Political pieces in the East and Horn of African jigsaw
August 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Anansi, *
Oil, electricity and agriculture are set to transform East Africa over the next decade. And in the regional jigsaw, politics, economics and security will fit together more tightly.
If all goes according to plan, East Africa will be uniquely positioned to supply the economies of the Gulf and South Asia with food and energy. The resources and the labour supply are assured, but the most critical piece is the politics.
Can the relative success of the East African Community (EAC) in moving towards a single market and political cooperation survive a radical expansion? South Sudan will be the next member, and Ethiopia is not far behind.
Given Ethiopia’s position as the fastest-growing state in the region, with the biggest army, diplomats say a face-saving formula will be found to invite it to join the community this year.
Somalia, whose civil war has drawn in armies from four East African states, also wants to join the EAC – partly because it doesn’t trust the Ethiopian-dominated Intergovernmental Authority for Development.
Almost every state in East Africa has announced that it has substantial oil and gas re- serves. To Uganda’s more than 2bn barrels of reserves have been added oil finds in Ethiopia’s south Omo region, oil in Kenya’s Turkana basin and Tanzania’s spectacular gas finds in Lindi and Mtwara.
Sudan and South Sudan are established – if antagonistic – oil producers and exporters, and the more adventurous exploration companies report finding substantial deposits along Somalia’s coastline.
Key to the new East African project are the region’s two biggest economies: Kenya and Ethiopia. The political differences between Nairobi’s competitive party system and Addis Ababa’s developmental authoritarianism are not insurmountable.
Going back to the Cold War, pro-US Kenya cooperated with pro-Soviet Ethiopia.
This time the imperative for political and economic cooperation is far stronger. After initial scepticism about Kenya’s invasion of Somalia, Ethiopia now sees it as giving an important boost to the African Union (AU) force there.
Kenya’s troops, unlike Ethiopia’s, are coming under the AU command. And Kenya’s plan to take Kismayo port, the main supply point for the Al-Shabaab insurrectionists, will change the dynamics. To prevent a nationalist backlash, the AU forces will have to secure a new accord with the differing clans to keep out Al-Shabaab.
After the bloody aftermath of its 2006 invasion, Ethiopia has been more willing to accept Kenya’s idea of a negotiated security pact across Somalia’s complex clan structure.
Incremental successes in Somalia this year are encouraging both sides, while American and European security experts watch closely but sceptically.
Policy makers in Nairobi and Addis Ababa say they accept they are in Somalia for the long haul – even if that message is difficult to sell to their people.
Another difficult message is for Addis Ababa and Nairobi to persuade Uganda and Tanzania to stay in the party. Prospects of rapid development of oil production in Kenya may obviate Uganda’s plans for a refinery supplying the region from its production centre in Bunyoro.
President Yoweri Museveni, who wants to be an executive president of the EAC, has little enthusiasm for Kenya’s Lamu project and did not attend the commissioning ceremony with other regional leaders in April.
Tanzania, a member of the Southern African Development Community, is pulled in another direction. South African companies are playing a leading role in the development of its gas and mining industries. But the East African project needs full backing from Kampala and Dar es Salaam.
In all of this, Kenya’s role – as a central point between Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda – will be critical. But first it has to hold a credible national election and appoint a foreign-policy team to shape a strategy that can win support across the region●
*Source The Africa Report
Africa’s Forever Wars
August 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
Why the continent’s conflicts never end.
BY JEFFREY GETTLEMAN *
There is a very simple reason why some of Africa’s bloodiest, most brutal wars never seem to end: They are not really wars. Not in the traditional sense, at least. The combatants don’t have much of an ideology; they don’t have clear goals. They couldn’t care less about taking over capitals or major cities — in fact, they prefer the deep bush, where it is far easier to commit crimes. Today’s rebels seem especially uninterested in winning converts, content instead to steal other people’s children, stick Kalashnikovs or axes in their hands, and make them do the killing. Look closely at some of the continent’s most intractable conflicts, from the rebel-laden creeks of the Niger Delta to the inferno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this is what you will find.
What we are seeing is the decline of the classic African liberation movement and the proliferation of something else — something wilder, messier, more violent, and harder to wrap our heads around. If you’d like to call this war, fine. But what is spreading across Africa like a viral pandemic is actually just opportunistic, heavily armed banditry. My job as the New York Times‘ East Africa bureau chief is to cover news and feature stories in 12 countries. But most of my time is spent immersed in these un-wars.
I’ve witnessed up close — often way too close — how combat has morphed from soldier vs. soldier (now a rarity in Africa) to soldier vs. civilian. Most of today’s African fighters are not rebels with a cause; they’re predators. That’s why we see stunning atrocities like eastern Congo’s rape epidemic, where armed groups in recent years have sexually assaulted hundreds of thousands of women, often so sadistically that the victims are left incontinent for life. What is the military or political objective of ramming an assault rifle inside a woman and pulling the trigger? Terror has become an end, not just a means.
This is the story across much of Africa, where nearly half of the continent’s 53 countries are home to an active conflict or a recently ended one. Quiet places such as Tanzania are the lonely exceptions; even user-friendly, tourist-filled Kenya blew up in 2008. Add together the casualties in just the dozen countries that I cover, and you have a death toll of tens of thousands of civilians each year. More than 5 million have died in Congo alone since 1998, the International Rescue Committee has estimated.
Of course, many of the last generation’s independence struggles were bloody, too. South Sudan’s decades-long rebellion is thought to have cost more than 2 million lives. But this is not about numbers. This is about methods and objectives, and the leaders driving them. Uganda’s top guerrilla of the 1980s, Yoweri Museveni, used to fire up his rebels by telling them they were on the ground floor of a national people’s army. Museveni became president in 1986, and he’s still in office (another problem, another story). But his words seem downright noble compared with the best-known rebel leader from his country today, Joseph Kony, who just gives orders to burn.
Even if you could coax these men out of their jungle lairs and get them to the negotiating table, there is very little to offer them. They don’t want ministries or tracts of land to govern. Their armies are often traumatized children, with experience and skills (if you can call them that) totally unsuited for civilian life. All they want is cash, guns, and a license to rampage. And they’ve already got all three. How do you negotiate with that?
The short answer is you don’t. The only way to stop today’s rebels for real is to capture or kill their leaders. Many are uniquely devious characters whose organizations would likely disappear as soon as they do. That’s what happened in Angola when the diamond-smuggling rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was shot, bringing a sudden end to one of the Cold War’s most intense conflicts. In Liberia, the moment that warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor was arrested in 2006 was the same moment that the curtain dropped on the gruesome circus of 10-year-old killers wearing Halloween masks. Countless dollars, hours, and lives have been wasted on fruitless rounds of talks that will never culminate in such clear-cut results. The same could be said of indictments of rebel leaders for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. With the prospect of prosecution looming, those fighting are sure never to give up.
How did we get here? Maybe it’s pure nostalgia, but it seems that yesteryear’s African rebels had a bit more class. They were fighting against colonialism, tyranny, or apartheid. The winning insurgencies often came with a charming, intelligent leader wielding persuasive rhetoric. These were men like John Garang, who led the rebellion in southern Sudan with his Sudan People’s Liberation Army. He pulled off what few guerrilla leaders anywhere have done: winning his people their own country. Thanks in part to his tenacity, South Sudan will hold a referendum next year to secede from the North. Garang died in a 2005 helicopter crash, but people still talk about him like a god. Unfortunately, the region without him looks pretty godforsaken. I traveled to southern Sudan in November to report on how ethnic militias, formed in the new power vacuum, have taken to mowing down civilians by the thousands.
Even Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s dictator, was once a guerrilla with a plan. After transforming minority white-run Rhodesia into majority black-run Zimbabwe, he turned his country into one of the fastest-growing and most diversified economies south of the Sahara — for the first decade and a half of his rule. His status as a true war hero, and the aid he lent other African liberation movements in the 1980s, account for many African leaders’ reluctance to criticize him today, even as he has led Zimbabwe down a path straight to hell.
These men are living relics of a past that has been essentially obliterated. Put the well-educated Garang and the old Mugabe in a room with today’s visionless rebel leaders, and they would have just about nothing in common. What changed in one generation was in part the world itself. The Cold War’s end bred state collapse and chaos. Where meddling great powers once found dominoes that needed to be kept from falling, they suddenly saw no national interest at all. (The exceptions, of course, were natural resources, which could be bought just as easily — and often at a nice discount — from various armed groups.) Suddenly, all you needed to be powerful was a gun, and as it turned out, there were plenty to go around. AK-47s and cheap ammunition bled out of the collapsed Eastern Bloc and into the farthest corners of Africa. It was the perfect opportunity for the charismatic and morally challenged.
In Congo, there have been dozens of such men since 1996, when rebels rose up against the leopard skin-capped dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, probably the most corrupt man in the history of this most corrupt continent. After Mobutu’s state collapsed, no one really rebuilt it. In the anarchy that flourished, rebel leaders carved out fiefdoms ludicrously rich in gold, diamonds, copper, tin, and other minerals. Among them were Laurent Nkunda, Bosco Ntaganda, Thomas Lubanga, a toxic hodgepodge of Mai Mai commanders, Rwandan genocidaires, and the madman leaders of a flamboyantly cruel group called the Rastas.
I met Nkunda in his mountain hideout in late 2008 after slogging hours up a muddy road lined with baby-faced soldiers. The chopstick-thin general waxed eloquent about the oppression of the minority Tutsi people he claimed to represent, but he bristled when I asked him about the warlord-like taxes he was imposing and all the women his soldiers have raped. The questions didn’t seem to trouble him too much, though, and he cheered up soon. His farmhouse had plenty of space for guests, so why didn’t I spend the night?
Nkunda is not totally wrong about Congo’s mess. Ethnic tensions are a real piece of the conflict, together with disputes over land, refugees, and meddling neighbor countries. But what I’ve come to understand is how quickly legitimate grievances in these failed or failing African states deteriorate into rapacious, profit-oriented bloodshed. Congo today is home to a resource rebellion in which vague anti-government feelings become an excuse to steal public property. Congo’s embarrassment of riches belongs to the 70 million Congolese, but in the past 10 to 15 years, that treasure has been hijacked by a couple dozen rebel commanders who use it to buy even more guns and wreak more havoc.
Probably the most disturbing example of an African un-war comes from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), begun as a rebel movement in northern Uganda during the lawless 1980s. Like the gangs in the oil-polluted Niger Delta, the LRA at first had some legitimate grievances — namely, the poverty and marginalization of the country’s ethnic Acholi areas. The movement’s leader, Joseph Kony, was a young, wig-wearing, gibberish-speaking, so-called prophet who espoused the Ten Commandments. Soon, he broke every one. He used his supposed magic powers (and drugs) to whip his followers into a frenzy and unleashed them on the very Acholi people he was supposed to be protecting.
The LRA literally carved their way across the region, leaving a trail of hacked-off limbs and sawed-off ears. They don’t talk about the Ten Commandments anymore, and some of those left in their wake can barely talk at all. I’ll never forget visiting northern Uganda a few years ago and meeting a whole group of women whose lips were sheared off by Kony’s maniacs. Their mouths were always open, and you could always see their teeth. When Uganda finally got its act together in the late 1990s and cracked down, Kony and his men simply marched on. Today, their scourge has spread to one of the world’s most lawless regions: the borderland where Sudan, Congo, and the Central African Republic meet.
Child soldiers are an inextricable part of these movements. The LRA, for example, never seized territory; it seized children. Its ranks are filled with brainwashed boys and girls who ransack villages and pound newborn babies to death in wooden mortars. In Congo, as many as one-third of all combatants are under 18. Since the new predatory style of African warfare is motivated and financed by crime, popular support is irrelevant to these rebels. The downside to not caring about winning hearts and minds, though, is that you don’t win many recruits. So abducting and manipulating children becomes the only way to sustain the organized banditry. And children have turned out to be ideal weapons: easily brainwashed, intensely loyal, fearless, and, most importantly, in endless supply.
In this new age of forever wars, even Somalia looks different. That country certainly evokes the image of Africa’s most chaotic state — exceptional even in its neighborhood for unending conflict. But what if Somalia is less of an outlier than a terrifying forecast of what war in Africa is moving toward? On the surface, Somalia seems wracked by a religiously themed civil conflict between the internationally backed but feckless transitional government and the Islamist militia al-Shabab. Yet the fighting is being nourished by the same old Somali problem that has dogged this desperately poor country since 1991: warlordism. Many of the men who command or fund militias in Somalia today are the same ones who tore the place apart over the past 20 years in a scramble for the few resources left — the port, airport, telephone poles, and grazing pastures.
Somalis are getting sick of the Shabab and its draconian rules — no music, no gold teeth, even no bras. But what has kept locals in Somalia from rising up against foreign terrorists is Somalia’s deeply ingrained culture of war profiteering. The world has let Somalia fester too long without a permanent government. Now, many powerful Somalis have a vested interest in the status quo chaos. One olive oil exporter in Mogadishu told me that he and some trader friends bought a crate of missiles to shoot at government soldiers because “taxes are annoying.”
Most frightening is how many sick states like Congo are now showing Somalia-like symptoms. Whenever a potential leader emerges to reimpose order in Mogadishu, criminal networks rise up to finance his opponent, no matter who that may be. The longer these areas are stateless, the harder it is to go back to the necessary evil of government.
All this might seem a gross simplification, and indeed, not all of Africa’s conflicts fit this new paradigm. The old steady — the military coup — is still a common form of political upheaval, as Guinea found out in 2008 and Madagascar not too long thereafter. I have also come across a few non-hoodlum rebels who seem legitimately motivated, like some of the Darfurian commanders in Sudan. But though their political grievances are well defined, the organizations they “lead” are not. Old-style African rebels spent years in the bush honing their leadership skills, polishing their ideology, and learning to deliver services before they ever met a Western diplomat or sat for a television interview. Now rebels are hoisted out of obscurity after they have little more than a website and a “press office” (read: a satellite telephone). When I went to a Darfur peace conference in Sirte, Libya, in 2007, I quickly realized that the main draw for many of these rebel “leaders” was not the negotiating sessions, but the all-you-can-eat buffet.
For the rest, there are the un-wars, these ceaseless conflicts I spend my days cataloging as they grind on, mincing lives and spitting out bodies. Recently, I was in southern Sudan working on a piece about the Ugandan Army’s hunt for Kony, and I met a young woman named Flo. She had been a slave in the LRA for 15 years and had recently escaped. She had scarred shins and stony eyes, and often there were long pauses after my questions, when Flo would stare at the horizon. “I am just thinking of the road home,” she said. It was never clear to her why the LRA was fighting. To her, it seemed like they had been aimlessly tramping through the jungle, marching in circles.
This is what many conflicts in Africa have become — circles of violence in the bush, with no end in sight.
*Source www.foreignpolicy.com. Jeffrey Gettleman is East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times.
South Africa’s Retail Politician
August 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
Jacob Zuma has charm, but is anyone still buying what he’s selling?
BY ROY ROBINS*
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — In 1994, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton attended the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, and called the event a “milestone of the 20th century.” The Mandela years, with their optimism, pluralism, and sense of possibility, signalled South Africa’s rebirth as a democratic nation. This week, Secretary of State Clinton returned to the country for a four-day visit, part of an extensive African trip, to discuss trade, security, and increased investment in the continent. If the conciliatory, magnanimous Mandela engaged in a Long Walk to Freedom, South Africa, under its current president, Jacob Zuma, is slowly but steadily stumbling backward.
Mandela elected to serve a single term as president; Thabo Mbeki succeeded him in 1999 and presided over a period of impressive economic growth and the emergence of a black middle class. But Mbeki’s aloof, autocratic leadership alienated many, and delegates at the 2007 African National Congress (ANC) party conference ousted him in favor of his former deputy, Zuma.
Unlike Mbeki, a university graduate who was criticized by many in his party for being intellectual and elitist, Zuma has no formal education. As a young man, he became active in Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC. He was later jailed on Robben Island, alongside Mandela and many other anti-apartheid activists.
Zuma is the country’s first Zulu president (Mandela and Mbeki were Xhosa). Zulus are the country’s biggest ethnic group and a politically powerful faction when mobilized. Thus Zuma’s election as deputy president was a concession to a large portion of black South Africans. Some feared Zuma’s presidency would revive the country’s historical tribalism, but instead it revived a hollow populism — Zuma promised a great deal and delivered very little.
On July 10, President Zuma delivered the Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture in a church in Thohoyandou, a town in the country’s impoverished Limpopo Province. Never a skilled public speaker, Zuma appeared acutely out of place. He recounted Mandela’s many triumphs: his rural-yet-regal upbringing, his history with — and, later, leadership of — the ANC, his 27-year imprisonment, and how he had been instrumental in delivering democracy to South Africa. “He attracted people like a magnet through persuasion,” Zuma said unpersuasively.
Zuma was speaking about the most influential figure in the country’s history, and yet both his words and his delivery felt flat. He hurried through his prepared text. There was an air of impatience, rather than anticipation, in the crowded hall. He was trying too hard to seem relaxed.
Though Zuma made no mention of it, outside of the church a small battle was being fought. Three hundred members of the ANC Youth League, which is hostile to Zuma and wants to see him unseated, had arrived in Thohoyandou to disrupt the lecture. Some protestors brought along Zuma T-shirts, which they shredded on the street. Others sang a Zulu song entitled “Shoot Zuma.” Expecting trouble, soldiers, police, and various security forces lined the streets outside the church. There was barbed wire and barricades, tear gas and handcuffs, water cannons and Casspirs (a South African armored vehicle, the scourge of the ANC during apartheid).
The scene was familiar from the iconography of apartheid, only now the police and army were black. In a country that has been struggling for years with wide-scale electrical outages, a very different kind of power struggle was occurring: The conflict between those with too much power and those with none at all. This, and not the story of Mandela, is the original South African narrative.
The contrast between the scene in the church hall and that on the street perfectly parallels the contradictions of contemporary South Africa: between the government’s grand talk of infrastructure development and its failure to provide basic services; between the illusion of progressivism and the insistent poverty and depressing prejudice that dominates the daily news. At the ANC’s policy conference in late June, Zuma bemoaned the “plight of the poor.” But that same week, his defense minister, Sam Makhudu Guluybe, was in the United States, negotiating for Zuma the purchase of a luxury, 300-seater Boeing for Zuma at the cost of $235 million.
Zuma’s first term as president has seen an increase in the centralization and consolidation of state power, and what appears to be an increase in factionalism, cronyism, and corruption. Zuma himself remains tainted by allegations of impropriety — in 2007, he was charged with 783 counts of fraud, racketeering, and corruption; a judge cleared him in 2008 on procedural grounds – a ruling that remains highly controversial.
Zuma works best as a retail politician, a phrase that does not exist in South Africa but probably should. He has immense charm but narrow ability. His governing style veers uneasily between overreach and lack of ambition. And he is now less popular than ever — according to a poll released in July, a majority of the country’s youth have no faith in his leadership and consider him incompetent. They see his policy proposals as lacking in substance and question his contribution to the country over the past three years.
For a man who admitted during his 2006 trial for rape (of which he was acquitted) to having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman, his government’s AIDS policy has been surprisingly more forthright and responsible than Mbeki, who vacillated between pretending AIDS did not exist and trying to wish it away by magical means. According to a 2008 Harvard study, Mbeki’s resistance to making anti-retrovirals widely available caused the premature deaths of 365,000 South Africans.
Zuma does not have such tragedy on his hands, but he has nothing to be proud of, either. South Africa’s first-quarter GDP was 2.1 percent, down from 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. More than half the country’s youth is unemployed. (The country’s overall unemployment rate is 24 percent.) Trevor Manuel, the minister of national planning, said that the unemployment rate for black youth is 65 percent.
Youth unemployment may be, as Manuel concedes, South Africa’s “single greatest risk to social stability,” but others loom. The ANC has called the poor state of the country’s education system a “crisis.” Of the 142 countries listed in the World Economic Forum’s 2011-2012 Global Competitiveness Report, which rates the overall quality of a nation’s tertiary and secondary education system, South Africa ranked 133rd.
The Department of Basic Education’s failure to deliver textbooks to students in Limpopo Province has received more national attention than almost any other story this year — and yet, after more than 6 months, thousands of students still do not have books. According to a 2011 Transparency International Report, 60 percent of South Africans said corruption had increased in the country during the last three years. And a report released in February by the think tank the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) registered a decrease in civil liberties, government effectiveness, and accountability from the previous 2008 review.
Like much of the public sector, Zuma is widely perceived as being inefficient, unfocused, and compromised. To survive politically, he has aligned himself with the South African Communist Party (SACP), which is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Yet South Africa’s significant leftist and labor factions are angry with an ANC government that “talks left and walks right”: promising socialist policies while acceding to big business and fiscal conservatism.The government will have to make some concessions to the Communists. To ignore them would be to make the same mistake Mbeki made; the SACP helped oust him in 2007.
The threat of Soviet Russia sustained President Reagan’s increasingly unwieldy support for apartheid South Africa. Reagan regarded the country as a strong ally combating communism in Sub-Saharan Africa, while the South African government used the communist threat as an excuse to enforce apartheid policies and sidestep U.S. sanctions. When communism ended, so did American support for the apartheid government. As the influential newspaper Business Day reported in mid-July: “The Reds the apartheid government so feared are no longer hiding under the bed – they occupy powerful positions in the Cabinet, have been deployed to key state posts, and have the ear of President Jacob Zuma.” The ANC government is built on what is known as the Tripartite Alliance — a union between the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP), and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). And yet these bodies are currently colliding — there is friction between COSATU and the SACP, between COSATU and the ANC, and between factions within the ANC itself, such as the ANC Youth League and its parent body. The ANC has been losing support since the Mandela years; in 1994, 54 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot for the ANC. By 2009, the ANC received only 39 percent of the vote. A viable opposition party — one with wide appeal to black South Africans — does not yet exist, but could emerge.
Former ANC Youth League president Malusi Gigaba says that the ANC has become “so inwardly focused that the majority of South African citizens must wonder if they matter at all.” The response to this is simple: They do wonder — and they don’t matter.
President Zuma is neither a selfless visionary like Mandela, nor a sophisticated strategist like Mbeki. President Zuma, as many South Africans see it, cares only about the advancement of President Zuma. But what today’s South Africa requires is responsible leadership and a pragmatic, progressive, engaged, and accountable government to begin to repair a nation that is, once again, at odds with itself.
Can Ghana’s Economy Prosper Against the Odds?
August 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
By George B.N. Ayittey*
For the seven months that I was in Ghana (Dec 2011-July 2012), he rarely made a public appearance — and despite official assertions to the contrary, most people did not believe he had the will nor the capacity to campaign for re-election in this year’s elections in December.
What was remarkable, however, was that within hours of his death, the Vice-President, John Mahama, had been sworn in as the new president. The smoothness of the transition was exactly how Atta Mills would have wanted it. He was a man of peace and ardent believer in the rule of law.
The smooth transfer of power not only attested to the strength and stability of Ghana’s democracy but also stood in sharp contrast to the rocky and chaotic transitions that followed the deaths of presidents Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast in 1993; Musa Yar’Ardua of Nigeria in 2010 and Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi in 2012.
Also standing in sharp contrast to the smooth political transition process is the performance of Ghana’s economy. After a stellar performance the past few years, the economy has hit some road bumps.
At a time when Europe has been in deep crisis, Ghana’s economy galloped at a dizzying 14.5% rate of growth in 2011. In the fourth quarter, the rate was an astonishing 16%. The country achieved a single digit inflation rate of 8.6% and the lowest fiscal deficit to GDP ratio of 4.8% in decades, according to figures from the Minister of Finance.
Moreover, Ghana attracted $7 billion in foreign investment — the highest amount recorded in its history. This economic boom has been sparked by recent discovery and production of oil.
However, prospects for 2012 have dimmed. The projected growth rate has been scaled back to 10%, although still impressive. An IMF team which visited the country in June described the economy as “sick” — perhaps, an unintended allusion to the condition of the president.
The external value of the local currency, the cedi, has dropped precipitously from 1.4 cedis to the dollar in January 2.2 cedis to the dollar in July — a drop of 57% in terms of the local currency. That drop has made imports more expensive and pushed the rate of inflation up above 10%. There is widespread grumbling about the rising cost of living.
It may seem skeptics, who questioned the sustainability of Ghana’s economic success, are being proven right. They point to Ghana’s neighbor, Ivory Coast, which was once declared an “economic miracle” back in the late 1990s but then convulsed into civil war and economic ruination in 2005 and 2010. They ask further: Hasn’t oil been a curse to such countries as Angola, Cameroon and Nigeria, among others? Is Ghana not destined to follow the same path?
To some extent, the skeptics have a point but that is not the whole picture. To be sure, Ivory Coast was declared an “economic miracle” in the late 1980s and in 1994, the World Bank declared Ghana to be an economic success story.
However, received wisdom and accumulated evidence suggest that doing well economically is not enough. Intellectual freedom (freedom of expression, of the media, etc.) and political reform (establishment of democratic pluralism) are also needed to sustain economic prosperity. Countries that resist them eventually implode, unraveling all the economic gains made. This was what happened in Ivory Coast in 2005 and also in Yugoslavia (1995), Indonesia (1998), Madagascar (2001), Tunisia (2011) and Egypt (2011).
In other words, democracy is not necessary to engineer an economic success story but vital to sustain it.
In Ghana’s case, incomplete political liberalization and fitful intellectual reform clipped its economic success in the 1990s.
However, things are much different today. The intellectual environment is much freer now. There are more than 100 private radio stations and over 20 privately-owned newspapers in Ghana. There is a vibrant and vigilant media that sparks intense intellectual debates. Call-in radio programs hold the feet of politicians to the fire and expose their shenanigans. Now and then, the country’s Supreme Court rules against the government. Freedom of information bill is wending its way through Parliament, although it has been dragging its feet.
Media’s role in Ghanaian politics
Politically, democracy is also being entrenched. Since 2000, there have been two successful transfers of power without violence or bloodshed. And the smooth transfer of power after the president passed away is another feather in the Ghana’s democracy cap.
All these bode well for the sustainability of the current economic prosperity. But still, some serious hurdles lie ahead for Ghana’s economic prosperity.
First, the non-oil sector of the economy is performing poorly. Agriculture, which employs over 60% of the population, grew marginally at 2.8% in 2011. With food production per capita declining, the country has to rely on food imports to feed itself. The performance of the manufacturing sector has also been weak. It is hard to find a manufactured good with the label, “Made in Ghana.” As Ghanaians often lament, “We don’t produce anything; we import everything from tooth-picks to toilet paper.” As a result, imports are surging dangerously out of control.
Ghana farmers lose out in gold mining boom
The situation is eerily reminiscent of Nigeria in the 1980s when the country neglected its agriculture and manufacturing base and splurged on luxury imports. Army chiefs parked Maseratis and even Lamborghinis outside plush government villas, while their children attended expensive schools in Britain. One even had his Rolls Royce flown from Britain to Nigeria. Nigeria, which used to export food in the 1960s, now spends over $120 billion [latest figure I found] on food imports while 61% of Nigerians now live in poverty.
There are other bumps as well on Ghana’s road to economic prosperity. The bloated size of the government suffocates the economy. In 1997, there were 88 cabinet and regional ministers plus their deputy ministers in a country with a population of 25 million. By 2004, the number had reached 92 but now down to 84. [The U.S., with a population of 300 million, has 40 secretaries and assistant secretaries.]
Too many ministries means overlapping jurisdiction and functions and a bloated bureaucracy. Indeed, the Vice President, John Mahama, has been complaining persistently about “excessive bureaucracy and red-tapeism in the public sector” in the state-owned Daily Graphic.
The public sector is riddled with overspending, wasteful practices and financial irregularities and profligacy. The situation has become so dire that the government consumes all it collects in revenue, leaving it with little or no savings to finance investments. For example, in 2011, total revenue stood at GH¢12 billion (or $7.5 billion) but general government expenditures added up to GH¢13 billion, leaving the government with negative savings.
Can Africa break its ‘resource curse’?
However, the biggest hurdle when I was in the country was the high level of anxiety, tension and uncertainty about the December poll. In times of uncertainty, investors hold on to their wallets and the rich park their wealth outside the country. Capital flight and surging imports have evidently contributed to the sharp drop in the external value of the local currency.
I left Ghana for the U.S. on July 21 and President Atta Mills passed away on July 24. Most likely, political tension in the country will abate somewhat as Ghanaians put away their differences to mourn their departed president. However, the uncertainty will resurface after the burial. While the new president, John Mahama, is respected and level-headed, he is unlikely to accomplish much before December.
One wag has urged Ghanaians to vote for a “Non-John” in December. Since 1981, Ghana has had the following presidents: Jerry John Rawlings, John Kufuor, John Atta Mills, and now John Mahama. “Enough JOHNS. Haba! This is the worst form of name tribalism. Time for a revolution,” the wag exclaims.
Well, Ghanaians will decide in December.
*George Ayittey is a Ghanaian economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC. He is a professor at American University, and an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Piece originally published in CNN.Com
African Union: Power shifts south
August 10, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Patrick Smith in Addis Ababa *
By Patrick Smith in Addis Ababa *
A South African takes the helm at the continental organisation amidst at least four African crises that will test new chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s diplomatic and political skills.
It was 1am on 17 July when a respectful hush fell over the silvery spaceship-shaped conference centre in Addis Ababa. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, resplendent in a green and purple boubou, swore her loyalty to the African Union (AU) as the first woman to lead the continent’s top organisation. “I pledge not to seek instructions,” she intoned, “from any member state nor from any authority external to the African Union.”
It is one of those diplomatic fictions that when candidates for top international positions are elected, they instantly forget their nationalist aspirations. It was a fiction most energetically pushed by the South African government. Its lobbyists had worked hard to distance Dlamini-Zuma from her country’s diplomatic record. “I’m not here to represent South African policy,” she told journalists shortly before voting started for the AU job on 15 July.
Until then, five states – Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa – had respected the unwritten rule that they would not run for the AU’s top position. But after a year of growing South African frustration with its handling of international interventions in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, President Jacob Zuma’s allies launched a bid for the top job late last year. The campaign stuttered and faltered. Government insiders feared a resounding diplomatic rebuff.
At the January summit, AU chairman Jean Ping won each of three rounds of voting but failed to win the two-thirds of member states’ votes necessary for victory. A stalemate ensued as criticism of South Africa’s grandiose ambitions grew. Big countries such as Nigeria, Egypt and Libya objected to South Africa’s pretensions of continental leadership. They may be too late. South Africa is already Africa’s representative in the emerging economies club known as BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It is the only African member of the G-20 grouping of major world economies. It hosts the Pan-African Parliament, which is taken seriously as representing the continent’s political zeitgeist. Just as South Africa’s seat on the United Nations (UN) Security Council expires at the end of this year, its former foreign minister takes over as head of the AU.
Dlamini-Zuma quoted Marcus Garvey. Ping quoted Shakespeare
South Africa has become the key point of diplomatic and economic contact in Africa for other emerging regions, as well as for the United States and the European Union. Should the efforts to reform the outdated power structures of the UN ever succeed, then South Africa is in pole position for the long-requested permanent African seat on the Security Council.
There are plenty of clichés about an Anglophone-Francophone split in the AU, but they do not stack up. In the final round of voting, Dlamini-Zuma won the votes of 37 out of 51 voting states. Several Francophone states including Senegal, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo were among them. A frustrated Ivorian diplomat explained how the “fickleness” of his counterparts in Central Africa was responsible for Ping’s defeat.
Some of Dlamini-Zuma’s staunchest opponents – Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon – are Francophone. But they worked with large non-Francophone countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya. Most of the Arabic-speaking states of North Africa also backed Ping, at least initially. Voting split in different ways: regionally, linguistically, ideologically and on gender. A diplomat contrasted the speeches of Ping and Zuma at the closing ceremony.
Dlamini-Zuma quoted Marcus Garvey: “The history of a movement, of a nation, of a race, is a guide-post of that movement’s destiny, that nation’s destiny, that race’s destiny. What you do today that is worthwhile, inspires others to act.”
Ping quoted Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances…” With a rueful smile, Ping …
*Source www.theafricareport.com.Visit www.panafricareport
Is democracy under threat in West Africa?
August 3, 2012 | 0 Comments
Coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, democratic defence in Senegal
By Lansana Gberie
In May, Said Djinnit, head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), briefed Security Council members on what he saw as a disquieting trend in West Africa. During the
preceding two months, Mr. Djinnit told council members, military coups had aborted preparations for democratic elections in Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Senegal, where his office is based, just managed to escape a violent turn. Electoral violence in Nigeria in April 2011 caused the deaths of more than a thousand people, while terrorist violence — led by an Islamist group called Boko Haram — has since escalated, leading to many more deaths and destruction in the country.
Also last year, a simmering civil war in Côte d’Ivoire was reignited after the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to honour an electoral verdict against him. In fact, over the past year, Africa has experienced eight such unconstitutional or extra-constitutional attempts to change governments or to hold on to power, and some have been successful. Something must be done to tamp down this trend, Mr. Djinnit told council members.
Democracy more the norm
Because of West Africa’s past experience with coups and civil wars, it was inevitable that the latest developments would induce strong anxieties. Yet for the past 10 years, elections and peaceful changes of government were becoming more the norm. Some of the region’s long-lasting wars, like those in Sierra Leone and Liberia, were ended, and democratic elections brought in more capable governments.
That Africa as a whole is becoming more democratic, stable and prosperous as a result of frequent elections was celebrated even by the mildly “Afro-pessimist” London magazine The Economist. In July 2010 it commented, “Only a decade ago countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia were bywords for anarchy and bloodshed. Now their people vote enthusiastically. It will be hard even for dictators to take that right away altogether, for the experience of elections, even flawed ones, seems to help embed democracy.”
In February 2009, following coups in Mauritania and Guinea and an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau, the African Union (AU) enunciated a policy of zero tolerance for all coups. It condemned the “resurgence of the scourge of coups d’état in Africa” and declared that it will never recognize a government that comes to power unconstitutionally, a position later endorsed by the UN Security Council.
Mr. Djinnit’s alarm and the swift condemnation of the coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau — first by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), then by the AU and the Security Council — were therefore predictable. Yet the manner in which these developments have played out suggests a complicated picture.
Guinea-Bissau has been an exception to the overall trend of democratization in West Africa: the country has experienced five military coups in the past decade, and no elected president has served out his term. So when soldiers seized power on 12 April and imprisoned interim President Raimundo Pereira, Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and several other senior officials, aborting preparations for a run-off presidential election, the move did not come as a particular shock.
Setback in Mali
Mali, however, was a celebrated case of democratic awakening in West Africa, so the events there did take many by surprise. On 22 March, soldiers led by a young officer named Amadou Sanogo abandoned a faltering campaign against Tuareg rebels in the north of the country and seized power from President Amadou Toumani Touré. ECOWAS promptly condemned the coup and imposed financial and other sanctions on Mali.
This was not simply a case of the military going awry: external factors clearly played a decisive role in the turn of events. The problem had to do with the resulting return to Mali
of tens of thousands of migrants, including a few thousand heavily armed and battle-hardened Tuareg fighters who had fled Libya following the overthrow of the dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. These fighters gave new potency to the few and largely contained Tuareg separatists in northern Mali, leading to the rebels’ capture of the three northern regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu and a proclamation of secession from southern Mali.
There are wider implications for the region, beyond Mali itself. A report by a UN inter-agency mission to the Sahel in January to assess the impact of the return of about 420,000 migrant workers to Mali, Niger and Mauritania predicted broader instability. The mission found that Libyan small arms, explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and small-calibre anti-aircraft cannons mounted on pick-ups were finding their way into the hands of diverse separatists and other rebels. Groups like Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Nigeria’s Boko Haram were already flocking to Mali in mid-2011. Many parts of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad have been overwhelmed by the returnees from Libya, 95 per cent of whom are male, poorly educated, aged 20-40 and embittered. AQIM was providing relief for some of the returnees, facilitating potential recruitment and popular support, the mission was told.
According to the mission, the most advanced of the measures adopted to deal with these problems were probably those taken under Mali’s Special Programme for Peace, Security and Development in the North, a pet project of President Touré, although there were local concerns about poor management. Barely two months after the report was issued, the coup took place, and Mr. Touré later fled to Senegal.
Averting crisis in Senegal
When Mr. Touré arrived in Senegal in April as a refugee, the scene was steeped in pathos. Less than two months earlier, Mali, with the dignified Mr. Touré presiding over an electoral process in which he was not participating, seemed to stand taller than Senegal, which was then deep in a morass created by its fumbling president.
Senegal has been a constitutional democracy since it gained independence from France in 1960, and has suffered no coup or serious political upheaval. This would suggest that elections had become routine. However, President Abdoulaye Wade, who came to power in 2000 and was already in his eighties, introduced a new constitution. The Constitutional Court issued a curious legal judgment permitting Mr. Wade to run for a third term, maintaining that since the constitution was new, his first term could not be counted. The argument had a narrowly legalistic logic that was lost on most Senegalese. All they knew was that the constitution said the president should not serve more than two terms, and Mr. Wade had already served two.
There were mass protests, leading to burned public buildings and several deaths. Senegalese — and the world — prepared for the worst. But when the elections finally came in February, Mr. Wade secured only 34.8 per cent in the first round. In the run-off the following month, he was crushed by 51-year old Macky Sall, who had previously served as his prime minister. Following his humiliating rebuff, Mr. Wade handed power over to Mr. Sall.
What accounted for the different outcomes in Mali and Senegal? First, of course, was the spreading rebellion in Mali, bolstered by Libyan arms. Also important is that the two countries have rather different historical experiences, with electoral institutions and a democratic culture much stronger in Senegal than in Mali. In fact, the four communes of the French colony of Senegal enjoyed a remarkable democratic franchise dating back to the 19th century. History does matter.
Yet Senegal’s democratic traditions did not prevent pre-election tensions and violence, suggesting that even reasonably strong democratic systems in the region are vulnerable. Vulnerable to what? In all the cases cited, elections were either taking place or approaching.
Are elections becoming, as the UK political scientist and Africa expert Dennis Austin suggests, a “spur to violence” in the fragile democracies of West Africa? Competitive politics, while attractive, clearly add depth to the sense of division in diverse societies, since there is a strong temptation for rogue leaders to exploit ethnic and other fault lines. The problem is that there seems to be no better alternative.
A June report by the New York–based International Peace Institute on “Elections and Stability in West Africa” recommends a creative approach to electoral assistance. It suggests that external electoral assistance be integrated within a broader conflict-prevention strategy that gives attention to the political aspects of the electoral process, as well as the technical ones.
Safeguarding elections, in other words, should be seen as just one component of a longer-term commitment to building democracy. Also important are the growing calls on the international community to stand firm in not recognizing any coup, as espoused by the African Union.
*Source Africa Renewal Online
SUDAN: Who’s who in the opposition
July 31, 2012 | 0 Comments
KHARTOUM, 26 July 2012 (IRIN) – Recent weeks have seen demonstrators, for the most part students, take to the streets of Khartoum – and to a lesser extent other Sudanese cities – to protest against the rising cost of living and call for an end to the 23-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir.
Meanwhile, armed rebellions have been active in the western region of Darfur for almost a decade and broke out in the southern border state of South Kordofan in June 2011 and later in nearby Blue Nile State.
Sudan is in the throes of an economic crisis sparked by the July 2011 secession of South Sudan, which, when it was part of Sudan, produced three-quarters of the oil that almost solely drove the country’s economy. In June 2012, inflation was running at 37 percent. The government is faced with a budget deficit of US$2.4 billion.
While backed by the International Monetary Fund, Khartoum’s austerity measures, such as cutting fuel subsidies and government jobs, devaluing the currency and raising taxes have sparked a series of modest yet growing protests (with their own Twitter hashtag, #sudanrevolts), which in turn have prompted a robust response from security services.
Bashir has derided the demonstrators as “elbow-lickers”, an allusion to the supposed futility of their protests.
“They talk of an Arab Spring – let me tell them that in Sudan we have a hot summer, a burning hot summer that burns its enemies,” the president declared in mid-July.
Here is a brief overview of anti-government forces which, despite some alliances, lack strong cohesion or coordination among their various elements:
URBAN PROTEST MOVEMENTS
Girifna Movement (GM) A popular resistance movement formed in October 2009 by university students, GM works for peaceful change in Sudan. Girifna means “we are fed up”.
GM asks questions like: “Aren’t you fed up with the monopoly over political power by them?” “Aren’t you fed up with the high cost of living?” “Aren’t you fed up with the electricity and water shortages?” “Aren’t you fed up with what’s happening in Darfur?” Girifna uses street demonstrations, Radio Girifna, an online magazine, public speeches and newsletters, etc. to get its message across.
Girifna says its members have been beaten, abducted, and imprisoned by state security forces.
Sudan Change Now (SCN) SCN was established in 2010 by young activists working for peaceful democratic change. It is a youth movement which gets its message across using internet-based social media.
SCN’s Facebook page says: “We believe that the current regime in Sudan is completely dysfunctional and it is our collective responsibility as Sudanese to put an end to it. Change is our way towards the better future that our nation deserves.”
“We are working on creating a common front of solidarity that brings together all those who are suffering from the actions of the current corrupt and evil regime. Together we work to ensure a unified and effective course of action to overthrow the regime and build a new brighter future for our coming generations.”
Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) alliance Led by SPLM-N (see below) chairman Malik Aggar, SRF is a coalition of rebel groups in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile and eastern Sudan formed in November 2011. SRF leaders say they want to overthrow the NCP regime “using all available means” and establish a secular, liberal state.
In a press statement on 12 July 2012 SRF said it supported the urban protests against the government. It said support by the National Consensus Forces (see below) for the Sudanese people’s “revolt” was a step in the right direction. It called on all political opposition forces to hold an expanded meeting on how to create a joint work programme, agree on a national democratic programme, and work together to bring down the regime.
SRF includes SPMN-N, JEM, SLA-AW, SLA-MM and the Beja Congress.
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – Northern Sector (SPLM-N) This was initially the northern wing of the politico-military group which led the southern rebellion during the 1983-2005 civil war and which is now in power in the newly independent state of South Sudan.
Khartoum has frequently dismissed the SPLM-N’s insistence that it has operated as an independent entity since secession in July 2011, saying that its armed rebellion in Blue Nile and South Kordofan is controlled from Juba.
Regime change is a key policy tenet of the SPLM-N, whose political activities the government has banned since late 2011.
Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) JEM is a rebel group involved in the Darfur conflict founded by Khalil Ibrahim, who was killed by the Sudanese Armed Forces in December 2011. Currently JEM is led by Khalil’s brother, Jibril Ibrahim, whose succession has agitated simmering fault lines, largely along ethnic lines involving non-Zaghawa, Missiriya Arabs, and some Zaghawa previously aligned with the Sudan Liberation Army – Minni Minnawi faction (SLA-MM).
The diaspora-based Democratic JEM (DJEM) is a splinter group launched by predominantly non-Zaghawa dissidents in April 2006, in rejection of JEM’s domination by the Kobe, a Zaghawa sub-group. JEM was established in early 2003 by a group of educated, politically experienced Darfuris, and drew most of its initial leadership and members from the Kobe, who are more numerous in Chad than in Darfur.
While JEM is considered the strongest armed rebel group in western Sudan it continues to lack a wider constituency among Darfuris.
The JEM Corrective Leadership (JEM CL) under Zakaria Musa, is a new breakaway movement that emerged in mid-January 2012 following Khalil Ibrahim’s death.
Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid faction (SLA-AW) SLA-AW is a Darfur rebel group emerged from the split of the Sudan Liberation Army into numerous factions.
The original SLA was formed in 2001 as an alliance between Fur and Zaghawa ethnic groups with differing goals: the Fur envisaged their rebellion as being essentially anti-government, in favour of a new, decentralized Sudan, while the Zaghawa’s focused more on Arab militias with whom they were in economic competition in North Darfur.
Abdul Wahid Mohammed al-Nur, SLA’s original chairman, has spent most of the period since the Darfur rebellion started in 2003 outside the region, first in Paris and more recently in Uganda. This absence has led to dissent and divisions within his movement.
SLA-AW, the Fur-led faction, has not signed the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement and has not taken part in any peace talks.
Sudan Liberation Army – Minni Minnawi faction (SLA-MM) A former teacher with little prior military experience, Minawi led SLA’s main forces before the group split. In 2006 he signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) with Khartoum and gained the largely nominal positions of – until April 2010 – senior assistant to Bashir, and chairman of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority.
In late 2010 Minawi moved to Juba, capital of what is now South Sudan, and disowned the DPA, leading the Sudanese army to declare his faction a legitimate target. This unleashed a new wave of violence in SLA-MM areas. Minawi’s move also divided the faction into: a group which continued discussions with Khartoum, another in North Darfur negotiating with JEM and a third which remained loyal to Minawi himself.
The formation of the SRF led to some rapprochement between the two SLA factions.
Several Sudanese opposition parties are grouped under the banner of the National Consensus Forces, originally formed to stand against the ruling National Congress Party in elections held in April 2010.
Some of these – the National Umma Party, the Communist Party and the Popular Congress Party – signed a Democratic Alternative Charter (DAC) on 4 July 2012, thereby committing themselves to remove the NCP from power through “peaceful means” and the creation of a “civil democratic state”.
The NCF includes:
The National Umma Party (NUP):
President: Al Saddig Al-Mahdi
Secretary-General: Ibrahim al-Amin
Prominent member: Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi
NUP’s origins go back to the 19th century. Its current president was the prime minister of Sudan on two occasions (1966-67), and (1986-89).
Popular Congress Party (PCP):
President: Hassan Al-Turabi
PCP split from the ruling National Congress Party in 2000. It describes itself as “a broad national democratic party” not based upon regionalism or sectarianism. PCP publishes its own newspaper, Rai al-Shaab, currently banned by the National Intelligence Security Services.
PCP website: http://www.popularcongress.org/pages.php?hl=about
Sudanese Communist Party (SCP):
Secretary-general: Mohamed Mukhtar Al-Khateeb
SCP is one of the oldest parties in Sudan. It advocates socialism in a multi-party system.
SCP website: http://www.midan.net/
Other DAC signatories:
Nasirist Democratic Unionist Party (NDUP): supports Arab nationalism; has a close affinity with Egypt; led by Gamal Abdunnasir Idris.
The Unified Democratic Unionist Party – led by Jala’a Ismail Al-azhari
New Forces Democratic Movement (HAG) – led by Halal Abdulhaleem
Sudan Ba’ath Party – led by Mohamed Ali Jadain
The Arabic Baath Social Party – Originally led by Ali Elraih El Sanhoory
Sudanese Congress Party – led by Ibrahim Elshiekh
Atta Mills death: Interesting days ahead for Ghana
July 31, 2012 | 0 Comments
By FRANCIS KOKUTSE*
The next few weeks promise to be interesting for Ghana as the country tries to come to terms with the sudden death of President John Atta Mills on July 24. Known for its strong democracy, the west African country will be keenly watched over how it handles its transitions.
Within hours of Mr Mills death, his deputy John Dramani Mahama was sworn in in line with Article 60 (6) of the country’s constitution, drawing praise from observers.
“I am pleased with the way things have gone. We did not have any of Africa’s problem with the death of a President,” said Mr Kojo Pumpuni Asante, an analyst with the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD).
Mr Asante said that Ghanaians would now be watching how the process is completed, especially with the appointment of a new Vice-President. “We have come to a point where it is clear that the state is seen as sacred and the people would want know how the whole process is conducted,” he said.
The key battleground looks to be within the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), on whose ticket Mr Mills was in December due to stand for re-election to a second term.
Triumph Of the People’s Will in Edo State
July 28, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Adekunbi Ero*
The outcome of the governorship election in Edo State raises hope that Nigeria’s democracy is indeed maturing and has affirmed that sovereignty truly lies with the people
Pius Odubu, the calm, urbane and unassuming deputy governor of Edo State, sat in an open space outside his father’s compound at Urhomehe Village in Orhionmwon Local Government, LG, of the state as if holding court. He was flanked by his kinsmen, many of them much older than he is, in the early hours of Saturday, July 14, the day of the governorship election which his Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, party won. Odubu betrayed no form of panic; he was indeed relaxed. He told the magazine that everything was going on well in the area, and really in the entire LG, based on reports reaching him. Materials were delivered on time and he had no cause to be alarmed.
Indeed, he exuded confidence that the election would be a walkover for his principal, Adams Oshiomhole, the governor, and their party, the ACN. Pointing towards Iyobosa Primary School, Urhomehe, less than two minutes’ walk from where he was, Odubu said, “The crowd speaks for itself. You can see the multitude. They have all trooped out to show their appreciation to the governor for the development he has brought to their area. They believe that the only way they can show their gratitude to him is to come out en masse and vote for him so that he can do more. You saw the road you passed through. Before, you had to pass through Delta State to get to Urhonigbe and other villages in Orhionmwon. But now, right from Benin, it is a smooth ride to Urhonigbe.”
The 57-kilometre Evboeghae–Ugo–Urhonigbe Road is the longest road project so far constructed by the state government and it serves about 400 communities. Apart from the road, schools in the area have also been given a facelift; while potable water, electricity and health centres have also been provided. The magazine gathered that on the eve of the election, members of the community gathered in the dead of the night to place curses on anyone who would vote for any candidate other than Oshiomhole. Such was the passion, emotion and determination expressed by the people to ensure the re-election of the governor. And this situation was not peculiar to Orhionmwon LG where the ruling party dusted the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with 26,163 votes to 8,716.
An analysis of the overall results showed that the Oshiomhole/Charles Airhiavbere tango was evidently a mismatch with the governor coasting home to victory with a wide margin of 477,478 votes to PDP’s 144,235 votes.Even in Edo Central Senatorial District, the hitherto traditional stronghold of the leader of the party, Tony Anenih, the former chairman, Board of Trustees PDP, the election was a triumph of people’s will. Anenih, like other leaders of the party across the 18 LGs of the state namely Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin Kingdom, Mike Oghiadomhe, chief of staff to President Goodluck Jonathan and Samuel Ogbemudia, lost woefully not just in their wards but also in their various polling units. Even the candidate of the party, Airhiavbere lost his unit at the Garrick Memorial School ground where he was reportedly booed, jeered and compelled to take his position on the queue for accreditation and voting.
From all indications, Oshiomhole’s landslide victory was a vote for good governance and development having changed the socio-economic landscape of the state in barely three and a half years in office. Though it was clear to all and sundry ahead of the election that there was no stopping the governor, it appeared that the only person who did not see the handwriting on the wall was Airhiavbere. It took his unpalatable experience on the field of battle to realise that he was fighting a lost battle by which time it was too late to beat a retreat. Political observers believe the retired army general was being rather too naive to think that his money and faith in Anenih could get him to Osadebe Avenue, the seat of Edo State government.
Shortly after joining the party, Airhiavbere reportedly boasted that he had budgeted N6 billion to prosecute the election. Little wonder party leaders wormed up to him like ants drawn to sugar. This was to influence his emergence as the standardbearer of the party in the election. Interestingly, those who thought Anenih was committed to unseating Oshiomhole are indeed very wrong. As master political strategist and old political warhorse, he knew from the outset it was one battle he would not win, and one election that it would be suicidal to “fix”.
Not a few Nigerians are happy that the political career of the acclaimed “Mr. Fix” appears to have hit the dust. Even among his party men at home and in Abuja, the common feeling seems to be that of “down with the villain”. They believe that now that he has been reduced to a political paperweight at home, his influence peddling in Abuja would also have suffered a setback. Though Airhiavbere congratulated Edo people for their support and Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for conducting a good election, he refused to congratulate Oshiomhole. The party claimed it was still studying the result.
Don Ikponmwen, retired army brigadier-general and a chieftain of PDP in the state, lamented to the magazine that “it is unfortunate that the way things have gone, have brought down the value of leadership in the party”, stressing that “there is no question about it.” In particular, there seems to be a feeling of shame within the party that in spite of the President coming personally to campaign for the PDP and its candidate, the party was roundly defeated in all the 18 LGs of the state. Some believe that Jonathan should not have come to the state to campaign for his party. Ikponmwen, one of them, told the magazine that while the President means well in everything that he says, “I think sometimes, he allows himself to be misadvised”. He said Jonathan ought to be “a president-statesman” who should rise above partisanship, stressing that “he becomes a man for all the parties” as the President of Nigeria.
However, a source in the presidency hinted that Jonathan’s campaign visit to Edo State was merely to fulfill all righteousness as the leader of the party, more so having done the same in other states where staggered elections had held in the recent past. The presidency official reportedly confided in a mutual friend of the governor and the President, who expressed concern that Jonathan was “leading an onslaught” against the governor, that the President did not honestly believe his party could beat the governor’s record. Thus the source said, “he (Oshiomhole) is our friend, but the President had to lead his party for the campaigns as the leader of the party”.
That there has been a warm relationship between the governor and Jonathan is not in doubt. The realisation of this indeed haunted the PDP all through the campaigns so much so that the coming of the President for the final rally was like a soothing balm for the leaders of the party. This was reflected in the mood of the party stalwarts who spoke at the rally. Prior to the rally, the party leadership had been jittery over the speculation that the President would not come because of his support for Oshiomhole. There are many reasons why the President could not afford to dump Oshiomhole for his party. First, it could be a case of one good turn deserving another. A source said the governor’s willingness to give useful advice on national issues and provide support where necessary, brought the duo very close. Not only that, Jonathan is said to respect Oshiomhole’s courage to stand by what he believes in even if that means swimming against the current. For instance, at a time it appeared the whole country would collapse on the President, he found a friend, a sympathiser and ally in Oshiomhole who incidentally is not a member of his party. The governor, defying his party’s position and staking his integrity and reputation as the people’s advocate, supported the withdrawal of fuel subsidy which was seen in some quarters as suicidal, thus opening him to a barrage of criticisms and name-calling. This was at a time when some of the PDP governors abandoned the President despite being part of the consensus at the National Executive Council, NEC, to remove the subsidy.
Even from the body language of the President, it was clear where his sympathy laid. The actions and
utterances of some of his kinsmen namely Edwin Clark, an Ijaw elder statesman, Asari Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, NDPVF, Joseph Evah, an activist, and other Ijaw socio-political groups seemed to suggest that they were taking a cue from the President more so when they were not called to order. Even Oghiadohme is believed to have tacitly supported the governor not just as a friend of the governor but also as an Afemai man. Subjected to scrutiny, political observers aver that the President’s speech did not translate to canvassing for votes for his party’s candidate. It was more of an advice and warning that he was not prepared to manipulate the election in their favour.
And given the level of trust between them, Oshiomhole did not at all doubt the President when the deployment of soldiers to the state to take charge of security became an issue at the National Assembly. Bimbo Daramola, ACN member of the House of Representatives from Ekiti State, had moved a motion objecting to the deployment, arguing that it was against the constitution. He was shouted down by some of his colleagues and Femi Gbajabiamila, ACN, Lagos who also sought the permission of the House to re-visit the ill-fated motion, also backed out, perhaps after his leaders had educated him on the matter. But the comrade governor immediately stepped in to allay the people’s fears that it was not an attempt to use federal might in favour of the PDP. In a statewide television broadcast, Oshiomhole assured them that it was in their best interest and integrity of the election. He appealed to them to come out en masse as the soldiers were deployed to guarantee their safety. And at the end of the election, it was clear that Jonathan acquitted himself in his promise to showcase his avowed commitment to his “one man,” one vote mantra.
Apart from the President, Oshiomhole’s second term bid had also received the support of notable Nigerians including Emeka Anyaoku, former secretary-general, Commonwealth, Yakubu Gowon, former military head of state, as well as traditional rulers and religious leaders. The curious visit of Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, who met with Oshiomhole behind closed doors, has also left people speculating over what could possibly be between them. This is more so when the duo had never been known to be the best of friends.
Oshiomhole had not speared Obasanjo as he held him responsible for the alleged stealing of his mandate in the April 14, 2011 elections. It was therefore suspected that he might have come to identify with him in his quest for a second term and probably align with him to deal with Anenih with whom there had been no love lost. The former president earlier resigned his position as BOT chairman of the PDP under unclear circumstances.Political observers believe that Obasanjo’s romance with Oshiomhole was a message to Anenih that he was a factor in the decline of the fortunes of the party in the state.
For all intents and purposes, Oshiomhole’s resounding victory has shown that given a foolproof electoral process and a conducive political environment, the people can freely choose their leaders unlike in the past when leaders are foisted on them by some godfathers. For many people in Edo State, the best thing Oshiomhole has done for the people, is the demystification of Anenih as the oracle of Edo politics. The people of the state will not forget in a hurry the eight years of misrule of Lucky Igbinedion who plundered the resources of the state and got away with a slap on the wrist for his crimes against the state. Even after the first four years, which was visibly a disaster, the party leadership, personified by Anenih still imposed him on the people for a second time in office.
The end of Igbinedion’s administration marked the beginning of the end of Anenih’s political empire in the state. Obasanjo had disagreed with him over his choice of Odion Ugbesia as the party’s candidate for governor in 2007. The former president’s grouse against Ugbesia was that he did not do well as minister. When Anenih would not shift ground, Obasanjo pitched his tent with Oserhiemen Osunbor, senator and a professor of law. Now the latter who did fairly well before he lost the office, through the courts to Oshiomhole, was said to have clashed eventually with Anenih. It is believed that “Mr. Fix It” then surreptitiously gave support to Oshiomhole’s cause at the courts. For this reason perhaps Oshiomhole at the beginning of his administration deferred to Anenih.
However, the ship of their new found love soon ran into troubled waters and eventually drowned over issues of governance. The PDP, which had majority membership in the state House of Assembly, soon became a clog in the wheel of progress forcing the governor to kowtow to Anenih. It was in the latter’s sitting room that disagreements on the first budget of the government were to be resolved, albeit to the discomfiture of the governor. By the time the table turned against the PDP with loss of its members through court judgments and defections, Oshiomhole felt it was time to free himself from the suffocating grip of the godfather.
As Oshiomhole savours his resounding victory in the last election, it has become clear that it was for him, merely an icing on the cake. In previous by-elections since 2009 up to the 2011 general elections, Oshiomhole has continued to establish himself as a better tactician, teaching the old warhorse some new lessons. Even though Anenih had managed to hold on to his senatorial district, winning majority seats during the National/House of Assembly seats in the area, this time around, it turned out to be a total eclipse of the godfather. But Friday Itulah, a member of the House of Representatives in the area and John Yakubu, former chairman, Esan North East LG, alleged that money was massively used by the ruling party to buy the people’s votes.
However, Itulah and Yakubu appear to be oblivious of the cracks in their own party, which made party members to make no secret of their protest votes against its candidate because of the less than transparent manner through which he emerged. Political watchers believe the electoral fate of the party was actually sealed on the day of the primary election, which Ikponmwen said was offered to “the highest bidder. Julius Ihonvbere, former presidential aide, as well as teeming supporters of Osunbor dumped the party for the ACN.
Though Osunbor has not defected from the party, it was common knowledge that he worked for Oshiomhole. His support for the ruling party was said to have enhanced its fortunes in his Esan West LG in particular and indeed in other parts of the Edo Central Senatorial District. And with the seeming forced “retirement” of Anenih, new leaders are emerging in the senatorial district with Osunbor as the likely rallying point.
Friends and associates of the governor across the country are unanimous in their conclusion that his impressive performance gave him the victory. The President who was quick to congratulate the governor, in a statement signed by Reuben Abati, his media aide, urged him “to receive the fresh mandate given to him yesterday by the people of Edo State as an endorsement of his outstanding performance in his first term and an expression of their desire for a continuation of his focused, purposeful and dynamic leadership.” The Northern Governors’ Forum described Oshiomhole’s re-election as victory for the North, stating that, “the Kaduna boy has not disappointed his people. He has constructed roads, built schools and resuscitated the economy of the state.” Bisi Akande, national chairman of ACN, saw the victory as “a reward for performance.” Also, Bola Tinubu, ACN leader and former governor of Lagos State, described the victory as one that “signals a new phase in the electoral battles yet to come. The people of Edo have shown that the popular will can best vested interests when the people organise to cast and protect their votes.” On the significance of the Edo State governorship election, Liborous Oshoma, a legal practitioner, agreed that the people of the state were the number one winners noting, that “they were determined and turned out en masse and were very vigilant.” And to reward the people for their resilience and support, Oshiomhole promised to do even more stressing that; “our people are united by a common desire to build a new Edo State to consolidate on our progress and together to take Edo State to the next level.”
Unlike in 2007 when protests greeted the announcement of election result, Benin City and major towns were seized by a frenzy of wild jubilation, defying even the downpour to receive the governor at the Oba Ovonramwen Square. Addressing the mammoth crowd, the visibly overjoyed governor exclaimed “You are the best, you are the greatest, you are the most brilliant, you are the most dogged, you are the most committed, you are the most consistent and you are the most ready.” Edo people have indeed spoken. Such is “the power of the people!”
Ghana: West Africa’s Shining Example Of Democracy
July 26, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Daniel Tovrov*
Ghana is on the verge of accomplishing a nearly unprecedented feat for West Africa — a smooth transition of power. Hours after the sudden death of President John Atta Mills on Tuesday, Vice President John Dramani Mahama was sworn into office, and he will lead the country into the presidential elections scheduled for December.
For the past few decades, Ghana has been a shining example in a region lacking in political and social stability.
To Ghana’s west is the Ivory Coast, which has been scarred by civil war for most of the last decade and where paramilitary tribesmen this week burned down a refugee camp, killing six civilians. To Ghana’s north is Burkina Faso, which last year had to violently suppress a coup after the military went on strike.
Togo, to the east, has been condemned for its human rights record, and its population is mired in poverty. Nearby Mali is going through a rebellion, Nigeria, an insurgency, and Liberia and Sierra Leone are holding tenuously to democracy.
Why has Ghana been spared much of the chaos and human suffering that surrounds it in West Africa? Since his unexpected passing, many have rightfully credited Mills with advancing Ghanaian democracy. Under Mills, whose background was in economics, Ghana became a hub for foreign investors and was also Africa’s second-fastest-growing economy last year with a 13.5 percent GDP expansion rate. These investments, alongside Ghana’s traditional revenue sources — exporting gold, cocoa and rubber — has increased the size of the nation’s middle class. Meanwhile, Melinda Gates, of the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, called Ghana’s efforts to reduce hunger “remarkable.”
“Ghana’s increased government investments in agriculture have led to some amazing results,” Gates said. “Ghana commits nearly 10 percent of its budget to improving agriculture, putting it among the top investors in the sector in Africa.”
As president, Mills showed how capital investment can translate into democratic success. USAID administrator Rajiv Shah said Tuesday that “President Mills’ lifetime of service helped to shape Ghana into a model of good governance and an anchor of stability for the entire region.” But Ghana’s economic development could only have happened if it was relatively politically stable in the first place.
“Ghana has been a ‘real place’ for a much longer period than is generally the case in West Africa,” said John Campbell, the Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“It is also relatively small and has relatively fewer ethnic divisions than found elsewhere.”
Before it was “the most developed part of Anglophone West Africa,” as Campbell explained, Ghana was the Ashanti Empire, a 200-year-old kingdom that included Ghana and parts of Benin and the Ivory Coast. Although the Ashanti eventually succumbed to British rule, the autonomy of the empire has lasted ever since, sparing Ghana the ethnic tensions that has stalled its neighbors’ political development.
The importance of this autonomy becomes clear when comparing Ghana to Nigeria, another former British colony.
Nigeria, according to Campbell, who was the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007, was “cobbled together from disparate elements that had never existed together before into a single a state” by the British. Now, despite its immense wealth, ethnic and religious violence continually threaten to tear the nation apart.
Unlike Ghana, Nigeria’s last presidential elections were followed by intense violence; at least 800 people were killed in riots and bombings across the country. The U.S. State Department called the election a “substantial improvement” over the 2007 vote.
Nigeria has also arguably been cursed by oil, a resource that Ghana has only just discovered on its shores. Nigeria’s oil, discovered in the 1950s but not fully utilized until the 1970s, has made the country one of Africa’s richest, but with it has come society-crippling corruption. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in annual state revenue, the average Nigerian lives on less than $2 per day, and the state has been unable to develop its infrastructure.
By contrast, Ghana has been producing oil since the early 1990s, but the sector truly began to develop under Mills’ guidance. The largest oil reserves discovered in the country have only recently been discovered, and the political consequences of oil revenue have yet to be seen.
Ghana does have some ethnic variation, as well as a north-south, Christian-Muslim boundary like Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, but it has managed both well. In part, this is paradoxically thanks to Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, the Ghanaian military dictator who suspended the constitution and banned opposition parties. Under Rawlings’ Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, the government and military were purged of corruption. By the time negotiations ushered in democracy in 1992, Ghana was free of many negative influences.
The sudden death of the front-runner for December’s election will likely cause some strife within Mills’ National Democratic Congress as party members jockey to take his spot on the ballot sheets. But with a 20-year-old foundation in place, democracy in Ghana should be secure. o
*Source :www.ibtimes.com.leave feedback about this article, e-mail: email@example.com
Mugabe ready to cede power – Tsvangirai
July 25, 2012 | 0 Comments
Tsvangirai said he did not believe Mugabe, who disputed election results in 2008 and eventually retained the presidency under a power-sharing deal, would risk another round of violence in Zimbabwe.
He said 88-year-old Mugabe, who has led the country since independence in 1980, wanted to protect his legacy and would abide by the result of a ballot scheduled to be held within the next 12 months.
“I’m sure he will accept the result,” Tsvangirai told reporters during an official trip to New Zealand.
“I do not see any reason why he should plunge the country again into another dispute.
“I think he’s committed, for his own legacy and the legacy of the country, to move forward and he has to accept the result if it is conducted in a free and fair manner.”
Tsvangirai confirmed he would stand against his arch-rival Mugabe in the election, which is set to be held under a new constitution, a draft of which was finalised on Friday.
He described the draft constitution as a “progressive step” which he hoped would help Zimbabwe emerge from decades of violence and instability.
“Although we have suffered, there is no way we can bring back our loved ones,” he said.
“We need to open a new chapter. That’s why I say revenge should not be on the agenda. There should be reconciliation, rebuilding and reconstruction. That should be the future direction.”
To help the country move on and rebuild its economy, Tsvangirai said the international community should ease sanctions if Zimbabwe showed a commitment to staging legitimate elections.
“No country can progress with such measures against it,” he said, adding that sanctions had put a “financial squeeze” on the economy, which has stabilised in recent years after hyper-inflation followed the 2008 election.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who received a briefing on the situation in Zimbabwe from Tsvangirai, said there was a compelling case to lift sanctions if elections went ahead.
“If free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe, and therefore a free and open voice can be given to the people of Zimbabwe, why wouldn’t the global community respond in kind and support that new regime?” he said.
New Zealand imposed sporting and travel sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 over alleged human rights abuses by the Mugabe government.
Mauritius swears in new president
July 23, 2012 | 0 Comments
Port Louis – Rajkeshwur Purryag became the fifth president of the Republic of Mauritius when he was sworn into the largely ceremonial post Saturday.
He was elected Friday during a special parliamentary session after his predecessor Anerood Jugnauth resigned in March following open conflict with Prime Minister Navin Chandra Ramgoolam.
The row erupted when the leader of the opposition in parliament, Paul Berenger, announced the creation of a new opposition alliance headed by Jugnauth.
Ramgoolam himself asked Jugnauth to either deny the statement by the opposition, or, in the case of confirmation, to resign, arguing his new role was incompatible with a position as head of state.
Vice President Monique Ohsan Bellepeau filled in until Purryag, 64, the former president of the National Assembly, was sworn in Saturday in the presence of both Ramgoolam and Berenger.
Purryag and Ramgoolam are both members of the Labour Party.
An attorney by training, Purryag has worked in politics for 36 years, holding several ministerial positions as well as acting as deputy prime minister. He became speaker of parliament in 2005.
Mauritius is an archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean that gained independence from Britain in 1968.
It has since been considered a stable democracy and has sustained economic growth to make its 1.2 million inhabitants among the richest in Africa.
Best known for its top-end tourism and as a honeymoon destination, Mauritius recently made headlines after a honeymooner from Northern Ireland was strangled in January 2011 in her luxury hotel room.