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.

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