I’ll be in Botswana for a couple of weeks so don’t expect many posts between now and 6th July. KS
It was whispered in the corridors of the Sandton Convention Centre, muttered under his breath by a former president and referred to (jokingly?) by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. However, at this week’s African Union (AU) Summit, the third-term bids by Africa’s presidents – one of the major threats to stability on the continent – remained the elephant in the room.
The 25th AU Summit, which ended in Johannesburg earlier this week, was overshadowed by the debacle around Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the failure of South Africa to carry out an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court. Al-Bashir – who incidentally has been in power for 26 years – flew back to his country on Monday 15 June.
In the run-up to the summit, observers and analysts said a strong statement by AU leaders about limiting presidential terms in Africa could go a long way to avert political instability on the continent. In countries like Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo and Rwanda, the uncertainty around term limits, and the determination by opposition and civil society to fight against third terms, have become cause for concern.
Third-term bids remain the elephant in the room
Speculation around possible action by AU leaders came after the tabling of such a resolution during a summit meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Ghana last month. The proposal was shot down, reportedly by the leaders of Togo and the Gambia, but the fact that it was tabled indicated that this is not just a pipe dream.
Expectations that a decision would emerge from the Johannesburg summit were also raised when a number of leaders, including South African President, Jacob Zuma, and AU Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, spoke out strongly about the issue of Burundi’s presidential term limits. Burundi has been plunged into violence due to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to run for a third term, having served as president from 2005 – 2010 and again from 2010 – 2015.
The current situation in Burundi was high on the agenda of the 15-member AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) that met at the heads-of-state level on 13 June, on the eve of the AU Assembly.
As delegates waited for the meeting, Burundi’s former president Pierre Buyoya, currently the AU Special Representative for Mali, was asked what he thought about the third-term bid and almost inaudibly said: ‘I don’t agree with this business’. He added that he has a responsibility to speak out as one of the signatories of the Arusha agreement, which put an end to his presidency in 2003. ‘If we carry on like this, we will return to civil war,’ he warned ominously. But Buyoya was not on the podium to speak, and other leaders at the gathering didn’t hear his warning.
It is not, however, as if the AU hasn’t tried to avert a crisis in Burundi. The AU and the PSC have been lauded for their strong stance on Burundi and insist on the role of the AU as a guarantor of the Arusha Agreement, which clearly limits presidential terms in Burundi to two. At the meeting on 13 June, the PSC refrained from speaking about the term limits, but called for agreement amongst role-players in the country.
African leaders need to speak out decisively against third-term bids
In its statement following the meeting, the PSC called for the discussions to focus on ‘the measures to be taken to create conditions conducive to the organisation of free, fair, transparent and credible elections’ as well as ‘on all the matters on which they disagree’. Still no mention of term limits. However, in his press conference on the last day of the summit, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smaïl Chergui, said the discussions in Burundi should include ‘everything’, including freedom of expression, human rights ‘and the presidential third-term bid’. So someone did say it.
The PSC communiqué also calls for human rights observers, as well as military experts, to be sent to Burundi to oversee the disarming of militias and to ensure free and fair elections. The ink was not yet dry on the PSC’s statement when the Nkurunziza government rejected these calls saying it has its own observers and its security forces are more than capable of ensuring the safety of citizens during elections. According to a statement, quoted by Radio France International, the government said the dates for the elections, 29 June for legislative elections and 15 July for presidential polls, are non-negotiable.
Clearly, the government in Burundi is hell-bent on defying the AU in the name of sovereignty. The ball is now in the court of the mediators – and there are many. According to the PSC communiqué the AU, the United Nations, the East African Community and the Intergovernmental Conference on the Great Lakes Region, will oversee the talks.
The inability of the AU to stop the president of Burundi’s third-term bid doesn’t augur well for its role in other potential crises. David Zounmenou, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, warned earlier that civil disobedience against third-term bids could be one of the key reasons for instability on the continent in the next few months. ‘African leaders need to speak out decisively against third-term bids because of the threat of instability,’ he told a briefing in the run-up to the summit. ‘If they don’t do that, citizens will take the law in their own hands.’
Zounmenou says the AU has normative frameworks, such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which can promote good governance and the respect for constitutions on the continent. This charter is now being used by the PSC in its statement calling for free and fair elections in Burundi.
No AU decision is going to change Burundi’s current crisis anytime soon
Zounmenou said the situation in Burkina Faso at the end of 2014 is a clear manifestation of what can happen when leaders cling to power. Former president Blaise Compaoré was ousted by street protests after he tried to change the constitution to extend his term limit. The AU has been involved in the transition in Burkina Faso, and a meeting of the international contact group on Burkina Faso took place on the margins of the summit. International partners and Burkina Faso’s neighbours have criticised a law barring members of the former ruling party – who supported Compaore’s third-term bid – of running for elections in October.
Ruling parties elsewhere on the continent who are supporting third-term bids by their presidents, in places like the DRC and the Republic of Congo, will certainly be watching the process in Burkina Faso closely. In Rwanda, supporters of President Paul Kagame have also been gathering signatures to campaign for a third term for Kagame, who did not attend the Johannesburg summit, and who has been in power since 2000.
Apart from the talk in the corridors, and the very brief reference to Burundi’s third-term conundrum by Chergui, the only other official reference to the debate came from Mugabe, the current AU Chairperson.
During his opening address, Mugabe made a point of rejecting presidential term limits – another idea imposed by outsiders that will be ‘a yoke around our necks’. ‘In Europe they don’t have two terms, so if people want you to stay on, why not?’ The 91-year old Zimbabwean president, however, then admonished his fellow African leaders who ’cause fights’ by saying ‘my first term doesn’t count’, a clear reference to Nkurunziza.
‘Let us learn to be brotherly and principled and refuse to cause trouble for our people,’ Mugabe concluded. In Burundi, regrettably, there is already trouble, and no AU decision is going to change that soon.
Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant
ANC, DA slam EFF outbursts in Parliament
Parliament beats Jerry Springer hands down
Cape Town – We are determined and unbowed!
This was the message from the Economic Freedom Fighters after another disruption in Parliament on Thursday.
After Parliament was hastily adjourned amid the chaos, EFF leader Julius Malema said the party’s members of Parliament were not afraid of the consequences of their behaviour.
“We are scared of nothing. We have been punished for the principles that we stand for, so we are no longer afraid. We are fighting to protect our Constitution. We fight for the office of the Public Protector. If we give up on Nkandla and let the issue die, bury us with the office of the Public Protector[ Thuli Madonsela].”
Malema also equated the party’s hammering on of the Nkandla issue to the struggle against apartheid.
“It doesn’t matter if people say that we sound like a stuck record. People spoke about apartheid from 1948 until the system fell in 1991 because they were determined. We are determined.”
He said the EFF would not allow the Constitution to be stomped on right under their noses.
ANC chief whip Stone Sizani said Parliament’s structures should be used against the EFF MPs who disrupted Thursday sitting.
The ANC was ensuring that Parliament was being paralysed, said Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota after the speaker suspended the session.
He said his party was “shocked by the stupidity of the ANC on the Nkandla saga”.
“The more ANC MPs plot to protect the morally defective President about the scandalous spending at his private residence, the more damage they do to their own integrity and the state of Parliament,” Lekota said in a statement.
Before the session was adjourned, Lekota stood next to Zuma and looked as though he was pleading with him. Also in his statement Lekota said the ruling party had abused parliamentary rules and violated international protocol.
“This has made a mockery of the proud and dignified Parliament of Nelson Mandela. If the president upheld the law, obeyed the Constitution and maintained high moral standards, others would do so too.”
Amidst claims by Nigerian security agencies that they are being underfunded, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today that a total N4.62trillion has been allocated to the federal security sector in the past five years.
How this huge sum was spent however remains unclear as there is no reliable performance report by the security agencies.
Year after year, the security sector continues to gulp the highest chunk of the country’s expenditures.
In the 2015 budget for instance, N934billion was allocated for the security sector, the highest for the year.
The figures for 2011 and 2012 were N920billion and N924billion respectively while N923billion each was thrown at the sector in 2013 and 2014.
Yet, Nigeria continues to face attacks from the extremist Boko Haram group, whose activities have claimed over 11,000 lives in last five years.
Kidnappings, crude oil theft, armed robbery and other sundry crimes are also widespread across the country.
The heads of the country’s security agencies have repeatedly claimed allocations to the sector were insufficient to equip the armed forces and make them operationally efficient to deliver on their mandates.
Within the period under review (2011- 2015), the Office of the National Security Adviser got a capital allocation of N240billion while the Defence Ministry got N206billion making the capital allocations to the Office of the National Security Adviser higher than that allocated to the entire Defence Ministry, which includes the Army, Navy and Airforce.
In recent years, the Ministry of Defence has refused to make its spending public, making it difficult to track the nation’s investment on the military and allied agencies.
Anti-corruption activists believe the practice of concealing security spending is antithetical to probity and accountability.
“The absence of disclosure, backed by law and practice effectively makes the security sector the most prone to contract inflation and ineffective service delivery,” said Seember Nyager, executive director of Public and Private Development Centre.
“The high risk and probability of contract inflation in itself fuels the (Boko Haram) insurgency because no amount of resources would ever be sufficient to contain a system with unchecked leaks.”
The Lead Partner at BudgIT, a transparency advocacy group, Oluseun Onigbinde, added, “It is very important to request accountability into these funds as Nigeria will need to ensure that process of arms acquisition which is grossly hidden does not lead to opportunity by public officials to acquire illicit wealth.”
The infographics below presents a detailed overview of Nigeria’s budgetary allocation to the security sector in the past five years.
Pro-government militias withdrew from a flashpoint town in northern Mali on Friday, removing a key obstacle to a long-delayed U.N.-backed peace deal due to be signed this weekend.
Mali’s turbulent desert north is home to secular armed groups who have been battling each other for control of the strategic town of Menaka for the past two months.
Western powers are hoping Saturday’s peace deal will help focus resources on fighting Islamist militants who are profiting from the chaos to launch attacks on U.N. and Malian targets.
In a sign of the security challenges, unidentified men on motorbikes attacked a U.N. convoy near the town of Gao, security sources said. Nobody was killed in the attack, they added.
Al Qaeda-linked fighters, who briefly held the north until a French military operation scattered them in 2013, have spread further south towards Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso in recent months and carried out attacks in the capital Bamako.
Mostly Tuareg separatists rebels, who have refused to sign past versions of the deal, said they would not agree unless rival groups loyal to the Malian government left Menaka.
The Malian army and sources from the U.N peacekeeping force (MINUSMA) confirmed their departure on Friday. One MINUSMA source said that a convoy of 60 vehicles had left the town.
“We have handed over control of the town to MINUSMA and the Malian army and we have left,” said Fahad Ag Al Mahamoud, secretary general of a pro-Bamako armed group GATIA, part of a broader coalition called Platform.
The U.N. special envoy for the Mali mission said the departure from Menaka was a clear and reassuring sign that the peace process was on track.
“MINUSMA praises the courageous and responsible decision made by Platform showing their commitment to advancing the peace process for the benefit of all Malians,” said Mongi Hamdi.
Residents in the northern town of Kidal said that leaders from a Tuareg-led coalition of armed groups known as Coordination of Azawad Mouvements (CMA) were preparing to depart for the Bamako signing ceremony.
“We are going to sign the agreement for peace tomorrow in Bamako,” said Zeina Ag Mohamed, part of the CMA delegation in Kidal.
A planned demonstration in Kidal against the deal was postponed, residents said. The agreement, completed after five rounds of negotiations, was already approved by the Malian government and by Platform in March.
What Saraki told Obasanjo at closed-door meeting
Facts have emerged showing why Senate President Bukola Saraki led a delegation of Senators to meet former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his hilltop mansion, Abeokuta, Ogun state on Friday.
A source close to the meeting told PREMIUM TIMES that the Senate President was in Abeokuta to beg Mr. Obasanjo to reconcile him with President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Mr. Saraki emerged as the president of the Senate against the decision of APC leaders. He was also elected when most Senators from the APC were at the International Conference Centre waiting to hold a meeting with Mr. Buhari to discuss the election of the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Our sources said Mr. Saraki lamented to Mr. Obasanjo that although the party leaders have stated that they have accepted his emergence, there was “complete communication breakdown between him, the president and the party”.
The national chairman of the APC, John Oyegun, had abruptly cancelled a scheduled meeting with Mr. Saraki last week without giving another appointment.
Likewise, we also gathered that Mr. Saraki had tried severally to meet with Mr. Buhari after his emergence, but was always denied audience.
Another source in the presidency informed us that the President was angry with Mr. Saraki and the management of the national assembly for going ahead with their election despite adequate knowledge of an invitation for a meeting with Mr. Saraki and his colleagues.
“The president considered it as a mark of disrespect for his office for Saraki to ignore an invitation to meet with him and his colleagues,” our source said.
In his response to the Senate President’s lamentation, Mr. Obasanjo reportedly promised to do his best to “ensure communication between all parties”.
However, the spokesperson for the president, Garba Shehu, said the Senate president has never sought a meeting meeting with Mr. Buhari since his election.
“I am not aware of any request for a meeting, the president would have seen him, he represents a key institution in our democracy,” he said.
Calls to Mr. Saraki and his aide, Bamikole Omishore, were not answered.
Our source said the former president, in his usual jocular self, also joked with the delegation, saying “ you children of nowadays only run to elders when you have finished making the damage”.
Mr. Saraki and his entourage laughed.
A presidency official told PREMIUM TIMES President Buhari was aware of the the senate president’s visit to Mr. Obasanjo’s home.
The official said Messrs Buhari and Obasanjo are constantly in touch and regularly have telephone conversations.
The official said in one of their recent conversations, Mr. Obasanjo informed Mr. Buhari that Mr. Saraki was leading a delegation of Senators to his Abeokuta home.
“I overheard President Buhari laughing and saying to Mr. Obasanjo, “you have to see them, are they not all your boys?”, our presidency source said.
Among Mr. Saraki’s delegation include former governor of Gombe state, Danjuma Goje, Senator Andy Uba, former Zamfara governor, Ahmed Sani, and former Osun governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
Mr. Saraki and most members of his delegation are largely Mr. Obasanjo’s “boys”, a term loosely used in describing the former president’s staunch loyalists.
Fresh crisis brews in APC over Senate posts
The sharing of principal offices in the Senate seems to be creating a fresh crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The principal offices are the Senate Leader; the Deputy Senate Leader; the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip.
While the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, is believed to have recommended to the APC National Working Committee that the positions be allocated to the zones, some leaders of the party, especially those from the South-West, want them filled by the party’s hierarchy.
A senator made this known to one of our correspondents in Abuja on Thursday just as the APC NWC meeting on Thursday failed to agree on the modalities for brokering peace among aggrieved members of the party.
The senator warned that if the issue was not quickly resolved, the Senate and the APC might “face another round of crisis bigger than that that resulted from Saraki’s emergence as Senate president.”
He added, “The Senate President, had after wide consultations, suggested how the officers to occupy these posts could be appointed. He suggested the allocation of the four principal offices to some of the geopolitical zones.
“But some leaders, who are still angry with his (Saraki) emergence, turned down his suggestion. Some of the influential leaders from the South-West are insisting that the party should fill the offices. This is in spite of the fact that the chairman of our party (John Odigie-Oyegun) and other members of the NWC are in support of allocating the principal offices to zones.
“The South-West leaders are even saying that allowing the party leadership to fill the offices, remained the only way to allow peace to reign in the Senate.”
A Senator from the North-Central , who is loyal to Saraki, confirmed the development on condition of anonymity .
He said that it was true that some APC leaders were insisting that the party should nominate the senators who would occupy the four principal offices .
He said, “By the Senate tradition, the party in majority normally sends the offices to the zones where the Senate caucuses would meet and choose among themselves in the zone, who occupies the offices.
“Some other leaders of the party are claiming that asking the party to produce the principal officers was a smart way to impose the Senate Leader, the Deputy Senate Leader, the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip on the Senate.”
The senator claimed that a “very influential “ leader of the party from the South-West had allegedly written Odigie- Oyegun that the leaders would fill the positions. “
He said, “Some of us were just called by some members of the NWC intimating us of details of a letter forwarded to the body that it should just fill the remaining four leadership positions in the Senate.
“In fact, the letter from the South-West leader is that the party must take charge and name its preferred candidates for the four offices.”
It was further learnt that some senators had already met with some NWC members asking them to ignore the letter.
They were said to have insisted that the tradition remained that the zonal caucuses which did not produce the Senate President and his deputy should meet and nominate among themselves.
They added that it was when there were two or more nominations that, an election could hold and that whoever scored the highest votes would be the candidate.
Efforts to get the spokesperson for the pro – Saraki group, Dino Melaye, failed because his mobile phone was switched off.
Spokesperson for the Senate Unity Forum, a group of senators loyal to Lawan, Kabir Marafa, argued that the choice of other principal officers who are not elected on the floor of the Senate, remained the sole business of the party leadership.
He said, “How can the executive of the party at the zonal levels determine who will be made the Senate Leader, the Deputy Senate Leader, the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip?
“It is the party executive that would determine all these. So the party would write the Senate President. That is the tradition. It cannot be done at the zonal level, it is absurd. There should be due process in whatever things we do.”
But when contacted , the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Lai Mohammed simply said, “No comment.”
NWC meeting deadlocked
Meanwhile, the leaders of the party will meet again on Friday following their failure to reach an agreement on how to end the crisis that arose due to the National Assembly leadership elections .
The meeting, which was held behind closed doors at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja started at about 5.20pm. It lasted for a little over an hour.
Details of the meeting were not made public as of 8pm on Thursday when this story was filed. When approached for comments , Odigie-Oyegun, said, “We will meet again tomorrow to continue.”
It was however learnt that the party leaders had been unable to get supporters of the Senate President and the APC’s preferred candidate for the Senate Presidency , Ahmed Lawan, to meet face-to-face.
One of our correspondents, who visited the APC secretariat observed that the posters and banners of a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, had disappeared from the secretariat.
His banners were hitherto pasted side by side those of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Most of the banners were put up by individuals and groups supporting the APC.
It is not clear what led to the disappearance of the posters and banners.