Tuesday, 29 August 2017

KENYA: Opposition demands access to election computers as court case heats up ahead of 1 September deadline

We start this week with a couple of election disputes – in Angola and Kenya. In both cases, opposition candidates allege fraud by the national electoral commission, but few expect either result to be overturned. Congo-Kinshasa is back on the radar, with the UN criticising the government over elections, about which there are growing concerns. A new agricultural commodities exchange is stirring interest among farmers and investors from South Africa and China. Finally, France's President Emmanuel Macron hosted a mini-summit on migration in Paris over the weekend during which he got agreement, in principle, to process asylum seekers within Africa, instead of running through the checks once the would-be migrants have landed in Europe. Much detailed work remains according to both the European and African officials at the summit.

KENYA: Opposition demands access to election computers as court case heats up ahead of 1 September deadline
A trial of strength is intensifying between Raila Odinga's National Super Alliance (Nasa) and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as opposition lawyers demand access to the commission's servers and other electronic data. Nasa says IEBC's announcement that incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta won the 8 August elections by 1.4 million votes was 'fatally flawed' due to meddling with the commission's information technology systems.

Although the Supreme Court, which is hearing the opposition's challenge, has requested the IEBC to grant opposition lawyers limited access to its computer servers on 28 August, both parties have been locked in dispute over the modalities. Opposition lawyers claim that the electronic results transmitted by the IEBC differ sharply from the votes counted manually at polling stations across the country.
The Presidential inauguration has been postponed until after 1 September, the deadline for the Court to rule on the validity of the elections.

ANGOLA: Opposition questions MPLA election win as talks start on $2 billion Eurobond
Opposition parties are also questioning the credibility of national polls on 23 August in Angola in which the incumbent MPLA is said to have won 61.1% of the vote by the electoral commission. Final results are not due until 6 September.

However, UNITA, the historic opposition party, says its parallel vote count in the provinces of Bie, Cabina, Huambo and Luanda, differs sharply with the results released by the commission.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Luanda have opened talks with international banks about floating a US$2 billion Eurobond. Crashing world oil prices brought Angola's economy to a grinding halt last year after a decade of growth averaging 7% a year.

Although Russian state bank VTB, which along with Credit Suisse is at the centre of the secret loans scandal in Mozambique, had earlier tried to market a financing scheme in Luanda, Angolan officials deny that it has been selected to handle the bond launch.

CONGO-KINSHASA: UN criticises President Kabila's government over rights violations as Washington ends special envoy post
Raising serious doubts about the government's commitment to holding national elections this year, a United Nations assessment has criticised the Kinshasa government for cracking down on journalists and civic activists.

A UN team led by Georgette Gagnon of its Human Rights Office concluded that the 'space for a credible electoral process is rapidly shrinking' although President Joseph Kabila signed an agreement pledging to leave power and hold free elections this year. Gagnon's assessment follows fresh reports of clashes in Kasai and the east of the country.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who has met Kabila in private talks, has added to concerns by telling the recent summit of the Southern African Development Community that elections in December are 'unlikely'. SADC is to appoint a high-level envoy to mediate between Kabila and the opposition. Kabila may find his political plans will encounter less international opposition following a decision by United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to end the appointment of special envoys to crises in Africa and Asia.

In a letter to the US Congress last week, Tillerson announced that he was shutting down the offices of special envoys to Congo-Kinshasa and South Sudan, and that those functions would be taken up by other Washington-based officials.

NIGERIA: Investment of $135 million in commodities exchange buoys hopes for speedier economic revival
The latest economic data – a slight drop in headline inflation and economic growth edging upwards slowly – points to a slow recovery from last year's recession but concerns persist about caps on social spending and a lack of new jobs.

However, the plan to invest US$135 million in an agricultural commodities exchange at Ugbokun, Edo State, has sparked huge interest following the sharp growth in farm production over the last two years. Farmers have boosted output in the wake of the crash in oil prices and state revenues.

Due to more effective delivery of seeds and fertilisers, farmers in northern Nigeria are stepping up rice, millet and sugar production, selling substantial amounts of produce to neighbouring states.
The commodities exchange at Ugbokun, known as Integrated Produce City, should encourage farmers in six states in the south of the country to boost their own production and bring it to the new market for domestic customers or exports. Crops such as cocoa, rubber, cashew nuts and palm oil will be traded on the exchange initially but the range is likely to widen to include yam and cassava.

Chief Executive of the new venture, Pat Utomi is an economist, a founder of the Lagos Business School and a former presidential candidate. Having advocated restructuring the country's economy away from its dependence on crude oil exports, Utomi is committing his energies to a project that would promote the country's self-sufficiency in staple foodstuffs. Currently Nigeria spends more than $3.5 bn. a year on imported commodities.

AFRICA/EUROPEAN UNION: France's Macron wins wide support for 'safe zones' to process asylum applications in Africa
After a summit meeting in Paris yesterday (28 August), German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron pronounced themselves satisfied with 'initial progress' on a plan to stem migration to Europe by organising the processing of applications for political asylum in Africa.

The plan, devised by Macron, also won some conditional support from Libyan leader Faiez el Serraj, Chad's President Idris Déby Itno and Niger's President Mahamadou  Issoufou. As with most of the European Union's initiatives on migration there is likely to be some inducement for regional governments to join.

Under the scheme, the EU will pay some countries in the Sahel region and West Africa to set up better facilities to accommodate asylum seekers. Over the last couple of years, the EU has stepped up development projects in African countries where people face harsh conditions and are firmly on the migration roadmap.


GHANA: IMF is to release a review of the economy this week as the government forecasts faster growth over next two years.

SOUTH AFRICA: Presidential son Duduzane Zuma and KPMG are trying to limit damage of their links with Gupta family businesses.

SOMALIA: US airstrike kills top Al Shabaab commander but Mogadishu government faces protests after civilians killed in ground operation.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Buhari's quiet return

After three months' medical leave, President Muhammadu Buhari's return to Abuja on 19 August has failed to inject a new spirit of dynamism into government business.

A cabinet meeting planned for 23 August was cancelled at short notice. That was, we were told, to allow Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to discuss investigations into two suspended officials, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal, and Director General of the National Intelligence Agency Ayodele Oke.

Another reason, still less plausible, for the cancelled cabinet was the need for renovations at the Presidential offices. 'There are rats in the building,' said an official wryly, unclear whether the rodents were metaphorical ones. The inertia over the cases of Lawal and Oke shows the strict limits of Osinbajo's power as acting President in Buhari's absence. Although Osinbajo said he consulted regularly with Buhari, he was unable to sack either Lawal or Oke, let alone name replacements.

Osinbajo, who insists that substantive progress has been made on economic restructuring and security reform, admits to frustration at the pace of the promised fight against corruption. Not only have cases against officials from the previous government dragged on but there are signs of a new wave of crooked foreign exchange and oil deals. Sceptical about the executive's political will, senior politicians in the National Assembly claim to be amassing evidence on these cases.

Monday, 21 August 2017

SIERRA LEONE: More heavy rain forecast this week after over 500 killed and missing in Freetown landslide

We start in Freetown where rescue workers are trying to prevent more loss of life with renewed downpours expected this week and in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari is back on-seat and addressing the country on security matters. In Angola, the MPLA, headed by presidential candidate João Lourenço, is set to cruise to victory on Wednesday (23 August) against a weak opposition; the turnout may give a clearer idea about sentiment on the ground. Still on elections, opposition leader Raila Odinga submitted his election petition to the Supreme Court but insiders expect it will fail. Lastly, after a week of speculation about the possibility of Grace Mugabe being charged with assaulting a model in a Johannesburg hotel, the South African government gave her diplomatic immunity. Business sources claim there was a behind-the-scenes deal over landing rights for the two country's airlines.

SIERRA LEONE: More heavy rain forecast this week after over 500 killed and missing in Freetown landslide
Officials and volunteers are mapping out the most vulnerable areas around Freetown amid fears there could be another devastating landslide this week with deluges forecast for tomorrow (Tuesday 22 August) and Wednesday.

Seneh Dumbuya, the chief coroner in Freetown, told Reuters news agency yesterday (20 August) that rescue workers have brought out 499 bodies since the landslide at Mount Sugar Loaf on 14 August. Locals say another 600 people are still missing; some people trapped by rubble and mud in air pockets have been able to send text messages. The biggest risks now are that a fresh deluge could trigger another landslide, and that cholera could spread because of the shortage of clean water. Environmentalists say unregulated logging in the hills outside the capital and an absence of buildings regulation are to blame for the severity of the disaster.

NIGERIA: Buhari's dawn broadcast promises harder line on Biafran separatists and Islamist insurgents
After a day back in Abuja, a revived-looking President Muhammadu Buhari, who has spent most of this year receiving medical treatment in London, made a fiery televised address to the nation promising more determined action against Boko Haram. He added that attempts by citizens in the south-east of Nigeria to secede – a repeat of the calls that triggered the Biafran civil war in the 1960s – were a red line that no political organisation could be permitted to cross.

Although Buhari repeated the government's position that Nigeria's national unity isn't negotiable, he indicated that he would be open to a dialogue with secessionist groups. 'Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence,' he said.

ANGOLA: MPLA's João Lourenço pledges sweeping economic reforms ahead of 23 August presidential election
With his victory assured in this week's presidential elections, the MPLA's candidate João Lourenço offers a programme to restructure the oil-dependent economy and reiterates his commitment to crack down on state and corporate corruption.

Although those pledges ring hollow to the many Angolans who point out that little progress has been made on those issues during the MPLA's four decades in power, opposition parties are unlikely to make much headway in the elections. The biggest opposition party, UNITA, has been missing in action although one of its former militants, Abel Chivukuvuku, the candidate of Casa-CE, has been leading a much livelier campaign and winning over some in the coastal cities as well as the opposition redoubt of Huambo.

KENYA: Little prospect for success of opposition election petition in fast-track High Court case
Seven Supreme Court judges must rule on opposition leader Raila Odinga's petition to overturn the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 8 August elections. Insiders say the opposition's petition has far less detailed information than the complaint about the disputed 2013 elections which the Court rejected.

Kenya's courts do not countenance the sort of lengthy legal argumentation and demand for data sets from the electoral commission that was a feature of the opposition petition in Ghana in 2012. The Ghana courts took eight months to consider – and ultimately reject – the petition. But the process did give the opposition a forensic knowledge and understanding of the electoral reporting system, which it used to great effect in last year's elections.

Odinga submitted the petition last Friday (18 August), having earlier said he would prefer to mobilise his supporters against what he insists is a stolen election rather than engage with the judiciary. 'Our decision to go to court constitutes a second chance for the Supreme Court.' It can, he added, '…redeem itself, or like in 2013, compound the problems we face as a country.'

ZIMBABWE/SOUTH AFRICA: Did a deal over landing rights help Grace Mugabe get diplomatic immunity after facing prosecution for assault?
After internal argument in the government, South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, confirmed that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe's wife, Grace, was being granted diplomatic immunity following calls for her to face criminal charges over allegations that she beat up a young model in a Johannesburg hotel last week.

Some insiders are linking the decision to a sudden resolution in a dispute over landing rights between the national airlines of South Africa and Zimbabwe. After both airlines had to ground their flights on the busy Johannesburg to Harare route due to a row over operating permits, South African Airways resumed its flights to Zimbabwe just hours after Grace Mugabe's departure late on Saturday (19 August).


ZAMBIA: In a dramatic climbdown, government releases opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and drops all charges

MALI: President Keïta withdraws plans for constitutional reform devolution

TOGO: Opposition demonstrates in Lomé against 50 years of the Eyadéma dynasty

Monday, 14 August 2017

KENYA: Questions remain over election but opposition challenge to Kenyatta win loses steam

We start this week with the smouldering aftermath of Kenya's elections last week, and then to moves by President Jacob Zuma and his allies in South Africa to hit back at dissidents in the governing party. A lethal attack on a restaurant in the capital of Burkina Faso is seen by some as a response to the G5 regional anti-terror force and Ethiopia's parliament has voted to lift its State of Emergency although few expect any easing of other constraints on the opposition.

KENYA: Questions remain over election but opposition challenge to Kenyatta win loses steamAfter a weekend of clashes between protestors and police, in which more than 25 people lost their lives, opposition leaders are struggling to mobilise their supporters for mass action against the disputed election result. A general strike called for today (14 August) has been greeted with a half-hearted response in the country's major cities, including the capital, Nairobi.

There are signs that opposition candidate Raila Odinga is losing the support of allies over his unyielding rejection of the official result, which gave President Uhuru Kenyatta a winning margin of about 11%. Opposition legal expert James Orengo says there would be no point in taking the commission to court over the results but said there were plenty of other constitutional options to pursue. Odinga is due to set out his strategy tomorrow (15 August).

Many activists and electoral experts have concerns about the official results and management of the poll, as well as the vulnerability of the electoral commission's database to hacking, and recommend an independent investigation. A parallel voter tabulation by the local independent Elections Observation Group (Elog) produced figures close to the officials results released on Friday.

There are also questions about the government's investigation into the torture and murder of Chris Msando, the top expert in information technology at the electoral commission. Kenyatta's government quickly rejected offers of help in the investigation from Britain and the United States and called on Kenyans not to speculate about the motives or identities of the killers.

SOUTH AFRICA: ANC dissidents face revenge after Zuma survives no-confidence vote but the Guptas could be dumpedSome of the strongest voices in the African National Congress against President Jacob Zuma will face disciplinary action after he defeated an embarrassing motion of no-confidence on 8 August. The most conspicuous rebels include former ministers of finance and agriculture Pravin Gordhan and Derek Hanekom as well as the outspoken Makhosi Khoza from KwaZulu-Natal.

After Zuma demanded the ANC dissidents face disciplinary action, his ex-wife and a candidate to succeed him as party president, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and ANC Women's League President Bathabile Dlamini, backed his call, even though their position is likely to exacerbate party divisions.
Over the weekend Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma's closest rival in this year's presidential race, said there should be far tougher action against corporate interests trying to capture the South African state. That is code for taking on the Gupta family, who have been Zuma's closest business allies.

As more details leak out about the relationship between Zuma and the Guptas, his ties to this wealthy Indian family have become one of the president's biggest political liabilities. Many business analysts think that he is looking for a way to sever all ties with the family in a bid to shut down further state investigations into his personal finances.

BURKINA FASO: 18 killed in suspected jihadist attack on restaurant in capitalThree men armed with machine-guns killed 18 people at a Turkish restaurant in Ouagadougou on Sunday evening (13 August) in the country's worst terror attack for a year and a half. No group has yet claimed responsibility but the tactics resemble those of jihadist attacks in the region.
The shootings may an attempt to weaken Burkina Faso's resolve to step up counter-terror operations as part of its membership of the French-backed G5 alliance with Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, all of which have been targeted by Islamist militants.

ETHIOPIA: State of emergency lifted but grievances increasing over rights and resourcesThe vote by Ethiopia's parliament on 4 August to end the country's State of Emergency does not presage political liberalisation or the easing of restrictions on opposition groupings, according to local and international human rights organisations. After clashes with security forces last year, thousands of oppositionists remain in detention and none of their grievances have been addressed, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

This formal vote to end the emergency by the parliament, which has no opposition members, could make it easier for the government to secure investment and trade deals with companies concerned about reputational and political risk.

Despite scepticism about its official economic data, Ethiopia is still one of Africa's fastest growing economies and biggest markets after Nigeria. Apart from a threat by Aliko Dangote's cement conglomerate to pull out of Ethiopia as a protest against bureaucratic constraints imposed by the regional government in Oromia, few big companies have responded publicly to political developments in the country.


LIBYA: Oil exports fall dramatically after threats on Sharara fields and strikes close Zueitina oil port

EGYPT: Saudi Arabia's Prince Al Waleed bin Talal is to invest $800 million in tourism at Sharm el Sheikh amid rapid expansion of Cairo's stock market

AFRICA: Over 300 financial technology (fintech) companies have raised over $180 mn. in the past two years, says 'Disrupt Africa' report

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

KENYA: Family rivalries and a high-stakes election will test institutions and technology

We start this week with a couple of high-stakes votes – one in Kenya and one in South Africa. Then we have some insight on an impromptu secret meeting in Zimbabwe, some reservations about the grand pipeline plans in Uganda and Tanzania, and a look at economic arguments in Nigeria, pending President Muhammadu Buhari's return, expected later this month. The next edition of Africa Confidential will be published on 25 August but we will be posting major stories on Kenya's elections, migration and South Africa's leadership race in the meantime.

KENYA: Family rivalries and a high-stakes election will test institutions and technology
National elections today (8 August) will be the last episode – for this generation at least – in the historic struggle between the Kenyatta and Odinga dynasties for the country's presidency. Five decades ago, it was the fathers of today's rivals – President Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga – who were battling it out for the right to lead Kenya.

Odinga has dramatically cut Kenyatta's lead in the opinion polls over the last month, and some reckon he is now ahead. That sense of a very tight race has ratcheted up tensions between rival bands of supporters. The torture and murder of Chris Msando, head of information technology at the electoral commission, and a companion a week ago pointed to just how high the electoral stakes had become (AC Vol 58 No 16, Murder most foul). It also sounded alarm bells about the possibility of a repeat of the post-election political violence in 2008 should either side feel cheated by the result.

The tangible ideological differences between the conservative pro-West Kenyatta family and the leftist traditions of the Odinga family of the 1960s have worn thin. Now, both families control vast business empires, although Kenyatta's is far larger than his rival's. Much of this election is about cash, resources and control of the tens of billions of dollars that the country is spending on roads, railways, airports and power stations.

It's also about state spending further down the food chain: the tens of millions of dollars that the 47 counties share out under the new constitution which devolves economic and political power. The idea behind the new constitution is that it would lessen the fierce competition for power at the centre by distributing power more evenly across the country. Yet the rivalries at the centre seem as fierce as ever while there is a new layer of political combat in the counties separate from the national issues.

At every level technology has played a far bigger role in these elections. Kenya is one of Africa's leaders in information technology and a global pioneer in mobile money systems. Telecoms companies say 90% of Kenyans have mobile phones, about half of which have internet access. Both sides have rushed to get their political messages across on social media, and have hired their own United States-based political technology companies to boost their campaigns.

Kenyatta's team hired Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump's presidential run as well as the Brexit campaign in Britain. Odinga's team recruited advisers from Ghana, where the opposition's technological savvy helped it to defeat an incumbent president last year; and they hired the veteran campaign advisors, Aristotle in Washington DC.

SOUTH AFRICA: ANC divisions are set to deepen whatever happens to Zuma in the no-confidence vote but the economy will enjoy a fillip if he loses
The markets seem more excited than the public about Speaker Baleka Mbete's surprise decision to allow a secret ballot in the no-confidence motion on President Jacob Zuma today (8 August) in parliament. That's because many traders forecast a boost for the rand and inward flows of portfolio capital should Zuma be toppled and replaced with a more pro-business successor such as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It is a big political risk for Mbete. If Zuma wins, he will try to purge the party and the cabinet of his foes, worsening the current rifts. If Zuma loses, Mbete would be interim President until the African National Congress chooses a successor while his supporters will demand vengeance on those they have already called traitors.

Some insiders suspect Mbete may have cut a deal with Ramaphosa or the ANC's National Treasurer Zweli Mkhize which would give her the party's deputy presidency. Seen as a close ally of Zuma's, Mbete was expected to protect her political mentor. But she may have calculated that Zuma will be in no position to make any guarantees by the end of this year, when he has to stand down as party president.

Zuma had already said that a secret ballot would give the opposition parties – who need the votes of just 50 ANC dissidents in parliament to win – an unfair advantage. The failure of efforts in the ANC's National Executive Committee to sack Zuma shows he still maintains majority support amongst the party's top officials.

There is another issue at stake: is the right to see how all the MPs vote in a parliamentary debate more important than seizing the chance to get rid of an unpopular President?  A bigger question is what difference all this manoeuvring at the top will make to the millions of jobless South Africans dealing with growing corruption and poor public services.

ZIMBABWE/SOUTH AFRICA: Financial backing from Pretoria mooted in Mbeki's secret talks with Mugabe
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki took a short break last weekend from his own country's political intrigues to discuss economic and political travails in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Top of the agenda in Mbeki's talks with President Robert Mugabe was a plan to shore up Zimbabwe's economy, which is gripped in a foreign exchange crisis.

Mbeki's plan, we hear, involves trying to bring Zimbabwe into the clearing system for South Africa's rand currency. Although the rand, like the US dollar, is legal tender in Zimbabwe, most of the country's formal trade with South Africa is still routed via the US dollar. With a strengthening US dollar and a weakening rand, that gives Zimbabwe the worst of both worlds.

If the rand became more widely used in Zimbabwe, that would lower the cost of trade between the two countries but it would give South Africa what some in Harare would see as an unacceptable level of control over its neighbour's economy.

South Africa, which is owed tens of millions of rand by Zimbabwe, may have a better chance of getting repaid if the two countries' currencies were more closely linked. Botswana's pula and Namibia's dollar offer a model that Zimbabwe could adopt.

But it is highly contentious politically. Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is said to be close to Mbeki, favours such a deal, as does Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa. But the generals in Harare and Mnangagwa's rivals, grouped around Grace Mugabe, are dead against it. President Mugabe is said to be wavering between the two camps.

UGANDA/TANZANIA: Work to start on $3.5 billion oil pipeline
In a grand ceremony, the foundation stone has been laid on the world's longest and most expensive heated oil pipeline – some 1,500 kilometres from Uganda's oilfields in its western region near Lake Albert to the port of Tanga on Tanzania's coast – with a completion deadline of 2020. Uganda has about 6 billion barrels of heavy crude oil in its reserves.

The pipeline deal has sealed the friendship between Presidents John Magufuli and Yoweri Museveni, who were both at the ceremony. They share an authoritarian governance style and resource nationalist views. Magufuli is also close to Kenya's presidential challenger Raila Odinga, much to the irritation of Uhuru Kenyatta's government.

But the success of the project, which includes Magufuli's insistence that the pipeline should be operating within three years, will depend critically on the two countries' ability to raise the necessary finance. Banks will carefully examine the commercial logic of the pipeline – initially planned to cross Kenya – and the policy record of both countries. Currently, Magufuli is embroiled in a battle with multinational companies over his proposed tougher mining laws.

NIGERIA: Growth edges upwards but IMF warns on rising debt, shaky banks and the forex system
The latest word from Abuja insiders is that President Muhammadu Buhari will return to Nigeria from his medical treatment in London by the end of this month. Local business people are debating how this will affect the economy.

For Buhari, the biggest concerns have been the rate of inflation and the strength of the naira. He staunchly opposed the hefty currency devaluations tried by other oil producers such as Egypt and Kazakhstan. During his absence, the rival factions in the government – the reformers under Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the exchange rate stalwarts under central bank governor Godwin Emefiele – have concocted a messy compromise between a fixed rate and a free float. The result is a multiplicity of rates.

The latest modification allows investors to quote the so-called Nafex rate, which more closely reflects the market demand for the naira than the central bank's official rate. The initial effect of the measure was a weakening of the naira but its proponents say it will encourage more capital to return to what is still Africa's biggest economy. Alongside these policy arguments, a visiting IMF team has warned there is a dangerous level of bad and doubtful debt in the banking sector. It also concluded that there was lack of political will or consensus to push through a plan to boost the country's economy as it recovers from its first recession for two decades.


EGYPT: El-Sisi target of $10 billion in fresh investments is working as he opens economy and clamps down on politics

GHANA: Record cocoa crop this year as Accra talks to Côte d'Ivoire about joint investments in chocolate manufacturing

SOUTH AFRICA/BRITAIN: MTN and Vodacom in bidding war for Japan's NTT internet operations in Africa

RWANDA: After 98.6% vote, Kagame will focus on slowing economy, navigating crises in Burundi and Congo-Kinshasa

Thursday, 3 August 2017

An August full of elections

As Americans and Europeans prepare for their holidays, tens of millions of Africans prepare for elections this month while hundreds of millions more watch closely. Without prejudging the outcomes, democrats and civil rights activists are coming under heavier fire.

The Senegalese voted in parliamentary elections on 30 July, in polls that were distinguished by a leading opposition figure, the Mayor of Dakar, Khalifa Sall, running his party's campaign from his gaol cell. Sall has been held without charge for six months. Senegal's stellar record for political pluralism, akin to Ghana's, is now in the balance.

Next up on 4 August is Rwanda's presidential election where Paul Kagame is assured of victory after another eerily quiet campaign. After last year's constitutional referendum, Kagame could stay in power, punctuated by sporadic elections, until 2034.

Angola's elections on 23 August, also fall into the category of a victory foretold: this time for the MPLA's presidential candidate João Lourenço, the armed service chiefs, and the family of outgoing President José Eduardo dos Santos, who will retain a grip over some most lucrative commercial operations in the land.

But for most political observers, Kenya's elections on 8 August are the most portentous. A clear margin of victory for either party in a contest generally judged free and fair would give progressive forces a huge boost. But as our reports suggest, that is increasingly unlikely.