminal Court are in urgent talks with the governments of South Africa, Burundi and Kenya about plans for a mass withdrawal from the Court. Reeling from targeted assassinations and a weakening economy, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi's government is likely to crack down still harder on opposition groups as it tries to negotiate a US$12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Another big economy in trouble, Nigeria, is in talks for a migration-investment pact with the European Union this week and Zimbabwe is set to continue with efforts to repay all its arrears to the international financial institutions. Finally, Burkina Faso has sent a request to the French government to make available their classified files on the 1987 coup in Ouagadougou as part of its probe into the ousting and killing of Thomas Sankara.

BURUNDI | KENYA | SOUTH AFRICA: African states start exodus from International Court
This week the International Criminal Court (ICC) will have to start its fightback after suffering its most serious political blow after South Africa announced on 21 October that it wants to quit. The issue is likely to dominate the ICC's Assembly of States Parties meeting on 16-24 November in the Netherlands.

South Africa's announcement came three days after Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, who faces an investigation by the court for war crimes, signed a decree to take Burundi out of the court.
And in Kenya, a bill that would take the country out of the ICC is slowly making its way through Parliament. It has strong backing from the governing Jubilee party of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice-President William Ruto, both of whom faced charges for crimes against humanity in the court. In both cases, the charges were dropped after several witnesses changed their testimony, disappeared or were found dead. Jubilee faces presidential and parliamentary elections next August; the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, led by Raila Odinga, still supports Kenya's membership of the ICC.

In all cases there is strong political opposition to what are seen as personal decisions by Presidents. The legitimacy of President Nkurunziza's election to a third term is widely contested in Burundi and beyond. More than 470 people have been killed in political clashes and targeted assassinations since Nkurunziza won a disputed election last year.

And in South Africa, the decision to quit the court is widely seen as having been taken by President Jacob Zuma and his closest political allies, a faction that is rapidly losing support within the governing African National Congress. President Zuma was embarrassed when the Pretoria High Court ordered his government to arrest Sudan's President Omer Hassan el Beshir who was in South Africa to attend the African Union summit in June 2015. President Omer, who has been charged by the ICC with genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, refuses to recognise the Court. South Africa's Supreme Court later upheld the High Court's arrest order and criticised the country's security agencies for allowing Sudan's President to fly back to Khartoum.

The decision to quit the ICC is likely to have been discussed when President Zuma visited President Kenyatta in Nairobi on 11-12 October. Despite the opposition to the move in all three countries, issues such as jobs, inflation and security loom much bigger on the political scene. South Africa's political weight means that Fatou Bensouda, the ICC's Prosecutor, will have to struggle to persuade the Zuma government to change its mind and to stop other countries following suit.

EGYPT: Political perils deepen in step with economic crisis
The killing of General Adal Rajaaie, the commander of an armoured division in northern Sinai, on 22 October in a Cairo suburb was the latest in a series of targeted assassinations of top officials in President Abdel Fattah el Sisi's government. A militant Islamist group called Louwaa el Thawra claimed responsibility for the attack.

Egyptian soldiers are fighting an insurgency backed by Islamic State in northern Sinai, at a time when the organisation's other bases in Libya, Iraq and Syria are facing heavy attacks from local and western forces.

National politics in Egypt are also coming under pressure. The Hasm Movement has been assassinating top state officials in what it calls revenge attacks on prosecutors and security officials following the toppling of Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in mid-2013.

Unarmed opposition groups are said to be planning a day of protest on 11 November against worsening economic conditions: inflation is over 14%, electricity prices went up by 25-40% in August, the government is introducing a 13% value added tax and there is a foreign exchange crisis.

NIGERIA | EUROPEAN UNION: New talks on migration-investment trade off
As French police start an operation on 24 October to dismantle a camp housing over 10,000 migrants near Calais, talks are due to begin In Abuja between European Union and Nigerian officials about a new migration pact.

EU officials are asking Nigerian officials to sign up to a deal that would commit them to accepting the return of all their country's nationals arriving in Europe without legal papers and who are not eligible for political asylum. Over 130,000 illegal migrants have arrived in Italy this year; most of them came from Nigeria according to Italian officials.

The trade off is that the EU would redirect some US$8 billion of development aid to road and power projects in Nigeria and neighbouring countries as part of efforts to boost economic conditions in the region and deter migrants.

ZIMBABWE: Harare pays off arrears to IMF in hope of getting fresh loans
Following its repayment of US$108 million of arrears to the International Monetary Fund on 20 October, the Zimbabwe government is edging closer to a deal to take on new international loans as the economy continues to deteriorate. More than four million people need food aid, about 80% of the working population are unemployed and there is a chronic shortage of US dollars which are country's main currency.

Mass opposition is growing to the government's plans to introduce bond notes, a state-backed non-convertible currency designed to ease the dollar shortage.

Further complicating matters, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa's strategy of re-engaging with international financial institutions is rejected by a rival faction within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

Chinamasa still has to find ways to raise funds to repay some $600 mn. of arrears to the African Development Bank and about $1 bn. to the World Bank before substantive talks can start on new loans.

BURKINA FASO: Government demands secret files on French role in the coup that overthrew Thomas Sankara
This week the French government is to consider a request to hand over classified files on its role in the 1987 coup in Burkina Faso. The request made by President Roch Kabore's government, which is continuing with a probe into the coup, includes a list of French officials that the Burkinabe investigators want to interview.

A leading target in Burkina Faso's investigation is Blaise Compaoré, the former President who was ousted In October 2014 after tens of thousands of demonstrators mobilised in the capital to protest against his attempts to extend his term in office. Compaoré has now been given asylum in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Costs of migration

With average economic growth rates in African economies sinking to around 1.6% next year and conflict worsening, European Union officials are holding a summit on migration in Brussels on 20 October (see Pointer, Shifting borders south).

They want African governments to tighten border controls. One proposal suggests countries that cooperate with EU border restrictions and accept returned migrants would win higher levels of development aid and market access. Those which don’t would face economic penalties. The drafters of that policy will struggle to explain how further impoverishing countries with high levels of migration is going to improve regional stability.

The first deal, the Rabat Process in 2006, aimed to staunch the flow of West African migrants through Morocco en route to southern Europe. A much more-criticised deal known as the Khartoum Process was struck between the EU and the governments of the Horn of Africa in 2014. Human rights campaigners say that returning migrants to such countries especially to Sudan, could break EU human rights law.

On 10 October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Addis Ababa to meet Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. The previous day, Hailemariam had announced a state of emergency following political clashes in Oromia in which more than 500 people died. Days earlier, the Ethiopian government had dropped its earlier refusal to accept the return of its nationals deported from Europe.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

NIGERIA: Cacophony in the cabinet ahead of fund-raising trip

Some local difficulties have broken out in Abuja ahead of another investment roadshow by Nigeria and there is new and dramatic twist in the trial of strength between South Africa's President Jacob Zuma and his Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan. The crisis in Ghana at Obuasi, one of the biggest gold mines in the world, is getting worse with over 18,000 illegal miners operating there. The UN has condemned an attempted putsch in Tripoli which it says will set back its attempts to broker the formation of a national government in Libya.

NIGERIA: Cacophony in the cabinet ahead of fund-raising trip
First Lady Aisha Buhari's criticism of her husband's government in a no holds-barred interview with the BBC on 14 October has deepened concerns over policy as Abuja's economic team continues its fund-raising tour with an investment conference in London set for Friday (21 October).

Mrs Buhari told the BBC Hausa service that unless things improved she would not campaign for a second term for him. Anonymous government officials tried to downplay the interview as a 'family affair'. That didn't work.

Then, President Muhammadu Buhari, questioned at a press conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, tried to make light of it by saying, 'I don't know exactly what party my wife belongs to. Actually, she belongs in the kitchen, the living room and the other rooms in my house.' That put the President in a deeper hole. His press office passed it off as banter.

Although Nigerians have been enthusiastically debating Mrs Buhari's comments, poor economic conditions dominate much media comment. Budget Minister Udo Udoma said the government plans to sell off some $15 billion worth of state assets when he opened discussions on the 2017 budget in the National Assembly last week. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, who is set to address the London conference, plans to raise some $4.5 bn. in the markets over the next 18 months.

SOUTH AFRICA: Reports of the Guptas' $480 million payments raises stakes in Zuma's legal battle
The Treasury may have scored a palpable hit in the latest battle with President Jacob Zuma and his business allies in the Gupta family. On 14 October Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan filed a Financial Intelligence Report, which questioned some $480 mn. of transactions by the Guptas, with the Pretoria High Court. The affidavit, first revealed by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, has now obtained wider circulation (a certified copy of Gordhan's affidavit is appended here for your interest).

Gordhan is asking the court to issue an order declaring that he cannot interfere with the decision by commercial banks to close down the accounts of the Guptas' holding company. Zuma's allies, including Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, have been trying to pressure Gordhan to compel the banks to reopen the Guptas' corporate accounts.

This follows days of tension leading up to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's planned release on 14 October of an investigative report on the Gupta family's political and business influence in South Africa. A last-minute court application by President Zuma delayed the publication of the report. Zuma's lawyers were insisting that he should be able to question witnesses and see any evidence that might implicate him in wrongdoing.

However, several senior African National Congress figures are calling for the release of Madonsela's report as soon as possible. Over the weekend, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa came out with his strongest endorsement of Gordhan to date.

GHANA: Claims of election link to Obuasi gold-miners
Over 18,000 illegal gold-miners are working at the Obuasi mine in central Ghana, despite repeated requests by the owners, AngloGold Ashanti, to the government to stop them. Hundreds of illegal artisanal miners have been killed or maimed so far this year in their hazardous operations.

In May, AngloGold Ashanti registered a case against Ghana at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington after the government withdrew security guards from the mine as part of a politically-inflected dispute with company.

The Ghana Minerals Commission gave the illegal miners, known locally as galamsey, until 10 October to leave the mine. But the order was not backed up by any state security officials.

Mining industry officials say that the governing National Democratic Congress fears the potential impact of any mass eviction of miners on the national elections, which are due on 7 December. Some officials claim that the illegal miners are sponsored by senior politicians, from all parties, seeking seeking to raise money for campaigning. Yet none of the political parties have produced plans to create alternative work for the illegal miners. So the crisis, along with its injuries and deaths, drags on.

LIBYA: Would-be putschists target UN-backed government in Tripoli
The United Nations suffered another setback to its bid to broker a political settlement in Tripoli when the Government of National Accord (GNA), which it supports, was the target of an attempted coup in the capital on 14 October.

The coup-plotters, led by former premier Khalifa Ghwail, took over the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, where the GNA's state council was meant to establish itself. Ghwail accused the GNA of forfeiting the right to rule because of its repeated failures.

For now there is a stand-off in Tripoli with some militias backing the GNA and others Ghwail. MPs elected to the parliament based in Tobruk, eastern Libya, who are expected to meet on Monday (17 October), are watching developments in the capital closely. Forces loyal to the eastern-based army commander, Khalifa Haftar, have captured most the country's oil ports in recent weeks.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

UNITED NATIONS: Tackling migration will be top priority for Guterres after he wins Secretary General job

This week we start on the international scene with the election of a new Secretary General of the United Nations and a report from the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington DC. In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has announced a six month state of emergency after weeks of clashes between police and protestors. Two of Africa’s biggest economies, Egypt and Nigeria, both face intensifying pressures on their currencies. In Morocco, the main Islamist party is struggling to find other parties willing to work with it in a parliamentary coalition and in Zimbabwe, opposition leader Joice Mujuru says she can lead a grand alliance against President Robert Mugabe’s ailing government.

UNITED NATIONS: Tackling migration will be top priority for Guterres after he wins Secretary General job
The UN Security Council is due to confirm António Guterres, Portugal’s prime minister from 1995-2002, as the next Secretary General of the UN in a special session on 13 October. All 15 members of the Council have indicated their support for Guterres and will then send their recommendation to the 193-member UN General Assembly.

Diplomats in New York say that one of the main tasks for Guterres, who was UN High Commissioner of Refugees from 2002-2012, would be to lead UN strategy on tackling the biggest wave of refugees and migrants since the end of the Second World War. Last month, the UN hosted a special conference on migration but key decisions were deferred for another two years.

Meanwhile European governments are stepping up efforts to negotiate agreements with their counterparts in Africa and the Middle East to strengthen border controls and crack down on people smuggling. This week German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Mali, Niger and Ethiopia to discuss ways in which her country’s development aid can be used to discourage migration.

IMF/WORLD BANK: Policy shifts urged as growth falls to 20 year low
Top officials of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank set out tough policy prescriptions for Africa’s finance ministers at their organisation’s annual meeting on 7-8 October in Washington DC. The average growth forecast for Africa has fallen to 1.6% this year, its lowest level for 20 years, but several countries with more diversified economies are bucking the trend.

Those countries include Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, according to the World Bank’s Africa economist Albert Zeufack and Vice-President for Africa Makhtar Diop. At a special session on Africa on 7 October, they argued that countries would have to toughen fiscal and monetary policies, strengthen state institutions and diversify exports in response to the global commodity slump. The Bank is forecasting a modest rebound to 2.9% growth for African economies next year.

IMF officials also had a tough message about cracking down on public spending for governments – such as Mozambique, Kenya, and Zambia – seeking fresh loans.  All three countries have been borrowing heavily from the commercial market, raising questions about the sustainability of that strategy.

ETHIOPIA: Government declares state of emergency as German Chancellor due in Addis Ababa
One of Africa’s best performing economies and widely praised by the IMF and World Bank, Ethiopia has announced a six-month state of emergency after weeks of protests which have left hundreds dead. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn says his government would use the time to introduce reforms and open talks with opposition parties.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due in Ethiopia on 10 October. With its economic gains and its sharpening political conflicts, Ethiopia will show Merkel the complexity of the migration crisis in the Horn of Africa. Protestors have been attacking foreign-owned flower farms and factories, including one owned by Nigerian magnate, Aliko Dangote.

NIGERIA/EGYPT: Currency woes multiply and dollar shortage worsens
Two of Africa’s biggest economies are facing some common ailments – the crashing of their national currencies in the face of an acute shortage of dollars and political unrest. As their foreign reserves come under more pressure, both countries are struggling to stabilise their currencies.

Egypt’s pound fell to 14 to the US$ in the week ending 8 October. That’s 60% weaker than the official rate fixed by the central bank in March. And Nigeria’s naira was trading at N475 to the US$ on the parallel market last week, a 40% loss of value since June when the central bank allowed a managed float of the currency.

MOROCCO: After winning the most parliamentary seats, Islamists face growing hostility
After winning 125 seats in parliamentary elections, the Islamist Parti de la justice et du développement is the biggest party in the 395-seat legislature but will struggle to form a coalition because so many other parties refuse to work with it.

Second in the polls was Parti authenticité et modernité led by Mustapha Bakkoury with 102 seats, it says it is not willing to share power with the PJD and would rather go into opposition. The conservative Istiqlal (Independence) party which won 46 seats, pulled out of a coalition with the PJD in 2013 and its feisty leader Abdel Hamid Chaba doesn’t appear keen to resume the collaboration.

ZIMBABWE: Opposition leader Joice Mujuru fires up diaspora in campaigning trip to Britain
Facing a deepening national crisis, opposition parties in Zimbabwe have to work together and prepare for power, opposition leader Joice Mujuru told Africa Confidential in London on 7 October. The country was facing an economic meltdown, she said, after attempts to negotiate a settlement over payments arrears with the IMF had run into the ground in the face of a chronic shortage of foreign exchange.

As a former Vice-President of the ruling Zimbabwe African People’s Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Mujuru faced both some cheers and hostile questioning during her trip to Britain, when she spoke at the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank and to groups of Zimbabweans around the country.

She says her party, Zimbabwe People First, should have half a million members by the end of the year. Many of them are disillusioned supporters of ZANU-PF who are desperate for economic and political change. But she added she is working with all the main opposition parties for a unity platform.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Doubts on the data

Over the past month, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and McKinsey Consulting have finally junked their message of an economically rising Africa. The IMF cuts its 2017 forecast for Nigeria and South Africa to 0.6% and 0.8% respectively, their lowest level for two decades. The messy struggle for the succession in South Africa and two insurgent groups in Nigeria are exacerbating the economic woes.

The World Bank mirrors the IMF's statistical gloom about economic prospects but its newly re-elected President, Jim Yong Kim, wants a more public focus on critical health indicators such as malnutrition and stunting of children. India (47% of children are stunted), Pakistan (45%) and Congo-Kinshasa (43%) have some of the worst records in the world. McKinsey urges a new concentration on African companies, 400 of which generate more than US$1 billion a year in revenue. Investing in these companies will boost wages and taxes but also promote innovation and new technology.

However, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation sounded a sombre warning with a review of the first decade of its governance index. It records an improvement in governance in 37 countries, home to some 70% of the people on the continent. For 78% of people, participation and human rights have improved. But many measures are heading the wrong way: corruption and bureaucracy worsened by an average of 8.7% and in two-thirds of countries, there has been a marked decline in the freedom of expression.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

CONGO-KINSHASA/UNITED STATES: Och-Ziff corruption case drags in President Kabila's political and business allies

This week, there could be more political fall-out from the Och-Ziff corruption case in the United States and Africa. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's Independence day speech in Abuja will trigger more financial negotiations. France is leading calls for an international investigation, after Amnesty International claimed the Sudan government has been using chemical weapons. Allies of Mauritiania's President  Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz are trying to get him a third term in power. And the US is to build a drone base in Agadez, in the centre of Niger Republic.

CONGO-KINSHASA/UNITED STATES: Och-Ziff corruption case drags in President Kabila's political and business allies
The US$413 million plea bargain deal between New York-based Och-Ziff Capital Management and the US Department of Justice, announced on 29 September, could trigger fresh probes into politicians in Kinshasa, Libreville and Harare as well as into companies such as Israel-based Dan Gertler International (DGI) and Swiss-based commodity traders Glencore.

Both DGI and Glencore were involved in deals in Congo-Kinshasa in which state assets were undervalued by as much as $1.35 billion between 2010 and 2012 according to the Africa Progress Panel run by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General. Both companies deny wrongdoing.
Sources close to the Department of Justice say investigations will target businesspeople and officials working alongside Och-Ziff. New details in the Och-Ziff case about the sale of undervalued assets from Congo to foreign companies come as President Joseph Kabila faces mounting pressure to step down at the end of his second term on 20 December.

Opposition protests against Kabila's plans to extend his rule are spreading. Over 50 people were killed in clashes last month and western states such as France and the US have called on Kabila to respect the constitution. Yet on 1 October, Congo’s electoral commission announced that it expected the presidential election to be delayed for two years.

NIGERIA: Independence day speech talks up investment but raises questions on Boko Haram devastation
In an upbeat Independence day speech on 1 October, President Buhari said the government was preparing to hire 'several hundreds of thousands' of new workers after investing some N750 bn. (US$2.4 bn.) in public works programmes.

The government will continue negotiations, Buhari added, with militants in the Niger Delta whose attacks this year have cut oil production from an average of 2.2 mn. barrels a day to just over a mn. b/d. This month, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun is to open discussions with international investors about floating a eurobond. Officials in Abuja say the latest deal between oil producers to cut production will boost international prices.

Apart from trying to fix the country's worst recession for two decades, Buhari's government is being asked to respond more determinedly to the starvation and disease in north-east Nigeria in the aftermath of Boko Haram's jihadist insurgency.

United Nations agencies reckon some 2.6 mn. people were displaced by the insurgency and another 2.2 mn. were trapped in areas once under jihadist control. So far the UN effort to provide food and medicines for people caught in the war zone has raised only a quarter of the $740 mn. that is urgently needed. Last month, Mercy Corps reported that about 800,000 people are staying in burned out villages or impromptu camps in Borno State, which saw some of the worst of the fighting.

SUDAN/UNITED NATIONS: Calls for probe into claims that Khartoum used chemical weapons
France has called for an international investigation into reports that the Sudan government has launched at least 30 attacks with chemical weapons in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur this year. Amnesty International, which released its report on 30 September, estimates that up to 250 people could have been killed by chemical weapons attacks in Sudan this year. It says the most recent attack was on 9 September.

Ibrahim Ghandour, Sudan's Foreign Minister, told the New York Times that the government didn’t use 'chemical weapons in populated areas'. In response to a follow up question, Ghandour added that the government had not used chemical weapons anywhere '…not at all.'

The report points to the weakness of the 20,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Darfur run jointly by the United Nations and African Union. The mission has been repeatedly denied permission by the Sudan government to go to the Jebel Marra area. UN officials say that some 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Darfur this year alone.

MAURITANIA: Bid by President Abdelaziz to end term limits
The latest president seeking to change his country's constitution to extend his stay in power is Mauritania's Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz who told a national forum in Nouakchott on 30 September that such changes would be put to a referendum.

Abdel Aziz, who played a leading role in the military coup in 2005, survived sanctions by both the African Union and the European Union for overthrowing an elected government. Then the sanctions were lifted after Abdel Aziz retired from the army and stood as a candidate in presidential elections in 2009.

NIGER/UNITED STATES: Washington to build drone base at Agadez
Pentagon officials in Washington have confirmed plans to build a $50 mn. drone base in Agadez, in the centre of Niger. The US and France jointly run an air base in Niamey which provides support to Operation Barkhane, a regional anti-terror force. Barkhane has been launching counter-attacks against jihadist groups in Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

The US drone base in Agadez, described as Washington’s biggest military project this year in Africa, will have the capacity to hit targets and mount surveillance operations across the Sahel and up into Libya.