Africa: Conflict and governance 2015-17

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See also Africa: Conflict and governance 2013-2014

Kenyan Election Official Fears New Vote Won’t Be Credible

17 October
Somalia’s Crisis: Somalia’s government is struggling to restore security after a pair of suicide bombings on Saturday killed hundreds of people in Mogadishu, the country’s capital. Though no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, the al-Qaeda-affiliated group al-Shabaab is likely responsible—and may have obtained explosives from U.S.-backed peacekeeping forces, suggesting that the U.S. must change its approach to prevent more bloodshed.

Double standards: ‘Why aren’t we all with Somalia?
(Al Jazeera) Somalia has entered a three-day national mourning period for the victims, with around 300 more people also injured in the blast.
Dozens are missing, hospitals are running out of blood and anger is growing.
But social media users have asked: Where is the collective outrage?
(NYT) As rescuers continue to pull bodies from the rubble in Mogadishu, Somalia, many fear that the country could slip under total control of the terrorist group the Shabab.Twin truck bombings there on Saturday killed more than 270 people, and people are referring to it as the country’s Sept. 11. The Shabab has not publicly claimed responsibility, but its members are believed to be behind the attack.
Mogadishu truck bomb: 500 casualties in Somalia’s worst terrorist attack
At least 300 people killed and hundreds seriously injured in attack blamed on militant group al-Shabaab
(The Guardian) Casualties included senior civil servants, five paramedic volunteers and a journalist, but most were ordinary people on one of the busiest thoroughfares of Mogadishu, which has been hit by multiple bombings in recent years. The bomb, which is thought to have targeted Somalia’s foreign ministry, was concealed in a truck and exploded near a hotel, demolishing the building and several others.

15 October
South Sudan is a disaster. Its president says: Not my fault.
(WaPost) President Salva Kiir has presided over the world’s youngest nation as it descended into civil war, famine and a historic refugee crisis.
The United Nations says his military is responsible for ethnic cleansing. The United States has imposed sanctions on some of his closest associates.
But in a rare interview, Kiir presented himself as a defiant leader who has been maligned, a man too preoccupied with waging war to consider any possible mistakes, a onetime fan of Donald Trump who thinks America should worry about human rights abuses on its own soil.
The Trump administration is so worried about South Sudan’s disastrous situation that it is sending Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to the country later this month. She has criticized its government for perpetrating a conflict that has caused a massive hunger crisis. Other administration officials have suggested that U.S. aid to South Sudan could be withdrawn.[South Sudan’s people are starving, and fighters are blocking aid]

13 October
Kenyan Elections in Crisis Again
(NYT) Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, abruptly dropped out of the race on Tuesday after repeatedly charging that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had failed to make any changes after bungling the August election. The rerun scheduled for Oct. 26, he declared, would be “worse than the previous one.” Though the Supreme Court made no clear recommendations on what the commission should do in the rerun, the fact that the court found enough irregularities to nullify the election clearly seemed to require at least technical changes in the complex electronic process of tallying and reporting votes. None have been made.
If the election goes ahead on Oct. 26 without Mr. Odinga, effectively anointing Mr. Kenyatta, the opposition, already aroused, would erupt. Postponing the vote further and working to fix the electoral commission would seem a reasonable solution, but Mr. Kenyatta insists on keeping to the calendar, and there is no certainty that the Supreme Court would allow a delay. To further complicate matters, the commission has said that all minor candidates who had run for president in August were eligible to run again.

1 September
(The Economist) Kenya’s supreme court annulled the country’s disputed presidential election, which took place on August 8th. The judges seem convinced that irregularities at the polls were important enough to call for a repeat vote. The ruling could be a watershed in Kenya’s development into a functioning, modern democracy. But, equally, it could herald a new round of uncertainty and chaos (The Guardian) Kenyan supreme court annuls Uhuru Kenyatta election victory – Six-judge bench rules 4-2 in favour of petition filed by rival candidate Raila Odinga and orders new vote within 60 days
The judges said: “[The election commission] failed, neglected or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.” They did not place blame on Kenyatta or his party. Kenyatta said he regretted that “six people have decided they will go against the will of the people” but he would not dispute the judgment. “The court has made its decision. We respect it. We don’t agree with it. And again, I say peace … peace, peace, peace. That is the nature of democracy.”

18 August
Kenyan opposition challenges election results at Supreme Court
(Reuters via Globe & Mail) Kenya’s opposition coalition went to the Supreme Court late on Friday to challenge the results of a presidential election which it says was rigged.
Election authorities have said that President Uhuru Kenyatta won the Aug. 8 election by 1.4 million votes, but opposition leader Raila Odinga said the results are false. He has not yet presented evidence of fraud.
Kenyans who remember the violence that followed the disputed 2007 election, when about 1,200 people were killed, were relieved when Odinga announced this week he would turn back to the courts, rather than the streets, to make his case.
Odinga also went to court to challenge the 2013 election result and his decision to turn to the judiciary helped quell violence then.

8 August
Kenya: Polls close in tightly contested elections
Results are not expected before Wednesday and Kenya’s electoral body has seven days to declare a winner.
(Al Jazeera) “There’s been no incident so far. Voting seems to be going smoothly. It is a good sign for Kenyan democracy,” [John Mahama, former Ghanaian president and chief Commonwealth election observer] added.
To win the election outright, either presidential candidate must garner at least 50 percent of the votes, plus one.
The winning candidate must also receive at least 25 percent of the votes in half of Kenya’s 47 counties to prevent a second round of voting.
If no candidate receives that, the election will go to a runoff, which would be a first in Kenya’s history.

6 August
Nairobi is becoming a ghost town as a tense and tightly-contested election nears
(Quartz) Some foreigners have left the country for a while—the United States has issued travel warnings for Kenya for the election period and other countries have cautioned their citizens to take extra care during the election.
The Aug. 8 polls, the country’s most expensive presidential election in history, comes a decade after disputed results of an election in 2007 pitched the country into chaos. At least 1,100 people were killed and about 600,000 displaced, plunging the East African economic powerhouse into uncertainty. The country’s last election in 2013 was peaceful, but locals and observers worry this time won’t be the same.
Local media and officials are not as focused as they were in 2013 on promoting peace. Observers also say that public confidence in Kenya’s electoral commission and the judiciary, which would mediate any dispute, are both low. Most significantly, the race is close. As recently as May, incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta was expected to win a second, five-year term handily. Now different polls show him and his rival, opposition leader Raila Odinga, closing in on each other with the possibility of a run-off.

4 August
African presidents: Accept no limitations
(The Economist) Today Rwanda’s president of 17 years, Paul Kagame, will be re-elected for a third term. In 2015 his party, the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, proposed a constitutional amendment to allow Mr Kagame to stay longer than two terms. Similar moves are afoot in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. So far 13 African heads of state have rolled back term limits. They do this because they know the costs of doing so are low
(NPR) Rwanda’s Kagame Has Ushered In Peace And Progress, And Crushed Dissent
Under Kagame’s tenure, Rwanda has made significant strides toward becoming a middle income society.
Roads are paved; streets are lit. The GDP has grown more than 1,000 percent since the genocide; life expectancy has shot up, from 28 years during the genocide to 64 years in 2015, and Rwanda has become one of the least corrupt countries on the continent. It’s a place where all state employees post their supervisor’s cellphone outside their office, and public officials are fired if they don’t meet the stated goals in their performance contracts.

13 July
The Imperialist People’s Republic of Africa?
By
(Project Syndicate) A few months ago, a New York Times magazine cover was emblazoned with the question “Is China the World’s New Colonial Power?” The notion that China is a twenty-first-century colonizer is not new: commentators have been batting it around for a decade. But, to anyone who has experienced or even studied colonialism, the claim seems inappropriate, if not insulting. … To label China a “colonizer” or “benefactor” does little to help us understand the true nature of its relationship with the African continent, let alone other regions such as the Caribbean. And, given the potentially lopsided power dynamics, grasping that relationship is vitally important.
I recently worked with the boutique consultancy ChinaAfricaAdvisory to explore in depth how Chinese actors are operating within some key African countries, including by carrying out revealing cross-country comparisons. Three observations stand out.
First, we found that Chinese state-owned and private companies, government departments, and non-governmental organizations prefer to do business in African countries that have already formalized their ties with China.
The second observation is that Chinese actors do not avoid countries with governments that champion their own citizens’ interests (again, not a typical trait of colonizers). For example, in African countries with strong domestic labor laws, Chinese companies are not just willing to engage in infrastructure and other contracted projects; they also tend to hire more local workers, relative to Chinese labor. A recent McKinsey survey of over 1,000 firms in eight African countries found that almost 90% of their employees were locals.
The third insight revealed by our research relates to the true complexity of Chinese investment decisions. Like any investor, Chinese actors in Africa focus on maximizing returns – and that means seeking fast-growing economies. As a recent Johns Hopkins University briefing showed, the Chinese investment destinations of Tanzania, Ghana, and Kenya have been growing at annual rates above 6%. But, unlike many other investors, Chinese actors have proved willing to take economic and political risks.

From The Economist‘s Simon Baptist, Chief Economist:
Of the 82 countries for which we are game enough to make a forecast for GDP in 2050, Kenya is the one that we expect to show the fastest growth: its real GDP in 2050 should be seven times larger than it is today (at the other end of the list is Italy, where we think real GDP will only be 18% higher). Fast population growth, a modest improvement in the business environment, urbanisation and fast-growing neighbours all contribute to the long-term good news story (with climate change posing the largest downside risk).
In the more immediate term, Kenyans will be electing a president on August 8th, and we expect the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, to be re-elected, albeit by a smaller margin than he achieved last time. Elections in Kenya have sometimes acted as a catalyst for social pressures to come to the surface, most notably in 2007, when there was substantial post-election violence. However, the 2013 race, featuring the same two main candidates as this time, was peaceful. Tensions are rising in the lead-up to the poll, including some disputes over ballot papers, but for now we are expecting a fairly smooth election period.

3 July
West African and French leaders launch Sahel force
New force, meant to be operational soon, will be deployed in the region along with a 12,000-strong UN mission in Mali.
(Al Jazeera) Five African countries have launched a new multinational force to fight armed groups in the Sahel region, which France’s President Emmanuel Macron told a summit in Mali should be fully operational “in a matter of weeks”.
The new regional anti-terror force is set to include as many as 5,000 soldiers, with one battalion from each of the so-called G5 Sahel countries: Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
“Our enemies are cowards, but they have determination. They want to destroy us,” Macron said on Sunday, in a regional summit with the G5-Sahel leaders in the Malian capital, Bamako.
France’s president said his country would contribute $9m to the new force this year. He also mentioned a contribution of 70 vehicles, without saying whether that was included in the sum.
The European Union has also pledged $57m towards the new force, and France is seeking additional financing from partners, including Germany and the United States.
The new force will operate in the region along with the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission and the 5,000-strong French troops already in Mali, which obtained its independence from France in 1960.
In addition, Macron announced $228m in development aid to the Sahel region over the next five years.

7 May
82 Chibok schoolgirls freed in exchange for five Boko Haram leaders
(The Guardian) Young women, who were among 276 captured in April 2014, flown to Nigerian capital to meet president while charities call for them to be reunited with families.
South Sudan: UN peacekeepers deployed to enable aid delivery to Upper Nile’s Aburoc area
(UN news) Currently up to 50,000 people are sheltering in and around the town of Aburoc on the west bank of the River Nile after a series of clashes between Government and opposition forces. The most urgent need is drinking water as there is a risk of an outbreak of diarrhoea or even cholera which has the potential to kill thousands of vulnerable people, he said.

25 April
South Sudan’s political process ‘not dead’ but needs ‘resuscitation’ – UN envoy
(UN news) “Regrettably, no party has shown interest in reviving the Peace Agreement,” said David Shearer, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the head of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), referring to the August 2015 accord between the country’s warring sides.
Despite the peace agreement, South Sudan slipped back into conflict due to renewed clashes between rival forces – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir and the SPLA in Opposition backing former First Vice-President Riek Machar.
Mr. Shearer explained that unlike this time last year, where the conflict was construed on a bipolar basis, today the opposition has splintered, making it necessary for UN peacebuilding efforts to be more widely cast than previously.

30 March
South African President Jacob Zuma sacks finance chiefs, rand dives
(Globe & Mail) Mr. Zuma gave only a terse explanation, saying that he made the moves to “bring about radical socio-economic transformation” for the benefit of “the poor and the working class.” But analysts noted that he was dismissing the ministers who have sought to protect the government from corruption and cronyism.
The sacking of his enemies will consolidate his power as he manoeuvres to anoint his ex-wife, former African Union chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as his successor at the helm of the ruling party, the African National Congress. But it could also trigger a rebellion within his party, leaving the country in political turmoil.

28 March
To the bitter end
Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe: A ruined nation awaits the death of a dictator.
Elephants for sale
Fifteen thousand elephant tusks, piled so high and so deep that the smell of death still clinging to them is overwhelming. The largest are taller than the men who guard them. The heaviest tusk they’ve got weighs 64 kg and was found in the Zambezi Valley in 1984.
All in all there are about 100 tonnes of ivory sitting behind three security doors with guards and an alarm system in a building on the grounds of Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority in Harare.
Think of it as a savings account that will one day come to maturity. That’s what Zimbabwe is doing.
The government has a serious cash flow problem and wants the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to allow it to sell the tusks, which were recovered from poachers or elephants that have died of natural causes.
A big part of the bad press Zimbabwe is getting these days comes from its decision to continue selling wildlife to game parks and zoos abroad, in particular China.

4 March
Nigeria: Where’s the chief?
(The Economist) The economy shrank by 1.5% in 2016. Inflation has more than doubled to 18.7% in 12 months. The president, Muhammadu Buhari, has been away for six weeks, being treated for an undisclosed illness. The 74-year-old could hardly have become incapacitated at a worse time. But much of the blame for Nigeria’s economic troubles lies with him. His absence may give his deputy space to fix some of them, writes our Nigeria correspondent

27 February
After Mugabe: The deluge
Under Mr Mugabe, economic chaos has a constant feature of life in Zimbabwe. But it will take more than the death of a tyrant to undo his legacy.
(The Economist) Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president since 1980, hosted a lavish 93rd birthday party for himself this weekend. He plans to stand for another five-year term in 2018. Yet the struggle to succeed him has begun: his second wife, Grace, and his vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, are seen as leading contenders. Absent a designated successor, Mr Mugabe’s departure will create a vacuum which could add to his country’s woes.
How Robert Mugabe ruined Zimbabwe
Mere despotism was not enough for Robert Mugabe; daft policymaking was crucial
Zimbabwe once enjoyed an abundance of natural resources, a booming agricultural sector and a wealth of human capital, but over the past 37 years Mr Mugabe has managed to squander nearly all of it. Almost a quarter of Zimbabweans are currently in need of food assistance and 72% live in poverty. Within a generation, Mr Mugabe has turned an entire country upside down. How did he manage to wreck Zimbabwe?

22 February
Growing discontent is driving young activists, and even journalists, to run in Kenya’s next election
(Quartz) Kenya, in the words of one columnist, is “an angry nation.” Last year, David Ndii, a well-known economist also wrote a well-received piece in which he said that Kenya was “for the most part an abusive relationship. It is about time we start talking about ending it.” Six months before a decisive election, the simmering disappointment among Kenyans with the current regime is showing through street protests, social media outlets and in day-to-day conversations across the country.
In a country with a dynamic private sector and a growing economy, frustration is largely emanating from endemic corruption and the failure of public and social services. A teacher’s strike crippled learning in schools last year. For almost three months now, doctors have been striking, paralyzing health services, and leading a judge to jail the union’s leaders before being released days later. …
In truth, trying to break the grip of the moneyed political class will be a Sisyphean task. The price tag for running elections in Kenya can be quite hefty, and vote buying and bribing has risen as an issue in the past.

23 January
Germany’s ‘Marshall Plan’ for Africa
(Atlantic Council) Explicitly invoking the US aid initiative that rebuilt Western Europe’s devastated infrastructure and weakened economies after World War II as a bulwark against Communist expansionism, the German government unveiled its ambitious framework for a “Marshall Plan with Africa” (Eckpunkte für einen Marshallplan mit Afrika) on January 18 with the twin objectives of increasing trade and development on the continent and hopefully reducing mass migration flows north across the Mediterranean.
Presenting the thirty-four-page blueprint, officially entitled “Africa and Europe—A New Partnership for Development, Peace, and a Better Future” (Afrika und Europe—Neue Partnerschaft für Entwicklung, Frieden und Zukunft), Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller argued, “Africa’s fate is a challenge and an opportunity for Europe. If we do not solve the problems together, they will come to us at some point.” Müller’s sentiments echoed concerns in the International Labour Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2017 report earlier this month that estimated that number of unemployed Africans would increase by at least 1.2 million this year and warned that “failure to promote decent work opportunities also risks creating further incentive for workers to leave the region permanently” and head for Europe.
The German offer of development assistance for Africa to help deter migration is the latest such proposal since the Valletta Summit on Migration in November 2015 set up a €1.8 billion emergency trust fund to help development in African countries and encourage them to take back migrants who reached Europe.

2016

31 December
Deal finalised on peaceful political transition in DRC
Government and opposition agree that President Joseph Kabila will step down after elections are held next year.
The negotiations, launched on December 8, took place under the aegis of the influential Catholic Church, which had initially set Christmas Day as the deadline for a deal.
The draft deal was made on Friday, but the finalisation of the agreement was delayed due to new demands.
20 December
Can another civil war be avoided in DR Congo?
Political crisis looms in Democratic Republic of Congo as President Kabila clings to power despite his term ending.
8 December
The presidential race in Africa’s “beacon of democracy” is currently too tight to call
(Quartz) Keeping with the trend of previous presidential elections, observers currently consider the race between incumbent John Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo, his main opponent, too close to call. Mahama, president since 2012 after winning a tight race with just over 50% of the vote, has faced intense criticism of his tenure by the opposition. Ghana’s faltering economy on Mahama’s watch has dominated the campaign as opposition candidates accuse the incumbent of mismanaging state resources. Like many other African countries, Ghana has been hurt by falling commodity prices. This year, the economy is set to grow at its slowest rate in more than two decades.Long considered one of the most stable democracies on the continent, Ghana has a history of peaceful, fair elections. But this year might see Ghana’s normally peaceful transition tested after the leading opposition party of Akufo-Addo called on president John Mahama to concede defeat.
5 December
Africa’s long-serving strongmen are conspicuously silent on Gambia’s democratic ouster of its 22-year leader
The surprise presidential win of a real estate agent and political novice over Gambia’s leader of 22 years has the country, and many on the continent, celebrating. Gambia’s longtime leader, Yahya Jammeh, who once promised to rule for “one billion years,” conceded the presidency to Adama Barrow, after electoral officials announced results of the Dec. 1 poll last week.
Gambians took to the streets, dancing and tearing down posters of their former leader. Observers elsewhere quickly hailed the election as a win for democracy on a continent that seems to be increasingly under the sway of leaders intent on holding on to power.
18 October
Surviving Boko Haram: Kidnapped girls tell their stories
President Buhari meets 21 Chibok girls freed by Boko Haram
President vows government will fight to ensure remaining 197 girls kidnapped in Chibok will be released.
(International Business Times) Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has met 21 girls freed two years after being kidnapped by terror group Boko Haram. Earlier in October, the government announced the girls had been released by Boko Haram in negotiations brokered by Switzerland and the Red Cross.
They will be given adequate and comprehensive medical, nutritional and psychological care and support. The federal government will rehabilitate them, and ensure that their reintegration back to the society is done as quickly as possible,” the leader continued.
17 October
Nigeria: Chibok families reunited with 21 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram
For two and a half years they waited, with hopes kept alive by rumours of negotiations, an international campaign and their own deep faith.
On Sunday a group of Nigerian families were finally reunited with 21 girls released last week by Boko Haram, the Islamic militant movement.
15 October
How did Nigeria secure the 21 Chibok girls’ release from Boko Haram?
(BBC) In the early hours of Thursday morning, 21 of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls were released by their Boko Haram captors in the town of Banki close to Nigeria’s border with Cameroon
There are conflicting reports but one security official told the BBC that four Boko Haram commanders were freed as part of a swap.
The AP news agency also reported that a “handsome ransom” – in the millions of dollars – was paid by the Swiss government on behalf of the Nigerian government.
The Nigerian government has denied any prisoner swap. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said: “Absolutely, there was no exchange of any kind.” But, perhaps significantly, he did not rule out exchanges in the future, saying the government would “consider all options available”.
11 October
Probe revisits assassination that triggered Rwandan genocide
A confidential 12-page statement by a former close aide of Rwandan President Paul Kagame has sparked the reopening of a formal investigation into one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century: the assassination that triggered the Rwandan genocide.
The document, obtained by The Globe and Mail, accuses Mr. Kagame of direct involvement in the 1994 missile attack that killed former president Juvénal Habyarimana, leading to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people died.
The sworn statement has been submitted to French investigating magistrates, who have decided to reopen their probe. The decision has provoked fury from Mr. Kagame, who told military and judicial officials on Monday that he is ready for a “showdown” with France, including a freeze in diplomatic relations, if the investigation continues.
Rwanda angered by French reopening of killing investigation
19 August
Same old violent story starring same old angry leader in Zimbabwe: Don Murray
(CBC) The old, angry leader is Robert Mugabe, now not just old but immensely old. He is 92 and has run his country with an authoritarian hand since it gained independence in 1980. Immensely old and physically weakened, yet he says he will run again for president in 2018.
Economically, Zimbabwe is once again on its knees, indeed almost prostrate.
Seven years ago, faced with annual inflation running at literally 80 billion per cent and with the central bank printing trillion-dollar notes, Mugabe’s government took the amazing step of simply abolishing the national currency.
7 August
South Africa has broken the post-colonial narrative. It’s a thrilling turning point
Justice Malala
The ANC’s electoral losses after 22 years of dominance are a watershed moment for the Rainbow Nation
(The Guardian) This is a watershed moment because it means South Africa is no longer a country dominated by one party of liberation. For long, we were slowly inching towards being a proper, lively, multi-party system that holds power to account. We are now hurtling that way. It’s exhilarating.
Former ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, a businessman and former Zuma ally, summed up the ANC’s losses thus: “We need to accept the reality that there are many young people who voted for the DA. Where do these people come from? They left the ANC and why did they leave the ANC? The clever blacks have spoken… The masses are punishing us with the weapon we won for them. The vote.”
It’s been a long time coming. Since Zuma came to power in 2007, the ANC has been racked by corruption scandals, infighting and splits. Economic mismanagement has plagued the Zuma administration. The economy has taken a beating, with projections by the Reserve Bank saying that there will be zero growth this year, while ratings agencies have threatened a credit rating downgrade.
What does it mean? The post-colonial African story is replete with tales of liberation movements that have stayed in power with one leader and one party despite losing the support of the people. Zimbabwe, just to the north of us, is a painful example of such a country; Mugabe and Zanu-PF have been in power for 36 years.
South Africa has broken with that narrative. First, Zuma is the fourth president of the country since 1994. Mandela broke with the “strong man” tradition by stepping down after one term.
4 August
South Africa votes 2016
ANC Stung by Cities in Worst South Africa Election Display
(Bloomberg) South Africa’s ruling party risks losing outright control of the capital, Pretoria, and Johannesburg in its worst electoral display since apartheid ended as urban voters showed their anger over a flat-lining economy and scandals surrounding President Jacob Zuma.
Still widely credited for ending white-minority rule, the ANC now faces almost daily demonstrations over the failure of the government it leads to fulfill promises to create jobs, address poverty and improve living standards. Unemployment is at 27 percent, the central bank anticipates zero growth this year and the nation’s credit rating is at risk of being cut to junk by S&P Global Ratings in December. A succession of graft scandals implicating Zuma, 74, has also fueled dissatisfaction.
“It doesn’t seem that the ANC is doing that badly that they will feel the need to get rid of Zuma, but they will have to do a lot of soul-searching,” Melanie Verwoerd, a former ANC lawmaker and South African ambassador to Ireland, who now works as an independent political analyst, said in an interview. Guardian photo gallery
8 July
‘This Has Pushed a Button’: Killings in Kenya Ignite National Outcry
(NYT) Kenya’s police service is widely known for corruption, abuse and extrajudicial killings, an unchecked power that gets away with murder and whose brutality goes back to colonial days, when the British authorities engaged in torture, concentration camps and forced disappearances. Islamic sheikhs have been recently assassinated in suspicious circumstances, along with members of Nairobi’s street gangs.
4 July
Mohammed Adam: The public good is still ignored by African elite
The trouble with Africa today is that the political landscape is dominated by a power elite, whether military or civilian, that cares for itself and little else. There is little evidence that this attitude will change anytime soon.
(Ottawa Citizen) Whether it is politicians and their penchant for graft or the delivery of public services at a price, the common good counts for very little. The national interest used to be a shared value, but wherever you look today the rule of thumb in public life is personal gain — not public good.
The evidence is not just in the looting of state coffers, fire-sale of state assets to family and friends, countless stories about government kickbacks and inflated contracts whose proceeds end up in private pockets, but in the corruption that has seeped into the body politic. The utter disregard for the larger interests of the country and the people is so embedded in the ruling class, it may take a mass revolt to redress.
18 May
Nigeria confirms rescue of one of the kidnapped Chibok girls
The girl, Amina Ali, was found by a local vigilante group in Sambisa Forest in the northeastern state of Borno—a known base for Boko Haram operations. Her parents later confirmed her identity as one of the kidnapped girls. Amina reportedly confirmed that other girls were still in the custody of Boko Haram but that as many as six have died in captivity.
Omar al-BashirEU to Work with African Despot to Keep Refugees Out
(Spiegel) The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges relating to his alleged role in genocide and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict. Amnesty International also claims that the Sudanese secret service has tortured members of the opposition. And the United States accuses the country of providing financial support to terrorists.
Nevertheless, documents relating to the project indicate that Europe want to send cameras, scanners and servers for registering refugees to the Sudanese regime in addition to training their border police and assisting with the construction of two camps with detention rooms for migrants. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has confirmed that action plan is binding, although no concrete decisions have yet been made regarding its implementation.
13 May
Unprecedented Protests Hit One Of The World’s Most Repressive Countries
(World Post) In a place where disappearances and torture are common, brave individuals are taking to the streets.
in the past month, Gambia has seen a small but unprecedented wave of protests against President Yahya Jammeh. The nation’s leader since taking power in a 1994 coup, Jammeh governs as a harsh authoritarian who has pledged to slit the throats of gay men, claimed he can cure AIDS and vowed to rule for a billion years.
11 May
Rwanda will shine as it hosts WEF Africa, but there’s one topic that won’t come up
(Quartz) It’s impossible to discuss Rwanda in any kind of global context without mentioning its president, Paul Kagame. Widely respected across the continent by many ordinary Africans for his vision and discipline in pursuing the rebirth of a country that had been devastated by the 1994 genocide, many wish they had leaders with similar principles. In fact, until very recently his image was very similar in the West and beyond.
But in the past year, as rumors turned to speculation and later to inevitability, it became clear that Kagame would stay on beyond a previously stated second mandate. In October, the Rwandan constitution was changed—with the mandate of the people, which meant he could very well stay in power till 2034 (if he were to win multiple elections). The West, led by the United States, has spoken out against the decision to run.
But it’s unlikely this will ever come up at an event like the World Economic Forum. Few African leaders can shine on stage as Kagame does.

2015

5 key issues for Africa in 2015
Leading topics for Africa in 2015 include efforts to stop polio and malaria, innovative approaches to energy and democratic elections in 13 African countries, writes John Campbell. Continued political instability and lower oil prices are among the challenges, he writes. Council on Foreign Relations online/Africa in Transition blog (1/1)

22 October
What can one say?
Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe awarded ‘China’s Nobel peace prize’
Confucius peace prize chairman defends decision to give award to leader accused of using systematic violence and torture to maintain grip on power
(The Guardian) The chairman of an award dubbed China’s Nobel peace prize has defended the decision to honour Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, for supposedly “injecting fresh energy” into the global quest for harmony.
Mugabe, who has been accused of using systematic violence and torture to maintain his 35-year grip on power, recently became the latest recipient of China’s Confucius peace prize.
The Beijing-run Global Times newspaper said 91-year-old Mugabe had beaten off competition from candidates including the Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, and the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye.
“Ever since Robert Mugabe was sworn in as the president of Zimbabwe in the 1980s, he has worked hard to bring political and economic order to the country and to improve the welfare of the Zimbabwean people by overcoming hardship,” the prize committee argued in a statement.
The committee praised Mugabe’s stewardship of the 54-state African Union after he became its chairman earlier this year.
11 August
And another one:
Congo president sidelines Cabinet opponents to proposed third term bid; would join ‘club of five’ if he wins
Denis Sassou Nguesso drops ministers opposed to his bid to extend rule in power that would see him equal a mark set by only five African presidents
Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso announced Monday a major cabinet reshuffle that excludes two minsters who opposed a change to the constitution that would allow the long-serving head of state to run for a third term.  … Sassou Nguesso first led the Republic of Congo under a single-party system from 1979 until the introduction of multi-party politics, which culminated in elections that he lost in 1992. He returned to power in 1997 at the end of a bitter civil war, and was elected president in 2002, then again in 2009, prompting cries of fraud from his foes.
Cameroon’s Paul Biya, Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe have been in power for at least 30 years, while Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni will cross that mark in January, with a chance to extend it when elections are held.
This certainly contravenes the law of averages.
Only 10 Rwandans against Paul Kagame’s third term, says lawmakers’ report
(AFP) Rwandan lawmakers found only 10 people in nationwide consultations who opposed possible constitutional changes to allow strongman Paul Kagame a third term in power, a report said Tuesday.
Lawmakers began a national tour last month to gather opinions after both houses of parliament voted in support of constitutional change, backing a petition signed by millions of citizens.
Over 3.7 million people — over 60 percent of voters — signed the petition calling for a change to Article 101 of the constitution, which limits the president to two terms, according to Rwandan media. …
The move comes amid a wider controversy in Africa over efforts by leaders to change constitutions in order to stay in office.
Neighbouring Burundi was plunged into turmoil in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza launched his successful bid for a third term in office, a move branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.
21 July
Burundi election: Pierre Nkurunziza seeks third term amid violence
(BBC) Polling ended after a night of gunfire and explosions that claimed two lives in the capital Bujumbura.
The US State Department has joined critics saying the disputed presidential election lacks credibility and will discredit the government.
(NYT) Every major opposition party in this impoverished African nation has boycotted the election after President Pierre Nkurunziza sought a third term in defiance of international condemnation.
20 July
Nigerian President Buhari Meets Obama At White House To Talk Boko Haram, Improve Relations
(International Business Times) Buhari was also expected to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, the Associated Press reported. They’ll talk about not only Boko Haram but also political corruption, public health issues and climate change. Obama said he wants to help Buhari succeed.
Nigeria committed to good governance and fighting terror
By Muhammadu Buhari, president of Nigeria.
(WaPost) While we work to defeat the terrorists, I ask the people of Nigeria and the world for resolve and fortitude. The campaign we will wage will not be easy; it may not be swift. We should expect stages of success and also moments when it may appear that our advances have been checked. But no one should have any doubt as to the strength of our collective will or my commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace and normalcy to all affected areas.
Similarly, my determination should not be underestimated in other matters. This includes instilling good governance and tackling the scourge of corruption that has held Nigeria back for too long
4 July
A Message for Obama
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF
President Obama is visiting Africa soon, and one of the main topics of his visit will be the civil war in South Sudan. My column today is meant for him – it’s about the catastrophe unfolding in South Sudan, a country that we Americans helped midwife and have supported.
I, too, celebrated the birth of South Sudan four years ago. But as I interviewed families like the one above – this family lost a child in an attack by the South Sudan army and had its home burned – it’s just unbelievably dispiriting to see the trajectory in that country. This family has been surviving by eating water lilies and grasses in the marshes. It’s heartbreaking as a reporter to cover any mass atrocities, but doubly so when they’re committed by a government that your country helped install. The United States can do much, much more to help reach a peace deal to end the civil war. That should be on top of the Obama agenda in Africa. Read my column on South Sudan’s catastrophic slide toward mass atrocities. »
3 July
Boko Haram kills scores praying in Nigeria mosques
At least 140 people killed in Boko Haram attacks on three towns in country’s northeastern Borno State.
1 June
Rwanda places indefinite ban on BBC broadcasts over genocide documentary
Suspension of corporation’s local-language FM radio services to continue in wake of row over film questioning official accounts of the 1994 genocideThe government-appointed Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority said the BBC’s FM broadcasts in Kinyarwanda would be stopped and its report on the row would be referred to the prosecutor general.Its move follows an inquiry by Rura that urged the country’s government to take criminal action against the BBC over the film, Rwanda’s Untold Story, broadcast on BBC2 on 1 October 2014.The report said the documentary had made “a litany of claims and assertions” that “violate Rwandan law, the BBC’s own ethical guidelines and limitations to press freedom”. It also accused the film of “minimising and denying genocide”, urging the government to “initiate criminal and civil processes”.
Rwanda’s Untold Story sparked controversy by suggesting President Paul Kagame may have had a hand in shooting down his predecessor’s plane, a crash that triggered the mass killings.
It also quoted US researchers who suggested that many of the more than 800,000 Rwandans who died in the 1994 genocide may have been ethnic Hutus, and not ethnic Tutsis as the government maintains.
The growing appeal of popular uprisings in Africa
Burundi is one in a string of sub-Saharan countries where anti-government demonstrations have recently taken hold.
(Al Jazeera) Much of the indignation is linked to poor performance by long-standing leaders.
“Economics and lack of opportunity for the youth are major factors,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at the think-tank Chatham House. “Though there’s also just the issue of longevity.”
About 6.8 million people in Burundi live in poverty, based on 2011 World Bank figures.
Job creation is failing to keep pace with rampant population growth, particularly among the youth, who often resort to hawking goods in order to make ends meet.
By 2050, Africa’s billion-strong population will have more than doubled in size according to the UN. Over the same period, the International Monetary Fund projects that the working age population will triple to 1.25 billion.
Millions of teaching positions, and almost half a billion jobs, will have to be created to keep pace with that growth. Without those, young, frustrated populations will prove a major problem for failing leaders.
12 May
South African anti-foreign raids intensify human rights concerns
When the South African government called out the army in the midst of a wave of deadly attacks on foreign migrants last month, most people assumed the soldiers would be deployed to protect the foreigners.
Instead the troops – more than 300 of them – have been increasingly deployed to support late-night raids by police hunting for foreigners who lack legal documents. The result: hundreds of foreigners detained without charges and without access to lawyers. Most are vulnerable migrants from some of Africa’s poorest countries.
10 April
Ian Bremmer: These 5 Facts Explain Terrorism in Kenya
Porous borders,a bad economy and corruption have made Kenya a sitting target for al-Shabab
(TIME) Recruiting made easy — Al-Shabab translates to ‘the youth’ in Arabic, a fitting name for an organization that feeds off limited opportunities for young people in the region. According to BBC News, roughly a quarter of al-Shabab’s 7,000-9,000 forces are Kenyan. Many of them were attracted to al-Shabab’s high salaries for new recruits, which are reportedly more than $1,000. Meanwhile, the average monthly wage in Kenya is $76 ($912 annual). Some 70% of working class youth are currently unemployed.
5 April
Are the terrorists of al-Shabaab about to tear Kenya in two?
(The Guardian) Since colonial times the east African country’s north-east has been politically and economically disenfranchised. The killing of 148 people last week was part of a fresh attempt by al-Shabaab militants to exploit this inequality, copying Boko Haram’s success on the other side of the continentIn many ways Kenya is a land of stark contradictions. Its capital, Nairobi, is positively booming. Attracted by a young, well-educated and growing middle class, foreign investors have poured money into the economy, seeking to establish a foothold in what some Africa-watchers say is the country which could become “the new front door” of the continent’s economic structure …  A boom in the technology sector has seen Nairobi branded as Africa’s “silicon savannah”. Vodafone’s m-pesa payment system, which allows people to transfer money on their mobile phones, is comfortably the most successful scheme of its type in the world, with more than half of Kenyan adults using it to make payments for everything from taxis to hospital bills.Yet there is another Kenya, far away from the swanky restaurants where the upwardly mobile youth enjoy freshly roasted coffee while using high-speed wireless internet. This other Kenya is marked by grinding poverty and a lack of opportunity. (Al Jazeera) Why al-Shabab has gained foothold in Kenya — Political and economic discrimination making young men radicalised, according to truth commission’s findings.
After Nigeria’s Election, A Call For Unity
(NPR) Following a bitterly contested election, outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan offered congratulations to his successor, Muhammadu Buhari, who said, “We must begin to heal the wounds and work towards a better future. … And with that brief chat, history was made in Nigeria – the first time a sitting president has been voted out of office, let alone called up the victorious opposition challenger to say well done before official results were declared. Only Jonathan’s PDP party has governed Nigeria since it returned to multiparty democracy 16 years ago. Buhari supporters are jubilant, including Aisha Birma. But she says Goodluck Jonathan deserves their respect for being a statesman and preempting any violence.
29 March
Quartz weekend brief
As it goes to the polls today, Nigeria may superficially seem, as Western observers are so fond of saying, on the brink. The country’s 69 million voters are nearly evenly split between two bad choices. Incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan has seen the Boko Haram insurgency in the north achieve unprecedented power and levels of brutality on his watch (the Islamists may have kidnapped up to 500 women and children just this week), and his government’s corruption has shocked a populace that thought itself inured to its leaders’ pilfering. The challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, headed a brutal 20-month long military dictatorship in the 1980s which curtailed press freedom, locked up hundreds of people without trial, and had soldiers whipping civilians on the streets.
In personality, the two men are quite different. Jonathan comes across like someone with whom you might like to share a drink at a local beer parlor; Buhari, an ascetic disciplinarian, is more like the headmaster who’ll come round and confiscate the beers. On policy, it’s generally assumed that Buhari would be more effective against both Boko Haram and corruption. But with oil prices plunging (Nigeria relies on oil for 90% of its foreign reserves) and the naira dropping, whoever takes the helm will have difficult job.
As we’ve argued, however, Nigeria is a lot more resilient than it seems. And the bright spot of this election is that it is the first time an incumbent Nigerian president is in any danger of being voted out of power. Public debate is also rowdy and vibrant. The big risk of instability will be if one man is perceived to have stolen the election. The actual outcome, in some respects, matters less. Whoever wins will, after all, do only a middling job at best.—Yinka Adegoke
9 March
Soldiers From Chad And Niger Enter Nigeria, Launch Offensive Against Boko Haram
(AP via HuffPost World) The escalation in a joint military campaign against the Nigeria-based Boko Haram comes just weeks before Nigerians head to the polls for an election which many fear will turn violent, and after the militants have attacked neighboring countries who have pledged to help Nigeria defeat the extremists.
28 February
Sudan. The Other Caliphate Builder.
We have quickly discovered the truth about ISIS. But, as I mentioned here, ISIS is not alone in caliphate-building, nor are they the first Islamist group to revive the agenda and methods of the war-time Mohammed.  The Islamic Republic of Sudan has followed for decades “the prophetic model” now used by ISIS. It has committed genocidal jihad against its own people in what is now the nation of South Sudan, Darfur, Nuba Mountains, and Blue Nile State. … major gold reserves have been discovered in North Darfur. “Gold has become the new oil for Sudan.”  Gold sales earned Sudan $1.17 billion last year — with much of the gold coming from Darfur, as well as from Beja Land in eastern Sudan, another region in which the demographic modification is taking place.
13 February
Boko Haram launches first deadly attack in Chad
At least 10 people killed as Nigerian armed group steps up cross-border attacks in Chad, Cameroon and Niger
Friday’s pre-dawn attack left civilians and soldiers dead and most of the village of Ngouboua torched before the fighters were pushed back, the source told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
At least 30 attackers struck after crossing the lake from Nigeria’s Baga in large canoes and set ablaze nearly two-thirds of Ngouboua – about 20km east of the Nigerian border – where around 7,000 Nigerians have taken refuge.
Chadian military aircraft carried out airstrikes against the fighters, destroying their vessels, the security source added
Why The Coming Election Could Deepen Nigeria’s Divisions
(World Post) During his rise to the top, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan dismantled a historic power-sharing arrangement meant to bridge the country’s divisions, and his current bid for re-election could now exacerbate tensions between north and south.
His candidacy in the elections reignites a decades-old debate about the distribution of power in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria has a rich diversity of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. In the decades after Nigerian independence in 1960, some of the major groups competed for power and resources, leading to a string of military coups and a brutal civil war.
After democratic rule was restored in 1999, Nigerian politicians tried to end this instability by instituting an informal agreement to rotate the presidency between candidates from the majority-Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
This worked until 2010. That year, President Umaru Yar’Adua — a Muslim from the north — died during his first term in office, and then-Vice President Goodluck Jonathan — a Christian from the south — took over as acting president. Under the informal arrangement to alternate every two terms, a northerner should have been the next president. But to the consternation of many northern politicians, Jonathan decided to run in the 2011 elections and won the presidency. His decision to run for a second term in the 2015 elections put the nail in the coffin of the arrangement. If Jonathan wins the vote, he could end up spending nine years in office, while Yar’Adua only led the country for three years.
7 February
Nigeria Postpones Presidential Election Due to Boko Haram Insurgency
Presidential and legislative elections were supposed to be held February 14, but the government announced Saturday that they would be delayed in favor of securing control over the wide swaths of the country that have been taken over by the militant Islamist group. The presidential election is now slated for March 28, and the legislative elections for April 11.
The delay was reported by the Associated Press early Saturday and confirmed later in the afternoon in an announcement by chairman of the country’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC). Boko Haram launches its first-ever attack on Niger.
6 February
South Sudan: as top officials spotlight crisis, UN warns of ‘dramatic’ decline in food security
(UN News Center) South Sudan is on the brink of a major food insecurity crisis as millions of people remain trapped by the country’s ongoing internecine fighting, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.
“Missed crop cycles in conflict-ravaged parts of the country mean we’re now expecting household food stocks in the worst-affected counties to run out by March 2015 – much earlier than in a normal year,” said FAO Country Representative in South Sudan, Sue Lautze, in a press release today marking the UN agency’s latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report.
The report comes as a host of senior United Nations officials, including Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, along with Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker, who is the Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Back in the country for the first time in over a year, Ms. Amos said she is “extremely concerned” about the humanitarian situation. “I hope that being here, particularly with Mr. Whitaker, we can continue to give attention to what is happening to people and use that as a way of raising resources for the urgently needed humanitarian action that we need to take this year.”
3 February
‘Power-sharing formula’ vital to sustain peace in South Sudan, UN chief urges political rivals
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President, Riek Machar to put the interests of their people ahead of their own in order for peace to flourish in the war-torn country.
Mr. Ban’s call comes on the heels of press reports that the latest round of talks between President Kiir and his former deputy wrapped up over the weekend with a deal on a cease-fire between the two leaders and their respective factions, but without a broader agreement on running the world’s youngest country, which has been engulfed by war for more than a year.

30 January
Robert Mugabe assumes African Union helm with familiar rallying cry
Zimbabwe president calls on Africa to harness resources for its own ends as members urged to tackle infrastructure, climate change, conflict and Ebola
(The Guardian) The president, who has led Zimbabwe since 1980, said the focus of his tenure would be on “issues of infrastructure, value addition and benefication, agriculture and climate change in the context of Africa’s development”.
The continent’s underdeveloped roads, railways and air and sea networks, he said, were hampering efforts to improve trade, investment and tourism. “We need to continue – and perhaps redouble – our current collective efforts in this sector.
26 January
Grief and anger in Congo follow violent protests against Joseph Kabila
The nationwide unrest was sparked by a parliamentary bill seen as a ploy to extend the rule of Congo’s divisive president, Joseph Kabila. At least 42 people were killed by security forces, according to the International Federation of Human Rights, while the government put the death toll at 14 including one police officer. Panicked authorities cut off internet access for two days. The week of turmoil in sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country prompted some to draw parallels with last year’s revolution in Burkina Faso.
But by last Friday Congo’s senate appeared to bow to the protests, scrapping plans for a national census that would have made it necessary to postpone the 2016 presidential election and effectively keep Kabila in power for years. Senate president Leon Kenga Wa Dondo said: “We have listened to the street. That is why the vote today is a historic vote.”

2014

Ebola stunts progress in Sierra Leone, Liberia
Ebola is having a devastating effect on development projects in Sierra Leone and Liberia and the economies of the countries. “The impact on some activities have been simply catastrophic,” says Rocco Falconer, CEO of Planting Promise, a Sierra Leone charity. Reuters (12/30), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (12/30), The Guardian (London) (12/31)
28 December
Nigeria’s ailing economy feels effects of terror and oil prices
Nigeria is being hammered on two fronts as it heads towards general elections in February. In the face of plummeting crude oil prices, the central bank devalued the naira and the government proposed budget cuts. At the same time, Islamist militants of the Boko Haram group have stepped up attacks in their five-year insurgency, and the security forces in Africa’s top crude producer are struggling to stop them.
Northern Nigeria is faring even worse than the south. Cosmetics seller Madu Masa Fantami has witnessed a drop in business after suicide bombers killed dozens at the Monday Market in the northeastern city of Maiduguri last month.

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