Category Archives: Africa – International

South Sudan – hundreds killed by rebels in Bentiu

BBC

South Sudan conflict: Bentiu ‘ethnic slaughter’ condemned

Government soldiers in Bentiu (Jan 2014) The army was forced out of Bentiu last week

Hundreds of people were killed because of their ethnicity after South Sudan rebels seized the oil hub of Bentiu last week, the UN has said.

They were targeted at a mosque, a church and a hospital, the UN Mission in South Sudan said in a statement.

It added that hate speech was broadcast on local radio stations, saying certain groups should leave the town and urging men to rape women.

The Nuer community are seen as supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar.

President Salva Kiir is a member of the country’s largest group, the Dinka.

Although both men have prominent supporters from various communities, there have been numerous reports of rebels killing ethnic Dinkas and the army targeting Nuers since the conflict broke out in December 2013.

Since then, more than a million people have fled their homes in what was already among the world’s poorest nations.

‘Piles of bodies’

Analysis

In a civil war marked by numerous human rights abuses, the reports from Bentiu are among the most shocking.

The rebels are accused of killing Dinkas (President Kiir’s ethnic group), Sudanese (because of the alleged support of Darfuri rebel groups for President Kiir) and Nuers who were not overtly cheering their fellow Nuer rebels.

The victims hid in hospitals and places of worship, but did not find sanctuary there.

Many of the rebels say they took up arms because of the murder of their relatives in Juba at the beginning of this conflict.

Both sides have committed terrible abuses.

However the scale of the killings carried out by rebel troops, including the feared White Army militia, in Bentiu, Bor and Malakal, has turned many people against the rebel leader, Riek Machar.

With the rainy season approaching, and negotiations set to resume in Addis Ababa, there is likely to be more fighting – and very likely more atrocities – in the next few weeks.

South Sudan analyst James Copnall says that in a civil war marked by numerous human rights abuses, the reports from Bentiu are among the most shocking.

Non-Nuer South Sudanese and foreign nationals were singled out and killed, the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said.

Some 200 civilians were reportedly killed at the Kali-Ballee mosque where they had sought shelter.

At the hospital, Nuer men, women and children, who hid rather than cheer the rebel forces as they entered the town, were also killed, it said.

The UN’s top humanitarian official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday.

He told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that the scenes in Bentiu were “perhaps [the] most shocking set of circumstances” he had ever faced.

He said he saw “piles of [the bodies of] people who had been slaughtered” last week, adding that they all appeared to be civilians.

Many of those killed were Sudanese traders, especially from Darfur, Mr Lanzer said.

Analyst James Copnall says they could have been targeted because rebel groups in Darfur are alleged to back President Kiir against the rebels.

One rebel source said many of those killed in the mosque were actually soldiers who had taken off their uniforms.

Grab from UN video footage of bodies found in Bantiu Video footage from the UN shows bodies lying in the streets of Bantiu

The situation in South Sudan is “in a downward spiral”, Mr Lanzer said, describing the stakes as “very, very high”.

There are now more than 22,000 people seeking refuge at the UN peacekeeping base over the border in Sudan, he said, including families from the majority community in the state.

“When I asked them why [they were seeking refuge] they said: ‘When the violence has such a cycle of revenge you can’t tell what will come next’,” Mr Lanzer said.

He added that the UN base was not built for such large numbers, and that there was currently only one litre of drinking water for each of the 22,000 civilians in the base, and one latrine for every 350 people.

Upsurge in fighting

Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, has changed hands several times during the conflict.

Control of the oilfields is crucial because South Sudan gets about 90% of its revenue from oil.

A ceasefire was signed in January but there has been a recent upsurge in fighting.

Last week, the UN said an attack on one of its bases in the central town of Bor in which at least 58 people were killed could constitute a war crime.

Fighting broke out last year after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting to stage a coup.

Mr Machar, who was sacked as vice-president last year, denied the charges but launched a rebellion.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan, which became the world newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.

Uganda – competition with the NRM and discontent with Museveni

The Observer (Kampala)

Even with rigging, Museveni would not defeat Mbabazi

Guest Writers

NRM youth leaders have been at the centre of a power struggle that became public at Kyankwanzi in February, pitting party Chairman Yoweri Museveni and Secretary General Amama Mbabazi.

Luzindana Adam Buyinza is one of the youths who were recently arrested for his pro-Mbabazi political activities. In the article below he shows it will take something more drastic to deter him:

H.E Y.K. Museveni once said that he is a war general, not a classroom general. Now let us go into presidential elections come 2016 and we shall see who is a real general. With or without free and fair elections, President Museveni cannot defeat Rt Hon Amama Mbabazi. Even with massive rigging, Museveni will never score 20% with Mbabazi in the race. I bet.

Ugandans know this fact and they are quiet due to fear of the police.Very few people can now express themselves on the political situation in the country, but they know what to do. For as long as President Museveni falls out with Mbabazi, the prime minister will have nothing to lose politically but a lot to gain both locally and internationally.

But the President will miserably lose as the majority of Ugandans will doubt him for falling out with all his bush war heroes and comrades – the list is known and the question will be, why? What has Mbabazi done?

Because Ugandans need a change of leadership at the top, they will unite with no fear to vote for Mbabazi. That is why today, if you address people as Mbabazi’s mobilisers, they will pay a lot of attention and they will welcome you with applause. But just say you work in State House or you are mobilising for Museveniand you will see the negative reaction from the people; why?

It is because the president has overstayed in power. It is important to note that the president has done a lot for Uganda but even good dancers leave the dancing floor. The young people of Uganda need a peaceful change from Museveni to Mbabazi come 2016 so that in 2021 we get a new president who was not part of the 1980s NRM bush war.

This is the way to go. We must ensure that President Museveni retires peacefully in 2016 and we shall continue to engage and consult him on national, regionaland global affairs.

The president believed so much in a peaceful approach to issues but Gen Kale Kayihura has resorted to use of force, bribery and divisionism amongst the NRM Youth League leaders; we shall never accept this as the elected youth leaders of NRM. Whatever the IGP has been doing since we had our press conference at Makerere University in February has instead worsened the situation.

President Yoweri Museveni casting his presidential vote in 2011

 


Different groups have emerged and more are likely to come up; how much will he spend to bribe them? How many will he arrest and imprison? On which grounds?

The actions of Gen Kayihura have indeed tainted the image of the president with red blood. This has never happened in NRM recent history for the Youth League to come out against the president/our chairman. If it was not because of my president and chairman Y.K. Museveni, the youth were ready to stage peaceful resistance and demonstrations against the NRM regime but we do not want to antagonise the president now.

I therefore want to inform Gen Kayihura that this country belongs to all Ugandans and they know what they want for themselves today and tomorrow. They may keep quiet but that doesn’t mean they are stupid or they support whatever he is doing. The IGP may succeed in intimidating them against expressing themselves, but he will never change their will and commitment to a fundamental change for the sustainable development of Uganda.

Gen Kayihura must resign as soon as possible if he really wishes good for the president. How can a whole IGP be recorded, or if it’s true thetapes were stolen; how is this possible – to steal from the police!

There is need for an investigation into the conduct of the IGP. He made political statements while meeting some NRM youth leaders, talking a lot about NRM, Museveni and Mbabazi; did he speak as IGP or as a member of NRM or a political mobiliser?

The youth have been used by the government. Many youth programmes have been launched but with no benefits. The Youth Fund worth Shs 45bn was launched by the president in 2012 but we do not know any youths who benefited from it.

The actions of the IGP are worsening the situation. So, the youths will continue to covertly mobilise against the president for as long as Gen Kayihura continues to undermine our Secretary General Mbabazi and the elected NRM Youth League leaders.

The youth are more determined to cause change than before. The use of money to divert them will never work; they will ‘eat’ the money but they will not give up on their cause.

The author is NRM Youth League leader for Kampala region. 0774992426.

Observer

Fears over peace in Burundi as polls approach and Nkurunziza tries to stay n

IRIN
Looming polls raise Burundi’s risk profile

BUJUMBURA (IRIN) – If high-level engagement by outside parties is a measure of political risk, Burundi is a country to keep a close eye on as it approaches elections next year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has had talks with President Pierre Nkurunziza. The US sent a senior envoy to speak to him in person. The UN Security Council has publicly voiced its concern. And these are just the lead players in a chorus of growing disquiet.

As the country gears up for elections at some yet-to-be-determined date next year, several issues are setting the crisis needle twitching: politically-instigated violence; restrictions on opposition activities and the press; the erosion of a power-sharing peace deal; and the president’s allegedly unconstitutional bid to run for a third term.

Meanwhile, relations between the government, led by the Hutu-dominated National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party, and the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB), which are supposed to be partners in a process of post-war stabilization, have very publicly soured over a leaked BNUB cable alleging weapons had earlier this year been distributed to members of the CNDD-FDD’s notorious youth wing, the Imbonerakure. The government has dismissed the report as absurd and dangerous.

Burundi turned the page on a civil war less than 10 years ago. Ignited in 1993 just after the country’s first presidential election, it was a conflict that pitted the country’s Hutu majority against a then-dominant Tutsi minority – mainly over access to political power.

After a visit to Burundi earlier this month, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, the first American cabinet member ever to travel to the central African country, said she was prompted to make the trip because of a variety of “alarming signs”.

These included, she said, “the decision to end [at the end of 2014] the UN mission at a time when there’s significant political volatility, to the very swift trials of 21 members, young people who were members of one of the leading opposition parties, to restrictive media laws, to moves to change the constitution.”

On 21 March 21 members of the opposition Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) were sentenced to life in jail and 26 given other prison terms after a demonstration in Bujumbura turned into a confrontation with security forces. MSD leader Alexis Sinduhije has also been charged in relation to the incident, but is in hiding.

“If you take a political crisis on the one hand and combine it with armaments on the other, those are precisely the ingredients for the kind of violence Burundi has managed to avoid now for a good few years, and it would be terribly tragic after all the progress that Burundi has made if it slipped into a large-scale political crisis, and certainly of course if it descended into violence,” Power said.

Tussle over Arusha Accords

On 10 April, members of the Security Council issued a statement in which they “recalled the urgent need for the Government of Burundi to address impunity, while respecting the right of due process, and for all the political parties to publicly condemn all political violence and acts of incitement to hatred or violence, in line with the Constitution of Burundi and the Arusha Agreement.”

Signed in 2000 after years of negotiation, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement – often referred to as the Arusha accords – was designed to end the civil war and set out power-sharing arrangements between different ethnic groups as the basis for durable peace and stability. The ruling CNDD-FDD was not a signatory.

Jean-Marie Ntahimpera, professor of political science at Bujumbura’s Lumiere University, blamed the current crisis on the government’s desire to demolish the Arusha deal, which he described as “the source of stability in the country”.

He said this desire was reflected in the major constitutional amendments the government has been trying to push through without any discussion with the opposition or civil society.

“Clearly there is pressure from supporters of the CNDD-FDD, who are trying to increase the number of their [government] posts. They reckon that the Arusha accords give enough posts and weight to the Tutsi, when they are a minority, and they want to bury these accords so that their supporters without jobs can get some.”

In a country where the private sector is tiny, the government remains the most significant source of formal employment.

“The country has been stable in recent years and it must remain stable. To achieve that these accords must be respected, other political parties must be allowed to work normally, democratic procedure must be accepted and the constitution respected,” said Ntahimpera.

“It would be terribly tragic after all the progress that Burundi has made if it slipped into a large-scale political crisis” For Yolande Bouke of the Institute of Security Studies, upsetting Burundi’s balance of power could create a danger, even if remote, “that the military might try to get involved.”

Noting that the political violence of recent years was not carried out across party rather than Hutu-Tutsi lines, Bouka warned that if those in power “chip away at Arusha there is a risk of re-ethnicizing the power struggle… if the government goes too far and fractures the military, with [Tutsi] officers feeling they stand to lose a lot…

“There is more of a threat to the Arusha accord now than there was a few years ago. The government is bolder than it was,” she added.

“Put all this together, and it seems as if they are trying to hold on to power by all means necessary,” Bouka told IRIN.

One key political development came in February when the country’s vice president, Bernard Busokoza, of the Tutsi-dominated Union for National Progress, the only opposition party represented in parliament, was dismissed from his post. This prompted the resignation of three Uprona government ministers, who were replaced by members of a pro-government Uprona faction not recognized by the main wing of the party.

Opposition incensed

Léonce Ngendakumana, chairman of the opposition Alliance of Democrats for Change-Ikibiri, has been particularly vociferous in his criticisms of the “authoritarian” government, warning in a 6 February letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the country was heading towards a “politico-ethnic genocide”.

Echoing longstanding findings of human rights activists, he said the government had carried out “extrajudicial executions, moral and physical torture, the detention and harassment of opposition supporters and leaders and of civil society and the media.”

Speaking to IRIN in mid-April, Ngendakumana said: “No other party is allowed to hold meetings when members of the presidential party regularly hold meetings…

“Weapons are being distributed like beans in the countryside to youths affiliated to the CNDD-FDD,” he added.

Denial

On 15 April, the government stepped up its vigorous denial of this allegation in a 1,700-word statement which accused BNUB, because of its confidential communication of the claim to UN headquarters in New York, of undermining relations with the government and the country’s very stability.

The statement called on the UN to investigate the claims, and to ensure they were not part of a campaign to “cover up the entry of weapons into the country to undermine security, and create chaos that could sabotage the elections”.

(The government maintains Ngendakumana is “allergic” to elections because the opposition has no chance of winning them. The opposition says its chances are seriously undermined by a skewed playing field.)

The statement also said “appropriate measures” should be taken against those responsible “so as to restore a climate of confidence” between BNUB and the government of Burundi.

For its part, BNUB has denied it was “conducting a campaign to tarnish the image of the country”, insisting “dialogue has always been at the centre of relations with the authorities of Burundi.”

“The United Nations have no other interest than to see the aspiration of Burundi for a prosperous, stable and peaceful nation, where democratic values flourish fully achieved,” it said in a statement.

Politically driven media?

The opposition’s Ngendakumana also said the government had monopolized state media, using it to broadcast political messages well ahead of the official election campaign period.

“The president himself initiated the amendment of the constitution [narrowly defeated in March] to illegally run for a third mandate. What he has done is illegal. The constitution limits the head of state’s number of mandates to two. Even the Arusha accords are clear on that.”

But senior government officials have argued that Nkurunziza’s first term does not count towards this limit as it was won not by popular vote but by a ballot limited to members of the national assembly.

Drawing a clear parallel with the murderous messages broadcast by Radio Television Milles Collines during the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago, opposition politicians have alleged Rema FM, a private pro-government station, has urged its listeners to “remain vigilant”.

According to IRIN’s own monitoring of the station, some Rema broadcasters call on listeners to be “vigilant” of those dissatisfied with the government’s activities, people it described as “saboteurs” who should not be allowed to get ahead.

A prominent civil society leader has sued Rema FM for equating his criticisms of the government with rebellion; the station, for its part, is suing over the Rwandan genocide comparison.

Political scientist Ntahimpera dismissed talk of genocide as overblown. “Opposition politicians use the word to show that things are serious. But there are no signs of genocide. Rather there are cases of human rights abuses linked to the restriction of the opposition’s political space. It is better to define things as they are rather than exaggerate.”

Now, he added, the international community “regrets what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and is trying to stop Burundi exploding”.

dn/am/cb

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Armed and dangerous? The government denies weapons have been distributed to the ruling party’s youth wing

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http://www.irinnews.org/report/99951/looming-polls-raise-burundi-s-risk-profile

South Sudan – rebels claim further victories in Unity state

Sudan Tribune

S. Sudan rebels claim further victories in Unity state

April 19, 2014 (KAMPALA) – South Sudanese rebels have announced further victories over the government troops in the Unity state, days after taking full control of the state capital, Bentiu, as well as Unity oilfields.

SPLA soldiers get off of a pick-up truck in Bentiu, Unity state January 12, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
The government confirmed that the rebels led by the former vice president, Riek Machar, had taken the control of the town since Tuesday.

Rebel military spokesperson based in Unity state, Lt. Col Peter Riek Gew, however told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the opposition forces have again captured Leer county, home of the rebel leader, Machar, southeast of Bentiu town.

He further said that they have also recaptured Tharjiath oilfields, the remaining oilfields in the state located in Koch county, about 40km south of Bentiu.

“Our forces have now taken full control of Leer county, Mirmir and Tharjiath oilfields in the operations to clear the state from the pro-Salva Kiir soldiers and their foreign mercenaries,” he told Sudan Tribune by phone from Bentiu.

He said the government forces in those areas were retreating towards Bahr el Ghazal region.

The SPLA spokesperson is not reachable for comment, despite several attempts.

Military sources in the area claimed their positions had been under sustained rebel attack since Thursday afternoon, despite SPLA receiving huge reinforcement from its fifth and third divisions in West and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where headquarters are located.

The rebel spokesperson further added that fighting was also going on in Mayom county, west of Bentiu, as the rebels wanted to control the bordering town on the road to Warrap state.

Another attempt by the government forces was repulsed at Pariang junction on Friday as they tried to head to Bentiu from the northern direction, the rebels said.

The rebels claimed they killed 57 government in that confrontation, adding that the opposition forces were on their way to Pariang county in the far north, which borders Sudan.

Rebels say if the IGAD-mediated peace process fails in Addis Ababa, they intend to clear the whole of Upper Nile region during the rainy season and take the fight to the national capital, Juba, and Bahr el Ghazal region.

Well informed sources in Juba say the government was planning to deploy more troops in Warrap state as they expect that rebels would seek to intensify attacks during the wet seasons.

Currently, there is a combined presence of South Sudan army and Ugandan UPDF forces in Upper Nile and Equatoria regions, fighting against the rebels.

In his recent visit to Addis Ababa, president Kiir reportedly urged the regional governments to quickly deploy the suggested forces to South Sudan to protect government’s vital installations.

Last month, Kenyan foreign ministry rejected to contribute troops in the IGAD force and instead declared this week it was sending 300 more troops to add to its 700 contingent already serving in the United Nations mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

20140419-090855.jpg

http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article50706

UN says attack on its Bor camp like a war crime

BBC
South Sudan conflict: UN outrage at deadly Bor attack

The UN has expressed outrage at a deadly attack on one of its bases in South Sudan, saying it could “constitute a war crime”.

Thursday’s attack by armed youths on the base in Bor left at least 58 dead, including children.

Thousands of civilians are sheltering from ethnic violence there.

The UN said its peacekeepers returned fire as a mob of some 300 people forced their way into the base in an “unprovoked attack”.

Thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan since fighting began in December between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar.

More than one million people have fled their homes in the conflict, some to neighbouring countries.

‘Lethal force’
The UN said: “The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms these acts and underscored that attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime.”

We will use force if at all necessary to protect people whose sole purpose for being inside our base is to stay alive”

Toby Lanzer, UN

It added: “The members of the Security Council called on the government of South Sudan to immediately take steps to ensure the safety of all civilians and UNMISS Protection of Civilian sites in South Sudan, to swiftly investigate these incidents, and to bring the perpetrators of these egregious acts to justice.”

Some 100 people were also wounded in the attack and the death toll may rise, the UN said.

The senior UN official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, praised the actions of the peacekeepers from India, Nepal and South Korea.

He told the BBC: “It is the bravery of the peacekeepers that managed to repel the attack. Unfortunately we have had significant loss of life.”

Almost 5,000 civilians are sheltering at the base in Bor.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 after a long and bloody conflict to become the world’s newest state.

South Korean peacekeepers were among those who acted to protect the base

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27085778

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Africa’s Currency Crunch

unusual indicators

Africa’s Currency Crunch


Sudan1How will the emerging market downturn play out in Africa? The region’s asset markets have been fairly robust – so far. Instead the pressure is being felt in African currencies. In fact, sub-Saharan Africa has the makings of a currency crisis.

From African Banker

There are some pretty strange things happening to Africa’s currencies.

Take a look at Zimbabwe. In January this year the Zimbabwean monetary authorities announced that with immediate effect an extra four foreign currencies would all be legal tender in Zimbabwe. That meant you could buy your bread with Indian rupees, your fish with Japanese yen, your noodles with Chinese yuan and your beer with Australian dollars.

Those four new legal currencies join the other five foreign currencies that are already legal in Zimbabwe – the Botswana pula, the UK pound, the euro, the rand and the US dollar. So you now have a choice of nine currencies in Zimbabwe – and not one of them is the ‘national’ currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, which was abandoned after collapsing amid hyper-inflation in 2009. In fact most people in Zimbabwe use either the US dollar or the South African rand, and have been doing so for a long time: the fact that the country does not have its own currency and therefore cannot use most of the usual levers of monetary policy no longer seems unusual.

In neighbouring Zambia it has been a very different story – on the face of it at least. Back in 2012 a new ruling suddenly banned the use of the US dollar for domestic transactions – with a penalty of ten years in jail for doing so. Then in May last year the authorities added another restrictive rule designed to defend the kwacha – this time a regulation that forced all businesses to remit foreign currency profits back home into local currency. It was highly unpopular, and many thought the only real beneficiaries were local banks, who made a tidy profit changing kwacha into foreign currency and then back again.

No ... Yes ... Maybe

Hate the dollar … love the dollar … it may all sound a bit contradictory, but in fact it is not. Zimbabwe and Zambia have both seen their currencies under pressure. Zimbabwe’s response was to abandon the domestic currency altogether. Zambia’s was to tough it out, and then give up just the same – because in March this year the Zambian authorities suddenly reversed policy and dropped all foreign exchange regulations. As many countries in the region are finding out, you can’t beat the currency markets.

But why is it all happening? When Zambia introduced its currency ban the kwacha was at an all time high. In 2012 and for most of 2013 other important African currencies like the Nigerian naira, the Ghanaian cedi and the Kenyan shilling were also strong. For a long period the South African rand seemed to be the only African currency that was depreciating in the face of tougher global economic conditions.

Now that is changing. The downturn in sentiment towards Africa that many forecast for last year is actually happening this year – and the effect is being seen in currencies. The Zambian kwacha has been one of the worst performing African currencies in 2014, depreciating 13% against the dollar by the end of March. The Ghanaian cedi has also been in steep decline against the US dollar, with the second worst depreciation of any African currency over the last 12 months (only the New Sudanese pound was worse).

$ cedi

These are the two of the three big losers so far this year – although there may be others to follow. The other has been the South African rand which has been on a declining track since the beginning of 2012, having fallen from less than seven rand to the US dollar to over 11 at the beginning of this year. The rand has stabilised and even made a little ground during 2014, although whether it has touched bottom or will resume its depreciation is very much an open question.

There is no one answer to the question of why African currencies are coming unstuck. Many things contribute to currency movements, including interest rates, government finances, and wider confidence levels. One big part of the story is the slowdown in other, larger emerging markets, especially China, a slowdown which is having a knock-on effect in Africa’s increasingly China-dependent economies. Global monetary policy is also part of the story – most investors now think that the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England will soon cut the amount of liquidity they pump into their economies, and that in turn cuts the amount of money that flows out and into emerging markets. But domestic issues are probably the most important of all. Africa’s debt and government deficits are starting to worry investors, who have suddenly grasped that the Africa good news story may have got a little ahead of itself.

Rand-$ Last 12 Months

The economic slowdown in China, India, and other commodity-consuming countries is itself contributing to the fall in commodity prices. This has been particularly hard on Africa: the price of copper, which accounts for over 80% of Zambia’s export earnings, has fallen by a third since 2011. That means less tax income for Zambia’s government, less profit and investment for Zambian industry, and less demand for Zambian currency.

But can the fall in commodity prices account for the widespread pressure on currencies? Hardly: some commodities have staged something of a recovery this year, but that has not been accompanied by a revival in currencies. The price of cocoa, for example, has been rising moderately for twelve months. The price of aluminium is slightly higher than it was a year ago. Both of these are important exports for Ghana – but the rises have done nothing to support the Ghanaian cedi.

It seems that something more fundamental is at work. The one thing that most of the weak-currency economies have in common is that they are running government spending deficits – that is, their governments are spending more than they receive in tax – and they are also running current account deficits, which means they are importing more than they are exporting. The current account deficit in particular is getting worse right across the region. Ten years ago the average deficit of sub-Saharan Africa was less than 2% of GDP. Now it is over 4%, and in some countries it is much worse – Ghana’s current account deficit is over 13%. Fiscal deficits – the amount the government has to borrow to pay for domestic spending – are also getting worse. Ghana’s fiscal deficit is now over 10%, which is double the amount that investors would consider normal.

Kwacha-$ Last 12 Months

These deficits have not appeared overnight – what has changed is the investor attitude towards them. Deficits of 10% plus might be sustainable in a period where global interest rates were very low (meaning that the cost of financing these deficits was also low) and expected to stay that way, and where regional growth rates were very high (meaning that it looked as if Africa could always grow its way out of trouble). But both of those things have changed. Interest rates are already high in emerging markets and set to rise in the US and in Europe, while African growth rates are falling. Average GDP growth sub-Saharan Africa is set to fall to around 5.5% this year, according to the IMF, down from an average of over 7% in the last decade.

So what next for Africa’s fragile currencies? The countries under the most pressure are already having to pay much higher long-term interest rates on their borrowing – Ghana’s ten year bond is currently paying just under 10% – and ‘policy rates’ (the domestic borrowing rate set by the central bank) are very high at 18%. For countries with floating exchange rates, governments may also return to capital control measures designed to lock capital in the country – the kind of policy that Zambia attempted, and that Angola, Mozambique and Ghana are all still following.

Also possible is that countries will try to peg their currencies against an external benchmark, the kind of policy that was familiar up until the early 1990s. The problem with a pegged currency is that a dual currency system emerges, with the market exchange rate being much lower than the official rate. The main beneficiaries of the dual exchange rate are traders with political connections, able to buy at market rates and then sell at the official rate.

What is fairly certain is that as currencies depreciate, domestic inflation will grow. African inflation is usually generated by import prices, which increase as the currency depreciates. South Africa is the sub-Saharan economy that is arguably the least vulnerable to imported inflation, thanks to its diversified domestic economy, but already South Africa has inflation running at around 6%, which is the upper limit of the central bank’s inflation target. Ghana has inflation running at over 13% – currently one of the world’s highest rates.

rand2

Also likely is that the performance of international corporations will suffer. Companies that report profit and loss in strong currencies but receive revenue in depreciating local currencies will find that sub-Saharan Africa is an increasingly difficult place to do profitable business. For example, the mobile telephone operator Zain whose African operations are now concentrated in Sudan and South Sudan earlier this year had to announce a dramatic fall in profits, due to the falling value of the Sudanese pound (which was devalued by 30% in November last year). Zain saw almost $150 million wiped from its profits when it released its accounts early this year – and that was a repeat of the performance the previous year, when the Sudanese currency fell 51% against the US dollar in continuing conflict following the independence of South Sudan.

However, not all regional currenciesrand1 performed badly. The three most important African markets for most companies and most investors are South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. And while the South African rand has been one of the continent’s currency losers for the last two years, the Nigerian naira and the Kenyan shilling have been much more robust. Although the Kenyan shilling did come under pressure briefly in 2011, it has been stable since. The naira has depreciated slightly in recent months, but in the main it has been stable since 2009.

Will this stability continue? For both countries, the most important factors will be the state of public finances, and confidence in the monetary authorities. And on both counts, it is Nigeria that is looking vulnerable.

As widely reported, Nigeria recently restated the size of its GDP in a statistical exercise endorsed by the IMF. Like many other African countries Nigeria’s GDP has proved to be seriously underestimated – the recent restatement has doubled GDP making Nigeria the biggest economy in Africa. But this restatement may have some unexpected side-effects with an impact on the currency.

Nigeria’s new enlarged GDP may have made the country look richer – but it has also revealed some weaknesses in the economy. The first is that the amount of tax Nigeria is managing to collect is very low for such a large economy. Because the amount of tax collected does not change when the GDP figures are restated, total tax revenues as a proportion of GDP have now halved to 12% – very low for any country, and exceptionally low for an economy where the government needs to spend heavily on infrastructural development, education, and government services. And most of that tax comes from oil and gas, even though in the new GDP accounts oil and gas now account for less than 15% of the economy. Suddenly the ability of Nigeria to finance itself through tax looks less convincing. Nigeria will have to borrow more, and that is exactly the kind of negative change that drives a depreciating currency.

Perhaps more significant is the way that Nigeria’s trade surplus suddenly looks less impressive. Before the restatement of GDP the country had a healthy surplus of 3.2%. Now the surplus is only 1.8% (and it is falling). The day when Nigeria starts to record a trade deficit is not far off. Again, already investors will be calculating that Nigeria is going to need more external financing, and sooner than expected.

EA1

This would not matter so much if investors abroad and at home had full confidence in the Nigeria’s monetary authorities. However, what confidence there was has been severely dented by the unexpected suspension of the central bank governor Lamido Sanussi, after the governor alleged large-scale corruption in the state oil company the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation.

None of this changes the fact that despite some modest depreciation, the Nigerian currency has been fairly stable for at least five years. But in the world of currency trading perceptions can change suddenly. Rising world interest rates, a sudden change for the worse in Nigeria’s national accounts, and a central bank adrift – it could be a perfect storm Nigeria and its currency. And the authorities in Kenya – which itself is about to restate its national accounts – will certainly be watching closely to see whether these pressures start to undermine the naira.

When currencies fall corporate profits fall with them, investors take fright and whole economies start to lose their momentum. This year has seen that begin to happen to several economies that previously looked robust. And the slide may not be over.

rand3

 unusual indicators

Kenya-ICC – court summons unwilling witnesses in Ruto trial

BBC

ICC summons reluctant Kenyan witnesses in Ruto trial

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto (R) reacts as he sits in the courtroom before his trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague (10 September 2013) William Ruto denies instigating violence that killed some 1,200 people

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has summoned reluctant witnesses to testify at the trial of Kenya’s Vice-President William Ruto.

It said the Kenyan government had an obligation to serve ICC subpoenas on the eight witnesses.

Mr Ruto denies charges of organising ethnic violence after the 2007 election in which some 1,200 people died.

The withdrawal of witnesses has affected several other ICC cases related to the Kenya poll violence.

Kenya’s violent elections

Clashes in the Mathare slum in Nairobi in January 2008

  • Then-President Mwai Kibaki declared the winner of December 2007 elections – Raila Odinga cries foul
  • Opposition protests lead to clashes with police and degenerate into ethnic violence across the country
  • More than 1,000 killed and 600,000 flee homes
  • Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was in the Kibaki camp; accused of orchestrating violence against ethnic groups seen as pro-Odinga
  • Incumbent Deputy President William Ruto was in the Odinga camp; accused of targeting pro-Kibaki communities
  • Power-sharing deal signed in April 2008 after mediation by ex-UN chief Kofi Annan
  • Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto form alliance and win March 2013 election
  • Mr Ruto’s trial started in September; Mr Kenyatta’s now due to start in October

Mr Ruto is currently the most senior serving government official to be tried by the ICC.

Last year, charges were dropped against Kenya’s former civil service head Francis Muthaura as some witnesses were too frightened to testify and another witness had recanted his testimony, the ICC said at the time.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is also due to stand trial – he too denies the allegations of orchestrating the post-poll conflict in which 600,000 people were displaced.

His trial had been delayed until October to allow the prosecution to collect more evidence following the loss of two key witnesses.

Mr Ruto is on trial alongside Joshua arap Sanga, who as head of a Kalenjin-language radio station is accused of whipping up ethnic hatred in the aftermath of the election – a charge he denies.

In a statement, the ICC said on Thursday that, according to the prosecution, the “eight witnesses are now no longer co-operating or have informed the prosecution that they are no longer willing to testify”.

It said the witnesses could appear by video-link to testify and asked Kenya’s government “to make appropriate arrangements for the security of the eight witnesses until they appear before the court”.

Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta were on opposite sides of the 2007 election, but formed an alliance for the 2013 election that propelled them to power.

The Kenyan government – backed by the African Union (AU) – has pushed for the cases to be dropped.  bbc

South Sudan – BBC says dozens killed in attack on Bor UN refugee camp

BBC
17 April 2014
South Sudan conflict: Attack on UN base ‘kills dozens’

The UN base in Bor is home to some 5,000 displaced civilians

Dozens of civilians sheltering in a UN base in the South Sudan town of Bor have been killed in an attack by armed youths, the UN says.

Toby Lanzer, the UN’s top aid official in South Sudan, told the BBC that the youths broke through the gates and opened fire.

UN peacekeepers returned fire and eventually repelled the attackers, he said.

Almost 5,000 civilians are sheltering at the base in the war-ravaged town.

Thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan since fighting began in December between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar.

We’ve got clear rules of engagement and we will use force if at all necessary to protect people whose sole purpose for being inside our base is to stay alive. Toby Lanzer UN assistant secretary general in South Sudan

More than one million people have been displaced in the conflict.

Mr Lanzer said a group of about 350 youths had left the centre of Bor, in Jonglei state, and approached the base on Thursday morning, allegedly wanting to present a petition.

“They managed to force the gate open, they came in and started shooting indiscriminately,” he told the BBC.

“It is the bravery of the peacekeepers that managed to repel the attack. Unfortunately we have had significant loss of life. I can’t confirm the number but I can tell you it runs into the dozens.”

Base reinforced
Mr Lanzer, the UN assistant secretary general in South Sudan, said the youths were dressed in civilian clothing and it was not clear who they were.

“It was totally unprovoked and I think that meting out violence on a group of civilians who are sheltering and seeking protection from the United Nations is not only cowardly it is abominable,” he said.

Mr Lanzer added that the UN had stepped up security following the attack.

“We have further reinforced our base and we will send very clear signals to anybody who wishes to approach us with any intent of wrongdoing,” he said.

“We’ve got clear rules of engagement and we will use force if at all necessary to protect people whose sole purpose for being inside our base is to stay alive.”

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 after a long and bloody conflict to become the world’s newest state.

20140418-083549.jpg

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27074635

 

Jok Madut Jok, Director of the Sudd Institute, Juba, has written:

With the conflict in South Sudan entering its fifth month, it is becoming clear that the country is heading into what many hoped would not happen, that this political rivalry would not develop into a civil war. But civil war it has become, with the rebel and government forces taking turns in occupying and taking control of state capitals and towns in Upper Nile region, the latest one being the rebel occupation of Bentiu, capital of Unity State. The signs that this is a civil war include the massive displaced population, the ratio of civilian deaths versus military, the turning of towns into rubble, the bitter language of “enemies” being used by both sides, and above all the hardening of ill feelings between the Nuer and the Dinka.

The longer this goes on the more difficult it will be to resolve this conflict, to restore civility, trust and coexistence. A good example of the intensification of emotions of revenge and counter-revenge that many have gone in for is the situation that transpired on Wednesday inside the UNMISS camp in Bor town. When the rebel occupied Bentiu this was celebrated by Nuer living in UNMISS camps, even in Bor and Juba, a really badly calculated celebration on the side of the IDPs, considering that they remain in the middle of government-controlled towns where their dancing in support of rebel successes is tantamount to a suicide. In reaction, supporters of the government could unleash their frustration on the Nuer IDPs, as the incident in Bor has demonstrated.

Considering that the rebels killed over 500 civilians upon taking Bentiu, including government officials, Darfuri traders, some 250 of whom were killed inside a mosque, and any non-Nuer civilian they met in town, there is no wonder why the mood of youth in Bor may not have been so conciliatory.

Another sign of a civil war is the rather bizarre fellowships such as Khartoum and Kampala being both on the side of Juba, with Khartoum and SPLM-north both on Juba side. I had always felt that this a shaky situation that could easily unravel. I was just unsure what was going to trigger its collapse, and the rebel retake of Bentiu on Monday may well be just the trigger that would lead to the collapse of these strange alliances, as Juba is already accusing Khartoum for aiding the rebels. There was a potential for Juba to use this position to bring Kampala and Khartoum closer for the first time since 1987, but now this potential for peace has become once again a potential for continued conflict between Uganda and Sudan. We are now witnessing the morphing of South Sudanese conflict into a battle field between regional powers, hence the start of a prolonged civil war, the victims of which will be the South Sudanese civilian population. With close to 4 million people on the verge of a humanitarian disaster, many arms back in the hands of civilians, ethnic raiding between Upper Nile and Bahr el-Ghazal, refugees streaming into the neighboring countries, with the hopes and aspirations for secured livelihoods, safety and prosperity, that South Sudanese had pinned to independence having now been replaced by death and destruction, what else do we have but a civil war?  https://www.facebook.com/jok.m.jok?fref=ts

South Sudan -30 dead after Bor youths attack UNMISS camp for IDPs

Sudan Tribune
30 people killed following clashes at UN base in Jonglei

April 17, 2014 (JUBA) – At least 30 people were killed in Jonglei state capital Bor on Thursday during clashes between local youth demonstrators and peacekeepers from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), medical sources told Sudan Tribune.

Children play inside a camp for internally displaced persons from the Nuer ethnic group inside the UNMISS compound in Bor, the capital of South Sudan’sJonglei state, on 27 February 2014 (Photo: AFP/Jim Lopez)
The clashes occurred about 9:30am (local time) when armed youth from Bor town opened fire on the UN compound where thousands of people displaced by ongoing violence in the country (IDPs) are currently sheltering.

UNMISS health worker William Oyual said 20 people were killed when armed local youths forced their way into the compound.

Bior Kuer, who works at Bor civil hospital, said another two people died at the health facility from wounds suffered during the fighting.

According to Kuer, 14 others were wounded, with three in critical condition.

UNMISS confirmed the fighting through spokesman Joe Conteras in Juba, but has yet to provide further details.

The UN base housing an Indian contingent of peacekeepers was overrun by the youths. who opened fire indiscriminately, killing an as yet unconfirmed number of people, including women and children.

It is not yet clear what provoked the attack on the IDPs, predominantly from the Nuer ethnic group, of which former vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar hails.

Conflicting reports suggest the incident was triggered by the recent capture of Unity state capital Bentiu by rebel forces aligned with

Sources say youth from the Dinka Bor tribe went to the UNMISS base to deliver a memo of protest demanding IDPs be relocated from the area after they were angered by celebrations inside the compound on Wednesday of Bentiu’s capture.

The South Sudan army’s (SPLA) director of information and public relations, Brig. Gen Maluak Ayuen, said the incident in Bor occurred after civil society representatives delivered a memo against Machar supporters in the UNMISS compound.

He confirmed the death of four civilians, adding that the final death toll is not yet known.

Meanwhile, Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, condemned the killing of IDPs “in the strongest terms possible”.

“Many survivors I spoke to confirmed to me that many people were killed and the base was deserted. Some of the survivors had to run to the bushes, while others made it to the other official camps of the Korean [peacekeeping] contingents,” he said.

Dak was also unable to confirm the death toll, but said eyewitnesses had described large numbers of dead bodies lying on the ground.

Officials from the Jonglei state government refused to comment when contacted by Sudan Tribune.

The incident in Jonglei delivers another blow to a ceasefire agreement signed between the South Sudanese government and rebel forces in January.

Bentiu, which has changed hands several times since conflict erupted across the country in mid-December, was recaptured on Monday by rebels, reportedly aided by Sudan’s feared Janjaweed Arab militia group.

The SPLA also claims South Sudanese rebels are receiving training inside Sudanese territory.

Both the rebels and the Sudanese army (SAF) have denied the claims.

(ST)

South Sudan: bad news for China as Machar attacks oil fields

African Arguments

– By Tim Steinecke

SudanOilField

The current conflict in South Sudan has now lasted nearly half a year, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese. Oil, South Sudan’s only major source of revenue, has neither been the reason for nor the focus of the conflict up to this point. But this is rapidly changing as the flow and whereabouts of the oil revenue, as well as the security of the oil fields themselves, moves to the very centre of the conflict.

Although production is only at half-capacity, oil revenue continues to fill Juba’s coffers with roughly $15 million a day. The income from the oil sector is the main financial support for the government of Salva Kiir in Juba and its armed fight against former vice president Riek Macher and rebel groups. Riek Machar has, in recent weeks, been struggling to maintain his fight against the government, in part due to a relative lack of resources available to the rebels compared to the government.

Over the last week the attacks on both the oil fields and a planned refinery in the oil-producing Unity State have intensified significantly. Attacking South Sudan’s oil sector is intended to cut off Salva Kiir’s main source of income and limit his political and military capabilities severely. It is highly unlikely that a scenario will develop in which the armed groups around Riek Machar are able to secure access to substantial oil revenues. However, threatening to, or actually disrupting oil production might be used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations with Kiir’s government, as well as in the ongoing negotiation process currently underway in Addis Ababa. Disrupting oil revenues means cutting deep into the lifeline of the government in Juba as well as threatening both the profits of international oil companies and the safety of their personnel.

All of this is bad news for the main actors in South Sudan’s oil business, namely the three national oil companies; the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL), and Malaysia’s Petronas. It is especially bad news for Beijing and somewhat ironic that China might find itself once again at the epicentre of the conflict in South Sudan.

China, unlike the other two international actors in South Sudan’s oil sector, has always played a more significant political and economic role in Sudanese-South Sudanese politics and economics as well as the regional oil sector. It was a result of the close ties between China and the government of Sudan (North) that rebel groups targeted Chinese companies ahead of independence in 2011. The goal was to increase their leverage over the government in Khartoum. Following independence, China and South Sudan went through a rough yet effective phase of rapprochement. Their new relationship even managed to survive the oil shutdown between January 2012 and April 2013. Then, in December 2013, the armed conflict broke out.

China’s role in the region has become more obvious over recent months. China’s special envoy to Africa, Ambassador Zhong Jianhua, undertook numerous trips to the region since December, leading some international commentators to question the future of Beijing’s non-interference policy. Ambassador Zhong not only visited Juba, but also Khartoum, Addis Ababa, and Kampala, all of which Beijing has established very close relations with and all of which are key actors in South Sudan’s conflict. While China might not be ready to abandon its formal notion of non-interference, South Sudan’s conflict has shown a more confident and assertive side of Beijing’s diplomacy.

Riek Machar and his armed followers will recognise the political and economic leverage that Beijing has, not only with Salva Kiir in Juba, but throughout the region. If Machar wants to pressure Kiir into further concessions and show his remaining influence in South Sudan, targeting the oil sector and its foreign actors, such as Chinese companies and their personnel, would be a potentially effective step.

Any action involving the South Sudanese oil sector and Chinese companies will create something of a dilemma for Riek Machar. On the one hand, any action involving the oil sector and Chinese companies will improve his bargaining position and give further credence to his position as a power-broker in the country. On the other hand, Machar risks alienating China as the most important external power in the country and entire region. China remains a critical future partner should Machar’s plans succeed. But the rebel leader will also want to uphold an image of statesmanship and respectability as a  future partner for Beijing, rather than that of a dangerous outlaw.

With the rebel attack on Bentiu this week, Machar has proven that he is willing to take on South Sudan’s oil sector. His warning to foreign oil companies to vacate the region within a week seems to indicate that he is not yet ready to involve China and other foreign actors. It is a slippery slope, since Machar himself recently admitted that controlling all factions of the rebels is proving to be a difficult task.

The CNPC, as well as OVL and Petronas, have reason to be concerned for their investments, profits, and the safety of their staff. The governments in Beijing, Delhi, and Kuala Lumpur have to consider playing an even more constructive and active role in finding a solution to South Sudan’s conflict. It is in their best interests too.

Tim Steinecke is a PhD student at St Andrews University working on the influence of national oil companies on Chinese, Indian and Malaysian foreign policy towards South Sudan. You can follow him on Twitter @t_steinecke.