Burundi – Presidential Term Limits

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Reports suggest the President is taking steps to ensure an extension to his rule, prompting concerns of further violence. 

President Pierre Nkurunzia has been pushing a political agenda to remove a key Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement that limits Presidential terms, which has helped to end 12 years of civil war.

Nkurunziza is also stalling on the East African Community (EAC)-led mediation process, which started in July 2015 but has yet to make any significant progress. The Burundian government has boycotted talks stating that some stakeholders should be excluded.

According to a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) entitled ‘the African Union and the Burundi Crisis: Ambition versus Realitythe government is seeking to change term limits, possibly by December.

Justin Nzoyisaba, chairman of the Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission, was quoted in August as saying the views so far collected across the country favoured the removal of term limits.

President Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third term sparked civil unrest that has caused the death of hundreds and forced thousands to flee to neighbouring countries. The ICG says the government has realised that keeping casualties to a minimum limits scrutiny.

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President Nkurunziza with AMISOM commander General Silas Ntigurirwa in 2014 – CC

Meanwhile the United Nations (UN) envoy on conflict convention said that the international community and Burundi would find common ground for the deployment of UN police officers through continued dialogue.

“Our discussions were constructive and I’m confident that with continuous engagement and political will, we will find common ground as a basis for moving forward with the implementation of the resolution,” said Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Conflict Prevention.

UN Security Council Resolution 2303, adopted on July 29th 2016, authorised up to 228 UN police officers to be deployed in the capital Bujumbura and throughout Burundi for one year.

Benomar said he had held various meetings with the Government and other stakeholders, as well as with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the facilitator of the EAC-led dialogue.

However the Burundian authorities have rejected Benomar as a proposed mediator and they sent a letter to the UN to ask for his replacement.

On November 26th thousands of demonstrators marched in Bujumbura to protest against Belgium and the UN Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into human rights violations. The protestors were reportedly singing songs in support of President Nkurunziza.

The situation is ongoing and many commentators have expressed concern that the extension to term limits and the continued boycott of international mediation will prompt further violence and state repression.

(The East African 5/11; PANA, New York 9/11; RFI 15, 27/11)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

BURUNDI: ICC Withdrawal
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21182B–21183A

BURUNDI: Looming Risk of Genocide
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146A–21146B

BURUNDI: UN Police Deployment
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21108A–21108C

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Mozambique – Debt Troubles Continue

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The IMF commends recent efforts but states that financial support will not resume until debt levels are made sustainable.

The Deputy Director of the Africa Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), David Owen, said on November 14th that Mozambique had taken promising steps to deal with hidden debts that have impacted heavily on the economy.

The debts relate to loans of over US$1.1bn from Credit Suisse and Russian bank VTB to quasi-public firms Proindicus, Mozambique Asset Management (MAM) and the Mozambique Tuna Company (Ematum), under then President Armando Guebuza in 2013/14.

The IMF, during a mission visit from September 22-29th, praised the “significant tightening of macro-economic policy,” and the raise in interest rates announced by the Bank of Mozambique in October, which had led to the stabilisation of the exchange rate, reported AIM.

However the head of the mission Michel Lazare said that resumption of financial support was still a long way off.  “The authorities have requested the Fund to resume discussions on financial support as soon as possible. A solid track record of implementation of sound macroeconomic policies and an effective initiation of the audit process in the near term would help to create the conditions for a possible resumption of program discussions with the IMF,” Lazare said.

Lazare continued by stating that Mozambique “is facing a challenging economic environment”, with economic growth now in decline. The forecast growth for this year is 3.7% in 2016, down from 6.6% in 2015, which is “is significantly below levels observed in recent years.”

“At the same time, a significant decline in imports has been more than offset by a weakening of exports, foreign direct investment, and donor financing…This has maintained pressure on international reserves, which have continued to decline,” Lazare added, reported AIM.

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Ex-President Armando Guebuza – CC 2012

However more than half of the secret loans related to Ematum and maritime security have never been explained. According to Africa Confidential, around $900m was passed on to companies owned by the ruling Frelimo elite for the purchase of assault rifles, armoured cars and other weapons from Israel, for use in the war against Renamo, reported UK-based Mozambique News Reports.

There have also been accusations that Frelimo officials have wasted huge sums on setting up a shipbuilding industry, for which little work had been completed. Though many of the weapons seem to have been bought by companies owned by private individuals, these companies are linked to the three implicated in the debt scandal. Many of the funds were placed in offshore bank accounts to act as collateral for Frelimo-owned companies.

Two banks involved in the deals, Crédit Suisse and Russia’s VTB Group are under investigation by authorities in the UK and Switzerland.

The two main political parties remain at loggerheads as the country continues to be in crisis. Frelimo, which has held power since independence from Portugal in 1975, is fighting to maintain its grip on the country. In the wake of the scandal economic and political unrest troubles have only worsened, reported Africa Confidential.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Mozambique – Price Falls Lead To Closures
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21404A

MOZAMBIQUE: Liquidity Problems
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 5, Pp. 21289A–21290C

MOZAMBIQUE: Economic Update
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 4, Pp. 21231A–21233C

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Somalia – Truce Collapses

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Communal violence erupts again in the Puntland border areas, as elsewhere in the country Al-Shabaab makes gains.

Reports suggested that at least 20 people died as violence gripped the border regions of the semi autonomous areas of Puntland and Galmudug on November 5th, with around 80 more left injured.

The town of Galkoyo, the provincial capital of the divided Mudug region, was the epicentre of the tensions. The north of the town is administered by Puntland, while the south by Galmudug.

Six civilians are among the dead and also journalist Mahad Ali Mohammed. According to the Union of Somali Journalists he was working for the Galmudug Radio Station and was hit by a stray bullet.

A military officer from Puntland, Mohamed Aden, said that “Galmudug does not want peace…We shall continue fighting till we cleanse Galmudug forces,” reported Deutschewelle. The United Nations (UN) says that about 80,000 people have already fled the town.

The UN envoy to Somalia, Michael Keating, said that Al-Shabaab was making gains in the town due to the ongoing conflict and called for a return to dialogue, and particularly for the deaths of civilians to stop, reported Shabelle Media Network.

Under terms of a ceasefire deal mediated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that came into force only a few days previously, forces of both regions were supposed to be withdrawn from the disputed area, reported Al Jazeera.

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Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas alongside Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe – CC 

According to a report by Shabelle Media Network, naval forces from the Puntland administration raided so-called Islamic State (Daesh) locations in the coastal town of Qandala in the Bari region – however there was no official statement on the operation.

Meanwhile, as Ethiopian troops have been withdrawn from the country, reports suggest that Al-Shabaab militants have taken it as an opportunity to make gains. The insurgent group have taken nine towns along the Ethiopian border and have threatened to disrupt presidential elections scheduled for November 30th.

Spokesperson for the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISON) Colonel Joseph Kibet, told The EastAfrican that the Ethiopian withdrawal is leaving a vacuum that is encouraging the re-emergence of Al Shabaab.

Ethiopian Information and Communication Minister, Getachew Reda, said the troop withdrawal is due to financial constraints and the failure of the international community to train and give support to the Somalia National Army (SNA), reported the East African.

Somalia has faced widespread conflict since the death of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in the 1990s, and in recent years the presence if the Al-Shabaab has grown considerably.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SOMALIA: Electoral Process Begins
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21179A–21179C

ETHIOPIA – SOMALIA: Troop Pull-Out
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21170C–21171A

SOMALIA: Deadly Standoff Between Rival States
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21191B–21192B

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Egypt – Economic Situation Deteriorates

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The government devalues the currency in attempts to avoid an economic crisis, creating further worries for citizens.

As part of efforts to boost its ailing economy, Egypt has taken steps to devalue its currency, raised fuel prices and plans to cut customer subsidies, as part of conditions to receive an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan of US$12bn.

While the IMF insists that floating the currency is a sensible long-term economic move and will attract foreign investment, many are concerned as inflation and unemployment are already high, and the price of food and services are also likely to rise, reported Al-Jazeera.

According to economists, any long term gains are going to be coupled with short-term hardships – the government hopes that attracting investment will end a hard-currency shortage. According to Reuters, wide-ranging economic problems will mean the huge volumes of hard currency required to stabilise the dollar will take a long time to arrive.

However, calls by some for protests were not supported by most opposition groups and activists; “At this point we find calls to protest scary. There is no political organisation, which means things can get out of hand. The country could burn,” said Malek Adly, a human rights lawyer with the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, reported Reuters.

The IMF has delayed the approval of the loan until Egypt can meet the desired conditions – around $1bn had already be disbursed at the end of 15 but since then the flow of money has been halted. There have been shortages of goods such as wheat, baby milk, sugar, rice and cooking oil, reported Africa Confidential.

The decline in tourism revenues is also particularly damaging, now at around $3.8bn a year, which is less than one third of the levels before the 2011 uprising. The fears surrounding terrorism have furthered affected tourist numbers.

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Revenues from the Suez Canal have also fallen – CC

Another condition of the loan is that Egypt can secure co-financing of $5-6bn; in September the Egyptian Central Bank’s reserves went up by $3bn largely due to deposits from Saudi Arabia. However the support of Saudi Arabia has been in doubt after the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) suspended deliveries of 700,000 tonnes per month of petroleum products – these supplies covered almost a third of Egypt’s import requirements of petroleum and natural gas. One suggestion is due to tensions of the Egyptian courts ruling against an agreement to give Saudi Arabia control over two Red Sea islands, reported Africa Confidential.

The consequences of these economic decisions are likely to be felt mainly by the poor and struggling middle class. Already at least 27% of the population live below the ‘poverty line’, and the political economic effects of structural adjustment are likely to exacerbate this further, reported Al Jazeera.

Already, Egyptians face capital controls, including limits on transferring currency abroad and the amount they can withdraw to travel overseas – this has particularly hit students studying abroad.

The focus of economic policy has largely been on grandiose projects that will take a long time for benefits to materialise. Little attention has been given to problems including massive levels of youth unemployment. Similarly Al Jazeera commented that the economic policy is entering the realm of the absurd, after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suggested funding for development projects could be garnered by collecting spare change.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

EGYPT: Job Creation Boost
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21417A–21417C

Egypt – Development Policy Finance
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21430A

EGYPT: Baby Formula Shortage Row
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21381C–21383C

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Africa – CITES Conservation Conference

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The world’s largest wildlife convention leads to important new provisions for endangered species.

On October 4th the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the world’s largest wildlife meeting, ended after two weeks of talks in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which there was progress in implementing rules on trafficking of endangered species.

During the event around 2,500 delegates made their way through 62 proposals to reform restrictions on the trade of 400 species – 51 were accepted, five rejected and six withdrawn.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that governments had united behind “tough decisions,” while the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said, “conservation trumped commerce.”

Particular animals discussed included the African grey parrot and African elephants, which saw fierce debate at the convention. All trade of the pangolin – the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal – was also banned. Additionally a bid by Swaziland to be permitted to trade rhino horn was defeated.

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Pangolin – the world’s most trafficked animal – CC

Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe argued against the proposals, claiming that the export of ivory would actually protect elephants in the long run and was necessary to raise money for conservation. Stephen Mwansa, permanent secretary in Zambia’s Tourism Ministry, said, “How do you come and start regulating the domestic market? That will be extra-territorial…That’s arrogance of the highest order. It’s tantamount to neo-colonialism and that we can’t accept it.”

“African elephants are in steep decline across much of the continent due to poaching for their ivory, and opening up any legal trade in ivory would complicate efforts to conserve them,” said Ginette Hemley, the head of the CITES delegation for WWF.

Elephant populations have drastically declined in east and central Africa, with Tanzania estimated to have lost around 60% of its population in the past decade. The number of African elephants has dropped by around 111,000 in the past decade. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published its ‘African Elephant Status Report‘ during the conference.

Illegal trade in wildlife is valued at around US$20bn a year, according to CITES. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) estimates that between 2.1m and 3.2m African grey parrots were captured between 1975 and 2013.

The negotiations at times exposed bitter divisions, with African nations at one point accusing Western charities of “dictating” how to protect their elephants. However, despite some tensions, the conference produced a number of positive outcomes and provisions to protect some of the world’s most endangered species.

(© AFP 25, 28/9, 4, 5/10 2016; Reuters 3, 4/10)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

CONSERVATION: Kenya
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 3, Pp. 20948A–20948B

CONSERVATION: DR Congo
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 10, Pp.20767A–20767C

CONSERVATION: Central Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp. 20624A–20624C

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Central African Republic – Fragile Peace

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Outbreaks of violence are threatening to further destabilise the situation, as reports show that thousands of schools are closed by rebels.

On October 15th at least 11 people were killed and 10 more wounded at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Ngakobo, according to the United Nations (UN) Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

This recent attack came only a few days after the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels attacked civilians and peacekeepers in the town of Kaga Bandoro, leading to the deaths of 30 people and 57 more injured.

These recent incidents are of great concern and there are worries that it will spark a return to widespread atrocities. In February elections brought President Faustin Touadera to power, but the government still largely relies on the UN for support. Since the outbreak of violence in 2013, after the Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize, one in ten of the population of 4.5m have been left displaced.

These recent incidents also come as France is planning to pull the majority of its remaining 350 troops from the country, reported Deutschewelle.

According to the UN MINUSCA mission chief, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, “there is, today, no legitimate reason for any armed group to use weapons…the people have suffered enough and are tired of this war that has lasted too long.”

Reports also recently emerged of armed men who attacked a secondary school during teacher training, killing three teachers, a director of an educational centre and the vice-president of a parents association. UNICEF representative in CAR, Mohamed Malick Fall, said, “we are deeply shocked by these developments and saddened that teachers have been targeted,” reported Al-Jazeera.

Across the country around one in five primary schools are closed, leaving around a third of children in the country not in school. This is largely due to armed groups who are occupying schools and preventing access.

While in the capital Bangui some children have been able to return, in the surrounding area as many as 10,000 students were unable to start term. “Schools are not part of the conflict, they have no political affiliation,” said Donaig Le Du, chief of communications for UNICEF in CAR, reported Reuters.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Further Massacres
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146B–21146C

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Disarmament and Reintegration Efforts
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21108C–21109B

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Fragmented Control
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21074B–21075A

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Kenya – Conservationists Lament Railway Plans

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The central section of a huge infrastructure project is to cut directly across East Africa’s oldest national park.

The Nairobi National Park, a wildlife reserve housing lions, hyenas and giraffes just 7km from the centre of Nairobi, is currently in the midst of proposed plans to build a Chinese-funded railway across what is the oldest park in East Africa.

The edges of the park have slowly been eaten away by development and expansion, with power lines stretching overland and pipelines underground. New housing estates also obstruct key migration routes for wildlife, which lead to other nature reserves such as the Maasai Mara.

According to head of the Friends of Nairobi National Park, Sidney Kamanzi, in the 1970s and 1980s around 30,000 wildebeest came to the area, now the numbers are in the region of 300.

The proposed railway line is to be elevated across 6km of the park, on pillars between 8m and 40m tall. Conservationists have deplored the plans, calling it a step too far and claiming the consequences will be disastrous.

UK-based BBC News commented that the new railway project could be a new ‘lunatic line,’ referring to thousands of workers who were killed building railways in the country at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries; around 100 people were killed by lions, while a further 4000 died of diseases.

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BBC News 

The railway is part of planned upgrades to the national network linking the Mombasa port to Nairobi and onwards to regional neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan; it is the largest infrastructure project in the country since independence in 1963.

The second stage of construction, from Nairobi to Naivasha – crossing the park – is seen as the most problematic; many had hoped that the railway would skirt around the park, but according to the government the costs of this were just too high.

Works on the elevated sections are scheduled to begin in January 2017 lasting around 18 months, although in stages to avoid cutting off parts of the park completely. However conservationists have deplored the lack of impact study and disregard for the natural environment.

“If the railway (line) is authorised, it could create a precedent that could mean the death of the park,” said Sidney Quntai, who heads the Kenyan Coalition for the Conservation and Management of Fauna.

On October 3rd a group of Maasi women from Oloosirkon, Kitenkela, Emakoko and Embakasi villages presented a petition to President Uhuru Kenyatta. An environmental tribunal in mid-September ruled against the railway line in the national park until a case had been heard, but the government continues to hold public hearings.

“The processions are not against infrastructure projects. We don’t want those that are poorly thought out, environmentally unsound and abuse our natural heritage like having SGR pass through the park,”  one of the protest organisers, Nkamuno Patita, said, reported Kenyan media service, The Star.

Kitili Mbathi, the Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), tried to reassure protesters who recently delivered a petition; “We will be working with the contractor to make sure the construction will be as least disruptive as possible and as environmentally friendly as possible,” he said.

However, Kenyan economist David Ndii said, “It’s a white elephant – we don’t need it…It’s not necessary, its overpriced. Its the most expensive single project we have done and it’s not economically viable now or in the future,” reported BBC News.

(© AFP 30/9 2016)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21362B–21363B

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya – Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp.21325C–21327A

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp.21181A–21182A

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