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.

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