Category Archives: Central Africa

Malawi – report card on Banda’s first hundred days says “good but could do better”

By Keith Somerville

If the Malawian people were to fill in a report card for the first 100 days of Joyce Banda’s presidency evidence from websites, chat shows, social networks and media coverage would suggest that the main comment would be, “Good but could still do better and needs to work on repeated absences”.
She came to power on a wave of euphoria and relief after the death in office of Bingu wa Mutharika. After a brief and rather bungled attempt by the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leaders to block her succession she was sworn in and immediately got to work entrenching her government and both mending fences with donors alientated by Mutharika and putting right some of the wrongs wrought by him at home.

On the whole she has done rather well, wooing donors back and receiving significant aid and budget support pledges, sacking the unpopular police chief, revoking harsh media laws and generally lightening what had been an increasingly heavy and oppressive hand of government. But not all has been good. Inevitably her attempts to win back financial support has involved much foreign travel and her scaling back on police powers has led to some accusations that she is soft on crime.

A rough and ready, but totally unscientific, survey has been reported by the Nyasa Times website. It said that, “Malawians are not united in thinking President Joyce Banda is as good for the country as the international community thinks she is”, citing as evidence public contributions to call-in radio shows or and comments posted on Facebook. The site quotes Rhodes Msonkho, who presents Capital Radio’s News Talk programme as saying this comment by a caller rather sums things up: “To be honest, 100 days has been prosperous, but I think the only issue which the current regime … [must] look into is the issue of security, which people are worried [about]. If I have given her percentage [out of 100] I think 75 [percent] can do”. On Facebook pages concerning Malawi contributors have also expressed doubts about personal security and rising crime levels – the latter being a possible consequence of the severe economic downturn under the last year of Mutharika’s rule. But some Malawians are worried that Banda’s scrapping of a police “shoot-to-kill” policy may have encouraged crime – notably a recent spate of armed robberies. Some have also questioned whether in the midst of an economic crisis her attention to gay rights is appropriate (though it, of course, has pleased donors critical of African states’ attitudes towards gay rights).

Despite this criticism – and one must always take care in accepting social network comments and phone-ins at face value, as they often only represent the views of a small, vocal and dissatisfied minority – Banda was upbeat when she spoke on 11th July about her achievements. She said in Lilongwe that on taking power she had to embark on “a journey to economic recovery” and that “we knew as a nation that it will not be an easy ride”. She also has set out to fight corruption – though opponents in the DPP say this has been more of a settling of scores with enemies who were involved in her expulsion from Mutharika’s party than tackling corruption. But Banda points out in her own defence that her policies – especially restoring good relations with Britain, the EU and other donors, have meant an end to massive queues for fuel, an influx of foreign exchange to buy imports and the ability to buy much-needed drugs for hospitals.
Aid unfrozen and pledges up
Banda’s main achievement has been restoring ties with Britain, Germany, the EU as a whole and the United States. Tens of millions of dollars in aid and budget have been unfrozen and Malawi’s main aid suppliers have promised about $496 million in budget support, an increase of 140 per cent from 2011, when they promised $210 million, according to the Finance Minister, Ken Lipenga. The Banda bridge-building efforts not only plugged the $121m hole in the current budget but enabled Malawi to get increased aid for the next budget year. The IMF has also restored good relations with Malawi and a three year economic support programme has been put together allowing Malawi credit worth the equivalent of $157m in IMF special drawing rights. In June, Britain released $51m to Malawi for budget support and reconstruction. Much of this money will go to the education, health and agriculture sectors. Both the African Development Bank and the World Bank are resuming programmes for Malawi stopped under Banda’s autocratic predecessor.

Media controls relaxed but opposition MPs unhappy

Domestically, Banda moved quickly to scrap Mutharika’s changes to Article 46 of the penal code which had gave the government powers to ban any news “not in the public interest.” The law gave the Information Minister the right to ban publications or broadcasts that he decided were not in the public interest. This had brought forth a howl of protest from Malawian journalists and the Committee to protect Journalists – which then welcomed Banda’s decision to repeal the changes.
While many ordinary Malawians are happy to see a crackdown on corruption in public life and on high profile civil servants (such as the Clerk of Parliament, Matilda Katopola, who is being questioned about her role in a procurement scandal that was worth K86,997 but which had been dropped as too small by the National Audit Office) the DPP has said many of the investigations are Banda’s revenge on political opponents.
But Banda herself has been criticised for her own spending in office – notably on foreign trips. The Malawi Congress Party, which has otherwise been relatively supportive, said that she has been travelling abroad too much as the taxpayers’ expense – including to Britain for the Queens’ Diamond Jubilee celebrations and then on to America. She has also been to South Africa. Banda’s response is that it was vital to improve foreign relations and restore aid.

Politically, Banda’s situation in parliament is interesting, as her small People’s Party lacks an official presence in parliament and so she did not have anything like a majority among other MPs at first. the People’s Party (PP) had few MPs and isn’t officially recognized within parliament, not having In the months following her inauguration over 80 former members of Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and 98 United Democratic Front (UDF) members (including a number of MPs) have applied to join the PP. But Malawi’s parliamentary rules prevent those elected for one party crossing the floor to another without seeking re-election. Recently, a large number of defecting DPP members re-defected to their old party when a seven day deadline was set by the Speaker of the National Assembly before he could invoke Section 65 of the parliamentary law which would have stopped them sitting as MPs for another party.
But it is believed that there are still 41 MPs who could still be affected by Section 65. The leading mabvutojobani website says that, “This kind of flip flopping by the legislators has angered many electorates who say their representatives are taking them for granted”. But mabvutojobani reported that the DPP did stage a walk-out from parliament in protest against the Speaker’s after he refusal to declare vacant 40 seats belonging to MPs who defected to the new governing People’s Party. The DPP leaders who led the walk out, including Peter Mutharika (the late president’s bother and heir apparent) is ironic as the DPP had tried to scrap Section 65 when they were in power so they could win over opposition MPs
The next elections are not due until May 2014 – so the political merry-go-round will keep spinning until then – no doubt further weakening public respect for the country’s less than principled politicians and legislators.

The Libyan Sandstorm – a story of Libyans, Gaddafi and revolution: book review

By Keith Somerville

Lindsey Hilsum, Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution

It’s all too common that when leading reporters and correspondents write their accounts of events, they become the key player, the focus of the action and their feelings, responses and interpretations become the prism through which the reader is invited to view events. One need only to think of John Simpson in his burqa and his personal liberation of Kabul to realise how the main story can be forgotten. So, it was refreshing as well as enlightening to read Lindsey Hilsum’s thorough, informative and, dare I say it, entertaining account of the Libyan revolution. This is not a whimsical or satirical account in the style of Bill Bryson or P.J. O’Rourke, it’s just that the elegance, pace and sheer quality of the writing make it not only a comprehensive account of events and, most importantly of all, of their context, but one written in a way that now again brings a wry smile to the reader’s face. A good example is when Hilsum discusses the Libyan revolution as part of the Arab Spring. She explains that “while the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Syria might be similar to each other in corruption and nepotism, and might employ the same brutal tactics…Every country was unhappy in its own way” (p. 19). Neat, concise but also incisive and avoiding the simplistic accounts you get of the Arab spring.

The book starts with the brutal, vengeful beating, sodomising and killing of Muammar Gaddafi. The account pulls no punches. The fate meted out to him was violent and hate-filled, but the writer neither descends into a stock condemnation of human rights abuses nor an apologia for the perpetrators, rather she sets out why it happened. The act is explained but not justified, as is the public display of his body. As a good journalist, Hilsum conveys atmosphere, feeling and explanation, placing Libyans at centre stage, not herself. We find out why these things happen, rather than their effect on the journalist.

The book is well-structured, moving from the death of the Brother Leader to an account of the strange, massively contradictory and bombastic nature of the man – a man who could denounce the West and all its manifestations on the one hand and, at the height of his denunciations, fund a Hollywood style film about a Libyan hero, Omar Mukhtar, in which the hero is played by Anthony Quinn. She captures his fascination but effective contempt for women but also some of the positive effects of his fascination – the allegations of his womanising are detailed but this is accompanied by a detailing of the progress women were able to achieve under his rule in terms of education and employment. The strangest of all the revelations in the chapter on his Strange World are those concerned with his crazed message to Madeleine Albright, the USecretary of State, to wear green when she’s on TV to show that she loves him or his obsession with Condoleezza Rice, who he referred to as his “African Princess”.

There follows a well-researched narrative of the rise and consolidation of the Gaddafi regime – with its rejection of parliaments, formal state structures and its interwoven system of Revolutionary Committees to both mobilise and watch over the population. Hilsum also charts the rise first of the secular and then the Islamic opposition to Gaddafi and his brutal suppression of the revolts, with first-hand accounts from witnesses of killings and of the infamous Abu Salim massacre, in which 1,270 political prisoners were killed.

From an Africanist’s point of view, the King of Kings of Africa is one of the most fascinating chapters. Again, we see the contradictory, almost schizophrenic, nature of his policies. But behind it all there is a logic and that is based on his view of the interests of his regime and his standing in Africa. He supported liberation movements in southern Africa when they most needed funds, weapons and training –for this he earned the undying gratitude of Nelson Mandela. For those bordering Libya or within what he saw as his sphere of interest in Central and West Africa, gratitude is not the word most would use for their feelings towards him – hatred, bitterness and contempt for his high-handed and mercenary policies would be nearer the mark. Here was a man who thought nothing of seizing the territory of neighbouring states (Chad), fuelling but then helping extinguish revolts by movements according to narrow self-interest and helping build up brutal killers like Foday Sankoh in Sierra Leone and Charles Taylor in Liberia, not to mention his support for Idi Amin in Uganda. Gaddafi’s manipulation of the Tuareg, of the revolt in Darfur and of movements like Polisario show the way that his self-interest perverted popular or resistance movements, undermined African governments and complicated the already tangled legacy of colonialism.
Of key interest to readers now, will be the clear, empathetic but balanced account of the rising against Gaddafi, its progress, its dynamics and the challenges that now face the Libyan people. There’s no wide-eyed excitement and optimism that with Gaddafi gone all will be golden. The splits, rivalries and fault lines of the rebel movement (if it can even be called a movement) are revealed, providing an understanding of the clashes and fracturing of alliances now taking place. What is fascinating, too, is the account of why the West intervened (with guilt over Rwanda and Srebrenica mixed with less compassionate motives) and the role of Gulf states, particularly Qatar in that intervention – with nothing held back on why those states supported intervention in the hopes of averting intervention to stop the suppression of their own popular uprisings.

This is a compelling and comprehensive account of the uprising, its context and its complexity, uncluttered by jargon or the “big I am” tendency that mars many first-hand accounts by journalists of the chapters in history they have witnessed and reported.

Lindsey Hilsum’s Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution is published by faber and faber, London, 2012. ISBN 978-0-571-28803-8

French report suggests Kagame and RPF did not kill Rwandan President in 1994

By Keith Somerville

The shooting down on the evening of 6 April 1994 not only killed President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and his Burundian counterpart, but was the trigger for the Rwandan genocide that killed ujp to 800,000 people.  A new French report suggests that the plane was downed by Hutu militants or their supporters in the army and not by current President Paul Kagame and his RPF forces..

The question of who downed the plane with a surface-to-air missile has always been a controversial one.  Conventional wisdom blamed the Hutu Power militants and their supporters in the Presidential Guard, army and Hutu militias; but Hutu politicians, the French and some highly sceptical experts, like the American Scott Straus, always believed it was Kagame and the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) who fired the missile.

The responsibility for the killing, while not in any justifying the genocide, has always been a key to understanding how and why the genocide occurred.  Those who says Kagame was responsible then posit the theory that while Hutu extremists had set an agenda of hatred of Tutsis and of Hutu politicians favouring equality rather than Hutu hegemony, it was the killing of Habyarimana that started the genocide and it had not been planned in advance.  They further argue that RPF military gains since the start of the uprising in October 1990 had scared not just Hutu leaders but ordinary Hutus, who feared an RPF victory would lead to Tutsi revenge on Hutus for years of repression.

But this theory rather flew in the face of most of the evidence that the genocide was carefully planned over a long period, that the media (especially the hateful Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines) had inculcated hatred of the Tutsi and contempt for Hutu moderates, and that a network of Hutu militants was prepared to act – the shooting down of the plane was the signal to act and the pretext for that action.  What evidence there was pointed in this direction.

Counter accusations

The French government had supported Habyarimana’s Hutu supremacist regime and sent troops of Rwanda to provide security around Kigali following the RPF invasion.  They armed and trained the Rwandan army and even gave it some command and control assistance in operations against the RPF.  After the killing of the President and the start of the genocide they did nothing to halt it or to protect civilians, despite having hundreds of troops in the country.  They then set up a safe zone for Hutus as the RPF advanced south – not ending killings of Tutsis in this zone for some time.  They, perhaps out of guilt for their role in the tragedy, accused Kagame of shooting down the plane.

In 2006, a leading French anti-terrorist judge investigated the downing of the plane and said (without conclusive evidence) that Kagame and the RPF were most likely to blame. The report had little scientific or technical evidence and was based particularly on the testimony of former RPF members who had become critics of Kagame.

This soured already bad relations between Kigalai and Paris and was criticized by many experts who believed that the weight of evidence and the speed and organized nature of the genocide suggested a planned murder followed by genocidal attacks on Tutsis using the killing as a justification and as a means to mobilize ordinary Hutus to kill their neighbours.

Now the new report. and the presentation in a French court of its findings thus far, appears to clear Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame of organizing the killing of Juvenal Habyarimana.  A team of experts interviewed six of those accused of responsibility in the 2006 French report and conducted a forensic investigation. It included missiles specialists, air accident experts, a pilot and two surveyors.  They tried to reconstruct the events of the night the plane was shot down.  They were mandated to carry out the tests by a French-established inquiry.  They were intent on establishing the trajectory of the missile which hit the presidential plane to work out from where it was fired.

The BBC reports from Paris that a French court hearing the evidence of this new team concluded that the missile was shot from  more than half a mile away from the plane, which was about to land at Kigali airport.  The area from which it is then likely to have been fired was occupied and regularly patrolled by the elite Presidential Guard, which then took a very active part in the genocide and the killing of moderate Hutu leaders.

The killings, and radio exhortations to rise up against the Tutsi, started within hours of the announcement by Radio Mille Collines of Habyarimana’s death.  The investigating team believe it would have been difficult if not impossible for Kagame or the RPF to have been in an area so closely controlled by elite Hutu forces and so sets out that that it  is much more likely that Habyarimana’s own elite forces or even French troops, who were in the area and supported the government, were responsible for firing the missile.

Not surprisingly, the report has been wlecomed by the Kagame government.  The Foreign Minister,  Louise Mushikiwabo , said, “Today’s findings constitute vindication for Rwanda’s long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994.” The Minister added that, “It is now clear to all that the downing of the plane was a coup d’état carried by extremist Hutu elements and their advisers who controlled Kanombe Barracks.”

But Jean-Yves Dupeux, a lawyer for Habyarimana’s children, said the findings did not support this version of events.  According to reuters, he said that “The findings cannot point the finger at the Hutu camp. What the experts are saying is that the shots could not have been fired from Paul Kagame’s camp. That doesn’t mean it is the other side.”  While the investigating team have not directly accused Hutus, the evidence establishes from where the missile was fired and strongly suggests Hutu militants were to blame.

While the findings appear to shift the blame to France’s allies at the time and possibly even to French forces, the Sarkozy government and its foreign ministry will not be displeased by the report.  It clears the way for a continuation of the gradual rapprochement that has been taking place in recent months and which paris is keen to see continue.  The report blaming Kagame was always and obstancle to that improvement in relations.

One could be cynical and say that the new report is diplomatically convenient and therefore suspect.  However, it seems much more thorough than the 2006 and fits the known facts surrounding the killing and the subsequent genocide far better.  What the investigating team now has to work on is who did fire the missile.

By Keith Somerville

The shooting down on the evening of 6 April 1994 not only killed President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and his Burundian counterpart, but was the trigger for the Rwandan genocide that killed ujp to 800,000 people.  A new French report suggests that the plane was downed by Hutu militants or their supporters in the army and not b y current President Paul Kagame and his RPF forces..

The question of who downed the plane with a surface-to-air missile has always been a controversial one.  Conventional wisdom blamed the Hutu Power militants and their supporters in the Presidential Guard, army and Hutu militias; but Hutu politicians, the French and some highly sceptical experts, like the American Scott Straus, always believed it was Kagame and the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) who fired the missile.

The responsibility for the killing, while not in any justifying the genocide, has always been a key to understanding how and why the genocide occurred.  Those who says Kagame was responsible then posit the theory that while Hutu extremists had set an agenda of hatred of Tutsis and of Hutu politicians favouring equality rather than Hutu hegemony, it was the killing of Habyarimana that started the genocide and it had not been planned in advance.  They further argue that RPF military gains since the start of the uprising in October 1990 had scared not just Hutu leaders but ordinary Hutus, who feared an RPF victory would lead to Tutsi revenge on Hutus for years of repression.

But this theory rather flew in the face of most of the evidence that the genocide was carefully planned over a long period, that the media (especially the hateful Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines) had inculcated hatred of the Tutsi and contempt for Hutu moderates, and that a network of Hutu militants was prepared to act – the shooting down of the plane was the signal to act and the pretext for that action.  What evidence there was pointed in this direction.

Counter accusations

The French government had supported Habyarimana’s Hutu supremacist regime and sent troops of Rwanda to provide security around Kigali following the RPF invasion.  They armed and trained the Rwandan army and even gave it some command and control assistance in operations against the RPF.  After the killing of the President and the start of the genocide they did nothing to halt it or to protect civilians, despite having hundreds of troops in the country.  They then set up a safe zone for Hutus as the RPF advanced south – not ending killings of Tutsis in this zone for some time.  They, perhaps out of guilt for their role in the tragedy, accused Kagame of shooting down the plane.

In 2006, a leading French anti-terrorist judge investigated the downing of the plane and said (without conclusive evidence) that Kagame and the RPF were most likely to blame. The report had little scientific or technical evidence and was based particularly on the testimony of former RPF members who had become critics of Kagame.

This soured already bad relations between Kigalai and Paris and was criticized by many experts who believed that the weight of evidence and the speed and organized nature of the genocide suggested a planned murder followed by genocidal attacks on Tutsis using the killing as a justification and as a means to mobilize ordinary Hutus to kill their neighbours.

Now the new report. and the presentation in a French court of its findings thus far, appears to clear Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame of organizing the killing of Juvenal Habyarimana.  A team of experts interviewed six of those accused of responsibility in the 2006 French report and conducted a forensic investigation. It included missiles specialists, air accident experts, a pilot and two surveyors.  They tried to reconstruct the events of the night the plane was shot down.  They were mandated to carry out the tests by a French-established inquiry.  They were intent on establishing the trajectory of the missile which hit the presidential plane to work out from where it was fired.

The BBC reports from Paris that a French court hearing the evidence of this new team concluded that the missile was shot from  more than half a mile away from the plane, which was about to land at Kigali airport.  The area from which it is then likely to have been fired was occupied and regularly patrolled by the elite Presidential Guard, which then took a very active part in the genocide and the killing of moderate Hutu leaders.

The killings, and radio exhortations to rise up against the Tutsi, started within hours of the announcement by Radio Mille Collines of Habyarimana’s death.  The investigating team believe it would have been difficult if not impossible for Kagame or the RPF to have been in an area so closely controlled by elite Hutu forces and so sets out that that it  is much more likely that Habyarimana’s own elite forces or even French troops, who were in the area and supported the government, were responsible for firing the missile.

Not surprisingly, the report has been wlecomed by the Kagame government.  The Foreign Minister,  Louise Mushikiwabo , said, “Today’s findings constitute vindication for Rwanda’s long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994.”

While it appears to shift the blame to France’s allies at the time and possibly even to French forces, the Sarkozy government and its foreign ministry will not be displeased by the report.  It clears the way for a continuation of the gradual rapprochement that has been taking place in recent months and which paris is keen to see continue.  The report blaming Kagame was always and obstancle to that improvement in relations.

One could be cynical and say that the new report is diplomatically convenient and therefore suspect.  However, it seems much more thorough than the 2006 and fits the known facts surrounding the killing and the subsequent genocide far better.  What the investigating team now has to work on is who did fire the missile.

Africa 2012: A year of opportunities and threats

Keith Somerville

A week into 2012 is a good point at which to stop and consider what the year is likely to hold for Africa, with of course the caveat that what holds for one state or region does not automatically hold for another state or region.

The continuing political evolution in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia may encourage popular movements in other north or sub-Saharan states, as people bereft of control over their futures and with detatched, distant, unresponsive and often rapacious governments decide that they too can bring about change.  Though as is developing in Egypt, that change may not be what protestors thought they had brought about or is more long-drawn out and violent than they hoped at the start of their “spring”.

In 1989 and the early 1990s, there was, to steal from Harold Macmillan, a new wind of change blowing through Africa – brought about b y many factors including the end of the cold war, the withdrawal of aid from socialist or western countries or the loss of strategic salience for some areas, and also a result of a slow build-up of anger among populations at the excesses and inadequacies of their leaders.

The results of that wave of change in Africa were patchy.  The USA and EU, often using aid or the threat of its withdrawal as a lever, sought above all else to encourage free market economic reforms and the holding of Western-style elections on timetables that were unrealistic and favoured incumbents who still had their hands on the levers of power.  President Omar Bongo of Gabon said in 1990 that the ‘wind from the east is shaking the coconut trees’.  He bent with the wind a little and survived with his auocratic rule intact – it is is still intact following his detah with his son in power and able to ensure victory in elections through his entrenched power, control of key media and immense powers of patronage.

But in other areas of Africa more change continues – Ghana holds regular, fiercely contested but generally fair and trusted elections.  Senegal is approaching elections with the prospect of a serious and popular challenge to President Wade.  Zambia saw elections in which a fierce critic of corruption, Michael Sata, came to power and set about rotting out corruption and challenging some of the excesses of Africa’s new best friend, China, in its unbalanced relations with African partners.

Effective political processes like those are needed rather than what we’ve seen in recent months in DR Congo, Cameroon and other states, where the popular will is not seriously reflected through votes – either through outright fraud or use of state power, wealth and political clientism to ensure the victory of the sitting leader.

There will be crucial elections, though, this year elsewhere in Africa.  Kenya‘s, due in December, could be key to the country’s ability to escape from political corruption, cronyism and the use of communal violence for political ends.  The last vote there, in 2007, was not fair and EU and other observers found that Kibaki’s victory was not a true reflection of the voting.  Violence on a huge scale followed the annoucement of the “results” and the indecently fast swearing-in of Kibaki.

Much of the evidence available from commissions of inquiry (Wako and Krielger) and from human rights groups shows that elements on the governing PNU side and in the opposition ODM, had no great faith in elections to ensure their access to power and had planned violence prior to the announcement of the result.  groups within the ODM had plans in place to make areas of Kenya ungovernable if Raila Odinga did not win.  PNU leaders had co-opted the Mungiki gang/sect on to their side and were ready for violence.  The police and security forces were used initially to crush with extreme violence the first demonstrations by ODM supporters.

What followed was political gangsterism that took on the appearance of ethnic violence, as pro-ODM Kalenjin in the Rift attacked Kikuyu and Kisii, and Kikuyu attacked Luo and carried out revenge raids against Kalenjin.  This was violence led by politicians greedy for power and the wealth that flows from it at all costs – it was not, as it was too often depicted in the Western media, an ethnic war fueled by long-held, primeval “tribal” hatred.

Six key figures accused of fomenting that violence (three from the PNU headed by Uhuru Kenyatta) and three from the old ODM alliance (chief among them William Ruto) will hear within three weeks whether they are to be tried.  The six are charged with a number of crimes including murder, forcible transfer (effectively ethnic cleansing), persecution and rape.  None are personally acussed of committing these crimes but of planning and implementing violent political cmpaigns using these crimes as instruments. They all deny the charges.

The ICC cases will have a huge effect on Kenyan politics.  Ruto and Kenyatta both intend to run for the presidency in 2012.  If they are on trial in the Hague they can hardly campaign strenuously or hold together coalitions of diverse groups and interests.  Their influence over Kenyan politics will be considerably reduced during the key election year and they may be taken out of the equation altogether.  Some feel this will lay the field open for Raila Odinga to beat whoever becomes the candidate for the Kibaki camp – as Kibaki cannot stand for another term.

Much will depend on whether Kenyatta and Ruto can exert influence and patronage from afar, what sort of alliances among individuals and communities emerge.  Manoeuvring is already underway, with the key Masaai leader William Ole Ntimama, throwing his weight (initially and possibly for tactical/bargaining reasons), behind a leading Masaai figure, Education Permanent Secretary James ole Kiyiapi.  He has standing among his community but hardly the stature of an Odinga, Musyoka or Kenyatta.

Personalities and the ability of rich and powerful individuals to put together strong but short-term coalitions have been at the heart of Kenyan election politics.  The ICC trials could break this mould or at least change the balance of power to weaken the power of individuals who have dominated the political scene for decades.  It is unrealistic to hope that the light the ICC could shed on the role power, wealth, corruption and violence in Kenyan politics will lead to permanent change on its own, but it is an opportunity for Kenyans to seize the initiative from the rich and powerful few who have used government as their personal playground since independence.

In South Africa, there is not a national election but there will be conferences and internal ANC elections that are just as important. The ANC holds a major policy conference in June, followed by its five-yearly elective congress in December.  The latter conference will choose the ANC’s leadership for the next five years and decide who runs for president on behalf of the movement in April 2014.

This year will see an intensification of the battle for the leadership and the soul of the ANC.  President Jacob Zuma – himself gaining power after a bitter fight with incumbent Thabo Mbeki in which dirty tactics and party factionalism were used by each to undermine the other – is fighting for his political life.  Always on the backfoot as a president personally because of the rape trial and corruption investigations, he rapidly came into conflict with his important support base in the Youth League as the league’s loose cannon, Julius Malema, tried to carve out  his own power base.  When Zuma tried to keep him in order they became bitter enemies with Malema repteadly embarrassing the government domestically and internationally and mocking Zuma personally.

Malema is still fighting to overturn his suspension from thr party and showed there is residual support for him, when he was elected to the ANC  provincial executive committee in Limpopo province.  He is unlikely to lie down and be quiet in such a key year for the ANC.  The question  is whether he can still command populist support and win g blocks of votes in the leadership contest, as his stature and credibility have been damaged.

Malema and his supporters in the Youth League are likely to fight Zuma tooth and nail and appear to favour the candidacy of  Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.  Motlanthe is a likely alternative to Zuma but doesn’t seem to want at this stage an open fight with Zuma, mirroring the one at the ANC Polokwane leadership election conference at which Zuma outflanked Mbeki with support from the Youth League.

An interesting political figure in the leadership struggle is Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.  He is an  astute politician with a history of leadership in the Johannesburg townships, authority and respect within the ANC, and  experience as a successful businessman.  He was critical of the ANC over the Malema affair and called on the movement not to use disciplinary measures to settle political scores.  He could use his position to act as a peacemaker and kingmaker or could even emerge as an acceptable alternative to Zuma and Motlanthe.

However the factionalism and personality struggle pan out, it will be a fascinating but vital year from South Africa and the ANC.

Somalia is facing a tough year with the conflict between the transitional government and al Shabab now involving not just an AU force but also the Kenyan incursion (seemingly bogged down in the south and lacking a clear objective) and Ethiopian forces in the Ogaden.  As Mary Harper makes clear in her forthcoming book, foreign intervention and foreign-spawned peace conferences and artificial government have not solved but have usually exacerbated and prolonged conflict in Somalia.  It is time to leave Somalia to Somalis.  Developments in Somaliland suggest this can lead to innovative and positive progress.

Nigeria enters the year saddened and split by the growing violence in the north-east and repercussions at Christmas represented by the bloody attacks on churches in Abuja.  President Goodwill Jonathan declared a state of emergency, put tanks and troops in the street in areas of north-east Nigeria and threatened to crush to  the Islamist Boko Haram movement.

Amid what appears on the surface to be a Christian-Muslim split threatening a virtual civil war, there are complex social, communal and economic factors at play – as demonstrated by the widespread protests against the withdrawal of fuel subsidies, which threatened to get rolled into the whole Boko Haram conflict when protests took place in early January 2012 in Kano.

Boko Haram is a militant Islamist group formed in 2002.  It has carried out a series of attacks against both Muslim and Christian targets (as well as the military and police) in north-east Nigeria; starting in the town of Maiduguri, which has a history of violence by Muslim splinter groups dating back to the Maitatsine riots in the mid-1980s.  The attacks and bombings of churches have caused havoc and widespread fear in Nigeria, leading to Christians pledging to defend their churches and fellow-believers.

Boko Haram says its aim is to  overthrow the government and set up an Islamic state.  It is critical of what could be termed moderate Islamic leaders and politicians from the mainly-Muslim north, who it sees as too willing to compromise and to cexist with Nigeria’s Christians and secular system.  It has fed on poverty, resentment at the failure of successive governments to deliver basic services and it has used northern  and Muslim resentment or alienation at being ruled by a Christian southerner to generate support.  Some analysts have suggested that major Muslim politicians in the north, including former military officers, publicly condemn the group but have contacts with it and are not unhappy to see it undermine the current government.  It is not clear from where the movement gets its weapons and explosives.

Boko Haram proclaims an interpretation of Islam which makes it haram, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society or Christianity.  Prohibitions include voting in elections, receiving secular education and dressing in a Western style.  According to the BBC’s Farouk Chothia, Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president.

The movement’s full name is is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, meaning “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.  It was formed by charismatic Islamic cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed in Maiduguri in 2002.  Coming into conflict with successive governments, the movement carried out a major attack on Maiduguri’s main police station in 2009 – hundreds were killed in the clash.  Mohammed Yusuf was captured and died while in police custody – giving him martyr status among his followers.  Attacks by the movement had esclated since then in Maiduguri, Damaturu and then most sensationally in the Christmas Day bombings in Abuja.

President Jonathan and the security forces are committed to destroying the movement, though whether the army is totally unified in this remains to be seen.  The government has to tread a very careful line in its fight – avoiding a crusading Christian approach and ensuring that this does not become a war against the north-east or against Muslims.  He may not be helped by a US congressional report identifying Boko Haram as a potential threat to US interests. The last thing Nigeria needs is to be dragged into the American war on terror in a US election year.

Overall, Africa as a whole and not just Nigeria needs a year where it is allowed to deal with its own problems in its ways rather than by being roped into US or other external campaigns or plans.    External intervention – of whatever kind short of humanitarian aid in emergencies – in Egypt’s political evolution, the conflict in Nigeria or muddled, uninformed and ill-intentioned interference in Somalia will not be in the interests of those states, Africa or international relations.  The only exception I would make is the ICC process relating to the Kenyan post-election violence.  The inability of the Kenyan political or judicial system to seriously undermine the impunity of leading politicians means that the ICC could help bring about change in this vital area.

France refuses to extradite Habyarimana’s widow to Rwanda

Keith Somerville

A French court’s decision to reject Rwanda’s request for the exradition to their country of Agathe Habyarimana could undo the progress achieved during the Rwandan President’s recent visit to France.  Mrs Habyarimana, the widow of President Juvenal Habyarimana, had an international warrant issued for her arrest and extradition on charges relating to the 1994 genocide.

She was arrested in France in March 2010 following the issuing of the warrant but has not been held in custody for all that time. The court said there were inufficient grounds for extradition.

This decision, though not one of the French government but of the independent judiciary, will not please the Rwandans.  After President Paul Kagame’s visit to France in mid-September and his meeting with President Sarkozy, the frosty relations between the two had begun to thaw.

The Rwandan President will be angry that someone believed by him and his party, and by many experts on the genocide, to have been a prime mover in the attempts to exterminate the Tutsi population will not stand trial.   A number of those accused have been tried and found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sitting in Arusha and many thousands have been tried by the Gacaca courts in rwanda itself, but a many of the leaders of the genocide have either disappeared or evaded trial.

The little house

The finger has been pointed at Agathe Habyarimana ever since the genocide because of her role as the head of the group know as akazu or Little House – a clan-based group of Rwandan Hutus from the north of the country who were at the heart of planning and ordering the genocide.  The akazu was seen as beingone of the driving forces of the Hutu Power  movement, which acted immediately on Habyarimana’s death to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus – such as Prime Minister Agathe Uwiligiyimana,  and other government leaders seen as being soft on the Tutsis, who were killed in the first days of the genocide.  Mr Habyarimana has always denied being involved.

Utilizing the Presidential Guard, the gendarmerie, army and Hutu militias such as the Interahamwe, the Hutu Power movement moblized tens of thousands of Hutu to slaughter their Tutsi neighbours and fellow Hutus suspected of being sympathetic to opponents of the movement.  An estimated 800,000 people were killed in the three months after Habyarimana’s death.

There are also suspicions that Hutu extremists were behind the shooting down of the president’s plane – killing him as they thought he was too willing to compromise with Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front and domestic opposition parties, and in order to provide a pretext for the genocide.

Many of those at the forefront of planning and coordinating the genocide, such as Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza and Ferdinand Nahimana, were close associates of Agathe Habyarimana and her brothers, who were at the core of the akazu and the Huth Power movement. They were also instrumental in the creation of the hate radio station, Radio-Television Libre des Milles Collines, which played a major role in justifying and mobilizing people to take part in the genocide.

The current Rwandan government has in the past accused France of assisting the genocide and of helping the leaders of it to escape. For its part, the French have accused Kagame of ordering the shooting down of Habyarimana’s plane, saying this event sparked the genocide.

French forces flew Mrs Habyarimana out of Rwanda shortly after the killings began. She was able to get a Gabonese passport and she has lived in France for most of the time since 1994.

‘King Cobra’ warns China to respect Zambia’s laws

Mail and Guardian

Zambia’s newly-elected President Michael Sata has warned Chinese investors to respect the country’s labour laws.

“Your investment should benefit Zambia and your people need to adhere to local laws,” Sata told Chinese ambassador Zhou Yuxiao, who paid a visit to the new president at State House on Monday.

“If they adhere to local laws, there will be no need to point fingers at each other,” Sata said.

Sata, who was elected last week, is known for his tough stand against the influx of Chinese investment into the country, particularly in the mining sector, which he says does not benefit the locals.

China has invested an estimated $6.1-billion into the southern African nation since 2007, equivalent to more than one third of gross domestic product last year.

Sata told Zhou that China had been instrumental in developing Zambia during the relationship between the two countries that began in the 1960s.

“Through the visit of President [Hu] Jintao we were given two gifts, and that is a stadium in Ndola and the hospital in Lusaka,” Sata said.

Chinese banks and markets have opened on Lusaka’s streets, but poor Zambians accuse Chinese companies of importing their own workers and mistreating the locals they do employ.

In 2010, two Chinese mine managers were charged with attempted murder for shooting at 11 Zambian workers who protested about poor pay and work conditions.

http://mg.co.za/article/2011-09-26-king-cobra-warns-china-to-respect-zambias-labour-laws

Banda ahead of Sata in close Zambian election race

Keith
Somerville

 

A survey released ahead of the voting in Zambia’s presidential election
on 20 September shows incumbent Rupiah Banda just three points ahead
of his main challenger, Michael Sata.

 

President Banda, who took power after the death of his predecessor, Levy
Mwanawasa, in 2008, is banking on the positive effect high world copper prices have had on the country’s economic health over the last three years.  This has led to a boom, though not it has to be said to any great improvements for the poverty-stricken majority.  But there has been a surge in foreign investment in the mining sector and the expansion of output and employment at existing mines.

 

The opposition parties – notably Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) and the smaller United Party for National Development (UNDP) – have been demanding an election for some time.  Banda and his Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) hesitated but at the end of the July announced the elections.  Banda told the nation in  a radio address at the end of the month that the Electoral Commission had everything
in place and voting could go ahead.   But the centre for Policy Dialogue, an independent political research group, puts Banda 3% ahead of his main rival with 41% support.

 Sata’s challenge

Michael Sata is running again Banda for the second time. In 2008, following
the early demise of Mwanawasa, the fiery and outspoken PF leader hoped to at last gain power after 17 years of campaigning since the end of the one-party state.  An early member of the MMD, having been Governor of Lusaka province under Kenneth Kaunda’s one party rule, Sata failed to become MMD presidential candidate in 2001 when incumbent president Fred Chiluba nominated Mwanawasa to succeed him.
He left the MMD and then set up the Patriotic Front to campaign against the governing party.

 

Sata is a populist with an abrasive but often inspiring rhetorical style. He tried in August to get the courts to rule that Banda could not stand for election.  Sata’s Patriotic Front tried to use the Zambian parentage clause in the country’s constitution to say that Banda was in fact Malawian and so not eleigible to stand.    In a an application to the courts, Sata claimed that Rupiah Banda’s father was born in  Malawi, which would disqualify him on the grounds that the constitution lays down that both parents of a presidential candidate must be Zambian citizens by birth or descent.

 

Banda’s own party said the bid by Sata was indicative of the weakness of his policies and his challenge.  The party national secretary Richard Kachingwe was quoted by the BBC as saying, “The court action was malicious”.

The parentage clause was introdued by President Fred Chiluba in 1996. It was seen at the time as an attempt by Chiluba (elected president in 1991 when he defeated long-time presdient Kenneth Kaunda) to prevent Kaunda, who was of Malawiandescent, standing in that year’s elections. Chiluba had swept to
power in 1991 on a wave of enthusiasm for democracy but his government was soon mired in accusations of corruption.  The constitutional change was seen as a way of preventing the still-popular Kaunda from mounting a successful challenge.

 

Many in Zambia see Sata’s bid as a gamble following the failure of his attempt to build a coalition with the UPND – the two parties had teamed up earlier this year but had split when Sata insisted he had (for the third time in a row) to be the presidential candidate.

 

Sata has a harder task than ever this year.  The healthy state of the mining sector and copper prices mean that Banda can boast of improving the economy and bringing in foreign investment.  Sata has always been highly critical, not without cause, of the role of the ever more economically powerful Chinese in Zambia’s economy.  China has been an economic partner since Kaunda’s time but in recent years massive
investments have brought China’s entrepreneurs huge business power but also controversy.  

In April this year  two Chinese mine bosses had charges of attempted murder against dropped by the government.  They had been charged b y the police with shooting into a crowd of demonstrating mineworkers. 

Chinese investment in Zambia, particularly in the previously troubled mining sector, now amount to over $400m.  But Zamb ian workers and their strong unions (£250m) in the copper-rich cou have accused Chinese businessman and bosses of abuses of power and say they pay low wages, keeping workers in poverty.

The two Chinese mine bosses, had fired on their employees at a
mine in Sinazongwe in southern Zambia to break up a protest, according to the  police.  Eleven workers were injured during the protests.

Chinese economic influence and their reputation as exploitative employers is a card Sata can play, but it is risky. If he were elected, which seems unlikely on past performance and current surveys, he would then have to deal with those he has been vehemently critcizing in order maintain the smooth working of the all important mining sector.

 

So, with his coalition in tatters and the economy booming, a gambling man
would most likely put his stake on Banda this time.  he is 41% to 38% up in the polls – exactly the winning margin he had in 2008 – a good omen for him but disappointing again for Sata.