It was a harsh May Day for South Africa's beleaguered President Jacob Zuma, who was chased off the podium by an angry crowd in the Free State. From the UN in New York, there are signs of movement in the deadlocked Western Sahara dispute. In Zambia, President Edgar Lungu faces a raft of political and economic problems. The still ailing President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja hopes to push his budget through the National Assembly this week. Finally, the formal end of the search for Uganda's veteran warlord Joseph Kony raises major questions about responsibility for the more than 100,000 killed in this brutal conflict.
SOUTH AFRICA: President Zuma chased from May Day rally
as no-confidence vote looms
Another humiliation has hit President Jacob Zuma at a May Day rally
just days before he is due to face a motion of no-confidence in
parliament. After an angry crowd booed and heckled Zuma at a Congress
of South African Trades Unions (Cosatu) rally in Bloemfontein, he and
his entourage were rushed from the stage before he could speak. Zuma's
key allies – parliamentary speaker Baleka
Mbete and deputy Secretary General of the African National
Congress, Jesse Duarte, were
also booed off May Day podiums in Durban and Limpopo.
It was especially humiliating that Zuma should suffer this
blow in Bloemfontein, capital of the Free State, which is meant to be
one of his strongest areas of support outside KwaZulu-Natal. As a sign
of Zuma's falling popularity, the debacle in Bloemfontein is far more
significant than the mass public rallies against him in the major
cities last month.
Zuma's latest setback follows the South African Communist
Party's and Cosatu's call for his immediate resignation. As Deputy
President Cyril Ramaphosa is
ramping up his campaign for the ANC Presidency, another party veteran, Matthews Phosa, has announced his
candidacy for the post. We also hear that support is building for a bid
for the presidency by Lindiwe Sisulu,
daughter of the late, much-revered, Walter
Sisulu, a long-time friend of Nelson
Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma's ex-wife and his preferred candidate to
succeed him, has disappeared from public view. Zuma's granting of a
state security detail and government vehicles to her – apparently on
security grounds – has been criticised as an abuse of state resources.
WESTERN SAHARA/MOROCCO: Fresh talks over the conflict
are likely after UN extends mission there
Hopes for a fresh round of negotiations between the Polisario Front and
Morocco are looking up after the UN Security Council passed a
resolution on 28 April extending the UN peacekeeping mission in Western
Sahara for another year. The cleverly-crafted resolution refers both to
Polisario's proposal, a referendum on the status of the territory, and
Rabat's, which is to grant it political autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.
The new Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, last month called
for the two sides to reopen talks. There has been no serious movement
on the crisis since 1991, but Morocco's withdrawal of forces from a
buffer zone and Polisario's matching pullback of fighters last week is
a positive sign. A statement from Algeria's
Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra
backing the UN resolution also augurs well. Algeria has been the
principal backer of Polisario. The issue has caused a cold war between
Algiers and Rabat for three decades.
ZAMBIA: Opposition leader's detention continues as the
IMF is due in Lusaka for difficult talks
leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND),
remains in custody and is expected to appear in court again on Thursday
(4 May) while prosecutors work on the charge of treason against him.
Hichilema was arrested on 11 April after his motorcade clashed with
President Edgar Lungu's en
route to a Lozi traditional ceremony three days before.
Lungu claims he wants to let ‘the law take its course'
although he is widely believed to have inspired the prosecution. The
controversy complicates the already difficult negotiations between the
government and the International Monetary Fund over a US$1.6 billion
Finance Minister Felix Mutati
says the government needs the funds to bolster foreign reserves which
have shrunk following an expensive election campaign last year,
ballooning budget deficits and undulating prices for the country's
copper and cobalt exports. The economy is growing at its lowest rate
NIGERIA: National Assembly to debate record $23
billion budget after government liberalises forex rules
The 2017 budget – which plans record spending of N23 trillion (US$23
billion) – could be approved this week by the National Assembly after a
tortuous review which was almost derailed when police raided the home
of Senator Danjuma Goje,
chairman of the Appropriations Committee last week. Goje is subject of
a corruption investigation, which he says has been orchestrated by his
enemies. The budget includes plans to borrow $7 billion from China's Eximbank, the African
Development Bank and the World Bank over the next year.
Relations between the Senate and the presidency oscillate
between very difficult and utterly poisonous. The Senate has rejected
several government nominations in recent months, the most important
being its candidate to chair the Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission, Ibrahim Magu. The
presidency won't back down, so Magu is likely to remain acting chairman
of the EFCC for the remainder of Buhari's presidency. The fact that
Magu has been investigating several top politicians, including Senate
President Bukola Saraki, has
not endeared him to powerful members of the National Assembly.
Ahead of the budget debate, the government has announced a new
foreign exchange regime. It is another partial liberalisation of
exchange controls through a complex system of new rules. Known as the
Investors' and Exporters' FX window, it should allow traders more
access to foreign exchange at competitive prices through the official
market. Central bank governor Godwin
Emefiele thinks the new system will bring enough dollars in to
the system without forcing a full-scale devaluation, and all its
It should work like this: each morning, authorised foreign
exchange dealers are to submit bids through a system backed by the
central bank known as the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate
Fixing (Nafex). Then, at midday, the trading exchange rate would be
announced for the day. That would be the benchmark for all future
trading contracts agreed that day.
For now, the formal exchange rate would stay at US$1=N315, and
the central bank would release foreign exchange at that highly
preferential rate for specific transactions. The lack of transparency
from the central bank over who gets access to foreign exchange at that
rate suggests to some analysts that it could be open to major abuse.
UGANDA: The US abandons the hunt for warlord Joseph
Kony in face of President Museveni's indifference
This month, the mission to capture veteran warlord Joseph Kony is
effectively being called off. The United States is to speed up the
withdrawal of the 250 Special Forces troops and Air Force personnel it
had deployed to hunt for Kony, after reportedly spending US$780 million
on the mission, according to security experts AC Vol 58 No 9,
Concealing disappointment). Uganda has long given up any serious effort
to find and arrest Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.
Set up as a rebel force in the late 1980s in northern Uganda,
the LRA has murdered over 100,000 civilians and abducted tens of
thousands of people. At first, President Yoweri Museveni prosecuted the war
against Kony and the LRA vigorously, and he became one of the strongest
advocates for the International Criminal Court, whose help he wanted in
Ugandan oppositionists dismissed all this as posturing and
lambasted Museveni for using the war on Kony to gain credibility in the
West. They argued that Museveni's forces were subjugating northern
Ugandans, including holding hundreds of thousands of civilians in
appalling conditions in camps 'for their own protection', and had no
interest in pursuing the LRA.
By the early 1990s, Kony became a regional threat after the
government of Sudan gave him
arms, money and training to create mayhem in southern Sudan and the
region. It was then that an unwieldy coalition of local and
international non-government organisations joined with regional and
western militaries to pursue Kony. Neither Kony, nor his backers in
Khartoum and elsewhere, have been brought to account let alone faced
any sanction for their murderous campaign.
The sole LRA fighter to be put on trial at the ICC in the
Hague is Dominic Ongwen, a
lieutenant of Kony's and former child soldier. This abandoning of the
hunt for Kony, together with the lack of any restitution for the
victims of the long war in northern Uganda, means its bitter aftermath
will haunt the country for years to come.