Category Archives: East Africa

Sudan – Darfur agreement between government and Minnawi group

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – Sudanese government and a number of Darfur rebel commanders led by Mohamedain Ismail Bashar, a former operation commander of the Sudan Liberation Movement -Minni Minnawi, signed a peace agreement in the Chadian capital Ndjamena on Friday.

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Head of Darfur peace office, Amin Hassan Omer (L) shakes hands with Mohamedain Bashar in Ndjamena on 27 March 2015 (SMC photo)

Bashar’s group is composed of several dissident rebel commanders who on 7 October 2014 accused their leader of nepotism, corruption and illegal detention of some leading members. Two weeks later, Minnawi sacked four commander and accused them of treason and communication with the enemy.

The peace agreement was signed by the head of Darfur peace office Amin Hassan Omer, and Bashar, in presence of the Chadian foreign minister Moussa al-Faki, representing president Idris Debi who facilitated the deal.

The parties didn’t release the text of the signed deal but Sudan Tribune learnt it is a security arrangements agreement negotiated on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).

Omer welcomed the agreement and said that it was the first time that confidence building and cooperation between the two parties take place before the signing. He further called on the rebel groups to follow this example.

Bashar’s group strength is estimated at around 400 combatants with 30 vehicles.

Former SLM-MM military spokesperson Adam Saleh Abakar, the group logistics officer Abdalla Tijani and former humanitarian official Adam Buy-Dad are among Bashar’s group members.

Several sources told [Sudan Tribune that the signatories were is relation with JEM-Sudan leader Bakheit Abdallah Abdel-Karim (Dabajo) who encouraged them to negotiate with the government.

Dabajo himself before to join JEM was part of the SLM-MM.

The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) called Darfur rebel groups including SLM-MM and their political allies of the Sudan Call forces to meet with the government next Sunday to discuss procedures of the national dialogue process.


South Sudan government to borrow $500m

Sudan Tribune

March 26, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s national legislative assembly has authorised the ministry of finance to negotiate a loan of half a billion US dollars in a special sitting on Wednesday.

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Members of South Sudan’s parliament sing the national anthem during the reopening of parliamentary sessions in the capital, Juba, on 11 June 2012 (Photo: Giulio Petrocco/AFP/Getty)

The decision came as crude oil prices shrink globally and daily production in the country has dropped in the oil producing states of Unity and Upper Nile due to the ongoing conflict.

Cabinet affairs minister Martin Elia Lomoru on Wednesday presented the authorisation request to Members of Parliament (MPs) for approval. Lomoro told the lawmakers that the council of ministers had already approved the request by finance minister Daniel Deng Athorbei since 15 February.

“It is then my pleasure […] to read this memo seeking parliamentary approval for the loan worth five hundred million to be solicited from the Qatar National Bank (QNB) by the ministry of finance,” Lomoro said.

He told the parliamentarians that the country’s economy is in “a dire situation” and needed money to keep it running.

A chunk of South Sudanese government’s revenues come from oil by 98%, whereas the daily oil production has dropped from about 260,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 160,000 bpd since the conflict began in December 2013.

Finance minister David Deng Athorbei who also attended the Wednesday’s extraordinary session of parliament said the authorization will enable him to negotiate a half billion dollars loan with QNB, further assuring that the parliament will also have to rectify any agreement reached.

‘There will be a clause which will say ‘any agreement we reached will be subject to rectification by the parliament,” said Athorbei, who took office from former finance minister, Agrey Tisa Sabuni, in January.

“What I am seeking here is the authorisation for this august house to say ‘please go ahead and negotiate for us this loan.’ This is what I just simply want,” he added.

The MPs, when asked by the speaker of the assembly, Manasseh Magok Rundial, after presentations by the two ministers whether they approved the request, they responded “yes” without further deliberations.

“Therefore, there is no need really to refer the matter to the committee,” said speaker Rundial, referring to parliamentary procedure that would have required a special committee’s scrutiny of executive’s presentation in parliament.

“It is only the permission of this House to let him [finance minister Athorbei] go and do the thing [loan negotiation] that will be rectified by us,” he said.

Juba government is believed to have borrowed loans worth billions of dollars in order to supplement its budget including to finance the war.

Rebels led by the former vice-president Riek Machar have demanded that the national debts be disclosed during the peace talks in Addis Ababa, a proposal rejected by president Salva Kiir’s government, saying this was not necessary.


Kenyatta apologises to vitims of Kenyan state violence and starts PEV victims’ fund

The Star (Nairobi)

I’m sorry, Uhuru tells victims of violence




March 27, 2015

PRESIDENT Uhuru Kenyatta has made a public apology for all State injustices committed since Independence.

He also announced a Sh10 billion Restorative Justice Fund for victims of the 2007 post-election bloodletting. An estimated 1,500 people were killed and 650,000 displaced.

In a bold move, Uhuru asked for forgiveness from victims of gross violations committed by the past three regimes, including the massacres of the post-poll violence of 2007 in which he later was named a suspect.

“To move forward as one nation, I stand before you today on my own behalf, that of my government and all past governments, to offer the sincere apology of the Government of the Republic of Kenya to all our compatriots for all past wrongs,” the Head of State said in his State of the Nation address yesterday.

“I seek your forgiveness and may God give us the grace to draw on the lessons of this history to unite as a people and, together, to embrace our future as one people and one nation.”

Uhuru’s apology sets the stage for the implementation of the explosive Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Report that has been gathering dust since May 2013.

It was the first report of a commission of enquiry that he received as President. The report recommended that the sitting President apologises for State –sponsored violations of rights between December 12, 1963 and February 28, 2008.

In his speech to a joint sitting of the bicameral Parliament yesterday, Uhuru disclosed that he has instructed Treasury to establish a Sh10 billion Restorative Justice Fund that will be rolled out in the next three years.

“This will provide a measure of relief and will underscore my government’s goodwill. I have also established a State Department dedicated to strategic initiatives in marginalised and at-risk regions and populations of our country,” he said.

In what may cause fresh ripples within elite political circles, the President asked the National Assembly to immediately kick off the process of implementing the TJRC Report.

“Their Report is before this House, and I urge Honourable Members to process it without undue delay,” Uhuru said.

Senior government officials and politicians are among hundreds of Kenyans recommended for prosecution in the TJRC Report.

Some of the leaders cited for investigation include former President Daniel arap Moi, ex-Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, former ministers William ole Ntimama, Nicholas Biwott, Henry Kosgey, Sally Kosgei, Beth Mugo, Franklin Bett and Elizabeth Ongoro.

The report also recommended investigation of former MP Norman Nyagah over the killing of Dr Chrispine Odhiambo-Mbai in 2005.

The Truth Report also recommended that State security agencies, in particular the Kenya Police, the Kenya Defence Forces and the National Intelligence Service, also ask for forgiveness for gross violations of human rights committed by their predecessor agencies.

However, President Kenyatta dashed the hopes of victims of the 2007 post-election violence over any local trials, saying that, according to Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, “there are challenges to obtaining successful prosecutions”.

“These challenges range from inadequate evidence, inability to identity perpetrators, witnesses fears of reprisals, and a general lack of technical and forensic capacity at the time,” he said.

The President regretted the electoral violence that has periodically hit Kenya over the years, saying the mayhem reached a crescendo in 2007.

“Collectively, these incidents have disunited us and held our people hostage to this tragic history by providing the foundation and rationale for the cynical and destructive politics of hate and division.”

– See more at:

Kenya – MPs back Kenyatta anti-graft call

The Star (Nairobi)

MPs hail Uhuru graft order, public apology

DELIVER: Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

DELIVER: Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
TRUE: Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo.Photo/Monica Njeri

TRUE: Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo.Photo/Monica Njeri
IMAGE: Nominated MP Amina Abdallah. Photo/Monica Mwangi

IMAGE: Nominated MP Amina Abdallah. Photo/Monica Mwangi


March 27, 2015

MPs have praised President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call for officers implicated in graft to resign and apology for historical injustices. Uhuru gave a State of the Nation address yesterday to a joint sitting of the Senate and the National Assembly.

“The fact that he has apologised for the wrongs committed as recommended by the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission is good for the healing and reconciliation of this country,” majority leader Aden Duale said.

“This is the message Kenyans have been waiting for and it has been delivered at an opportune moment.”

Duale said Uhuru’s speech marks a new beginning in the war against corruption.

“Those mentioned should not wait to be told to do the necessary; they should just pack the belongings and leave,” he said.

Deputy minority leader Jakoyo Midiwo the speech must be backed up with action.

“Talking is cheap. He is talking the language Kenyans want to hear. He has set the mood but we want to challenge him to walk the talk,” he said.

Suna West MP Joseph Ndiege said the speech was okay but failed to address “the ailing agriculture industry”.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. The collapse of the sugarcane sector is a case for concern.”

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said Kenyans are eagerly waiting for Uhuru’s promises to be implemented.

“We expect individuals like Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir, Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, Defence PS Mutea Iringo and IEBC Chairman Isaack Hassan to step aside.”

Nominated MP Amina Abdallah the exit of those mentioned in corruption will improve Kenya’s image in the region and internationally.

“The president has set the standards and I don’t expect those mentioned to stay put. But if the good things the president has mentioned are not implemented it will severely damage the credibility of the government,” she said.

Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo said Uhuru’s speech was a “true President’s speech”.

“Apologising for past historical injustices is the height of magnanimity this country has witnessed,” he said.

He said he hopes it translates into a new face of Kenya when the hiring of parastatal boards is done.

“Previous public appointments have only favoured two tribes out of the 42 we have,” he said.

Nyandarua women’s representative Wanjiku Muihia said Kenyans “expect heads to start rolling now”.

– See more at:

African presidents spend on PR to improve their images

Mail and Guardian

African presidents from Goodluck Jonathan to Yoweri Museveni are allegedly spending millions on western PR specialists to fix their tarnished images.

African leaders reportedly spent millions on Western PR specialists trying to undo damage to their tarnished images. (Reuters)

A row over a law banning homosexuality in Uganda has been reignited after it emerged that the government paid a US public relations firm to offset negative publicity, a report said Monday, highlighting African governments’ love affair with Western image doctors.

Uganda’s Observer newspaper said the government had spent 614-million shillings ($206 000) “to prop up Uganda’s image” after it was “tarnished by the Anti-Homosexuality Act”.

It said that many MPs in the east African nation’s Parliament, where support is strong for tough anti-gay legislation, were now refusing to approve the government’s payment to Scribe Strategies and Advisors, a Washington-based lobbying firm.

“It’s quite unbelievable that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could use this money to clear Uganda’s image, yet us as Ugandans we are against this issue of homosexuality,” Florence Nebanda, one of several reportedly furious MPs, was quoted as saying.

Fox Odoi, an MP who opposed the legislation, confirmed to news wire AFP that the foreign ministry had informed Parliament that the cash was paid to the firm to lobby a bipartisan congressional caucus.

He said the firm was paid “to clear the image of Uganda”.

Museveni’s hotel problems
Aston Kajara, a state minister, was also quoted as saying that the fall-out from the controversy had resulted in President Yoweri Museveni having trouble finding a hotel room in Texas in September last year, when he visited the US state to drum up investment.

“There were campaigns against the government of Uganda to the extent that even the hotel they had booked for him had to change. We engaged consultants to intervene and stem the hostility against the president on behalf of Uganda,” the Observer quoted him as saying.

The anti-gay bill, under which gays could have been jailed for life, was signed into law by Museveni in February 2014, but was struck down six months later by the constitutional court on a technicality.

The law drew widespread international condemnation, with US Secretary of State John Kerry likening it to anti-Semitic legislation in Nazi Germany.

Since then MPs have proposed another law criminalising the “promotion” of homosexuality, although activists say it would be equally repressive.

Uganda would not be the first African country to engage image specialists to spruce up a dented image.

Last month the Kenyan government took on influential Washington lobbying firm Podesta Group for a reported $30 0000 a month plus expenses, the country’s leading Daily Nation reported.

The firm’s main objective is to persuade the US government to allow direct flights from Nairobi, which have for years been declined on security reasons, Kenya’s ambassador to the US was quoted saying.

This includes the removal of tourist advisories and other negative impressions formed by Americans, the paper said, noting that the country has in the past been represented in the US by two other image management firms.

In 2012 the country’s president Uhuru Kenyatta hired British PR firm BTP Advisers to promote his election campaign, which came at at time when he was facing crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court.

In media interviews the firm said it was providing “strategic advice on the election campaign and providing international media relations support since there’s an enormous amount of international interest in this election.”

The hiring of the firm was seen as ironical as the Kenyatta campaign had cast “Western imperialists” as interfering in the country’s internal affairs.

Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, has also had a long relationship with Western image consultants. It’s latest contract with US firm Levick ran into headwinds after Nigerians queried its role.

Levick was signed on in June last year reportedly for $1.2-million, to improve media coverage of the Nigerian government’s efforts to rescue over 200 schoolgirls abducted in north eastern Nigeria.

The Los Angeles Times reported the firm had helped get prominent media placements for president Goodluck Jonathan, including an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

In reaction to the furore, the firm in a statement said: “As the world witnesses the brutality of Boko Haram, and its cowardly tactics of using children as pawns in their terrorist campaign, Levicks’s only mission is assisting the Government of Nigeria with its number one priority – the rescue of the girls and combating terrorism.”

The girls are yet to be rescued, nearly a year after they were kidnapped, but a multinational force has helped turn the tide against the Boko Haram militants who claimed the abductions.

Photo with the Obamas
In 2002 Angola hired Washington PR firm Patton Boggs to rebuild ties with the US government, on a reported one year-contract worth $2.2-million, or $2.9-million in current terms. The ruling party was during the Cold War backed by the Soviet Union.

In 2009 when US president Barack Obama and his wife posed for an official photo with Equatorial Guinea president Obiang Nguema and the First Lady, it was the culmination of several years of lobbying.

Nguema, who came to power in a coup in 1979, spent several years in the diplomatic cold, leading to the US closing its embassy in 1994. However the discovery of huge oil reserves in the country changed that dramatically, but the Malabo government had also sought out American PR strategists to help the effort.

Washington lobbying firm Qorvis Communications was taken on for a reported $60 000 monthly, while US regulations also showed a former official in the administration of president Bill Clinton as being paid $1-million a year.

In 2006 the Sudanese government took on New York firm Summit Communications. whose most high profile work for its client appears to have been the insertion of an eight-page advertising insert in the New York Times.

Khartoum was said to be aggrieved by the negative media coverage in the US, and UN accusations that it was complicit in the violence in its Darfur region.

Global marketing giant Young & Rubicam in 2008 also ran an election campaign for Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, in a vote that he came close to losing before his main opponent Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of a second round face-off.

Blair’s long list
The increasing involvement of former highly placed officials is also a trend, with former British prime minister Tony Blair through his Africa Governance Initiative seen to be advising up to 10 African governments.

Brussels-based campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory, in a new hard hitting report said while there was a global trend to “outsource” diplomacy, there is “currently a particularly fierce ’Scramble for Africa’ among Western PR firms.

Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and the Democratic Republic of Congo form part of the 18 case studies in the report named Spin doctors to the autocrats: how European PR firms whitewash repressive regimes.

Uganda and Egypt are also mentioned, with loose European Union regulations cited for the lack of more information about African clients, as opposed to the US where reporting is mandatory.

The report says that governments engage such firms to help them get trade preferences and preferential accession talks, and to succeed they need a good image.

Electioneering is identified as a key moment to bring in such firms, which in their defence often say they are seeking to bring about progress on human rights issues.

According to the report, Nigeria is Africa’s biggest spender on image-making, ahead of Egypt and Morocco. – MGAFRICA Writer, Agency.

This article first appeared on the Mail & Guardian‘s sister site,

Kenya – new constitution brings no benefits and impunity still reigns


Kenyan political leadership: the more things change…
24 March 2015

The Kenyan constitution of 2010 proposed to revolutionise the way in which the country’s political leadership interacts and functions by devolving power to county governments.

This was aimed at promoting a more participatory, interactive and inclusive system of governance. Political leadership was to play a vital role in sustaining this new system, as outlined in the chapter on leadership and integrity.

The guiding principles here include selfless service based on the public interest; honesty in the execution of public duties; accountability to the public for decisions and actions; and discipline and commitment in service to the people.

What Kenyans are witnessing today, however, contradicts this vision of a better-governed country. Some political leaders have rather focused on ensuring impunity for their corrupt activities, in many instances by hiding behind their political parties and ethnicity.

The post-2010 political leadership has been unable to adapt to the devolved system of governance, which calls for transparency and accountability. Instead, leaders continue to engage in a way that is combative and confrontational, punctuated with negative political posturing.

The political leadership has restricted accountability and entrenched impunity within the public sector

This has created an ‘us-versus-them’ situation between different parties and leaders, with those seen to be close to members of the other political side labelled as traitors. The situation continues to worsen. Political parties and coalitions threaten members with party disciplinary action and expulsion for their working relationships with those perceived to be ‘enemies’ – including the government, in the case of the opposition.

This continued form of abrasive political engagement shows that the country’s leadership has neither been dynamic nor innovative enough to measure up to the new political systems.

This has led to high levels of intolerance, which can be witnessed even at grass-roots level. On 14 September 2014, President Uhuru Kenyatta was heckled by rowdy youths in Migori County – a stronghold of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).

A similar scenario occurred during the funeral of Fidel Odinga, son of the CORD leader, Raila Odinga, when individuals sympathetic to the ruling Jubilee Alliance were heckled while addressing the mourners. County governors from both sides of the political divide have been subjected to this trend. CORD governors Alfred Mutua and Evans Kidero Machakos, and Nairobi governors, have been taunted, accused of being Jubilee moles and threatened with party disciplinary action for their relationship with the government. Jubilee-affiliated governors were likewise also asked to quit and were called traitors due to their Pesa Mashinani referendum initiatives.

Political leadership ought to transcend the social, economic and political divides of society

This leadership crisis should be viewed against the backdrop of the hotly contested 2013 general election, as well as alignments ahead of the 2017 elections. The Jubilee administration seems to have acquired a ‘winner takes it all’ attitude and looks set to govern without input from the opposition. CORD has been pushing for national dialogue with the Jubilee government, but without success.

The hard stances adopted by members of the Jubilee Alliance is based on a belief that engaging with the opposition would make the government seem weak, failed and lacking leadership acumen. This stems from a perception that the opposition’s calls for dialogue is a strategy by CORD to negotiate their way into government, as Alan Duale, the National Assembly Majority leader, has stated on several occasions.

This model of political leadership has a negative impact on governance, as every national concern is politicised and approached in a partisan manner. Consequently, the leadership has been unable to unite the nation even when it comes to important national policies and strategies. This has resulted in crucial national initiatives being contested and lacking in legitimacy due to their partisan origin. The Security Laws Amendment Act 2014 is an example, given the contestations the act elicited after it was acrimoniously passed in the National Assembly. The lack of dialogue led to valuable resources being lost at a time when the country is facing increased security risks, as different stakeholders filed court cases to challenge the legality of the act and seek judicial interpretation.

When leaders are involved in corruption issues, the matter is usually dismissed as a witch-hunt

The governance style of the current political leadership has severely restricted accountability and entrenched impunity within the public sector. This is because whenever senior political leaders are involved in ethical or corruption issues, the matter is usually politicised and dismissed as a political witch-hunt.

Recent allegations of bribery and corruption against the National Assembly oversight Committee on Public Accounts is a case in point. The committee’s Honourable Ababu Namwamba has recently been facing a vote of no confidence to remove him as the chair. His party (CORD) came to his rescue, however, saying that the vote against him was a scheme by the ruling coalition to install a Jubilee-friendly chairman. Consequently, the matter shifted from ethical to political, despite the fact that there were audio recordings which allegedly demonstrate how six committee members of Parliament had received bribes. It is reported that CORD leaders met with their members of the committee and urged them to back down.

The inability or unwillingness of the political leadership to become dynamic and innovative, and adapt to new institutional mechanisms, threatens to erode the principles of good governance in Kenya. This will inevitably result in a confidence crisis: the public will only become more mistrustful and disillusioned as the leadership appears to be dedicated towards self-preservation instead of public service. Political leadership ought to transcend the social, economic and political divides of society to promote sustainable and equitable development. It’s time for our politicians to show that kind of leadership.

Sebastian Gatimu, Researcher, and David Wamugo Wagacha, Intern, Governance, Crime and Justice Division, ISS Nairobi

Africa and the world – rising but on the margins


As pressure mounts for Africa to take greater responsibility for development, peace and security on the continent, the question of regional leadership becomes pressing. A recent African Futures paper explores the changing power capabilities of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa (the so-called ‘Big Five’) over the next 25 years. These countries are all leaders in their respective regions and hold some of the greatest power potential in Africa.

Collectively, they represent 60% of the African economy, 40% of Africa’s population and 58% of the continent’s military spending. This is expected to remain the same over the next 25 years. The future of these countries will provide a fairly straightforward answer to the often-evoked question of whether or not Africa is rising. Indeed if these states fall or fail, Africa will not be able to rise.

The authors of the paper, published by the Institute for Security Studies and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, use the International Futures forecasting system to forecast future power trajectories. In an increasingly flat world where institutions matter, states that don’t network will have little influence on issues of regional and global governance.

The projections explored in the paper are based on a new index to measure national power, which includes diplomatic engagements in addition to traditional measures such as demographics, economics and technology.

If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say

Today, the combined power of Africa’s 55 countries accounts for close to 9% of global power. This is more than that of Japan, Russia or India, but less than the United States (US) or China, which represent about 18% and 13% of global power, respectively. By 2040, Africa’s total relative power is forecast to surpass that of the declining European Union (EU) and US – although only adding up to around 11% of global power. This is at odds with the world’s demographic evolution. By 2050, one in four people will be African. If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say.

In the next couple of decades, Africa is set to remain at the margins of global power. And this is an understatement, as Africa is clearly neither a country nor a union of states with any kind of supranational provisions. Even with significant advances in regional and continental integration, it is highly unlikely that Africa will speak with one voice in foreign policy matters, or be able to act in unison.

Only Nigeria has the potential to become a player with global significance. But this would require far-reaching changes in its current domestic stability, governance capacity and political leadership, which is an unlikely scenario. All other African countries are expected to remain so-called ‘minor powers,’ which affects Africa’s influence in issues of global governance.

For the Big Five, the data tells a story of two emerging powers and three whose potential is waning. The capabilities of Nigeria and Ethiopia are expected to grow considerably in the next 25 years. Those of Egypt, South Africa and Algeria, on the other hand, are forecast to remain stagnant or experience a slight decline.

Nigeria’s economy, already the largest in Africa, is expected to represent almost 3% of the global economy by 2040. Its military spending is set to increase significantly over the next 25 years, ready to overtake Africa’s current military heavyweight, Algeria, in more or less 10 years. By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power capabilities.

By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power

Ethiopia, the other rising power, is coming from a low base and the country will remain the poorest among the Big Five. Nevertheless, by 2040 it is expected to be the sixth largest African economy due to high average economic growth rates. Algeria, Egypt and South Africa are likely to grow below the African average growth rate of 6.3% per annum. The size of their populations will also stagnate – although this is due to higher general levels of development, which are associated with lower fertility rates.

Among the Big Five, Egypt has traditionally dominated the category of global diplomatic engagement. This can be gauged according to the number of embassies abroad, the number of memberships to international organisations and the number of international treaties ratified by a country. Egypt’s strategic location, and its important role in both Arab and African nationalism, ensures that it is deeply connected internationally. Egypt is closely followed by South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria, while Ethiopia lags behind. Not surprisingly, South Africa made big strides after the end of apartheid in 1994 when the country reintegrated into the international community.

The way the Big Five project power is not necessarily in line with their capabilities. After all, power is as much about potential as it is about concrete projection. Some countries are able to influence more international actors, institutions or regimes than would be expected based on their capabilities, while others don’t live up to their potential.

It is questionable whether South Africa will continue punching above its weight

This is the case for Nigeria, which has been punching below its weight despite a strong set of capabilities. High levels of internal instability and corruption along with a political economy of violence compromise the country’s prospects. There is also a lack of strategic vision in the foreign-policy domain, which has recently been aggravated by the growing threat of Boko Haram.

Algeria’s role in Africa is also at odds with its relatively robust albeit declining capabilities. Faced with significant domestic and regional threats, Algeria remains focused on the need to maintain a large military capacity for internal purposes.

Egypt punches above its weight internationally, but below its weight in the African context. The country is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the Arab Spring as well as spill-over effects of the conflict in neighbouring Libya. Domestic challenges seem to detract from projecting power outside of the country, with external priorities evolving around the conflict in the Middle East and efforts to contain terrorism.

In contrast, both South Africa and Ethiopia have largely punched above their weight. Despite its limited capabilities, Ethiopia is Africa’s largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions and plays an important role in peace and security matters in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, regional security is a domestic priority for Ethiopia.

South Africa, for its part, has capitalised on the miracle of the transition to democracy; Nelson Mandela’s legacy; the international activism of his successor, Thabo Mbeki, as well as several years of healthy economic growth and a benign global environment. Yet it is questionable whether the current context of stagnant or even declining capabilities and a lack of credible leadership will allow South Africa to continue punching above its weight in the medium-term future.

What seems certain is that the distribution of relative power in Africa will remain multipolar, with various countries fulfilling the role of regional leaders.

Julia Schünemann, Senior Researcher and Project Leader, African Futures and Innovation Section, ISS Pretoria; Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director, ISS; Jonathan D. Moyer, Associate Director, Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures.