Category Archives: Africa – International

Congo republic – former army chief to try to unseat Sassou-Nguesso in march polls

Reuters

A former army chief in Congo Republic on Saturday declared his intention to run against veteran President Denis Sassou Nguesso just a month ahead of presidential polls, in a challenge to one of Africa’s longest ruling leaders.

General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, 69, a power broker in the former French colony’s 1990s civil war, announced his candidacy in the capital Brazzaville at a packed conference centre.

However, it remains to be seen whether Mokoko can present a significant challenge to 72-year-old Sassou Nguesso who has ruled the oil producer for 31 of the past 36 years in two spells and is widely seen as the favourite to win the March 20 polls.

“I decided to take the side of the people by presenting myself as a candidate for election,” Mokoko, dressed in a dark blue suit, said on Saturday as supporters from a crowd of more than 1,000 people chanted “Moses, our saviour”.

A graduate of France‘s prestigious Saint-Cyr military school, Mokoko gained international credit for his role as head of an African Union peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic in 2014. Most recently, he served as a security adviser to Sassou-Nguesso before retiring last year.

So far, at least 10 candidates have put themselves forward for the election although they have yet to be validated by the constitutional court.

Sassou Nguesso’s control of state resources and security, divisions in the opposition as well as strong support from his Mbochi ethnic group are seen as the main factors in the incumbent’s favour.

In October, Sassou Nguesso won by more than 90 percent a referendum on constitutional changes allowing him to seek a third consecutive mandate.

Most opposition parties boycotted the vote in protest against a crackdown by security forces on demonstrators that killed at least four people.

Some analysts fear street violence again next month. Bids by other veteran African leaders to extend their time in office, including Burundi and Burkina Faso, have also sparked unrest.

(Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Second round of presidential voting starts in Central Africa Republic

BBC

UN peacekeepers from Congo Brazzaville help unload a truck of its voting material and ballots at a polling station in Bangui, Central African Republic (13 February 2016)AP Observers say the vote is taking place at a critical juncture in the history of the Central African Republic

Voters in the Central African Republic (CAR) are going to the polls for the second round of presidential elections.

The vote is being seen as a significant step towards restoring peace, stability and democratic government.

It comes after the seizure of power by a mainly Muslim rebel group in 2013 led to prolonged bloodshed.

Both presidential candidates, former prime ministers Faustin Touadera and Anicet Dologuele, have pledged to restore security and boost the economy.

Mr Dologuele served under President Ange-Felix Patasse between 1999 and 2001, and Mr Touadera was prime minister under President Francois Bozize between 2008 and 2013.


There are hopes that the poll will help turn the page on years of religious conflict.

A woman folds her ballots before casting her vote during elections in Bangui, Central African Republic (30 December 2015)AP Observers praised the calmness of the first round of voting in December
UN peacekeepers from Congo Brazzaville walk in the PK5 district after unloading a truck containing voting material and ballots at a polling station in Bangui, Central African Republic (13 January 2016)AP Thousands of UN peacekeepers and French soldiers are providing security

Communal reconciliation and reigniting the country’s sluggish economy have featured prominently as campaign themes.

CAR is one of the world’s most unstable countries and was thrown into political chaos three years ago when mostly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled President Bozize.

Christian militias responded to Seleka abuses, with attacks carried out against the Muslim minority community.

After regional pressure, an interim administration took charge in January 2014 and later that year a 10,000-strong UN force took over the peacekeeping mission.

The north-east of the country is now mostly under the control of Muslim rebels while Christian militias hold sway the south-west.

Thousands died in the fighting and roughly a fifth of the population is thought to have been displaced.

Central African Republic second round presidential candidate Anicet Georges Dologuele (12 February 2016)AFP Anicet Georges Dologuele won the largest share of first-round votes

Mr Dologuele has promised voters a break from the country’s recent violent past, with the campaign slogan “united we will win”.

Mr Touadera is portrayed by supporters as a peacemaker who can bridge the Christian-Muslim divide.

Presidential candidate Faustin Touadera (10 February 2016)AP Faustin Touadera is a former maths professor

There was a turnout of nearly 80% for the first round of voting in December.

Observers saw that as being a rejection of violence by the electorate.

Ansar Dine claims attack on UN base in Mali

Reuters

Malian Islamist militant group Ansar Dine said it carried out a suicide and rocket attack on a U.N. base in Kidal, north Mali on Friday that killed six peacekeepers, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

Ansar Dine, led by Tuareg commander Iyad Ag Ghali, briefly seized the desert north alongside al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2012 and the two groups are involved in an intensifying insurgency that has spilled over Mali’s borders.

In its statement, Ansar Dine named the suicide bomber who blew himself up with a truck bomb as Muhammad Abdullah bin Hudhayfa al-Hosni from Mauritania. Heavy weapons fire ensued.

It was not immediately clear if Ansar Dine was also responsible for an ambush on Malian soldiers near Timbuktu on Friday that killed three.

“The (Kidal) operation is a message to the Crusader invaders and all those who support them and promise to send their soldiers to us, like the German President said in his current visit to Bamako,” according to the statement sent late on Friday.

Germany has pledged to send 650 soldiers to help support a U.N. peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) and President Joachim Gauck visited Mali’s southern capital Bamako on Friday.

As well as U.N. peacekeepers, militant strikes have targeted hotels popular with Westerners, killing 30 in Ouagadougou in January, and Malian army checkpoints.

MINUSMA has the highest rate of casualties among active U.N. missions and many of the dead are Africans who occupy some of the most dangerous front-line positions in the north.

The six dead peacekeepers in the Kidal attack were all from neighbouring Guinea, the U.N. Security Council said in a statement.

French troops, which ousted Islamist militants from northern towns in 2013, are still fighting them in north Mali and neighbouring Sahel countries but casualties are rare due to superior training and equipment.

Sean Smith, Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said that the threat of attacks would remain extremely high unless France expands its force or MINUSMA changes its mandate to include counter-terror operations.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; editing by Adrian Croft)

Nigeria – EFCC reopens Halliburton bribery case

Premium Times

EFCC reopens Halliburton bribery case, senior Nigerian lawyer quizzed, 5 other SANs for probe

EFCC Operatives

EFCC Operatives

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has reopened investigation into the unresolved but famous Halliburton bribery case which saw a foreign consortium of companies bribing Nigerian officials with over $180million to win contracts to build the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas plant.

On Thursday, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Damian Dodo, was quizzed for eight hours by a new panel of operatives detailed to get to the root of the bribery scam.

The Halliburton scam concerned the alleged payment of over $180 million to senior Nigerian officials, including, allegedly, past heads of states, by officials of an American firm, Halliburton, to secure a construction contract for a liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny Island in the Niger Delta.

Although several foreigners involved in the matter have been prosecuted in their home countries, Nigerian authorities have failed to prosecute the country’s citizens involved in the matter.

However, reports say current president, Muhammadu Buhari, has asked the EFCC to restart investigation into the matter.

Sources close to the fresh investigation on Friday said Mr. Dodo was questioned for his role in an alleged receipt of $26million from Halliburton, along with a former minister and five other Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

Specifically, Mr. Dodo allegedly received $4.5million through his firm, DD Dodo and Co. from multinational companies involved in the deal, purportedly as legal fees.

He was also alleged to have withdrawn over $2million cash for purposes investigators believe are unclear, and in flagrant violation of Nigeria’s extant money laundering regulations.

In the US, Halliburton and its former subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), entered a guilty plea and agreed to pay $579 million fine, the largest corruption settlement ever paid by a US company in high-level bribery cases involving payments from multinationals to secure contracts in Nigeria and other countries.

But in Nigeria, senior government officials who allegedly received over $180million bribe are yet to be charged to court.

South Africa – Zuma suggests relocating parliament to Pretoria

City Press/News24

President Jacob Zuma has resurrected the thorny debate about whether Parliament should relocate to Pretoria, suggesting this would save the government travel, car and accommodation expenses.

Zuma told Parliament during his state of the nation address tonight that his executive had looked into the matter of having two capital cities and that the costs were too high to maintain.

The administrative capital was in Pretoria and the legislature was in Cape Town. This meant – particularly for the executive – that ministers must have two houses: one in Pretoria and another one in Cape Town.

“You must have two cars; one in Pretoria, one in Cape Town. You must have a number of officials travelling up and down and because they have got no infrastructure, they are using hotels. This is a matter to be considered on an urgent basis,” said Zuma, speaking off the cuff.

He described the matter of two capitals as “a big expenditure item”.

“We believe that the matter requires the attention of Parliament soon,” he said.

ANC MPs continuously shouted “siyaya ePitoli” (We are going to Pretoria) as Zuma spoke about the two capitals.

Other cost-cutting proposals that Zuma announced included curtailing overseas trips. He said that those requesting permission to go overseas would have to motivate strongly and prove the benefit to the country.

He said the sizes of delegations would be “greatly reduced and standardised”.

Restrictions on conferences, catering, entertainment and social functions would also be instituted and the budget vote dinners for stakeholders – hosted by government departments in Parliament after the delivery of budget speeches – would no longer take place.

Zuma said more measures and details on the cost cutting would be announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan when he delivered his budget vote speech on February 24.

He called on the executive management and boards of public agencies and state-owned companies to undertake similar measures.

“I also invite premiers of all nine provinces as well as mayors to join us as we begin eliminating wasteful expenditure within government.

“I trust that Parliament and the judiciary will also be persuaded to consider the implementation of similar measures,” he said.

The opposition DA immediately shot down Zuma’s suggestion of one capital city.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said it was “a complete red herring”.

“I mean the costs associated with it are magnificent. We need to look at it very carefully. I mean if a cost analysis is done, it will show that the cost of uprooting Parliament and replacing the buildings we have here will be astronomical.

“It’s just something we cannot afford at the moment,” said Steenhuisen.

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South Africa – Zuma’s “no hope” state of nation speech

African Arguments

President Jacob Zuma arrives at Parliament to deliver his 2016 State of the Nation address. Credit: GCIS.

South African President Jacob Zuma has delivered his annual State of the Nation address in the country’s parliament. After more than an hour of disruptions and interruptions, mostly by members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, Zuma finally got down to business. Or did he?

The Conversation Africa’s Politics and Society editor Thabo Leshilo and Voice of Wits presenter Tsholofelo Semenya put some questions to Professor Susan Booysen. You can listen to the audio or read the transcript below.

Taking off your professional hat for a moment, what did you make of Zuma’s speech as a citizen?

The frustration index was very high. South Africa is facing a massive crisis in so many respects, and Zuma didn’t quite rise up to the occasion. But then the entertainment index was very high for all South Africans, whether they are interested in parliament and politics or not.

The Economic Freedom Fighters in some ways lived up to expectations and provided the entertainment.

What did you think of the substance of Zuma’s speech?

There was really no meat around the bone. It felt like he made many old announcements, talking about things we already know about. And MPs applauded around issues of history – things South Africans have known already for a year or two. It was canned applause.

There was no urgency, no enthusiasm. If things are going to be done differently (in future), the speech didn’t put that across. Zuma repeatedly said “we must look at it” and “we must do”, or “there is a task team, there is a commission”. We are beyond that time of deliberation. We need action.

It’s been the standard fallback of the Zuma years – “we’re busy” – but the action is not there.

I was monitoring the rand/dollar exchange rate during the course of the speech. It was R15.69 to the dollar when he started. By the time he finished it was R15.84. That’s not huge, but it almost reflects the speech. There wasn’t wild enthusiasm, a sense that we’re getting the answers we’ve waited for – or that things are going to turn around.

The #FeesMustFall movement and student protests were mentioned just once in the speech, and only briefly. This angered people on Twitter, with some saying the protests had brought government to its knees and Zuma barely mentioned them. What did you think?

To be frank, I was shocked at the lack of recognition for that huge and ongoing moment. It forced the government to implement existing policy and to somewhat change policy. It had deeper repercussions; (it opened up issues of) deeper transformation and the anger of young people.

I don’t think government was quite brought to its knees, but its knees were bending. It really is an ongoing moment.

Local government elections are coming up later this year. How does the governing African National Congress (ANC) look in those polls, considering how important they are?

The ANC has never in its 22 years in power looked as weak as it does at the moment. It looks weak as a governing party. It is riven by factions. There are wars at local level. There is such discontent in the ANC.

These elections will be about building hope, and about making sure that citizens and voters still feel the ANC can bring them that hope as the liberation party.

This was not a moment of generating hope.

Thabo Leshilo is the Editor of The Conversation.

Kenya – Ruto wins ICC battler over recanted statements

Kenya’s Ruto wins ICC witness ruling

William RutoGetty Images

International judges in the case of Kenyan Vice-President William Ruto have barred the use of recanted testimony.

The decision means prior recorded witness statements cannot be used by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in this case.

Key witnesses in the case changed their statements, which prosecutors said was due to intimidation and bribery.

Mr Ruto, who is being tried over unrest that erupted after elections in 2007, charges of crimes against humanity.

About 1,200 people were killed in the violence.

The latest ruling overturns a previous decision by judges to allow five of the witnesses’ original statements to be included because they were convinced the witnesses had been interfered with.

This use of prior testimony falls under Rule 68 of the Rome Statute, that set up the ICC.

But William Ruto’s defence team argued this was unfair because changes to the rule were brought in after the case against Mr Ruto had started.

“The prior recorded testimony was delivered without an opportunity for the accused to cross-examine the witnesses,” said presiding judge Piotr Hofmanski.

Mr Ruto is one of the most senior government officials to be tried by The Hague-based court since its formation more than a decade ago.

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