Thursday, 14 December 2017

Stand by for election fever

After this year’s cliff-hangers in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe, some may have expected a brief respite from political drama in 2018. No chance. At least eight countries are due to hold national elections next year.

The most strongly contested elections will be in Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Of the three, Sierra Leone is the least predictable: Samura Kamara, presidential candidate for the governing All People’s Congress Party, will struggle to defend his party’s record. His main opponent is former military leader Julius Maada Bio, standing on the Sierra Leone People’s Party ticket, and the impressive ex-United Nations official Kandeh Yumkella. In Madagascar, two veteran political gladiators – yoghurt king Marc Ravalomanana and former DJ Andry Rajoelina – will face off against the incumbent Hery Rajaonarimampianina.

Civic activists and oppositionists are hoping for freer and fairer elections in Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe’s forced exit last month. Successor Emmerson Mnangagwa is sending mixed signals: after promising a new democratic era, he is bringing his military allies centre-stage. However, the opposition is betting that the ruling party is less likely to bludgeon its foes out of the election. Even the old methods of vote fixing should prove more difficult under the new electoral rules.

Elsewhere, elections in Cameroon, Egypt, Mali, South Sudan all look set to return the incumbent to power.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Race tightens in the ANC's 'make or break' leadership vote due on 16 December

This week we start with the frenzied preparations for leadership elections which could change the shape of South Africa's politics – whoever wins. We have further reports from Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe.

SOUTH AFRICA: Race tightens in the ANC's 'make or break' leadership vote due on 16 December
The rhetoric and the stakes are rising steeply this week before some 5,000 members of the African National Congress gather at the Nasrec stadium near Soweto for the party's elective congress on Saturday.

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former chair of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma dominating the race for the ANC presidency, the party has become increasingly factionalised. Both sides promise to unify the ailing party but the prospects of a surprise win by a third candidate such as ANC Treasurer Zweli Mkhize are improving.

With Ramaphosa's supporters going to town on President Jacob Zuma's patronage network and his ties to the Gupta brothers – suggesting also that his ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma would try to protect him from prosecution if she wins – this election is about personal interests as much as political directions.
Increasingly, Ramaphosa supporters are suggesting that a Dlamini-Zuma win could split the party and threaten its chances of winning a national victory in the 2019 elections.

KENYA: Opposition postpones swearing-in of people's assembly after warnings from diplomats and government
Pulling back from a plan to inaugurate Raila Odinga as the 'people's President' on Jamhuri day on 12 December, the National Super Alliance said it would continue with its plans for 'people's assemblies' but wanted to keep the campaign as peaceful as possible.

Accordingly, NASA officials such as Musalia Mudavadi emphasised that Odinga's inauguration has been postponed rather than cancelled. The swearing-in was meant to have taken place in Mombasa under the aegis of Governor Hassan Joho, a staunch Odinga ally. But the ruling Jubilee party had insisted the plan amounted to treason, prompting concerns of another confrontation between oppositionists and police.

NASA leaders had to weigh up the damage to their credibility from postponing the swearing-in against the risks of more violent clashes and loss of lives if they went ahead. Alongside state security officials, several foreign diplomats had warned NASA against going ahead.

This raises questions about whether the party will continue with its campaign for electoral reform, and especially its establishment of people's assemblies in counties controlled by NASA-supporting governors.

So far, NASA's commercial boycott of Safaricom telecoms company (for its role in the elections) and President Kenyatta's Brookside dairy farms seem have proved more effective than its political protests. The World Bank forecasts that Kenya's economic growth rate could fall by 2% next year, partly as a result of the political confrontation.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Suspicions grow about state involvement as UN calls for full probe into killings of 14 peacekeepers
Such is the state of political turmoil and suspicion in Congo-Kinshasa, there is little agreement about what lay behind the murderous attack on a United Nations base at Semuliki, in Beni, North Kivu on the night of 7 December.

The attackers were said to have been fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, a militia initially backed by Sudan's government to destabilise Uganda over a decade and a half ago. At least 14 UN peacekeepers were killed, more than ever before in the UN's 18-year-old deployment in Congo-K. The UN also reported that five Congolese soldiers were killed in the ensuing three-hour firefight at the base.

Curiously, Congo's government denies this and says only one of its soldiers is missing. It also insists that its soldiers killed 72 fighters in the attacking force, a claim that no other source has substantiated. Some sources believe that the attack needs to be seen in the context of Congolese politics, and elements of the opposition may have been involved in the attack. The next issue of Africa Confidential will carry a report.

ZIMBABWE: Harsh spending cuts ahead of next year's elections raise doubts about the Mnangagwa government's first budget
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a close ally of new President Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised bold spending cuts and concessions on Indigenisation Act rules in his budget speech on 7 December.

With a pledge to cut the budget deficit to 3.5% of GDP from its estimated level of 9.4% this year, Chinamasa has set a tough target for the ruling party which has to face an election in eight months' time.

Chinamasa may be gambling that a clear break with the fiscal indiscipline of the past could entice new capital flows into the economy and restart business and even create some jobs in the short term. The government's foreign reserves are said to be dwindling dangerously.

THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

LIBERIA: Supreme Court rejects electoral fraud claims but wants checks on voters list before next round of elections

NIGERIA: Ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar stars at opposition congress, calling for united front against President Buhari

EGYPT: Presidents El Sisi and Putin sign $20 billion deal for Russia's Rosatom to build nuclear power stations by 2028

LIBYA: Oil production boosted after meeting between heads of government, state oil company and central bank on 9 December

CAMEROON: Renowned bilingual writer and poet Patrice Nganang held in Yaoundé after lamenting political trends

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to announce policy changes after swearing in cabinet of loyalists

We start in Harare where the new cabinet and its policies are coming under scrutiny. To the south, the contest for the leadership of the African National Congress is heating up with Cyril Ramaphosa in the lead, for now. And in Nigeria, veteran politician Atiku Abubakar is joining the presidential race with all guns blazing, and Kenyan oppositionists are accusing the Kenyatta government of reverting to the tactics of the one-party state.

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to announce policy changes after swearing in cabinet of loyalistsThis week, new President Emmerson Mnangagwa will offer more detail about his strategy for an emergency rescue of Zimbabwe's ailing economy. Top priority will be boosting the country's foreign reserves to shore up the monetary system – a complex and dysfunctional mix of United States dollars, South African rand, state-backed bond notes and 'virtual money'.

In the wake of Robert Mugabe's resignation, some countries and financial institutions are offering to reopen discussions on bridging finance to allow Zimbabwe to repay its arrears to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Patrick Chinamasa, the new finance minister, started those negotiations in league with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya but his allies complained that he was being stymied by the Mugabe camp.

Bankers in Harare were highly sceptical about the plan, but they say that the Mnangagwa takeover could win new backing for an arrears deal from Western states. They cite a vague promise from British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to offer a 'bridging loan' if the new government passes some unspecified democratic tests.

We hear there has already been an offer of support from Beijing, which sent its deputy Foreign Minister Chen Xiadong to see Mnangagwa last week. That signal seems to have encouraged states such as Britain and France to talk up their own role. Officials from both countries have told our correspondent that they do not see the shape of Mnangagwa's cabinet – three ruling party military officers–as a deal-breaker.

SOUTH AFRICA: Winning in the provinces, Ramaphosa edges ahead in ANC leadership battleA week ahead of the conference which picks the new ANC leader, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has stolen a march on rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with backing from 1,862 party branches against her 1,309, a strong but far from unbeatable position.

The results will depend first on whether all the provincial delegates to the conference vote as they have promised. The high stakes – which could affect the fate of President Jacob Zuma, his myriad allies and his favoured projects – mean they will come under heavy pressure. One insider suggested that as many as a quarter of the delegates might switch sides at the conference.

The other factor is the 10% of votes from the ANC's affiliated organisations, such as its Youth and Women's Leagues and the veterans' organisation. Dlamini-Zuma is reckoned to have almost unanimous backing from the first two, with Ramaphosa being supported by the veterans. Meanwhile, the threat of the conference being postponed has receded. Backers of the two main candidates are confident there will be a final decision next week.

NIGERIA: Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar joins opposition to run against President Buhari in the 2019 electionsIf the opening salvos of the next presidential election campaign are an indication, it will be a no-holds-barred contest. A day ahead of announcing his return to the People's Democratic Party on 3 December, Atiku Abubakar launched an attack on President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing him of 'religious extremism'. He claimed that Buhari had been barred from entering the United States for 15 years because of his theological views, which the president immediately denied.

This attack follows claims from the governing All Progressives' Congress that Atiku has been embroiled in corruption, including a scandal that snagged US Congressman William J Jefferson, who was found by the FBI to have hidden US$90,000 his freezer.

Although Atiku's name was never mentioned in court, his opponents claim that Jefferson had intended to use the cash to bribe him. Atiku was Vice-President in President Olusegun Obasanjo's government at the time. The government's anti-corruption agencies have been investigating Atiku's business affairs, particularly his company Intels, for several months.

With Buhari's support in northern Nigeria remaining strong, Atiku is hoping to win substantial support in the Middle Belt and the south, where criticism of the President and governing party are growing. If Atiku were able to peel off some senior figures in the APC, his campaign could represent a serious threat.

But already, two key figures – Senate President Bukola Saraki from Kwara in the Middle Belt and Bola Tinubu from Lagos in the south-west – have pledged themselves to Buhari. Both men, however, would be among the top candidates to succeed Buhari if he decided not to run for re-election after all.

KENYA: Opposition leader due to inaugurate 'people's assembly' as militants claims over 200 killed by police in election clashesOpposition activists say the arrest over the weekend of David Ndii, top opposition strategist, and several other activists shows the government's determination to shut down their plans for a 'people's assembly'. The assembly, headed by opposition leader Raila Odinga is due to be launched on 12 December.

Opposition campaigners also claim that at least 215 Kenyans have been killed by 'trigger-happy' police in street clashes since the presidential elections in August.

Ndii was the chairman of the steering committee to organise the 'people's assembly', which is to campaign for reform of the electoral laws. Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) have rejected the presidential elections of August and October, claiming widespread fraud and mismanagement. Ndii was released on 4 December on police bail but is still said to be facing charges. Civic activists have lambasted police tactics, saying that they represent a return to the days of one-party rule.


THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

GHANA: Akufo-Addo wins wide backing for aid critique
'Beyond aid' campaign launched in Accra wins growing support after meeting President Emmanuel Macron


MOROCCO/SOUTH AFRICA: Pretoria and Rabat to re-establish diplomatic ties
President Zuma's deal with Morocco suggests a cut in historic support for Polisario in the Western Sahara

EGYPT: Wobbles over next year's presidential election
Former premier Ahmed Shafik might still change his mind again and run against President Abdel Fattah el Sisi for the presidency next year

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Coups against constitutions

African and Western ambivalence about military interventions in politics were drawn into sharp focus this week by arguments over whether Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe had been ousted by a coup and a revival of claims that France had backed a coup against Thomas Sankara, the popular leader of Burkina Faso, in 1987.

The Mugabe military conundrum has immediate resonance as his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, tries to convince international finance agencies and their Western shareholders that he came to power constitutionally, despite outward appearances. Alpha Condé, Guinea's President and current chair of the African Union, asked some awkward questions, which could have proved disastrous for Mnangagwa and his allies. If the AU had classified Mugabe's exit as a coup, that would have triggered Zimbabwe's suspension from the organisation, perhaps even sanctions. But far from rushing to label the Mnangagwa succession as a coup, Asian and European governments, including Britain, have endorsed the new government's rise to power as innovative political management, even down to the organisation of mass protests against Mugabe.

France's President Emmanuel Macron was reminded of the complexities of coup politics when he chose to make a speech in Ouagadougou 30 years after Blaise Compaoré overthrew Sankara's government. He offered to open his government's secret files on the case. That could set a powerful precedent.

Monday, 27 November 2017

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to appoint new cabinet ahead of key ZANU-PF congress due on 12 December

We start in Harare where Zimbabweans wait for news about the people and policies of their new government. Their southern neighbour, South Africa, is being assailed by more bad economic news alongside deepening ructions in the governing party. Kenya's President Kenyatta is preparing for his inauguration tomorrow (28 November) as well as a tough opposition protest campaign against him. Ugandans are discussing whether their president could face the same fate as Robert Mugabe.

ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa to appoint new cabinet ahead of key ZANU-PF congress due on 12 DecemberThis week, newly-inaugurated President Emmerson Mnangagwa is to set out more details about his plans to revive the economy and to appoint the ministers to do that. Having told the packed sports stadium in Harare last Friday (24 November) that he has to 'hit the ground running' he will probably announce most of the new cabinet this week.

Although opposition politicians, business people and diplomats have been urging him to appoint a broad-based transitional team which would draw on talents from outside the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, sources inside the ruling party suggest this is unlikely. Mnangagwa has confirmed that he wants to go ahead with national elections next August which will give his new government just six months to boost the economy.

So, most attention is focusing on the new finance minister, whose job it will be to restart talks on the country's debt impasse and tackle the chronic shortage of foreign exchange. The new minister also needs to reopen discussions on settling the arrears with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and bring in emergency funds to pay the public sector wage bill as well as boost agricultural and industrial production.

A strong contender would be Patrick Chinamasa, who led the discussions with international financial institutions as finance minister until President Mugabe sacked him in October. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya is a strong ally of Mnangagwa's, as is Chinamasa, and he is likely to stay in his post.

Outside the party, opposition politicians such as Tendai Biti and Simba Makoni have done the job previously, and there is a corps of impressive technocrats in Harare's banking sector who know the current international payments crisis from the inside.

Other key posts will be the ministers of Justice, Defence, State Security, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs. Some suggest that General Constantino Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces that put Mugabe under house arrest, could move across into civilian politics. That might put him in the running for Defence Minister. He and Mnangagwa, seen as the architects of Mugabe's exit, will want to consolidate control over the armed forces and security services in the coming weeks.

The choice of Justice Minister will send a signal on the nature of Mnangagwa's promised new democracy. The police and security services have already been criticised for their harsh treatment of figures such Ignatius Chombo, Mugabe's finance minister, who has been charged with corruption after ten days in custody.

SOUTH AFRICA: Pressure mounts on Zuma government from more ratings downgrades despite promises to cut state spendingWith just under three weeks before the African National Congress elects its new leader, President Jacob Zuma's government has to contend with the sharply rising cost of servicing the country's debts. Local economists project the national debt will balloon to 3.4 trillion rand (US$247 billion), or about 60% of gross domestic product, by 2020. Yet there has been little debate during the ANC's leadership contest about which of the leading candidates – Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zweli Mkhize, Cyril Ramaphosa or Lindiwe Sisulu – might be best-placed to manage the country's deepening economic crisis.

Latest verdicts by the international ratings agencies raise big questions about the role of the 'presidential fiscal committee' which can override budgetary decisions by the treasury team at the Ministry of Finance. Although the treasury team has announced it will raise some R40 bn. by 2019 through higher taxes and cuts in state spending, recent policy announcements from the presidency on nuclear power and tertiary education imply much bigger budgets over the next two years.

An announcement by S&P Global Ratings last Saturday (25 November) cutting its assessment of South Africa's local currency to junk status, and taking down its foreign currency debt one grade could trigger more capital outflows. It will certainly raise borrowing costs for the government as it searches for funds to finance the widening budget deficit.

S&P strongly criticised government policies, arguing that they were holding back growth and undermining international competitiveness. Moody's ratings agency is keeping its assessments on South Africa's local and foreign currency debt on its lowest investment grade but is putting both of them on review for a possible downgrade in the coming months.

KENYA: Uhuru Kenyatta's second presidential inauguration due on 28 November but the opposition is due to step up protestsOne conspicuous absence from Uhuru Kenyatta's inauguration tomorrow (28 November) for a second presidential term will be opposition leader Raila Odinga and the senior officials of the National Super Alliance (NASA). Odinga has rejected Kenyatta's victory with 98% of votes cast in the re-run presidential election as 'a sham' as the opposition had called for a massive boycott of the vote and turnout sank. NASA has also pledged to organise a People's Assembly as a rival to the new government next month.

This follows street protests and clashes between police and oppositionists in which over ten lives have been lost in the past week. Musalia Mudavadi, a former finance minister and Odinga's ally, said the People's Assemblies would discuss the country's 'political destiny' and the abuse of citizens' rights by the governments.

The plan is to get the opposition-supporting counties – at least twelve county governors have agreed – to organise the assemblies, which Kenyatta's government has condemned as illegal. NASA and its allies are also organising economic boycotts of Safaricom and Brookside Dairies, in which the Kenyatta family has an equity stake, as part of their protest against the conduct of the election.

UGANDA: The 'Mugabe effect' looms over Kampala as President Museveni seeks to extend his term beyond 2021Supporters of President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 31 years, are energetically dismissing comparisons with Zimbabwe, where the military put President Mugabe under house arrest two weeks ago. Despite President Museveni's long stint in power, there are some critical differences: he is almost two decades younger than Mugabe and in better health and has a much stronger grip over his soldiers.

Yet the parallels remain. Museveni's reluctance to organise or even discuss a succession is the most obvious. His supporters are attempting to change the constitution to allow a presidential candidate over 75 to contest; Museveni will be 77 when the next elections are due in 2021.

More immediate are Uganda's economic problems, which have prompted increasing discontent with the government. The national economy has been hit badly by the crisis in South Sudan, Uganda's biggest market in the region, but also by delays on big road and rail projects, as well as the postponement of oil production which is frustrating several international investors.

THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF
EGYPT: Terror attack on North Sinai mosque killing over 300 triggers reprisals against Islamic State militants and others Islamist groups
NIGERIA: Over-subscribed $3 billion bond sale boosts borrowing and next stage of the Buhari government's expansion plan
EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Obiang government to launch s $2 billion refinery project with Venezuela's state oil company in January

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

ZIMBABWE: Robert Mugabe's long goodbye

We start in Harare where President Robert Mugabe's exit and the takeover by Emmerson Mnangagwa are dominating the news across the continent. It is particularly important for politics and business in neighbouring South Africa. As political violence intensifies in Kenya, rights groups are calling on the government to do something about the high number of shootings by police. And a bribery case in New York is raising uncomfortable questions for the Chadian and Ugandan governments.

ZIMBABWE: Robert Mugabe's long goodbye. A week after the military moved against the President's faction of the ruling party, he steps down
Celebrations in the streets of Harare and Bulawayo yesterday (21 November) nearly matched those of Independence day in 1980 as news of President Robert Mugabe's resignation spread across the country. This time, hope for genuine political change is qualified by the harsh lessons of the last 37 years and the deep political divisions in the country.

At the heart of concerns about the future will be Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is due to be sworn in as Zimbabwe's new President on Friday (24 November). Although the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, which stands to be strengthened by the change of leader, is calling on Zimbabweans and outsiders not to pre-judge Mnangagwa and his agenda, there is strong scepticism about his support for wider political change.

Civil rights activists point to Mnangagwa's role as Chairman of the Joint Operations Command which led the mass repression of the opposition of the Movement for Democratic Change and its supporters after its presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential elections in 2008. The brutality was so severe that the MDC withdrew from the second round of the elections. Months of political stalemate was followed by a power-sharing government between the MDC and ZANU-PF.

Given that the opposition was comprehensively out-manoeuvred in that power-sharing arrangement, few expect such a deal to be repeated. But the opposition is expecting Mnangagwa, as the hard man of ZANU-PF, to make some concessions on political freedoms, land rights and the establishment of an independent electoral commission.

The street parties greeting Mugabe's exit and the mass demonstrations last weekend have unleashed a popular energy that will make it difficult for the new government to bring back the police state.
Zimbabwe's army is basking in its popularity as engineer of the 'second liberation' and for putting the police in their place. Mnangagwa's call for Zimbabweans of all political colours to join the reconstruction effort suggests that he could offer a political breathing space on Friday.

Tsvangirai has suggested that Mnangagwa has the opportunity be the Deng Xiaoping to Mugabe's Mao Zedong. The comparison is not so far-fetched. Deng was a stern authoritarian but a pragmatist on ideological debates coining the slogan: 'It is doesn't matter what colour the cat is as long as it catches mice.' Another Deng slogan: 'To get rich is glorious' might also find favour with the Mnangagwa team.

Mnangagwa and the people around him are businesslike, with close ties to big companies and banks in the region. Over the past year, they have met diplomats from China, Europe and the United States to discuss the importance of stabilising the country after Mugabe's exit and getting investment flowing again. Whether this will mean a credible and broad-based transition is another matter.
The agenda and duration of that transition, and the extent of opposition participation in it, will emerge in the coming days. If it can gain national support, the possibility of the country bringing back millions of its well-educated and entrepreneurial people and some of their capital looms large and will hugely boost the recovery effort.

SOUTH AFRICA: The first signs of the Mugabe effect are bad news for President Jacob Zuma
Robert Mugabe's resignation letter to Zimbabwe's parliament on 21 November cheated South Africa's President Jacob Zuma of a chance to play the role of mediator in Harare. Zuma's expected trip the following morning was quickly cancelled.

It could be that Zuma will see wider effects from the fall of Robert Mugabe after the failure of his plan to shoo in his wife as the candidate to succeed him as leader of the African National Congress. Zuma's opponents in the ANC are already drawing parallels between his campaign for his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him and the failure of Mugabe's bid to position his wife Grace as his successor.

The ANC Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu, has called on Zuma to step down as soon as the party's presidential elections are over next month to allow internal reforms.

He added that the party must emerge with a new image from the December elective conference if it is to win the next national elections in 2019.

Mthembu also keenly supports Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa, the leading rival to Dlamini-Zuma in the party elections, who is calling for wide-ranging reforms in the party and government.

A new opinion poll by the South African Institute of Race Relations, based on a survey in the ANC's branches suggests that Ramaphosa is well ahead of Dlamini-Zuma in the leadership race. However, insiders say the race remains wide open in the remaining three weeks before the critical vote.

KENYA: Rights activists accuse police of targeting opposition in shootings as Britain endorses Uhuru victory
Two major human rights organisations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are urging President Uhuru Kenyatta's government to rein in the police which they accuse of involvement in 67 killings last month, mostly shootings of opposition activists.

They also raised alarms about shots fired at opposition leader Raila Odinga's car on 17 November as police tried to disperse his supporters welcoming him home at the airport. As clashes between Odinga supporters and police continued into the city centre and surrounding townships, local journalists reported that 15 bodies, mostly with gunshot wounds, were brought to the Nairobi mortuary the following day. Many more wounded were taken to hospital. The latest death toll is over 20. Police insist they are using non-lethal methods of crowd control and blame the deaths on clashes between supporters of Odinga and President Kenyatta.

This escalation of political violence comes just as Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson became one of the first international politicians to congratulate Kenyatta on his victory in the second round of the presidential elections which Odinga had boycotted.


CHINA/UNITED STATES: Chinese company officials arrested in the US over attempts to bribe top Chadian and Ugandan officials
Chadian President Idris Déby Itno and Uganda's Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa are reported to have been the target of a bribe scheme run by Chi Ping Patrick Ho, former Home Secretary of Hong Kong, and Cheikh Gadio, former Foreign Minister of Senegal, who were arrested in New York last Saturday (18 November). They are accused of organising for $400,000 to be transferred to President Déby and $500,000 to Kutesa in a scheme organised during the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2014. Kutesa was chairing the UN General Assembly that year. So far there has been no comment from the governments of Chad and Uganda.


THE WEEK AHEAD IN BRIEF

ANGOLA: More reshuffles predicted after President João Lourenço dismisses more Dos Santos' security chiefs


NIGERIA: Finance team floats $3 billion in Eurobonds as new borrowing programme takes off

MOZAMBIQUE: US Justice Department probes Russia's VTB and Credit Suisse for role in secret debt deals

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A blow against personal rule

The end of President Robert Mugabe's reign in Zimbabwe – whatever else it presages – sends a clear message to other power families in the region. As Southern Africans were musing over the fin de règne in Zimbabwe, the new President in Angola, João Lourenço sacked Isabel dos Santos from her position as head of the state oil company, Sonangol. Ms Dos Santos, described as one of Africa's richest women with a personal fortune of over US$2 billion, is the daughter of former President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos. Even before her father left office, some in Angola's military were calling for an investigation into Isabel's business affairs. That could still come, as could a probe into her brother Zenu's management of the country's sovereign wealth fund.

After Zimbabwean military officers put Mugabe and his wife Grace under house arrest, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma thoughtfully telephoned to inquire about their welfare. After being reassured, Zuma went on national television to update South Africans on the change of the guard in their northern neighbour. The ousting of a long-standing president and his wife, mired in political and corporate corruption, may have given Zuma some twinges of anxiety. Just as Mugabe was trying to promote Grace, Zuma has been energetically backing his ex-wife as his successor to lead the African National Congress. This won't help Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

LIBERIA: Supreme Court puts election on hold and tells electoral commission to fix registration lists and vote-tallying

This week we start with a Kenya-style election-on-hold in Liberia and the sacking of one of President Mugabe's oldest lieutenants for disloyalty in Zimbabwe. In South Africa, Jacob Zuma's spies have reverted to apartheid-regime tactics to ban a critical book and in Abuja, we hear President Muhammadu Buhari is going to run for a second term in the 2019 elections.

LIBERIA: Supreme Court puts election on hold and tells electoral commission to fix registration lists and vote-tallyingClaims by defeated candidate Charles Brumskine of wide-ranging mismanagement in the first round of Liberia's presidential election were enough to persuade the Supreme Court to postpone the second round until the issues are resolved.

The decision will frustrate the front-runner, George Weah, who won 38.4% of the votes in the first round, because he could lose momentum during the delay. It gives a boost to Vice-President Joseph Boakai, who got 28.8% in the first round and faces Weah in the run-off.

Liberia's Chief Justice Francis Korkpor shied away from the nuclear option chosen by Kenya's Supreme Court of annulling the elections completely. Instead, he ordered the Electoral Commission to review its operations and hold discussions with the candidates. That lack of precise guidance could prove tricky for the Commission. Ultimately, the Court may have to rule again on whether enough changes have been made to comply with its order.

The Court gave no opinion on claims by some in Boakai's camp that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had intervened with the Electoral Commission to favour Weah. Last week, she rubbished the claims, dismissing them as 'hate speech'. But an advisor to Johnson Sirleaf told Africa Confidential that Vice-President Boakai had been 'captured' by business interests in Monrovia, which could explain her apparent coolness towards his campaign.

ZIMBABWE: Reports of deepening political crisis after President Mugabe sacks Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe Defence Force chief Constantine ChiwengaIt was her clearest statement yet of her plans for when her husband dies. On 4 November, Grace Mugabe told Zimbabweans that she could become President if people wanted to work with her.

She was throwing down the gauntlet to Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as 'Ngwena' (crocodile), on the day before her husband sacked him as Vice-President for plotting. The reality is that most of the hierarchy of the governing Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) spend inordinate time plotting against each other as well as the President.

There is no question that Mnangagwa wants to take over from Mugabe as soon as possible, and could win substantial backing from local and foreign business. Britain's Foreign Office has been accused by oppositionists in Harare of secretly backing Mnangagwa, who has cultivated strong links with the country's security chiefs. Some think he offers a good prospect of stability in a post-Mugabe world, even though he is unpopular in the ruling party. His business associations with multi-millionaire John Bredenkamp might help in the next stage of the power struggle.

Until recently, many senior politicians didn't take Grace Mugabe's political ambitions very seriously. But she seems confident that Mugabe would name her Vice-President this week. For Mnangagwa that could be a provocation too far.

Some Zimbabwean satirists are accusing President Mugabe of trying to keep up with the Zumas: that's a reference to South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who has been spending much time and resources to ensure that his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wins the presidency of the African National Congress at its elective conference next month.

SOUTH AFRICA: Government uses apartheid-regime measures to ban book exposing criminal networks around President ZumaVeteran investigative journalist Jacques Pauw might weigh the truth of the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity. His latest book, The President's Keepers, about Zuma's business allies, has been flying off the shelves of bookshops across South Africa.

Pauw introduces readers to a cast of criminal businessmen and gangsters, all of whom are thriving from their connections to the President. For good measure, he adds that Zuma hasn't filed any tax returns since becoming President and that his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's ANC leadership campaign has benefited from contributions from cigarette-traders accused of serial tax evasion.

The State Security Agency wrote to Pauw's publishers, warning them to 'cease and desist' publishing and promoting the book, which they said breached national security laws. Invoking arguments and statutes from the apartheid era, the securocrats failed to get the book banned. Now, it is circulating on social media and other internet platforms and the clumsy attempt at censorship has had the opposite effect to that intended.
NIGERIA: A whispering campaign insists that President Buhari will run for a second term in 2019 as party dissenters quieten downThis week, President Muhammadu Buhari will paint a much more upbeat picture of Nigeria's economic prospects when he reads the 2018 budget in the National Assembly. Together with his Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari is backing a Keynesian-style spending boom to reinforce the country's economic recovery after the oil crash of 2015-2016.
The budget will outline bold plans to borrow billions of dollars for new roads, ports, power stations and transmission lines as part of the country's 'technology revolution'. Buhari and Osinbajo insist the money will be used productively as they answer sceptics. Last week, the International Monetary Fund reported that Nigeria was spending over 60% of state revenues on servicing local and foreign debt after the value of oil exports halved.
This spending spree could set up the government for the 2019 elections and we hear that President Buhari will seek a second term on the ticket of the governing All Progressives' Congress. Buhari's advisors believe that he has conquered his health problems after months of treatment in London this year and is up to the rigours of another four years at the top. The plan has been run past some senior diplomats in Abuja who have commented that they think a Buhari-Osinbajo ticket would be a better option than the obvious alternatives at the moment.

So far, we have heard nothing from other contenders in the party such as Atiku Abubakar or Bola Tinubu. For now, such dissenters are keeping quiet, monitoring developments at Aso Rock.

THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

KENYA: Mobile-money king Safaricom's earnings slow down, hit by serial political problems

COMMODITY TRADING/CONGO-KINSHASA: Activists step up pressure on British authorities to probe trading giant Glencore after Paradise Papers uncover secret Congo deals

BANKING/SOUTH AFRICA: HSBC could face prosecution in the USA after it failed to respond to warnings over handling Gupta funds

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Democrats step up the struggle

Are democrats getting stronger or weaker in Africa? That depends on where you're sitting. In Tanzania, where President John Magufuli's government arrested Zitto Kabwe, the outspoken oppositionist, on 31 October, political freedoms are under siege. Kabwe's arrest, the second in as many months, follows a failed assassination attempt against fellow oppositionist Tundu Lissu in Dar es Salaam on 7 September.

Similarly, Zambia's opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, in London this week for talks with the Commonwealth, faces a mountain to climb to launch serious negotiations over political reforms with President Edgar Lungu. Hichilema was detained on treason charges until the Commonwealth intervened in August, after which he was freed and the charges dropped.

Kenyan politics seemed to be opening up after the Supreme Court annulled the 8 August presidential election citing serious flaws in the tallying and transmission of results. But the re-run, held on 26 October against a backdrop of violence and threats, hasn't earned President Uhuru Kenyatta the legitimacy he sought. Instead, it has fired up opposition leader Raila Odinga to launch a people's assembly and a national resistance movement to campaign against Kenyatta. In contrast, Liberians reacted nervously to the news that their Supreme Court has halted the second round of presidential elections to hear claims that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf interfered in the first round.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

IMF: Ballooning public debt and political risk cloud Africa's economic prospects

We start with a set of dour forecasts from the IMF sounding alarms about debt and political turmoil. On cue is the latest round of ructions coming out of Liberia's and Kenya's national elections. Up in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari is stepping up activities on the anti-corruption front. Down in South Africa, the battle between the anti-graft campaigners and an array of politically-linked companies is intensifying, despite the strident efforts by President Jacob Zuma to make it all go away.

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: Ballooning public debt and political risk cloud Africa's economic prospects
Economic growth across Africa is expected to edge higher to 3.4% next year, up from a projected average of 2.6% this year, according to the latest forecasts by the IMF. But those figures must be set against a background of structural and socio-political problems.

The most serious in the short term is the rapid rise in public debt to an average of 53% of Gross Domestic Product this year from 48% in 2016. As countries are finding it harder to float Eurobonds, more governments are borrowing from local banks, putting pressure on their country's financial systems and crowding out other borrowers. For the vital small to medium-scale companies this means the credit crunch will worse, further choking off funds for investment and development.

More widely, the effects of the borrowing splurge in the past few years threatens to turn into a full-blown debt crisis unless remedial measures are taken soon. Debt service is forecast to consume more 60% of government revenues this year, the IMF forecasts, threatening spending on education, health and housing.

The other red flag raised by the IMF is socio-political. Although it scrupulously avoids anything that obviously smacks of partisan comment, the Fund uses an elaborate code to suggest deepening problems in countries such as Congo-Kinshasa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe where basic state services are deteriorating rapidly. More nuanced are the fund's commentaries on authoritarian regimes in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania which are posting the highest growth rates in Africa.

Although West Africa, which now boasts democratic transfers of power in Ghana, the Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal, pluralistic politics is yet to translate into transformative economic growth. Next year, the countries to watch will be Ghana, which is forecast to pick up speed to grow at 9%, and Nigeria, whose commercial capital of Lagos produces more revenues than several small African countries.

KENYA: Court hearings, street protests and economic boycott will mark next round in the political fight
An exasperated state official said that he feared his country risked being locked in a 'Kafka-esque' cycle of elections, petitions and court hearings. That is indeed the prospect in the short term.

After winning 98% of votes in the 26 October rerun election President Uhuru Kenyatta conceded in his speech that his victory was likely to be challenged in court. In fact, there are multiple petitions in the queue for a court hearing in the coming weeks. They include a catch-all hearing in the Supreme Court about the legitimacy of the 26 October re-run; that was postponed from 25 October, when five of the seven judges on the panel were mysteriously unavailable to hear the petition. Lawyers differ on whether there is any point in even considering the issues that the court should have decided last week.

Another petition, brought by an opposition sympathiser, will argue that the re-run presidential election should be annulled because it was not held in four counties in the west of the country. Outside of the courts, opposition leader Raila Odinga wants to push forward with his campaign of civil disobedience, which will put him on a collision course with President Kenyatta.

This will include more street protests, demands for constitutional change, and most seriously, calls for an economic boycott of all companies Odinga sees as supporters of Kenyatta's Jubilee party. They include the Daily Nation publishing group and the Safaricom mobile phone and data company.

One idea that looks destined to go nowhere was a proposal from Deputy President William Ruto that the government might offer Odinga a 'retirement package' should he agree to bow out gracefully from politics.

LIBERIA: Claims of plot and counter-plot will help George Weah ahead of next week's run-off election
In comparison with events in Kenya, Liberia's election was looking straightforward: the incumbent president leaves office after her constitutional two terms and there is level playing field for the 20 or so candidates to succeed her. Suddenly it is no longer so simple.

Bad relations between the outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her deputy Joseph Boakai are no secret in Monrovia. Johnson Sirleaf's failure to give any endorsement to Boakai, who served as Vice-President since 2005, reflected that froideur. With Boakai and the ex-footballer George Weah in the run-off poll on 7 November, the Johnson Sirleaf issue has become a critical factor in the vote.

Boakai's camp is accusing Johnson Sirleaf of aiding Weah's campaign because of its promises to her son Robert Sirleaf and sundry other favoured politicians. Weah, who beat Robert Sirleaf for a senatorial seat, has been courting the presidential son for several months. Now, say Monrovia insiders, it could be paying off.

Accusations from Boakai's camp and its allies have gone further still to suggest that Johnson Sirleaf has been trying to influence the electoral commission in favour of Weah. Celebrating her 79th birthday over the weekend, Johnson Sirleaf has dismissed such claims but they will liven up the last week of campaigning and could further help Weah.

NIGERIA: Buhari finally sacks top civil servant as he tries to get the anti-corruption campaign back on track
A stronger-looking President Muhammadu Buhari is combining a busier diplomatic schedule – two major foreign trips within a month – with a more active executive style. Criticised for the slow pace of appointments, reshuffles and lack of sanctions against malefactors, Buhari will be picking up speed in the coming months according to his office.

A big part of that will be trying to persuade Nigerians that Buhari's enthusiasm for punishing corruption and recovering stolen funds is as strong as ever. The first sign is the sacking of Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Federal Government, who was suspended six months ago after claims surfaced that a company linked to him had benefited from state contract awards in the war-torn north-eastern region of the country.

Then there is the recovery of about US$400 million in Nigerian funds, most of it stolen by the late military leader General Sani Abacha and deposited in Switzerland. It also includes $85 mn. deposited in British banks, apparently the proceeds of a deal between Abacha's oil minister Dan Etete, President Goodluck Jonathan's government, Royal Dutch Shell and Italy's ENI for the multi-billion dollar oil prospecting licence number 245.

The legality of that deal is currently being thrashed out in Italy's high court. The last piece in the jigsaw is the fate of Jonathan's oil minister and close friend Diezani Allison-Madueke whose passport has been held by the British authorities for the past two years. Insiders say that if the police in London don't charge her in the next few weeks, they may have to abandon the case, which would mark a massive failure by the British and the Nigerian authorities, which have been collaborating over the case.

SOUTH AFRICA: Barclays and Standard Bank sack McKinsey consultants for Gupta ties as more multinationals suffer collateral damage
The reputations of those multinational companies benefiting from the Gupta business empire and its political affiliates in South Africa are melting down. British lobby firm Bell Pottinger, which ran a racially-charged campaign to distract attention from the Guptas' financial practices, has gone out of business.

Several South African companies have dropped KPMG as their auditors following the company's work for the Guptas. This is despite KPMG's fulsome apology and the sacking of managers linked to the deals. McKinsey's apologies so far have been less full and it is contesting claims of wrongdoing in court. But it is also hit by the fall-out with two of the country's biggest banks – Barclays and Standard – announcing that they are sacking McKinsey's as their corporate consultants. Meanwhile, parliament's special committee on public enterprises is probing whether McKinsey was complicit in the transfer of funds to the country's ailing state power company to Trillian, a company controlled by a business ally of the Guptas.

Local activists in Corruption Watch are working on a report calling on the United States Department of Justice to investigate McKinsey's relations with Trillian and the Guptas.

THE WEEK AHEAD

TANZANIA: Barrick Gold – not its local subsidiary Acacia –  will pay most of $300 million settlement with government

SOUTH SUDAN: US envoy Nikky Haley says President Salva Kiir has to be held responsible for his role in the country's civil war

COMMODITY TRADING: Glencore's profits are booming despite fresh claims of malfeasance in Chad and Congo-Kinshasa

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

KENYA: Kenyatta steams ahead with 26 October vote in face of disarray in electoral commission and boycotts

All eyes are on Kenya's political dispute and the re-run of the presidential election which looks to be going ahead on Thursday (26 October). By contrast, the second round of the Liberian election due on 7 November should be a quieter affair. South Africa's budget day will test the political agility of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.  Tanzania's President John Magufuli believes he has won the latest round of his long-running dispute with foreign mining companies.

KENYA: Kenyatta steams ahead with 26 October vote in face of disarray in electoral commission and boycotts
As more civil society organisations call for the election re-run due on 26 October to be postponed, pressure is mounting on the two protagonists in the country’s election drama – President Uhuru Kenyatta and ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga – to meet for talks to defuse a growing crisis.

A carefully-worded statement by foreign diplomats in Nairobi called for dialogue between the two main parties and advised that the goal of ensuring the elections are credible should take precedence over meeting this week's deadline. The diplomats also urged Kenyatta not to sign amendments to the electoral laws before the elections and cautioned opposition demonstrators under Odinga's banner to respect the law.

The governing Jubilee party is determined that the re-run should go ahead on 26 October in spite of the admission by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Wafula Chebukati, that the body cannot guarantee a free and fair election so soon.

Chebukati was speaking after one of the IEBC's Commissioners, Roselyn Akombe, resigned and flew to New York telling journalists, including an Africa Confidential correspondent, of serious flaws and political biases in the organisation.

The political temperature is rising fast, with Odinga's National Super Alliance (NASA) stepping up protests against the election while some of its more militant members insist they will prevent the poll going ahead in their areas.

LIBERIA: Ex-soccer star Weah and Vice-President Boakai stitch together alliances for the second round of presidential poll on 7 November
One of the biggest questions in Monrovia this week concerns outgoing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's preferences in the elections that will determine the fate of her legacy and shape the country's direction for at least the next five years.

On 7 November, Liberians make a stark political choice between ex-star footballer and former UN Goodwill Ambassador George Weah, and the veteran politician and technocrat Joseph Boakai. President Johnson-Sirleaf offered no endorsement of Boakai, even though he was her deputy for the past twelve years. This may be down to Boakai's refusal of her suggestion of running mate.

Both Boakai and Weah are courting the candidates that came in just behind them: Charles Brumskine, who got 9.8% of the vote; former businessman Alexander Cummings (7.1%); and warlord-turned-evangelical preacher Prince Yormie Johnson (7%).

Political sources in Monrovia says that Brumskine and Cummings, both seen as technically competent, have been offered senior positions by Weah, partly to compensate for his own lack of government experience. If they agree to that, they could stitch together a winning coalition pushing the soccer star comfortably over the winning line.

Yet if Johnson-Sirleaf decides to back Boakai, even at this late stage, it could make a big difference. Another factor the election is the presence of warlord Charles Taylor's ex-wife, Jewel Howard, on Weah's ticket as Vice-Presidential candidate. Although Taylor is serving a life sentence in Britain for crimes against humanity, most believe he will try to find ways to influence a Weah-Howard administration.

SOUTH AFRICA: Finance Minister Gigaba faces a stern budget test this week as he struggles with the cost of corruption and state capture
Tomorrow (25 October), Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba will explain how he intends to plug an estimated 40 billion rand (US$2.9 bn.) hole in public finances caused by falling tax revenues and rising state liabilities. None of the options look good.

They will include higher taxes, cuts in spending and the sale of prime state assets. If Gigaba wants to avoid another ratings downgrade, he will have to resist political pressure to step up spending on the state-owned companies, including the ailing South African Airways.

Gigaba's decision day comes as rumours swirl about President Jacob Zuma's next move ahead of elections for the African National Congress in mid-December. The markets have already reacted to rumblings about possible plans by Zuma to sack his Deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.

The run-up to the ANC December conference is looking extremely busy for Zuma, as his favoured candidate, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, falls behind Ramaphosa in the race to win the top job in the party.

Zuma also has been given until 30 November by his ally, Director of the National Prosecuting Authority Shaun Abrahams, to make fresh representations about why he should not answer 783 charges of corruption in court. Much more legal manoeuvring between Zuma and his critics lies ahead.

TANZANIA: Magufuli's tactics win offer of $300 million and equity in gold mines after the latest talks with Barrick Gold
There are still many more questions than answers about the draft agreement made between Canada's Barrick Gold and President John Magufuli last week. In principle, Barrick has agreed to pay Tanzania $300 mn. and grant the state a 16% stake in three of its mines.

With its majority stake in Acacia mining, which is the main party in the dispute with the government, Barrick Gold appears to be setting out a problematic agenda. Acacia has already said it doesn't have $300 mn. on its books now, and has requested more clarity about the equity stake commitment.


THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

UNITED NATIONS/ZIMBABWE: Embarrassment as UN Health Chief Tedros bows to political and funding pressure to withdraw envoy appointment to President Mugabe

MOZAMBIQUE: Rio Tinto faces another legal battle over fraud claims by US and UK stock market regulators over mining deal

LIBYA/UNITED NATIONS: Talks on power-sharing wind up without conclusion or setting date for fresh negotiations

Thursday, 19 October 2017

China's global reach

In terms of its economic impact and geo-political weight, the Congress of China's Communist Party this week matters more for Africa than a presidential election in the United States. Already regarded as the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, President Xi Jinping wants to preside over the next stage of the country's economic transformation, in which he sees the government playing a leading role, making state enterprises 'bigger and stronger'.  But he is far less enthusiastic about 'market forces' than his recent predecessors, partly because of rising inequality in the Western mould, insiders say.

Beijing's promise to boost consumer spending and innovation will be keenly watched in Africa. More resources will go into the 'One Belt, One Road' project, a branch of which cuts through East Africa en route to the Middle East and Europe. Alongside that project, Xi envisions a sharp expansion of China's global role as a 'major and responsible country' in the 21st century. That includes a growing role in the UN and other international organisations as well as consolidating its leadership role in Asia.

Africa's authoritarian leaders will pay particular attention to Xi's views on the need to strengthen national security and control the internet, 'to oppose and resist erroneous viewpoints'. On that front at least, regimes in Egypt, Togo, and Cameroon – who are fond of shutting down the web – are keeping pace with Beijing.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

KENYA: Political chasm widens with calls for Kenyatta to be sworn in after Odinga announces boycott of fresh presidential elections

This week, the breaking news comes from Kenya with opposition leader Raila Odinga's withdrawal from planned fresh elections. The constitutional mess there contrasts tellingly with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's elegant exit from power in Liberia as competitive multi-party elections are held there this week. With his eyes on Zimbabwe's elections next year, President Robert Mugabe is pushing back against his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa in a cabinet reshuffle. And Nigeria sceptics admitted to being heartily impressed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who explained the government's plan for economic revival at a conference in London.

KENYA: Political chasm widens with calls for Kenyatta to be sworn in after Odinga announces boycott of fresh presidential elections
Minutes after opposition leader Raila Odinga announced he was pulling out of the rerun of the presidential elections, President Uhuru Kenyatta told a rally in southern Kenya that it would make no difference. 'We have no problem going back to the elections. We are sure we will get more votes than the last time.'

His supporters went further, arguing that without Odinga's participation there would be no need for an election and that Kenyatta should be sworn in immediately. No chance, say the leaders of Odinga's National Super Alliance (NASA) camp, the country is now facing a constitutional crisis.

Those behind Odinga's boycott want it to trigger a restarting of the electoral cycle with all parties allowed to participate in fresh elections within 90 days. NASA official are still insisting on the replacement of several top officials of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and sweeping reforms of electoral management before a new round of elections could be held.

The IEBC, which Odinga singled out for particularly harsh criticism at his press conference today, has called an emergency meeting to decide on the next steps. Whatever plan it announces is almost certain to trigger a resort to the Supreme Court by one side or the other.

Officials from both the Kenyatta and Odinga campaign are due in Europe and the United States this week to explain their position as outsiders become increasingly bemused by this extended electoral crisis and the economy slows down.

LIBERIA: Establishment and 'disrupter' candidates vye to succeed Johnson-Sirleaf in this week's landmark electionsPeople clutching voters' cards started queueing before dawn on 10 October across the country in elections in which 20 contenders are competing for the Presidency. It is the first time that an outgoing Head of State has organised multi-party elections on a universal franchise to choose a successor. It is also probable that the presidential elections will go to two rounds.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has earned plaudits for keeping her distance from the race to succeed her and for insisting she will continue to live in Liberia after she leaves power. She would become the first retiring leader in the country's recent history to do so.

Most candidates in the race have paid lip-service to Johnson-Sirleaf's record of achievement but she has drawn criticism for appointing family members to key posts and failing to crack down harder on corruption. Some within her governing Unity Party fault her for unwillingness to offer a more enthusiastic endorsement of her Vice-President, Joseph Boakai, 72, who is running to succeed her.

In a speech in Washington last week, Johnson Sirleaf, 78, said she hoped the elections would usher in a new generation of leaders to build on her legacy in Liberia. Skipping a generation would rule out a government led by either of the front-runners: Boakai or Charles Brumskine, 66, another veteran politician.

Of the younger generation, Johnson-Sirleaf doesn't think highly of the former top footballer, George Weah, 51, who has chosen Jewel Howard, the former wife of gaoled military leader Charles Taylor, as his running mate. Some insiders say that Johnson-Sirleaf would have liked to back the candidacy of Alexander Cummings, 60, a youthful-looking businessman who returned to the country two years ago. We hear that Johnson-Sirleaf has held back from saying positive things about Cummings to avoid weakening her own party. All the parties are fighting legislative elections as well.

ZIMBABWE: Mugabe moves against his deputy Mnangagwa and promotes his 'homeboy' to finance post in reshuffleAfter months of bitter fighting in the ruling party over the succession, President Robert Mugabe's latest cabinet reshuffle undermines Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies. It is a decisive blow in favour of Mugabe's wife Grace, 52, whose faction in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has become a rallying point for opponents to Mnangagwa.

Mugabe has stripped Mnangagwa, 75, of the Justice Ministry, a key post which could determine the management of the sucession within the party and the country. Mugabe's long-time ally and former intelligence chief, Happyton Bonyongwe, takes over the Justice post.

This has been a bad year for Mnangagwa, who was hospitalised in South Africa in August complaining that someone had tried to poison him. Dismissing such claims as blatant lies, Grace Mugabe accused Mnangagwa of lacking patriotism and ratcheting up grievances in the ruling party.

Mnangagwa's ally and fellow lawyer, Patrick Chinamasa, has been moved from the Ministry of Finance, from where he was nudging through contentious economic reforms, to a new Ministry of Cyber Security. Although this new job will play an important role in quashing opposition campaigns, activists have ridiculed Chinamasa's obsession with social media calling him the 'Minister of Twitter and Whatsapp Affairs'.

In Chinamasa's place at the Finance ministry is Ignatius Chombo, the former Home Affairs minister who comes from Zvimba in Mashonaland West, a key local support base for Mugabe. There is still no organised challenge to Mugabe's continued rule within ZANU-PF. His latest appointments clearly strengthen the position of his wife within the political hierarchy.

NIGERIA: Vice-President Osinbajo talks up forex policy and investment revival but rules out a run for the presidency
In an assured performance in London on 9 October, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said that Nigeria had attracted pledged investments worth over US$20 billion this year as the economy recovers slowly from recession. Osinbajo, the lead author of Nigeria's medium-term economic reform programme, says the government plans to spend a third of this year's budget on roads, railways, ports and power stations.

A new 3,000 Megawatt power station in Lagos State, the country's commercial centre, is being planned and that will encourage more investors to set up productive ventures, added Osinbajo, who was speaking at the Financial Times 'Africa Summit' on 9 October. When asked at the meeting whether he would consider running for the presidency in 2019, Osinbajo replied with a smile that it 'wasn't on the cards'.

Earlier this year, Osinbajo won high praise when he took the helm of the country during President Muhammadu Buhari's lengthy periods of medical leave in London. There has still been no announcement about whether Buhari intends to stand for a second term in 2019 but there is an assumption that whoever wins the nomination will hail from one of the northern states. Osinbajo was born in Lagos in the south-west.


THE WEEK AHEAD IN BRIEF

SOUTH AFRICA: State electricity company seeks $115 million in compensation from McKinsey and Trillian after claims of corrupt payments 

IMF/WORLD BANK: African finance ministers due in Washington DC as Chinese trade and ballooning commercial loans overshadow Bretton Woods' role

CONGO-KINSHASA: Opposition leader Moïse Katumbi pledges to return in December to fight presidential election, promising journalists seats on his plane

TANZANIA: Energy and Mining ministries broken up as Magufuli pushes ahead with economic nationalist agenda

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Liberia sets an example

Presidential and parliamentary elections in Liberia on 10 October raise again the matter of presidential term limits.

After a crowded career in commercial and development banking as well as director of the United Nations Development Programme in Africa, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told us that, for her at least, two terms in the presidency was plenty.

Over two decades into what is known as Africa's second liberation – the collapse of most one-party regimes and their replacement by some form of pluralist politics – Johnson-Sirleaf's view is far from universally shared on the continent. Last week, parliamentarians in Kampala clashed after an ugly debate in which some political hacks tried to push through a bill abolishing the age limit of 75 for presidential candidates. Its aim was to clear the way for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in power for 31 years, to stand for yet another term in three years' time. This week grenades were thrown at the houses of two of the MPs who opposed the measure.


In Kinshasa, multiple rebellions, several of them urging Congo-Kinshasa President Joseph Kabila to stand down as the constitution specifies, are gathering force. And in the second-longest presidency on the continent, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 93, speaks confidently of winning another term next year. His deputy and putative successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, claims to have been poisoned by a rival.

Monday, 2 October 2017

LIBERIA: Last week of campaigning ahead of watershed national elections as President Johnson-Sirleaf prepares her exit

The election countdown is on in Liberia with the field still wide open. Across in Kenya, the main parties argue over how to reform the electoral commission before the presidential election of August can be re-run. In neighbouring Uganda, veteran President Yoweri Museveni faces heavy opposition to a self-serving plan to abolish the age limit of 75 on heads of state. President Muhammadu Buhari's show of solidarity with the troops in north-east Nigeria fighting the jihadist Boko Haram militia follows yet another speech about the threat of secessionist movements in the south of the country.


LIBERIA: Last week of campaigning ahead of watershed national elections as President Johnson-Sirleaf prepares her exit
The national elections due on 10 October are the most open political contest in the country's history with at least three strong candidates vying for the presidency. Because the election is likely to go to a second round, contenders are steering a difficult path between building up their own bases and attacking their rivals. The successful candidate will have to build a broad-based alliance to win in the second round.

Although opinions vary on Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's record, and many of her strongest supporters are overseas, she is the first leader to organise a democratic succession. She says she is determined remain in Liberia as a private citizen after the transition.

So far, the race has been dominated by: Johnson-Sirleaf's self-effacing deputy Joseph Nyuma Boakai; veteran presidential contender Charles Brumskine; former AC Milan striker and winner of the Ballon d'Or, George Weah; businessman-turned-politician Alex Cummings; and MacDella Cooper.

Boakai presents himself as decent, competent and the continuity candidate building on Johnson-Sirleaf's legacy, while Brumskine prioritises economic diversification and breaking aid dependency.
Weah, who chose Charles Taylor's ex-wife Jewel Howard Taylor as his running mate, is trying to maintain his appeal to young people. Cooper, the only female candidate, pushes the importance of economic empowerment and the need to tackle corruption. Cummings was a star performer in the presidential debate and has new ideas about raising funds to develop roads and power stations. He wants an independent prosecutor to tackle corruption.


KENYA: Stand-off between the two main parties over new commission staff, rules and the election date
Preparations for the re-run of the presidential election due on 26 October have been further complicated after the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) walked out of negotiations over reforms to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. James Orengo, a Senator and legal adviser to NASA, said his organisation would take to the streets until the government accepted the need for a thorough overhaul of the commission and its top management.

The governing Jubilee party, Orengo argued, is trying to restructure the commission to reduce its independence from government. If the two main parties – Jubilee and NASA – cannot agree on how to reform the commission in the next few days, that leaves two difficult options. Either hold the election on 26 October on terms that NASA rejects and risk an opposition boycott; or postpone it for weeks or months while the two protagonists argue over wider reforms to electoral management.


UGANDA: Museveni to make next move to extend his tenure after last week's parliamentary pandemonium was beamed around the world
If President Yoweri Museveni, after over three decades in power, was hoping to find a quiet way to extend his tenure, he was thwarted after clashes between MPs over a bill to end the age limit of 75 for presidents. Museveni will be 76 when the next elections are due in 2021.

Footage of fist-fights, chair-throwing and other mayhem in the parliamentary chamber flashed around the world. One scene prompted a commentary from South African satirist Trevor Noah on the Daily Show in New York.

Back in Kampala, protestors took to the streets in sympathy with the combatants in parliament. Given that his own National Resistance Movement harbours increasing numbers of dissidents, Museveni will have to tread carefully to avoid some form of broad coalition blocking his plan for another term.


NIGERIA: President flies to Maiduguri to see troops on Independence Day after making a call for national unity
Showing solidarity with his former comrades in the military, President Muhammadu Buhari flew to Maiduguri – the centre of the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east – on Independence Day. Buhari's trip may also have been intended to convey the message that he was fully recovered from his long bouts of medical treatment for undisclosed ailments.

Buhari's trip followed another stern call for national unity which singled out the secessionist movement in south-east Nigeria as a serious threat. Any call for constitutional change '…should take place in a rational manner', said Buhari. He had less to say about the Boko Haram insurgency, over which the government has claimed victory. In the past year Boko Haram has intensified operations in northern Cameroon and the southern region of the Niger Republic, but has continued to use young people in suicide attacks against mosques and market-places.




THE WEEK AHEAD IN BRIEF

CONGO-KINSHASA: The United Nations sends troops to South Kivu after Mai-Mai Yakutumba groups declare war against President Joseph Kabila's government

CÔTE D'IVOIRE/GHANA: Governments struggle to maintain payments to farmers as global cocoa prices fall by over 40%

RWANDA: Police say they have arrested oppositionist Diane Rwigara for security offences but are yet to charge her in court

SOMALIA: Turkey opens $50 million base in Mogadishu to train government forces and boosts its exports

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

GHANA/COTE D'IVOIRE: Accra wins oil border dispute but will step up economic cooperation with its neighbour

This week we follow on from developments at the United Nations General Assembly, which opened in New York last week and was attended by most African heads of state. Ghana's President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo had most to celebrate. Others were left bewildered after an encounter with United States President Donald Trump. Some investors are warning Tanzania that its nationalist economic policies could be counter-productive. The blowback from South Africa's Gupta-gate crisis continues to hit KPMG. And Congo-Kinshasa President Joseph Kabila's promise to investigate the murder of two UN officials leaves many unconvinced.

GHANA/CÔTE D'IVOIRE: Accra wins oil border dispute but will step up economic cooperation with its neighbour
Ghana is to step up production in the Tweneboa, Enyenra and Ntomme oilfields after an international ruling found in its favour and against Côte d'Ivoire in a dispute over their maritime border. Production is likely to increase to 80,000 barrels per day from the current level of 50,000 bpd.
The award of most of the disputed oil field by the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to Ghana gave a fillip to its delegation at the UN General Assembly. It has also boosted the share price of Tullow Oil, the lead operator.

Along with Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta, President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo made a strong pitch to US investors in the energy and financial services sectors. The message was that the economy is being revived and the debt burden is being reduced.

Diplomatic and commercial relations between Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are likely to remain cordial despite the ruling. Earlier in the month Akufo-Addo and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who have been personal friends for some years, announced plans for a joint-venture cocoa-processing factory and to set up a buffer stock of cocoa beans to stabilise prices. The two countries grow over half of the world's cocoa: global production is forecast at about 4.7 million tonnes for 2016-17. The buffer stock plan has been dubbed 'Chocpec' because it would involve voluntary curbs on production to maintain prices.

KENYA: Supreme Court calm as Kenyatta accuses it of judicial coup and opposition calls for new election officials
Multiple disputes are flaring up ahead of the planned rerun of the presidential election. Unconvinced by the Supreme Court's detailed ruling last week explaining its reasons for annulling the election, President Uhuru Kenyatta accused it of negating the will of the people and mounting a coup which could lead the country into 'judicial chaos'. The Court is standing by its 1 September ruling that the election didn't meet constitutional requirements.

Kenyatta's rival, opposition leader Raila Odinga, is focusing his fire on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, insisting that most of its top management be replaced before another round of elections can be held. This week Odinga's National Super Alliance (NASA) organisation is to launch a campaign of mass protests to force the commission's hand.

Already, the commission has postponed the planned date for the rerun to 27 October from 16 October after one of its IT providers said the earlier date would not leave enough time for preparations. As the political temperature heats up, Odinga has accused Kenyatta of steering the country into crisis, comparing his stance to that of the defeated President of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh.

TANZANIA: Magufuli's tough line on mining laws faces investment test as corporate grumblings increase
More and more mining companies are clashing with President John Magufuli's nationalist economic strategy to boost local processing and extract more taxes. Behind the scenes, the mining companies are saying there will be an investment strike if the government persists in this vein.

Yet there is no sign that Magufuli or his close circle is prepared to change course. Rather, they look set to double down on their main policy goal: to boost the government's share of revenue from mining. The government view was neatly summed up in an off-the-record comment by a senior official to Africa Confidential: 'Tanzania is now one of Africa's fastest-growing economies but we have seen little benefit from that in terms of revenues or jobs… and we have to change that balance.'

First came the government's demand that Acacia Mining, the London-listed subsidiary of Canada's Barrick Gold, should stop exports of ore until it built a local smelter. Then the government presented Acacia with a $190 billion bill for what it said was unpaid taxes, adding the under-reporting of exports to the charge sheet. Then the government pushed through new laws implementing yet more resource-nationalist measures, and then accused Petra Diamonds of under-reporting exports and avoiding taxes. Other mining companies fear they are in the firing line. The big test will be whether any of them shut up shop and walk away.

SOUTH AFRICA: Gordhan steps up pressure on KPMG to examine its suspect political and commercial links
The troubles of Dutch-based KPMG International and its South African affiliate are set to multiply after the company came under fire for auditing companies run by the Gupta family, who are accused of using their relations with President Jacob Zuma to win state contracts, for 15 years before dropping them last year.

There is also the charge that KPMG aided and lent respectability to a politically-motivated investigation into the South African Revenue Service whose findings were used to oust the respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Although KPMG has withdrawn the conclusions of its investigation, it has not apologised either to Gordhan or the many senior officials who lost their jobs as a result of the affair.

Two weeks ago KPMG International purged its local management in Johannesburg and issuing a qualified apology for work that fell below its usual standards (AC Vol 58 No 19, KPMG feels the Gupta heat). On 21 September, Gordhan met KPMGI Chairman John Veihmeyer and has called for 'full and proper disclosure' of the company's operations in South Africa. In turn, KPMG has agreed to an inquiry by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.

But this is unlikely to be enough. Gordhan has been speaking to his lawyers about the case; the opposition Democratic Alliance has announced that all local and provincial governments under its control would review their contracts with KPMG. The current Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has also called for all national and local departments to review with contracts with KPMG.

Alongside that reputational damage in the public sector, the bigger financial threat to KPMG is whether or not the country's biggest companies and banks will also drop it. Already, several medium-size financial service companies have dropped the firm and three of the biggest banks are reviewing their contracts. The question that presumably motivated KPMGI Chairman Veihmeyer to travel to South Africa and apologise personally for the company's record is whether it can stop the contagion there. Or will KPMG's Gupta crisis wreck its business across Africa and beyond?

CONGO-KINSHASA: Kabila pledges full investigation into killing of UN experts but UN Secretary General favours independent probe
Demonstrators gathered on New York's First Avenue last week waving placards accusing President Joseph Kabila of killing oppositionists and trying to extend his term of office unconstitutionally while the target of their outrage was inside the UN headquarters addressing the assembly.

Kabila had nothing to say about his plans to prolong his tenure but did assure the assembly that his government would punish those responsible for the murder of two UN experts, Zaida Catalán and Michael J Sharp, in Kasaï in March. A UN Board of Inquiry report examining the circumstances of the murder has not satisfied relatives of the victims or other critics (AC Vol 58 No 19, Storm over probe into UN experts murder).

Among Congolese civic activists and many UN staff, there is extreme scepticism that the trial of nine murder-suspects by a Congolese military tribunal will uncover the truth. Facing pressure to commission an independent investigation, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has been talking about a 'follow-on mechanism', expressing hopes that 'independent experts' may be able to work alongside Congolese state investigators.

IN VERY BRIEF
ZIMBABWE: Pastor Evan Mawarire due in court on subversion charges after he criticises government's economic record
RWANDA: Police have arrested activist Diane Rwigara and family for 'security offences'
LIBYA: US airstrike on Da'ish fighters points to growing cooperation with General Khalifa Haftar
MAURITIUS: Critic drops accusations of money laundering against Attorney-General, claiming he was manipulated by media

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Trump takes on the UN

Some African leaders in the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September listening to United States President Donald Trump's planned remedies for rogue states seemed to breathe a sigh of relief at his lack of interest in their continent. The following day, during discussions chaired by Ethiopia, which presides over the UN Security Council this month, African officials saw in more detail what planned US budget cuts are likely to do to UN operations on their continent.

President Trump's enthusiasm for the military and US projection of power doesn't extend to financing or participating in UN peacekeeping operations. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is pushing for swingeing cuts – of up to 10% – to UN missions in Congo-Kinshasa and Sudan. Trump wants to limit the US share of the UN's US$7.3 billion peacekeeping budget to 25%. It is currently 28.5% and the US is easily the biggest contributor.

UN operations in Congo-K are to be cut by about $90 million by economising on staffing and travel. This comes at a time when the country could be on the brink of political implosion as opposition mounts to Joseph Kabila's attempts to extend his presidency, against the terms of the constitution. Other missions in the frame for cuts are those in Central African Republic, Mali and South Sudan. Washington evidently wants France to lead in the two francophone states, and for Britain to take on a stronger role in Juba.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

KENYA: Political bitterness growing as Kenyatta warns that an Odinga presidency would face impeachment

This week, Kenya's election saga rolls on with the opening of parliament in Nairobi and conflicting claims about the electoral commission. In South Africa, more companies and state officials could become targets of the 'Gupta effect'. Tanzanian President John Magufuli has another foreign mining company in his sights, this time over allegations of dodgy diamond-dealing. The same charge is levelled in Zimbabwe but this time – to the embarrassment of Robert Mugabe – against allies of the President and officials in the national spy agency.


KENYA: Political bitterness growing as Kenyatta warns that an Odinga presidency would face impeachmentMixed messages are emerging on the campaign trail and in parliament ahead of the rerun of the presidential election ordered by the Supreme Court. Opening parliament yesterday (12 September), President Uhuru Kenyatta warned that 'divisive and destructive politics' were threatening the stability of the country.

It was a sideswipe at politicians of the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) who boycotted the opening of parliament yesterday. 'We shall continue to encourage vibrant democratic competition,' said Kenyatta, '…we shall not allow destructive division.'

At the same time, opposition leaders were holding a rally in the Nairobi slum of Kibera at which they rejected the mooted presidential poll date of 17 October. They also demanded the resignation of the management of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

At the beginning of the week, at another election rally, President Kenyatta warned that if opposition leader Raila Odinga won the presidency in the rerun election he would be impeached within three months. Kenyatta was referring to the increase in the number of Jubilee MPs. They now constitute nearly two-thirds of the 290-seat parliament.

Jubilee officials have been trying, in recent days, to woo some MPs who have been supporting Odinga. For now, no end to 'divisive politics' looks to be on the agenda.

SOUTH AFRICA: Corrupt officials in state companies could face civil actions to recover funds as more Gupta-linked multinationals come under fireCalls from Thuli Madonsela, South Africa's former Public Protector, for civil actions against officials caught up in claims of multi-million dollar fraud linked to the Gupta brothers' companies have won strong support from local business.

Africa Confidential understands that some prominent local companies are preparing to sue senior state officials who they say are responsible for massive losses to South Africa's treasury. Madonsela has pointed to the public losses following payments of 300 million rand (US$23 mn.) by Eskom, the state electricity company, to Trillian, a company linked to the Gupta family and allies of President Jacob Zuma.

Officials at Eskom were warned of impropriety linked to the Trillian payments but failed to act, said Madonsela. Although the South African government has an Asset Forfeiture Unit, Madonsela has questioned whether it would be willing to act in such a case because it involves high-ranking officials.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the British-based auditors KPMG who have worked for several companies owned by the Gupta family. 'Save South Africa', a local civil society group, has accused KPMG of playing a 'central role in facilitating state capture' by the Guptas. This week, South Africa's Institute of Directors announced it would no longer co-sponsor events with KPMG and several companies are said to be reviewing their relations with the auditors.

TANZANIA: Government seizes consignment from Petra Diamonds,  accusing it of under-declaring mineral exportsPresident John Magufuli's government, already in a heated dispute with Acacia Mining, has stepped up his resource nationalism campaign by ordering an urgent review of all Petra Diamonds contracts.
This follows officials' seizure of millions of dollars worth of diamonds from Petra Diamonds' mine at Dar es Salaam airport. The company put the value of the stones, which were to be exported to Antwerp, at $14.7 mn. but customs officials ordered a fresh valuation after which the government claimed the true value was $29.5 mn. Finance Minister Philip Mpango has launched an investigation into the government's valuation team.

After President Magufuli ordered all officials involved in the affair to quit the government, Deputy Minister for Works, Transport and Transportation Edwin Ngonyani and Minister in the Presidency George Simbachawene announced their resignations. They both expressed confidence that the investigation would clear them of wrongdoing.

Petra Diamonds has now suspended operations in Tanzania. It will now face a wider enquiry into claims that it substantially underpaid duties and taxes.

ZIMBABWE: Spy agency and Mugabe allies control diamond mines in Marange, according to Global WitnessAs President Mugabe announces the start of voter registration ahead of next year's national elections, an undercover investigation claims that his political allies and officials in the Central Intelligence Organisation have been trading diamonds illicitly from the mines in Marange. The revelations, by London-based Global Witness, will acutely embarrass Mugabe, who claimed last year that illegal Marange diamond exports had cost the country $15 billion in lost revenue. He accused 'foreign-owned' mining companies of swindling the state.

But it seems a company called Kusena, in which the CIO and others had a secret stake, was a major beneficiary of the diamond deals (AC Vol 55 No 10, Mugabe moves on Marange). The spy agency is said to have used its highly lucrative stake as a slush fund for covert operations. In previous elections, such operations, which have included serious assaults, have targeted the opposition.


IN VERY BRIEF

TUNISIA: Questions over who ordered the expulsion of dissident Moroccan Prince Moulay Hicham

NIGERIA: Women Affairs Minister Aisha Alhassan pledges to back Atiku Abubakar in 2019 presidential race

GHANA: Central Bank launches tougher rules on capital requirements after two local bank takeovers