Category Archives: Africa – International

Mozambique – Renamo’s election strategy and use of violence

ISS

Renamo’s renaissance, and civil war as election strategy

In 2009, the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) recorded its worst ever showing in an election. Its candidate, rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama, was trying so hard to play the respectable politician, yet he received only 650 679 votes (16,41% of the total). This was, astoundingly, over 300 000 votes fewer than he had garnered in the 2004 poll.

At the same time, Renamo won just 51 seats in Parliament, down from 91 seats in the previous session. By anyone’s estimation, it was a catastrophic showing for the party that had effectively invented opposition politics in the country. It had fought to end the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique’s (Frelimo’s) de facto one-party state both during the country’s bloody civil war (which only ended with the 1992 peace agreement), and in the post-civil war democratic elections that followed thereafter.

It seemed as if Dhlakama and his Renamo movement were a spent force. Incoherent and disorganised, and dogged by its dodgy historical links to the apartheid government in South Africa, the party had lost ground not only to the ruling Frelimo but also to the young upstarts of the Movement for Democracy in Mozambique (MDM). The MDM, a breakaway faction of Renamo, had sprung up to claim 8,59% of the electorate.

The very next day, Dhlakama hit the campaign trail

Of course, Renamo cried foul, alleging that the election was rigged and initially refusing to recognise the results. But its leaders must have known that the sheer scale of the drop in support indicated that the real problem lay within its own ranks. If Renamo were to remain relevant – if they were to seriously compete for power in 2014, and for a share of Mozambique’s impending oil and gas boom – then something needed to change.

And so the party returned to doing what it does best: no, not electoral politics, but armed resistance. In 2012, Dhlakama began to resurrect his fighting force, re-establishing a military base in the Gorongosa region and arming Renamo veterans. By October 2013, he was confident enough to rip up the ceasefire that had ended the civil war in 1992. ‘Peace is over in the country,’ said a Renamo spokesperson. These weren’t just words: Renamo launched deadly attacks on targets such as police stations and highways, resulting in dozens of deaths (both military and civilian). The civil war was back, albeit at a far lower intensity.

At the same time, Renamo announced that it would boycott the upcoming municipal elections in November 2013, decrying the politicisation of the electoral system and the blurring of lines between Frelimo and the state (both valid criticisms). It made good on this threat, and its absence allowed the MDM to make significant gains in many of the country’s most important municipalities.

Renamo, it seemed, were weaker than ever before. ‘Dhlakama has backed himself into a corner from which there is no obvious exit,’ wrote veteran Mozambique researcher Joseph Hanlon in late 2013, a conclusion shared by most analysts. But Dhlakama found a way out.

Eventually, Renamo’s intransigence and the threat of even more violence forced the government to the negotiating table – although critics say the government should have acted much sooner to nip the Renamo threat in the bud. Anxious to deal with the situation before the presidential elections, President Armando Guebuza allowed Renamo to extract several key concessions. These included greater representation for Renamo in state institutions, especially the armed forces; reform of the electoral system to make it harder to rig elections in Frelimo’s favour; and a general amnesty for Dhlakama and his supporters.

The new peace deal was concluded on 5 September 2014, with Guebuza and Dhlakama shaking hands in a ceremony in Maputo. The very next day, Dhlakama hit the campaign trail.

At this point, the odds were still stacked against Dhlakama and Renamo. With little over a month before the polls, his opponents had enjoyed a substantial head start on campaigning. And surely Mozambicans would not take kindly to political groups that make their demands at the barrel of a gun: that threaten to plunge the country into civil war if they don’t get their way.

Renamo rallies were chaotic and disorganised, but still people came

In fact, the opposite was true. Everywhere Dhlakama went, he received a hero’s welcome. Unlike Frelimo rallies, where crowds were lured by the promise of free merchandise and celebrity entertainment, Renamo rallies were chaotic and disorganised. But still people came, and waited for hours just to get a glimpse of the man who had somehow turned himself into a beacon of hope for the huge sections of society that feel marginalised by Frelimo’s length rule.

‘Dhlakama has won admiration by apparently forcing Frelimo to make political concessions it has been resisting for decades. He even seems to be enjoying – perhaps unjustly – much of the credit for the peace that has come just in time for the election. Emerging from hiding only after the peace agreement was signed was a clever move that brought his supporters out in droves to welcome him as a hero,’ wrote journalist Cait Reid for African Arguments.

Far from being Renamo’s death knell, its resumption of hostilities was a political masterstroke. It was able to depict itself as the party that was able to take real action to defend its principles, which it argued were for the good of Mozambique as a whole. Dhlakama’s rhetoric on the campaign trail echoed this, and emphasised values such as tolerance and unity, which contrasted sharply with Frelimo’s either-with-us-or-against-us approach.

Oddly enough, by pulling out of the democratic process, Renamo was able to demonstrate its commitment to it; at least as far as its constituency is concerned.

The election results bear this out. Although the final results have yet to be released, provisional results and a parallel count from the Electoral Observatory of Mozambique give Renamo about 32% of the presidential vote – double their proportion from 2009. Regardless of this feat, Renamo are challenging the results and alleging that the vote was tampered with. It is a dramatic return to form, and positions Renamo once again as the most serious challenger to Frelimo’s electoral stranglehold. As unlikely as it may seem, Renamo’s return to the bush had proved to be a most effective campaign strategy.

It is also useful when it comes to negotiating the terms of Renamo’s future democratic engagement. On Sunday, Dhlakama declared the election a ‘charade.’ He warned that while he was committed to peacefully negotiating his differences with Frelimo, he couldn’t necessarily control his angry supporters – thus leaving the threat of violence hanging in the air as he voiced his demand for a government of national unity along Kenyan or Zimbabwean lines. Given Renamo’s history, and the new evidence of the strength of its support base, Renamo remains a threat that Frelimo can’t afford to ignore.

Simon Allison, ISS Consultant

South Africa – budget fails to give Zuma resources for Africa policing role

ISS

Nene fails to put his money where Zuma’s mouth is
23 October 2014

In his belt-tightening medium-term budget policy statement on Wednesday, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene failed to provide the considerably increased finances that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would require to tackle the enhanced peacemaking role that President Jacob Zuma envisages for it.

Nene’s gloomy – but realistic – mini budget raised searching questions, in particular about the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC). This is the clumsy name for what is supposed to be an African Union (AU) initiative to establish agile, rapid-response forces, formed from volunteer nations to tackle security crises across the continent.

ACIRC is very much Zuma’s pet project. It was inspired by the AU’s lack of progress in establishing its formal African Standby Force, which has, in the meantime, compelled the continent to rely on outside forces – particularly France – to come to the rescue in places like Mali and the Central African Republic. To Zuma in particular, this was tantamount to opening the door to neo-colonial meddling in Africa.

Zuma hosted the first ACIRC summit in Pretoria a year ago. He also expended substantial political capital in getting the initiative adopted by the AU at its summit in January this year. This was against the opposition of Nigeria, in particular, which feared that ACIRC was giving Pretoria too much power.

The review concluded that the Defence Force is in a critical state of decline

When the Defence Review Committee discussed its review with him before publishing it earlier this year, it was apparently Zuma who told it to scale up its ambition. The review, adopted by cabinet in March, concluded that the Defence Force is in a critical state of decline – both in its equipment and in the abilities of its personnel, of whom there were far too many, consuming some 52% of the R43 billion budget. The review authors set down five milestones to be reached, depending on the level of ambition that the government was prepared to invest in the rejuvenation of the force.

Milestone 1 was to immediately arrest the critical decline in critical capabilities; Milestone 2, rebalancing and reorganising the Defence Force as the foundation for future growth; Milestone 3, creating a sustainable Defence Force that can meet its current ordered commitments; Milestone 4, enhancing its capacity ‘to respond to nascent challenges in the strategic environment’ and Milestone 5, enabling it to fight a war to defend South Africa against attack.

Apparently the committee itself was ready to settle for Milestone 3, but Zuma – not surprisingly perhaps, urged it to go higher and it ended up recommending Milestone 4, which in effect meant beefing up the SANDF to play the role of peacemaker on the continent.

The committee calculated that the Defence Force budget would have to nearly double as a ratio of gross domestic product (GDP), from its current 1,1% to 2% (the global norm) to achieve Milestone 4.

Among the important additional capital costs would be for the Defence Force to acquire new airlift capacity, as its existing fleet of transport aircraft is too old or too small. This huge deficiency was fatally exposed in the Central African Republic in March 2013, when the Defence Force had to charter a private aircraft to reinforce its embattled troops on the ground, but the charter company decided it was too dangerous to fly in.

It was revealing that the United States offered support for establishing ACIRC headquarters

As Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director of the Institute for Security Studies wrote in June this year in a policy brief titled The 2014 South African Defence Review: rebuilding after years of abuse, neglect and decay, fulfilling the review’s recommendations would require Finance Minister Nene to find an additional R11,7 billion in the 2014/15 financial year and R11,2 billion the year thereafter for defence.

But there was no sign of that in Nene’s statement on Wednesday, or in the accompanying adjusted estimates of expenditure. ACIRC received a passing mention as the estimates said the target for reserve force ‘person days’ would be increased to 2 871 852, due to the increased requirement of forces for ACIRC and border safeguarding.

But there was no money. ‘There is no additional allocation for the deployment of the defence force as part of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises in the mini budget for 2014,’ David Maynier, the defence spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance said. ‘With the Defence Force facing cuts of more than R700 million in this financial year, the deployment is unlikely to be funded from within the existing defence budget.

‘This means that an additional allocation will be required if the Defence Force has to deploy as part of the ACIRC, which itself is very unlikely. Our peace support operations ambitions are clearly not aligned with our peace support capacity.’

Does this then mean the end of South Africa’s leadership role – or any role for that matter – in ACIRC and the like? As Cilliers points out in his policy brief, the Defence Force has options, if it chooses to take them.

The one would be to make substantial savings in other areas, to free up money. The more obvious one would be to slash the bloated staff complement, many of whom are not fit for purpose. Another would simply be to separate the veterans’ administration from the Defence Force and move it to Social Welfare, where it perhaps more logically belongs.

However, political experts believe that staff cuts are probably out of the question. As one observed, African National Congress (ANC) politicians are mostly inclined to view the SANDF as first and foremost an employer, and only secondly, as a defender of the country’s sovereignty or of the continent’s peaceful development.

Another implicit cost-cutting option raised in the Defence Review was to ‘pursue the Defence Strategic Trajectory with the assistance of either a strategic partner or a number of strategic partners,’ rather than ‘implementing the Defence Strategic Trajectory independently.’ Cilliers pointed out that ‘on 17 March 2014, the cabinet elected in favour of the independent option, having apparently realised the challenges that the SANDF would face in relying on either Western, Chinese or Russian partners in the pursuit of the country’s regional stability ambitions.’

Nonetheless, the government might need to relook that option in the obvious absence of independent financing to realise its large continent ambitions. It was revealing that at the United States-Africa Leaders summit, which President Barack Obama hosted in Washington in August this year, the United States offered support, in training and logistics, for establishing an ACIRC headquarters capability. Was that a sign of things to come?

Peter Fabricius, Foreign Editor, Independent Newspapers, South Africa  ISS

Sufi leader tries to unify Sudanese opposition leaders

Sudan Tribune

October 22, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The leader of the Sudanese Araki-Qadiri sufi sect, Abdalla Ahmed al-Rayah, has launched a new initiative aimed at unifying opposition forces.

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NCF chairman Farouk Abu Issa (L) pictured with NUP leader Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (C) and PCP leader Hassan Al-Turabi (Photo: Reuters)

He invited opposition leaders to meet on Monday in his headquarters in Tayba area west of the Gazira state capital of Wad Medani.

Born in 1946, al-Rayah is considered the spiritual leader of the National Unionist Party (NUnP) founded by Sudan’s former president, Ismail al-Azhari. He is known for his solid opposition stances against military regimes.

The chairman of the NUnP, Youssef Mohamed Zain, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that the invitation has been extended to all opposition leaders, saying some of them apologies for not being able to attend the meeting due to a prior commitments but vowed to send delegates to represent them in the meeting.

In October 2009, opposition leaders including the National Umma Party (NUP) leader, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, Popular Congress Party (PCP) leader, Hassan al-Turabi, besides leading figures from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement attended a similar meeting in Tayba under the auspices of al-Rayah.

Zain said the invitation was extended to all opposition forces including the PCP, NUP, Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), all Arab Ba’athist and Naserite parties, various unionists’ factions besides the civil society groups.

He said the meetings aims to unify opposition forces following the recent divisions, noting the meeting will issue a call for unifying opposition forces according to a common minimum program.

Zain acknowledged failure of the opposition forces to deal with their differences, saying it was improper that opposition leaders criticise each other in the media.

He underscored the call which will be issued at the end of the meeting will focus on the need for mutual respect and joint work to achieve a state that is founded on citizenship and developing a strategy to remove the totalitarian rule.

On Saturday, al-Mahdi and the leader of the opposition umbrella National Consensus Forces (NCF), Farouk Abu Issa, met in the Egyptian capital, Cairo to discuss ways for unifying opposition forces.

They stressed in a joint statement on the need to expedite the unification process of opposition forces for “the liquidation of one-party regime, the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace and full democratic transformation” in Sudan.

The rare meeting was a serious move to contain differences between the NUP and the NCF following suspension of the former’s membership in the opposition alliance and recent accusations made by Abu Issa that the NUP seeks to establish a new opposition alliance.

Observers say the political opposition forces are damned to work together and to reunite their ranks despite repression and lack of means if they want to achieve true change in Sudan.

The rule of the successive military regime and the lack of democracy in the country largely contributed to these divisions and rifts as they are isolated from their supporters and deprived of money.

Zain further lashed at the government policies and the slow pace of the national dialogue, pointing to recent fierce arrest campaign carried out by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) against opposition leaders.

The NUnP chairman also pointed the government and the NCP are preoccupied with selection of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir as candidate for the 2015 election and ignoring the deep economic crisis.

(ST)

Mozambique elections: outcome will have little impact on growing social fault-lines

African Arguments

By Jason Sumich

MozElections3

On the 15th of October, 2014, Mozambique held its fifth multiparty general election. Despite Renamo’s almost ritualistic accusation of fraud (not that fraud did not happen, but it would probably not change the outcome of the election) Frelimo once again appears to be heading towards a comfortable win, if not as overwhelming as the previous victory. This election has been seen as especially significant due to the growing challenge of the opposition MDM, Renamo’s ability to fight back (quite literally) from the political irrelevance that seemed to be its fate after its disastrous performance in the last election and the generational shift inside the ruling Frelimo party.

Armando Guebuza, the former president, is obeying the two-term limit and stepping down despite winning around 75% of the vote in the 2009 elections. He will remain head of the Frelimo party, a position with tremendous power and influence. His successor, Felipe Nyusi will be the first Mozambican president who did not take part in the liberation struggle.

Nyusi is a close ally of Armando Guebuza and his capacity to act independently of his patron is subject to much conjecture. While the relationship between Mr Nyusi and Mr Guebuza and questions over how the growing strength of the opposition dominate much of the discussion about Mozambique, major political transformations that have been occurring over the past few decades have attracted less attention.

While Guebuza may retain significant power behind the scenes, his presidency has been marked by turbulence. It is true that under his stewardship the economy is booming. Economic growth rates have been high since the 1990s and the recent mineral and natural resource driven economic boom is consolidating this trend. Mozambique boasted a 7% economic growth in 2013 and, according to the AfDB’s most recent statistics, is expected to grow to 8.5% this year.

The official rates for urban poverty, which stood at 53.6% in 2002/3, have dropped to 36.2% in 2008/9 and this has been coupled with improvements in social services in the capital. Additionally, Guebuza is widely credited with revitalizing party structures that had begun to stagnate under his predecessor Joaquim Chissano (1986-2005). In perhaps his most notable achievement, Guebuza more tightly bound rural power holders to Frelimo by providing an annual subsidy of seven million Meticais to each district, giving them a stake in Frelimo’s continued hold on power.

The Guebuza era is also notable for an ongoing transformation in the way Mozambique is governed; the steady personalization of power. This process began in the preceding Chissano era, with the adoption of a market economy. State assets were privatized and Frelimo grandees, disproportionately the winners of the privatization, began to become serious economic players in their own right. However, as a university professor explained to me: “There is growing discontent, Guebuza is eating (taking) everything, trying to centralize and control everything. Unlike Chissano who let people do what they wanted to, he (Chissano) obviously had his own interests, but he let others have theirs”. Even a Renamo cadre told me that “I respected Chissano, he tried to spread the wealth around instead of just taking it all, like now”.

The families of party grandees are becoming almost feudal in their power and ability to pass it on to their children, and factional and regional struggles gain in intensity (natural gas tends to be based in the north and Frelimo has long been accused of being a southern dominated party). The centralization of power gives a leader and their close associates tremendous power as everything has to go through them. The rewards of power in such a situation are obvious, but they may prove fleeting.

During Guebuza’s tenure as president his economic influence and that of closely aligned business leaders was considerable to say the least. Now that he has stepped down though, it is likely his influence will wane in comparison with a new configuration of party grandees and their associates, thus semi-permanent insecurity is present at even the highest levels of power.

The centralization of power and growing insecurity of the elite has been mirrored by spiralling inequality for the wider society. This can be seen most concretely in a series of bloody riots. The first broke out in Maputo on the 5th of February 2008. The specific causes were blamed on the rising price of transport, forcing many urbanites to spend half or more of their salaries just to get to work. Price hikes in transport and fuel also meant that the cost of food, much of which is imported, soared. As one newspaper editorial put it: “the inhabitants of the bairros (neighbourhoods, or poor suburbs) do not live, they survive”.

While these factors, combined with rising crime, gross inequality, growing urban poverty, an unpopular president and internal factionalism within Frelimo, were well-known, the violence seemed to catch everybody by surprise. Initially mobs attacked chapas, the mini-van taxis that are a ubiquitous feature of urban life, overturning and burning them. Wider frustrations soon came to the fore and rioters targeted luxury cars, the symbol of the new rich, and burned down a school named after the current president, Armando Guebuza.

One rumour that endlessly circulated claimed that rioters attacked a convoy of luxury cars, but when they found that the convoy contained the former president, Joaquim Chissano, they started cheering and demanded that he retake power. The riot spread and continued for two days and paralyzed the city. It was only quelled when the government deployed contingents of police who had permission to shoot on sight, and made a panicked agreement to subsidise the cost of transport. However, this did not stop riots from breaking out again in 2010 and 2012.

Inequality and growing social polarization are becoming major issues in Maputo. As a public transport worker explained to me: “Inequality is getting out of control. The rich keep getting richer but everyone else get(s) nothing. I have no faith with the government, I am sick of them, they only exist for themselves and they do not give anything to the people. When I see Guebuza’s face on the news, I just change the channel.”

Inequality has been accompanied by a plague of violent crime. The well-off and their families face a series of high profile kidnappings that the police are unable or unwilling to combat (in fact the police have been implicated in a number of kidnappings). Mozambique is becoming another expression of the paradox so often seen in Africa, political immobility coupled with radical uncertainty.

In March of 2013 I was speaking to ‘Tiago’[1]at a popular restaurant in downtown Maputo. Tiago is university educated and has a good job at a government ministry. I asked him who he would vote for and he told me the MDM. I was surprised as he is a member of Frelimo, but he explained: “Yes I am a member of Frelimo, but the situation is terrible; things cannot keep going like this, we just really need a change.”

Frelimo dominates the machinery of state and will most likely continue in power for the foreseeable future. Even if the party lost power, it is not clear what, if anything, the opposition would do differently. While Frelimo is able to tighten its grip on the levers of the state and fend off those who would contest the party, the system is hollowing itself out and even the privileged are growing increasingly alienated. While the current focus in Mozambique will be on how the most recent electoral process was handled, how the outcome will effect on the practice of power or the growing fault lines in Mozambican society is uncertain.

Jason Sumich is a social anthropologist who has conducted research in Mozambique since 2002. He received his PhD, which examined nationalism, elite formation and democratization in Mozambique, from the London School of Economics and has taught at Universities in the United Kingdom, Norway and South Africa. He has published in numerous academic journals including Development and Change, Journal of Southern African Studies, Social Analysis and Ethnos.

West Africa – ebola hits food production

IRIN

Ebola hits West Africa food security

A woman waits for customers in a Freetown market in September 2014. Customer numbers have dropped and food prices risen since Ebola broke out in Sierra Leone earlier this year

KENEMA/FREETOWN/DAKAR, 20 October 2014 (IRIN) – West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, which has been disrupting agricultural and market activities, threatens to erode food security and negatively affect the livelihoods of millions of already vulnerable people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone unless more is done to meet their immediate food and nutritional needs, say aid agencies.

They say they are still calculating the number of food insecure households, but already the results of initial rapid assessments are worrying.

The World Food Programme (WFP) found that more than 80 percent of people surveyed via mobile phone in the eastern part of Sierra Leone say they have been eating less expensive food since the outbreak began. Three-quarters of respondents have begun to reduce the number of daily meals and portion sizes.

“I’m very concerned about having enough food every day,” said Sheku Conteh, a street trader in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. “The Ebola has caused a lot of strain right now. There’s no business and no jobs. and I’m having difficulty providing food for my family,” he said. “I have to starve myself much of each day just to save a bit from my sales to get food for my family.”

A rapid assessment survey last month in Sierra Leone by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that 47 percent of farmers have had their work “considerably disrupted” by the Ebola outbreak.

“Here, we have the largest cocoa farms,” said Sidikie Kabba, a farmer from eastern Sierra Leone. “Now it’s quarantined because of Ebola, so people aren’t travelling. Before, I was harvesting my produce – up to 50 bags – but now even 10 bags is difficult. So I’m losing money,” he said.

While Kabba stayed behind, many farmers stopped going to their fields during the most critical stage of the agricultural cycle – in July and August this year – when there was widespread misunderstanding of the disease.

In Sierra Leone’s Kailahun District in the east, at least 40 percent of farmers abandoned their land to move to non-affected areas according to the Minisrty of Agriculture. Many seasonal migrant workers, who normally help with harvesting have been either too afraid to work alongside others in the fields or unable to travel due to quarantine restrictions.

“You alone, you are not able to do large work,” said Yankouba Vandi, who grows coffee and cocoa in Sierra Leone’s Kenema District. “In the past, you can receive some manpower to help you to work, but for now, they will not allow that.”

Rice production down

In Liberia, rice production decreased by 10 percent in Lofa County this year because of fear among farmers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In Barkedu and Foya counties, rice production fell by 15 percent.

The results of a four-week joint assessment on the impact of Ebola on food security, livestock and agriculture in Guinea, which is now under way by the Ministry of Agriculture, FAO and WFP, will not be available until mid-November, but Gueckedou’s Prefectural Directorate for Agriculture says that the total land area that was cultivated this year has “considerably declined” compared to past years.

Closed markets and disruptions in trade, transportation and people’s movements, have also led to food shortages in many communities across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, particularly those in border areas.

“Right now we are having a hard time getting regular supplies from farmers and other suppliers,” said Adama Conteh, who sells rice and vegetables in Freetown’s Bombay Terrace. Most of the areas we normally buy from are very hard to go to now because of this Ebola. Many of the farmers are afraid to go to their farms and harvest, or even come to Freetown with their products,” she said.

Along the border of Guinea and Senegal, at least 16 weekly markets have been shut down, according to WFP. In Liberia, many of the weekly markets also remain officially closed.

Food prices up, incomes down

In places where food is still available, some prices are going up.

In Liberia’s Lofa County, for example, the country’s former epicenter of the outbreak, food and commodity prices rose between 30 and 75 percent between April and September, according to FAO. Certain types of fish are now five times more expensive than before the outbreak began.

In Sierra Leone, the price of imported rice increased by upwards of 15 percent in some areas, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

This is compounded by the fact that household incomes and savings are decreasing, as people are either unable, or too afraid, to work. And as more and more people contract the virus or die from it, families are also losing key sources of revenue.

“We believe this disruption in market chains and trade, which have increased the prices of certain commodities and decreased quality, is also affecting people’s incomes,” said Vincent Martin, head of FAO’s West Africa resilience hub. “So it’s not just a problem of food production, but with this impact on the incomes of vulnerable people, we will almost certainly see a deterioration of purchasing power in these households.”

Women hit by market disruptions

To help ease some of these impacts and reduce the risk of rising food insecurity, FAO says it plans to support 90,000 households across the most affected Ebola communities over the coming year.

Through a combination of activities related to saving lives and protecting livelihoods, FAO plans to work with its partners to raise community awareness about Ebola, train health workers, build up local health systems to be better prepared for disease threats and improve response coordination efforts, while increasing agricultural production, boosting incomes through cash transfer schemes and supporting microfinance initiatives.

“We have to be aware of the situation and we have to react quickly so that we don’t have, in addition to this health problem, a major food security crisis,” Martin said.

In Liberia, where women have been particularly hard hit by market disruptions, as they account for an estimated 70 percent of cross-border trade, FAO plans to give an estimated 2,500 families from local women’s associations cash transfers in exchange for helping spread Ebola awareness messages in their communities.

They will also be given vegetable seeds to grow during the dry season, to help bring in some extra income.

WFP says it has already delivered more than 9.1 million tons of food to 534,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since April. They plan to reach a total of nearly 1.4 million people by the end of February.

This might not, however, be enough.

Contingency plans needed

Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) current caseload projection of 200,000-250,000 Ebola cases by early 2015, FEWS NET says that between 2.7 and 4 million people could reach at least a Phase 3, or crisis level, of food insecurity by March.

“It’s difficult to say with any confidence what the numbers will be in six months,” said Chris Hillbruner, FEWS NET’s decision support adviser, and lead technical analyst on the Ebola-impact project. “But if we continue to see this exponential increase and if the CDC’s predicted caseload were to occur, the concern is that we will see significant food gaps among populations both directly and indirectly affected by Ebola.”

Hillbruner said that while the priority should still be to focus all efforts on the prevention, treatment and containment of the Ebola outbreak, the best way to prevent a large-scale food crisis is to have a contingency plan in place.

“We don’t want to be overly alarmist, but we want to make sure that we are preparing now,” he said. “You don’t want to wait for the numbers to start spiking and then start a larger response. Ebola is already having an impact on food security, so it’s important that this planning is going on now and that we are prepared, so that we won’t face a major problem with food security and nutrition in six months from now.”

jl/aj/cb

Botswana – closer contest than usual expected at elections

South African News Features/allAfrica

Close to a million Batswana will go to the polls on 24 October in parliamentary and local government elections that are expected to be closely contested.

With a day to go before the elections, which many say will present a stern test for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the country’s three main political parties have intensified campaigns as they seek to win over voters.

The BDP led by President Seretse Ian Khama is confident that it will once again emerge victorious. The BDP has never lost an election since independence in 1966.

“Still the only party,” and “Still the biggest party in Botswana” are some of the catchy phrases being used by the BDP on its website.

Khama is also encouraged by the support his party has received in the last few years, hence his decision to stand for re-election.

“Fellow comrades and compatriots, once again I come before you to ask in kind humility for your mandate to lead this beloved nation for a second term,” Khama said in a foreword to the BDP manifesto.

“Your confidence in the Botswana Democratic Party has not wavered in the last five decades and for that we are all grateful to you.”

A number of opposition parties have formed an alliance under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) led by Duma Boko.

The UDC is an alliance between Botswana Movement for Democratic Change, Botswana National Front and the Botswana People’s Party, which has been hailed as a national project and has the blessings of civil society groups and trade unions.

According to analysts, this is by far the most powerful coalition to take part in the country’s elections since independence.

Its election manifesto is premised on five pillars. These are the need to create an educated society, “a clean and effective government”, a robust economy, social inclusion and peace and security.

The third party contesting the parliamentary poll is the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) led by Dumelang Saleshando, which has campaigned for an improvement in the country’s economic performance.

It has sought to capitalise on the challenges faced by the Botswana government during the past five years, particularly shortages of water and power supply, failed state projects due to alleged corruption such as the Palapye Glass Project and rising unemployment among the youth.

The Palapye Glass Project, which was scheduled for completion in November 2012, is still to be completed following allegations that some top officials syphoned funds invested into the project by the government.

The BCP has also campaigned for improvements in the education sector, which “is in total disarray as demonstrated by the results of public schools in the past five years,” according to the party’s manifesto.

In the last elections held in 2009, seven parties and 15 independent candidates took part in the elections, which saw the BDP win 45 of the 57 elected seats.

Seven political parties and 15 independent candidates contested the elections five years ago.

The Botswana Parliament has 63 seats, of which 57 are filled through direct votes.

There are four seats reserved for the majority party in Parliament, while the President and Attorney General are ex-officio members.

Information from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) shows that the BDP has fielded candidates in all 57 parliamentary constituencies, followed by the BCP with 54 candidates and the UDC with 52.

There are a total of 29 independent candidates contesting the parliamentary elections.

A total of 824,073 voters have registered to vote against an estimated population of 1.4 million eligible voters.

Of these, 389,870 (almost 50 percent) are youth, meaning that young people will have a major say in who will emerge as the eventual winner.

Botswana uses a single constituency electoral system of First Past the Post for the election of Members of Parliament.

Elected MPs then act as an electoral college to choose the President.

The run-up to the elections was marred by the death of an opposition leader when Gomolemo Motswaledi of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) died in a car accident in August in what the opposition claimed was suspicious circumstances.

However, the police have ruled out foul play, saying the “investigations reveal that Motswaledi’s death was the result of a road accident un-induced by any foul play.”

The elections will be monitored by observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union.

SADC has deployed an 86-member observer mission, split into 24 teams covering all the 10 districts of Botswana.

The observers were drawn from Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM), together with other regional and international observer missions, will monitor the electoral process in three phases, namely, the pre-election, the election and the post-elections.

SEOM is expected to produce a report on the conduct of the polls. This is in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which encourage Member States to promote common political values and systems.

Former Malawian president Joyce Banda is leading a 35-member AU observer mission comprising officials from the Pan-African Parliament, African ambassadors to the AU, election management bodies and civil society organisations from various African countries.

Chinese peacekeeping trops due in South Sudan in 2015

Reuters

(Reuters) – Some 700 Chinese peacekeepers are expected to join a United Nations mission in South Sudan at the start of next year, the head of the U.N. operation said on Wednesday, though she appealed for Beijing to deploy the battalion “sooner rather than later.”

China announced last month that it would send the troops to help protect civilians amid renewed violence. U.N. officials say this would be the first time China has contributed an infantry battalion to a U.N. peacekeeping mission. Last year China sent a smaller “protection unit” to join the U.N. mission in Mali.

Ellen Margrethe Loj, U.N. special envoy to South Sudan and head of the world body’s peacekeeping mission, said there were currently 10,488 troops on the ground. The operation has a mandated strength of 12,500 peacekeepers.

“The Chinese battalion is not there yet, but we have a Chinese engineering company and we have a Chinese level 2 hospital,” she told a small group of reporters at the United Nations in New York.

“The latest I heard is that it would not be until the beginning of the year but we are trying to appeal to all the troop contributing countries, including China, but also Ethiopia and Rwanda and others, to deliver the troops and the equipment they have promised sooner rather than later,” she said.

Fighting erupted in December in South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011, after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy and political rival, Riek Machar. The conflict has reopened deep tensions among ethnic groups, pitting Kiir’s Dinka against Machar’s Nuer.

Loj, who took up her role six weeks ago, briefed the United Nations Security Council earlier on Wednesday and said she was “shocked by the complete disregard for human life.”

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, caused over 1 million to flee and driven the country of 11 million closer to famine. By year-end, a third of the people could face the threat of starvation, the United Nations said.

Peace talks brokered by African regional bloc IGAD have yet to reach a deal. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has warned Kiir and Machar that if a peace deal cannot be reached during current talks then long-threatened sanctions were likely to be imposed by the U.N. Security Council.