Category Archives: East Africa

Burundi – opposition leader accepts deputy speaker post after Nkurunziza victory


Burundi opposition leader Agathon Rwasa speaks during an interview in the capital Bujumbura on 22 July 2015
Despite boycotting the presidential poll Mr Rwasa still won nearly 20% of the vote

Burundi’s opposition leader Agathon Rwasa has been elected as a deputy speaker of parliament, despite strident criticism of recent legislative and presidential polls.

There has been a political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term.

Mr Rwasa withdrew from this month’s presidential election and described Mr Nkurunziza’s victory as “a joke”.

He now says he will “play the game” to bring peace, AFP news agency reports.

Mr Rwasa supported the protests, that began in April, against Mr Nkurunziza’s third-term bid in which more than 70 people have died in clashes with the police.

There was also a failed coup attempt in May.

Policeman at Burundi protests
Weeks of protest and a failed coup attempt followed Mr Nkurunziza’s third-term bid

Mr Rwasa’s opposition coalition also called for a boycott of June’s parliamentary elections, but with its name on the ballot paper it still won 21 seats.

There is a faltering negotiation process, chaired by Uganda, that is aimed at solving the crisis.

Mr Rwasa took up his seat in parliament to some surprise on Monday saying that as the talks were still going on it was worth participating in the political process.

Fellow opposition leader Charles Nditije said Mr Rwasa’s move betrayed those who died during the protests.

He was elected as one of parliament’s deputy speakers with the backing of MPs from Mr Nkuruniziza’s CNDD-FDD party.

The BBC’s Prime Ndikumagenge in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, says that it is difficult to see what Mr Rwasa’s strategy is.

But the opposition leader may now have more influence on the politics of the country in his new post, he says.

What did Obama visit mean to Kenya?

Daily Nation

What does Obama’s visit mean to Kenya?

It is tragic that so many are prepared to view international relations through the prism of ethnic rivalries, which have been so destructive to our body politic.

US President Barack Obama gestures during his speech at Safaricom Sports Gymnasium, Kasarani Stadium  in Nairobi on July 26, 2015.  PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

US President Barack Obama gestures during his speech at Safaricom Sports Gymnasium, Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on July 26, 2015. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

When I suggested in January this year that the time was opportune for US President Barack Obama to visit Kenya, many wrote to me, saying “we don’t need him, we are just fine.”

Now that the visit has come to pass, it is worth reflecting on what it actually means for Kenya. Why do some remain so negative? Some told me the US “had let Kenya down” and had sacrificed the Kenyan president to the International Criminal Court to face charges for crimes against humanity.

For that reason, they were prepared to sacrifice whatever benefits a closer relationship with the US would bring. It is tragic that so many are prepared to view international relations through the prism of ethnic rivalries, which have been so destructive to our body politic.

This leads us to the current agenda behind President Obama’s visit. Kenya occupies a unique place in geo-politics as well as international business. It is not lost on the US administration that Kenya is in many ways, a battle ground, a contested arena.

Kenya is not only a hub that attracts foreign investments from the West, from southern Africa, and now increasingly from the East, criminal gangs, drug traffickers, and all manner of terrorists have also found Kenya to be a soft spot and an entry route to Western targets.

For that reason, the West ignores Kenya at its peril. With the escalation in terrorism, in particular the fragile situation in Somalia, the US realises more than ever before the viability of Kenya as a partner.

The reality is that even though President Obama might not have much faith in Kenya’s ability and willingness to fight vices such as corruption and even though the country is not exactly a top priority destination for US investments, the US administration itself recognises that it is in its interest to keep relations with strategic partners cordial.

In this context, the visit must be seen as designed to affirm America’s commitment to fight radicalisation and international terrorism.

I suggest that it is also not inconceivable that Mr Obama harbours a wish to return in triumph to his fatherland. Not just as an ordinary citizen in search of his roots and dreams, but as the US president, with all the clout that brings with it.

He is human. Like every other smart leader, he wants to lay the groundwork for his legacy. Some of the biggest challenges in US internal affairs are now behind him. Public health care, rapprochement with Cuba, and a nuclear deal with Iran. Instability in the Middle East and the Gulf remains a sticking point, but the world does not depend on one man.

Mr Obama has the luxury of what remains of his second term to formulate a lasting legacy. It is reasonable to assume that he recognises that his Africa credentials have so far been found wanting and that it is time to rectify this state of affairs. And why not do it with utmost symbolism?

More importantly, however, is the fundamental question: what does an Obama visit mean to Kenya, beyond the pomp and show? Much depends on how Kenyan entrepreneurs create partnerships with the investors who accompanied Mr Obama and whether Kenya finally learns to market itself on the global scene.

Prof Kamoche is the director of the Africa Research Group at the University of

South Sudanese presidency has reservations over IGAD peace plan

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – The spokesperson for the South Sudanese presidency has expressed reservations over a proposal by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to demilitarise the capital, Juba and give the armed opposition faction an upper hand in power sharing arrangement in the conflict-affected regions.

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South Sudan’s presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny (AFP)

“We have accepted the 33 percent for the SPLM in opposition in central government but we have refused it in Upper Nile,” Ateny Wek Ateny, told reporters in reaction IGAD’s proposal Monday.

“We cannot accept to give Upper Nile special consideration because if you do that, it could create an environment whereby that can threaten the sovereignty of South Sudan,” he added.

The latest proposal from the IGAD-Plus, a team which comprises of special envoys from China, the Troika nations, European Union and five other African countries, creates the position of first vice president to be occupied by the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar.

But Ateny said President Salva Kiir had reservations on this particular clause within the proposal, citing issues regarding the two armies.

“And the issue of disarmament in Juba and that of two armies for more than 10 months will be very difficult,” stressed the spokesperson.

In the latest document the power sharing in the national executive would be 53% of ministerial positions for the government, 33% for the opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), 7% for former detainees and 7% for other political parties.

In the oil-rich greater Upper Nile region, the SPLM-IO would have 53% in the three states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, while the government would take 33% and 14% divided between former detainees and other political parties. No power sharing in the seven states of greater Bahr el Ghazal and greater Equatoria regions as government would take 100% in the two regions.

On security arrangements, it proposed a period of 18 months of the 30-month long transitional period to complete integration process of the two rival armies. The national capital, Juba, will be demilitarized, according to the IGAD-Plus proposal, and to be known as a Special Arrangement Area (SAA). Foreign forces from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), IGAD and African Union (AU) would take over the security of the capital until the end of the two and a half years of transitional period.

While the South Sudanese government is yet to officially respond to the proposal, which was released Friday last week. The government and the rebels have until 5 August to discuss the document and return to Addis Ababa, the venue of the ongoing peace talks.

The mediators have set 17 August as the deadline for both parties to reach an agreement.

Talks between the warring factions collapsed on 6 March when the two principal leaders could not agree on almost all the outstanding issues on governance, security arrangements, reforms, power sharing and accountability and justice, reparation and reconciliation.


Obama says African leaders should not be presidents for life


US President Barack Obama has ended his visit to Africa by warning the continent will not advance if its leaders refuse to step down when their terms end.

“Nobody should be president for life,” Mr Obama said.

He was speaking at the African Union’s headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, the first time a sitting US president has addressed the body.

Earlier in the trip, Mr Obama visited Kenya, the homeland of his late father.

“I don’t understand why people want to stay so long, especially when they have got a lot of money,” he told the 54-member AU, an apparent criticism of African leaders who have done just that.

Calling on the AU to ensure leaders respect their constitutions and step down when their term ends, Mr Obama specifically mentioned Burundi, whose president Pierre Nkurunziza has controversially been re-elected for a third term.

“Sometimes you will hear leaders say ‘I’m the only person who can hold this nation together.’ If that’s true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.”

He said democracy was about more than just holding elections: “When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs or activists are threatened as governments crackdown on civil society then you may have democracy in name, but not in substance.”

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa on July 28, 2015
Mr Obama’s address ends his visit to Africa

And he joked about his own chances of another term in office, which he is constitutionally barred from seeking.

“I actually think I’m a pretty good president,” he said. “I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t!”

He also called for an end to the “cancer of corruption”, saying it was the key to unlocking Africa’s economic potential.

The money could be used to create jobs and build schools and hospitals, Mr Obama said.

Treatment of women

The rapid economic growth in Africa was changing “old stereotypes” of a continent hit by war and poverty, he said.

But unemployment needed to be urgently tackled on a continent whose one billion people will double in a few decades, Mr Obama said.

“We need only look to the Middle East and North Africa to see that large numbers of young people with no jobs and stifled voices can fuel instability and disorder,” he added.

In echoes of his speech in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Mr Obama condemned the repression of women, saying the “single best indicator of whether a nation will succeed is how it treats its women”.

His address to the AU marks the end of his five-day visit to Africa.

The trip has focussed heavily on trade and security, but he also found time in Kenya to meet relatives of his father, including his half-sister Auma.

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South Sudan – in dependence gone wrong

Al Jazeera

South Sudan: independence movement gone wrong.

Can the international community help the newest African country move toward reconciliation?

Immediately after the independence of South Sudan, finger pointing started within the leadership, writes Maru [AP]
Immediately after the independence of South Sudan, finger pointing started within the leadership, writes Maru [AP]
Mehari Taddele MaruMehari Taddele Maru is a specialist in international human rights and humanitarian law, an international consultant on African Union affairs, and an expert in Public Administration and Management.

Four years after ending its armed struggle with Sudan and declaring its independence, South Sudan remains embroiled in internal crisis with no end in sight.

Despite the tremendous support, close scrutiny, and high hopes of the international community, the new nation is presently conflicting with that same community’s ideas on how to resolve and recover from the crisis.

South Sudan even recently went so far as to expel the highest ranking official of the UN in their country, Toby Lanzer. It also refused to heed the call by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately reverse its decision to expel the official.

In March of this year, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) decided to impose sanctions on officials hindering the mediation process in support of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – Plus mediation on South Sudan. 

The UNSC also recently imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on six leaders of the warring parties in South Sudan. In addition to these sanctions, there has also been an increasing call for an arms embargo on the warring parties.

The father of independence

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the father of independent South Sudan, failed to mature into the democratic government and professional army needed to lead the country.

SPLM/A was confronted with two cardinal failings that were more challenging than fighting South Sudan’s “external” enemies – Khartoum and attaining independence.

South Sudan: Political or personal?

There is an absence of a commonly shared vision within the SPLM/A about the future of South Sudan; there is also the unfortunate use of politics and public power as a racket for private wealth accumulation.

Immediately after the independence of South Sudan, finger pointing started within the leadership, which resulted in a major rift. In the aftermath of this rift, two major warring groups emerged: a government led by President Salva Kirr and a rebel group led by former Vice President Riek Machar.

Since the Juba violence on December, 15 2013, despite tireless efforts by the IGAD-led mediation, the crisis in South Sudan has continued unabated for more than a year and half.

While several rounds of mediation have led to the signing of an agreement to cease hostilities, the fighting continues between President Kirr’s forces and those aligned with Machar. Currently, the violence appears to persist along ethnic lines and has fuelled a vicious cycle of reprisal attacks against civilians.

Consolidating power

The governmental money and privately accumulated wealth generated by this war and the resulting conflicts has been used to exacerbate the tenuous political situation in South Sudan and has been used in a desperate attempt to consolidate power. While this greed-driven power-grab was underway, mediation to reunite the SPLM party began and later culminated in the signing of the Arusha agreement – which never managed to take off.

By bestowing a common voice, spoilers within and without South Sudan should be effectively tamed by a unified, credible, and clear message from the international community.

Despite high hopes for the agreement’s success, bridging the divide between the SPLM factions proved impossible. Historically, many African left-leaning liberation movements have ruptured beyond repair and it seems inevitable that SPLM will follow suit.

That being said, under the IGAD-led mediation, the two warring parties have come to agreement on many issues. However, the major sticking points of power sharing, oil-revenue allocation, and the question of federalism and re-integration of the parties’ armies remain unresolved. Without compromise on these vital points, an agreement will never be signed. 

But why is it so difficult for the two leaders to agree on these issues specifically? The answer lies in the very nature of the leadership of warring parties and their fellowship.

The two groups are locked in a binary equation of choosing to either rule the country or make war, and both are tending towards war.

Despite mounting pressure from interests in both the West and the East, Kirr and Machar have refused to abandon their presidential ambitions. Both leaders seem to be trapped within ethnic boundaries, and are beholden to the interests of their political bases – which are populated by divided and proud ethnic communities. 

Political suicide

For the rebel leader Machar, any concession to President Kirr or his supporters would be politically suicidal. His Nuer supporting community would simply refuse anything less than the total abdication of Kirr’s powers as president and the dissolution of his supporters’ claims to governmental positions. 

Similarly, President Kirr’s newly appointed ministers would not allow any power sharing that could eventually displace them by bringing the dismissed ministers and former leaders of the SPLM/A back into power. So, he too is a prisoner of a self-serving cabinet of his own making.

Simply put, both Machar and Kirr are more puppets than leaders.

Indicative of the need for more international weight to force the warring parties and other external influencers to stop the war in South Sudan and establish a government of national unity, the IGAD-led mediation for South Sudan has now been transformed into the IGAD-Plus mediation.

RELATED: South Sudan is becoming a failed state

This transformation includes the five heavy weight members of African Union Peace and Security Council (Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Chad, and Rwanda), the UN, the EU, the Troika (US, UK, and Norway), and China. Although technically “new to the scene”, all of these actors have been following the devolving situation in South Sudan closely. 

The question is, will this added “Plus” bring something of new value to the negotiating table? 

While it remains to be seen in practise, the new impetus from the “Plus” should be to unify the parallel mediation processes – such as the Arusha process – and to quell the detractors. By bestowing a common voice, spoilers within and without South Sudan should be effectively tamed by a unified, credible, and clear message from the international community. 

Mehari Taddele Maru is a specialist in international human rights and humanitarian law, an international consultant on African Union affairs, and an expert in public administration and management.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

South Sudan elites causing financial and currency crisis

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – The involvement of elites in the South Sudan’s financial sector, particularly speculation in the parallel currency market by the well-connected, is responsible for the currency depreciation and inflation in the country, a new report said.

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Women sell food at Konyo Konyo market in South Sudan (Reuters)

The 16-page report, entitled “The Nexus of Corruption and Conflict in South Sudan”, was released on Monday by The Sentry, an initiative of the Enough Project, together with its supporting partners C4ADS and Not On Our Watch (NOOW).

It mainly identifies four major sectors in which the country’s wealth and revenues are said to be diverted towards the personal and institutional interests of elites: The areas mentioned in the report include the extractives sector, the military, state spending and the money laundering hub.

“The emerging financial sector in South Sudan has been exploited by elites who use it as a laundering and revenue-generating vehicle,” says report obtained by Sudan Tribune.

According to the report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned in December 2014 that South Sudan’s reserves amounted to less than three weeks of imports, a situation which saw the Central Bank resort to borrowing and printing money, leading to inflation.

“The diversion of dollars into the parallel currency market is increasing pressure on the Central Bank’s foreign exchange reserves,” it adds.

The South Sudan’s economy, it said, is currently facing a major financial squeeze with oil revenues drying up and conflict and corruption minimising the effectiveness of foreign investments and humanitarian donations.

“South Sudan’s elites have built a kleptocratic regime that controls all sectors of the economy, and have squandered a historic chance for the development of a functional state. Predatory economic networks play a central role in the current civil war, because much of the conflict is driven by elites attempting to re-negotiate their share of the power balance through violence,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry.

“Any effort to end the war in South Sudan requires much greater financial pressure on those elites and the networks that fund violence,” he added.

Meanwhile the report recommends that financial drivers of the conflict and motivations of the major players be understood as essential in the ongoing peace negotiations.

It further urges the international community and regional actors to pursue a more deliberate strategy to diminish the incentives and resources that are funding and fueling the current conflict.

“This strategy includes: promoting budget and beneficial ownership transparency, conditioning aid and assistance on measurable improvements in procurement and contracts oversight, building sanctions enforcement capacity, and pushing for targeted financial enforcement measures to freeze and recover assets of those who have skimmed profits from the ongoing conflict,” stressed The Sentry’s newly released report.


US-Africa – Obama in Ethiopia for talks with regional leaders

BBCBarack Obama, right is greeted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. 26 July 2015Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn greeted President Obama in Addis Ababa

President Barack Obama is in Ethiopia on the second leg of his African tour – the first serving US leader to visit the country.

He is due to hold talks with government officials and discuss the civil war in South Sudan with regional leaders.

President Obama will also be the first US president to address the 54-member African Union at its headquarters in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

Mr Obama flew to Ethiopia after a two-day visit to Kenya.

There he had discussed trade and security but also called for greater human rights and warned of the dangers of corruption.

The US president was greeted at Addis Ababa’s international airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

On Monday, Mr Obama is due to discuss ways to bring South Sudan’s 19-month-old civil war to an end.

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At the scene: Karen Allen, BBC News, Addis Ababa

Compared to the Kenyan leg of his tour, President Obama’s arrival in Ethiopia signals a more sombre mood.

Ethiopia is a close ally of the US in fighting militant Islamists. Thousands of Ethiopian troops are in Somalia, where the capital Mogadishu was the scene of a major bomb blast on Sunday.

But despite security ties, Mr Obama is expected to raise concerns about what critics say is the erosion of democratic freedoms in Ethiopia.

Recent elections in which the ruling party secured all of the parliamentary seats, and a further clampdown on the media and the jailing of bloggers, are among the issues on which the US president is expected to express alarm.

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Crowds cheer Barack Obama's motorcade. 26 July 2015
Crowds cheered Barack Obama’s motorcade as it left the airport in Addis

In talks with leaders from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda as well as the Sudanese foreign minister, he is expected to call for tougher sanctions and a possible arms embargo if the warring factions do not agree on a peace deal.

However, a US official travelling with Mr Obama said Monday’s talks were not expected to lead to a breakthrough.

“This is an opportunity to reinforce the effort that’s on the table and to strategise… on next steps in the event that it doesn’t succeed,” the official told reporters.

Fighting in South Sudan has left thousands of people dead and displaced more than two million.

Security issues will also be on Mr Obama’s agenda as Ethiopia, like Kenya, is battling the jihadist group al-Shabab.

Media captionUS President Barack Obama says the repression of women is a “bad tradition” that “needs to change”

Correspondents say he is also likely to call for greater democracy and human rights while in the country.

Ethiopia’s ruling party, the EPRDF, and its allies won every single parliamentary seat in May’s elections. Opposition parties claimed the process was rigged.

Some rights groups have criticised Mr Obama’s visit to Ethiopia, warning that the trip could lend credibility to a government accused of jailing journalists and critics.

Amnesty International’s Abdullahi Halakhe said: “We don’t want this visit to be used to sanitise an administration that has been known to violate human rights.”

Human Rights Watch and other organisations urged Mr Obama to put the “pressing human rights concerns… at the forefront of your discussions”.

A legal case currently being fought through the US courts alleges that agents of the Ethiopian government eavesdropped on the internet activities of a man in the US state of Maryland.

The man, born in Ethiopia and now a US citizen, works for a political opposition group outlawed in his home country.


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