Category Archives: Central Africa

South Africa – guilty verdict in case of men accused of shooting exiled Rwandan general


Four guilty of shooting Rwandan exile in Johannesburg

REUTERS | 29 August, 2014 14:06

Exiled Rwandan General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. File photo
Image by: REUTERS
A South African court on Friday found four men guilty of trying to kill an exiled critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, in a case that had strained diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa survived being shot in the stomach as he was being driven into his Johannesburg home in 2010, the same year he fled Rwanda after falling out with former ally Kagame.

Another attempt on Nyamwasa’s life in March this year intensified diplomatic tensions as South African Justice Minister Jeff Radebe warned Rwanda that “our country will not be used as a springboard to do illegal activities”.

Rwanda’s ambassador in Pretoria responded by denying Kigali was involved in attacks against exiles and the countries traded tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats.

South African Magistrate Stanley Mkhari said four men – two Rwandan and two Tanzanians – were guilty of the first count to commit murder four years ago. He also found them guilty of joint possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Sentencing was expected next month.

Mkhari said there was not enough evidence to link two other accused – Nyamwasa’s driver Richard Bachisa and Rwandan businessman Pascal Kanyandekwe – to the crimes.

Prosecutors had accused Kanyandekwe of being a key organiser of the attempted killing and of working with Bachisa, who had been driving Nyamwasa and his wife home when a gunman accosted them at the security gate.

South African police have also been investigating the New Year’s Eve murder in a posh Johannesburg hotel of another exiled Kagame opponent, former Rwandan spy chief Patrick Karegeya.

Rwandan political exiles sheltering in other countries in Africa, Europe and the United States have pointed an accusing finger at Kigali for dozens of attacks on Kagame’s critics on foreign soil, charges Rwandan leaders have dismissed.

Kagame, who has won Western praise for rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, denies his government ordered the attacks, but has said “traitors” should expect consequences, a remark that dismayed Western donors of the Great Lakes state.

Rwanda’s 1994 genocide saw Hutu soldiers and militia slaughter around 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis, while the international community largely stood by.

Critics say Kagame, who led his predominantly Tutsi rebel movement to power after the genocide and won support from Western powers as an ally in turbulent central Africa, has taken advantage of Western guilt over the genocide to increase persecution of opponents.

The United States has expressed concern at what it calls “politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles”.

South Africa has refused to extradite Nyamwasa despite a request by French authorities who say he is one of the officers who knew of Kagame’s alleged order to shoot down a plane carrying the then presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, which triggered the 1994 genocide.

Spain has also sought Nyamwasa’s extradition for war crimes and crimes against humanity in respect to the murder of Spanish citizens in Rwanda and the massacre of thousands of Hutu refugees at a football stadium.  timeslive

Senegal confirms first ebola case


Ebola outbreak: Senegal confirms first case

Health workers take off their protective suits after finishing disinfecting areas at the Pita hospital on August 25, 2014Senegal had already closed its borders to neighbouring Guinea to try to stop the spread of the virus

Senegal’s health ministry has confirmed a first case of Ebola, making it the fifth West African country to be affected by the outbreak.

Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck told reporters on Friday that a young man from Guinea was confirmed to have contracted the virus.

The man was immediately placed in quarantine, she added.

The current outbreak, which began in Guinea, has killed more than 1,500 people across the region.

At least 3,000 people have been infected with the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned it could get much worse and infect more than 20,000 people.

Guinea riot

Senegal had previously closed its border with Guinea in an attempt to halt the spread of Ebola, but its frontiers are porous.

A soldier from the Sierra Leone army stands near an Ebola information poster outside Kailahun, on August 14, 2014.The affected countries have been running public information campaigns to warn about Ebola

It had also banned flights and ships from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – the three worst-hit countries.

But the Guinean health services reported on Wednesday “the disappearance of a person infected with Ebola who reportedly travelled to Senegal,” according to Senegal’s health minister.

A young Guinean student later turned up at a hospital in the capital, Dakar, said Ms Seck, but he did not reveal that he had had contact with Ebola patients in his own country.

Senegal, a major transit hub for aid agencies, has a large Guinean population.

Separately on Friday, residents of Guinea’s second largest city, Nzerekore, rioted after its main market was sprayed with disinfectant in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.

Health workers take off their protective suits as they finish their shifts at Pita hospital in Guinea - 25 August 2014Treatment centres in the affected West African states are already said to be operating at full capacity

The exact cause of the riot is not clear – some people reportedly feared the spray would spread Ebola. Police responded by firing tear gas.

A 24-hour curfew is currently in place in the city, which is the capital of the Forest Region, where the Ebola epidemic has its epicentre.

However the BBC’s Alhassan Sillah in Guinea says the town has miraculously remained free of Ebola so far.

There have been relatively few cases in Guinea recently, with far higher infection rates in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and six deaths in Nigeria.


On Thursday, the WHO unveiled a plan aimed at stopping transmission of the virus in the next six to nine months.

Among its recommendations, it said countries affected should conduct exit screening to prevent the disease from spreading to a further 10 countries.

The plan calls for $489m (£295m) to be spent over the next nine months and requires 750 international workers and 12,000 national workers across West Africa.


Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host


Ebola – West African health ministers to reverse travel ban


Ebola outbreak: West Africa travel bans to be lifted

Passengers queue to leave Liberia's  Roberts International Airport near Monrovia (28 August 2014) The WHO says that travel bans are jeopardising efforts to beat the epidemic

West African health ministers meeting in Ghana have agreed that travel restrictions imposed to combat Ebola should be lifted.

The ministers followed advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which said that the restrictions create food and supply shortages and harm efforts to contain the deadly virus.

The WHO says the West Africa outbreak could infect more than 20,000 people.

It says there could be four times more cases than officially registered.

The WHO said it was important that airlines resume “vital” flights across the region, because travel bans were threatening efforts to beat the epidemic.

Health agents check a passenger leaving Liberia at the Roberts International Airport near Monrovia (27 August 2014)Proper screening will stop the spread of the virus, officials argue
Bruce Aylward, an official at the WHO, speaks to the media during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland - 28 August 2014Bruce Aylward, a top WHO official, said the number of cases could be much higher than reported

“This is not a West African issue or an African issue. This is a global health security issue,” WHO’s Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward told reporters in Geneva.

It recommends that countries affected by Ebola should conduct exit screening amid concerns that the virus could spread to 10 further countries beyond the four now affected.

The number of deaths from Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria now stands at 1,552. About 3,000 people are registered with the illness.

Announcing an action plan by the WHO to deal with the outbreak, Dr Aylward said “the actual number of cases may be 2-4 fold higher than that currently reported” in some areas.

The plan calls for $489 million (£295m) to be spent over the next nine months and requires 750 international workers and 12,000 national workers across West Africa.

Employees of the Swiss red cross organization (SRK), pack medical goods designated to be sent to Liberia to fight the outbreak and spread of Ebola (28 August 2014)The transport of medical supplies should become easier if travel restrictions are lifted

On Thursday, Nigeria confirmed its first Ebola death outside Lagos, with an infected doctor in the oil hub of Port Harcourt dying from the disease.

Operations have not yet been affected in Africa’s biggest oil producer, but a spokesman for Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary said they were “monitoring the Ebola outbreak very closely”.

The health ministers from across West Africa are attending an extraordinary meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) in Accra to discuss how to prevent the virus from spreading.

“Excessive restrictions of travel and border closures will adversely affect the economies of the sub-region,” said Ecowas chairman and Ghana’s President John Mahama explaining the decision to lift flight bans.

The BBC’s Tomi Oladipo says Nigeria has recorded its first Ebola death outside Lagos

Earlier Mr Aylward insisted bans on travel and trade would not stop the spread of Ebola, saying they were “more likely to compromise the ability to respond”.

Despite rumours to the contrary, the virus is not airborne and is spread by humans coming into contact with bodily fluids, such as sweat and blood, from those infected with virus.

Meanwhile, the British medical charity Wellcome Trust and pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said safety trials on an experimental Ebola vaccine are being fast-tracked.

GSK says it plans to build up a stockpile of up to 10,000 doses for emergency deployment if results from the trials, which could begin as soon as next month, are good.


Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host


SANDF troops died in CAR while generals dithered and wasted time back home

Mail and Guardian

While South African soldiers were fighting for their lives in the CAR last year, a different battle was going on back at defence headquarters.

The so-called battle of Bangui cost 13 SANDF soldiers their lives. (AFP)

Internal South African National Defence Force (SANDF) documents paint a dramatic picture of desperate efforts by operations staff to source a cargo aircraft to transport support equipment, including armoured vehicles, to Bangui in the Central African Republic.

Read Bangui bunglers score R209m in contracts

The first shots were fired on Friday March 22 at about 4pm, and the operational planners decided on Saturday evening that an Antonov AN-124 aircraft was required. This was to transport eight Mamba vehicles, one diesel bowser and supporting equipment to the mission area that had “become a war zone overnight”.

On Sunday morning the rebels brokered a ceasefire. By then, 13 South African soldiers were dead and 27 injured.

In a written account seen by ama­Bhungane, the director of joint operation support, identified as Lieutenant Colonel WJ Damon, describes how they had tried to contact the companies that were registered as approved SANDF suppliers.

“From midnight Saturday to Sunday morning in the early hours … we tried to locate the registered companies to indicate the availability of [an] AN-124. Avient was the only company indicating at that stage of the night non-availability … The phones of the other charter companies were just ringing.

“Due to the urgency … Ultimate Heli … was also contacted and within 30 minutes confirm[ed] availability for Sunday night March 24 2013, landing at AFB Waterkloof.” The plan was for the plane to load and leave at first light on the Monday morning.

After receiving verbal approval, Ultimate Heli began moving the aircraft from the West Indies to within a few flying hours of Pretoria.

According to Damon, it was on Sunday afternoon that the SANDF’s director of logistics procurement, Brigadier General Thithuwi Mulaudzi, intervened.

Damon writes: “During the day, around 3pm, Lt Col [David] Engela [who works in the procurement division] call[ed] to say Brig Gen Mulaudzi instructed them to go out on tender again to the same companies although they [had] already indicate[d] nonavailability, for a second time.

“According to Lt Col Engela, the second time, later that afternoon, Y&P indicated that they can provide an AN-124, after the same day earlier they indicate[d] nonavailability.”

Damon alleges that after a letter of authority was issued to Y&P the company indicated that the AN-124 would only be available later in the week, not on the day as approved.

By that stage the Ultimate Heli contract had been cancelled, though the SANDF would still be presented with a bill for having placed the aircraft on standby.

Six-day wait
In a separate report, director of joint operational support Brigadier General Tersia Jacobs says Y&P was not in a position to fly on the Monday and only delivered the vehicles six days later, on Saturday March 30.

She notes: “During the week all SANDF troops were moved from the base to the airport, rebel fighting continued. Most of our troops feared for their lives, even while they were next to the runway. A civilian company was greedy enough to tender for the job, [but] could not deliver against the operational target date.”

She added that, even when informed that the company did not have a plane available to fulfil the contract on time, “Mulaudzi preferred to ignore the information at hand”. She said she had asked the chief of logistics to launch an investigation – a demand repeated in letters by other senior SANDF officers, including Major General William Nkonyeni and Damon.

Brigadier General Sam Motau, director of joint support for operations, then gave a verbal order to procure anyone “who can meet critical timelines”. Ultimate Heli was then contracted, though it was not an approved supplier. It was far cheaper, bidding at R13-million; Y&P’s total bill was R26.7-million.

The company’s director, Shaun Roseveare, confirmed that he had invoiced the SANDF for the four days the Antonov had been parked in West Africa, but had not been paid.

Numerous attempts were made to contact Mulaudzi for comment, without success.

Adverse reports had little effect on tenders

A tender list compiled by a South African National Defence Force insider indicates that, in the 15 months up to June this year, Y&P received 91 tenders from the SANDF with a cumulative value of R209-million.

In the same period, seven rival companies were jointly awarded 40 tenders with a total value of R67-million. SANDF internal documents seen by amaBhungane raise questions about that record, given the alarming picture of incidents associated with Y&P.

A letter by Lieutenant BA Steenkamp, the SANDF representative at the United Nations observer mission in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, alleges that he personally witnessed the “pressurisation problem” on a Y&P-brokered Boeing LMG749 during a flight from Kinshasa to Bloemfontein carrying 130 South African soldiers.

Oxygen masks deployed and the soldiers panicked, he said. The plane was diverted to Zambia, where Steenkamp said it was revealed that Y&P could not provide a back-up plane. According to bid adjudication information amaBhungane has seen, contractors are required to offer a back-up aircraft within 24-hour reach of the principal aircraft.

The plane, still suffering from depressurisation, flew on at low altitude to OR Tambo. A second report, by Lieutenant Colonel Willy Damon of the joint operations division, alleges that the “unserviceable” Boeing was exchanged for a DC9 without consultation with the defence department, in breach of contract and procurement procedures.

“The company ignored the … closure of the Bloemfontein airport and landed unmanned, although they were told not to do so,” Damon writes. “This kind of attitude from civilian companies … is not only unacceptable but also illegal, seeing that the aircraft was fully under the command of the DoD [department of defence].”

Free State border control officials also issued strongly worded letters of complaint, saying that the landing posed health and security issues, especially because the plane had come from the “yellow fever belt”.

After the incident at Kigali Airport, Major C Simmers, also of the UN observer mission in the DRC, wrote that an IL76 transport plane leased by Y&P from the company Soviet Air Charter, struck the airstrip with its wing.

This had prevented the off-loading of the vehicles on the plane, the detention of the plane, the arrest of the crew and “unnecessary parking and levies”.

Major General William Nkonyeni, general officer commanding joint operational headquarters, is scathing about Y&P’s listing of the detained aircraft as a back-up plane for an SANDF mission to Sudan days later. In a June 2013 letter, he says: “Y&P Logistics has compromised a peace operation’s sustainment flight by bidding for a task, while the CEO [chief executive officer] knew that it was a huge risk to plan the flight around the IL76 still in Rwanda’s possession.”

There are also hints of collusion by the defence department’s procurement division, which, according to Nkonyeni, “changed the letter of acceptance with new tail numbers the same day and forwarded it to the [South African Air Force] for processing”. He notes that this is “unlawful [and] can be challenged by competitors if known”.

SANDF responded after the Mail & Guardian had gone to press. Here is its responsein full. – Pauli van Wyk

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See for our stories, activities and funding sources.

Sudan:politics by declaration

African Arguments
Sudan: politics by declaration – By Magdi el-Gizouli

Posted on August 28, 2014 by AfricanArgumentsEditor

Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) and patron of the Ansar brotherhood, held a brief round of talks earlier this month in Paris with leaders of the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), the umbrella organisation whose main members are the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement-North (SPLA/M-N), the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the two factions of the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M). The talks concluded with the signing of political statement by the two sides on 8 August which they chose to name the ‘Paris Declaration’.

From the French capital, Sadiq al-Mahdi flew to Cairo where he hopes to market his new document to an international audience, while the SRF figures, Yasir Arman, secretary general of the SPLA/M-N, and al-Tom Hajo, a former functionary of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), jetted to London to win the favour of Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, the chief of the DUP and patron of the Khatmiyya brotherhood, resident in the British capital since the bloody protests against the downscaling of fuel subsidies in Khartoum in September 2013. A statement released in Khartoum said al-Mirghani only talked about his health to his visitors.

Sadiq al-Mahdi’s daughter and newly declared deputy, Miriam, made the journey to Khartoum where she was apprehended by the security authorities upon arrival and now awaits presidential clemency or prosecution, depending on the political temperature, in the women’s prison in Omdurman. Her brother, Abd al-Rahman, who serves as President Bashir’s assistant, reportedly advised Miriam to stay put in Paris, and has not even made the gesture of interrupting his duties in the republican palace on the Nile. Rather, he has been busy discussing ‘national dialogue’ with Hassan al-Turabi, his uncle-in-law (husband of his paternal aunt) and chief of the Popular Congress Party (PCP).

The itinerary of its signatories aside, the four-page Paris declaration is the latest incarnation of a trail of documents that brought together the ancestor SPLM and representatives of Khartoum’s political class dating back to the 1980s, with the promise of delivering an agenda and platform for the transformative management of Sudan’s crises. The first of these documents is the March 1986 declaration signed by the SPLA/M and delegates of the National Alliance for National Salvation (NANS) in Ethiopia’s Koka Dam. The NANS joined the political forces that came together to topple the regime of Jaafar Nimayri in the 1985 intifada.

Idris al-Banna represented Sadiq al-Mahdi’s NUP in the NANS delegation, which was dominated by leaders of professional associations and academics. But the NUP backtracked from the deal under immense pressure from the Islamic Movement under Hassan al-Turabi, at the time politically operative as the National Islamic Front (NIF), when the two pages of the document were made public in Khartoum. The NUP eventually found no need for the Koka Dam declaration once it won the largest share of parliamentary seats in the April 1986 elections and Sadiq al-Mahdi’s premiership was guaranteed.

The Koka Dam declaration called for a ‘national constitutional conference’ to debate Sudan’s governance crisis, predated by a series of measures to ensure an adequate political environment, notably the repeal of sharia laws, adoption of the 1956 constitution as amended in 1964, and efforts to sign a ceasefire with the SPLA/M in southern Sudan. The document demanded as a condition for the ‘national constitutional conference’ the dissolution of the government of the day, the chronically rotating cabinet premiered by Sadiq al-Mahdi, and its replacement by an ‘interim government of national unity’ representing all the political forces in the country, including the SPLA/M and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

Whether by design or destiny, the Paris Declaration of Sadiq al-Mahdi and the SRF rehashed the basic tenets of its Koka Dam predecessor: the call for the convention of a constitutional conference under the authority of an interim all-parties government that accommodates the political leaders of an insurgency. Koka Dam it must be said was a touch more ambitious and boldly promised to inaugurate the ‘New Sudan’, a term that the SPLA/M-N and its allies in the SRF consciously dropped in their Paris document for understandable reasons. They opted instead for the blanket reference to ‘forces of change’. While the signatories of the Koka Dam declaration, Khartoumian intellectuals of a liberal bent, could easily claim the credentials of the ‘New Sudanese Man’ (at the time gender sensibilities were not particularly sharp), buoyantly democratic and human rights conscious, Sadiq al-Mahdi, an establishment heavyweight, can hardly claim to represent anything ‘new’ in the Sudanese polity.

Earlier this year, the NCP launched its National Dialogue initiative in close coordination with the NUP chairman Sadiq al-Mahdi and the PCP chief Hassan al-Turabi. The two men, along with Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani, newly evolved into an opposition figure after an outstanding record of service in the successive governments of President Bashir, listened intently to the President’s ‘leap speech’ on 27 January this year, and were involved in the initial deliberations to form the 7+7 steering committee, composed of an equal number of representatives of government and opposition parties.

Sadiq al-Mahdi, however, soon opted out, for the same reason that he had before parted with the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to sign the Djibouti accord with President Bashir in November 1999 and more recently walked out of the opposition National Consensus Forces (NCF), when his plans for restructuring the alliance were rejected. The former premier identified his core grievance in a proposal he voiced in July after the suspension of his party’s involvement in President Bashir’s National Dialogue a few weeks earlier. A frustrated Sadiq called for the National Dialogue process to be restricted to the “six historical parties” and the rebel movements – excluding the smaller organisations and break-off factions that confound the NUP’s claim to be the largest political party in the country, a claim based on the results of the 1986 elections, twenty-eight long years ago!

The big six in Sadiq al-Mahdi’s count are his NUP, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani’s DUP, the two wings of the Islamic Movement, the ruling NCP and Hassan al-Turabi’s PCP, in addition to the SPLA/M, in the really existing ‘New Sudan’ the SPLA/M-N of Malik Agar, Abd al-Aziz al-Hilu and Yasir Arman, and the Sudanese Communist Party. According to Sadiq al-Mahdi’s calculus, newcomers would have to prove their political weight through demonstration of a country-wide network and a record of activity in order to secure access to the comprehensive national dialogue he envisions. Sadiq’s July proposal had the bulky title: “The Nation-Building Charter – Unified Diversity”. When asked about the activity of his own party, Sadiq, the keen accountant, usually cites the numbers of workshops, press conferences and political declarations with an NUP tag.

Sadiq al-Mahdi’s concern for representation stems from his stubborn resistance to acknowledge the mutations of the political terrain he attempted and disastrously failed to charter as premier between 1986 and 1989, a time when he failed to live up to his billing as “Sadiq… hope of the nation”. Darfur and southern Kordofan were once regions of a secure NUP vote, so much so that the party had more trouble managing factional disputes over candidacy than defeating competitors. Since then, the violent convulsions in those areas have generated patterns of political consciousness, easily dismissed as ‘tribal’, that preclude a NUP sweep without further qualification.

To access the electoral benevolence of his core constituencies once again, Sadiq al-Mahdi would have to bargain hard and long with skilful Baggara politicians, who now command local and state governments and standing militias, and brag about cabinet quotas in the central government. In the White Nile, the other historical safe haven of the NUP, socio-economic transformations, including the massive expansion of higher education under the NCP and mass labour emigration, are likely to sap away at the NUP vote just as the urbanisation wave of the 1970’s reduced the DUP’s dominance in the three towns of the capital Khartoum to a mere remnant in the 1986 elections, to the good fortune of Hassan al-Turabi’s NIF.

The NUP as a party suffered this inconvenient history as a series of splits which Sadiq al-Mahdi prefers to blame squarely on the NCP, the most dramatic being the decision of Sadiq’s cousin and former NUP secretary general, Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi, to run away with almost half of the party organisation straight to the presidential palace in 2002. Mubarak’s tenure as assistant to President Bashir ended in 2004, but the party he summoned out of the NUP remained in government bondage, albeit splintered in yet another bout of factional dispute. Sadiq al-Mahdi has since effectively barred Mubarak’s return to the NUP homestead despite multiple attempts at reconciliation; the most recent mediated by the estranged Mahdi elder and Sadiq’s uncle, Ahmed al-Mahdi, on the occasion of Sadiq’s release from brief imprisonment in July.

It is then conceivable that Sadiq al-Mahdi found no entertainment in the NDA leadership structure before his departure in 1999. His rival Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, chief of the DUP, maintained a permanent chairmanship thanks to an unwritten understanding with the late John Garang. Sadiq al-Mahdi also had to suffer formal equality in decision making processes with exiled trade union leaders and army officers. Likewise, Sadiq al-Mahdi could secure no advantage of political history and stature in the NCF where his NUP had to bear the same voting rights as the Communist Party, factions of the Baath Party, the miniscule New Democratic Forces Movement (Haq), itself a faction of a faction that jumped off the Communist Party in 1995, and the opposition Sudanese Congress Party of Ibrahim al-Sheikh among others.

President Bashir’s National Dialogue, where Sadiq al-Mahdi had hoped to receive the accommodation due to a former prime minister, proved no exception. Not only was the process largely dominated by Hassan al-Turabi, whose party in effect turned the page on its dispute with the NCP; but Sadiq al-Mahdi was asked to share the table with figures who had departed his NUP and formed their own mini-Ummas on the government side as leaders of political parties that had an equal say in the process as he did. Others at the table included two splinters of the ruling NCP, Ghazi al-Attabani’s Reform Now Movement (RNM) and Tayeb Mustafa’s Just Peace Forum (JPF), on the opposition side, next to a range of exotic newcomers and a tragicomic association of Nimayri fans who miraculously resurrected the long dead Sudan Socialist Union – the Alliance of the People’s Workforces but corrupted the name with the adjunct ‘democratic’.

According to President Bashir’s count, the national dialogue heralded by the leap speech brought together eighty four political parties, equal as the teeth of a comb to paraphrase a tradition of the Prophet Mohamed. In this crowd, managed by the NCP and the PCP, Sadiq al-Mahdi and his big NUP had one vote. Compared to this political bazaar, members of the SRF were at least a countable bunch.

In signing the Paris Declaration with the SRF after an extensive and eventful flirt with the NCP that included a short spell in the Cooper prison in Khartoum, Sadiq al-Mahdi was apparently enacting a political tactic employed against him during the last year of his premiership back in 1988 by his less glamourous rival, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani. At the time, the DUP was partnered with the NUP in one of Sadiq al-Mahdi’s wobbly cabinets. Mirghani flew to Addis Ababa where he negotiated the principles of a peaceful settlement for the civil war in the country with the SPLA/M leader John Garang. It has since been hailed as Sudan’s wasted peace opportunity.

The November 1988 Sudanese peace agreement as it came to be known was a shorter version of the Koka Dam declaration, which the DUP and the NIF had boycotted. It featured Koka Dam’s basic tenets apart from dissolution of the government of the day, namely the call for a national constitutional conference to be held on 31 December 1988 on condition of the repeal of the Sharia laws, the implementation of an immediate ceasefire and the lifting of the state of emergency in southern Sudan. Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani received a hero’s welcome in Khartoum upon his return from Addis Ababa, but the NIF launched an aggressive campaign against the deal focused on the blasphemy of suspending the holy laws. Sadiq al-Mahdi was intimidated into rejecting the Garang-Mirghani accord, the DUP walked out of the cabinet and the NIF stepped in instead.

The SPLA/M-N today can hardly claim the military stature of the parent SPLA/M under Garang in the 1980s, wired to the plugs of the cold war and sufficiently serviced by the Ethiopian Derg, hence the declaration was signed in Paris and not a neighbouring capital. If Sadiq al-Mahdi sought to borrow the SRF’s regime change agenda in pursuit of a more favourable bargain with Khartoum’s rulers, the SRF wants from Sadiq al-Mahdi, the Imam, the stamp and signature of the Sudanese establishment, the very old Sudan it wishes to dispense with in ‘revolutionary’ fashion. Each side is fully aware of the tactical motives of the other but simply have no better politics to offer than the exhausted plagiarisation of past exercises.

Even the pernicious Tayeb Mustafa, leader of the JPF, could not resist the tempting opportunism of the Paris Declaration. The dedicated enemy of the SRF announced his support for the document, saying he tried but could not find fault with it. Instead of its original objective of ‘overthrowing’ the regime, the SRF had adopted Sadiq al-Mahdi’s line of ‘changing’ it, he argued in a flash of semantic insight. Next to the PCP, the NCP’s main partner in the National Dialogue, the JPF is but a footnote, and Tayeb Mustafa, the politician, is apparently a fast learner.

The SPLA/M-N ventured beyond the routines of déjà vu last July when its senior commander in South Kordofan, Jagoud Mikwar Murada, talked politics with Ismail al-Aghbash, representing Musa Hilal’s newly launched Sudanese Awakening Council. Hilal is best known as a Janjaweed leader, but his relationship with Khartoum is now stormy. Murada and al-Aghbash signed a nameless joint statement promising future cooperation to abort the politics of divide and rule in the war-ravaged peripheries of the country and establish a state based on good governance and citizenship through a “comprehensive constitutional process conducive to change”. The encounter set sirens off among the ‘liberals’ of Khartoum, devoted hitchhikers of the SPLA/M-N bandwagon and perennial advocates of ‘change’. They cried génocidaire at Musa Hilal but could not comprehend the prospect of autonomous politics flowing out of the settlements of the Mahameed in North Darfur, unmediated by a sectarian jellabiya from the capital.

Intimidated by the backlash, the SPLA/M-N leadership buried the statement in silence, preferring instead the Parisian high notes of Sadiq al-Mahdi. Hilal aside, the shoulder taps between al-Aghbash and Murada signal a potential of inventing a politics of struggle for the nas (commoners) across the racial divide of the Sudanese hinterlands, an avenue for the ‘New Sudan’ that the SPLA/M-N in its infatuation with the declaration politics of the ‘old Sudan’ is very likely to stray away from.

Magdi el Gizouli is an academic and a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He writes on Sudanese affairs at

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Zambia – just how ill is President Sata?


King Cobra loses his venom

28 August 2014

Guy Scott was conspicuous by his pallor as the only white leader present at United States (US) President Barack Obama’s US-Africa summit in Washington earlier this month.

The rather eccentric Scott – who last year earned himself a certain local notoriety by calling South Africans ‘backward’ and suggesting that President Jacob Zuma was doing no better for most South Africans than the last white president, FW de Klerk – was deputising for his boss, Zambian President Michael Sata.

A few weeks later, Vice President Scott had to do that again, this time at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit. The official explanation for Sata’s absences has been that he is saving money, but this is not a very convincing excuse, especially for the SADC summit, which took place literally just across the river at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Sata’s absences have inevitably fuelled the growing speculation that he is gravely – some even say terminally – ill with prostate cancer. Late in June his office announced that he had flown to Israel for a ‘working holiday,’ but the more likely reason was to receive medical treatment, according to many sources.

Some in Zambia say he has been bed-ridden for about two months. ‘He is thin and gaunt and wears a vacant stare that was not part of him until now,’ said one journalist. Another, though, believes it is possible that Sata is slowly recovering after his treatment in Israel.

The official explanation for Sata’s absences has been that he is saving money

The rumours around Sata’s health are rather eerily reminiscent of those around Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who, of course, repeatedly defies the frequent reports of his impending demise by popping up again – looking ever more stubbornly hale and hearty, despite his nine decades on this planet – as he did at the SADC summit where he took the organisation’s chair.

Yet the speculation around Sata’s health sounds more plausible and less like wishful thinking, even if he is Mugabe’s junior by some 13 years. The Zambian government would not be helping matters by withholding credible information. Some speculate, though, that it is doing this because admitting that Sata may have become medically unfit for office would mean having to hand over the reins to someone else.

Who that someone would be if Sata became incapacitated is also not clear. Would Scott automatically take over until the 2016 elections – incidentally becoming Africa’s first white president in at least 20 years? (Even if, as some reports suggest, he really doesn’t want the job.) Or would Sata be allowed to anoint a successor? Or would the cabinet choose one? Most observers believe that Sata’s successor, if he were to choose, would be Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, who is also Secretary-General of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), but more sceptical observers say that Kabimba may have spread that rumour himself.

That reflects another similarity with what is happening on the other side of the Zambezi; the looming departure of the incumbent is stimulating a fierce succession struggle. Pitted against Kabimba and his supporters, most analysts agree, is a faction led by Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda.

The divisions between the factions are evidently deepened by personal, tribal and ideological animosities. Chikwanda’s faction seeks to promote the interests of the Bemba ethnic group. It also seeks to advance neo-liberal economics, by contrast with Kabimba’s faction, which, like Sata himself, leans towards more socialist, statist politics – at least in theory.

The succession struggle could, in theory, have significant implications for the economy

Yet another similarity with Zimbabwe is that the succession battle seems to be taking on a dynastic flavour. In Harare, Mugabe – at least according to one scenario – has been playing off the rival Emmerson Mnangagwa and Joice Mujuru factions against each other for long enough now to have allowed his young wife, Grace, to position herself as a possible successor by winning the top job in Zanu-PF’s Women’s League, and for her to be able to count on the support of their now-grown-up son, Robert Mugabe, a military man.

In Zambia, according to the journal Africa Confidential, the Chikwanda faction is promoting Sata’s son Mulenga Sata, mayor of Lusaka and Chairperson of the Lusaka District PF, as his father’s successor to foil Kabimba’s ambitions.

Because of the ideological differences between the rival factions jostling to succeed Sata, the succession struggle could, in theory, have significant implications for investors and the economy. Some observers say that whoever takes over will be equally bound by PF policy. However, that policy allows considerable latitude for interpretation.

After 10 years in dogged opposition, including three failed attempts at the presidency, Sata came into office in 2011 bearing the nickname King Cobra. This was a mark of his sharp and venomous tongue and his readiness to bite mining investors, especially the Chinese, with super taxes if not nationalisation for what he regarded as their crass exploitation of Zambian mineworkers and of Zambia as a whole.

But in office he became more mellow, essentially continuing the investor-friendly policies of his predecessors, interspersed with occasional fits of socialist rhetoric. Though he has kept mining houses in check by threatening to revoke their mining licences if they retrench workers, he has not carried out his election campaign threats of resource nationalisation.

Nevertheless, his perceived lack of delivery on his election promises of tougher action against mining investors is costing the PF support in the politically important Copperbelt, provoking fears that the party will have to make more promises – perhaps even to nationalise mines – in the 2016 election campaign.

Few Zambians seem to believe Sata will be strong enough to run again for office then. Whether he will even be strong enough to continue in office until then, is also now in doubt.

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

Nigeria – ebola spreads to oil centre of Port Harcourt

Ebola spreads to Nigeria oil hub Port Harcourt

A man prepares to take off his protective suit at Biankouma’s hospital during a simulation, on August 14, 2014. More than 240 health workers have been infected with Ebola in West Africa

Nigeria has confirmed its first Ebola death outside Lagos – a doctor in the oil hub of Port Harcourt.

His wife has been put under quarantine, while a further 70 people in the city are under surveillance.

Latest figures show more than 1,550 people have died of Ebola, with at least 3,000 confirmed cases – mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the total number of cases could potentially exceed 20,000.

In an action plan to deal with the outbreak, the WHO said that “the actual number of cases may be 2-4 fold higher than that currently reported” in some areas.

Speaking to reporters, the WHO assistant director-general, Bruce Aylward, said the possibility of 20,000 cases “is a scale that I think has not ever been anticipated in terms of an Ebola outbreak”.

He added: “That’s not saying we expect 20,000… but we have got to have a system in place that we can deal with robust numbers.”

This unprecedented outbreak is currently out of control as medical agencies struggle to cope with the increasing number of cases on the ground and continue to face hostility from communities in certain affected areas, the BBC’s West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy reports.

Before any results are seen on the ground, the number of infected people will probably continue to grow given that most treatment centres are already operating at full capacity, our correspondent adds.

Vaccine trial
West Africa’s health ministers are meeting in Ghana to discuss how to tackle the world’s most deadly Ebola outbreak.

Meanwhile, an international health consortium says that a trial vaccine against Ebola could be given to healthy volunteers in the UK in September, followed by trials in The Gambia and Mali.

A fruit bat is pictured in 2010 at the Amneville zoo in France. Fruit bats are believed to be a major carrier of the Ebola virus but do not show symptoms
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
Incubation period is two to 21 days
There is no vaccine or cure
Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host
Ebola was taken to Nigeria by Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American man who travelled to Lagos before dying.

One of his contacts evaded Nigeria’s surveillance team and travelled to Port Harcourt, where he sought medical treatment, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said.

Although the man later recovered, the doctor who treated him died and tests showed he had Ebola, the minister said.

The doctor had died last Friday but the results of the tests have only just been announced by the health minister.

The doctor who treated Mr Sawyer also died.

Nigeria schools shut

More than 240 health workers have been infected with Ebola – a rate which the World Health Organization (WHO) said was “unprecedented”.

It noted that in many cases protective suits, even rubber gloves and face masks, were not available.

The doctor becomes the sixth fatality in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country.

On Wednesday, Nigeria announced that schools would not reopen until 13 October in order to try and contain the disease.

Nigerian voices: Ali Sadiq, public servant based in Abuja

“The postponement of the schools’ resumption by the federal government is a good move but the extension is too long. I can’t imagine my two kids wasting six more weeks at home. Two to three weeks would have been enough for all that.”