Monday, 24 July 2017

NIGERIA: Buhari is 'set to return home' after appearing in new pictures with State governors

This week we start in Abuja House – the one in London where President Muhammadu Buhari has been staying for the past two months. Then to Kinshasa where Congo's opposition is planning to step up protests against sit-tight President Joseph Kabila. And in Cape Town we take the temperature ahead of next month's confidence vote in President Jacob Zuma. This week Paris hosts key talks between Libya's Prime Minister Faiez el Serraj and rogue general Khalifa Haftar and the dispute between Tanzania's President John Magufuli and foreign mining companies shows sign of escalating. We round off with our In Very Brief section – three flashpoints for the week.

NIGERIA: Buhari is 'set to return home' after appearing in new pictures with State governorsA smiling President Muhammadu Buhari was pictured lunching with State governors in London yesterday (23 July). He will return to Nigeria as soon as 'the doctors give him the green light', said Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina.

The release of the picture may dampen down some of the more extreme speculation about Buhari's health but the lack of a precise date for his return will prompt his critics to demand more information about his condition. Although Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has assumed the constitutional powers of Acting President in Buhari's absence, some insiders say that some areas of government remain off-limits.

Two major personnel decisions – the appointment of the Secretary to the Government and the director of the National Intelligence Agency – appear to be on hold pending Buhari's return (AC Vol 58 No 11, A date with destiny).

The photo of Buhari released by the Presidency, the first in over two months, shows him at a dining table chatting with top officials from the governing All Progressives Congress, including Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Opposition plans protests to oust Kabila as claims of grand corruption multiplyOn 8 August opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi launches a campaign of street protests and national strikes against President Joseph Kabila's rule. The opposition accuses him of reneging on his agreement to hold national elections this year and trying to extend his time in office illegally (AC Vol 58 No 11, Kabila thriving on chaos).

The protests are meant to culminate in mass demonstrations in Kinshasa and all 25 provinces on 20 August. A leading spokesman for the opposition alliance, François Muamba, says that unless President Kabila sets a date for the next presidential elections, he will cease to be recognised as head of state after 1 October.

After that date opposition activists will campaign for citizens to stop all payments to the state. Tshisekedi has also called on citizens not to accept 'bad orders' from the police and armed forces, especially from those groups that have been 'killing Congolese people'. This latest wave of opposition activism coincides with the release of several detailed reports accusing the Kabila family of gross enrichment through its grip on state power:
  • New York University's Center on International Cooperation, backed by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, says the Kabila family owns – wholly or partially – 80 companies in Congo. President Kabila and his family now own, it says, more than 81,000 hectares of farmland in the country.
  • President Kabila's sister Jaynet has a stake in the country's biggest cellphone company.
  • Zoe Kabila, the President's brother, has extensive stakes in big mining ventures including a highly lucrative partnership with Robert Friedland's Ivanhoe company, according to a lengthy investigation by Bloomberg News. Both Jaynet and Zoe are members of parliament and senior members of the President's political alliance.
  • More than US$750 million of the country's mining revenue has gone missing in the last three years, according to a new report from the London-based Global Witness anti-corruption lobby, and is being distributed through political and business networks close to the Presidential family.
The Kabila family denies all wrongdoing and Ivanhoe's Friedland says it will be issuing a riposte to the Bloomberg investigation. However, these latest claims of grand corruption at the top will loom large in the opposition campaign in the coming weeks.
SOUTH AFRICA: Opposition divided over chance of  Zuma's defeat in confidence vote next monthWith parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete yet to rule on whether the vote on the no-confidence motion on President Jacob Zuma due on 8 August will be by secret ballot or not, pressure is growing on African National Congress MPs (AC Vol 58 No 12,Zuma's chaos theory). Allies of Zuma in the intelligence services have stepped up surveillance on MPs they consider 'problematic'; some MPs say they are being threatened to vote in Zuma's favour while others claim they are being offered inducements.
Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters and former President of the ANC's Youth League, forecasts that at least 60 of the governing party's MPs will vote against Zuma. That would mean a resounding defeat for the President if, as many suspect, all the opposition MPs vote against him.
Yet John Steenhuisen, Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance, which filed the no-confidence motion in April, doubts it will pass. The ANC controls 62% of the seats in parliament and, unlike Malema, he thinks it would be expecting too much for so many ANC MPs to turn against Zuma. Steenhuisen believes the financial interests behind Zuma, who faces public attacks on probity from his own party and the opposition, are too entrenched to allow their man to be pushed out.

LIBYA: Rogue general Haftar to meet Premier Serraj in Paris this weekFrench officials are to broker a critical meeting in Paris tomorrow (25 July) between Prime Minister Faiez el Serraj, head of the United Nations-recognised government in Tripoli, and rogue general Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been fighting along the coast towards Tripoli (AC Vol 58 No 12, States of failure). Haftar, who last month claimed to have won control of the eastern city of Benghazi, has the backing of regional powers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Haftar, who does not recognise the legitimacy of the Tripoli government, has not met El Serraj for 18 months. France's President Emmanuel Macron wants to show his country's support for the UN's political strategy in Libya but also to push for a deal between Serraj and Haftar.

Given the Mediterranean crossing from Libya is the main route illegal migrants take into southern Europe, trying to shore up the Tripoli government has become a priority for French, German and Italian politicians. Even if there is some agreement between Serraj and Haftar, it could prove much tougher to broker some deals between the disparate militias fighting for control around the Tripoli and the rich oil reserves.

TANZANIA: Government's dispute with Acacia mining to drag on ahead of critical negotiationsAt a rally on 21 July, President John Magufuli upped the stakes in his battle with mining companies, threating to shut all gold mines in the country if he judges them to be delaying negotiations about the payment of back taxes.

Ahead of talks between the government and Acacia mining – which is accused of owing billions of dollars in back taxes – there are reports that senior managers of the company have been pulled in for questioning by state officials. Top officials at Acacia have told Africa Confidential that they are committed to cooperate with the government's investigations into their operations. The company wants to refer the tax dispute to independent arbitration although it's unclear whether the government wants to go that route.

Magufuli's latest statements show that the mining issue now tops the government's agenda, and may help boost his political base. It follows parliament's passing of a natural resources law this month which grants the government stakes of 16% in mining companies operating in the country and an option to buy up to 50%. It would also allow the state to renegotiate contracts with mining and energy companies (AC Vol 58 No 15, Magufuli's law).

IN VERY BRIEF:

SENEGAL: Government keeps leading oppositionist and Mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall in gaol ahead of parliamentary elections  on 30 July.

ZAMBIA: Fitch ratings agency warns on growing political risk after President Edgar Lungu declares state of emergency.

ANGOLA: Security chiefs entrench position ahead of elections and the handover to new President.

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