Monday, 31 July 2017

KENYA: Security threats growing ahead of next week's election

We start in election land – namely Kenya and Rwanda, which are holding elections in the coming week, and Senegal, which held parliamentary elections on 30 July. Then to Ghana where the newish government of President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo has been chalking up some economic successes, and Tanzania where the dispute between President John Magufuli and the gold mining companies is escalating. Finally, to South Africa where Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has been expressing some doubts about the Gupta family, close allies of his boss, President Jacob Zuma.

KENYA: Security threats growing ahead of next week's election
The discovery today (31 July) of the corpse of Christopher Chege Msando, a senior manager in information technology at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), has shocked a country already apprehensive about possible interference in the 8 August elections. Msando had apparently been tortured before he died, people who saw the body said. He is thought to have had critical information about the mechanics of the IEBC’s plan to relay results across the country.

Earlier, Raila Odinga, NASA's presidential candidate, released what he said were secret documents detailing plans for a coup d'état by a section of the military if the IEBC announces an opposition victory. Jubilee has rubbished these claims, saying the documents are standard military contingency plans. Yesterday (30 July), a man wielding a machete injured a police officer guarding the home of Vice President William Ruto in Eldoret, in the Rift Valley before holing up in an outbuilding and being shot dead by police. Ruto was not in the house at the time and police are still trying to establish a motive for the attack.

RWANDA: Political focus goes elsewhere as forecast landslide due this week
In contrast to Kenya, preparations for the presidential election in Rwanda have been eerily calm apart from criticisms, mainly from international human rights organisations, of a what they call a climate of fear. Neither of the opposition candidates – Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party ticket and the independent Philippe Mpayimana – look set for more than 5% of the vote in next Friday's poll (4 August).

Foreign diplomats and international financial institutions are uneasy about the political process in Rwanda but unwilling to express their doubts in public. Beyond cursory tours of polling stations by diplomats there will be no formal international election monitoring effort.

President Paul Kagame, who is preparing for his third successive election win, has made it clear that he regards criticism of the country's political system as 'unwarranted foreign interference'.

SENEGAL: Messy parliamentary elections raise questions over detention of popular opposition leader
Voting in yesterday's (30 July) parliamentary elections was marred by poor organisation and widespread disqualification of people whose biometric identity cards were not recognised. Claims the government is responsible are mounting. Historically, elections in Senegal have been extremely well-run with defeated candidates accepting defeat gracefully.

Yet this time former President Abdoulaye Wade, now 91 and leading one of the main opposition groupings, accused President Macky Sall's government of interfering in the electoral process. Supporters of Khalifa Sall (no relation to the President), the Mayor of Dakar who was detained on corruption charges, accused the government of jailing its opponents to avoid a catastrophic electoral defeat.

President Sall's Benno Bokk Yakaar grouping is among the 47 rival parties vying for 165 elected seats in the national assembly. It currently holds 119 seats but could lose control of the assembly given rising grievances about economic hardship. These elections are critically important for President Sall's government, which faces national elections in two years' time and is proud of its reputation with international organisations for running an open, pluralistic political system.

GHANA: Growth up and prices down as government calls for end of IMF deal
When a team from the International Monetary Fund arrives in Accra next week to assess the government's implementation of its US$900 million programme, it will be walking into a noisy debate about the country's economic strategy.

Although the IMF has been advising the government to extend its economic adjustment programme until December 2018, President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo has said the programme should end, as scheduled, in April 2018. Several government officials, including Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta, have echoed this view.

Behind what appears to be a narrow dispute over scheduling, there are bigger differences over economic strategy and the government's ability to enforce tough budgetary discipline. On 24 July, the Bank of Ghana cut its key interest rate to 21% from 22.5%. the biggest reduction for two years.
This follows the Bank's report that inflation had fallen to 12% in June and the cedi had strengthened by 7% since March to become Africa's best-performing currency. The wider economy has been growing too, expanding by 6.6% in the first quarter, boosted by higher oil and agricultural production.

TANZANIA: War of words escalates between President Magafuli and the gold miners
After a senior manager from the Acacia mining company was held on departure from Dar es Salaam airport on 24 July, a government official denied the company was being singled out. The company has just received a $190 billion tax demand from the government.

President John Magufuli has been leading a campaign to pressure the company to process minerals within the country and to meet what a government-appointed committee says are huge arrears in taxes and royalties. Last week Magufuli said he would close all the gold mines if mining companies delayed discussions on monies the government claims are owed.

The companies want to take the matter to international arbitration. Shares in Acacia, which is majority-owned by Canada's Barrick Gold, have lost more than half their value because of this dispute.

SOUTH AFRICA: Finance Minister Gigaba shares 'concerns' over influence of Gupta companies on the state
Although Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba was meant to have been a loyal ally of President Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family, he is beginning to stray from the script. Gigaba's acknowledgement of legitimate criticism of the Gupta family is another sign of Zuma's waning political power and his declining ability to protect his friends.

On 28 July, Gigaba told the Cape Talk radio station that he shared South Africans' concerns about the Guptas' influence over the government. He backed calls for a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations that the family had been using its influence improperly. 'I think we need to establish fact from allegation,' he told the station. '…the allegations are quite damaging to the investor perceptions, as well as the ratings agencies, of the governance of our state-owned companies.'

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