Category Archives: North Africa

Africa in 2015 – elections, succession battles, ebola and terrorism

Mail and Guardian

NEWS ANALYSIS

Will 2015 be the year Africa confronts its twin demons of this decade: terrorism and Ebola?

Citizens have been first in line to fall victim to the indiscriminate attacks and the deadly epidemic in various countries, putting a damper on the excitement about the continent’s continuing economic boom.

Figures show that the Africa Rising narrative is still very much a reality and the continent continues to ride the wave of exports of raw materials to China, the telecoms explosion and a growing middle class.

One big unknown in 2015 is to what extent the slump in oil prices and the worldwide move to renewable energy will affect big exporters on the continent. Will countries such as Mozambique, Ghana and Uganda, which are betting on a bright future, thanks to recent oil and gas finds, be disappointed because of these global changes?

Meanwhile, efforts to make peace in places such as the Central African Republic and South Sudan will have to be stepped up.

The coming year will be a good barometer of where Africa stands in terms of democratic governance, given the number of elections taking place. Tricky succession debates and the bid by long-time leaders to change their constitutions to stay in power will be an important feature of 2015.

Will leaders in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville and Rwanda take steps to cling to power despite popular protests? Or will the ousting of Burkina Faso’s strongman, Blaise Compaoré, in October last year be a lesson for them to let go before it’s too late?

Here are 15 key indicators that should reveal the direction in which the continent will go.

1. Nigerian polls
Electioneering is at fever pitch in Nigeria where presidential elections will take place on February 14. Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling People’s Democratic Party is facing stiff opposition from the All Progressive Congress, a coalition of six opposition parties.

Jonathan’s failure to curb the wave of violence from Boko Haram in the north of the country will be offset by relative economic successes. Last year, Nigeria surpassed South Africa as the biggest economy on the continent, thanks to a rebasing of its gross domestic product, but a recent devaluation of the country’s currency shows that the economy still faces huge challenges.

A key question will be to what extent the 2015 polls will be free and fair. Will people in the north of the country feel safe enough to queue to cast their votes?

As in past elections, issues of regional affiliation (Jonathan is a former governor of Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta) and religious affiliation are expected to play a large role in the power struggle to lead Africa’s most populous nation.

General elections also take place on the same day.

2. Zambia’s candidate
The death of former president Michael Sata has plunged Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) into a political turmoil that threatens its existence.

Interim President Guy Scott is overseeing elections slated for January 20 but, by early December last year, it was still unclear who the PF candidate will be to represent the erstwhile opposition party.

The constitution bars Scott from running because of his Scottish ancestry, but he might try to circumvent this.

His abrupt move to sack his main rival, Edgar Lungu, from the government has been widely criticised and seen as a sign of autocratic tendencies on the part of Scott, who has been subjected to racial attacks, especially in social media.

Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, and neighbouring Malawi have been hailed for leading democratic change in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Elections in South Africa, Mozam­bique, Botswana and Namibia last year confirmed the continued dominance of former liberation movements in the region.

3. Africa’s strongmenP
High-stakes elections will also take place this year in Côte d’Ivoire, where President Alassane Ouattara is standing for a second term. His former rival, Laurent Gbagbo, is on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

In Togo, incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé is expected to win a third term.

Commentators also expect protests this year in several countries where Africa’s strongmen are planning to cling to power by changing the constitutions of their countries.

In Burundi, this is almost a done deal. Supporters of President Pierre Buyoya insist that he should be able to run for a third term this year.

Late last year, this issue so upset the Burkinabé – many of whom have only known one leader in their lifetime – that they burnt down the National Assembly and drove away former president Compaoré on the day MPs were planning to vote on a third mandate.

Of particular concern is the DRC, where President Joseph Kabila is suspected to be gunning for a third term.

Ditto, in Congo-Brazzaville, where President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been in power since 1997 and before that from 1979 to 1992.

Further down the line, in Rwanda, there are signs that Presi­dent Paul Kagame is keen to extend his mandate in 2017.

4. Angola emerging
This year, for the first time, Angola is taking up a position as a
nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a post that could boost its visibility and prompt it to play the role of an African heavyweight.

Angola has a big army and business is booming in the oil-rich SADC nation, but it doesn’t have a good image when it comes to human rights and democracy.

Some specialists argue that it is time for President José Eduardo dos Santos to take a greater role in Pan-African initiatives. This could, in turn, spark changes at home, where activists and opposition leaders almost routinely face jail time if they dare to oppose the government.

5. #BringBackOurGirls
Will Nigeria and its partners in the region get the better of Boko Haram in 2015? This is one of the questions people are asking in Nigeria and in its immediate neighbours, where there seems no limit to the horrors people have to face.

The 219 schoolgirls, captured in Chibok in April 2014, are still missing despite a worldwide campaign to have them freed.

On the other side of the continent, al-Shabab is terrorising civilians in Somalia and Kenya. Who is going to stop this?

The opposition in Kenya wants the country’s troops to withdraw from Somalia, where it is fighting al-Shabab as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia. But there are no signs that this will happen soon because President Uhuru Kenyatta seems set on a military solution to ridding the Mombasa coast of al-Shabab and other extremist groups.

6. Beating Ebola
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon might have talked out of turn when he said in November last year that the Ebola epidemic could be over by mid-2015. His man on the ground, Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Ebola mission, was quick to say there was a long way to go to stop the devastating disease from spreading.

But figures do show new infections are slowing down in the Mano River countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – at the epicentre of the disease.

They have lost more than 7 000 citizens to the disease and are suffering large economic setbacks because of the loss of life and a blockade, which is cutting off crucial imports.

If the disease can be beaten in 2015, it will be a relief to everyone in West Africa and the continent, but the long-term effects are expected to continue for some time. This includes the stigma associated with Ebola.

7. Rapid responseP
President Jacob Zuma’s planned African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis, announced in May 2013, has yet to send its first emergency mission to save lives in dire conflicts in Africa.

But troops are said to be on high alert in three of the 11 contributing countries and a mission could be expected early this year.

The plan, which has drawn criticism from countries such as Nigeria, which see it as a purely South African initiative, is to provide Africa with short-term military intervention capability. This is to spare the continent the embarrassment of calling on outside powers to help in conflicts, as was the case in Mali in January 2013 when France was asked to prevent Islamic militants from advancing on Bamako.

But many questions remain about when the force will become operational. It is to be co-ordinated from Addis Ababa and could cost up to $100-million a year to deploy.

8. Unfinished business
One of the main promises made by the African Union Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, when she took up her post in Addis Ababa was to make the organisation more self-reliant. To date, almost half of the AU budget is financed by “international partners”, mostly in Europe.

Since starting at the AU in 2012, Dlamini-Zuma has moved the organisation closer to the African Development Bank (AfDB), partnering with it on many initiatives. She has also been doing the rounds meeting media owners and leading business people.

In November last year, she managed to get $32.6-million (which includes $10-million from the AfDB) for the AU private sector Ebola fund. Some of the biggest donors were MTN and Econet Wireless, which donated $10-million and $2.5-million respectively. Can Dlamini-Zuma establish more of these funds for the AU to expand its fields of operations and be more effective?

9. The trouble with Libya
The international community that ousted former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 will have to do something this year to prevent the country’s further descent into chaos.

Militias are fighting it out for control of the North African oil producer, resulting the wholescale destruction of infrastructure and threatening civilian lives. The south of the country has also become a haven for militia operating in the north of Mali and elsewhere in the Sahel.

France has called for a new military intervention, which could happen early this year. But late last year French Presi­dent François Hollande said France would need to be “invited” by Libya and it wouldn’t intervene without a resolution from the UN Security Council.

This will be complicated because nobody really knows who is in control in Libya. The secular parliament in Tobruk was declared unconstitutional by the Libyan high court in November last year, a move seen as a victory for the Islamist faction.

10. Economic boom
The excitement about Africa Rising will continue this year. According to the latest figures in the AfDB’s African Economic Outlook, the continent’s economy is expected to grow between 5% and 6% in the coming year. This is higher than the 4.8% growth in 2014.

In many countries, this means an expanding middle class. The biggest growth last year was in countries such as the DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Chad, with Egypt and South Africa on the lowest end of the growth scale.

Forecasts are never foolproof (the 2014 report still shows Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone growing, despite Ebola) and unexpected risk factors can drag some countries down.

But overall, investors are reasonably optimistic about Africa’s prospects in the coming year.

11. Oil price slump
Despite positive growth expectations, 2015 will be marked by uncertainty over the effect of the slump in the dollar price of oil on Africa’s producers, such as Angola and Nigeria.

Ghana, which only started producing oil in 2011, has seen a downturn because of the lower oil price and some new producers have already spent their projected income based on an oil price of more than $100 a barrel. By year-end, it was just above $70 a barrel – food for thought for those with newly found reserves, such as in Uganda, and a lesson not to bet too much on oil revenue and not to count their chickens before they hatch.

12. AfCon in Equatorial Guinea
By the end of last year, it looked as if the 2015 African Cup of Nations might be postponed for six months, after Morocco, the host country, said it feared Ebola could be brought to the country by fans from West Africa.

But the Confederation of African Football refused to postpone the event, which is now slated to take place in Equatorial Guinea from January 17 to February 8. This will cost Morocco and the sponsors a lot, as the country is being barred from participating and risks financial sanctions.

13. Save the rhino
According to the latest figures released by the department of environmental affairs in November 2014, South Africa lost 1 020 rhinos last year – the worst yet, up from 333 killed in 2010.

Initiatives to catch poachers and create awareness among Asian buyers of rhino horn don’t seem to be paying off. Will new strategies to combat rhino poaching be found to reverse this trend?

It is not just the rhino that is in danger. Wildlife throughout the continent is the target of poachers and illegal hunting. Tanzania, for example, reportedly lost half of its elephant population in the past five years, largely because of poaching.

14. End of the race
Countries around the world have been targeting 2015 to halve poverty, in line with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In Africa, only a handful of countries reached a significant number of targets, such as improving primary school enrolment, women’s empowerment and the reduction of maternal mortality.

In September this year, the UN is organising a summit to adopt new goals to “end extreme poverty by 2030”. Africa has adopted a common position on what is being termed the post-2015 development agenda, which includes structural economic transformation and inclusive growth; people-centred development; sustainable resource management; and ensuring peace and security in the AU’s 54 member states.

15. Space race
African countries are increasingly getting involved in sophisticated space programmes, with South Africa and Nigeria leading the race.

This year, South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope will start “doing science” in the dry Northern Cape, a precursor to the world’s largest telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, shared between South Africa and Australia.

There will be satellite stations in eight African countries, including Kenya, Ghana, Zambia and Botswana. The strategy to “co-ordinate astronomy on the continent” is expected to be ready by March 2015, Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s then-minister of science and technology, said last year.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency, which was established in Abuja more than a decade ago, is overseeing an ambitious programme of satellites, which are already used for disaster management. The country is also reportedly building its own spacecraft, to be ready in 2028.

Finally, a decision is imminent on whether Namibia will host a mega-project, dubbed the Cherenkov Telescope Array. It will be the world’s biggest gamma ray observatory, with more than 1?000 scientists from five continents participating. The finalists to host the project are Namibia and Chile and building is set to start this year.

Sources: African Development Bank, African Union, United Nations Development Programme, Institute for Security Studies, BBC.com, Reuters, Radio France International, WWF, ska.ac.za, nasrda.gov.ng

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Sudan warns South Sudan over rebels in Bahr el-Ghazal

Sudan Tribune
(Reuters) – Sudan’s intelligence chief warned South Sudan against “hostile moves from its territory”, saying any incursion by rebel forces based in its neighbour would be treated as an “assault” by Juba.

In comments broadcast by a Sudanese news channel, Mohamed Atta named two camps in neighbouring South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state and urged Juba to disarm the rebels there.

Each side has accused the other of harbouring rebels seeking to destabilise the other, but tensions have spiked again since the collapse of African Union-brokered talks in the Ethiopian capital on Dec. 9.

Atta said the rebels were from the Justice and Equality Movement, an armed group that emerged during the war in Sudan’s western Darfur region. While fighting peaked there in 2003 and 2004, law and order has not returned and clashes between insurgents and government forces have continued despite a large United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force.

“We say to the South Sudan government that peace is better for you and better for us and ask them for reciprocity in not harbouring any armed movements.”

Relations between the two states have been troubled since the oil-rich south seceded in 2011. The governments have been unable through the African Union-backed negotiations process to reach an agreement on disputed sections of 1,800-km (1,200-mile) border. Fighting along the frontier came to the brink of full-scale war in 2012.

UN says forces in Sudan’s Darfur won’t leave amid rising violence

Reuters

DAKAR Reuters) – A joint United Nations-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping mission in Darfur is unlikely to bow to Sudan’s request to leave the region when the situation there appears to be worsening, the head of the U.N. peacekeeping forces said on Monday.

Sudan said last month it had asked UNAMID to prepare an exit plan, days after denying peacekeepers permission to pay a second visit to the site of alleged mass rapes by Sudanese soldiers in the Darfur village of Tabit.

“They have asked us to form an exit strategy, which was always an objective, but they are doing it with a certain insistence and publicity which is a little bit special,” Herve Ladsous told Reuters in an interview.

The Darfur conflict erupted in 2003 when mainly African tribes in the region took up arms against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, accusing it of discriminating against them. UNAMID has been deployed in Darfur since 2007.

As many as 300,000 people have died in the conflict, the United Nations says.

Ladsous said a review of UNAMID had been completed and that he would consult with his African Union counterpart, but added Khartoum knew the mission would not leave any time soon.

“It won’t happen tomorrow and not while we continue to see so much suffering,” he said. “This year alone we’ve seen a further 430,000 displaced, which is a clear indication that the situation in Darfur is not good.”

UNAMID was deployed in Darfur with a mandate to stem violence against civilians in a conflict that has seen the International Criminal Court (ICC) issue a warrant for the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir for suspected genocide.

Khartoum has dismissed the charges and refused to recognise the ICC. Bashir claimed victory on Saturday over the ICC and reaffirmed his hard line on Darfur after prosecutors shelved further investigation of war crimes there.

“What we’re seeing is fighting between unidentified militias and people are being killed, women are being raped,” Ladsous said. “There was this incident in Tabit where we were not able to investigate in an independent way without being watched.”

Sudan initially refused to let UNAMID visit Tabit but later granted it access. UNAMID found no evidence of allegations by some Darfur rebels that Sudanese troops had raped about 200 women and girls.

But it expressed concern on Nov. 10 about a heavy military presence during interviews conducted with the alleged victims.

 

Sudan’s Bashir claims victory as ICC drops Darfur investigation

BBC

Sudan President Bashir hails ‘victory’ over ICC charges

The Sudanese president has faced the threat of ICC prosecution since 2009

The president of Sudan has claimed victory over the International Criminal Court after it ended its probe into allegations of war crimes in Darfur.

The ICC charged Omar al-Bashir in 2009 for crimes in the region dating back to 2003, but he refused to recognise the authority of the court in The Hague.

He said the court had failed in its attempts to “humiliate” Sudan.

Announcing the suspension on Friday, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda blamed it on lack of action by the UN.

She called for a “dramatic shift” in the UN Security Council’s approach, saying inaction was emboldening the perpetrators of war crimes in Darfur to continue their brutality, particularly against women and girls.

Other Sudanese officials have also been charged by the ICC – but none have been arrested.

Darfur has been riven by conflict since rebels took up arms in 2003. The UN says more than 300,000 lives have been lost, mostly from disease.

The suspension of the Darfur investigation came just over a week after the ICC dropped charges against another head of state, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He faced prosecution over ethnic violence in 2007-08 in the aftermath of Kenya’s election. That was the court’s most high-profile case.

‘It surrendered
Mr Bashir said the Sudanese people had stood firm against “colonial courts”.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said perpetrators of brutality would only be emboldened

Rebels stand by as a Darfur village burns after allegedly being set alight by pro-government militia in September 2004 – one of many alleged crimes during the conflict
“Last night the ICC raised its arms and surrendered,” he said in remarks on Saturday.

“It is the people of Sudan who stood firm and said that no Sudanese official shall surrender to colonial courts at The Hague or anywhere else.”

Human Rights Watch said that Mr Bashir had got the wrong message from the decision to suspend the case.

“Rather than the prosecutor (Fatou Bensouda) holding up her hands in defeat, I think she threw the challenge down to the Security Council itself, that they, the Council, need to step up to the plate and assist her in the arrest and surrender of Omar al-Bashir and other accused, for fair trial at the ICC,” Human Rights Watch spokesman Richard Dicker told the BBC.

Last month, Sudan asked the UN-African Union force in Darfur (Unamid) to close its human rights office in the capital, Khartoum.

The move came amid tensions over the mission’s attempt to investigate claims of mass rape by Sudanese troops in the Darfur village of Tabit.

Sudan says it has carried out its own investigation and has found no proof that anyone was raped.

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Sudan threatens to pursue S Kordofan rebels into South Sudan

Sudan Tribune
December 12, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The director of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta, said they have endured the support of South Sudan to Sudanese rebels for a long-time and threatened to pursue them “anywhere”.

Sudan and South Sudan trade accusations of support to rebel groups from both sides although Khartoum and Juba signed agreements which state that each side must refrain from supporting rebels from the other country.

Atta, who addressed the pro-government militia Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Nyala on Friday, warned neighbouring countries particularly South Sudan of the consequences of harbouring Sudanese rebels, saying “the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF will pursue rebels everywhere.”

“Khartoum has endured the support rendered by South Sudan to rebels for long-time out of respect for the neighbourly ties and the peace agreement but it is high time to pursue rebels who attack our country everywhere,” he added.

Last November, South Sudanese authorities accused the Sudanese army of bombing Western Bahr el Ghazal’s Raja county. But the Sudan Armed Forces didn’t react to these claims.

Sources said SAF were targeting a camp of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in the area. Khartoum last April formally accused Juba of using the Darfurian rebel group to fight insurgents led by the former vice-president Riek Machar.

Officials in Juba also accuse Khartoum of backing the rebellion in the border states.

The defence minister, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, for his part, said the preparations of SAF and the RSF send a serious message to rebels and their collaborators inside Sudan and abroad.

He renewed rejection to demands of those who he called “enemies of Sudan” to dissolve the army, police and security and to cancel Shari’a law, saying the army and the regular forces are capable of defending the country.

Hussein who addressed the 16th infantry division in South Darfur state added they are ready to sacrifice their souls for the sake of defending Shari’s law.

He underscored that time has come to crush rebellion “so that people could devote themselves for development and reconstruction”.

The defence minister further emphasised that the second phase of the Decisive Summer campaign will end rebellion in all battlefronts, reiterating that SAF will not abandon “an inch” of the country’s territory.

Hussein praised the effective role played by RSF alongside the SAF in the battlefields, stressing the SRF is a “red line that we wouldn’t tolerate any one to cross it”.

“Following this majestic scenery which pleases our friends and vexes our enemies, I shall report to the president of the republic the readiness of SAF and the other regular forces to eradicate rebellion and declare the beginning of the second phase of the Decisive Summer campaign”, he said.

This month, military clashes escalated between the army and Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan following the collapse of the 9th round of peace talks between the two sides in Addis Ababa.

SAF has been battling the rebel SPLM-N in South Kordofan since 2011 besides launching attacks in spaced intervals against several rebel groups in Darfur since 2003.

The head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta Abbas Al-Moula (Photo: Reuters)

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Sudan – ICC’s Bensouda suspends Darfur investigation because of UN

BBC

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor says she has suspended her investigation into war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region because of a lack of action by the UN.

Fatou Bensouda said there needed to be “a dramatic shift” in the UN Security Council’s approach.

The Hague-based court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009 for alleged war crimes.

But he remains at large and has refused to recognise the court’s authority.

Other Sudanese officials have been charged by the ICC, but none has been arrested.

Darfur has been in conflict since 2003 when rebels took up arms.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to appear before you and purport to be updating you when all I am doing is repeating the same things I have said over and over again,” Ms Bensouda told the Security Council.

“Given this council’s lack of foresight on what should happen in Darfur, I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases.”

Analysts say action by the Security Council is unlikely because China – which wields a veto – has traditionally supported Sudan.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the conflict in Darfur
“We find ourselves in a stalemate that can only embolden perpetrators,” Ms Bensouda said.

“What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council’s approach to arresting Darfur suspects.”

Last month, Sudan asked the UN-African Union force in Darfur (Unamid) to close its human rights office in the capital, Khartoum.

The move came amid tensions over the mission’s attempt to investigate claims of mass rape by Sudanese troops in the Darfuri village of Tabit.

Ms Bensouda told the UN that the allegations should “shock this council into action”.

However, Sudan has said it carried out its own investigation and had found no proof that anyone was raped.

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Sudan – army to deployed across whole nation to eradicate insurgency

Sudan Tribune

December 7, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) spokesman Colonel al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad said they will deploy troops extensively across the country to enforce the state authority, stressing that they will continue their “Decisive Summer” campaign aimed at eradicating the insurgency.

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SAF soldiers and RSF militamen stand guard after recapturing the Daldako area, east of Kadogli May 20, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

The government is fighting the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) rebels in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan state for nearly 3 years, and other armed movements in Darfur since 2003.

The recent rounds of negotiations in Addis Ababa between Khartoum and insurgents over the conflicts in Darfur. South Kordofan and Blue Nile have failed to reach any settlement.

Col. Sa’ad told Ashorooq TV that SPLM-N attempts in South Kordofan to attack the army have failed which confirms that rebellion in the process of collapse after successive defeats suffered during SAF operations.

This week SAF accused SPLM-N of launching attacks in Blinga and al-Atmoor villages in South Kordofan which follows another attack the day before near Alahimr area.

SPLM-N however claimed that SAF initiated the attacks.

The bulletin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan (OCHA) reported that eight people were killed by aerial bombing and ground fighting between government forces and the SPLM-N in the period between November 17-23 in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

OCHA said it received reports of substantial increase in air strikes and ground fighting in parts of the Blue Nile State without figures on the rates of civilian displacement.

(ST)